A few months ago when Tokyo Police Club came to Pittsburgh I got the chance to interview Graham Wright their keyboardist. He was a lot of fun to talk to and I think the 12 minute interview went great.
There is a lot of hockey talk in the beginning of the interview because at that time the Pittsburgh Penguins were playing the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the playoffs. If you are not a hockey fan don’t worry that’s not all we talked about. We also talked about bacon, record labels, favorite colors, and technology, so there is something here for everyone.
Here is the full transcription of the interview:
Mr. Baconpants: When I found out that I was going to get the chance to interview you guys, I asked my readers to email me some questions. If these are a little bizarre, don’t worry about it.
Tokyo Police Club: It’s great. They’re from the public.
MBp: Yeah, they are. So obviously, it’s Pittsburgh, we’re in the playoffs—do you guys follow hockey at all?
TPC: Absolutely. But we’re not in the playoffs, so no.
MBp: Are you rooting for Ottawa?
TPC: No! Are you kidding? We can’t root for Ottawa. They’re the hated Senators from just up the highway. The other Ontario team, I can’t root for them. It’s rough. My two favorite Canadian teams are the Leafs and the Edmonton Oilers. When you like both those teams, you can’t you really like any of the other Canadian teams… So yeah, I don’t know, it’s one of those years when I guess I could just pick a team to root for. It’s not really fun if you’re not rooting for a team, but none of my teams are in it.
MBp: That sucks. I’m just excited that this year the Penguins might actually make it past the first round.
TPC: Yeah. We, in Canada, thought we were going to get the Penguins for awhile. We were feeling pretty good about it. Every time an American team looks like they’re in financial trouble, everyone in Canada starts to hold their breath. So we’re like, “Yes! We can score another team. Send it over to us,” but I don’t think they’re going to let that happen. I don’t think they (the NHL) want more teams in Canada.
MBp: Yeah, and plus the Penguins—I mean, luckily, we’re going to build a new stadium here.
TPC: Yeah, that was the whole thing—the decision to build the stadium. But, I mean, you guys have such a good team now, you’ve got the makings of the Dynasty.
MBp: Yeah, and we’ve got two good players. If we can get Malkin on there—I’m telling you, man, we’ll be in the playoffs for a long time. We’ll probably sign Malkin once we let a bunch of other guys go.
TPC: Yeah, you guys are where I’m hoping the Leafs will be in a few years once we’ve done our time… build the team up with some draft picks, and start—
MBp: That’s what we did.
MBp: All right. So what do you prefer—do you prefer Canadian bacon over American bacon?
MBp: Do you eat American bacon?
TPC: Yeah. When I think of Canadian and American bacon—I think of Canadian as back bacon, that’s what you call Canadian bacon—and American bacon, which I never call American bacon, I just think of regular bacon, which is just the bacon strips that you get.
MBp: Pork belly.
TPC: Yeah. I eat that all the time. That’s what you usually buy when you buy bacon. But if I can get back bacon—you can’t afford it—but I prefer to get it at restaurants or whatever.
MBp: It does seem a little more premium. It’s pork loin, actually.
TPC: Yeah. Plus, you get it less often, so it’s a little more of a treat.
MBp: All right. This goes out to you then. So you have a tour blog where you review bathrooms. So have you checked out Mr. Small’s bathroom yet?
TPC: Yeah, the bathroom upstairs is good. The toilet wasn’t working when I got in. They fixed it really fast, so that was okay. The door doesn’t lock, but there’s a big strongly-worded sign about how “the door doesn’t lock, so knock first,” so I think it’s good.
MBp: That’s good. Because if the bathroom doesn’t lock, you tend to score it low. It seems like a pretty big thing for you.
TPC: Exactly. There are some bathrooms where the door doesn’t even shut. People are always barging in and out. I don’t want to be interrupted.
MBp: All right. So who do you think would win in a fight: a baby covered in honey or a dog with no legs?
TPC: The baby would probably take some damage, but then the dog might get satisfied with all the sugar and honey that it would get first. I think it would end up being a draw. The baby would sort of crawl away, maybe with a cut, a laceration, and the dog would just go to sleep.
