Mike Kinsella is Owen
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Mike Kinsella, creator and brainchild of Polyvinyl-band Owen, talks about his creation, his influences and his lyrical focus on teeth.
TWEED: What was the original impetus to begin work on a solo project? Did the failures/disbanding of some of your earlier groups play into this? Or was it something you'd more or less always been interested in and finally found the opportunity to make a go of it?
MIKE: I've always hated band practice so being my own band was the best way to play music and not have to compromise ideas--sit in a crowded, smoky room playing the same few songs over and over again for hours. So I bought a Digi001 and tried to teach myself how to record with it and that turned into the first Owen record.
TWEED: As a songwriter, how much more autonomy do you have writing songs for a solo project as opposed to writing songs for a larger unit? In other words, is the editing process different, non-existent, the same? There are obvious advantages to being able to express--unedited--your ideas musically but do you see any drawbacks?
MIKE: Yeah, there are plenty of obvious advantages, the greatest being able to play what you want to play whenever you want to play it. But there are drawbacks as well. I definitely miss some sort of creative dialogue during the writing/recording process. As a result of not having that, I end up sitting on parts forever and not knowing what to do with them and then eventually throwing them away completely or forgetting I ever wrote them. Another drawback is not having other people to help me play the songs live. I get pretty bored playing the same songs every night on a tour and there are only so many variables I have to manipulate while playing all the songs with just a guitar (especially relative to playing live with Joan of Arc, which is not necessarily improvised but usually pretty unique each show).
TWEED: What has been the evolution of your song-writing career? Do you feel you've found a specific sound that you enjoy exploring, or are you constantly striving for a new and different idea/sound?
MIKE: I started writing songs in high school while I was playing drums in Cap'n Jazz and most of them ended up being used in Cap'n Jazz but I did also write some, well, blatant Dinosaur Jr. rip-off riffs and recorded them on my four-track. I taught some friends some of them and played one show at a VFW Hall as Penguin, but then, I didn't really write a complete song until American Football in college. And, when that ended, I started Owen. It's funny, but I feel like I keep striving for some different sound or idea or something but then, when it's all said and done, it all sounds the same to me.
TWEED: Tell us about recording your first material as Owen. I read that you and Polyvinyl eschewed the usual "money for a studio" approach and, instead, you used it towards software for a home recording. What appealed to you specifically about that? How important was it to you, coming off stints in so many bands, to be in total control of the recording of that and subseq
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