The indie legend and former Pavement frontman gives us his wisdom on romance.
In the '90s, Stephen Malkmus led Pavement through a streak of cultishly adored albums that remain massively influential on contemporary indie rock. His new album, Mirror Traffic, comes out today.
So, you're married now. How did you meet your wife?
At a wedding. I was single, she was single, you know. Most people who are single at a wedding have targets on their faces. That's why they make movies like Wedding Crashers.
Your lyrics are famously abstruse, but there are hints of deep emotions. Should your admirers imagine you're the same in romantic situations — wistful with a touch of detachment?
Perhaps! That doesn't sound so bad. But you can't really judge an artist's personal life or their romance from their music. There's a lot of projection. I suppose someone's lyrics are sort of like the first few dates. After that, whatever cleverness or wistfulness you have isn't really important. That's just personality, which is kind of a front to what you really are. Then you're left with the reality that we're all kind of the same.
Won't your lady fans be disappointed to hear that?
I think it's just a realistic psychological evaluation of relationships. I would say the same for Bob Dylan or Jay-Z. He can brag about Bentleys or whatever, but Beyonce is not going to fall for just that.
You lived in Williamsburg before the hipsters. What was the dating scene like back then?
There was no dating really in Williamsburg at that time. I usually had a girlfriend, but when I didn't, it just seemed hard to meet people. Maybe coming out of the '80s with the AIDS paranoia, people were a little more reserved. In the late '90s people seemed to get more debauched — it was easier to meet people either for a one-night stand or a relationship. A one-night stand is probably more like a drunken thing, which isn't particularly rewarding, but you put less in, you get less back. Who really knows? Maybe some people like to roll that way — they can really fly their freak flag with someone one night and then kick them out and hope they don't see them again.
Let's talk about the bong rip at the beginning of "We Dance." Does marijuana enhance sex, or ruin it?
I don't smoke weed anymore, but it could be pretty good, as long as you weren't paranoid. Marijuana is so powerful these days I think I'd have to go to the psychological ER. I'd be fried.
What would be the sex drug of choice then?
Sex on acid.
That would be terrifying.
Yeah, I think it would be too.
What if the person transformed into a monster?
Exactly. Or maybe he or she would turn into an Indian deity, and you would go to some fifth-dimension tantric realm.
Let's hope for the latter. Do guys or girls get laid more on tour?
Definitely guys. It's hard for girls to get laid on tour if they're in a band. Maybe boys are intimidated a bit. If you're on the hunt, if you're totally just a dog, then I'm sure you can.
Did you just compare a horny female to a dog?
Boys or girls, it's an analogy for someone who's not particularly picky and just wants to have sex. Just a term.
Sometimes it seems the groupie is a lost archetype. Were the '90s better than the 2000s?
People still get crushes and fantasize, especially in Britain, where the bands are all cute little boys. But a groupie is a concept that's pretty sexist. These women were just like "Oh, I need to take care of this boy while he's out on the road. I'll just pamper him, give him a blowjob, and make sure his hair is shampooed when he goes to the next gig." I don't think people buy that anymore.
I think women want to blow musicians more for bragging rights than for caretaking. At least today.
Yeah, they could probably tweet about it. Probably the biggest turn-on, in the short term, for women and men, is how many other people want the person. Getting a lot of action comes in streaks.
I've been dating my boyfriend for years, and he's always had dreams of becoming famous with his garage band from high school. I feel like it's time for him to give up and make music a side project. How can I approach this topic?
It's hard. You want someone to follow their passion and their dreams. If he's not ready to give that stuff up, I think you have to let him go. He's just going to feel like an unfulfilled broken person with crushed dreams. If you have starving twins in your fourth floor walk-up studio apartment, maybe there are some discussions you need to have, but if you're just two hipsters and he's doing that, you've got to let it roll.
My girlfriend and I have a generally good relationship, but I have a bit of a wandering eye. I want to focus on her and try to be monogamous. Any tips for a happy sex life with just one woman?
It doesn't sound like you're ready for that. You need to look into yourself and decide. You could talk to her about it, but that's probably not going to happen. I think everyone has a wandering eye to an extent — it's in our DNA to look at other people and think they're hot. But whether you act on it is another story.
Why are musicians better in bed?
If you're a guitar player, you have strong hands, so I suppose for massages or stimulation that would be nice. But it could potentially be worse, unless you're into dating narcissists.
Are you a narcissist?
I don't think so, but I have some tendencies. I don't know if it's being a narcissist or being a first-born male from 1966.
So you were pampered and given blowjobs your whole life?
The guy I'm dating has a weird fetish. He likes to wear my clothes, like skirts and heels. Do I have to indulge this strange behavior?
It doesn't seem particularly out there to me. I wouldn't call it vanilla, but I'd call it vanilla with a little bit of chocolate syrup. So yeah, indulge him. Women's underwear seems like it would be comfortable. I'd wear it if I had no other clean laundry.
I'm obsessed with the lead guitarist in a local band. What can I do to get him to notice me, besides being in the front row of all his shows? Is that too obvious?
Yeah, that's probably not going to work. It's going to put you down a few notches in his psychological hierarchy. The best way is to hang around where they sell their merch and try to talk to him.
What should I say?
Just wear something hot and look really sexy, and then it doesn't really matter what you say.
So if my boobs are out I don't have to be witty or interesting?
I don't think any three words you say are going to be the answer. The way to open the door to meet someone is to hope that he thinks you're cute first.