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Interview: Tim Kinsella - 8.10.07
 

Tim Kinsella - 8.10.07

Interviewed by
Tim Kinsella - 8.10.07As the singer of Cap'n Jazz, Tim Kinsella could often be found rolling around the floor at dungy basement shows, screaming his throat sore as his band fell apart behind him. But when he started Joan Of Arc in 1996 with a revolving cast of friends and musicians from his days in the suburban Chicago punk scene, he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and spearheaded an all-over the place art rock collective that asked to be burned at the stakes. Nearly a decade later, Joan Of Arc and their notorious front man never caught fire-nor were they completely chased down by angry Cap'n Jazz fans with torches-but it has certainly been an interesting ride. He's released a live album that wasn't live, an eleven-song record with only ten songs on it, and changed his name to Kinsellas because he was feeling plural. But no matter how strange he's tried to seem, there's just no escaping how simple his existence has been: all along Kinsella has stood in front of us as a God-given songwriter, with a mind as tortured as his heart. As one rather astute JOA fan put it a few years back: "We love you because you don't rock!" Indeed.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Tim recently over the phone, now the ex-singer of Make Believe. We got into his post-Make Believe life, the future of Joan of Arc, his new movie and what inspires him in film, among other necessary questions. Thanks goes to Tim again for taking the time out to talk to me, and of course the readers who help me maintain interest in a true luminary.


Thanks again for taking your time out, Tim. It's very much appreciated.

Oh no problem, man. I appreciate your interest. I had nothing going on today.

So recently you parted with Make Believe. Since the break, have you had more free time or less? I say less because I know you're currently working on a new Joan of Arc record.

I haven't really had any free time. It's been like...My wife and I, and Chris Strong, have been making this movie for the past year and we have our premiere in like five days. So its been an insane number of hours every day, for all three of us, to fine tune the little details of it. I have been working on a new Joan of Arc record and I'm lovin' it. It's such a great release to get away from the movie which is such a drag right now, you know. There no fun, creative work left. Its just technical, pain-in-the-ass. When I find the time to work on the Joan of Arc record, I love it.

I heard your hard-drive crashed that contained some of Orchard Vale. That must have been a part of the "pain in the ass" work.

Yeah. About every two or three weeks, we've had a giant technical thing backfire. I think we wrote about the hard-drive crash on our Myspace page. Once we realized that was going to be the sort of norm of how getting things done would be, we just decided we needed to plan adding an extra week to every one day's work because something was going to go wrong. It just wasn't extreme enough to bother to write about anymore, we learned.

Its good to hear you're working on the Joan of Arc record, though. Is there anything you'd like to share about it at this point? Progress, what it sounds like, etcetera?

I'm really excited about it. It's been a really nice, easy process. You know? Since the last Joan of Arc record, which I guess was a year and a half ago, there was no concentrated effort. I would sit and play guitar. Once a week, I would sit down and write something and record it. Then like forget about it. It would just sit there on my computer. When I quit Make Believe, I flipped through the folder on my computer and there were like 70 songs to choose from. None of which really sounded familiar to me, you know? I could immediately throw away like 2/3rds of them. Then once I had like 20 songs, it was a matter of re-learning how to play them, what I could do with them. So right now it's just like guitar and vocals, but I've got the band line-up that I'm excited about. Some ideas. But I don't really have time to think about it for another month or so.

You mentioned you have your line-up of members that are going to be on the record ready. How do you come about drawing who you want part of the album up?

I don't know. It's what would be interesting at the time. What kind of sound I think I want, you know. Obviously there are certain people I've worked with a ton over the years, and I want them involved. But then there's certain friends of mine that I've never really had a concentrated effort in making something with.

So who you're kind of in contact with at the time?

Yeeah. Or just...yeah. That's definitely part of it.

So you're screening your movie Orchard Vale in a couple of days. This is your first full-length movie. Before this you did a short entitled A Lover's Discourse, if I'm correct.

Yeah, I've made a couple short films. The one before that, that me and Chris Strong made, was called "Ping-Pong Levitation". We just showed that in Chicago once. Jim Jarmusch did this like Q&A thing and they showed "Down By Law". Joan of Arc played as the opening band for them and we showed that. Then A Lover's Discourse is like this five minute little thing. We showed that last year at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. [Orchard Vale] is the first big concentrated effort on my part. This is what my wife does for a living. Sort of one step ahead of the game there, you know.

