DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE MORE OF A PLACE IN THE ROCK SCENE NOWADAYS? The bands that we still feel the most affinity to are the ones that are like us — we're friends with Yo La Tengo, Shellac, Sonic Youth. "Old guard" bands. Those guys are all slightly newer guard than we are, but we're just like them except that we had stopped playing for 19 years. We're from back then and still active and still putting out records that definitely don't suck, whatever they are.
There are lots of new bands we like, but it's slightly different because we've been around so long. There's this respect that becomes almost comic. It's like, "Who are we? We don't really play that much. We're barely a band." But these people respect it, so we kind of make fun of it and try to have a good time.
HOW MUCH OF A ROLE DID BOSTON'S CULTURE PLAY IN THE FORMATION AND SUCCESS OF BURMA? Huge. I mean I couldn't get anything going back in Michigan, and this was the home of the Stooges and MC5 and the Amboy Dukes — all sorts of interesting shit. But by the '70s, it had all dried up. Within three weeks of coming here, I'd joined the Moving Parts and met Erik Lindgren [of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic] and started Mission of Burma. There couldn't have been a better place for me to have moved to.
Here's an example. My older brother is quite a known geologist and does a lot of work in the outback in Australia. He was in the middle of Australia, like a thousand miles from any city. He's sitting around the fire with these seven other geologists and talking about what they do. One guy is from Harvard and my brother mentions, "Oh yeah, my brother's in Mission of Burma." And the guy is like, "Your brother is in Mission of Burma?" It was one of his favorite bands. It's seven people in the outback, all really smart scientists, talking about Mission of Burma. To me, that's a very Boston phenomenon.
And there's just so much youth and turnover. Any town rises and falls as to its importance, but overall Boston is not a bad place for me to have ended up. I mean, I'm in two bands that are, on a small scale, world-class bands. Neither are really famous, but they get me around, and I get paid, and I don't have to have a day job, so that must mean something is good.
FANS IN THEIR 20S AND 30S HAVE THE SORT OF LUXURY OF NEVER REALLY PARTING WITH THEIR FAVORITE BANDS — IT SEEMS LIKE THEY NEVER REALLY GO AWAY ANYMORE. DID YOU HAVE THAT WITH ANY IDOLS GROWING UP? We didn't have anyone like that to look up to as kids. Most of the groups I loved either broke up, like the Beatles, or died, like Jimi Hendrix. Pink Floyd kept putting out stuff, but I was one of those guys that no longer had any interest in the band by the time Dark Side of the Moon came out. The Who kept making music, but again I had lost interest by the mid-'70s in their stuff. They weren't anything for me. Captain Beefheart kept doing stuff for awhile. He walked away a couple times and also made some really bad music in between.