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-By Ken Plume

coulton 01.jpgCyber-troubadour Jonathan Coulton is an evil, evil man who must be destroyed.

Why this call to action? Because he’s immensely talented, an amazingly gifted songwriter, and his incredible creativity both intimidates a normal, ungifted person like myself and drives me to distraction with catchy tunes and wordplay.

Damn him to hell, I can’t stop listening to his music.

That includes his first album Smoke Monkey, his first EP, Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow, and the first collection of his online songwriting experiment, Thing-a-Week.

Coulton ends his epic, year-long “Thing a Week” series of songs today with #52 (which makes sense, when you think about it).

He’s also currently criss-crossing the country with legendary raconteur, humorist, DAILY SHOW correspondent, humanitarian, and author of The Areas Of My Expertise, John Hodgman. Like The Monkees before them, they could be coming to your town.

You can purchase all of his discs, plus other merch, as well as partake of more sonic goodness at www.JonathanCoulton.com. While you’re over there, be sure to check out the other 51 Things - and pick up his CDs. And pledge your life to him. That talented bastard.

I had a chance to talk to Coulton about all things Thing, his groundbreaking use of the internet, and how the paradigm shift affects him as an artist. Of course, this was after I mistakenly called him on his cell instead of his land line, allowing me to immediately launch into completely self-effacing mode…

—————————————————————–

JONATHAN COULTON: Hello?

KEN PLUME: I did get the correct number now, right?

COULTON: Ah. There we go. Perfect.

KP: See, that’s how we start off an interview poorly on my end.

COULTON: (laughing)

KP: Can’t follow directions, probably did very little research…

COULTON: That’s right. I’ve deducted all sorts of points already.

KP: Yes. I did not know I’d be judged.

COULTON: (laughing)

KP: It’s like so many other things in my life.

COULTON: Always, always.

KP: Now I see how this is going to go…

COULTON: Yeah.

KP: Well, now that I know I’m being judged…

COULTON: You gonna rewrite some of your questions?

KP: You’re quite uh, a witty, handsome fellow.

COULTON: (laughing)

KP: And I brought an apple. Well, I’ll have to work on that, I guess.

COULTON: Yeah, do your best.

KP: Well, I’ve already completely thrown that out the window, so I’m just gonna coast now. Uh, so, as far as, have you ever… you’ve obviously read the interview that I did with John (Hodgman), so…

COULTON: I have, yes.

KP: You’ve got a sense of how poorly these things can go.

COULTON: Yes.

KP: So, really, it’s all on your shoulders.

COULTON: Yeah. No pressure though, right?

KP: No, none at all.

COULTON: Yeah.

KP: It’s not like writing a song a week for a year.

COULTON: Yeah. For instance.

KP: Which I think is a lot more pressure, when you come down to it.

COULTON: Yeah, it was a lot of pressure. There were some weeks that were absolutely excruciating. I mean, there were certainly some times when an idea would come to me early on in the week and it came together by itself and I was done by late Thursday morning, and I could relax. But then there were other weeks where Friday at 2 in the afternoon I still had no ideas. Or maybe one idea that I hated.

KP: What would you do with the hated idea? How many of those actually made it to finished form?

COULTON: Quite a few of them. I found that a pattern developed near the end of the cycle, which is that I would get an idea, and I would recognize the moment when I was at the bottom of the trough. When I hated the idea the most, when I doubted myself the most… when I was entirely confident that this would never ever become a song. And I actually learned to recognize that moment as not a true thing. Because even the ones that I hated, when I plowed through, and when I wrote them - when I forced them to become full songs - most of the time I liked them pretty well.

KP: So, was that just a feeling born of stress more than anything else?

COULTON: Yeah, I think it’s stress, and I also think it’s just the…

KP: Standard artistic doubting?

COULTON: Well yeah, it’s that, and it’s also when you see any nugget of a song out of context, it’s not that great. You know? Every piece of a song is strengthened by the rest of it, so when you have one silly line about somebody who likes to… “Mr. Fancy Pants, who always has the fanciest pants.” It’s easy to say, “Oh, well, that sucks. You can’t make anything of that.” And then a few stressful hours later, you have a song a minute and a half long.

coulton 02.jpgQS: So what would be the biggest turnaround in your feelings on a song? If you were to choose one that completely went a 180 on you?

COULTON: Good question. I have to look in my songlist. I have to go to my website. What’s my website now?

KP: I believe it’s jonathancoulton.com.

COULTON: Ah, yes, thank you. I’m going to the songs page, where I can see all of the songs that I’ve written and listened to, because I like…

KP: I believe people can even purchase CDs of those songs on that page…

COULTON: Yeah, you can even purchase CDs from there if you want to. Oh, you know what the biggest turnaround was? I know the answer to this question, actually. It was a song called “When You Go,” which was one of those things where late in the week I didn’t have very many ideas. I had one that I really liked very much, that was sort of dull and hokey, and I wrote it all the way through and that song… I love that song. And I really was, I think a very… it’s not a very upbeat song. It’s a pretty sad breakup song. And I think that the sadness within that song came from the sadness in me not being able to write anything that week.

KP: I think one of the interesting things when you look at the 52 song cycle, is that you pretty much cover just about every emotion, genre, thought…

COULTON: Well, you would have to.

KP: You would think.

COULTON: (laughing)

KP: Considering the construction process, what would be then the easiest song that came to you? One that you had done by, let’s say, Monday?

COULTON: “Shop Vac” came to me that way. “Shop Vac” was… of course, that was early on in the process. That was when I wasn’t feeling much pressure at all, but yeah, that song came to me when I was actually using a shop vac on the roof to vacuum up some leaves and mud and stuff, and just kind of whistling to myself, enjoying my time alone with my shop vac.

KP: As men are wont to do.

COULTON: As men are wont to do. And it occurred to me, “When did I become this person?” The chorus sort of popped into my head fully formed, and then the rest of it came pretty easily. That was a quick one.

KP: Where do you find inspiration comes from most - a lyric or a melody?

COULTON: I found myself writing two kinds of songs. There are ones that spring from a lyric and a character, and that moment of inspiration is usually one of these fully formed things where there’s a… I’ll get a lyric and I know who’s speaking and I know what’s motivating them and why they’re saying that. And then I can write around that character.

KP: Like a “Mr. Fancy Pants” kinda thing.

COULTON: Like “Mr. Fancy Pants,” right. Or “Shop Vac,” or also the… “Re: Your Brain” was like that, too. The chorus of that, all we want to do is eat your brain. That came to me, and I pretty much knew who was talking. I knew that it was a zombie. I was imagining a zombie saying that and I was imagining that his attitude was, “What’s the big deal? Why can’t we work this out?” And so the rest of it just became fleshing out that character.

KP: No pun intended.