Was your wife your main influence to get into film? If not, what made you want to start doing this work?

I would have no idea how to say what makes me want or not want to do something. She was the reason it was realistic for me. She's my primary collaborator on the whole thing. She edited it. She produced it with me. It's been our whole lives for at least the last six months. We haven't really spoken to each other about anything else or been able to relax at all.

I read somewhere, maybe an interview, that you sometimes view composing albums as sort of composing a film. Like influence comes from film a lot in many instances during Joan of Arc records. Was it a smooth transition actually going into film?

I wouldn't say that's always the case. I mean, a Make Believe record is a totally different thing than trying to make a movie. There've just been certain Joan of Arc records that seem to be more in the administrative aspect of like, "How do I get everything to work together and all these people sort of all different departments like working towards one vision?", you know. Does that make sense?

Yeah.

Joan of Arc records have been like that at times. I wouldn't say overall there is everything in common between the two. I think there's a definite sort of...mind in common of what I think I'm trying to do with the records of with the movie. I can't really state what that is, but its coming from the same place. But it's a totally different means. Having made a lot of records gave me an advantage to having a sense of how to pace things and having a musical rhythm of how the editing should be. The dynamics and stuff like that. But, I wouldn't say it's very similar. At all. Making a movie has basically been like trying to make ten records at the same time. And with no money. Probably the worst experience of my life that doesn't involve someone dying or some kind of heartbreak.

Alright. Were there any directors or movies in particular that came to influence Orchard Vale?

[pause] Ummmm

None in particular?

Well, no. Sure. For years and years I've always been a huge John Cassavetes fan. I remember seeing like "Gloria" as a ten year-old and just knowing there was something different about this movie. It's like exciting, you know. So when I was twenty and rediscovered those, it was a huge epiphany for me. As far as contemporary filmmakers -- the dogma movement like 10 years ago. I was very excited about those when they came out at the time. It was sort of like, the water is open in terms of what's possible. I mean there's endless inspirations. A movie like "Twelve Angry Men" is hugely important because that's like a movie shot in real-time in one room. No one would ever look at Orchard Vale and think, "Oh yeah! Twelve Angry Men!" But its definitely there.

There's going to be tons of uninitiated readers saying to themselves, "Orchard Vale? What's that?" Could you give a good summary of the movie?

Yeah. The original ideas were sort of about transposing life in Baghdad now into the American suburbs and just sort of playing it cool like, "What's the big deal? This is how it is, right?" Obviously we didn't have the budget for a lot of explosions, so it's a very quiet reality compared to Baghdad. But I think that was sort of the idea. Then there's like 2 1/2, not quite three, stories happening simultaneously that overlap in different ways. So one of the primary ideas was to like show modern American suburbia as a dream-world utopia. From there the idea was how to create a world to which that would be true. So there'd be like one step away from where we would show the utopia, but it'd be suburbia. I think it was all written and conceived once we knew what our resources were. It wasn't like I had a script and was like, "Oh shit. Now we need to find a fifteen year-old girl." You know? I've been friends with [Cyan; plays the part of Sophie] since I was her baby-sitter when she was a little kid. It was like, "Oh man! Cyan is genius. It should be Cyan and my Uncle. It'll be great." So then we wrote it from there.

I was actually going to ask how she came into this project, what with her age and all. It's pretty cool that you knew her beforehand.

Yeah. I was good friends with her mom for a long time. She had a twin sister and I was their baby-sitter when they were seven to ten years old or something. And even then, the kids are like geniuses. At ten years old, she could sit me down and lecture me on the strengths and weaknesses of different things. She is a very, very wise kid.

You mentioned all of these story-lines going on at once --

Not too many. Mostly one inside of another -- I've been very surprised by the reviews coming out all saying it's an experimental feature because I thought I was making a very straight narrative.

Right. Its mentioned in the movie's summary on the Myspace page that there will be "unanswered questions" involved. See, I like movies like this that keep you thinking well after the credits have rolled. Will the "unanswered questions" in Orchard Vale have possible answers totally in the air, or will there be plausible answers you can draw from different things, or whats going on there?

