Musicscan: How was the recording process compared to your previous efforts? Isn't it sort of dangerous to work in a studio that you do not have to pay for, meaning is there a tendency to indulge in detail and maybe get caught up in it?
Tortoise: For "It's All Around You", we began with very little preconceived material, so most of the songs were composed in the studio as we were entrenched in the recording process. We always take a lot of time in the studio, no matter where we're working. Sometimes we have to give ourselves deadlines or yes, we will get caught up in details.
Musicscan: Are you all present at the same time when recording or do you enter the studio whenever your busy schedules allow?
Tortoise: There is a lot of both scenarios involved. We are at the studio as often as possible, but it engrosses such an extended period of time that some of us have to be absent at some point in the process. Because of everyone's schedules, we have to plan things very far in advance, so that we can all manage to dedicate as much time to a recording project as we can.
Musicscan: "It's All Around You" sounds a lot less headstrong and more free flowing, natural and optimistic than some of your previous efforts. Do you agree? What do you think contributed to this slightly different atmosphere?
Tortoise: I think our band has matured. We're very comfortable working together, and there's a certain level of confidence and musical refinement that accompanies that circumstance. Even if it comes across as "less headstrong" to the casual listener, there was a great deal of thought put into the way that we approached the songs- in my opinion, substantially more than anything we've done in the past.
Musicscan: Do you write songs specifically for a record or do you just gather everything that you have worked on over the year and compile the best songs in the end?
Tortoise: We had a lot of demo versions of songs that we had been working on, and many of those are still in the can, to be uncorked when we begin work on future projects. For IAAY, we stopped working off the demos when we felt that we had enough material for a good solid record that we were all comfortable with releasing for public consumption.
Musicscan: What is your relationship with the press? Do you read reviews about your records or stories about the band? How much does that influence your perception of the band?
Tortoise: I don't follow the press that we get, but it's inevitable to stumble across some from time to time. I try not to be directly influenced by it, but it's impossible not to be- to some degree- once you come across it. My perception of our band, however, is not influenced by it at all. One thing everyone should know about Tortoise is we're not going to put anything out there that we're not totally happy with because we don't want to be represented like that.
Musicscan: Does it bother you that you have been made out to be the epitome of the "post-rock" genre, which is solely a critic definition lacking any coherence and stringent content?
Tortoise: It was bothersome a few years back because it was frustrating to be associated with something that seemed like nonsense. As with most things, after a while you get used to it, and eventually come to expect it. Labels are ultimately constricting to creativity when the ultimate goal is to be free, to have no boundaries or parameters on whatever it is you're trying to do.
Musicscan: It seems like you are tremendously engaged in the Chicago music scene, collaborating with countless other musicians and artists almost continuously. How much influence and inspiration do you draw from these experiences for your work with Tortoise?
Tortoise: Tortoise is a part of our musical lives no more or less than any of the other things we're involved in. All musical undertakings have equal bearing. Our involvement in Tortoise influences our work with other bands, just as our involvement in other things influences our work with Tortoise...it's a healthy cycle.
Musicscan: Do you think you would sound differently if you all were located in a different city?
Tortoise: Absolutely. Chicago has a feel and energy like no other place. I think you can feel Chicago in the music we make.
Musicscan: Would you say the songs on your albums are somehow thematically connected and intertwined or does each song stand on its own with no direct relation to the other songs on the album?
Tortoise: The songs all stand on their own, but are brought into a common territory by the album, the way that the songs are put into sequence and tied together. We tend to view the album as one long composition.
Musicscan: What makes for a good live show in your opinion? Are you very much focused on what you are doing on stage or is there a strong interaction with the audience? Is the response and energy from the audience less direct and intense maybe or harder to make out or pick up when playing instrumental music if you would compare it to a rock band with 3 minute songs?
Tortoise: There's a lot that makes for a good live show: a well-programmed set list, a good performance from the band, a hyped crowd, good sounding stage/room/PA system, nice lighting and visuals, etc. I, personally, actually tend to tune out the audience when I perform, partly to quell my nervousness, but also because I get wrapped up in the music we're playing. But you can ALWAYS feel a hyped audience, and that's a great feeling.
Musicscan: What inspires you apart from music, literature or art?
Tortoise: My simple life is incredibly inspiring for me. My family, my friends...great food is always an inspiration. I love to cook...
Musicscan: You are going to curate All Tomorrow's Party this year. Can you already tell us some of the artists you have invited to play and why you chose them? How do you like the concept of the festival?
Tortoise: The concept of ATP is absolutely brilliant, and for this reason, I think Barry Hogan is a genius. Where else can anyone attend a festival like that? Some of the acts we chose are The Boredoms, Sun City Girls, Lighting Bolt, Mike Watt, Azita, Nobukazu Takemura, Prefuse 73, and The Seconds. We chose them because they are all awesome and we love their music, and they know how to "bring it".
Musicscan: What can we expect from Tortoise in the near future? Any further releases, tours, plans?
Tortoise: We have a new website (www.trts.com). We will be touring extensively throughout most of 2004, and into 2005...coming to a place near you soon!
Musicscan: Any last words or comments?
Tortoise: Tortoise thanks you for digging our music, we love our fans and thank you all for your support. Support live music by going to see shows, and support the artists by going to a website or your favorite store and buying the records, don't download them. Fuck George W. Bush. Power to the people.