Dave Dederer Talks About Their Latest Term

W. Andrew Powell, 2000 - The Gate

After splitting up to go their separate ways for the last few years, The Presidents of the United States of America (PUSA) have come together for another great, whacky adventure they called, Freaked Out and Small. A while ago I got a chance to talk to Dave Dederer and see how things worked out on this album and what the band is thinking of next.

At one point I thought I saw your press releases calling you The Presidents and nothing more, what was that about?

"When we got released from Sony [to pursue other things] they said okay, but if you use your name again we will have first right of refusal. So we agreed to that and thought Hahaha, like we'll ever record under the name the Presidents? but of course, we did. We were bothering them for 6 months and we just wanted an answer but finally they got back to us and said we could [use the name again]."

"Chris [Ballew] and Jason [Finn] and I decided, why not just shorten it because it was so unwieldy and everyone just called us the Presidents anyway. So we shortened it and we all saw it [with the new name] and independently had the same reaction. We all had sort of a Jefferson Starship moment, you know... ”That's not our name.” That was a failed experiment."

So you ended up working independently with MusicBlitz.com, why not go for a major label again?

"If we had to find and negotiate and sign a major label deal we never would have made a record. The process would have been too tiresome and would have distracted all of us from other things that we're doing. Yet another example of how the Internet and venture capital that streams into it is blowing the music industry wide open."

Is it true you aren't going to tour at all this time around?

"None of us want to tour and Chris doesn't want to tour live. But we are currently hatching plans for our quote/unquote world tour. Which is going to consist of one gig somewhere in someone's basement in Seattle for 50 odd people which we are going to do a live webcast of. That's kind of an exciting thing about the web to do a world tour in a day."

So what changed Ballew's mind and made him want to reform PUSA?

"Who knows."

How is it to be back together again?

"It feels so good and it sounds so good. I'm glad we're playing together because you play for years and years and you put together bands and you try to put together likely sounding combinations of musicians. And even the best plans often result in humdrum results. Witness the new Eric Clapton and BB King CD When you do find some people you have some chemistry with it's really a gift."

So how do you feel about all this talk about Napster and MP3s? Have you checked it out?

"I'm a really good example of what's great and horrible about Napster because I'm a benefactor and a victim of the best and worst case scenario. Best case scenario is you have a new band that you have a band that people want to learn about and hear and there's no music available and they can hear it on Napster. Like Subset with Sir Mix-A-Lot and I have been on Napster when someone has it on their hard drive. So that's great because it builds a demand."

"At the other end of the spectrum you have let's say the first President's record which still sells at least a few hundred records a week. And you have Joe Freshman who gets to school and misses having the first President's record and instead of going down to the record store where our album is readily available for $14.99 US, he has a T1 hookup... so she just gets on and she downloads our record. That is bad. Bad student. That's stealing."

"So if it's unavailable or out of print it's amazing. I mean I can understand why Metallica and Lars Ulrich was so pissed off and I think generally it's people at this point with the narrow bandwidth... it's only going to be dedicated fans who are going to download this stuff. They're probably buying everything you have to sell. But in the next 1 to 5 years as bandwidth expands... the software gets simpler and simpler, it's going to be a big issue."

"MP3.com and Napster are stealing and Napster only facilitates stealing. In the days of prohibition Napster's the rumrunner. They're the guy who's taking the booze from Victoria down to Seattle and they're getting caught and they're saying, ”What do you mean this is illegal. I'm not making this. I'm not selling it. I'm just moving it. How could that be illegal.?"

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