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Q&A: ISAAC BROCK of Modest Mouse (Excerpt)

SS: Initially, what was the impetus for adding more band members? Did you just want a fuller live sound?

IB: We’d record records and do overdubs, and I’d feel like the songs needed them, so I’d have someone come on tour and play the other guitar parts, etc. It just kind of grew through not wanting to have parts of the record not there. Once you start playing with someone enough, they don’t want to just be playing your parts, so you start letting them write parts and one thing leads to another. It just worked out really well: If we want a fiddle part or horns or something like that, rather than having to go find someone who plays that really well, someone in the band will figure out how to play it well enough. It sounds more charming than to have it played incredibly well — that no one is a virtuoso, or whatever.

SS: It seems like traveling — being on the road, in particular —has been important to you, not just as a person but as a songwriter. Could you see yourself doing this without traveling as much? Does it drive you to write more songs?

IB: To be honest, I don’t know. There were a couple years where we kind of drifted and that’s when I did Ugly Casanova. I think we’d all gotten slightly tired of it. Eric had had his first kid and I think everybody was really distracted for a while. I still felt like putting out records and I tried touring with that project, too. Then I ended up in jail, so I lost a lot of money on that tour.

SS: That was the DUI incident. There’s been plenty written about that. But I’d like to hear the real version from you.

IB: Sure. I’d gotten a DUI and in Oregon if anyone gets injured in a drunk-driving accident, in any way — even a scratch — you get an attempted murder charge right out of the gate. Anyhow, my friend who was with me dislocated her thumb, and so I got that attempted murder charge. I hired a lawyer who said not to worry about it and he’d contact me if anything came up — he’d take care of all that, which he didn’t do. So I’m crossing the border in Canada with Ugly Casanova, they do a random check, and apparently I’m a fugitive because I didn’t show up for a court date when I was supposed to, even though I didn’t know when it was.

When I was crossing the border — we’d just gone up to see Niagara Falls from the other side — the border guards asked me, “Did you buy anything while you were in Canada?” I said, “Fudge.” For some reason “fudge” just sounds like an insult. “Did you buy anything?” “Yeah, fudge.” It just sounds kind of dickish, so he decides to run my card and I’m thinking, “They’ve got nothing on me, whatever.” I’m giving attitude and they have us go inside and they have me in a holding cell and I’m still like, “Whatever. You guys are jackasses. Stupid. You’re just flexing.” It turns out they came up with this attempted murder fugitive business and that was the fucking moment where I realized, “Yeah. They’re sending the car. I’m going to jail.” In the end, I spent 10 days in jail in upstate New York.

SS: Were you in jail with a bunch of serious criminals?

IB: It was the real deal. It was fucking pretty harsh. Upstate New York around Buffalo, it’s not that nice. I got out 10 days later and finished the tour, but everyone who was playing with me — even if they were people who were on the record — had the same vested interest and treated it like they were employees of Modest Mouse. So I had to pay them the whole time I was in jail, and paid for hotel rooms and so forth. Everyone went to New York and partied, except for my manager, Juan, and a couple other people, which I appreciated, but I also felt bad that they had to hang out in Buffalo, New York for a week and a half.

SS: Do you think you’ll ever do Ugly Casanova again?


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