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Interview with Michael Greene of Mainesthai - Fenix, Seattle, WA - 3/7/98

Jester: Have you ever been on tour before?

Michael: I have been on tour four times. The set consists of Mainesthai and Mentallo & The Fixer material. I sing on three Mainesthai songs and play keyboards on most of the Mentallo tracks.

Jester: Are you excited to be touring even if it is only for a few dates?

Michael: It is actually better to tour only for a short time. That way a tour can break up the monotony of working in the studio just long enough to come back with fresh ideas. I definitely would not want to be on tour for an entire month because I might go insane, either from falling off the stage after drinking to much or lack of sleep.

Jester: What can we expect from a live Mainesthai show?

Michael: What is important to me is having a lot of energy on stage, everything else is irrelevant. I really try to impart a great deal of energy to the crowd and I like to improvise my lyrics when I am singing. That way the music strays away from sounding exactly like the album, and it keeps me focused on the performance because I constantly have to be thinking about my next line.

Jester: When you improvise lyrics, do you try to still use the same concepts from the original poetry, or do you try to create something new?

Michael: It depends, I have done it both ways. I like to try and alter the lyrics to fit the mood of the crowd or the venue where we are playing. When the lyrics were actually sung for the album, most of them were not initially written down, so that makes it easier to improvise them again.

Jester: Do you contribute to any of the music writing process for Mainesthai?

Michael: No. I am strictly the vocalist. I also work on the art direction of the album, but I only give my opinion on the music, I don't actually write any of it. Gary and Dwayne compose all of the music. It really is an amenable partnership because Gary doesn't like singing all of the time and Mainesthai allows him to take a break from the vocal portion of the music and concentrate on the composition of the sounds.

Jester: How did you first get involved with writing and composing music/lyrics?

Michael: I placed an advertisement in a local Austin newspaper stating that I could sing, even though I had never sung before. Gary and Dwayne answered the advertisement and asked me to write song lyrics for them. I wrote about ten tracks the day after I met them and they liked three of them and we decided to work together. Six months of work later we had completed "Out to Lunch".

Jester: Have you ever had ever had any type of formal musical training?

Michael: No. I was always very inspired by Peter Gabriel and how theatrical he is when he performs. I also enjoyed some of the earlier Skinny Puppy videos as well. So it was the complex theatrics that got me into singing in the first place.

Jester: 'Wartime' is probably my favorite Mainesthai track. Can you tell me a little about what was going through your head when your wrote the lyrics?

Michael: That song was derived from two separate issues. The first is that Americans feel that they can go anywhere in the world both militaristically and as a tourist and that they will be untouchable. People seem to feel that no matter what politically troubled place they go in the world, that they will be safe because they are an American, which I feel is very wrong.

The second is that while living in Amsterdam, a friend's father told me a story about his Vietnam experience. Apparently, the Vietnamese would run up and spit in the faces of the American soldiers. Those soldiers were so arrogant that they would wipe their face while the Vietnamese would use the distraction to gut the soldiers with knives. The soldiers felt so indestructible that they would let their guard down for the crucial second it took to be stabbed by their adversaries. That imagery stayed very vividly in my head.

Jester: 'Therapy' is my second favorite track because of the samples taken from the Amnesty International film Closetland. Whose idea was it to use those samples?

Michael: I am a big Madeline Stowe fan, but I had nothing to do with the choice of those samples. It was just luck that Dwayne and Gary chose to sample from a film in which Madeline Stowe starred. I really enjoy the mechanical 'swinging' sample used in the song that was taken from the film.

'Therapy' was the second song that we wrote together and is perhaps the most structured track Mainesthai have written. Vocally it is the hardest track to perform live because there are a number of radical pitch shifts throughout the song.

As for the lyrics on that track, at the time the song was written, I was a fan of Mike Patton of Faith No More. Mike has always sung with very different vocals styles in his music and I wanted to try and emulate that with 'Therapy'. So we used vocal effects to emulate the characters from Closetland and carry on a sort of warped conversation with myself.

Jester: What is your favorite Mainesthai track?

Michael: While I am really pleased with overall feel and mood of "Out to Lunch', each track does have it's own personality. 'Wartime' would probably be my favorite because of the live remix that we perform when we tour. It is also a really easy track on which to improvise new lyrics. I also really like 'Join the Club' because it is the first track that I ever wrote.

Jester: How did you get signed to Zoth Ommog Records to release "Out To Lunch"?

Michael: Gary called up Talla at Zoth Ommog and offered him a new side project. Talla listened to the music, he really liked it, and they released it.

Jester: Are you happy that "Out To Lunch" and the remix album have been reissued?

Michael: Yes. Out of all of the artwork and design on the Mentallo and Mainesthai releases, I think the re-issue of "Out to Lunch" looks the best. Both releases were remastered and kids can now find copies of my music in any store in the country instead of having to order it from Europe.

Jester: Whose idea was it to remix Mentallo versus Mainesthai material?

Michael: I am not sure whose idea that was originally. At the time, we had material for both projects that Gary and Dwayne wanted to remix. So they convinced Talla to release a remix EP of both projects so that the fans knew both projects were written by the same musicians and just had different vocals.

Jester: Are you working on any new Mainesthai material?

Michael: We are planning on writing a brand new album at the end of this tour. We just moved our studio to a new location so we haven't been writing as fast as we would have liked. Right now we have only written one track which is being tentatively titled 'Humongous'. It is called that because Dwayne thinks my voice sounds like the character of the same name from the movie "The Road Warrior".

Jester: What is the scene like in Austin?

Michael: Mentallo has only played once in Austin so nobody really knows that we live there. We really enjoy that because we remain completely unknown and are not harassed in our home town. Dwayne does go to the Atomic Cafe in Austin frequently, and we will be playing another show there at the end of this tour, but hopefully nothing will change for us.

Jester: Is there anything that you would like to add in conclusion?

Michael: Please encourage the crowd to really get into the music tonight at the show!

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