MBp: That’s a good answer. So I read an interview with you guys, and you said the Canadian government gives you money to make videos, is that true?
TPC: Yeah. The Canadian government supports all the arts. The government has a lot of programs for handing out to artists and entrepreneurs. It’s a whole thing with keeping the Canadian identity and keeping the country strong and keeping people from moving away. I think the music program seems to be working out the best. Obviously, you can see the over the last few years the Canadian bands that are breaking lose. And it makes it possible to tour. Touring is expensive. If you’re starting out, you can’t afford it. You don’t have any money. So the government is willing to help out with it and with recording the music videos. It’s really awesome.
MBp: Sometimes when you hear that stuff, you don’t really know if it’s true or not.
TPC: Yeah, I know. It’s absolutely true. You have to apply and there are a whole set of rules and guidelines and stuff. They don’t just give it out to anybody. If you deserve it, you can usually get it.
MBp: But the fact that it’s there, that’s just—
TPC: It’s helped us a lot.
MBp: With the rash of bands that are dropping their labels and giving away their music for free. Do you feel pressured to possibly do that sometime down the road, once you get more established?
TPC: It’s possible that just everyone is going to do that down the road anyway, so we won’t have a choice. But I think right now it’s really only working well for bigger, more established bands. Like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails can do it no problem. I’m pretty sure if we put the Tokyo Police Club album up as a pay-what-you-want thing, everyone would pay nothing. Why would they? We’re not Radiohead. We’re not a band that has earned people’s respect. If I pay $80 for a Radiohead record, sight unseen, I know it’s going to be great. But with Tokyo Police Club you don’t have that guarantee. You have no idea—
MBp: The reputation isn’t there to warrant it.
TPC: Exactly. And so I think it may be heading that way. I think things are obviously changing somehow, but I think it’s going to be a few years yet before we stop putting out CDs on record labels and all that.
MBp: This probably goes in with the next question: what role has your label played in the dream to make a living playing music?
TPC: I think they still play a big role. I mean, not the way I thought they would when I was a kid, then I thought, “We’re in our first band and we’ll play in front a record executive and they’ll take a contract out and then we will be a rock star band and it will be great.” Obviously, it’s not like that, but if you’re willing to work hard at it and hold up your end of the bargain, they will really facilitate you. We signed our EP—it came out on Paper Bag in Canada. No one had ever heard of us, then we announce that we put the EP on Paper Bag, and you know it’s a respected label in Canada and Toronto, so everyone said, “Oh, hey. This band is on Paper Bag, now they’re worth checking out,” instead of us just sort of saying, ‘Come to our show! Come to our show!’” The same thing with Saddle Creek on a bit larger scale in the States. It’s a very respected label. It’s a fantastic label.
MBp: So you’re thinking that the label gives bands the kind of recognition they need. Because obviously it has to be good, or they wouldn’t be investing money in it.
TPC: Exactly. Hopefully. Especially with something like with Saddle Creek. Obviously, they have the resources to get our music into places that would couldn’t have gotten into ourselves. And so, yeah I think labels still do a lot. If the band’s not willing to put the work in then the label’s not going to do anything, unless they’re a huge major label with lots of money to pay off people. But as long as the bands are going to work their ass off and the labels are going to work their ass off, I think the two sides can really achieve what neither of them could alone.
MBp: Yeah, that was really a hot topic on my blog there for awhile. You were seeing the music industry kind of—you always hear the negative side of it in the media. So I was trying to think of it from a band perspective and say, “Well, the label is still pretty important. It’s not an evil company trying to rip people off.”
TPC: Yeah, and it’s weird. I remember when I was 14 years-old, I assumed that major labels were evil and indie labels were good. It was very black-and-white, a rebel-imperial kind of thing. But I’ve talked to people from major labels. We talk to major labels. They’re great people who love music and who are honestly excited about it. The nature of the business is that if you’re in business, you need to make money, and that goes for any label. That goes indie labels. That goes for us, too, you know. I mean our band is a business. So there are plenty of crooks out there running indie labels and there’s probably a lot those people in major labels. It’s just—you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the people regardless.
