And it’s interesting that you say that, because a lot of your stuff in Shellac is sort of jokey, right? But then what’s weird is that you guys also have a side that’s really emotionally heavy and dark and almost overwhelmingly serious. Like the song “End Of Radio” from the new album ― there are funny moments, but then there’s kind of this Armageddon thing going on.
The song’s a bummer.
What’s the origin of that song, if you don’t mind giving it away?
No, I don’t mind. That song came from a sort of ― not actual science fiction, but our conversations about what science fiction’s probably like, since none of us read science fiction.
Right. [Quietly insulted].
So the idea was that you’re the last guy on earth, and you’ve always wanted to be a radio broadcaster, and now you can be, but it’s really kind of pointless because you’re broadcasting to no one. And it’s a kind of extended metaphor about getting what you’ve always wanted, but under circumstances that make it unenjoyable.
So it’s like a Twilight Zone episode [a very specific one actually]?
Sure! But then, at the moment, there’s also a re-jiggering of the power structure of broadcast, such that actual radio is less important than all of these other media outlets that indicate the behavior of radio. And in a very real way, the way that radio was the first boom market like the way radio stocks went through the roof the same way that internet stocks went through the roof. And the way radio sort of became the cutting edge of technology, the best and brightest were all put to work on solving radio problems. Radio is now a completely orphaned medium, nobody gives a shit about it. And it has this sort of parochial limitation on it, by the natural limitation of broadcasting of radio.
I mean, there are people who are legitimately celebrities, like everyone knows their name and follows their every utterance ― in a sphere of about 400 people in a small town. Or there are people who are local celebrities who literally can’t leave their house without being recognized. Like this guy in Chicago, Steve Dahl, for example, in the ’70s ― he was not just a household word, he commanded a sort of army, a legion of fans. His most famous stunt was that he hosted a day for his followers to burn disco records at Comiskey Park. He was responsible for the Disco Demolition.
And there’s something about the notion of celebrity that is extraordinarily saturated but in a very small market. And then you’ll notice that people that start out as radio personalities that become national celebrities, they become crackpot freaks, people like Howard Stern, Don Imus, Larry King, or what’s his name, Rush Limbaugh ― like, they can handle being a superstar to 10,000 people. And that’s good for them. But when they branch out into being a sort of a cultural icon, they can’t carry that much weight and they crack and they turn into freaks and weirdos.