COULTON: And there are other songs that are much more musically based, and a lot of these came later in the year when I had sort of run the gamut of all the robot and monkey songs I could think of.

KP: And yet you still surprised yourself.

COULTON: (laughing) And I still surprised myself. And sometimes it’s the music that… it starts with the music, and then I sort of fill in words until I get some sort of a story.

KP: Do you find yourself gravitating musically towards certain kinds of chords or progressions that are sort of an identifier of a “Jonathan Coulton song”?

COULTON: Oh, god, absolutely. I’m so sick of them. I’m so sick of writing sad songs in D, I can’t stand it.

KP: Yeah, that should be the title of an album.

COULTON: (laughing) Yeah, I have a… I’m sure it’s the same for every guitarist, but I have what I consider to be a bag of cheap tricks that I use over and over again in different ways. And certainly writing a song a week, you start to see your patterns pretty quickly. So I would find myself, to keep from writing the same song over and over again, I would have to just put a cap on the guitar and just play the same chords but way high up on the neck. Or I would have to force myself to write a song in the key of E this week. “Let’s do E. We haven’t done E in a while.” (laughing)

KP: You should have just gone for the key of life.

COULTON: Well, that’s true, that’s worked out well for someone, didn’t it?

KP: Yes, I believe it did.

COULTON: That was Stevie Wonder.

KP: You need to go that direction. Not the blind direction.

COULTON: (laughing) No, not the blind direction.

KP: But you keep vacuuming up on the roof like that who knows what could happen.

COULTON: Yes, it could fly into your eyes.

KP: Yeah, see? Have some kind of vac accident.

COULTON: (laughing)

KP: Would you say that you made any musical discoveries about yourself during the process? Like, “Oh, it surprised me that I can go to that place…”

COULTON: I did. There were a couple of songs… I feel like I’ve learned a lot about my voice through all of this. Maybe part of that is learning to record it better. I don’t know. But I feel like I’ve discovered both the highs and the lows. I discovered that I can… how to really work a slow sad song with my voice, and also how to push it a little bit and make it sound a little more… oh, I don’t know, rock ‘n’ roll. Not that I sound very rock ‘n’ roll ever, but there were a couple of songs that I surprised myself at how much more dangerous I was able to get my voice to sound than usual.

KP: So you think it was just a matter of forcing yourself to go to those places?

COULTON: Yeah, that it was really just having the confidence to sing out loud and scream when necessary, and not worry about the neighbors hearing me.

KP: Is that what had prevented you before then?

COULTON: I think that’s a lot of it. It’s very hard recording in Brooklyn in an apartment building. It’s noisy. There’s noise coming in from everywhere. And it’s also, you can hear people through the wall on the other side, so you know that when you’re singing at the top of your lungs for the fifth time in a row because you can’t get the lyric right, a line about zombies wanting to eat brains, you know that somebody on the other side of the wall is saying, “What is going on?” It can be a little intimidating.

KP: But that’s what gives New York its character.

COULTON: (laughing) That’s true. And the museums are terrific.

KP: And now they’ve lost at least one of those things.

COULTON: I know! What’s happening?

KP: It’s people who want to go off and have roofs.

COULTON: I know (laughing). Totally unreasonable.

KP: I know. You’re gonna have to someday rectify to them. Now they miss you, I’m sure.

COULTON: I’m sure, I’m sure.

KP: They’re probably visiting your site every day.

COULTON: Yeah…

KP: “Remember the zombie guy? We go visit his site.”

COULTON: (laughing)

KP: Going back to the beginning, what was the initial impetus for doing the “Thing a Week”?

COULTON: Well, you know it actually came from… when I was wrapping up my day job - I had this day job writing software - it was the last few weeks that I was working there…

KP: What kind of software were you writing?

COULTON: I wrote in Visual Basic.

KP: Oh, I remember that well.

COULTON: Microsoft SQL server. It was a database for executive recruiting firms.

KP: Wow. Accounting wasn’t good enough for you, huh?

COULTON: No, no. I’m not an accounting schmuck.

KP: No, no.

COULTON: I’m about the recruiting.

KP: Numbers - no.

COULTON: I’m a people person. Which is why I wrote software for people.

KP: Yes. For people to use to find other people.

COULTON: Yeah. And so I was near the end of my time there and everybody knew that I was going, and I was talking to a coworker of mine, and he said, “What are you gonna do?” And I said, “I don’t know. I really don’t know!” ‘Cause I didn’t have any plan at all.

KP: Starve…

COULTON: Yeah. I sort of wanted to starve and not do anything for a little while. I was leaving specifically to try to do some music, but I didn’t have any specific plan. And he said, “You should write a song a week for a year.” And I said, “Ha ha, that’s insane, you could never do that.”

KP: “And now I leave you. Good day, sir.”

COULTON: Yeah! (laughing) And I sort of laughed it off and said, “Oh that would be amazing, but I can’t imagine that I could possibly do that.” And then a few weeks after I had stopped working, I said “Well, why not try doing a song a week for a little while, and see what happens?” And it wasn’t even gonna be a song, it was gonna be maybe an idea or a little sketch. A little interesting guitar part that I liked.

KP: Hence the “Thing” part instead of…

COULTON: I didn’t want to call it “Song a week” ’cause I felt like there was too much pressure. And I think the very first one was kind of this throwaway experimental thing… and then the second one was a song, and then the third one was a song, and then it was all over. I couldn’t go back.

KP: At what point did you feel locked into it?

COULTON: You know, I think not until… not until maybe 15 songs in. When I could actually see the halfway mark to a year… when I could actually start thinking about, “Oh, I might write 20 songs, I might write 25 songs, I could write 26 songs. That’s half a year.” Then it actually felt like a possibility to me.

KP: So, in other words, when you stopped looking for an easy way out.

COULTON: Exactly. Yeah. And that’s actually when it became a lot more difficult, I think. I think I was writing a lot more easily in the beginning.

KP: When you thought you did have an exit.

COULTON: Yeah, when I thought I could stop at any time, and when nobody was really paying any attention. And then every week more and more people were listening, and every week it was closer and closer to the possibility that I could go for an entire year.

KP: Well, I mean, the beautiful thing is that you also hit this perfect zeitgeisty moment with the rise of stuff like Boing Boing and YouTube and ScreenHead, and blogs in particular, to where you have this entire sort of rapid fire network by which these things can be shared with people.

COULTON: Yeah. I wish I could say that I thought that through and that that was part of my plan, but…

KP: It’s not like you were recording stuff on an answering machine or something.

COULTON: Yeah! (laughing)

KP: I mean, that’s so low tech.

COULTON: What kind of fool would do that?

KP: It’s so twentieth century.

COULTON: Yeah, exactly. But they did that every day.

KP: Yeah, well, that’s just nuts.

