Ladies and gentlemen, STNNNG has reentered the building. After four years of waiting and much, much anticipation, Minnesota’s greatest post-punk band is back with a new record, Veterans of Pleasure. We shot a few questions to the king of the speak-sing delivery, STNNNG vocalist Chris Besinger (you can read our 2014 interview with him here), to set the record straight on his wicked agenda.
Veterans of Pleasure comes out on Modern Radio tomorrow.
POPDOSE: The new record is tremendous and kicks you right in the teeth where Empire Inward left off. Tell me some things that were the same and some things that were different about working with Steve Albini for a second time as recording engineer.
CHRIS: As always, Steve was very pleasant and helpful and easy-going and knowledgeable and diligent and did great work. We were little better prepared this time, having spent the previous nine months essentially working on writing and prepping the songs, and then we had an extra day of recording time, as well, which eased a bit of the pressure. We work fast and we do everything live with little overdubbing or futz-ing around so working with Steve is about as easy and enjoyable as the recording process can be.
POPDOSE: STNNNG’s first record, Dignified Sissy, has passed the 10-year-anniversary terrain. How do you think the band’s early work is aging?
CHRIS: Good, I think; I don’t think it sounds particularly of its time. I flatter myself to believe we sidestepped any of the more fashionable trends of the era, but it might be hard for me to say since I was so closely involved with it. Sometimes, when I hear certain songs, I can’t believe we wrote them, but I briefly revisited parts of Dignified Sissy and was happy to say I was pleased with the decisions we had made at the time.
POPDOSE: A more broad question. At this given moment, what is your favorite record of all time and what record are you embarrassed to say that you own?
CHRIS: Right now, it is probably Corky’s Debt to His Father by Mayo Thompson. It’s an odd, old-timey sounding sex record, “Let’s Get In On” for people too smart for their own good or something. It is a depressing exercise to worry about the best and worst records so I try not to spend too much time thinking about it. I really enjoy a lot of records people think are abhorrent and vice versa.
POPDOSE: What and where were the first rock show you attended? If it was a parental-inspired affair, what is the first show you chose, of your accord, to attend?
CHRIS: The first show I ever attended was Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers at the Met Center (RIP) on the Full Moon Fever tour in 1989. I had just turned thirteen and I got to go with a friend as a birthday present. It was a brilliant show; I think about it often.
POPDOSE: The chapbooks, as in the ones with your work you published and/or plan to publish. We’ve discussed them previously and I think people should track them down. Do you, though, consider yourself a writer, a lyricist or a musician? Are those mutually exclusive?
CHRIS: I think of myself as a poet. Within the context of the band, I think of myself as a singer. The two things are not mutually exclusive but they serve different ends. Within the band I am working to the service of the song, I’m trying to fit words and my voice as best I can to fit the structure of what we write. I am also trying to please myself but that is secondary to the song. When I write outside of the band I am doing strictly it to please myself and since there isn’t any music or anything else it tends to be more open-ended and I’m freer (for better & worse) to expand or reduce certain ideas. I’m also writing not necessarily to be heard but to be read. Just like within the band, the lyrics are meant to heard not read.
POPDOSE: If each member of STNNNG got a nickname, would would they be? Points off for obvious penis references.
CHRIS: Ben is affectionately known as Bwampie by many parties for obscure reasons. The rest of us? I’m not really sure.
POPDOSE: What was STNNNG’s best and worst show and how did crowd reaction feed into both performances? Did you, as a frontman, play a bigger role in the deciding factor of the show’s fate?
CHRIS: The best shows are hard to remember because they are usually a blur, but, ATP in the UK in 2012 was memorable, as was Paris in 2014. Both of those shows were in front of vocal and rowdy crowds who seemed to understand what we were trying to do and made themselves a part of the show in good way. Both of those shows were easy for me, when the crowds are engaged like that I really just have to ride the energy. As far as worst show, we’ve played plenty of gigs that were “selectively” attended for various reasons. For me these shows are a little harder since I feel a responsibility to really go for it, to pour myself into the songs and the performance for however many people might be in attendance. It is a little harder in these cases since you have to generate your own energy. Plus these ones usually have various PA problems, technical issues, space issues, etc. So they are more draining. But a show is a show, and the chance to play is one that comes along more infrequently for us of late so I try and grab each opportunity that I can.
POPDOSE: If STNNNG, regardless of money/funds and time or place, could play any venue in any time period, where would it play? Points off for obvious CBGBs references.
CHRIS: In the Pow-Wow Cocktail Lounge of the Thunderbird Motel in Bloomington, MN circa 1977. The crowd would all be non-English speaking half-clothed extras from a Tinto Brass film. The band would be attired in custom tuxedo suits. At the end of the set the room would be flooded by a giant Brandy Alexander and the whole audience would be sucked up into a giant paper mache ass. The opening act would be Ted Berrigan.
POPDOSE: Why is Tom Loftus, after whom you named a STNNNG song, obsessed with mini-golf? Let’s discuss.
CHRIS: There’s more money in it.
POPDOSE: The open-ended closing question. So, Chris, what is next for STNNNG?
CHRIS: A split EP with Child Bite is supposed to come out this year, and hopefully some shows.