RW22 - All You Could See Was My Boots

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to the time John tripped over the amplifier and landed on his back and you could only see his boots sticking up while he finished the guitar solo.

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

John being sick (RW22)

John is recovering a little bit from a cold. Yeah. It was awful, something terrible. There was a selfie of John with a surgical mask on, saying he was in a clinic and then Dan heard nothing for days. Dan texted John a worried text because he is like a grandma: ”Oh, are you okay?” Dan is in Austin, but he would fly out there and spoon-feed John some chicken soup with a robot arm. It was a type of sickness that you wouldn't want to be around. Dan typically does not want to do a podcast when he has even the slightest sick nose or variation in his voice.

Just today Dan’s little girl gave his son her cold and once the two of them have something Dan almost always seems to get it and he woke up this morning with a little sore throat. He is in that grace period when it is still early enough that he still sounds like himself, but tomorrow or the next day it is going to be bad. Dan totally understood that John was not being able to record. Last week John couldn't have recorded at all, he had cold shivers and hot fevers, he couldn't even walk. It was awful!

John going to the Russian spa (RW22)

Yesterday John went to the Russian spa. There is a Russian bath in Seattle called Banya 5 with a big steam room and a big sauna and a freezing cold pool and a saltwater pool and a hot tub. John went with a varying small group of friends, doing the circuit, go in the steam room etc. Every one of these things is an extreme version of itself. In the steam rooms you can't see the person sitting next to you, it is so hot and steamy. The sauna is just super hot. John has always done saunas, his dad was a sauna maniac. He thought that going into the sauna was the executive workout. He would take six saunas a week. He liked to be nowhere better than sitting in a sauna. He had a little terry cloth, like a mini toga, a mini skirt basically that he would wear in the sauna. He wore the same one John’s entire life and was completely threadbare by the time he got to be old.

John has always been in saunas and this sauna at the Russian bath was cranked and you can't be in there for very long. The cold dunk pool is is deep enough that you can just walk over to the edge and jump in it is cold. They did this cycle, hit the cold pool between each thing, sauna, cold pool, steam room, cold pool. Some of John’s little group of four people really liked to sit in the salt pond for a long time. Jon likes the steam room best. John’s feeling about it was that his sickness was going to have a really bad time today because he is going to do these extreme things he is going to perspire, and he felt he had utterly defeated it, but still has a little bit of a stuffy nose. He feels energized again, but it was absolutely a ten day virus.

John spent four days thinking he got this and that this was just going to be some little kid cold and he is going to beat it back, but five days in he had a fever for four days and this wasn’t normal. Elements of it, the racking cough, were genuinely painful and scary. There were a couple of times where John was coughing so hard, Dan is the wrong one to talk to about it because of his germophobia, that John triggered himself into dry-heaving and was dry-heaving for 20 minutes. This wasn’t helping anything, he wasn’t expectorating any of the terrible material, and he hadn’t eaten anything in three days. He was laughing because he was in such discomfort. What else? How about if he started bleeding from the eyes? John was mad at God for 40 minutes there!

John was wearing his flowered Hawaiian swimsuit that has been so sun-bleached that it just looks like something that he found under his truck tire. John does not wear the glasses in into the sauna with him, it would be pointless. There is nothing to see and they would be messed up the whole time. Now John is better.

John not podcasting from his office today (RW22)

John he has an office where he does his podcasting, and the office space inspires him to continue working on other projects. Recently he got a mobile setup where he can podcast from his house. Usually he wakes up about 8am and looks up, looks around, and makes an executive decision in that moment, like his dad's executive workout: ”Am I going to go back to sleep until 9:30am or am I going to go back to sleep till 10:45?” Generally John can set a little internal egg timer and wake up pretty close to one of those targeted second wake-up times. Also when he does wake up he can usually get pretty close to what time it is without looking at anything. It is not useful like being able to rebuild a truck motor, but it's a useful thing.

This morning John did not wake up at 8am or anytime, and when he woke up he thought it was probably about 9:30am, but then he looked at his clock and it was 11:45am. John has no idea what happened. He just completely slept through his whole routine and also his day-radar was completely off and he had no idea what time it was. John did not run into the office to record their podcast, but he is now lying in bed with his podcast microphone perched on his chest and his laptop open. He is maintaining this office and it would be a bummer for him if he stopped going to the office. The offices is full of crapola and he needs to continue to utilize that office because he was really starting to get it going down there as a workspace. Even though if he sings during the day, there are people are all around him working and it is a bad place to sing during the day. They are all doing their graphic art and stuff and all of a sudden down the hall comes this loud male voice singing with no context because he has headphones on and they don't hear the backing track.

John had a woman come down one time and knock on his door, asking: ”Are you singing opera? It is very nice!” - ”You are trying to be generous to me right now, I am sure it doesn't sound nice!” John can't record vocals when he is there during the day, so he has to do other stuff, but late at night there is nobody in this space that he can be down there recording vocals all the time. John is self-conscious recording vocals where other people can hear. He doesn’t generally like the idea that someone is lurking in the hallway, hearing his big sing. He can’t be broadcasting the track because you can't be singing the vocals and also cranking the music.

John doesn’t want to get too comfortable podcasting at home because every day there is a reason why he doesn't want to drive into town and he doesn’t want to fall into that trap of: ”I don't go anywhere! I stay at home, podcast from bed, there is no reason to not go back to sleep and then it is 4:00 p.m.” That is just not a good way to setup your life. John is pretty psyched about it right now. He pioneered this method the first time he podcasted with Dan from Los Angeles. Same mic, same laptop, laying in bed. It was the first remote. John had it propped up on his chest. Here he is, and this thing has got a cough button and he just had a big delightful cough and no-one had to listen to it. There are advantages to this.

