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Ask They Might Be Giants About Almost 30 Years of Music

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the no-one-in-the-world-ever-gets-what-they-want-and-that-is-beautifu dept.

Music 188

Back in 1982, John Flansburgh, John Linnell, and a drum machine formed They Might Be Giants. Over the last 29 years TMBG have released 15 studio albums, won 2 Grammy Awards, and have become one of the most nerd-loved bands ever. In addition to projects like Dial-A-Song, TMBG were one of the first bands to create their own online music store, and have been making podcasts on a semi-monthly basis since 2005. The band has agreed to answer all your questions about the naming conventions of Turkish cities, building spiritual bird houses, and the music business. As usual, ask as many questions as you'd like, but please keep it to one question per post.

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188 comments

How Do You Consume Music? (3, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37567758)

Assuming you still listen to other bands and acts in your free time, by what method do you acquire new music? I've seen your albums in vinyl and I know you were the first major label artist to release an entire album exclusively in MP3. My preferred method is buying vinyl that gives me an MP3 download on the side. So what is your collection mostly of CD, iTunes, MP3s (lossless?) or do you personally enjoy the slight comeback of vinyl [slashdot.org]?

Re:How Do You Consume Music? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37567836)

I like bittorrent better than vinyl. - AC

Oh yeah and They Might be Giants is too artsy-fartsy for me. Though I did like their version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. The other tracks tend to be 20-second intros to songs that never materialize. At least Frank Zappa correctly handled the "crazy lunatic genius" thing. So did Mike Patton. These guys, eh not so much. Too much like art teachers who say "ok, now be a tree".

From Usenet in 1992 to Dial-a-Song to ... ? (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37567800)

In 1992 you guys were sending out news updates to your fans via Usenet Newsgroup, what are the next big things you want to try to do with the internet to connect with your fans? Are you working on anything crazy and innovative right now that you can talk about that sort of transcends the basic music to vendor to fan experience? Almost all bands send out updates now and allow samples of songs to be heard online, where do you see these methods heading in the future?

Activities - solvency (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37567878)

With all these activities mentioned above, is the band solvent? Are all those other activities worth it financially?

Where I'm coming from: back before the Joshua Tree album, even with all of U2's success up to that point, they said in an interview that they "had to tour a lot just to stay solvent."; which surprised me so much that I remember that statement 20 years later. It's not that I'm counting your money or anything, it's more of trying to understand the business. As David Sanborn once said, "People see your face on an album and think you're automatically a millionaire."

Rock Band? (3)

Aaron_Pike (528044) | more than 2 years ago | (#37567902)

I think I can safely say that there is a large demand for a TMBG edition of Rock Band. Is there anything preventing this from happening?

Re:Rock Band? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568384)

Yes, the lack of good songs. Seriously, you think that TMBG would translate to a Guitar Hero game?

Re:Rock Band? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568424)

You bastard.

Re:Rock Band? (1)

mailman-zero (730254) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568614)

I think I can safely say that there is a large demand for a TMBG edition of Rock Band. Is there anything preventing this from happening?

Much to my dismay, there are no accordions available that work with Rock Band.

Re:Rock Band? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37569342)

I think I can safely say that there is a large demand for a TMBG edition of Rock Band. Is there anything preventing this from happening?

Much to my dismay, there are no accordions available that work with Rock Band.

... yet.

Playing with a drum machine (1)

slim (1652) | more than 2 years ago | (#37567914)

I'm in the middle of trying to throw together a band, and finding a drummer isn't easy (if you don't already know one, and you're not willing to pay one).

What comments do you have about working with a drum machine, especially in a live setting?

Do you still use one?

Friends Forever? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37567948)

Clearly you have both been through a lot of things together -- the band, touring, albums, families -- how do you maintain your friendship through all the stresses and changes?

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37567950)

Which are your favorites of the new season?

