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Interview With Matt Talbott

by Andy Bizer

With a major label like RCA behind them, the members of Hum no longer have to rely on "the Force."

While on tour with Bush, Hum headlined their own show at the Howlin' Wolf on Sept. 25. I spoke to their lead singer Matt Talbott before the show. He seemed very down to earth and very much like the farm boy he is. He is the only performer I've ever seen that quotes Obi-Wan Kenobi on stage, so he's got to be cool.

Arcade: All four of you went to the University of Illinois and either have or are very close to getting graduate degrees.

Talbott: Yeah, all of us except for Tim Lash, the guitarist.

Arcade: So when the band started to take off, you decided to put your academic pursuits on hold?

Talbott: Well, the band wasn't really taking off. We decided to concentrate all our energies on the band in '92 or '93.

Arcade: I think the new album is a good rock record and it seems like you've been labeled alternative. Do you feel like that confines you or limits your audience?

Talbott: Our band doesn't really buy too much into what people are saying about us or where our music has been chunked.

Arcade: How was the second stage at Lollapalooza?

Talbott: It was fun. It was fun. Hot as shit. We did the end of it, the Texas shows. Arcade: What bands did you like?

Talbott: Mike Watt was cool. And the Dirty Three was awesome. And then the Roots played every night before us.

Arcade: Tell me how this whole Howard Stern thing started?

Talbott: I'm not sure how it got started. He liked our song "Stars." He liked something about it and played it on his show one morning a bunch of times. He'd go back to the song and go, "Oh this is my favorite part." He was going on and on about the song. We were in New York City at the time and we had played the following night in Philadelphia. So we played the Philly show, got three hours of sleep and made it back to New York by 7 a.m. We brought all our gear up there into his studio and played the song.

Arcade: Did he interview you?

Talbott: Oh yeah, we hung out there for a while.

Arcade: Was he nice?

Talbott: Yeah, a really good guy. Never once tried to slag on us at all.

Arcade: What was his favorite part of the song?

Talbott: He liked the beginning where it's just me and the guitar.

Arcade: My favorite part is that little riff right after you sing the part about daisies.

Talbott: That heavy metal riff.

Arcade: Yeah, I love that one. You could write a whole song around it, but it's only used three times in the whole song.

Talbott: We do shit like that all the time. We try not to make our songs too predictable and boring. We'll be working on a song, and somebody in the band will say, "Hey I like that part, let's write another song on that." Jeff made up that part that you like. That was his baseline and we just matched it with the guitars. It's going through most of the song. Even through the bridge.

Arcade: The bridge is cool too.

Talbott: I like the bridge, it's like this little heavy metal thing that Tim made up. I said, let's just play that right in the middle of the song. And he was like, "Oh, I don't know ... whatever." So ideas come from everywhere.

Arcade: You're touring with Bush right now and their fans are the kind of kids who watch a lot of MTV. And your song "Stars" has gotten some decent MTV airplay. Do the kids go crazy for that one song and stay silent for the rest of your set?

Talbott: Sometimes it's like that. The people are there to see Bush, that's for sure. And the Toadies are opening here in the South too. Playing in front of two thousand people a night, I'm sure there are some that are there to see Hum. There's always a few who are right up front and know all the words, so that's cool.

Arcade: But does the general audience react to "Stars"?

Talbott: Oh yeah, definitely.

Arcade: Is that flattering or annoying?

Talbott: It's easy to get pissed off because you want people to like your records. We put as much time and effort into all our songs as we do that one song. But, I mean, I can't complain. The power of commercial radio and the power of MTV has helped us to sell twenty times more records this summer than we have over the past five years. I don't mind selling records.

Arcade: How has changing labels to RCA helped you? I can tell that a lot of money was spent on Astronaut's production.

Talbott: I don't know about it being RCA, but being on a major label has helped. The way it works is that you're advanced a certain chunk of money, which is a loan that all comes out of your sales. So if you want to spend a hundred-thousand bucks to make the record, you can, but it comes out of your pocket.

Arcade: It's sort of like the bank?

Talbott: Yeah. You can spend all you want, you just gotta pay it back. But it's cool to take a month to record instead of a week. There are some things on this record that I know we can improve on. I know there's some stuff we can do better and our next record will be better.

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