I Won't Freak Out This Time
On the evening of Friday, October 19, 2001, I learned a fairly critical lesson: Nobody respects a man dressed as Raggedy Anne. I was either scorned by bigots, or molested by lecherous swine who mistakenly assumed I was one of Them.
Tom and Ken Fec certainly weren't impressed by my attire. The cousins, Pittsburgh natives who call themselves satanstompingcaterpillars, seemed disgusted upon meeting me, and uncomfortable sitting next to me at our table in the Beehive Coffeehouse. To alleviate the tension, I started the interview on a gentle note by asking Tom, "What's your favorite color?"
"I don't have a favorite color!" he snapped, "What do you know about colors, anyway?! Your lipstick doesn't even match your mascara!" With that, he jumped up, and stormed out of the café.
"What's your problem?!" Ken barked, "How dare you speak to us about colors; what's wrong with you?!" Then he too left and joined Tom outside. They returned five minutes later, and sat down, Tom's eyes glowing an eerie tint that is only seen in a Jedi.
"Here's the deal," Tom growled, "Don't ever ask me about colors again, or I'll thump your skull for you."
I moved on.
Who would you say your main influences are?
TOM- Honestly, Flaming Lips changed the way I looked at alot of things, "The Soft Bulletin," that came out when I was making "The Anti-Freakout Method."
TOM- I don't want to say a single album changed everything, but if there is, it's "The Soft Bulletin."
What did they do that changed your course?
TOM- The music was just so different, it was all about Life, every aspect of Life was in the album, and it was just so different, it hit me. I'm sure there were so many other albums out there that were like that, but at that time, I was ready to understand it.
So, what's this thing called Allegheny White Fish?
TOM- That was like our evil alter-ego, in the past.
Was it more hard-core?
TOM- It was real loud and noisy.
When did you guys first start getting into music?
KEN- He (Tom) was in it long before me.
TOM- That's a long story. I don't remember if I was in tenth or eleventh grade, it was '96, but my other cousin and I started it. He taught me how to play guitar, and it went from there. Basically, he wanted to start it, he started a band, and then he was on a ton of drugs, and his songs got really, really...
Yeah, you take that step back, you look at the Picture, deal with whatever, and you go on a little smarter with a better grasp of what's going on.
TOM- Yeah, even though nothing's changed.
How long did it take you to put "Flower Slides" together?
TOM- Um, the majority of it took about three months.
So what was going on with "autumn kaleidoscope?" Is there any underlying message or consistent thought process that was going on through that?
TOM- Yeah, it sort of ties in, like, if you take the season, and how we didn't use anything on it, just an acoustic guitar and little pieces of crap. It's like loneliness. It's really weird. Right now, I really don't know how it's happening, 'cause I think the songs are just writing themselves.
Are there any particular influences you can pinpoint to "autumn kaleidoscope?"
TOM- Neutral Milk Hotel, even though it doesn't sound like it. I saw that you can sit there with an acoustic guitar, and not polish anything, and blow stuff out whenever you want to, and it can still be so real and beautiful.
Have you pulled out any anger in any of these albums?
TOM- I've never pulled out anger, even in the crazy songs.
So, what's the deal with the new album?
TOM- Um, with the new one, I got everything off my chest that I needed to get off my chest, and I wanted to get back to sort of experimenting a little bit more with sounds and not worrying about being so personal, not worrying about trying to make myself cry.
Where are you going with this one as opposed to "autumn kaleidoscope?"
TOM- Remember when they got psychedelic on Sesame Street?
TOM- Right there, exactly.
Where do you expect to go after this album?
TOM- I honestly don't know. It depends on what mood I'm in.
When you play out, how do you pull that off? Is it just you again, or is that both of you guys?
TOM- I do vocals, and play on the sampler and guitar, and he does bass, then we have another kid who does old keyboards and stuff.
As far as playing out, do you have any plans to evolve in pursing other instruments, like a drummer?
KEN- We need a real drummer.
You're in college; where do you go to school?
TOM- Art Institute.
What's you plan with that?
TOM- Try to graduate by Christmas.
Is your ultimate goal after school to keep going on with the music?
TOM- Yeah, I want to do both, I mean, I don't want to go crazy with the music, because I want to still have something solid at the same time, like a real job, but, you know, I'm not trying to jump into a career anytime soon. I'm not ready for it.
Has the explosion of the Internet and Napster, Audio Galaxy, etc. obstructed the way artists express themselves, or has it made things easier?
TOM- So much easier, yes, without the Internet, we'd be nothing.
I see it the same way. Yeah, it takes money away from the producers, but it seems to make musicians almost not need a producer, not need the backing of a company. All you need is a computer, and an idea.
TOM- I feel that anybody who's losing a little bit of money through the Internet, who cares? because they have enough to begin with. It's not hurting anybody, all it's doing is helping us. Guys now even release stuff just for the Internet.
Where would you like to see the future of music go? Would you like to see the whole Napster idea take over and pretty much eliminate labels?
© Jake McGee 2002
Read a Tangents review of The Autumn Kaliedoscope Got Changed here.
Find out more about satanstompingcaterpillars at: http://www.satanstompingcaterpillars.com