Think Tree's Last Interview

Interview with Think Tree

by Stephen Fosket (SLF)

Recorded 4/18/93 at the ThinkTree house.

This is a transcript of an interview I did with Think Tree just before they broke up. This was meant for publication as an article in a local magazine, but the band's breakup stopped that from happening.

Think Tree played their last show in May of 1993. Shortly afterward, a few new projects were startd by the band members:

I have a few live Think Tree tapes. If you'd like a copy, I'd be happy to trade.
SLF - So tell me about the beginnings of the band.

Peter - Everybody but Paul was in this band called Psychotech in 1986. We played around town for a year or so. It had a different lead singer. I was playing keyboards.

Jeff - We played at places like Chet's and the Rat.

Jeff - It was kind of a hard-core techno band. It was sort of like a hard-core band with keyboards instead of guitars and we used to smash up keyboards and stuff.

Peter - It was before the Chili Peppers we out. We did a lot of hard funk and punk. We were the only people doing that at the time.

Jeff - It was actually thrashier than that. A couple of months later we got together as think tree.

SLF - Was Think Tree always the same?

Peter - There was one other guy. A bass player. And then he left after a year.

SLF - What was your first song?

Peter - "The Moon".

Jeff - "Steppin' Stone" was the first song, I think.

Peter - We just had to start somewhere.

Jeff - It was actually in this apartment. We used to rehearse in these buildings on Boylston Street. We just snuck in there with all the gear.

Peter - Our first gig was in 1987 on Peterborough street. Down at the Fens. It's not there anymore.

SLF - Did you bring in anything from the old band?

Peter - No. We started totally fresh.

SLF - So you have lots of old songs...

Peter - Before we recorded 8/13, a lot of the songs were on a tape that we distributed at the shows.

Jeff - We had a 4 track version of "Memory Protect", a two track recording of "The Lovers", "The Moon" was Pete's demo version. "Chit Chat" was the tape before that.

SLF - Did you record "Time Heals" then?

Peter - No. We haven't recorded that. The real name is "Time Heals No Wounds."

SLF - You also played on the radio at Brandeis in 1989.

Peter - Yeah. We had to be on for so long that we played everything we knew. "Deep Dark Sea", "Chit Chat", "Time Heals", "Ridiculous".

SLF - Why don't you play some of those older songs anymore?

Jeff - Actually, some of those older ones seem kind of appealing now. Actually, a really old song is "Everything Is Equal".

Peter - "Porcupine Coat" is really old. I wrote that before we were even a band. Some of the songs, like "Ridiculous" and "Deep Dark Sea" we haven't played because when somebody gets a new piece of equipment it's hard to transfer the sounds from the old one. We still have over 30 songs to choose from anyway so it's not like we need older stuff.

SLF - Like The Idea had a lot of old songs on it, though.

Jeff - There's old and new.

Peter - "Rattlesnake" and "Sa Sa" were the new ones.

Jeff - That was our catch-up album.

Peter - Because we had been looking at record companies for such a long time that we had all those songs stored up. When we finally got our deal with Caroline, we just tried to catch up. And by that time a lot of those songs had matured and we were able to make them very distinct. I don't think we could have made them anymore distinct. I think any more of a distinct record would definitely cause vomiting.

SLF - So tell me about SineAppleSap Records.

Peter - That's our own label. We made it to put out 8/13. We had all the stuff recorded so we just went ahead and released it.

SLF - Did you release it on all three formats right away?

Peter - Yes.

SLF - Why are there 5 songs on the vinyl, 6 songs on the cassette and 7 songs on the CD?

Jeff - There are five songs on the vinyl because it cost more to master more songs. The tape was the way we meant 8/13 to be.

Peter - The typical thing at that point was to put an extra song on the CD to justify the fact that it cost 17 times more than the cassette does, which is totally ridiculous by the way. So that's why there are seven songs on the CD."

SLF - Tell me about "The Word".

