My Firsts: Jeremy Schmidt of Black Mountain

Red Shoes with Black Pants

Jun 26, 2019 Web Exclusive
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My Firsts is our email interview series where we ask musicians to tell us about their first life experiences, be it early childhood ones (first word, first concert, etc.) or their first tastes of being a musician (first band, first tour, etc.). For this My Firsts we talk to Jeremy Schmidt of Black Mountain. 

Black Mountain released a new album, Destroyer, in May via Jagjaguwar. The album is the band's fifth, the follow-up to 2016's IV. Frontman Stephen McBean conceived the album in the wake of finally getting a driver's license for the first time two years ago. Hence the album is named after the discontinued single-run 1985 Dodge Destroyer muscle car and one of its singles is entitled "Licensed to Drive" (it was accompanied by a video for the song inspired by 1970s and 1980s video games, with perhaps a nod to Mad Max Fury Road as well).

The album also features new members Rachel Fannan (Sleepy Sun), and Adam Bulgasem (Dommengang and Soft Kill), as well as previous collaborators Kliph Scurlock (The Flaming Lips), Kid Millions (Oneida), and John Congleton (St. Vincent, Swans). 

Read on as Schmidt talks about his first broken bone, being scared for Lois Lane's life, having a man crush on Crockett, and why he got fired from a video store.

First pet? 

The family dog, she was a beautiful easy tempered cocker spaniel, unlike her somewhat aloof sister cat! I can't really divulge their names or else I'll have two less security question answers to use for various online sign-in accounts etc.

First broken bone? 

I broke my wrist when I was about eight years old or so, I lost my balance walking along a crumbly old retaining wall on my aunt and uncle's farm in England. When I returned home I encountered that peculiar juvenile celebrity that a kid enjoys for a moment when they return to school with a cast on for everyone to sign etc. I think it's the only time fallibility or otherness is voluntarily feted among schoolyard peers.

First time you had to go to the hospital? 

When I was about a year old I had some sort of severe dehydration deficit where I couldn't retain any liquids. I actually fell into a coma for a short spell (another compelling schoolyard story to embellish). The only place they could get an IV to take was in my ankle of all places. I still have a scar from it. It was like a reversed Achilles' heel.

First movie you saw in the movie theatre? 

First one I remember was the Superman movie. I have a very distinct memory of it being a nice summer evening at home and my parents telling my brother and I after dinner to put our shoes on, we're going somewhere, and it's a surprise. I still remember the incredulous excitement of "going out somewhere after supper!" The movie definitely stuck with me—the whole beginning, on planet Krypton, is pure apocalyptic disco—not that I really understood that at the time. Lois Lane getting buried alive in an earthquake with a bunch of dirt filling up inside her car definitely scared me—I think I understood that bit just fine. Spoiler alert—Superman saves the day.

First TV show you were obsessed with?

Probably The Muppet Show as a little kid, which I'm still obsessed with. I remember they would always cut to ads and then come back just to have Kermit the Frog tell you "well folks, that's just about all the time we have for tonight" which always felt like such an unjust let-down, and it meant bedtime. Later on as an emerging existential teenager it was Miami Vice, which I also still obsess over. I think maybe I've always been drawn to a certain level of artifice in things.

First record your parents played for you?

It was actually more likely my "groovy" Uncle Roger who introduced my brother and I to The Point! by Harry Nilsson, which captured my imagination like no other thing in the world—every single element therein has been absorbed and convoluted by my psyche in a manner far beyond any objective cultural recognition. But I'm pretty sure it's a really good record.

First album you bought? 

While not as much of an all-consuming wonder as The Point! by comparison—it was a Styx tape, Kilroy Was Here, which I bought around the time it came out because I liked the song "Mr Roboto," specifically because of the robot voice, which I later learned was a Vocoder, something I've been enamored with ever since—can't say the same for much of the rest of the album. I do like plenty of Styx though!

First favorite band?

Tears for Fears, even though I probably wanted to like Iron Maiden more because of the album art.

First favorite song?

