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Roddy Bottum: “When IMPERIAL TEEN started people were a little bit nervous about it” #Interview

Fortunately, the nonconformists are always looking to reinvent themselves in music: Roddy Bottum is an example of that. Distinctive keyboards and compositions in FAITH NO MORE, an indie sound ahead of its time with IMPERIAL TEEN, and cutting-edge queer with MAN ON MAN. The artist has turned sixty and spoke with us to review his career.

Para leer la entrevista en español, dale click acá

Facundo Guadagno (FG): Hi Roddy! Hey, 60 years is a lifetime event. I remember that you never considered being a rock musician but just a classical piano player. But with IMPERIAL TEEN and MAN ON MAN, you’re doing rock, even if it’s Indie. How do you evaluate that by this time of your life?

Roddy Bottum (RB): Hi! I think I’ve resigned to the notion that what I do is ‘rock.’ I’ve been doing music with bands for so long that it’s kind of part of my nature and fibre at this point. I like to think I’m maybe more diverse than just a guy who makes rock music. Like, I’m writing a book, I wrote an opera, I collect art. But basically, I make music with people, and usually, that means rock music. I love it, I love the noise of it, and I don’t regret anything.

Photo by A.F. Cortés

FG: IMPERIAL TEEN went from Indie Rock to Indie Pop – I hate labelling, but it is only for organising myself -. The Hair the TV, the Baby and the Band (2007) and Feel The Sound (2012) were HUGE for the media. Why do you think that the band did not go massive?

RB: IMPERIAL TEEN is one of those bands that maybe could have gotten much more popular. I think we were a little bit ahead of our time. When we started, queer visibility wasn’t as profound and upfront as it is now, and it feels like people were a little bit nervous about it. I feel like the songs were always there, the music and the sound we created… I’m really proud of it. When we do shows now, they’re really well attended and respected.

FG: Talk me about your film recordings. Were they a chance to embrace your classical background?

RB:  The film music stuff is all about restraint. It’s not necessarily classical music always. For me, it works best when it’s sparse. I love the concept of working with people, and I love film. It was kind of about addressing that love of film for me. I went to film school as a kid, and it was always important to me. At the end of the day, though, I’m not super interested in providing music for someone else’s project. I like to think I am capable of a lot more than just that. I felt a little bit like a hired hand when I did that work. It did lead me to opera, which is a direct embrace of a classical mindset.

FG: MAN ON MAN is brilliant. How did you have the idea about the group?

RB: MAN ON MAN came about when Joey and I were in the middle of the beginning of the pandemic, and we were driving to California to help our family with sickness. It came from a really dark place. It was an attempt to find a place or something to do during that time when we all knew what was potentially coming. We had to quarantine and ended up in a tiny house in Oxnard, California, where we had a piano, the piano I grew up playing on. Joey had his acoustic guitar, and we started writing songs to each other and about each other. It turned into something bigger, but it was never our intention to ‘start a band.’

FG: Pride is a big word for you. You have photos of Divine; you met John Waters, if I’m correct. How did that “trash culture” influence you

RB: I’m not sure what trash culture means to you. I am a fan of John Waters, but he isn’t my all-time favorite anything. I am a big fan of making stuff. It feels like the people or artists that do the actual doing… these are the people who rule the world. I am and have always been impressed that John Waters did that; he made films with super small budgets, and he just used his friends and people he knew and made things work. There is a pride and self-confidence that comes from that.

FG: They will kill me if at least I don’t mention the band. But, since you played “Nestles” in 2020, do you listen to FAITH NO MORE records or watch live shows?

RB: I don’t listen to or watch old FAITH NO MORE stuff. There are moments that I am super proud of and moments that make me cringe. Part of what was exciting about re-addressing that band and doing more touring was that we could mold it into a present-day version of what works for us. I would have liked to have continued to update what we were in an attempt to make me comfortable with my past and my relationship with the band. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. It doesn’t bum me out at all, though; I have a pretty full plate of projects.

Cover photo by Dustin Rabin

Facundo Guadagno
Redactor en Rocktambulos
Antropólogo social y cultural, escritor, escéptico y crítico
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