Peter - The song is always that long, it's just that I pick different rants to do at the end. I don't have them scripted, though. I know the topic I want to talk about and just go with it. There was another one that was about a preacher being a homophobe, but I was worried about it being misconstrued.

Jeff - It's the same in "Holy Cow". That song is easier to understand live because you can see Pete being the character.

Peter - And that's why we did the live version of "The Word", so it wouldn't sound so serious.

SLF - So I guess a lot of reviewers have misconstrued "Holy Cow"?

Peter - More than fifty percent. Maybe more than that. People just aren't used to seeing a singer in rock music not being himself. It's something difficult to process. I can sort of understand that, but I was still pretty appalled by the reaction to it. I mean, who's going to make a song about killing Hindus because they don't eat meat?

Jeff - Especially with all the other stuff on the record!

Peter - And a half Indian guy playing keyboards!

SLF - What's the story behind "Doh"? Is that a real person?

Peter - I had a girlfriend who worked in a hospital and one of the patients she had was a woman who basically went through all that. So I wrote a poem about it. Her name wasn't Doh, though. For that particular song I put my poem to Jeff's music. The reason why it's called "Doh" is really corny though.

Jeff - Don't even say it. Make something up...

Peter - The whole title was Doh Haf Du, like that's her name.

Jeff - And now it's a funny song!

SLF - Is that how most of your songs are written?

Peter - Not really. There are a lot of songs that I write and I'll record a demo with music and words. Sometimes people bring in music and I'll tack on some lyrics. And there are a lot of songs like "Mamther" and "Eye For Eye" and "The Word" that are born out of jams.

SLF - So what does 8/13 mean? It says on the "Hire a Bird" single that the album was going to be called Iguanadon.

Jeff - I used to live at 813 Terrence Wood Drive in Southern Colorado.

Peter - There's a real meaning to it, but we agreed to keep it cryptic.

SLF - And the cover art?

Peter - That was done by a friend of Wills from Florida. He makes a psychedelic slide and projects it onto something and takes a picture of it. The photo on the back of Like The Idea is the same sort of thing. It's a photo of me and Jeff superimposed onto Paul and Will and Krishna.

Jeff - The tree on the insert of 8/13 is the same sort of thing. There used to be a tree in our front yard and we projected slides of our faces onto it and lined up our eyes with interesting knots in it.

SLF - What is "Mamther" about?

Peter - Nothing. They're total nonsense lyrics. The song sounded so ethereal that I wanted to make totally abstract lyrics. I took all my favorite words and put them in with some I made up.

SLF - Why are the lyrics for "Iguanadon" shaped like a lizard?

Peter - That was my idea. I really didn't like the lyrics all that much so I wanted to do something cool with them.

SLF - How did Like The Idea come about?

Jeff - We were distributing through Caroline for 8/13 and they offered us a deal.

Peter - We were looking at quite a few major labels at the time so we didn't really take them seriously.

Jeff - Capitol invited us out to Hollywood. There was a 100 year old cognac after one of the meals that cost $40 a glass! It was damn good, though!

Peter - At that time we could have been characterized as an industrial band, too, and industrial was getting kind of hot. We got a lot of free dinners then.

SLF - How would you characterize the music?

Peter - We try not to, I think. We knew Like The Idea was going to be hard to market, but we wanted to make a totally distinct record. It can probably be characterized by our approach to how we make music.

Jeff - We just draw on so many influences. We try to keep an open mind towards new things and they find their way into our music. We tend to approach things not as how the band should sound but how each song should sound.

Peter - It seems to be a very natural thing to do in our day and age. Bands today are influenced by so many different things today, many more than anyone in history has been. At this point, all of us love many different kinds of music, so it's very unnatural for us to constrict ourselves to a certain kind of music. It seems like it would be the thing to do with all our high tech instruments. We've got this technology, so why not make it work for rock music?

SLF - Do you think of it as some big artistic or as music?