Best Reward from 30 Years of Effort? (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37567952)

What is the most rewarding thing to you personally from the 30 years of being a band? A particular fan letter? A particular performance? Just being able to do what you love?

What's your view on the Volume Wars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37567968)

Do people in the business even care about it? How is it viewed from the inside?

equipment question (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#37567970)

In the song Space Suit there's a very distinctive tonal quality that sounds very much like it was modulated using a Cooper 1138 or maybe a 1138-A. Was this a bold artistic choice or were you just using it for the first time and you forgot to turn the Korg variance down to a more modest level? Just curious because to a pro like me it's like listening to a Casio keyboard on display at K-mart.

Here Come ??? (1)

Darth Snowshoe (1434515) | more than 2 years ago | (#37567990)

John and John,

Thanks for a lot of great music! What's the score with the kids/educational albums - will there be any more of them coming? My kids are growing up listening to them (ABC's, 123's) and know a lot of the lyrics by heart.

There's no reason they have to all be explicitly for kids either - I'd love Here Come The Philosophers or Here Come Astronomy.

Re:Here Come ??? (2)

reebmmm (939463) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569106)

I came here for this. TMBG is great, but the stuff they are doing for Kids music is beyond compare. My three year old son loves Here Comes Science (Meet the Elements!), Here Come the 123s and Here Come the ABCs (Alphabet of Nations!). He also likes "No!" but that's slightly different.

Question(s): Do you (John & John) have any plans to continue making educational songs? If so, what subjects are you thinking about tackling?

kids music easy? (2)

ImWithBrilliant (741796) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568002)

Y'all started out with adult crowd and somehow got into kid's songs. (My daughter's a big fan). Which is easier: songs for the alphabet, math, or science?

The drum machine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568010)

How much do they owe that little guy in royalties?

"Hey Mr DJ" payola? (1)

nweaver (113078) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568036)

Did you encounter much of the "Hey Mr DJ" Payola going on in the industry when you started? Or was the song written about rumors in the industry at the time?

Is the situation any different now?

I have a question (1)

Frankie70 (803801) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568044)

If I have a date with a girl in Istanbul, where will she be waiting?

Re:I have a question (1)

Frankie70 (803801) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568096)

Messed it up!!!

If I have a date with a girl in Constantinople, where will she be waiting.

Re:I have a question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37569682)

She might be in Byzantium.

Re:I have a question (3, Funny)

Snard (61584) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569646)

If I have a date with a girl in Istanbul, where will she be waiting?

With her racist friend.

Loudness War (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568068)

Since the 90s, record companies have been mastering albums are loudly as possible. Typically, music is compressed dynamically, then normalized to the loudness limit of a cd, sometimes causing clipping. What are your feelings on the Loudness War?

Re:Loudness War (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568240)

Since the 90s, record companies have been mastering albums are loudly as possible. Typically, music is compressed dynamically, then normalized to the loudness limit of a cd, sometimes causing clipping. What are your feelings on the Loudness War?

Good point. I've found this to happen on DVD sound as well. Why? I've got a 400 watt THX amp, I don't need the stinking over driven and clipped sound. Whatever happened to craftsmanship?

Need Anti-Grammy and Anti-Oscars to point these horrible feats out.

Question (1)

x6060 (672364) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568116)

I was at your show last Thursday in Indianapolis! It was a great show! What exactly is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma?

Re:Question (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568524)

It is an update of the lyric "mass of incandescent gas"

I'm waiting (-1, Offtopic)

hduff (570443) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568120)

I'm waiting for Firefox 23, so it will be the same version as emacs. I'm guessing it will be released around Christmas.

So long dumbass Firefox developers, I'm switching to Chrome.

Re:I'm waiting (1)

x6060 (672364) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568258)

This is not the thread you are looking for *waves hand*

Re:I'm waiting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568866)

In their spare time John and John are prolific open-source browser developers.

Hey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568142)

Is this the dumbest question you've ever been asked?

