"Between You and Me, I Don't Know What I'm Doing Here":
An Interview with Mike Kinsella

Owen pic #1
Mike Kinsella. Photo courtesy of Polyvinyl Records.
Mike Kinsella is a Chicago cult classic who has wooed indie audiences since 1989, providing lead guitar, drums, and vocals for bands including Cap'n Jazz, Joan of Arc, and American Football. His uniquely acerbic, intelligent, and often self-deprecating social commentary in his latest project, Owen, has a fresh quality above other emo/indie one-guy-and-a-guitar acts that seem to have fizzled out in the last few years. Kinsella's recent lo-fi performance here in Houston was repeatedly interrupted by his amusingly blithe (and seemingly tipsy) observations and questions directed to no one in particular. After finishing the set and negotiating his way through a crowd of overzealous fans, the oracular creator of Owen joined me for a nightcap.

SCR: Onstage you sang about top shelf liquor. What's your favorite bottom-shelf liquor?
Mike Kinsella: Favorite bottom shelf liquor? I don't even know, really. I would be faking if I told you different. I just drink beer. Back in the day my buddies and I used to drink plastic jugs of... I don't remember now. I try not to remember that stuff.

A lot of your songs talk about drinking, but if you could write and perform someone else's song, what would it be and why?
Oh, Jesus. Uh...I would say "Symphony of Destruction," by Megadeth. Because it's all [plays a rhythm on knee, vocalizes electric guitar sounds], you know? It's just fun to play, no bullshit.
Would you say that Megadeth is an influence on any of your songs?
No. Maybe. Well, yeah, I guess they are, indirectly. I definitely share the bitterness of Megadeth, and a little bit of musical style with Metallica. I have been into them for so long, I'm sure they have influenced my music in some ways. Have you read the Metallica comic books?
Metallica comic books? No, but I'm going to eBay that when I get home tonight. So, are there any plans for a new record in the near future, and if so, will it be recorded in a studio like At Home With Owen, or in your mom's house like some of your previous records?
Yes, there is a new record on the way. And it was recorded in a real studio this time.
It has already been recorded?
Well, I would like to think it is about two-thirds finished.
Did you play all of the instruments yourself, or did you enlist some outside help?
I hired some really talented people to play stuff that I couldn't, and right now I'm still waiting for those parts to be recorded. Then we will be a lot closer to the release.
Can't wait. So, you hail from Chicago. Did you bear witness to the acceptance speech of the president-elect to these United States?
Oh yeah, I was there.
On the record, did you vote for Obama?
Fuck yeah, I did. What about you?
I didn't vote.
You are retarded.
Owen record cover
(Music courtesy of Owen and Polyvinyl Records.)

I'm retarded? That's not a nice thing to say.
Who wouldn't vote?
Well, I moved right before and forgot to send in a change of address form, but it wouldn't have mattered anyway. He's a fucking politician, not a deity. He lies like everyone else. He's just the better storyteller.
Yeah, I know, but at some point, you have to recognize reality.
And reality is...that I'm retarded for not supporting Obama?
No, that our country needs progressive change that we would not get from the other candidates.
That is something that I agree with, and I could discuss the Palin fallacy with you all night. But let's finish the interview real quick and then we will get back to it, I promise. You are pretty fierce about your politics. Most of your songs are social commentaries; observation and your perception of the world around you. Did you incorporate politics into your new album?
No, I try to stay away from that kind of stuff in my writing. It seems a little forced.
I caught some literary references to Ernest Hemingway in your song "Good Friends, Bad Habits," and I saw you flipping through a book at the merch booth. Are you an avid reader?
Yeah, I try to always have a book with me. Right now I'm reading about Theodore Roosevelt and his retirement after he lost his bid for a third term of presidency. He took off to South America and explored the Amazon river basin, and almost died. It's a really great book; I would recommend you read it. It's called The River of Doubt. If I were not touring and writing music, I would want to be an explorer.
What kind of explorer?
A sexy explorer. Now let's talk about how Palin is the Anti-Christ. END