Dan likes the idea of John going into an office and having papers and keeping stuff there that forces him to go in. It was a big switch for Dan when he got the first small office outside of his house after he had been doing this for a few years. He was always doing it in a spare bedroom or at one point a large walk-in closet and finally getting it to a different place he had resisted that for so long. He wanted to work from home because his commute was fifteen steps from the coffee to the room. That was great, but he loves having that separation of going here and do this thing when he is there. It puts him in the right mindset, it is easier to stop working and start focusing on something else. It legitimizes it as a business.

John has seen a lot of recording studios and podcast studios and video editing studios that are in the spare bedroom, which is depressing to John. He has known a couple of people who have made a recording studio in the big bedroom and they live in the small bedroom, and that has always felt like: ”Absolutely!” John has made a couple of records in his bass-players home studio who had a two bedroom apartment and he for all intents and purposes converted the entire apartment into a recording studio and in the small bedroom was where he lived. The big bedroom was the control room and they did all the tracking in the living room. It felt like this guy got his priorities straight. But when you come into somebody's house and this back bedroom with carpet and accordion-style closet doors, John understands they are getting started here, but it feels sad somehow.

At South by Southwest Interactive some of Dan’s friends had a closing South-by Interactive party that he went to and somebody there asked: ”You used to record from your house, right?” and Dan’s first reaction to it was: ”First of all, you haven't listened to anything for quite a while!”, but still: Even though Dan worked as a software developer remotely from the companies, he did independent contracting, and then he did it for another company, but he was working out of his house for a long time for many years. When he started his own business and doing podcasting, it was right from the same room, he just had a microphone in there. That feels like a million years ago and having that office really separates it, legitimizes it, and makes it a real thing.

Something in Dan recoiled from the idea of that. Especially with two kids running around the house it is almost impossible to do that. Merlin's podcast studio is legitimately a man cave. He has taken over what probably was at one point in time a place that sold Chinese herbal medicine. It is a storefront, but he has put newspapers over the windows and he has set himself up as far back from the street as you can be in this space. You walk deeper and deeper into Merlin's lair and it genuinely feels like a cave, but instead of stalagmites there are like Spider-Mans and stuff, or Wolverines. It really feels like a space that he has dedicated to this proposition.

South By Southwest, Texas barbecue (RW22)

John just realized that Dan is in the middle of South by Southwest, an experience that utterly destroys Austen and remakes it in its own image while Dan is just living there like a normal person. He lives and works a bit north of downtown. His office is 10-15 minutes north of downtown, but South-by has been moving in that direction for 10 years and it really does take over. Especially they had the president one day and then the first lady a few days later doing keynotes, and everything is just completely locked up, everyone is trying to go down there to partake in that. It is insane and Dan does his best to avoid it. The few times he does go down there for a meetup or someone has a party on Rainy Street or something, you brace yourself for the traffic and the many failed attempts to park. They don't really have a good public transportation system here. There are buses, but it is not like buses in a city that is designed to have good public transportation.

A friend of Dan had relocated here from New York and he said he doesn’t have a car or anything. You are moving to Texas, they didn't invent cars, but they own driving out here. Everyone drives everywhere for everything. He was going to take the bus, but taking the bus here is not like taking the bus in a public transportation commuter city. He found out pretty soon that this wouldn't work so well. Downtown is just insane!

The worst story ever is a lovely woman who works at a big music company, she was asking Dan for advice on barbecue, which Dan is obsessed with. She went to one place and it is where everyone said to go and it wasn't that good. It is the one barbecue place in downtown and it is not good. It is good compared to most of the rest of America, but in Central Texas or a barbecue city it is pretty awful. People get that wrong all the time there and then they come back and say they had barbecue in Texas and it wasn't that good. No, you had barbecue at the chilis of barbecue places. Don't eat there!

John went to South by Southwest for 10 straight years, from 1998-2008. In 1998 it still felt like: ”Oh, wow, this is cool!” and John was new and didn't know anybody. There were parties all the time. That first year he didn't know anybody. He was there and Death Cab was there, Dave Bazan was on tour at the time, not invited to South-by, but he came anyway. The day of their showcase some other band dropped out and Dave was standing there and we were like: ”Dave. You're on!” and he jumped up on stage and put his stuff together and did a whole show that nobody expected. It just felt like they were this little cadre of upstart bands from the Northwest.

It still felt like you are going to get signed, right after the show a bunch of people came up and handed John their business card and he thought they were off to the races, but then he read their business card and it was like: Maizy Glotz’s home band management company. These were 20 people that were also hoping to break into the music business and they were hoping to find some band that was going to help them. There was no business angle except that later on John met people around the country who said: ”Oh yeah, I saw you at South by in 1998!” It was still small enough that it felt like a really cool party.

Then in the early 2000s they opened that Hilton on 6th street and the first year that Hilton went up rooms were $99. They went in, bought five rooms, staying in this Hilton for $99 and this was the greatest party in America. As time went on it jumped the shark. One year it was crowded and there was something shitty about it all of a sudden. Somebody was sitting at some party and said to John: ”Sony bought 500 all-access passes this year to for all their employees worldwide.” and they all looked around and said: ”Oh, this is not what this is about! This is independent music. What was Sony even doing here, let alone 500 Sony employees from all around?” They got these badges so they were first in to see every show, and it just crapped out the whole thing because all the labels were doing that and all the big business people were doing that.

