Musicscan: Did you approach this album any differently than you did your last efforts?
M. Ward: Yes and no. With every album I collect songs that I have written over the years and that seem to fit together in some way. So it is the same method but a different thread.
Musicscan: Would you say it is sort of a concept album with the entire radio theme and all?
M. Ward: All my albums have been concept albums, I guess, except for the first record, because it is just the easiest way I know how to make a record. I mean I write a lot of songs, so I herd them together. The ones that seem to fit together are the ones that create a record for themselves.
Musicscan: So when you wrote the songs, did you already have the concept of the album in mind?
M. Ward: About ¾ of the songs were already written anywhere from two to five years ago. Over the course of making the record, I wrote a few more songs to fill in the blanks.
Musicscan: Tell me a little bit about how you first got in touch with music. I believe your family also encouraged that or at least had something to do with it.
M. Ward: Well, they didnt really encourage it. They did fund my first piano lessons, so I guess that is encouraging it to a certain extent. I didnt realize that I wanted to pursue music until I realized that I had the capability of making a living off of my music, which means that I could make a more substantial income. Then you can quit your day job and just do music.
Musicscan: Well, does it feel like a job to you?
M. Ward: It is definitely a job, just like any other job I think. There are some other things I would love to do. Music is a great way of experimenting with ideas and if I didnt have music I would find a job that allowed me the freedom to come up with ideas and hopefully be useful to the community in some way. I imagine I will eventually do something else besides music. Music will always be in my life, but I wouldnt want it to be the only thing I do for a living.
Musicscan: In how far has being a teacher and working with music influenced your music do you think? Or did you learn something from the kids just by working with them not necessarily related to your music?
M. Ward: I am sure it did, but it is more subconsciously and in ways that are hard to talk about. I am sure it did, but I just cant really say how unless I made something up, but I dont want to make something up. I absolutely learned something from the kids when I worked with them, though, but I couldnt relate that to my music. You learn about things like the next generation and also about your own generation.
Musicscan: Are you interested in contemporary or more current kinds of music? It seems like you cant be bothered with most of it.
M. Ward: To a certain extent. I listen to modern music, but most of my inspiration comes from older records and older ideas.
Musicscan: Would you say you are a nostalgic person?
M. Ward: Yes, but I think all music is nostalgic for one era or another. I think every artist pulls things from artistic events that have already happened. Right now people seem to have a huge nostalgia for eighties music, which I am not relating to that well.
Musicscan: Why do you think older music is often perceived as more authentic than more contemporary or modern music?
M. Ward: That is a very good question. I dont know. Why do you think it is?
Musicscan: Well, I think part of it is because people construct a myth about older music. Partly due to nostalgic reasons and partly because they hadnt been there to experience it first hand, so they create this mythological exaggeration and image in their head that is easy to idolize. This makes it seem more authentic to many people, also because it cant be proven wrong anymore. You cant see the band perform live anymore, so there is no way of checking for authenticity.
M. Ward: Right. I think something that stands the test of time should seem more sturdy than something that is this months cover star of Spin Magazine. It only makes sense because we have no idea that people on Spin Magazine this year might not have any importance or relevance this year or next year or five years from now.
Musicscan: Would you say you create timeless music then?
M. Ward: It is up to other people to decide that. It is up to time to decide. I am definitely in no place to say.
Musicscan: Your new album Transistor Radio is at least as far as I understood it about the last remnants of independent radio and media in the US. Do you think there will always be some space left for independent media and independent bands?
M. Ward: There is always going to be a place for that in my opinion whether or not it is going to be broadcast over traditional AM/FM means is another question. I think there is going to be some kind of revolution in radio in the next five or six years that is going to give more exposure to a wider number of people and a wider number of ideas in the same way that cable television became necessary for television. So I am sure it is always going to be there, but how it gets fed unto the masses is hard to say.
Musicscan: Do you think that the situation of independent media in the US also has to do with the political situation in the US? Or put differently, do you think that conservative politics generates good art?
M. Ward: Conservative politics does not create good art. Well, there has to be a reason that all these people are voting for George Bush and I have talked to other people about it. There has to be a reason that he got elected. Oh, did I say elected, I mean re-elected (laughs). The only answer that makes sense to me is the control this administration has over the media and popular forms of information. Since I make my living as a musician, the radio is something that I spend a lot of time thinking about and when I am supporting my records I talk to a lot of people about radio and I am learning a lot about it. Radio is just as guilty in my opinion as the popular television. News agencies like CNN or FOX are just as guilty of censorship. Well, censorship isnt the right word, but they are just as guilty of telling only one side of the story and not turn to the other side of the story. They are just giving people one impression of the world in my opinion.
Musicscan: Why do you think Bush did get re-elected?
M. Ward: Because the media are painting one side of the coin and they are not painting a picture of the other side of the coin. When I say that, I mean the families of Iraq, for example. You dont see very much about them on the media. When I watch the BBC you do actually see that there are camera men in Iraq telling the stories of the actual families rather than just military. Is this making sense?
Musicscan: Yes. Wouldnt that imply that the people are just too stupid to see through that and realize what is really going on? Isnt that too easy of a solution?
M. Ward: Yes, you can definitely say that they are too stupid. We have so many problems in America that it is hard to know where to begin. But one of the problems we have is illiteracy and people not reading books. People are raised on television. When you have a nation that is raised on television, the people are not thinking critically. I mean it gets harder to find any countries that are not raised by television, but I would say America is the worst. For the amount of money this country has, we shouldnt have as many illiterates as we do, but we unfortunately do. The majority of people believe that what they see on television is real and that is one of the biggest problems. One of the biggest problems is the control these networks have over peoples minds. It is incredible. It is in advertisings and in films, but you know that already. I dont know why I am saying this, but you asked me.
Musicscan: In how far do your lyrics relate to real political and social issues then or do you primarily use fictional material?
M. Ward: I view it as all fictional, but that doesnt necessarily mean that there isnt any non-fiction in it. I think all fiction has non-fiction in it or non-fiction as the basis of fiction.
Musicscan: Do you think music can have a social impact? What do you want people to take away from your shows?
M. Ward: Definitely. There are tons of examples, which I am sure I dont have to tell you. I dont really know what I want people to take away from my shows. It is open ended.
Musicscan: It seems like you are not very much into interviews? Do you hate them and if so why do you continue doing them?
M. Ward: If you want the truth, I would rather not do interviews, but it really depends on the journalist, too. This one is fine, because I can tell that you are intelligent and this is my problem when talking to journalists. Most music journalists are overworked, I guess you could say. They get so many CDs that they have to listen to, it is insane. I suppose some people get about 100 CDs a week or maybe just a month. If you have to listen to 100 CDs a month you are numbing your mind to the whole scheme, idea and history of music. You dont even have time something that was maybe created in a different country or in a different time. So its not about music, but about selling. That is my main problem with journalists.
Musicscan: But do you think it is possible for a band to exist outside of the realm of the media if it wants to move beyond the local or regional level?
M. Ward: No, unfortunately you have to have the media whether they are saying good things or bad things.
Musicscan: So what makes for a good interview in your opinion?
M. Ward: Good questions and good answers.