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2014 Artist Survey: Absolutely Free

Michael Claxton, Matt King, and Moshe Rozenberg on U2, Ferguson, Mark Kozelek, and Heartwarming Fan Interactions

Feb 11, 2015 Absolutely Free
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For Under the Radar’s 12th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2014. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2014 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2014 print and digital issues for answers from alt-J, Camera Obscura, Chromeo, The Dears, Death From Above 1979, Deerhoof, The Drums, The Flaming Lips, Glass Animals, Hookworms, Sondre Lerche, of Montreal, Owen Pallett, The Rosebuds, Still Corners, Strand of Oaks, Teleman, Sharon Van Etten, The War on Drugs, Warpaint, Woman’s Hour, Wye Oak, Zola Jesus, and others.

Here are some answers from Michael Claxton, Matt King, and Moshe Rozenberg of Absolutely Free. [Note: The band answered all the questions collaboratively.]

Top 10 Albums of 2014

1. Timber Timbre: Hot Dreams

2. Caribou: Our Love

3. Teenanger: E P L P

4. New Fries: Fresh Face Forward

5. Owen Pallett: In Conflict

6. Joe Meek: The Emotional, Cosmic & Occult World of Joe Meek

7. Last Ex: Last Ex

8. Various Artists: Choubi Choubi! Folk and Pop Songs From Iraq (Reissue)

9. Oneohtrix Point Never: Commissions I

10. Jennifer Castle: Pink City

What was the highlight of 2014 for either you personally or for the band?

Releasing our debut, working with wonderful labels, touring more than we ever have.

What was the low point of 2014 for you?

We parted ways with an old friend.

What are your hopes and plans for 2015?

We’re finishing up the score to a feature film called Two Cares, Due None. We’re touring Europe in February with our friends, Viet Cong. We’ll write and release some new music too!

U2’s new album was downloaded for free into millions of users’ iTunes accounts without their permission. Was it a wonderful gift to music fans or an invasive action that devalues music? Also, which artist, other than you, deserves to have their album automatically downloaded to half a billion people more than U2?

We all got it, and we had no particular interest in hearing it…it’s good for U2 fans, but a bit pushy otherwise. Music loses its allure when forced onto a person.

Did you take part in the ice bucket challenge? If not, why not? Grimes declined due to animal testing issues, was the grief she got for that deserved?

The fact that Grimes did the research to inform her opinion is commendable.

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri opened up a new national dialogue on police shootings and racism in America. Do you think anything will actually change because of it?

When you can use your gun registration ID and not your student ID to vote, you know that priorities are out of whack. In some ways we’ve come a long way, but unfortunately it’s going to take too many more lives to get to there. Police definitely need to be held to a higher standard when dealing with the public.

What’s your craziest theory for what happened to the missing Malaysian Air flight?

It never existed. It’s a fake story to distract people from larger problems plaguing our world (see question 7).

Mark Kozelek was criticized in 2014 for insulting his audience (calling them “hillbillies” for talking during his set) and for making fun of The War on Drugs when their sound bled over to the stage he was playing. What responsibility do performers have to be respectful of their audiences and fellow bands?

War on Drugs do sound like Don Henley, and Sun Kil Moon is a privileged bully. Ultimately though, people should shift their focus toward music and let both parties forge ahead, unchanged. People should be respectful of others in general, with or without a microphone.

“Weird Al” Yankovic was back in a big way this year. If he were to lampoon any one of your songs, which one would you want it to be? What would the “Weird Al” version’s lyrics be about?

“Beneath the Hair,” a song about comb-overs.

Which common criticism of your music do you most agree with?

Some reviewers have mentioned that we’re still searching for our sound. This is kind of in line with our approach to music, though. As artists we don’t intend to fall into any sound for too long-we’ll continue to explore in our pursuit of creating boundless music.

What’s the most uplifting or heartwarming fan interaction you’ve ever had?

A few years ago we wrote a piece called “Balcony Scene” for Summerworks Theater Festival. It was a performance piece we performed to one audience member at a time. It put a lot of focus on the spectator and, as we more or less serenaded them, a lot of people had very earnest reactions. Some were nervous, some weary and some were really touched. That made for an intimate musical interaction and a very moving and rewarding experience for us.

What’s the topic no one asks you about in interviews that you wish they would? Conversely, if you could get journalists to stop asking you one question, which would it be?

People don’t tend to ask us enough about our music and the precepts behind it…

Who from your youth (such as a former bully, an unrequited love) do you most hope pays attention to the fact that you’re now a successful musician?

We’ve long let go of that stuff. Success is definitely the best revenge, but revenge isn’t the healthiest mindset.

Both Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman died in 2014. Did either death deeply affect you and do you find it strange to grieve for a stranger? Which celebrity’s death in your lifetime has most affected you?

Without a doubt, Jack Layton. R.I.P.

What do you think about the international community’s military response to ISIS (aka Islamic State), such as the air strikes in Iraq and Syria? Will we be effective at taming the terrorist organization?

Violence breeds violence. We wish our nation wasn’t taking part in this.

Which well-known filmmaker would you most like to direct one of your music videos?

Jean-Luc Godard.

What quirky piece of band merchandise would you most like to produce for sale to your fans?

Absolutely alcohol-free vodka.

Do you ever long for the days before the Internet and cell phones? If so, what do you think has been the worst side effect of those technologies?

The mass endangerment of bees.



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