How do you be so consistently awesome? (1)

PotatoHead (12771) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568184)

Thanks for a lot of great tunes, and a minor-sub culture I enjoy very much.

Whatever happened to Byzantium? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568192)

You mention Istanbul and Constantinople, but don't say a word about Byzantium! What's up with that?!?

Are you .. (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568214)

Are you my only friend?
Are you not my only friend?
But are you a little glowing friend?
But are you really not actually my friend?

Classical (1)

aquabats (1985346) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568224)

From your start back in 1982 and prior, countless bands and styles have come and gone or progressed. Obviously few ,if any, will be considered classical by surpassing generations not alive during the period. Can you name a few you think will continue to withstand the test of time? What do you think makes a band/album/song continue to stay relevant?

Change the music business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568226)

If you could change one thing about the music business, what would it be and why?

Why do you suck so bad? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568230)

Why do you suck so bad?

Loudness war (1)

Jiro (131519) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568242)

Tell us your opinions about the loudness war (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war ) and how it affects the release of your music.

Age-Defying Elixers? (2)

Xupa (1313669) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568266)

I just saw you guys in Nashville. You look fantastic. It's impossible to believe you've been rocking out for as long as I've had a full-color range of vision. How are you both so amazingly well preserved?

Been back to Sudburry, MA lately? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568290)

but then again its such a silly place. who would wana go there any more.

Fan reaction to "here comes the science" (2)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568292)

Some of your fans felt that the album "here comes the science" was pushing a specific agenda that was never previously a part of your music. Do you feel that the (perceived) partisan tones on that album are real or imagined, and if they are real do they reflect a change in the attitudes of TMBG as a band or the individual members thereof?

Re:Fan reaction to "here comes the science" (1)

pezpunk (205653) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568886)

casually associating angels with unicorns and elves was one of my favorite parts of that record.

Re:Fan reaction to "here comes the science" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37569076)

"Here Comes Science" is only partisan if you consider scientific knowledge partisan, and/or believe in angels.

I like the stories
About angels, unicorns and elves
Now I like those stories
As much as anybody else
But when I'm seeking knowledge
Either simple or abstract
The facts are with science
The facts are with science

Science is real

Triangle Man vs. Universe Man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568308)

Who would win? Powerful man has money riding on this.

HomeStar Runner collaboration (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568312)

There was quite a bit of collaboration with the Chaps brothers of home star fame. They seem to have taken a break from the website... Any chance this is because they're collaborating on project with you? If not, any plans to in the future? It seemed like a perfect marriage to me.

http://www.homestarrunner.com/expfilm.html [homestarrunner.com]

The Tiny Toons Influence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568346)

An entire generation knows who you are thanks to the episode of Tiny Toons that featured a few of your songs. I'd like to know, do you think this is something that not enough bands take advantage of to get their music out there, or did you guys capture lightning in a bottle?

...And the Conclusion is? (1)

jacksinn (1136829) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568348)

Thirty years ago it was postulated that 'They' may indeed be Giants. After nearly three decades of study, is there conclusive evidence that They are, as a matter of fact, Giants?

Is there such a thing? (1)

UnresolvedExternal (665288) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568364)

I have been looking for a shoehorn (the kind with teeth) and people keep beating me up, any suggestions where I can find one? (If required, I am willing to take a plane)

From a roadie (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568382)

As a roadie here, I've heard less than flattering comments from local stagehands that have worked your live shows... Are you guys dickwads? or is it your production management? or were you just having bad days?
Regardless... Thanks for the music
RB

Has making albums changed? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568400)

How has making albums changed over the last 20 years or so? What has influenced those changes? You, technology, or the business?

Career (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568490)

Looking back on your career, do you have a favorite and least favorite moment? Looking forward, what awesome new tunes can we fans-since-we-were-in-diapers expect?

Picking songs (3, Interesting)

esocid (946821) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568520)

When you pick your lineup, how do you sift through your catalogue and decide what it is you'd like to play? For example, (I saw you guys last night in Richmond) I didn't hear anything from Mink Car, The Spine, and I know you have over 300 songs to choose from.
-TMBG IFC

More children's albums! (2)

AmyVernon (1832298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568532)

I loved being able to play TMBG for my boys instead of Raffi and other crap. No question, just saying thanks.

Question about your LTR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568626)

I don't know if some of these kids really understand what it is like working with someone for 29 years pretty drama-free. Can you each tell us 3 things that you really like about the other, and 3 things that drive you bonkers?

Social media (1)

DataDiddler (1994180) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568644)

With the explosion of social networking websites, blogging and microblogging sites, etc., people are much easier to discover and contact -- some of whom may have been impossible to find in the 80's. Given these amazing tools, have you managed to speak with Ana Ng?

Re:Social media (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37569236)

In the future, mobile check-ins will let us know who was at the Dupont Pavillion, and satellite IR and visible imagery will capture why the bench is still warm and who had been there.

Was this TMBG? (1)

camusflage (65105) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568708)

Back in my misspent youth some 20 years ago, someone gave me a song they swore was TMBG, recorded in someone's basement. The title was "On the Rag", and while the vocals bore some resemblance, the lyrics were predictably puerile. Was this really you guys, or was my friend just pulling my leg?

Re:Was this TMBG? (1)

th77 (515478) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569462)

I'm not John, John, any of the Dans, or Marty, but to answer your question, you probably heard On the Drag, from the Working Undercover for the Man EP. Info here: http://tmbw.net/wiki/On_The_Drag

Majestic Presence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568814)

I've enjoyed walking in the glow of your majestic presence! Thanks for the music...

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37568818)

How did you come about getting picked to score and perform the "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" theme for the series currently airing? When I first heard it while watching with my son, I had my suspicions, but then confirmed them when I did a little searching. Awesome song!!

Re:Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (1)

dcigary (221160) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568918)

Awww damnit, I AC'd this one. Ok, ignore this one and use the one with my username on it! :D

Do you enjoy playing your "mainstream" tracks? (2)

Nareau (918020) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568888)

When you play shows today, a lot of your older fans expect to hear tracks from Lincoln, Flood, and TMBG. Do you resent having to play the same thing over and over, or do you enjoy playing them as much as we enjoy hearing them? Do you ever play your other well-known tracks, like "Dog on Fire" or "You're Not the Boss of Me"?

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (1)

dcigary (221160) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568904)

How did you come about getting picked to score and perform the "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" theme for the series currently airing? When I first heard it while watching with my son, I had my suspicions, but then confirmed them when I did a little searching. Awesome song!!

Re:Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37569226)

I had the same experience recently when my 3 and 5 year olds discovered Mickey Mouse. I should have know it was them when my 5 year old daughter said "Daddy can you skip the hotdog song. I really like it but I keep remembering it all day long after I hear it. I immediately flashed back to "I'm your only friend, I'm not your only friend, but I'm a little glowing friend..." -Damn, there it goes again....

Regret? (2)

The Good Reverend (84440) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568922)

Are there are any songs you regret recording? Something that seemed like a good idea at the time, but now comes off oddly, or in poor taste?

Connecting with fans. (1)

Zeelan (533372) | more than 2 years ago | (#37568992)

Over the years I have seen TMBG work very hard at connecting with fans with things like Dial a Song, Pod Casts and the like. While I myself have been to at least three of your concerts. What I was wondering was what else you see value in trying out as you go into the future in the form of content and connecting with fans in light of the downward pressure on the value of pre-recorded music?

Hypothetical Copyright Question (1)

WagonWheelsRX8 (1282738) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569008)

I've noticed issues regarding copyright tend to have rather opinionated discussions here on Slashdot. My question is a hypothetical one. When copyright law was initially established waaaay back in 1790 it granted protection for 14 years with the option to renew for another 14 years after that time period expired. If this were the way the copyright still worked, and assuming you filed the extension, it wouldn't be long before some of your original works were in the public domain. Would it be unacceptable or would it be considered OK? How do you feel about the current law (life + 70 years)? Is this something artists typically even think of/consider/care about?

I'm seeing you tonight! (1)

nahdude812 (88157) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569018)

I'm coming to see you guys at the Theatre of the Living Arts tonight (Sep 30)! My question is: can I borrow a copy of your latest album? And a couple of blank tapes?

Also, if you want to hang out after the show with someone nerdier than you, I wouldn't turn you down.

Tiny Toon Adventures (1)

jonoton (804262) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569098)

How did you get involved with this? And why wasn't this the official video for Particle man?

Giant nerd questions (1)

VonGuard (39260) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569152)

OK, I've been a fan since about 89, so I have a lot of questions to ask.

First: For each of you, which 1 song of yours is your favorite.

Second: The World's Address is a sad pun that reflects a sadder mess. Where did the idea for this song come from, and why the violin version?

Third: Who thinks she's Edith Head? Some specific person you knew?

Fourth: Any chance of releasing the visual song tie-in games from No on the Web?

Fifth: Do ya'll actually use metal detectors at the beach?

Sixth: What was it like trying to play the that bazookie thing in "older than you've ever been?" Was it a klezmer?

Seventh: I've seen you in concert a few times, and Angel is a tough one to get ya'll to play. It's a popular tune with the fans, is it out of favor with ya'll?

Eighth: What did ya'll think of the Tiny Toons episode your songs were in?

Your "weirdness" (2)

Torinaga-Sama (189890) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569172)

My first exposure to your music was seeing the video for "Don't Lets Start" on a Dr. Demento video countdown on MTV in the mid to late 80s. Looking back, I don't really find that song all that weird, but then again I have spent all of that time being influenced by your music.

Were you always out to hit that weird nerve? Where you surprised to be picked up by the Good Doctor, who is perhaps best known for promoting parodies and songs that are humorous and/or ridiculous? Did this influence the evolution of your sound at all?

Thanks,
Matt

Tiny Toons (3, Insightful)

Hsensei (1055922) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569240)

That episode of Tiny Toons with you music I think was one the greatest moments in Warner Bros Cartoons. Surpassing even the Kill the Wabbit mini opera. Would you ever do more collaborations again?

Most underrated work? (2)

conspirator23 (207097) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569486)

Artists don't always see eye-to-eye with their audience. I've heard anecdotes and stories from other artists where they expressed surprise that a piece that meant a tremendous amount to them was ignored by their audience, while a throwaway piece became immensely popular. Can you point to songs of albums that produced a reaction from your fans that was the opposite of what you expected?

Creative Juices (1)

CleverHuman (2456220) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569514)

TMBG has maintained a relatively steady pace of new music for the past 30 years. This no doubt requires both creativity AND dedication. Over the years what are some of the tricks and techniques you've developed to maintain both discipline and creativity?

Big Label versus Big Internet (1)

Coppit (2441) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569558)

You've seen both the big label approach to music and the grassroots sell directly to the customer over the internet approach. How do you compare the two?

advice to your younger selves (1)

Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569576)

If someone from CERN offered you the use of some faster-than-light neutrinos in order to send some advice to the 1982 versions of yourselves, what would that advice be?

Re:advice to your younger selves (4, Interesting)

Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569598)

If someone from CERN offered you the use of some faster-than-light neutrinos in order to send some advice to the 1982 versions of yourselves, what would that advice be?

And as a followup, would the 1982 yous have listened?

Chicken or Egg (1)

CleverHuman (2456220) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569580)

I am sure each song comes about differently. But in general, do you find you come up with lyrics first, or the music first? Or do you come up with each independently and then try to fit them together later?
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