COULTON: Yeah, but it was also - they were not full songs.

KP: Yeah, not until you bought the album.

COULTON: Yeah, right. Then you realized that they… (laughing)!

KP: No but you really just hit this unique pocket whereby.. I mean, look at something like the Second Life concert you did, where that wasn’t even feasible technologically a year ago.

COULTON: Yeah. No, that’s very true. And it’s funny to see… and I’m not trying to claim credit for this movement, but…

KP: No, go ahead.

COULTON: I think that independently I think a lot of people have come up with the same idea of doing any sort of art on a regular… on a suicidally regular basis. There’s people who do a painting every day.

KP: Well I’m doing “Chat a Week” now.

COULTON: You’re doing “Chat a Week”?

KP: Yeah.

COULTON: What’s that?

KP: I have no idea yet.

COULTON: Oh. Fantastic.

KP: But get back to me in a year.

COULTON: (laughing)!

KP: You can buy the book.

COULTON: I mean, you can call it web 2.0 or whatever you want to call it, but I agree that the blogging world has gotten really big in the last couple of years, and podcasting has had this meteoric rise. And I credit those guys a heck of a lot for the number of listeners that I now have. I mean, it’s basically airplay on national radio, except there’s no radio involved.

KP: Well it’s not even national, it’s international.

COULTON: It’s international, yeah.

KP: At what point did you feel the momentum being taken from something that you were having to sort of push to all of a sudden it had a life of its own?

COULTON: I think when… well, early on, “Baby Got Back” was sort of a phenomenon. That was my first real taste of what a viral hit could do. By which I mean, take down your site. And that was very exciting, but it was like crack. Because it felt so good while it was happening, and then 24 hours later it was just gone. (laughing) It was this huge spike, and then back down to the levels where I was before. And so that was my first taste. And then I think somewhere after Christmas… well, there was “Flickr,” which was the next really big hit. And that’s when I started to notice that the tone had changed a little bit, and that people were speaking of me, writing of me, as if they expected the reader to know who I was. You know what I mean?

KP: Right.

COULTON: It wasn’t like, “Here’s this guy Jonathan Coulton and here’s what he does.” It was like, “Oh, Jonathan Coulton just did this.”

KP: “Here’s his latest.”

COULTON: Right. And that’s when I started to feel like there was definitely something going on out there.

KP: How does that feel?

COULTON: It felt terrific. It really was so, so validating. That’s why it’s so hard to stop Googling yourself, because you… if you’re lucky, you come across a complete stranger who’s saying these nice things about you who thinks that you’re a famous person. And it’s really…

coulton 03.jpgQS: So what was the longest, most disturbing Googling session you’ve ever done…

COULTON: (laughing)!

KP: Because we all know that’s where it leads. Sitting there for three hours going, “Oh, I’ll go to Classmates.com. See if they…”

COULTON: Yeah. No, it’s true. Well, you know, I have a whole routine that I go through every morning, which involves pushing as many things back out of my inbox as I can. Making a list of the things I don’t get to so that I can get to them later. And then doing the same on MySpace. Getting emails, accepting friendship requests…

KP: That’s a horrible phrase when you actually think about it.

COULTON: Oh, I know. It’s gross. It’s disgusting. I hate MySpace. You know, I feel like I gotta do it. Um, and then… then I’ll go to Technocrati, see what posts have come through, and of course you know that every time I get alerted about a trackback to an entry on my site I check out the context, ’cause I have to see what they’re saying about me. So yeah, it’s easy to get lost.

KP: I often wonder in this day and age of stuff like MySpace and approving friends and Googling yourself, what would Charles Schulz have written if he had done Peanuts and Charlie Brown now…

COULTON: (laughing)!

KP: Would it be a Valentine’s Day card, or would it be, “Why haven’t you approved me?”

COULTON: (laughing)! I think you’re absolutely right. Although you know, I gotta say, I don’t know…

KP: “No one approves Charlie Brown.”

COULTON: (laughing)! No one approves Charlie Brown. “I’m not gonna approve that blockhead.”

KP: Yeah! Meanwhile, Snoopy’s friend list is stratospheric. “How do you even get a laptop up there?”

COULTON: Yeah. I don’t even know if MySpace is gonna last long enough to have that kind of cultural resonance. I mean, I guess there’s always gonna be a thing like MySpace, but I don’t know if it’s always going to be MySpace.

KP: I think it’s gonna be one of those things where eventually it’ll collapse, but the idea of it will carry forth and people will always refer to it as a MySpace kinda thing.

COULTON: Yeah, that’s probably true.

KP: There’s a chance Google could disappear.

COULTON: Yeah, sure.

KP: Remember searching with Hotbot?

COULTON: Absolutely! Nobody could imagine Hotbot ever going away.

KP: That’s the smart one. You don’t use Yahoo.

COULTON: No, Yahoo sucks.

KP: And Google, what the hell is that? Not even a word. And this is just, what, 10 years and all this has gone by the wayside?

COULTON: I know. And it’s just gonna get faster and faster until we’re all replaced by robots.

KP: I find it encouraging that when you have so many flash in the pan endeavors on the internet, that you could have the consistency for “Thing a Week” over what, in modern time, is quite a huge span - and actually build the audience and build the reputation. Now you have people waiting with baited breath as to how it’s all going to end and what you’re going to do next.

COULTON: Right. Yeah, it’s been great. I would quibble with you on the suggestion that I’ve been consistent. I certainly don’t feel like I’ve been very consistent at all.

KP: Here’s the way I look at it: in this day and age, if you’ve finished it, you’ve been consistent.

COULTON: (laughing) Right!

KP: Because look at all the abandoned husks across the net.

COULTON: It’s true.

KP: Of Danny Bonaduce and Willie Aames fan sites.

COULTON: That’s very true. Just lasting for a year doing anything is a pretty…

KP: Actually completing a stated goal…

COULTON: Yeah, that’s true. A friend of mine who’s a professor of English literature, of all things, was talking about these shows, CSI, and he said, “It’s interesting - the heroes of the stories that we’re telling ourselves now, these are people who solve these crimes by using the tools that they have in an effective way, and by going over every inch… and all they have really is competency. But that somehow has become the heroic thing to do, is to be competent.”

KP: It has elevated them above the new norm.

COULTON: Yeah. They’re the only ones that have the patience to go over a room inch by inch with an ultraviolet light looking for blood splatter.

KP: That should be your byline: “Jonathan Coulton, Competency in the Modern Age.”

COULTON: (laughing)! Yeah! I like that.

KP: That’ll be the box set.

COULTON: That’ll be the box set, right.

KP: Which you have just about enough for at this point.

COULTON: I do.

KP: Are there plans to collect all four volumes?