There's nothing that's hidden. No hidden meanings. I'm aware there are moments that can be read as a 'symbol', but if someone was to ask me what each thing was a symbol of then I would have no idea. They weren't written to be symbols. I didn't think, "Oh I'm going to make this movie with symbolism!" Things emerge. There are not minute details hidden to put the story together. There's no detective work. It's more ambiguous, you know?

So the screening in Chicago is coming up here soon. But are there plans for screenings outside of Chicago? Maybe a DVD release?

Yeah. We have a DVD coming out in Japan and a second screening in Sao Paulo, Brazil. But other than that, we just applied for a bunch of film-festivals all over. We won't really hear back for a while. I don't think there will be any more screenings for a few months.

So heres a couple of questions that readers submitted for me to ask you. The first one is asking if you felt any affinity to the bands in the emo scene out of the Midwest during the 90's, or if that label was an unfortunate categorization that you were sort of burdened with.

I wouldn't say burdened with. I never felt a connection with the bands we were lumped in with. There's like a fraternal aspect to being in a band, you know, that I can't really relate to. Alot of the bands seemed a little...I don't know. I guess I could say it was never really my thing. It never really resonated with me. Even during Cap'n Jazz, I was really immersed in the Riot Grrrl scene and the noise scenes. That was really what I was into at that point. Those weren't the scenes Cap'n Jazz was associated with, but thats where I was coming from.

Note: Following the interview, Tim did mention that, despite his view stated above, he loved the band Gauge. And that Emo at that time was an extension of Hardcore, a genre which he did enjoy.

Speaking kind of on the same topic of bands from the Midwest, or in that era -- one of our staff members interview Bob Nanna pretty recently and he quickly mentioned having talked to you about the idea of a Sky Corvair reunion. Was that just a fun conversation or could it possibly happen?

I mean, I've run into Bob maybe three times in the last eight years and we just talked about how it would be fun. I haven't talked to the other two guys in a really long time. Yeah, I'd like to. I don't think it's the kind of thing that would become a priority. But I think it would be fun if it happened.

On the subject of reuniting, what's your "stance" on working with previous projects? Are you ever like, "It would be fun to revisit what we were messing with in that band"? I mean, certainly you gave Joan of Arc a second chance after How Can Anything So Little Be Any More.

Yeah, I mean I don't really have a stance on it. It's like a practical thing. I like to be immersed in what I find interesting. More often than not, it's not interesting to go backwards like that. I would say certain bands of mine that have existed are much more likely to reunite for a little while and see what we come up with, like Sky Corvair is at this point. So I don't really have a stance or not. It's just sort of a practical thing. I know I have no interest in playing Cap'n Jazz songs or something. That's not really a stance, that's just like for any reason except out of what I think I would get any value out of.

I read on Joanfrc.com that someone mentioned a new Friend/Enemy album kind of on the back-burner. I know it's not a priority, but is it still being considered to be finished?

We just never found anyone to pay us for the studio for us to finish it. I remember recording it on Election Day 2004. That was the last day of recording. We sent it to a couple labels that we work with to see if anyone would be into paying for some studio time for us to finish it and noone was. It's just been sitting on a hard-drive ever since. Yeah, I haven't thought about it in a long time. Its not like there's a reason or no reason, it's just how it is.

I only have on more question and it's a question that is really from all of the readers because I see it constantly mentioned. Kind of a nuisance. It's about the article you wrote for AlternativePress. I just want to clear up what your intentions were with it. Was it tongue-in-cheek? What purpose did it serve? Etcetera.

I think its bad form for a satirist of any kind to break character. I mean, I'm a grown man. I can't worry about whether some kids are going to take something seriously or not. Was I joking? Yes. Was I not joking? Yes. You know? Of course this is tongue-in-cheek. Of course this is serious. Of course this is not serious. I don't really know of what else I could say about it.

I guess that question was more for me to clear the air, because I'd like to converse about your albums or what have you without some punk kid bringing it up.

I just think it's funny that that guy posted that thing...

Max Bemis.

