IT'S JUST THAT you didn't expect him to be so nice, so polite, so mild mannered. You own every piece of recorded material that bears the Modest Mouse name, and you've gone over every word like a child goes over his alphabet. Every plucked guitar note, each scratched record track, every flutter, every whirl. You hang on to words like, "It's hard to be a human being/but it's harder as anything else/And I'm lonesome when you're around/And I'm never lonesome when I'm by myself." While you don't know for sure what it is that Isaac Brock has seen in his lifetime, you're sure it's some pretty bad shit. You just don't get to be the workingman's guitar poet unless you've marinated in something profound.
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You've heard things, you've read things. Most of them about how he can be so damn obtuse, difficult to reign in, rambling, nonsensical, bored. So when you to talk to him, you are taken back by his utter easiness. His attention to your questions is disarming. He easily discusses his reputation, how he'd like to maybe build houses if he wasn't making music, and how much he loves the bands he's touring with; Califone and the Shins. He's sweet. You didn't expect him to be sweet.
He's talking to you from the middle of the Arizona desert, on a cell phone. He's on tour supporting the brand new The Moon & Antarctica and people from Epic, the band's new label, call him incessantly. He's sorta pissed off. When their call interrupts for the second time he tells you, "I told them I would call them back." When you ask him if he needs to get it, meaning the other line, he answers, "No. No, they need to get it." That sounds reasonable to you. Isaac Brock is a reasonable guy.
You ask him what it's like being on a major label, what it's like telling stories about the fine art of fucking people over and losing your entire family to a pack of wild dogs. You ask him if he worries about the music industry's knack of sucking the integrity out of even the most undivided artists.
"The other night when I was driving I was thinking about how it's kinda unhealthy; being on tour you pretty much go to these shows where people have come to see you play and you get this pretty sunny view of yourself," he tells you. "And I don't think that's very healthy. I'm trying to distance myself from that, or at least put it in perspective."
You picture him smiling, an "aw-shucks" kind of smile. The kind of smile that breaks sunshine into pieces.
"In all honesty, and no disrespect or anything, but I don't understand rock articles. I don't understand why anyone would wanna interview me until maybe 10 years down the road when I actually have some perspective on things." That's reasonable, you think. You never figured Isaac would welcome his own rock iconography.
He explains, "I mean, I'm glad I don't know much about the Pixies because I really love them."
WHEN HIS CELL phone battery dies for the second time, you can't help but wonder how much longer he's going to stay interested. You're afraid he'll start talking about astronauts, parking lots, Jell-O. You call him back and ask him how he feels about coming back to Seattle. You wonder if he still feels the shadow of the date-rape allegations that have followed him around since early 1999.
"It fucking clings to me pretty good. It feels really present a lot of the time in my mind and shit and it's just really nasty." He's calm, his voice is friendly and wise. But you feel how deeply this goes. "You just can't give a shit what anyone thinks. But that's a hard thing, everyone says that all the time, that's the advice seventh-graders give each other. I haven't ever given that much of a good god damn, but now I really don't."
You wonder if the sprawl of the city has gotten to him, the buildings that have risen out of nowhere in the past few years. He tells you he's moving to Cottage Grove, Oregon. "Middle of fucking nowhere. Seattle's a fine place, but it's just another city." He says living "nowhere" will help him get things done. Things like possibly collaborating with Built to Spill's Doug Martsch, working on his solo project Ugly Cassanova, and keeping things in perspective. You understand how those things might be easier to do in the middle of nowhere.
Before you know it, you're on the bus heading up Capitol Hill, going home. You share a seat with a rugged-looking woman with a cigarette voice. She's talking to a friend across the aisle.
"This used to be one big hick town. It was great. Then it became a wanna-be city. And now it's just a full-blown metropolis."
Yes, you want to add, but it's home. You just wish Isaac felt the same way.
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