COULTON: I’m trying to figure out a way to do it from a manufacturing perspective. I’m going to make all four CDs, and they’ll all be available for sale separately. I’m trying to… I haven’t actually begun to investigate this in any real way, but I’d like to find a way to have a box that I can put these CDs into and that will also have enough space for… Len Peralta is the guy who has a podcasting job on radio, who’s been doing a drawing for each song. He hasn’t done them all, but he started pretty early on. And what he and I would like to do is put those into a booklet, a sort of program guide. And then put that in the box with the four CDs. I need to find somebody who will be able to make that box and… it can’t be too expensive.

KP: No. And it’ll say Born to Run on the front.

COULTON: And it’ll say Born to Run on the front. It’ll say The Beatles.

KP: The Coulton Album. Surely there must be somebody out there.

COULTON: I’m sure that there is, I just have not begun to Google it.

KP: Or there’s always Tupperware.

COULTON: That’s an interesting idea. Just get those Glad disposable Tupperware containers.

KP: Yes. In fact, the uniqueness alone might be worth it.

COULTON: Or maybe a Ziploc bag.

KP: It’s got to be with the slide zip.

COULTON: It would certainly be cheap.

KP: It would be cheap. Especially with the holiday season coming up, are there any plans for anything special along those lines? You’ll have the first two out by the end of the year, right? The first one’s out, second one’s about to be out…

COULTON: The first one is out, the second one will be available for sale in a matter of days. Numbers three and four I hope to have within a month or so. I’m trying very hard to get all four of them out in time for the holidays.

KP: So, basically, it’s the perfect gift.

COULTON: Oh, it would make such a great gift for almost anyone.

KP: And anyone who doesn’t want it as a gift can certainly find someone who would.

COULTON: Yeah. Even if you give it to somebody as a gift and they don’t like it, I’m sure they know somebody who’d like it, and they could give it to them as a gift.

KP: Yes.

COULTON: You can’t go wrong.

KP: In fact, it’s the perfect re-gift.

COULTON: It’s the perfect gift, it’s the perfect re-gift, it’s the perfect thing to give somebody just to make the guilt go away, and they can throw it in the garbage.

KP: I like that as a tag line; “Makes the guilt go away.”

COULTON: “Makes the guilt go away. Throw it in the street, I don’t care. I’ve got your money.”

KP: Yes. That’s also a good tagline.

COULTON: “I’ve got your money.” - Jonathan Coulton.

KP: Yes, in fact, all of your receipts, when people actually order the stuff, should say that.

COULTON: Right. “Thanks, sucker.”

KP: I thought that’s what the secret track is on the end of every album. That’s the backwards one.

COULTON: (laughing)!

KP: So, everything out by the end of the year. What’s your sense now, coming to a close after you’ve run this gauntlet?

COULTON: It’s very complicated. I feel very proud to have done it, and sort of amazed that I was able to do it at all. And very glad that I did it, because there are so many good songs in there that I think I never would have written otherwise. But I’m also a little afraid… I’m relieved to stop because it’s exhausting, but I’m also a little afraid to stop, because this has become my thing now. And I’m not sure exactly what I do after this. The business model such as it is, I don’t know to what extent it’s worked because I was writing a song every week. I don’t know what happens to the money and the fans and the blog links when there’s not new content every week. There certainly will be new content. I will continue to write songs, just not on a certain schedule.

KP: So you think “Thing a Fortnight”…

COULTON: I think a fortnight or maybe something every now and then.

KP: I like that title.

COULTON: Catchy.

KP: Yes.

COULTON: And explanatory.

KP: Actually kinda whimsical.

COULTON: It is a little whimsical, you’re right. And so I don’t know what exactly to do next. One of the things I would like to do is sit back and take a little break, and let whatever happens next emerge as organically as possible. That’s how I got doing the “Thing a Week” is by quitting my job without any plan and letting myself sit still for a couple of weeks.

KP: So basically just letting it gestate and emerge when it feels like it.

COULTON: Yeah, exactly.

KP: Is there any worry about taking that approach again? It’s not like you’ve emerged out of doing programming again. You essentially did what you wanted to do…

COULTON: Yeah. Yeah, I think there’s… there’s definitely a feeling like, I need to keep pushing and pushing and pushing. So yeah, it doesn’t feel 100% correct to lay off. But I may find that what comes next is actually going back and pushing and pushing again. And take a few weeks vacation and then a “Thing a Week 2.”

KP: So you’re gonna write that rock opera then, is that what you’re saying?

COULTON: Right. I’ll do the rock opera, and then I’ll do a song for every site on the internet.

KP: Or do it as a film. A modern Rocky Horror.

COULTON: Thinking of this cyclical stuff, Ze Frank’s The Show, it’s just amazing. He does that every day. Or every weekday.

KP: I can barely do a podcast every couple of weeks.

COULTON: Yeah. I have a lot of respect for that.

KP: Of course, I’m inherently lazy.

COULTON: Me too.

KP: Yes, but you still managed something.

COULTON: Yeah, but I feel like a week, you got a little leeway. You can do it on any of those five days. But every weekday it’s like, oh god, the days when you wake up and you don’t want to do anything, too bad.

KP: Yeah. But I guess that’s how normal people work.

COULTON: Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s just you and me that have trouble.

KP: Yeah. Now I’m kinda feeling bad. Anyone reading this is gonna go, “Buncha assholes!”

COULTON: “Why don’t they just do their damn job?”

KP: “And then they complain! ‘Oooo! I don’t know if I want to work today, creating…’ “

COULTON: (laughing)! You’re right, that’s pretty loathsome…

KP: “I might just sleep in or go up and vacuum, I don’t know.”

COULTON: “Yeah, I don’t know, whatever.”

KP: “Look at a tree.”

COULTON: “Let’s see what’s on television. I’ll wait for the next thing to come to me.”

KP: “I’ve never seen this Law & Order.”

COULTON: “Oh wait, yes I have. Zzzzzz….”

KP: “Well, no Thing this week. Got some sleep.”

COULTON: “At least I made all those meatballs.”

KP: “Ran into town. Got some mail. Catching up on email.”

COULTON: You’re describing my life.

KP: “And approving friends.”

COULTON: Yeah. That’s pretty much it.

KP: “So you work, what, 12 hours a day? Oh, I’m sorry. How did you lose the arm? You think they’d have a sign. Must make the work harder, no arm and such. Have you heard my music?”

COULTON: “Check it out. Last year I worked on it pretty hard. This year, not so much.”

KP: “I got four CDs worth.”

COULTON: Yeah. “Now I’m just gonna coast.”

KP: Now I feel really guilty. Not only have I made myself feel bad, but I’ve made you feel bad.

COULTON: You’ve made me look bad, too.

KP: Yeah I kinda did that, too…

COULTON: Yeah, take out all that stuff where we bash the working man. Leave that out if you would.

