The End: Carl Newman of The New Pornographers | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The End: Carl Newman of The New Pornographers

Fading Away

Jan 24, 2020 The End Bookmark and Share

To end out the week, we ask Carl Newman (aka A.C. Newman) of The New Pornographers some questions about endings and death.

Newman co-founded the power pop band in 1997 in Vancouver, Canada and the initial lineup also featured Neko Case, Destroyer’s Dan Bejar (who left the band in 2017), John Collins, and Blaine Thurier. Todd Fancey joined in 2003 and Newman’s niece Kathryn Calder entered the fray in 2005, partly because Case’s successful solo career meant she had to pull back from touring with the band. More recent additions are Joe Seiders and Simi Stone.

Newman says the band’s latest album, In the Morse Code of Brake Lights, their eighth full-length (released last September via Collected Work/Concord), is an accidental concept record. “I was about two-thirds of the way through the record when I began to notice that lyrically so much of it was pointing toward car songs,” he said in a press release announcing the album. “The opening track is ‘You’ll Need a Backseat Driver,’ and that was a metaphor that seemed to be running through other songs, too. Next to the love song, I feel like the car song is one of the most iconic kinds of songs in pop music, from Chuck Berry to the present. There was so much of that throughout it that I started thinking: ‘Oh, no, there’s too many references to cars on this record!’ And then I thought, ‘No, that’s goodpeople might think it’s a concept album.’”

Read on as Newman discusses how he’d like to die, what song he’d like played at his deathbed, his concepts of heaven and hell, his favorite endings to movies and books, and how Nickelback might be on Satan’s playlist.

How would you like to die and what age would you like to be?

Ideally we reach the singularity in around 20 years and this question will seem ridiculously outdated. Going against everything that rock and roll teaches, I think I’d like to fade away. Die in my sleep, knowing I’m old and tired, having been able to prepare but thinking I still have more time.

What song would you like to be playing at your deathbed?

You’d have to be very aware that you’re ruining this song for someone, so it should be something you love but your loved ones don’t know or like. Nothing that is too funereal or sad, the sadness is built into the moment, but nothing too happy either. I’m going with “Cup of Dreams” by Thinking Fellers Union Local 282.

What song would you like to be performed at your funeral and who would you like to sing it?

[Electric Light Orchestra’s] “Livin’ Thing” performed by the biggest pop star of that time.

What’s your favorite ending to a movie?

Rushmore. Joyous and bittersweet.

What’s your favorite last line in a book?

The end of [John Irving’s] A Prayer For Owen Meany. It is so concise. It literally and figuratively closes the book on that book. I am of the opinion that 90% of novels do not know how to end.

What’s your favorite series finale episode of a TV show?

The Wire.

What’s your favorite last song on an album?

Love: “You Set the Scene” [from Forever Changes]. After the hippie apocalypse of the rest of the album, this ends it on a hopeful note. My favorite “coming of age” song. Would also be a great one to play at my funeral but “You Set the Scene” can’t be the answer to every question. Could it?

What’s your favorite last album by a band who then broke up?

Roxy Music’s Avalon was a great way to bow out. Evolve, perfect a new sound, then leave.

What’s your favorite way a band broke up?

I’ll always love Johnny Rotten’s “You ever felt like you’ve been cheated?” moment. I’ve fought the urge to say that on stage, just to start rumors.

Whose passing has most affected you?

David Berman died [recently] so that is very fresh. I didn’t know him but I have friends who did. Scott Miller from Game Theory/The Loud Family affected me in the same way. As an artist who sometimes has trouble coping, my empathy kicks in for those who have been overcome by depression and the weight of their lives. When you think of the immense value of their lives, hopefully it reminds you that your life has immense value to someone.

If you were on death row, what would you like your last meal to be?

Takeout from Szechuan ChongQing in Vancouver. The bean sprout chow mein, dry hot green beans, dai ching tofu, General Tso’s chicken, hot and sour soup, rice for… one? (Are you having rice?)

What’s your concept of the afterlife?

We would join a formless consciousness. If we were looking, we could find the ones we love and share consciousness. Makes as much sense as living on a cloud.

What would be your own personal version of heaven if it exists?

You’re with your friends and family and enjoying your little lives.

What would be the worst punishment the devil could devise for you in hell, if he exists?

A 24-hour Nickelback station! No, I’m kidding. Everyone always picks on them. Satan could probably just stick with throwing me into an endless ocean of fire, maybe point out some flaws I feel self conscious about. Good thing he does not exist.

If reincarnation exists, who or what would you like to be reincarnated as?

An eagle. They can fly and seem to be respected amongst the other flying creatures. Not big into hunting for my food supply but I’m assuming that instinct will kick in and I won’t be able to remember my previous life.

What role or achievement would you most like to be remembered for?

Being a good guy.

What would you like your last words to be?

“I love you”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 66 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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