Silkworm: An Interview w/ Tim Midgett
Sometimes noisy and dissonant, sometimes quiet and introspective, Seattle/Chicago-based trio Silkworm (Tim Midgett on bass, Andy Cohen on guitar, and Michael Dahlquist on drums) builds albums the way others build novels—full of characters and individual personas, with an epic storyline tying all the little separate stories together. Their newest (and 7th) full-length release, Lifestyle (Touch & Go Records) is a moody look at working class peoples from all walks of life, stories about people either trying to get out of their lives or learning to settle for the world they've been born into.
"We don't ever set out to make records that way," confesses Midgett over the phone. "There's never any planned theme in mind when we're setting out to make a record—it just seems like whatever we happen to be going through at the time makes a heavy impression on our music as well as the resulting record." I spoke to Midgett about a variety of things, including some stuff about his band.
[Holly Day] From someone who has such an easy-target name myself, did you get picked on a lot growing up for your last name?
[Tim Midgett] You know, I actually didn't.
[Holly] Are you actually really tall?
[Midgett] No, not really, and I wasn't really that big a kid. I think that because it was so obvious, people didn't bother bringing it up.
[Holly] How did you get into playing music?
[Midgett] Both Andy —our guitar player—and I both just started playing music in school bands. He played the French horn, and I played trumpet. But as far as rock music? I think we both started playing rock music when we were like, 13, or something like that. I was 13 a couple of years before he was, but I just started playing bass on my own, because it seemed like it would be fun and I wanted to play in a rock band. And it just kind of went on from there. That was back in Montana, where we're both from.
[Holly] What do you do when you're not playing music?
[Midgett] Well, right now, I'm going to school to get my electrical engineering degree so I can do some kind of engineering job when I get out. Andy's got a law degree from the University of Chicago—these are both things that are extremely handy to have available when you're in a band. Michael does stuff with a software company here in Seattle, makes sure all their projects are coming out on time and something else that I'm not really sure about.
[Holly] What do you think makes the three of you work together so well as a band?
[Midgett] I think we've all got pretty much the same ideas of what constitutes good music. It's not like one of us is really interested in all of us being a certain way all of the time, like rocky, hard core all the time, or folksy or super vocal or jazzy or whatever—we all feel free to try out different kinds of music with each other. None of us have any real musical hangups, so we just kind of play with things until they come together and sound good. We're all close enough to the same page in music that we tend to agree when things are finished. We've known each other for so long now, too—it's pretty automatic for us to play together and get along. Andy's in Chicago now, and me and Michael and I are in Seattle, we still get together every couple of months when we're not touring or recording, and more so when we are. Really, all we have to is remind ourselves how the songs go, and once we have that done, everything else is easy to pick up, even after not playing with each other for a while.
[Holly] What does the title of the new album mean?
[Midgett] I think that the word, "Lifestyle," is a pretty interesting word. I think that, in a sense, it doesn't mean anything a lot of the time. Every newspaper and magazine now has a "Lifestyle" section, and it feels like almost everybody has a different idea of what should go into those "Lifestyle" sections. It's hard to really define what that part of the paper actually means to the editor putting it together, because it'll have all sorts of crap in it. Overall, it seems to be used to focus on the most facile, surface level part of life, like what you're going to do with your weekend, or what kind of clothes you wear, or accessories for brushing your teeth or cleaning your face. Actually me and Michael were walking through downtown Seattle just the other day, and we passed this Aveda store that was advertising itself as a "Lifestyle Store." I thought that was just really nice: you can walk in there and just buy a lifestyle—no more wondering what the word means. You can just walk in and buy a lifestyle. I think that's just great. But really, I just like the word, and thought it'd make a great title for the album.
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