KP: Yeah, well, you have association with a friend of the working man, John Hodgman.

COULTON: Yes. An interesting way to describe him, yes.

KP: Actually, you can pretty much describe him as anything.

COULTON: That’s true. He’s an expert on all things.

KP: He’s kinda like Galactus that way. I think everyone perceives John differently.

COULTON: Yeah. I would agree with you.

KP: I don’t think there’s any one true John Hodgman.

COULTON: No. It’s hard to pin him down, ’cause he’s a true chameleon.

KP: How did that association between the two of you begin?

COULTON: Well, we went to college together. We were in the same dormitory. We were friends starting freshman year, and friends all through college, and…

KP: What was he like in freshman year?

COULTON: The same. He was pretty much the same. John Hodgman has always been sort of an old man. I didn’t know him, but I understand that when he was a freshman in high school he carried a briefcase to high school.

KP: Wow.

COULTON: I know!

KP: And yet he’s not British.

COULTON: And yet he’s not British.

KP: He seems like the type that would love a dormitory type school.

COULTON: Oh, sure. He was always very well spoken and very funny and devastatingly dry. But he did have incredibly long hair.

KP: That, I can’t imagine.

COULTON: Yeah. Which he always kept in a tight little bun in the back of his head.

KP: That’s kinda disturbing me.

COULTON: Yeah, it was really weird.

KP: If you’re gonna have long hair as a man, I’ve never seen the bun look really catch on.

COULTON: No. Grow it and show it, you know?

KP: Ponytail, yes. But bun?

COULTON: Yeah, it was… he’d hate that I was saying this.

KP: I gotta know if there’s photos.

COULTON: I’m sure there are plenty of photos. But it was always incongruent, because occasionally you would see him with it down, it was like, “Wow, who are you?” Because he always seemed like the button-down smarty pants. But, of course, we’ve been great friends for a long time, and my circle of friends and loved ones here in New York contains many people that I have met through John. In fact, I’m married to a woman who went to high school with John.

KP: So, really, he’s a master matchmaker as well.

COULTON: Yeah. He’s the hub of the giant wheel on which we all spin around. My wife is saying, “No, I’m the hub.”

KP: Yeah, you’re married now. You better get it right.

COULTON: (laughing)!

KP: So in other words one day someone’s gonna construct this John Hodgman Venn diagram.

COULTON: Yeah.

KP: With John at the center.

COULTON: It’s gonna be like that Kevin Bacon game.

KP: I think it’s already the Kevin Bacon game.

COULTON: Yeah.

KP: In fact… my god… now I’m part of it.

COULTON: Yeah, except it’s just John in the center of a circle, and that circle’s in the center of another circle, and it’s just circles within circles, all the way down.

KP: It’s like the most disturbing MCI commercial ever.

COULTON: Yeah. Friends and family, and in every one of those circles is John Hodgman.

KP: Yes. “Do you know John Hodgman? Do you know THE John Hodgman?” In fact, that should be the new campaign - “Of course you know this man.”

COULTON: He needs to get an American Express ad, that’s what he needs.

KP: If they still did those.

COULTON: They should go back and do those ads just so they can give one to him.

KP: He should just do that as a viral video for the books.

COULTON: He should do it anyway and see if he can get paid after the fact.

KP: Yes. You need to suggest that to him.

COULTON: Yeah.

KP: ‘Cause he doesn’t listen to me anymore.

COULTON: No. Well, me either.

KP: How could he not listen to you? You’re going to be sharing a road trip together.

COULTON: Well, that’s true. I’m actually looking forward to this a great deal. It’s a fortuitous thing is that the song 52 is posted on Friday the 29th, as the very next day I fly to Chicago to be on tour with John for about a month. It’s like the end of the old thing, and then this great vacation around the country.

KP: Perhaps you should write a song a city, like They Might Be Giants did.

COULTON: Oh, like the Venue Songs.

KP: Yes. But for the book tour instead.

COULTON: But for the book tour, yeah. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s always fun…

KP: See, that’s the sad thing, and I just did it to you. Be brutally honest - does it irritate you a little bit that, from now on, people are gonna be asking you, “So what’s the next “Thing a Whatever”?

COULTON: Yeah, well, I am a little worried about that.

KP: And I’m guilty of it, and I apologize.

COULTON: No, not at all. I think that it’s only natural to ask that kind of question. I wish that I did have another fantastic project to do, but I don’t have one yet. I may come up with one, but we’ll see. I might just sink into obscurity.

KP: No.

COULTON: I don’t know.

KP: No… Websites never die.

COULTON: I guess that’s true.

KP: You might not produce a single new thing, but all those songs will still be out there.

COULTON: That’s true.

KP: If Geocities sites can still be out there…

COULTON: Right.

KP: Your stuff will still be around in perpetuity. Or at least the cyber equivalent of it.

COULTON: One of the benefits of being something of a small fish is that there are always new fans. I think somebody like U2, they’re not gonna get a lot of new fans over the next year. Maybe they are, but not as many as I am. I’ve got nothing but new fans.

KP: It’s also the type of thing that, again, utilizing the technology the way it is, all someone has to do is drop an email or an IM to somebody and say, “Hey, check this out.”

COULTON: Exactly.

coulton 04.jpgQS: Are you going to continue to archive the “Thing a Week” songs as free downloads, or are you going to take them down as the CDs go up?

COULTON: I think I’ll probably leave them up there. I can’t see much of a reason to take them down. I do believe that having this stuff available for free - optionally, you can buy it if you want. I think that that has certainly helped me, and the whole creative commons license, you know, it’s licensed in such a way that you can, in fact, put it on a mix CD and send it to your friends. And I wish you would. I wish every one of my fans would do that right now. Then I would have almost twice as many fans. Presumably there would be some people who didn’t like it.

KP: Yeah, but that’s one of the main points of a mix CD - just to expose someone to something.

COULTON: Exactly. You can pass that one. But I think that there’s no question in my mind that the place that I’m in, being an independent musician and not having a huge marketing engine behind me, having that stuff available so that people can listen is just incredibly valuable to me.

KP: Well, it seems also in this day and age, and maybe you’ve experienced this, that the need for something like a publicist has been greatly reduced.

COULTON: Yeah.

KP: Because you have a lot more one-on-one interaction, and people seek you out who actually want to do features.

COULTON: Yeah.

KP: So you know that whoever contacts you is going to want to definitely do something with you.

COULTON: Right, exactly. I think a lot of the traditional pieces of the puzzle are no longer…or less necessary. I’ve had some discussions with some label type of people here and there… or not label people, but people in traditional parts of the industry. And I always come away from it… you know, I’m always excited by hearing from somebody official, you know?

KP: Right.

COULTON: That’s always nice, just for the establishment to say, “Oh, you’re doing good stuff, let’s talk,” you know? But then I always come away from it saying, “Well, huh, I wonder if doing something official like this would benefit me, or if it would be worse.”

