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Q&A: A Dose of Realism with The Magnetic Fields, Part 2

By Valerie Servin and Lynn Lieu on January 29, 2010


Q&A: A Dose of Realism with The Magnetic Fields, Part 2

It’s been raining lately here in sunny L.A., but luckily Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields has some more quick-witted answers to keep us at FILTER quite dry. So today we bring you part two of our interview with Merritt as we get to the bottom of how he made his band’s latest effort, Realism, released on Jan. 26, as well as his alleged distaste for folk music (it's simply not true, dear reader!) and a questioning of FILTER's own motto.

FILTER: You’ve stated that you’re not a huge fan of folk music, even though Realism is heavily folk-inspired. Any second thoughts?

Stephin Merritt: I am often misquoted. Of course I'm a huge fan of folk music, or why would I waste my time, and yours?

Folk music often ends hopeful and optimistic; do some songs on Realism seem to make fun of the naivete of this traditional notion? 

Perhaps we have been listening to different folk songs. I think of traditional music as more violent than, say, teen car crash songs, gangsta rap, or death metal. There are many more murders, shipwrecks, chain gang deaths, and of course crimes of passion, in traditional music than in modern pop songs. That's why people still like them. They're more exciting.

It’s been said no electrical instruments were used in the making of Realism. Did you have any tendencies to cheat—just a little?

"The Dada Polka" backing tracks were recorded 25 years ago, so it can be forgiven for having electric guitars, but at least the electric guitars have no effects on them. Other than that it's all microphones. On or around the day we finished, I heard that our pals in Matmos had just done a record with no microphones.

There were at least eight musicians along with a slew of non-conventional instruments chiming in on the album, was there any difficulty working with so many elements?

In a way it's easier to work with less familiar instruments, and combinations of instruments. That way the audience doesn't have detailed expectations about how they should be played. Growing up playing synthesizer, I always felt it was none of the listener's business what instruments were used or how they were treated. (But that was the' 80s, there were new sounds every day.) So I like using new, rare, or exotic instruments as though they were synthesizer sounds.  

Your 2010 tour begins next month. Who will be joining you on this tour? Any special guests?

No one too special to play on the album, I think.


You're welcome. 


Really? When? 

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