Q&A: Michael Nesmith of the Monkees
Former Monkees guitarist talks tech, tools, and tunes in an email interview. Friday, March 29 at Aladdin Theater.
For culture vultures with a long memory, the image that comes to mind when one mentions "Michael Nesmith" is probably that of the tallest member of the Monkees, American television's answer to the Beatles, who were insanely popular from 1966–70. Mike wore a stocking cap, wrote and sang his own songs ("You Just Might Be the One" and "Sweet Young Thing," to name two), and played a nifty 12-string Gretsch electric guitar. Since the demise of the "Prefab 4," he's become a video pioneer (winning the first ever Grammy given to a music video), a novelist, a movie producer (Repo Man being the most famous), an authority on internet technology, and, when, he's got the time, a singer and songwriter. Nesmith's at the Aladdin Theater this Friday, and he took a moment from tuning up to answer some questions.
Culturephile: How do you listen to music these days? iTunes? Spotify? Satellite radio? CDs? Old vinyl? 8-tracks in the car?
Nesmith: Typically all internet delivered. I follow a lot of sites. I play back from the Clouds—Drive, Amazon. I tend to not use ITunes. Pandora for background music.
Where do you turn when you want to hear new music? Is there anything you've heard recently that made you go, "Wow?"
I am listening to a lot of Electro Swing. [French electro-swing band] Caravan Palace Panic is in heavy rotation at my house and in my travels. For new music I shop at Amazon and I browse some of the posting sites like Soundcloud, Spotify, Rdio, YouTube, etc.
Are you an artist that works on music, writing, film, etc. only when motivated to do so, under the right circumstances, or do you approach creativity with a more formal work ethic?
I sort of write in my head all the time. I have notation gadget somewhere close at all times—pen and paper by the bed—recorder on the phone and iPad—like that, and I keep snippets that get my attention. Then once or twice a month I will consolidate the gains and dump all the writings onto a DAW [digital audio workstation] or some transcriber with just a guitar and vocal or keyboard and vocal.
Does it bother you if you're introduced to someone as "Michael Nesmith, the guy who wore the stocking cap in The Monkees?"
No, but actually I never understood introducing someone by their public credits. I did that once for myself when I was star-struck. I started listing all my credit—I started with Repo Man strangely enough—and then kept dropping everything I could think of until the Star says to me—with a twinkle I think—"I know who you are". That was the solo instance of my credit-crawl-intros personally. When someone else does it I wait patiently and use a "waiting for the credits to finish" smile I keep in my social kit for just such occasions.
Do you have any nonmusical projects you're working on at the moment that you can share some details about? Another book or film concept?
Like I say I write all the time—and my stove only has front burners—so things rotate through an order of focus regularly. Yes, another book, couple of movies , some Net stuff, some tech stuff—all active—and I am never sure which one is going to grab the stage and start doing a riveting dance.
Are there any political or social justice causes that you publicly support? If so, what are they?
I am one who thinks any change that I would like to see should start with myself. Years ago I fell into a being-a-good-person rinse/repeat cycle and it never stopped. That's my contribution to politics and society—working hard to live the life I would like to see lived—shampooing daily with the best new ideas I have about that.Michael Nesmith @ Aladdin Theater March 29, 8 pm
What's the last technological advancement that really got you excited creatively?
The Virtual Net—java script and other browser software capability—that has been around a while but just now getting useful. It makes the Net another room in your house.
Would you be interested in a studio or recording situation with Peter Tork and Mickey Dolenz?