KP: Do you find that you crave that sort of traditional legitimization?

COULTON: I do. I do. I crave that kind of validation from the establishment.

KP: Because I noticed the link on your website, that if you’re someone official, please contact me.

COULTON: Yeah (laughing)! Yeah.

KP: Which I’m surprised doesn’t flash or something.

COULTON: (laughing)! Well I think it’s still… I’m torn about what the role of those people is going to be. I don’t know. I think it’s all still in flux.

KP: It seems like it’s now come down to almost adding an unnecessary middle man.

COULTON: Yeah.

KP: Your interaction with the public is right there now for you.

COULTON: Yeah, it’s true. And so the question is, how much value do you actually get from a middle man?

KP: Which is also based on a traditional retail model, where labels were needed get the record in the stores …

COULTON: Right.

KP: When now there’s no need for bricks and mortar.

COULTON: Yeah. I make so much more money off the MP3s than I do off the CDs. An enormous amount. Much more. So yeah, the idea of moving CDs is not as important. But at the same time, having somebody who can be a booking agent, and call venues and set that up and negotiate that stuff - you know, that’s worth something to me. I’m not particularly interested in spending my time on the phone and talking about money and stuff.

KP: Right.

COULTON: And I also think radio is still pretty important. It’s very hard to get airplay on the actual radio without this crazy direct cold-calling thing. You have to send your CD out and follow up, and, “Have you played it? Are you gonna play it?” You know you have to really push and push and push. Or pay somebody to play it. That’s done all the time as well. I think there are still ways that the establishment can benefit an artist. I haven’t figured out exactly what I want my relationship to be with that part of the business, but luckily it hasn’t come up yet.

KP: Do you feel that need for validation has lessened over time, or is it still pretty constant?

COULTON: Well, it’s pretty deep rooted. You know, it’s like wanting a parent to love you. It’s hard to give it up. (laughing) I certainly have started to think, “Oh wow, maybe this way of doing things actually can work.”

KP: You’re not on a rivet gang.

COULTON: Well, it’s true. And in some parts of the country, I’d be making a decent living. I chose to live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. I don’t know why I did that, but…

KP: Particularly doing what is essentially an internet-based thing. You could live anywhere.

COULTON: I could live in a hut on the top of a mountain somewhere. Well, I’d need broadband.

KP: Yes, and approval from your wife.

COULTON: (laughing)! But yeah, it’s true, I could do this anywhere. As I say, if it were a different part of the country, it’d be a pretty good living.

KP: But it’s not bad.

COULTON: No, it’s not bad at all. I have nothing to complain about, believe me.

KP: I mean, you’re not in the apartment building.

COULTON: That’s right.

KP: If you were to identify a handful of goals besides the mainstream validation, is there anything that’s left unfulfilled for you right now that you’re still chasing down?

COULTON: Uh… uh… huh. That’s a good question. I would like… I would like to be right. I would like to be undeniably correct about the idea that giving music away like this is beneficial. One of the reasons that I did it is I was… I saw Larry Lessig speak about Creative Commons. He was the founder of Creative Commons. And it was the most moving Power Point slideshow I’d ever seen. I was really just so jazzed about the idea, and it was such a beautiful idea, that I really wanted to be part of that change. I felt the need to be a kind of pioneer. I don’t know that I am a pioneer. There are plenty of people who have been doing this long before I’d even heard of it, but I like the idea that I’m part of something new, and I want for that new thing to continue being the new thing.

KP: Why do you believe that it has worked? If you’re looking for proof that it has, why do you believe it hasn’t? What in your experience so far gives you doubt?

COULTON: Well, I think it has worked for me. Maybe it’s just my own self doubt. I think the place that I’ve gotten to is pretty amazing, given the amount of work I actually did. I think the business model has shown itself to be pretty effective.

KP: What do you mean by the work you actually did?

COULTON: Well, I mean, you know, I didn’t do all this traditional knocking on doors and…

KP: Yeah, but the fact is that when you are a creative person and your endeavors are creative, then the measure of the creativity is in the output.

COULTON: Right.

KP: And by any stretch of the imagination… I mean, there are some bands and artists that can’t get an album out in a year, let alone 52 songs…

COULTON: Sure.

KP: … plus already having an album and an EP in a catalogue.

COULTON: Yeah. When I say work, I’m talking more about phone calls, live shows, sending CDs. Trying to get publicity, that sort of thing.

KP: But you also had a concert recently that just sprung up practically out of nowhere that surprised you, didn’t it?

COULTON: It did, yeah. That was really nice.

KP: Was it Seattle?

COULTON: Seattle, yeah. I was going to Seattle to do something with John for Bumbershoot, and at the last minute I discovered that I was actually gonna be there for the whole weekend. I thought that I was gonna come back to the east coast, but that fell through, and so on Wednesday I posted on my site, “Hey, if anybody can find me a venue that’s open on Saturday night, I’ll play it,” and several people came back to me with several different options, and they had already called the booking people and said, Yeah, they’d love to have you play, just give ‘em a call,” you know? And so I picked one of them, and decided to do it there, and it was a packed house. It was great. It was like 80 people there.

KP: So, then, what makes you think that the process isn’t working?

COULTON: It just needs to be more overwhelming. I need to have overwhelming evidence. That’s what it is. I want to be able to show these statistics to somebody, and have them go, “Oh my god. We were so wrong.”

KP: So, then, why don’t you do a city experiment? Look at what your open days are, pick a handful of cities, and do the same experiment with those cities?

COULTON: That’s one of the things I’d like to try, and actually, as I’m going on this tour with John Hodgman over the next month, I’m setting up shows in a few cities that I’ll be in anyway, and I’m doing that based on this site called Eventful.com, which is where people can go and sign up to indicate that they would like to see me perform a show in their city.

KP: And there’s a link off your site to that.

COULTON: There’s a link off my site for that, right.

KP: I believe it’s the “dance, monkey” link.

COULTON: The “dance, monkey” link, that’s right. And so I’m gonna pick the biggest cities, or the cities with the most number of demands, and when the schedule works out and when I can find a place to play, I’ll play there. And yeah, I want to continue that experiment and see if that can continue to be as successful as it was in Seattle. Because that’s the other thing, is I feel like, you know, I’ve only been attacking one angle, and that is the music distribution side, and sort of this viral promotion. But I think there’s also room for this same kind of model, a web 2.0 model if you will, in the area of live performance.

KP: I think it takes the guessing game out of a traditional tour.

COULTON: Yeah. Absolutely. And it’s like anything else, Metcalfe’s Law, the value of the network increases exponentially with the number of users, or something?

KP: I obviously stopped at the Peter Principle.

