They're back! It's been quiet around THE PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA for a bit, but they make their return in style. We talked to President Dave Dederer - guitarist, bassist, and singer - and we should have been expecting some weird answers... The topics: co-operations, cover songs, earthquakes, internet, and - oh yes - the new PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA album 'Freaked Out and Small'.

by:Tijs Heesterbeek

All right, let's get through the formalities first: How did the Presidents got back together?
"About nine months after we broke up, we got together in the studio to record a couple of tracks with the rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot. Those two tracks turned into a band, Subset, which played some shows and recorded a bunch of music. So we were playing together again, and this internet start-up, Musicblitz, just asked if we wanted to do some recording. We thought: "Why not?""

How did you get in contact with Sir Mix-A-Lot?
"Mix is also from Seattle and wanted us to do a track with him for his album. It just turned out so well that we turned it into a band."

Has the music of Subset been brought out?
"We still haven't put out the music we recorded, but last I checked, you can find four or five of our Subset songs on Napster."

You guys worked with many people like Sir Mix-A-Lot, Kim Thayil [guitarist from Soundgarden], and Duff McKagan (ex-bass player from Guns'n'Roses). Which person or band would you like to work with at some time, and why?
"I'd really like to make a record with Ringo Starr playing drums and Paul McCartney playing bass they're one of my favourite rhythm sections. I would also really like to do some recording with Levon Helm [of the Band] playing drums. He's one of my favourite all-round musicians."

What is the story behind the co-operation with Duff McKagan on the song 'I'm Mad'?
"Duff is from Seattle, and we grew up in nearby neighbourhoods. We knew each other a little bit as teenagers. Some of my best friends from grade school became his good friends in high school. He was a big Presidents fan and came to see us play in LA, and he and I just kind of hit it off. He came in the studio one day and we recorded 'I'm Mad' in just a few hours. In fact, I'm going to the studio right after I finish this interview to help him finish a record of loud, aggressive music under the band name Loaded. That record should be out in Europe sometime pretty soon."

I've heard a rumour that one member of the Presidents was in a band together with Beck. Is this true?
"Yes, Chris [Ballew, guitarist/bassist/singer] played on Beck's 'One Foot in the Grave' record and played bass on Beck's first few months of touring on the 'Mellow Gold' album."

The Presidents also did a few covers [e.g. Buggles' 'Video Killed the Radio Star' and MC5's 'Kick Out the Jams']. Is there a song you would like to cover now, and if so, why?
"I love doing covers. I've got a list as long as my arm of songs I'd like to do: Johnny Rivers' 'Secret Agent Man', Booker T and the MGs' 'Soul Dressing', almost any Beatles song, Thin Lizzy's 'Cowboy Song'... I could go on for hours."

About the music on 'Freaked Out and Small': It's more up-tempo than 'II' and reminded me more of the first CD. Was that on purpose?
"We weren't trying to make a record like our first record, but we did want it to be rocking. We decided we would do only really fast, aggressive songs and super-slow songs. We wanted to avoid mid-tempo rockers, which are really hard to do well, unless you're Tom Petty."

I've heard that the band used the normal amount of strings. Why did the band put the rest of the strings back, and do you think this had any influence on the music?
"Yes, we played normally-strung and tuned guitars and basses on this record. No reason, really. The tunings we used to use were just a phase we were in at that time, and now we're not doing that anymore. As an artist, you have to change or you die. A year from now we could be playing all brass instruments, I don't know. I've played guitar for almost 25 years, and I'm trying to become a good bass player right now. It's good to have new challenges."

Although 'Freaked Out and Small' is, in my opinion, a very positive and lively album, it ends with a surprisingly serious last song 'Heading Out. Are the Presidents becoming serious?
"We've always been serious."

'Freaked Out and Small' has been brought out by an internet-based label, and because KindaMuzik is an internet magazine, I was wondering what your opinions on music on the internet are.
"In my opinion, it's not really viable to release a record strictly on-line. Not enough people will know about or buy it, at least right now. That could all change in the next few years. I think we'll see the album concept go away. The album's only been around for 30-40 years, made possible by the 33 & 1/3 RPM LP record. There's no reason to think that another change in technology won't also change how music is presented."

What do you think of the MP3 war that is currently happening and the lawsuit against Napster?
"I don't support Napster. They are a like a "fence": the person who acts as a go-between between a thief and someone who wants to buy what the thief has stolen. The site definitely promotes stealing. And I don't think this new protection of copyrighted recordings that the industry has negotiated is enough. At least in the US, a work is legally copyrighted as soon as it is recorded or written down, so anything on Napster has copyright protection."

A few weeks ago there was an earthquake in the surroundings of Seattle. Does the band still live in Seattle, and did you experience the earthquake?
"Yes, we all still live in Seattle. I was at home with my wife and daughter when the earthquake hit. It was quite scary - our wooden house sounded like a ship rocking and creaking in a big storm."

Did the Seattle music scene have any influence on the Presidents or on you personally?
"Early rock'n'roll from Seattle and Tacoma has had a huge influence on me: The Fabulous Wailers, the Sonics, the Kingsmen, Paul Revere and the Raiders. I love all this music. I love its raw energy and excitement."

Choose one of the following, and tell me why you chose it: Re-voting or re-counting?
"Seattle Mariners to win the World Series, because we have two Japanese players."

Bush or Gore?

Republic or monarchy?
"Monarchy, because I would make a great benign dictator."

Touring, in the studio, or making videos?
"Anything but making videos."

The country or the city?
"The suburbs."

What music is currently in your CD player?
"Currently in my CD changer in my car are CDs of Steve Swallow and Carla Bley, Coleman Hawkins, the Squirrels, James Blood Ulmer, Supergrass, and Thin Lizzy."

What are the plans of the Presidents in the near future? Are you going on tour in Europe? You were always a great band for the Summer festivals.
"Plans? What are plans? There are no plans in the music business, just good luck and bad luck, good timing and bad timing."

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