John was at an Iron & Wine show where the premise is: Be quiet! If you ever listened to a note of that music, you know that in order to accomplish it, you have to have real quiet. He is so breathy! If you are going to go to an Iron & Wine show anywhere you presume not to talk. John went into this thing and you couldn't hear him. There were 1400 people there because it was the show to be at, but everybody in the back was talking about the music business, a bunch of shrill, loud, drunk. You couldn't hear a note of the music. John was super-excited to see the show and left in the first 20 minutes because this was pointless. It was that type of evolution that turned this into a shitty frat party. Anybody on the music business side where their company bought them an all-access pass and it is just a drinking vacation: No thanks!

John’s barbecue odyssey (RW22)

During the first year at South by Southwest John did the thing that everybody does: He was in Texas, he wanted barbecue, and he went to the place that Dan was talking about. The next year John went a little bit far ranging across the bridge and found barbecue that was better, but he was still on the fence about it. As he started to make friends in Austin and they were Austin people and John saw them every year, he got invited to a house party maybe the second time he went, and they were real Austin people that had a real festival in their yard. They took over an entire street, it was Austin style, they didn't ask the cops if they could take over the street. They just had a party for 2000 people in their yard with dogs running all around, it was a beautiful thing.

So John had friends there who said: ”You can’t get barbecue there, what are you doing?” Then they got into a car and drove 45 minutes out of town to Salt Lake, which was good. John started to understand a little bit better. As he started to meet more people in Austin, they said he had to go an hour and a half out of town, to Lockhart. All of a sudden they were out in this place where all the locals were looking at you like you are in a Bob Seger song. You pull into town and they are like (singing): ”Is there a woman or a man?”, yelling at you with their eyes. John was having barbecue that was blowing the top of his head off. It was a three hour round trip to get barbecue, ”What's the matter with you people?”, but Texas is about getting in your car and nobody batted an eye at it.

About year 6 of that some other Austin friend said: ”Listen, forget about barbecue. The secret here is Al Pastor tacos” and John went onto the taco odyssey and became Al Pastor guy. In 2008 John didn't go to Austin that year. He had a choice: He could go to Austin or they could do a cross-Canada tour that started in Vancouver and went all the way through Regina, they played Calgary, Edmonton, all these places that you have to do a Canada tour. You can't go to Edmonton and then come back to the States, you really have to make a commitment. They spent three weeks in Canada and it was great. It was absolutely the right decision, and they didn't go to Austin that year and they started to get the reports from people like: ”Oh my God, you are so glad you didn't go!” There was a stage now built to look like a giant Doritos vending machine.

That is a legendary story that the festival has gone to hell. The Doritos vending machine stage. If you haven't seen this online, go look at it: It is a stage in the bottom of a giant Doritos vending machine and John has never seen this thing in person because the arrival of the Doritos stage coincided with the first year he didn't go, and now that Doritos stage isn't even in the top 15 most reprehensible things on South-by-Southwest. At the time it just felt like: ”You have got to be kidding me! What the heck is that?” Up until that point, in the early days, the biggest to-do was that Punk Rock pizza parlor down on 6th where they are blaring hateful death metal at you all night long and you have to wade through this cloud of darkness just to get a slice of pizza from these people. Everything about the pizza parlor is so hostile that it feels like a challenge to get a slice of pizza.

South-by (cont)

Realizing that Dan is in the middle of South-by right now, John admires Dan even more. Dan is staying as far away from it as he can. The first year or two, maybe even three that he got here he was so excited because he had never really gone to South-by, the years that it was cool. The other Interactive folks who went always said how great it was and everyone was together. Merlin went back in the days and loved it back in the original time period. When Dan moved here we wanted to go and he applied for a press pass and they gave them a few press passes and Dan went out there and went to sessions and stuff and thought that he was missing something because it was just kind of horrible. Everyone was agreeing at that time, even the people who had gone for 10 years were now saying: ”You know what? I'm out. I'm not going back again. This is my last year!” The first year Dan went everybody who was there who had been going for many years was saying: ”This is it! It is my last one!” and they haven't come back.

The film and Interactive portions, in the first several years John went there was a film thing, but the interactive thing didn’t exist. John was there the first year there was interactive and it was: ”Ha ha ha, this is cute. It's the computer people! What do they think they are doing here? Look at them! They are pathetic!” and then the interactive thing became this huge thing. John remembers the year that Merlin went. John was a friend of Merlin's by then, but interactive was the week before the music thing and they weren't going to fly down there just to walk around the halls. Definitely at the time, perhaps even still, when Internet people get together to talk about Internet, it still feels like: ”What is there to look at here?” There is no show, it is just a bunch of people in sweatpants milling around, talking about stuff that John didn't know what they were even talking about. Now John would probably almost have more fun at the interactive thing, except for the huge commercial marketing presence.

The transformation, the education of John in the Internet, whatever it was… John has to give credit to the Internet, computer, social world, that they have embraced him as much as they have. He was vocally hostile to them for years and now he is just begrudgingly nice to them. There are so many people who work in that world and that is their world who indulge him, indulge all the things that he says about them, laugh along with him and continue to be to be generous to him and consider him to be part of their world in some way.

Mothers being over-prepared with children (RW22)

It is very hard to listen to this program or anyone he does… John guests on quite a few podcasts and then brings that whole ”recovering from a cold”, ”cough into the mic” aesthetic and he always recommends to people that they not be eating during one of their shows because it could veer suddenly into a very gross talk. It is this incidental grossness where all of a sudden John veers off. John says Dan is very seldom gross because he would have to go wash his hands just from the thought of it, but being a parent, everything is about poop. The cold that is starting started with his little girl coughing in his face. Dan is a dad in the truest sense, in that when he takes his kids somewhere, his wife will have a bag with snacks in it and drinks and all that crap, all that mom preparedness stuff, but Dan is not taking anything.

When he gets in the car and they are thirsty, he got the water bottle in there he was drinking out of yesterday and they could take a swig from that. They eat stuff off the ground, that is fine! They are not going to die from that! They were in a store and she is 4.5 and she sneezes and the way that she sneezes the snot just comes out like two little projectile streams down her face. Dan doesn’t have anything to deal with this, he should probably think ahead and have one of those little packs of tissues that you just carry around, just in the back pocket of his jeans, but he doesn’t. So what do you do? You wipe it with your shirt and you move on! Of course that is why Dan is sick now.

The idea of doing that before he had kids would have really grossed him out, the idea of that being on your shirt for the rest of your day, that is disgusting. You might have to throw the shirt out, you might have to burn the shirt. You can't even donate that to a Goodwill or anything, that shirts is beyond filthy. But now? Just tuck your shirt in and you are fine.

John experiences this exact thing all the time. He got on an airplane with his little girl and says: ”Well, if you get bored, here is a New Yorker, or you can listen to the classical channel on your headphones or what you should do is just sit in your chair and stare ahead like everybody does on an airplane.” If her mother is traveling with us, there is an entire backpack full of coloring books and Cheerios in a bag, all this material that assumes that she has a short attention span of a child and that she will want to color for a while and then she will want to play with some little gizmos and then she will want her bunny and then she will want her other bunny. John is amazed by it, but also he is appalled by it. Why do you bring this entire other piece of luggage just to shoot distractions at her out of a cannon when what she should be learning is how to sit and play with a piece of thread. That is what they gave him!

The flight attendant would come by and give John a swizzle stick that had a Western Airlines W on the top of it and he would play with it for an hour and a half. He never had a coloring book! Seriously, look what a piece of thread can be: It can be a rope, it can be a string, it can be a snake. But then if there is an accident of any kind, which there is going to be, John is just completely unprepared: ”Excuse me, attendant, do you by any chance have 100 wet wipes?” It is a risk we have to take, it is a symbol of the fact that hope springs eternal. Dads presume that everything is going to turn out all right and moms are prepared for the worst possible scenario.

Dan has pretty good luck like that. Before he ever had a kid, some of their friends, a couple who had found each other and very quickly made up for lost time, got married and had a kid, they went to Tallahassee to some beautiful park with a big old building on it and a beautiful fountain out in the front. The kid decided that he was going to balance along the edge of the fountain and they all just saw him just roll right in. As a pre-parent Dan thought the day was over now. He was in the fountain, he got drenched from head to toe with the worst possible water you could find in the city. The mom whipped out a towel, dried him off, whipped off his wet clothes, pulled out a complete fresh outfit, put it on him, hands him a thing of juice and it was not even a thing, they just kept moving.

How are you that prepared? Well, the first time he fell into a fountain she wasn’t so prepared, but that is the parenting lesson: Parents seem to have everything together. The reality is that they have been through it and not had it, so they just never want to go through that again. The first time Dan changed his little boy his diaper in the back of a car, how bad that went, and you better believe Dan drove around with stuff in there for the next time. John might have even wiped her bottom with a paper bag, but he never learned the lesson. John is always amazed by the people that are ready. He makes a big production about having a small bag packed and being ready for any occasion. John is ready to fight a mountain lion, but not to deal with somebody who fell into a fountain. He is ready to deal with it, he is just not ready to change their clothes and give them a juice.

John’s daughter picking her nose in a restaurant, using his cold stare (RW22)

John’s little girl is just a little bit older than Dan’s little girl and right now she is going through a phase where she is really enamored with picking her nose. When she was 4.5 she had never even discovered picking her nose. John was traveling a little bit this spring and was a little bit gone, a little bit out of the routine where he was the dad and does the dad things, like say: ”Don't pick your nose!” He got back from some trips and they were in a restaurant, her mom was there and John’s mom was there, and she got her fingers in her nose like it is the most natural thing in the world, and all the moms are just not seeing it or it is not on their radar of things to worry about. ”What are you doing, kid? Don't put your fingers in your nose in a restaurant!” and she looked at him with this look, like: ”Have you never picked your nose, dad? It is incredible!”

John had to lean forward and be like: ”Listen, everybody likes to pick their nose. That is why we have individual bedrooms! If it weren't for picking your nose and eating your boogers, we wouldn't have bedrooms. We would all live together in a big longhouse! We have bedrooms so that we can go into those places and pick at ourselves. That is why, so save it for the bedroom or the bathroom! She was looking at John who was basically saying: ”Yes, I know, at some point in your life you discover masturbation, but you don't do it in a restaurant!” and for the last couple of weeks, she and John have been locked in this battle of wills, where he is: ”Don't pick your nose in a restaurant! You are five years old now, so stop licking your face all day! Keep your tongue in your mouth, too! Just keep everything in!”

John has a fairly convincing cold stare. A lot of people will give you a cold stare and you go: ”Yeah, sure. What are you going to do about it?” When you live in a danger life out there on the streets or in the drug houses, there are a lot of people that give you crazy eyes as a way of saying: ”I am going to take your drugs, you better not fight me because I have got crazy eyes. I am one of the bad ones. I am crazy!” John has been in several situations where even weapons were drawn, but nobody wanted to go into a weapon fight and the guy who first pulled out the knife realized that you are not going to run and he is immediately out of options. His only option is to stab you or to say: ”I'm sorry, I probably shouldn't have pulled out this knife!” and put it back in his coat.

What that guy will do is all of a sudden get all crazy in the face and that is an attempt to convince you that you better not stand up to him because what is he going to do? You learn pretty quickly to tell legitimate crazy eyes from these cartoon crazy eyes. In most cases if somebody pulls out a knife and then gives you crazy eyes, you forget about it, he is nothing, he is a boob. Real crazy eyes do not just come upon a man, they are already there, and you should have noticed them a long time ago, a long time before he felt like he needed to pull out a knife, because then you are committed.

John’s cold stare is not one that he gins up to scare kids out of picking their nose, but his cold stare is always engaged and it is just a question if he will lower the temperature on it. It is already at forty five degrees, does he drop it down to where the room gets cold? She knows that the cold stare portends much worse consequences, and at least for now John most of the time doesn’t have to invoke those consequences. He can just say: ”Take your fingers out of your mouth!” and then lower the temperature a little bit and she just very slowly takes her fingers out of her mouth. If she is too slow taking her fingers out of her mouth he will lower the temperature even a little bit more and the conversation at the table stops and she doesn't want to lose her dignity.

There is this re-sheathing of her saber. She had the saber all the way out and it just slowly goes back into the sheath and the temperature is down to 28 degrees, we can all see our breath. John doesn’t know how long that is going to last. When she is 14 years old, that saber is going to go either not back into the sheath or back in so slowly that it is a challenge just by virtue of how slowly it is recovered. John is going to have to back it up with something, maybe pepper-spray? This parenting thing is new to John!

Dan’s wife getting an infrared sauna (RW22)

John used his cough button. There are two things that he doesn't want to inflict on other people: Coughing and snorting. Both things are grody. The proximity of their podcasting voices, the fact that they are really residing inside people's heads, you don't want to do that to people. You don't want to inflict gorp on people. This is not something that John used to feel like. He normally things: You listen to the podcast, you experience the hole thing, it is real life! Mostly because John didn't have this cough button. It really is a lovely thing to deploy.

Dan’s wife has been researching the health benefits of the sauna and stuff like that for a while. She got a sauna for their house. When Dan thought of a sauna, he imagined a room with wooden panels on the walls, a wooden bench to sit on, a thing with the coals, with a little ladle where you throw some water on the coals and it gets super, super steamy. Apparently that is one kind of sauna and Dan is sticking with his philosophy that this is the only real kind of sauna, but there is something called an infrared sauna.

John has been in one of these in Germany. It is all the rage. The Germans really got hip to this infrared sauna a long time ago. It certainly does come from from Germany and Europe, Scandinavia. It is a room, it can even be smaller than a room, it can almost be a box or a tent, and instead of there being all the steam and all the heat in the room, it uses infrared lights that somehow just work to heat your body. You are inside of it and you get all the same health benefits without all the steaming effects of it and things like that. You don't have to have the wood walls. She had been reading about this and looking at all these different health benefits and she ordered it. When it arrived is was just a cardboard box, like those things they make for kids that are play tents, a little thing and you twist it and it pops up and it is Thomas the train or something like that and your kids run around and go inside of it.

That is almost what the sauna looks like, but it is made out of the same kind of material like in the 1980s when you wanted to lose weight, you would go out jogging and you would wear a tinfoil suit, like a M.C. Hammer style pants, but they would be shiny silver and you would carry little weights with you while you are power-walking. That is the survival blanket. Everyone in Alaska carries one of those in their car because if your car breaks down on an empty stretch of road you might die if you don't have a survival blanket. Just like that except it is a tent with an infrared heating unit inside of it and you put a chair inside of it and you sit in there. Dan hasn’t done this yet, but every everyone else has done this and they all come out of it and: ”Yeah, all right!”

It is like a body snatcher thing and you are replaced with a more mild, relaxed version of yourself. Dan might have to try it, but it is funny John is talking about this right at the same time. There is a movement of saunas around the U.S. happening. Growing up in Anchorage, there was a real fashion to have an in-home sauna that was a full sauna with the wood walls and the benches and you ladle your water onto the hot rocks. John’s uncle had one in his house that could accommodate four or five people. His mom had one in her house that could accommodate four or five people. These are permanent installations, they are an enormous part of your home. In John’s uncle's house he built the sauna. They took over the garage and turned it into a play space for their kids, a rec room, and he built the sauna into that space. There was dad's quarter of the garage, it was not cement floors, but it had been built out properly and he had the whole cedar room.

In John’s mom's house it was built as part of the house. This is a weird thing about the 1960s-70s, a sunlamp bed where you lay on this bed in there are light bulbs above you, but sun lamp light bulbs. John is not sure whether you were trying to get a tan there or just get hot. Dan remembers the reflective things that people would put at the level of their neck and get their face tan or their their under face tan. Dan’s mom and his dad's girlfriend after they got a divorce, she was from Rhode Island and in Philadelphia she would lean out of the window holding one of these things, getting some sun.

All that stuff was promoted to people as health, which is that other German, Scandinavian tendency to think of all that stuff as health. John’s dad's whole thing of: ”The sun is an executive workout!” - ”How is this a workout?” That premise of lay on a bed under some hot light bulbs and there is some health aspect to it. Having a home sauna, the homes sauna eventually fills up with cardboard boxes. A major part of the appeal of a sauna is that it is a social event. Even if you go into the sauna and you are not talking to anyone, which is definitely a version of going into the sauna. A lot of people go into the sun and just sit there quietly and think deep thoughts, most of which are: ”It is so hot in here. How much more of this can I stand?”, but to have a sauna in your house where you just go in and sauna eventually the bloom is off the rose and then it becomes a place to put cardboard boxes.

John thinks Dan’s infrared sauna, which is just an elaborate child's tipi, he actually gotten off pretty easy there because eventually it will just go away and cease to exist and he doesn’t have to worry about it anymore. The fact is that Austin is a sauna for three months out of the year, but there has got to be a gym or a spa somewhere close to Dan where he can go to the sauna. In Dan’s wife’s mind it was the convenience and the ease of use of having it and then being able to put the children in it. Dan’s son has been in there and he loved it, too. He got all mellow out afterwards. He looks very cute in there because your head and your arms stick out of it like a bad Woody Allen style robot, an orgasmatron.

Another fad in the 1960s was a hot box where your head is sticking out. That's what this is. It is no different! There was that exercise equipment where you stood there and there was a belt around your tummy that wiggled you. Dan used that, his grandparents had that downstairs and they were in a condo in Boca for many years and there was a ”gym” down there and Dan would go on that with his friends when they had nothing to do on a Thursday night. They would do other dumb things like go down the elevator and jump in the elevator to try a zero-G thing. John still does it if he is in a hotel and it has a fast elevator and he is all by himself or with somebody he trusts.

Dan was always worried that something terrible would happen, that the thing would snap or you would fly to the ceiling, but that never happened. It is a wonderful gag! John caught pretty good air, you have to time it just right. John is always a little bit worried by the prospect of putting your children in there and raising your children's body temperature unnaturally, make your kid go into the hot tub or whatever. John is not 100% sure whether that is okay, although in Norway the kids are in the sauna from the time they are three.

Dan’s wife only put them in there for 10 minutes. Dan doesn’t know if he is ready to try it or not. He doesn’t know how he feels about it. John is a longstanding proponent of doing weird things in front of the neighbors so that they understand not to mess with you, so Dan should wheel it out into the driveway and do it there. Maybe sitting in your infrared sauna tipi in the driveway will just be one little message of like: ”Yeah, the Benjamins. They seem nice. Every once in a while, though… I don't know what their religion is here. That's some weird, weird rituals over there!” There are weird goings on in Dan’s neighborhood. It is weird to Dan, it is not weird like what happens in John’s neighborhood. It doesn’t make sense!

Dan’s dad having a ham radio setup (RW22)

One of the things you could count on in his very nice suburban neighborhood is… like the beginning of Edward Scissorhands where everyone leaves the house at exactly the same moment and all driving down the street exactly the same way and all the houses look alike. Dan doesn’t live in that kind of neighborhood. There is a lot of diversity in both the population who lives in his neighborhood, but also in the houses. It looks wonderful. It is a great established neighborhood that is great for kids. But if he drives through there at a certain time, you see the same people on their walks at exactly the same time, every day, seven days a week. Your neighbors’ lights go on and off at the same time. If you happen to be going to bed and you glance out the window on your way, you will see that person's light is always on and that person's light is always off. Dan pays attention to this, admittedly, more than other people. He likes to keep track of things.

Once in a while, and Dan talked about it on Back to Work for a number of episodes, there would be a red light coming from one of the upstairs windows over the garage, and it was on not every night, but many nights, just for a period of a couple hours. Dan couldn't ever figure out what it was. Were they growing something in there? Were they using it as a dark room? Now he thinks maybe they were just doing something with the infrared sauna in there!

Growing up when John did, and he is not sure if this is Alaska or if this is just the time, there was always a guy in the neighborhood that had a giant shortwave radio antenna. That was Dan’s dad, by the way. He was more into Morse code than shortwave, which is even geekier. He got so good at this that he actually went out and got a double key pad once so that it had a high pitch and a low pitch, he was doing a two finger thing. Dan has a picture of himself sitting in front of his rig when he was about four years old.

John’s dad bought him a shortwave radio and he used to sit in his room and listen to people in Russia talk. He never broadcast, it was just this big radio set where he could tune in all these… you got your normal radio, but then this had all these extra knobs and frequencies, and you could sit and listen to people far, far away. Alaska is so far north and maybe it is easier to communicate and hear stuff globally. There were all kinds of people, really any neighborhood you went into, there was at least one guy with basically a radio tower in his backyard and you know that he spends hours in his basement talking to people in Reykjavik for whatever reason. CB radios are like people on the Internet, pre-Internet Internet. John always felt that that was a sign that that was a house where the guy would be wearing suspenders and you would not want to go through their back. The fact that Dan’s dad is Morse code guy that is a whole higher level.

Where did he learn that? In the army? He was never in any armed forces of any kind. Dan found out later when he was much older that apparently people at some point were speaking over Morse code in some way. He didn't even know that you could speak over it. Is that Ham radio? That is shortwave radio, the thing John is talking about. Ham radio guys are the ones that are bouncing their radio signal off the atmosphere and in that way they are able to project their radio signals around the curvature of the earth. Somehow the atmosphere enables you to talk to somebody in Australia. It really depends on atmospheric conditions, and sun flares affect it, but the really, really good ham radio people, when the atmospheric conditions were right, could talk to people on the other side of the globe. They would be able to triangulate to places that there was no possible line of sight. That is why Alaska was a good place for it because it has a much shorter distance to Europe, for instance. You bounce it off the aurora borealis and it lands in Denmark.

Morse code has to be in ham radio land, using somewhat of a similar thing, but maybe because it is just those little pings you can project it even further. When John was a kid in 1970 there would be lots of people who had learned Morse code in the Navy, there would probably still be people that had used it. It wasn't weird to know Morse code. There were probably still people that had used it on the railroads. 80 year old guys, it was common enough that that last generation would still be out there. Kind of like hot-rodders now: All those guys that built hot rods all through the 1960s and 1970s, they are all 75 years old now. It is almost a dying art.

The book The Farm (RW22)

It is funny when you think about all the arts that we have seen die in our lifetimes. Well, there is the last World War I veteran gone and with him goes any knowledge of the last time major wars were fought with horses. There is a book that John really likes called The Farm, written by a guy in Ohio that was pioneering the experimental farm in the heyday of the 1950s, when farming was increasingly mechanized. He was working on a farm that foreshadows organic farming, he had taken over a farm and he had a lineage in Ohio farming that went back a long way and he had second-hand storytelling from his old grandfather of what his grandfather's life actually was like and they had perpetuated stories from his grandfather.

He wrote this book The Farm about his farm, but he could start with a lot of first-hand knowledge. He could start with the founding of that farm in 1798 or 1802 or something. He walked you through what it was like there as a pioneer and as other people settled around your farm and as a town grew up and as that town became a bigger town and all the politics of it and all of the relationships and granddad was starting to get old and new characters were introduced. It is a fascinating book. A big part of it was that at every step of the way you got enough of a sense of what daily life was like.

When the steam engine was introduced you could feel the confusion and sense that something was being lost. Now the steam engine is here and that is very exciting. They built a mill, but all of a sudden there are all these strangers in town. All of a sudden this wonderful breed of horses we have been breeding on this land for 70 years, nobody is buying the horses anymore because there is the motor car. Just the way of personalizing it, you could see at every step of the way this feeling of: ”Well, everything that was good about the world is gone now!”

The house they used to live has become a shed for farm implements and gradually this house is described as a tumble-down shed somewhere on the property, but that is the house that this whole story started in. It conveyed even that feeling of regret and loss: ”No, don't let the first house tumble into the ground!” Ohio and Philadelphia obviously has enough history that you can still see those buildings. Take a train trip across Pennsylvania and can still see these things off in the distance that you know at one point was the homestead. Now it is just like a pile of rocks. Seattle doesn't really have that. The history here isn't quite that long, but there are remarkable memories in the landscape here. Seattle wasn't even founded until 1855. It was written by someone named Lewis.

John not listening to his own podcasts and music (RW22)

John was using his cough button again and Dan said that if John was just coughing into the microphone we would go in and make edits. If he heard John go quiet for a second he would just pause and wait and if John never came back he would assume that it was a Skype problem, but if John came back right away he would put a little marker and then edit it down and no-one would even know. The Roderick on the Line program is never edited. Merlin threatens to edit out stuff all the time, but John doesn't listen to any shows that he does.

John has not listened to his own recordings much except when he is making the record, then he will listen to it record 1000 times because he is making it. If he was called upon to perform a song that he last performed ages ago, would he have to re-learn the song? How do you remember all the lyrics to the many songs that you have to perform?

When you see an artist in their dotage. If you go to see the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger has teleprompters at the foot of the stage that are just running his lyrics all the time. Not that he probably needs it, but it is there in case he does. If you are a band where you have made 25 records you can afford to have a teleprompter and it is not that expensive to have probably, but it is necessary. If you are Michael Stipe and you say: ”That’s great! Let’s start with an earthquake, birds and plants!” and then you look down at your teleprompter like: ”What the fuck did I say?”

What happens to John is that he routinely forgets words on stage. He forgets how the second verse starts. If he had a prompt of what the first two words of the second verse where he wouldn't have any problem. It is always about being in the middle of a song and you start thinking about something and then the second verse comes around and if you haven't played it in a while or even if you have, it can just go out of your ear. Because the Long Winters vibe was always very casual and involved a lot of audience participation. They did a whole tour where John would after every song just say to the audience: ”What's next?” And then a bunch people would yell different songs and he would pick one. They had no setlist, they just improvised or took suggestions throughout the night.

That was hard on the band because there were a lot of musicians in his band that were more perfectionists than he was, but in answer to to first question: For the most part, the way John performs the songs now is a result of a game of telephone that he has been playing with himself over 15 years. He doesn’t listen to the original recording, he just remembers how they played it last and tries to duplicate that, but certain things are forgotten, certain things are re-remembered, and certain things are remembered incorrectly. As time has gone on, if John is in a bar and one of his songs comes on, he often is surprised to hear the original vocal melody. He has changed that now and at the end of every chorus he goes a different place now.

That game of telephone has evolved the songs because the last thing he wants to do is go listen to the recording and relearn it. All kinds of musicians listen to their own music a lot, partly because they are proud of it and partly because they really like it. John likes his own music, but there is also an element of it that is uncomfortable. That is absolutely true of podcasts. Hearing his own voice for more than about 10 minutes he starts to get skeeved out and he can't sit there and do this. ”This is too intimate with myself!”

Dan totally understands what John means by that, but over the years he got more of a tolerance to it, at least for the sake of, as much as he hates it, it is not that he doesn't like the way that he sounds or his own voice, but in an effort to try to improve and see what he has done wrong or how he could do it better he feels obligated at least occasionally listen back to what he does, even if it is little things. A big part of why Dan has improved is listening back. It is not fair to compare podcasting to being a musician and performer and the kinds of things that John does, because it has to be so different than making a song.

There are a lot of performers who listen to live recordings of themselves in order to get better. That may be a crucial way of getting better: Review and revise. John has never gone through that process of like: ”All right, last night, these are the things that didn't go right with the show and we need to step it up!” He just always plows forward. Maybe it has to come from the fact that John is creating from his heart and at the end of the set people applaud and he must have done something right. People bought tickets!

John is not a good example of a professional entertainer. He is a good example of a accidental and somewhat slapdash performer. Some of that, maybe a lot of it, is rooted in the fact that being in front of people and putting on any kind of show is just very natural and why would you mess with that? Why would you try to get better at something that was that felt so instinctual? Of course, the reason you would do that is to get better and better and stop being instinctual and start being actually good at a thing, hone your instinct, and that is a process John has never gone through, and that is why he has 30.000 fans at everything he does and he never gets to 50.000 fans.

Dan was actually talking to his wife about this. That threshold, especially for a performer, where they go from… Some of Dan’s friends were tweeting because now the music festival of South by Southwest has began: Don't go to the big acts, you won't get in any way. Go to the little venues, go to the small acts, go to listen to people you have never heard of because that is where the good stuff is. In a way, John stayed pure because he never achieved international multi-million dollar level success. He was not on the cover of Rolling Stone. The fans like that in some way about John because it kept him real.

The time John tripped over the amp (RW22)

John played a show in San Francisco one time where he walked out onstage and in the first song started playing a fairly elaborate guitar solo and got so in the solo that he went back and accidentally tripped over an amplifier and fell backwards over the amplifier into a rack of guitars and suddenly was upside down behind an amp. All you could see was the was the heels of John’s boots. He broke a guitar, fell into a guitar enough that he snapped the neck, but he continued to play the solo until the song was over with his boot sticking up in the air. Then he got up and was like: ”Hey everybody, thanks for coming to the show! You can see we are off to a whiz-bang start!”

It was at the Independent in San Francisco and it was a big appreciative crowd. But after the show, it was still early enough days that there was still a lot of energy around message boards. John was on a message board, looking for reviews of the show. You want to hear people say: ”That is the best!” and there was a woman who wrote a fairly long review and said: ”I have been a fan of this band, I have listened to their records, I really love them. This is the first time I have ever seen them play. John Roderick came out, visibly drunk, and every song sounded different from the record, there was all this weird talking in between the songs were they were just talking about the news of the day, interacting with audience members and getting into arguments with them, telling them to fuck off. I was just really disappointed. I came to hear the music that I loved and the singer made no attempt to perform the music as it is. He put on this show where it seemed like he didn't even respect his own music.” Wow, lady. That is a heck of a review! She concluded by saying: ”When is he going to understand that we come to hear the songs?”

Another experience, John was on tour in Spain and his record label in Spain would always send somebody from the label out on tour with them who functioned as a not very good tour manager part. Partly so that they could settle at the end of the night and then only give them a small percentage of the money they had earned. This tour manager at one point said to John after a show: ”Your music is so good, you could be such a much bigger artist if you would just take your music more seriously!” What he was referring to was halfway through a song John was playing acoustically and there was a solo break in the electric version. John sat with his acoustic guitar and played a dumb interpretation of the live record, but on acoustic guitar. John was laughing at himself as he did it and people in the audience laughed, but he felt that it was disrespectful of the music and of the audience to make his own music or to make himself a figure of fun when he was a serious artist.

In both cases John said: ”What are you talking about? You obviously don't know what I am doing!” John was not dismayed that he had failed to provide the entertainment they sought, but he was dismayed that there were people in the world still that didn't get what he was doing, or that there would be somebody that would bother to come to a live concert at the Independent… if you were going to see a live concert at a stadium you probably don't want to see Beyoncé just riff on her own tunes, you want to hear the tune. That is what you are going to get because she is playing to backing tracks, she got professional musicians, all the dance bits are coordinated with where the music is landing. But if you come into the Independent to see an Indie Rock band you would hope that you were going to get a once in a lifetime show. Wouldn't you rather see it be something different? If you want to listen to the song as it is on the record, go listen to it on the record.

Not listening to his own songs (Cont)

That is an attitude that John has that maybe isn't shared by most people. He certainly toured with a lot of bands that played the same set every night in exactly the same way and that is probably a lot easier and by the end of the tour you have that set nail. You go from one song to the next with no baloney in between. Plenty of bands say that they have the same banter between songs every night, and it is excruciating for John as a tour-mate to watch. That is just a matter of personal taste. Plenty of people in show business would say that is what professionalism was. Get up there and before the 4th or the 5h song is the first time you have spoken to the audience since the beginning of the show. They play your first four songs without ever addressing the audience at all, just one into the next, and then after the fourth song, you go: ”Hey everybody! Thanks for coming out! It is awesome to be here in St. Louis! This next song is about a girl that I once knew. And I felt that she was a real knockout. So this song is about a boxer because this girl was such a knockout!” and then the band starts the song and John had heard that several times and it sucked the first time and he just wants to hit this band with a fire extinguisher, but the audience is eating it up.

John never listened to his podcast and really hasn’t listened to his own records very much. He sure as shit has listened to Commander Thinks Aloud a lot because it keeps getting played for him everywhere he goes.

If this was The Tonight Show and they were bringing John out on a guest, what song would the band play? Prisencolinensinainciusol. This is what John would want his music to be as he walked out onstage on the Carson show. The reason John listens to Commander Thinks Aloud is that so many people said that the episode of Song Exploder where they talked about that song had affected them very deeply. After he got about 50 tweets to that effect he said he will go listen to that because he knew that Rishi had edited it considerably and John wanted to know exactly what how he had done it. They did a live show and it has affected people, but this was a podcast that generated a lot of attention, so John did go listen to that and he understood how the power of the way the show is made created a response. John listened to his own voice throughout that podcast without ever wincing because the editing was so artfully done.

He considers it as one of the highlight shows of his podcast, which is a thing that John appreciates. People send John all the time YouTube videos of them covering his songs and it is very hard for him to listen to those, too even really good ones. John sometimes loves the interpretation, but because it is his song. It is just uncomfortable and John can't explain it.

Silly ending

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License