It might have been "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor. I remember I loved the 'heavy' guitar riff. I have since found there to be heavier guitar riffs still, if such a thing can be believed?!

First musician you had a crush on?

Probably Madonna by default. I have a memory of being at a friend's birthday party, and her parents must have been rich because they had MTV which we were watching in their hot-tub and the "Lucky Star" video came on and I thought, in some nebulous way, "is this what sex is?"

First actor or actress you had a crush on?

Ha! See above. I also remember having a bit of a crush on Lisa Bonet from The Cosby Show as a kid (I probably thought she'd be the coolest babysitter ever!) and eventually like every other would-be alternative fop—Winona Ryder. First big man-crush had to have been Don Johnson.

First concert you went to?

R.E.M. the Green tour at a shitty sounding local coliseum. I remember someone behind me accidentally spilling their nachos on my cherished goth pea coat—really capping the whole provincial experience. 

First music festival you went to?

Lollapalooza '92? I think it was the second one?  I remember going early on to see Lush and The Jesus and Mary Chain, sticking around for Ministry and defiantly fucking off when Pearl Jam and/or Red Hot Chili Peppers were set to appear. I'd probably submit to the same itinerary today, albeit with a little less of the obligatory youthful defiance.

First time you got fired?

I only got fired once and it was from a video store in the suburbs. I distinctly remember the boss telling me I "didn't really fit in" and purported my wearing "red shoes with black pants" as a valid example of this. I also remember the first thing I was tasked with doing there was to re-alphabetize the adult section. Didn't miss that job much.

First computer? 

I was a bit of a hold-out on buying a computer-that and a career luddite—so I didn't have one until the iMac G5 came out whenever that was. I think my reasoning for not having one for so long was something along the lines of "when the virtual realm actually resembles something I want to interact with then I'll get a computer"—guess I kinda lied.

First email address? 

Same one I still have now—about as antiquated as my old computer.

First book you read outside of one assigned for school? 

Probably Watership Down (although I don't think I ever finished it). I was captivated by the quietly menacing melancholy of the animated feature. I think it's a book you'd likely have been assigned to read at school, but I never was.

First instrument? 

Electric bass guitar. I never played a musical instrument as a child (which anyone can tell if they watch what I'm doing now) but in high school I was really into things like Spacemen 3, Joy Division, The Jesus and Mary Chain, etc. (I liked the JAMC interview where they discuss the bass player only having two strings on his bass "any more and he gets confused"). The noisy guitars were the affecting feature for me but the undercurrent—the bass—seemed to elevate this in a way that was singularly comprehensible to me and also seemed like something I could get my unschooled head around. Bass still remains the elemental ingredient in music for me, be it synth bass pedals, step sequencers, etc. Never cared much for the pops and slaps though.

First band you were in?

Pipedream, the nascent premise of which was Pink Floyd: Live At Pompeii—mainly the drawn out middle bits—played by amateurs.

First recording device?

We used to borrow a friend's TASCAM Portastudio cassette four-track, the one with the weird rubbery recessed dials and a varispeed pitch control that endured plenty of liberal abuse. Flipping the tapes around to do backwards stuff was another favorite trick

First bad review? 

Pipedream played this local battle of the bands-type thing hosted by the university radio station and select judges would write down comments on bits of paper that you would get at the end of the night and I remember one saying that we looked like we had raided Harold and Maude's wardrobe, which is pretty funny but we didn't really know what that was at the time. Another was more prosaic in its disdain, but we sussed out that it was written by this somewhat prickly guy we knew peripherally who always wore a Rocket from the Crypt T-shirt, so at the time we kinda thought it negated the validity of it. That said, we were admittedly pretty ropey in those early days.

www.blackmountainarmy.com

[Note: An earlier version of this article said that Stephen McBean provided these answers. The interview was done via email and when the answers were submitted to us the band's publicist told us that McBean provided the answers. After this post first went up it became clear that the band's Jeremy Schmidt answered the questions instead, that the publicist was mistaken and gave us the wrong information. We apologize for the error, but we were presenting information given to us by the band's official publicist.]

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