Jeff - We're not that heady about it. We're really just having fun and exploring all our different influences.

Peter - We have all this technology that we can make any sound we want. We pick from so many things that aren't the norm that people think we're being artsy. But we just don't have that attitude.

SLF - Where is everyone from? Are you all from Boston?

Peter - None of us are from Boston! We just migrated up here for various reasons. Krishna went to school here.

Jeff - I migrated up here with the gazelles, coming for the Spring thaw.

SLF - How is the band run?

Peter - Really it's very democratic. There's five of us, so there's always a majority decision. We learned from other bands.

Jeff - We've never had any kind of personality problems. We all lead the band in our own little way. One person is more technically adept, some are good at writing.

Peter - When somebody brings in a song, they're the ruler for that song. It depends on how developed the song is.

Jeff - It also depends on how attached to the song they are.

Peter - I'm pretty bad about bringing in finished songs. Will tends to bring in more sketchy things. He brings in things that have all the parts but not the sounds. And he usually writes words, too. When Krishna brings stuff in it tends to get changed a lot. "Sa Sa" and "Sheep" are quite a bit different from the way he wrote them.

SLF - So did Caroline offer you the best deal?

Peter - No. They actually offered us the least lucrative deal because they were a little independent label, but for them it was huge. We thought that because they were an indie label they would be cooler. They wouldn't be asking us what we were doing changing gears every two seconds.

Jeff - And we were foolish enough to take it. The others wanted us to do "Hire A Bird" again. We thought Caroline would give us more attention promotion-wise and we wouldn't get lost in the shuffle. But we were fools. They made us these little shitty posters. When we first saw them we were like in Spinal Tap. "Is this it?"

Peter - We thought that because they spent so much money it was a commitment. They thought it meant they couldn't spend any more! The last chunk of money they spent was on the video for Rattlesnake. It didn't do too bad, either. The song did pretty well in the charts, actually. The video did well in Europe, but it got lost in the shuffle when Virgin was being bought out by EMI. The publicist didn't like us. She was a grunge fan.

Jeff - She found out that we weren't going to kiss her ass.

Peter - She knows people at all these magazines but she only knows the grunge writers. So she sent the record to them and they just didn't get it.

SLF - So did you ever tour?

Jeff - We toured Europe twice before Like The Idea.

Peter - We never toured America, though. It was actually more feasible to tour Europe than to get out into America. The country is too big. We're just a big behemoth of a band.

Jeff - We could just go and put all our stuff on DAT and tour light, but that's not like us. We always play everything live so we need to bring lots of equipment along. The farthest we ever got was Maryland. We'd love to tour the whole country, though.

Peter - That's another misunderstanding we had with Caroline. We thought they'd give us enough money for tour support, but they were only willing to give us about half as much as we needed.

SLF - So what's going on with Caroline now?

Peter - We're not on Caroline anymore.

Jeff - It was a mutual thing. It happened last summer.

SLF - So are you looking at any other labels now?

Jeff - Right now we're taking a lot of time writing material. We're building a studio so we can record our next album on our own. Lots of my favorite bands have done things on their own. The way I see it, the next record is going to come out on SineAppleSap.

Peter - Caroline has a good distribution arm, though, and we're still pretty friendly with them. We're trying to have enough material to have a new record out in the Fall.

SLF - So do you think you're famous?

Peter - No. Not at all. Do you, Jeff?

Jeff - Well, I think of it mostly when I wake up in the morning and the photographers who broke in during the night are still taking pictures of me. No, I don't really think about that.

Peter - We get so hung up on how articles are presented that we don't think about how cool it is to be mentioned.

SLF - Do you see yourselves sometime being professional musicians?

Jeff - That's what we wanted, but we really do it for the love of it. We still have 40 hour a week jobs. We just don't have cars like most people our age.

Peter - The thing is, it gets really frustrating sometimes if that's all you're waiting for. