Random Rules: James Kochalka
The shuffler: Comic-book writer/artist and bandleader James Kochalka, author of (among many, many other comics) Peanutbutter & Jeremy's Best Book Ever, Monkey Vs. Robot, the ongoing hero spoof Superf*ckers, and the Sketchbook Diaries books, which collect his daily diary comics from americanelf.com. His band, James Kochalka Superstar, has released half a dozen independent records, plus two on Rykodisc, including 2005's Spread Your Evil Wings And Fly.
Dayglo Abortions, "1967"
James Kochalka: One of my favorite hardcore bands of all time. And 1967 is the year I was born. I finally got to see this band—I wrote this song, "Hockey Monkey," with The Zambonis, and we got invited to play this Canadian show called Hockeyville. They made us practice the song like 100 times before we played it live on the air. And then that night, we went out to see Dayglo Abortions, and they were awesome. Really old-lookin'! [Laughs.] Oh, another thing that makes this band really special—I've been together with my wife since 1985. One time when we were young, maybe I was like 19 or 20, so she would have been 17 or something like that, we made love to this album.
Wizardzz, unknown track
JK: I think they're friends of Lightning Bolt. They're on Load Records. I've actually never listened to this album. My friend brought his hard drive over and dumped a bunch of stuff on, but I like it. It doesn't say the name of the song, and actually, it doesn't say the name of the artist, but I figured it out. I mean, I've heard them, but I've never listened to the whole album. I don't think there's any singing—there hasn't been any so far. [Laughs.]
The A.V. Club: Do you have a lot of music that you haven't listened to?
JK: No, no, not a lot. But he was visiting—it's my friend Tom Devlin, he was one of my first publishers, he ran Highwater Books. We're still really good friends, and he visited with his wife and kids maybe a month or so ago. While he was here, I just grabbed a couple things off his hard drive that I wanted.
Metroid Prime, "SMETBRI2"
JK: Right now, we're listening to something from the Metroid Prime soundtrack. Metroid Prime is a video game for the Nintendo GameCube, and it's an awesome game and an awesome soundtrack. A very lonely game—you're this woman in a super armor suit, and you explore a planet by yourself, and try to—well, basically, you blast a lot of monsters. [Laughs.] It's got sort of spacey, scary, sad music. The music was actually a lot better for the original Metroid game, for the old Nintendo NES.
Akitaka Toyama, "The Moon And The Prince"
JK: I didn't have a PlayStation 2, so I never really got to play Katamari Damacy, but I downloaded the soundtrack from some website and enjoyed it quite a bit. The central theme of the song is so incredibly catchy and hummable, and almost every song on the soundtrack repeats that same theme. [Laughs.]
AVC: Do you tend to listen to video-game music while you work? Is it less distracting than something with lyrics?
JK: Yeah, yeah. Actually, the only time I listen to music is while I work. I don't have time to sit still, unless I'm sitting still to draw or You know, maybe I just don't have the willpower to sit still unless I'm sitting still to draw. I have pretty good willpower when I'm working, though, but otherwise, I like to keep moving.
The Magnetic Fields, "You Love To Fail"
JK: Must be from a compilation or something, 'cause the album title is something I don't recognize at all. It says The Wayward Bus/Distant Plastic Trees. I've never heard this song before. [Laughs.] But I love Magnetic Fields. I believe 69 Love Songs is the best album ever recorded. It's by far my favorite, I've probably listened it more times than any other album. And I discovered that album—I was on tour with my band. We never tour, I'm pretty famous for not touring, but this Danish record label called Crunchy Frog really liked my music and wanted to set up a tour for me just to see the reaction of the people over there. So they put together a Danish supergroup to be my backing band, with members of the best bands on their label, most famously this guy Sune [Rose Wagner] from The Raveonettes. That was before The Raveonettes had started, but I was pretty aware he was already famous in Denmark, because everywhere I went, his face was on the cover of magazines. So it's funny to have him in my band. [Laughs.]
Koji Kondo, "Combat Contre Helmaroc King"
JK: This is also from the soundtrack to The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The title is in French because I grabbed the track from a French video-game website. I believe that someone in France was the first person to dump the soundtrack from the game online. Now you can find English versions.
AVC: Do you find a lot of your music on share sites like that?
JK: God, I don't know. I actually listen to CDs a lot more than I listen to mp3s. I would say it's sort of old-fashioned, except they're CDS. It's not vinyl. [Laughs.] I've only ever bought one music-listening device, not counting the computer. But I bought a boombox when my first album came out in 1995. I waited until I had my own album to buy a boombox, and it's lasted me, although the dual tape drive on it broke. Maybe after the first year, dubbing tapes, I was making—I used to make cassette albums—and I did this cassette album called Mermaid, broke the dual tape on that after about 25 copies. [Laughs.]
AVC: So is the music on your computer not really representative of what you listen to?
JK: No, no, it's all stuff I like, it's just totally different stuff than what I have on my CD collection.
AVC: What kind of stuff do you have on CD?
JK: I guess strange indie rock. Some of the same stuff, just different albums.
The Flaming Lips, "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion"
JK: You know, I don't think I paid for this album, but I've bought a bunch of other Flaming Lips albums. I have mixed feelings about copying—I guess basically stealing music, right? But then I look at my own royalties from the record label, and I figure no one is making any money. [Laughs.] You're not really stealing from the artists, just the label. Maybe a band this big, they probably get royalties from their record label, but any small band—they're not.
AVC: Do you do anything to support those bands? Like go see them live, or mail them money?
JK: [Laughs.] I do go see some bands live, not as many as I used to. Most of the bands that I go see live are local bands that my friends are in.
Ween, "Put The Coke On My Dick"
JK: Ween is one of my favorite bands, but it's been disappointing to watch them make a long slide to hippie jam-band from I don't know what they started as. [Laughs.] But they weren't a hippie jam-band, that's for sure! I pretty much buy every new album they put out, even though I don't enjoy the new albums as much as I don't know, people reach their stride at different points in their artistic careers. Some people are awesome when they're young, some people don't become awesome until they're old, some people are awesome in the middle and sort of suck in the beginning and at the end. It's very rare that somebody's gonna be fantastic for their entire career. They're pretty close, though. I wouldn't still be buying their albums if I didn't still think they were pretty awesome.
Beck, "Rental Car"
JK: Beck is one of the most boring artists of all time. [Laughs.] He just sounds like he's not even trying. I mean, it's always pretty good, but he raps like he's falling asleep.
AVC: Why do you have the track?
JK: Well, it's good enough to—I don't know, it's always interesting enough to want to check and to see what he's doing, where he's headed, that kind of thing. But it's not quite good enough to really grab me. He's more interesting than your average pop-music star, but also more boring than your average pop-music star. The average pop-music star is gonna have a really blazing, cool pop song, right?
DJ BC & The Beastles, "Hold It Together Now"
JK: It's a mash-up of The Beatles' "Come Together" and Beastie Boys' "Hold It Now, Hit It." They're two of the world's greatest bands. The Beatles are practically God when it comes to music—their melodies are amazing, always, their lyrics are always amazing. Beastie Boys, I believe, are similarly amazing. Every conversation I ever have with someone, a Beastie Boys lyric will come to mind. It's bizarre, but I'm always saying Beastie Boys rhymes.