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Tuesday  Decmber 14  12:00 AM ET

11 Questions with Camper Van Beethoven

By Brian Briggs

Real interviews with real people. Unlike the rest of BBspot there's nothing made up here. I know it's a difficult transition, but I'm not fooling. We did e-mail these questions and these were the responses.

Camper Van BeethovenThe "alternative music" term might have been coined to describe Camper Von Beethoven. Formed in California in 1983 CVB made the cult hit (and one of my personal favorites) "Take the Skinheads Bowling." The band split up with members doing other projects for 15 years (including lead singer David Lowery's band Cracker). The band has reformed and released a new album "New Roman Times."

We talk about the computers they use in making music, their new album and the worst venues they've ever played.


BBspot (1): We ask this question of all interviewees. What kind of computer systems do you have? Processor? OS? Browser? Details please.

CVB: I think I have about five or six working computers now on tour: Mac 1.5 GHz Powerbook, 2GB ram, 128MB vram OS 10.3.6 using a digi MBox for audio out, (they have multi client drivers) safari and firefox browsers on the macs. Also a Sharp MV-12w 1.13 GHz P3, 768MB ram running FedoraCore1 planet-ccrma Linux, using kernel 2.4 (better real time audio still, dammit.) Using an RME Multiface for audio with the PCMCIA card. Um, this one still has a windows partition, but I don't use it. Firefox on the linux systems. My older touring powerbook pismo, with a G4 500Mhz processor and 1GB ram is now living with my wife. At home, a Mac dual 1 GHz Quicksilver tower with 1.5GB ram, running a digidesign protools digi 001 system. It does everything else too. A 2.8 GHz Intel Frankenstein with a Via MoBo, RME PCI card for the multiface, running dual boot fedora core 2 (2.6.8 kernel) and Gentoo (2.6.xx as well).

another frankenstein mac that started life as a 9600, now has a G4 800mhz card in it. running OS X.2.8 via X Post-facto. an office computer. Some other older computers that keep getting wiped and used for various things. i think there's a couple old macs, like a 520 laptop that runs os 7.5!

BBspot (2): Who would you like to face in a Celebrity Death Match and why?

Mushroom CloudCVB: As in, i'm a celebrity? That's stretching it. But if you mean i get to kill somebody while being animated in clay I'll go for that. How about keeping it musical and pitting me against the big schmaltzy film composers like Elfman and Williams and people like that that try to lead audiences by the nose through the emotional content of a film?

Kill! Kill!

BBspot (3): What kind of computer technology does the band use during performances, and any interesting applications of technology while on stage?

CVB: I run Max/MSP live on stage, and SuperCollider. Sometimes it's just to play sound files, but mostly it's for live sample manipulation like expensive effects processors!

David also runs a powerbook, playing a stereo signal out, one channel of which goes to the drummer's ear for tempo and the other to the sound system. We had an airport express set up by the drummer so that this signal was sent wirelessly to it so that the signals came directly out of the airport express to the drummer and the sound system. But, that way I could send strange messages to the drummer's ear too, which of course I did, unbeknownst to the audience. But when a bunch of our gear got stolen in Montréal, we lost that with it.

BBspot (4): Who sucks more as a singer Lindsey Lohan, Hillary Duff or John Ashcroft?

CVB: I just have to say John Ashcroft because he sucks the most in so many other ways as well.

BBspot (5): Do you think that digital music will help bands with a new distribution medium like Apple's iTunes Music Store, or will people sharing music over the Internet doom bands and the music industry?

RIAACVB: Yes, ultimately it has to be the way to go. Everybody is getting iPods or equivalent. Although a certain segment of the population still wants the package (me included, I buy CDs and keep them and put them on the iPod). But ultimately, music is software. I don't know how to deal with rights management in this new world yet. Broadcast is easier to control in this case I guess, if it's notated what's being played, on TV or radio. But digital distribution is as hard as digital software distribution.

We all want free music, and in fact I have released a few tracks that are open sourced for Linux open source sound CDs. But to make a living as a composer or musician you have to get paid for making music. To have freely downloadable music, you would have to be subsidized by the state or corporations. I could see doing advertising wherein you give away a song on a corporate site, paid for by them for advertising. Like a car manufacturer or something. But until the US goes communist, I doubt the state will fund artists.

The Internet, as a distribution source is fantastic, just as it is for information. It's amazing, but not utilized to its fullest yet. But it is the new model for business. and with physical places in (cafes, hotels) charging people exorbitant rates for access (especially in Europe) Fucking hotels charge upwards of €18 a day for wireless , if they have it at all, it's still difficult for people to maintain access. In London, £15! That's like $30 now! It's insane. More people need to build open networks near these places to subvert them. Please. Can't wait for MAN.

Check out Part II of the interview where CVB tells us the strangest thing that's happened to them on tour, and whether we should invade Canada.

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