The Houston Music Blog section of the Free Press Houston.

Wednesday, June 24, 2024

Anderson interviews Herndon

posted by Free Press Houston @ 2:27 PM

Tortoise has an album called “Beacons Of Ancerstorship” on Thrill Jockey Records. In celebration of this event , I called a member of the band, John Herndon, who, apparently pumps gas during a hail storm, to discuss the latest Tortoise album, the current state of the music industry. However, since I did not have questions, per se (it was more of a casual conversation), I thought I’d just make up questions that may or may not relate to the answers and present it as the intentional piece. See Omar, I make you wait a day for this. (Writer’s note: This isn’t our actual conversation verbatim, the quotes are real, but I know John, so this is sort of culled from our conversation, which pertained to the album).

FP: How’s the weather in Chicago, enjoying the pre summer days?
JOHN H.: Watching this storm fromm underneath this over pass, and it’s got some hail, that’s the size of golf balls.
FP: Your album is fabulous.
JH: Thanks a lot. Are you calling to interview me?
FP: I think it’s cool how the album is available in multiple formats, other than, illegally downlaoded. I noticed that this record is like Tortoise’s return to beats…
JH: It wasn’t premeditated, we didn’t really talk about, like “Let’s get back to beats.” It just seemed like it was where a lot of people’s heads were at. A lot of it, for me, was like trying to discover where people like(hip hop producer, genius) Jay Dee were at, and Mad Lib, and I think Jeff and I have been listening to Jay Dee stuff a lot but I think everybody wanted to make something that was reflective, or what was happening in our own spaces…
FP: When you bring a song to the band, before it is completed to be illegally downloaded, how does that work in terms of the democracy of the band, how each member’s song ideas get incorporated into the boullibaise that is a Tortoise album?
JH: You’re asking like how you present a song to Tortoise, and have a everybody agree to work on it? Well I just kind of collect stuff, I’m really good at starting shit, but I aint great at finishing it, so I have like a bazillion little scraps of ideas on my computer, or on the MP (360, a sampler beat machine thingy), and I’ll just bring in everything, I’ll play 27 beats that I have, and just sort of wait until something catches people’s ear, and then it’s obvious and we’ll work on that (on the other hand) you play something and you see glassy eyed stares, people starting to look away, and awkward silence, and you’ll be “Oh well let’s play the next one…”
FP: I like the length between the records, it gives you a long time, to make sure it’s sank in, like your last album (It’s All Around You) took five years to sink in…
JH: I don’t know why it takes us so long, we never have the intention of waiting so long between records, if someone had told me it was gonna be five years between when this record came out after the last one, I would have said you’re shitting me. I would like to start working on a new record now, and have it come out next year, but I don’t think that that’s gonna happen. I don’t know why it is, but we work really slowly. We all havde things we like to do, as much as Tortoise, we put a lot of energy into other projects. With this record, I could say that my oldest son just turned five, so that might have something to do with it.
FP:The other day I downloaded the new Liberace album, it was OK, Lil’ Wayne has a verse on it.
JH: That’s where things are at, people are not buying records. I’m curious to see…I downloaded Beacons Of Ancestorship a month ago, I was looking around to see if it was anywhere, and I found this blog sight, and they had a Rapidshare address, I went there, click, download, and I download the whole thing.
FP:Mos Def’s new album it’s being sold on a T Shirt with a downoad code on the tag and the songs on the back of the shirt, I’m thinking of doing the same thing with a toilet paper, but putting the download code on the cardboard roll, wipe your ass, while you jam my shit.
JH: It’s almost like people don’t even have a CD player anymore, if you’re a nerd or something you have a record player, downloads and vinyl are where things are going now, and most people don’t even have a record player, so there’s a few people that would buy a CD, a few people will buy the vinyl, but most people are downloading it.
FP: But look on the bright side, people rob other people during a recession, they don’t pay so you can’t get paid, but they think you’re awesome.
JH: Yeah, it’s interesting, I don’t expect anybody to buy a record really, but hopefully we’ll play some shows, we’re gonna be busy through the summer and hopefully that’s gonna be able to help me with making a living.
FP: Making a living…
JH:But whatever, I don’t wanna poo poo this shit, and beat beat (into the ground) this “making a livng” shit, because the bottom line is that regardless if I’m making a living or not music is going to be my prority, and if that I have supplement my income doing something else, then I’ll just do that.


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