COULTON: The more people that actually use this model, the more valuable it becomes. If venues know that they can depend on that number translating into actual…

KP: They’re not dealing with empty seats on a night…

COULTON: Right. ‘Cause that’s the whole thing, it’s convincing a venue who’s never heard of you that you’re actually gonna be able to put asses in seats.

KP: Right.

COULTON: And so, you know, suddenly if the venue believes in it, and if the fans believe in it, and if the artists believe in it, then suddenly it’s real.

KP: Have you ever gone to the UK to do any shows?

COULTON: No I haven’t. There’s a fan of mine who I’ve never met who actually started a website called the Jonathan Coulton Project, which is dedicated to collecting and posting music videos for my songs. And he lives in the UK, and he has been trying to set up a tour in November for me. I’m not sure it’s gonna come through.

[Interviewer's Note: What followed was a long exchange during which I discovered that Jonathan did not know who Neil Innes - the songwriter behind the Rutles, member of the Bonzo Dog Band, and tunesmith of many a Monty Python song - was... I was shocked.]

COULTON: Nope.

KP: Oh, come on!

COULTON: I don’t know! I’ve been writing a song a week for a year.

KP: You make it sound like a hermitage!

COULTON: It is! It’s terrible! So glad it’s over.

KP: Your musical monastery.

COULTON: That’s right. Only listening to my own music.

KP: Yes.

COULTON: And Cookie Monster singing “C is for Cookie.”

KP: How could you not?

COULTON: Yeah.

KP: Where’s your cover of that?

COULTON: Yeah (laughing)! I kind of wanted to do Mr. Rogers’ “You are Special.”

KP: Oh, that would be beautiful.

COULTON: I love that song.

KP: So have you had any thoughts whatsoever as to what immediately will follow the end of “Thing”? I mean, what do you think of the people going, “Well, we wanted you to end with one of your original songs for #52 instead of a cover…”?

COULTON: I say to those people, “Why don’t you write a song a week for a year, and then see if you can finish with an original song. And then get back to me.”

KP: It wasn’t a criticism as much as a hope, in that people thought it would be more poignant.

COULTON: You know, it would be, but it also… I can’t… I just can’t imagine it not being sort of a let down. For me, anyway. And it would just be so hard to do. I had such a hard time writing this last one because I knew that it was going to be the last original song of “Thing a Week.”

KP: And yet you couldn’t tell. I have to admit, it seemed pretty effortless, and is actually a very nice tune. So I could not tell the blood and sweat that went into it.

COULTON: Oh, thank you for saying that. That’s nice of you. It turned out okay, but it was really… it was pretty hard. And it was just the pressure of knowing it was the last one that… you know, it’s like, whenever you look at a series of things, you’re gonna look at the first one and the last one.

KP: Do you see a progression between the first and the last you’ve done? If you look at week one and then week 51?

COULTON: Yeah, I do. I feel like a very different songwriter from when I started. It’s hard to put my finger on how exactly.

KP: Would you characterize it as better?

COULTON: I would characterize it as better. I’ve gotten better in a number of places. I feel like I’m playing the guitar better, I feel like I’m singing better. I’m much better at recording things than I was when I started. The production and mixing has gotten better. And I’m also better at… I feel… I don’t want to sound too high-falutin’, but I feel like a better craftsman. I feel like I’ve sort of gotten the handle on some of my skills that I didn’t have before. And that now I know that if I need to I can sit down and actually make a song out of nothing. Whereas I think when I started, I was used to just waiting for things to happen.

KP: So at what point are you doing tune for hire?

COULTON: (laughing)! I don’t know about that. That’s even more pressure.

KP: “Hundred bucks, I’ll walk away and give you a thirty second tune.”

COULTON: I just set up a booth at a county fair.

KP: Yes, yes. That’d be perfect.

COULTON: Yes. Come back in an hour, I’ll have a thirty second song for you.

KP: Yes. “No change.”

COULTON: Yeah, no change.

KP: “Oh dangit, the musician’s gone…”

COULTON: “I was gonna buy a song…”

KP: “Time for skee ball.”

COULTON: “Ah, he’ll be back.”

KP: A hundred bucks worth of skee ball. That kid could have walked away with a tune.

COULTON: That’s right. Oh well.

KP: And now it’s just disappointment in his heart.

COULTON: Now it’s just 25 or 30 tickets and a cheap plastic ring.

KP: That’s an heirloom.

COULTON: If you take care of it.

KP: Pass that down to your kids. What are you gonna do with a song? A song that’s all written in D.

COULTON: Yeah. The same boring crap.

KP: “What the hell’s all this about a robot? I wanted to be about my girlfriend.”

COULTON: (laughing)! “Dude, it is about your girlfriend. It’s deep, it’s deep.”

KP: Yes, you gotta look for the layers.

COULTON: Right.

KP: It’s all about layers.

COULTON: It’s a metaphor.

KP: “No refunds. Did you see that sign?”

COULTON: Yeah, “No refunds. Get out of here.”

KP: It’s right below “No change.” So, I mean, overall - what’s your overriding emotion? Accomplishment, sadness…

COULTON: Accomplishment, I would say. It’s a combination of the pride of accomplishment and the relief of not having to do it anymore (laughing)! I’m going to be very happy to have a few weeks where I don’t have to have a new song on Friday. It’s just gonna be nice not to have it hanging over my head. I also am very proud of this work. I think there are a lot of great songs in there.

KP: I was listening to the entire lot of them over the weekend…

COULTON: It’s a lot of music.

KP: It is a lot of music. It’s a lot of music to do work by.

COULTON: (laughing)!

KP: I mean that in a good way!

COULTON: Oh, thanks.

KP: You know, there’s music that you don’t want to do work by.

COULTON: Right, right.

KP: But this was music that you could actually… there’s nothing I skipped, let’s put it that way.

COULTON: No, I understand.

KP: Which coming from someone who’s skip-happy and has 70,000 songs sitting here…

COULTON: Yeah, it’s a huge compliment.

KP: Yeah. I could have easily have turned on a George Harrison tune, maybe some Paul Simon.

COULTON: Sure.

KP: AC/DC. Well, probably not. Probably some Simon & Garfunkel. So no, there were other options there.

COULTON: These are all my niggas…

KP: Yes, your peeps.

COULTON: My peeps.

KP: Your posse.

COULTON: Yeah.

KP: Your songsmithing posse.

COULTON: Yeah.

KP: We’ll have to work a better terminology for all this. You know, for when you have that big charity concert, or one of those horrible middle-of-the-night jam sessions…

COULTON: Oh god.

KP: Where everyone gets together and fights for dominance.

COULTON: Yeah, where there’s like eight guitars on stage at the same time.

KP: 14 drummers.

COULTON: Yes.

KP: And Ringo.

COULTON: Right! (laughing) Poor Ringo.