Yeah. Say Anything guy. I thought that was really funny. I've never heard that band, but when I read that thing and I did a quick Google search and I thought it was funny that he's this super-famous guy. And it was so funny that their band must be like 100,000 times more popular than Joan of Arc or Make Believe. I thought it was so funny that he would get offended. It just seemed like...

Kind of childish?

Yeeaahh. Like sometimes you'll see someone walking around with a patch that says "Anti-Fascist" or something. And it's like, "Wow. You dared to take that bold Anti-Fascist step, huh?" He thought he was swooping in in this heroic way to defend the scene or something, and it's funny because I had made myself a villain to the scene. I thought it was funny he took it so personal. I thought it was funny he titled whatever his letter was after the hit of his band was. They have some hit about accusing someone of being a poseur or something. So he was twisting it back to his own promotion. I don't know. It was funny.

Thanks again Tim. That's all I got for ya.


You can find all the information you need for Tim's new movie Orchard Vale at http://www.orchardvalethemovie.com and be sure to look out for a brand-new Joan of Arc record being released next year. Thanks again goes to Tim for being such a good sport and those who submitted questions.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 60
02:41 AM on 08/16/07
#2
Jake's got woe
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Max Bemis > Tim Kinsella

However, I did find this quote very funny: Like sometimes you'll see someone walking around with a patch that says "Anti-Fascist" or something. And it's like, "Wow. You dared to take that bold Anti-Fascist step, huh?"

I've always thought the same thing.
06:11 AM on 08/16/07
#3
imeaniguess
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Max Bemis is at least 15 times less great as Tim Kinsella.
07:08 AM on 08/16/07
#4
Steve Henderson
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That was a very interesting interview. He sounds like an intimidating guy to talk to just because he has so much history behind him.

And I like Max Bemis and Say Anything, but Kinsella definitely got the better of him - both in the earlier exhange, and in this interview. That said, I still wouldn't mind a Bemis reply to this interview :-D
11:38 AM on 08/16/07
#5
Praetor
as we melt, let's make no noise.
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Haha, Scott Irvine interviewing Tim Kinsella is the rough equivalent of the Pope interviewing Jesus. Good interview.
08:51 PM on 08/16/07
#6
BigMouthStrikes
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That was a very interesting interview. He sounds like an intimidating guy to talk to just because he has so much history behind him.

And I like Max Bemis and Say Anything, but Kinsella definitely got the better of him - both in the earlier exhange, and in this interview. That said, I still wouldn't mind a Bemis reply to this interview :-D

What did Tim say in this alternative press article and why was Max Bemis so offended? I must have missed this story.
09:32 PM on 08/16/07
#7
Steve Henderson
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What did Tim say in this alternative press article and why was Max Bemis so offended? I must have missed this story.
Tim's original article

Max's reply
06:42 AM on 08/17/07
#8
BigMouthStrikes
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Thanks for that

EDIT: Just read them both, wow..much as I think Max Bemis must be intelligent he really doesn't get irony...
08:12 PM on 08/17/07
#9
Nowisnotthetime
TFC
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Max got owned.
12:28 PM on 08/18/07
GoWaitInTheCar
The World Won't Listen.
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I believe I saw Make Believe when they opened for Cursive.

He rolled around on stage and dumped beer all over himself afterwards he went into the crowd and started pushing everyone around.

It was so awkward to see..
12:31 PM on 08/18/07
Scott Irvine
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I believe I saw Make Believe when they opened for Cursive.

He rolled around on stage and dumped beer all over himself afterwards he went into the crowd and started pushing everyone around.

It was so awkward to see..

I loved Make Believe live.

They're soo good in this video.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=QwYnC4ZQ-lE
01:03 PM on 08/18/07
Manbotisdead
speaking hot fire
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This dude seems pretty funny.
01:32 PM on 08/18/07
llwilliamsll
FUCK...EDDIE VEDDAR???
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nice interview
01:52 PM on 08/18/07
Dr. Acula
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nice interview.
02:01 PM on 08/18/07
GoWaitInTheCar
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I loved Make Believe live.

They're soo good in this video.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=QwYnC4ZQ-lE

I'm not saying they played bad music, I am merely saying Tim made a fool of himself that night by picking fights with people. Most everyone just let him go but this one kid pushed him back and got in his face. They exchanged words in eachother's ear which I do not know the content, however I can't assume they were nice.

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