MOUTHY ISSUE ONE
interview by Ian C Stewart
Mitch Friedman writes songs that have been labeled quirky, silly, funny, and annoying by some. He's been cranking out anthems for homepop connoisseurs since the mid 1980s, counting Andy Partridge (XTC), Dave Gregory (ex-XTC) and R. Stevie Moore among his collaborators.
He gained exposure in the home-recording underground, even landing in the rotation on the Dr Demento radio show. Further early encouragement came in the form of airplay on WFMU.
Friedman was driven by "a combination of thinking I could do it, an ever-growing stockpile of lyrics that rhymed, the desire to impress my heroes, and the chance to get college senior thesis credit for screwing around on a four-track."
While backpacking across Europe and the UK in the late 1980s, Friedman came into contact with fellow hometaper Martin Newell, and the two compared their cover versions of the XTC demo "Pearl."
Meanwhile, as the 1990s unfolded, Friedman began to pursue other performance options, including improv comedy and sketch writing, which enabled him to add extra layers of zaniness to his songs, which took on elements of performance-art during gigs.
In 1998 he enrolled in a songwriting course taught by Ray Davies of the Kinks, held in scenic southern England. The homework from which formed the foundation of the first Mitch Friedman CD, the Importance Of Sauce, which included tasty guitar by Dave Gregory on "Simplification."
Friedman's professional life then took an interesting turn. "At that same time, having grown very weary of freelance AVID editing on projects that didn't truly interest me, I stumbled into the job of editing on the "Howard Stern Radio Show," a Saturday night free-for-all montage-fest of interviews, nonsense, freaks, foul language, nudity, insane stupidity and childish behavior on CBS television. I loved it! Two years later, once the show was canceled, I found myself both unemployed and desperate to record another CD. But first I took a trip to Rockport, Maine for an excuse to eat lobster and reignite my photography skills by taking a course at the Maine Photographic Workshops."
The groundwork was laid for the second Mitch Friedman CD, FRED. "This time not only did I ask Dave Gregory to help me out on "Brother Nature," but I also asked Andy Partridge, now a faithful friend, regular correspondent, and still a great musical hero, to play guitar on one of my songs. He declined, but one week later offered to set lyrics I didn't have a tune for to his own music, which I could then record my own version of and include it on my CD. I faxed him the words to "I Wish I Was A Kid Again" and four hours later he left a message on my answering machine saying that he had already come up with a melody and chords in the form of "violent skiffle". A short time later he revealed these chords and tune on another answering machine message, and once I completed my version of it, with a little help from R. Stevie Moore, FRED was in the can."
Just don't get him started on the current "state" of music... "You know that's not a bad idea. Take all the artists in top forty, ship 'em off to some remote territory, make it the fifty-first state, appoint John Tesh as the governor, put JP Diddylo in charge of security. Destroy all the bridges and access routes, kidnap everyone's personal trainers, and wait for the ransom money to pour in. Then distribute the money to all the artists that have never had a hit or even a near miss in the other 50 states. Either that or only listen to WFMU."
Who were your early musical influences?
I guess Carl Stalling because I watched a lot of Warner Brothers cartoons, The Monkees, tv theme songs like "The Banana Splits", crappy '70s top 40 like "Disco Duck" and "Popcorn", Leroy Shield (the music from "The Little Rascals"), The Partridge Family and those songs from The Brady Bunch like "Sunshine Day", and eventually The Kinks.
How is the current label situation working out?
I've been labeled "quirky", "silly", "funny" and "annoying" so I'd say it's working out semi-well. Other than my winter coat and one shirt, I don't own any clothes with a conspicuous label so in that department the situation is great. I don't have a record contract with anyone but my own MeechMusic label and since I'm the only artist on the label, the situation is working out just as I'd expect it to.
Are there any music people you'd like to collaborate with?
I wouldn't mind doing some more with Andy Partridge and/or R. Stevie Moore. Perhaps Martin Newell, Adrian Belew, Lullaby Baxter, and Ray Davies. Would you ask them that same question for me?
Who does your website?
A guy named Shaun Wolf Wortis who is both a musician and a web designer. Check out his other sites at http://slide.com/wolfdesign
Is there talk of a DVD of your stuff?
If there is I sure hope whomever is doing the talking talks amongst themselves!
Where's your favorite place to play live?
In my head.
What's the biggest audience you've played to?
About 100 people when I was doing improv, about 30 people when I was doing music, and about 200 people when I chanted foreign tongues during my bar mitzvah.
What's next for you, musically speaking?
I'm in the middle of writing songs and a story for a sort of musical concept album type thing based on my song "Purple Burt" from my first CD the Importance of Sauce. And then there are the new songs I'm tending to for my next "regular" CD.
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