KP: Who I hear is doing “Snare a week.”

COULTON: (laughing)!

KP: Really, I think you’ve started a trend.

COULTON: I would be thrilled if a real rock star did a weekly song. It would be amazing!

KP: I will make you a gentleman’s bet - a single dollar - that within the next, let’s say… wanna go three or six months? Your choice.

COULTON: Let’s do six. ‘Cause I’d like you to win.

KP: Within six months, that will happen.

COULTON: Alright.

KP: You will have a major person step forth, and claim the idea as their own.

COULTON: (laughing)!

KP: In international press.

COULTON: It could be.

KP: And that man will be Elton John.

COULTON: (laughing)!

KP: And it’s all gonna be versions of “Candle in the Wind.”

COULTON: (laughing)!

KP: So, a gentleman’s bet.

COULTON: Gentleman’s bet, alright, you’re on.

KP: And if I lose, I will Paypal it to you instantly.

COULTON: You can send me a dollar.

KP: And if I win, I want some kind of elaborate design on mine. And a signature so I can frame it on my wall of shameful deeds.

COULTON: You got it. You’re on.

KP: So was the interview painful?

COULTON: Uh, no, it was not very painful at all.

KP: Was it what you were expecting?

COULTON: I can’t remember a single thing we talked about.

coulton 05.jpgQS: Even better. Because I honestly wasn’t listening to you.

COULTON: Good, good, That’s a relief. I don’t think I said anything. Did I?

KP: No. I think at one point you did pretty much insult just about every single race there was.

COULTON: That’s fine, I do that from time to time.

KP: But hey, they’re fine with it.

COULTON: Hey, I’m just bein’ real, man.

KP: It’s all about people living together.

COULTON: Yeah.

KP: And nobody’s gonna read this anyway. So, really, you’re not sticking your neck out.

COULTON: Right, right.

KP: Do you want to say anything else about economic policy or the war?

COULTON: Um, no thank you. No thank you to the war, and no thank you to the economic policy.

KP: You know, all criticism in this country should take a more gentlemanly approach like that.

COULTON: Yeah!

KP: “No thank you.”

COULTON: “No thank you.”

KP: No “War is bad,” or “Stop the war” - just, “No thank you.”

COULTON: “No thank you, we would not like to go.” That’s what they should have said about Vietnam.

KP: Or, “I’ve had my fill.” No one uses that phrase anymore.

COULTON: (laughing) I’ve had my fill.

KP: It’s the kind of thing you should say with white gloves on.

COULTON: “I don’t care for it.”

KP: Yes. “It’s not my cup of tea.”

COULTON: Right.

KP: Another phrase that’s fallen into disuse. You know, if we ever let this into John’s hands, they’d be full chapters in his book.

COULTON: Oh, that’s true. Well, they will be anyway, even if we don’t tell him about it.

KP: Because the other thing is, he knows all.

COULTON: Yeah, that’s true.

KP: You know, inclosing, you really should just throw down the gauntlet to everyone else, and have them do a “Thing a Week.” Everyone else in the world.

COULTON: Yeah.

KP: “Hey. Bring it. I brought it. A year.”

COULTON: “Shut the fuck up, motherfuckers.”

KP: “I did a year of bringing the shit. What are you bringing?”

COULTON: Right.

KP: “Show me.”

COULTON: Give me something.

KP: “Justify your existence to me now.”

COULTON: Do it for two weeks. Do it for one.

KP: Do a thing, period.

COULTON: Yeah! (laughing)!

KP: That should be your drive for, like, the nation’s children.

COULTON: Get everybody to do a thing a week?

KP: Yes. Or just a thing, period.

COULTON: Just a thing, period… Yeah.

KP: “Jonathan Coulton’s Do Something.”

COULTON: Do Something.

KP: That’s a campaign that could take off. You could be on the Today Show, on CNN…

COULTON: Yep.

KP: “So how’d this all start?” “Oh, I did this music thing and it’s like, you know what? Other people should do things.”

COULTON: Right.

KP: “You know, the people are just sitting there doing nothing.”

COULTON: Just like that Pay it Forward movie.

KP: Yes, exactly. It can be just as treacly as that.

COULTON: My fingers crossed.

KP: And Haley Joel Osment can actually work with you as part of his work release.

COULTON: Oh, god bless that sweet beautiful boy.

KP: Yes. And the telephone pole that took him out. I didn’t say that. I’m sorry. It was actually the alcohol that took him out. The telephone pole had nothing to do with it.

COULTON: Yeah yeah. An innocent bystander.

KP: So I guess I’ll be seeing you sometime next month.

COULTON: Yeah. I’m back literally the 31st…

KP: Are you in a neighborhood now? Are you going to be doing the whole Halloween thing?

COULTON: Well, we’re in Park Slope, so there’s actually a Halloween parade that goes on here. So yeah, there may be some festivities happening.

KP: You’ll be the only guy giving out songs to kids.

COULTON: Yeah, right? “Hey kid, you like monkeys?”

KP: A little CDR to each of them. “Yeah, put this up on your MySpace.”

COULTON: “Link back to me, okay kid?”

KP: “I know you got ‘em. And approve me, for chrissakes.”

COULTON: “Thanks for the add.”

KP: Well listen, it’s been a real joy talking to you.

COULTON: Well, it’s been fun. I certainly appreciate the willingness to say important things about me on your important website.

KP: Well I’m all about lies.

COULTON: (laughing)!

KP: Seriously, though, I would not have done it unless I actually wanted to feature you and get the word out.

COULTON: That’s very nice.

KP: And did fully respect and get a kick out of the music.

COULTON: Well that’s good.

KP: So know that I don’t feature people that I dislike.

COULTON: That’s even better. 100%.

KP: So yes, your songs are in full rotation, and I hope that you get something planned for the future. Because I can only listen to this stuff so much.

COULTON: You’re gonna need another 52 songs pretty soon.

KP: Yes, I need that sequel to “Re: Your Brains.” Like Harry Chapin did with “Taxi.”

COULTON: Oh god. Oh god.

KP: You know, revisit it a couple of hours down the line.

COULTON: Yeah, just see what happens.

KP: Yeah, why not? Some kind of post-apocalyptic, Omega Man kinda thing.

COULTON: Yeah.

KP: You know, he set up a house, and yet his coworker’s still coming after him. Every once in a while he’ll see him outside the gate when he’s up there shop vaccing.

COULTON: Yeah. Or maybe the tables have turned.

KP: You know, maybe the tables have turned.

COULTON: Maybe he’s got the zombie captive now.

KP: Yes, so actually it’s a memo replying to the reply.

COULTON: Yeah. “Re: Re: Your Brain.”

KP: Yes!

COULTON: Song #53.

KP: Yeah, I’ll pay you a dollar.

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