MBp: Exactly. That being said—what is your favorite color?
TPC: I’m blue these days. I don’t know. I’m past the point, I think, where I have a favorite color. It’s usually colors that I like to wear, and that’s usually defined by my girlfriend, what she tells me to wear. Blue is good right now, dark jeans.
MBp: All right. So the drinking age is lower there, it’s like 18—
TPC: 19 in Ontario. It’s 18 in a couple of places though.
MBp: Oh, okay. So I drink a lot of micro brews and review beers, like local micro-brews in Pennsylvania and around the country. The only beers I’ve ever tried from Canada were like Moosehead, Molson, and Labatt. Do you guys know of any like micro, low-key Canadian beers?
TPC: Moosehead is good. Alexander Keith’s, but that’s not low-key. They’re one of the biggest breweries in Canada, but it’s probably my favorite Canadian beer. I’m really bad at checking out local microbreweries and stuff. There’s Creemore. Creemore Springs is really good, which is from a little town. But when I try weird beers, they tend to be German or Belgium or something more like that.
MBp: Yeah. There’s a place in Pittsburgh, the Sharp Edge. It has Belgium beers on tap.
TPC: Wicked. There’s a place down the street from my house, a bar. It’s kind of expensive but they have a huge selection of beers, and my favorite beer on tap.
MBp: What’s your favorite beer?
TPC: [Inaudible]. Also, Heidegger is my other one, but they don’t have that there. I can’t find it anywhere in Toronto.
MBp: Yeah, I’ve been kind of experimenting. I used to never like IPAs and now—
TPC: Keith’s an IPA.
TPC: I don’t know that much about it. I just know there’s a few that I like, and they’re expensive, so I assume they must be fancy.
MBp: Okay, so this will be the last question. What is the most indispensable piece of technology you guys have on tour? Like the one thing that you think, “Man, I just couldn’t make it without it.”
TPC: It’s tie probably between the cell phone and the laptop computer with wireless internet connection. Just to be able to get in touch with home. I can text message my girlfriend anytime, call my parents, email everyone. It’s a good way to keep sane, I think. We did a couple tours before we had computers or whatever, and aside from racking up huge phone bills, it’s like being in a submarine and you’re just interacting only with the other people in your band for so long and that kind of gets old. You got to be able to talk to people at home, on the outside, a little bit. I think without that, we’d all go crazy.
MBp: So did one of you guys get a new Macbook recently?
TPC: We have two Macbooks. They’re like a year old now. It’s all busted up.
MBp: So you like Macbooks then?
TPC: Yeah, I do. I grew up—my dad was like an early Mac adapter. He was one of those technology guys with the old boxy Mac Plus and all that stuff. So I was sort of raised on the Mac. Then, yeah, I’m also kind of shameless corporate whore. I like that they’re white and shiny and look fancy. They’re way easier, too. When I use people’s PCs, I’m always like, “I’m doing something that takes me seven steps to do. On my computer, it would already be done.” I’m not a snob. You use whatever you can get.
MBp: So what kind of cell phones do you guys have? Do you guys have like smart-phones?
TPC: No, I just have like a Motorola–[flips it out]–one of these little bastards.
MBp: Oh, nice.
TPC: I scratched up the back. This is what I do when I’m bored; I just pick pieces off the back of my phone. It’s kind of broken. Both my computer’s and my phone’s batteries have drastically lowered in their capacity just on this tour. I don’t know what happened.
MBp: Well, that’s pretty good… You answered all of my questions.
TPC: There was nothing too dirty in there. “What’s my favorite color?” I can handle that.
I hope you enjoyed the interview. My friend Brandon transcribed the interview for me, so if you liked it be sure to thank him. It would have taken me so long to do what he did in a day.
Tokyo Police Club
“Nature Of The Experiment” (mp3)
from “A Lesson In Crime”
(Paper Bag Records)
Buy at iTunes Music Store
Buy at Amazon
More On This Album
Also check out their new LP, Elephant Shell on Saddle Creek.
Also if you know any touring acts coming to Pittsburgh that you think I should interview let me know and I will see what I can do.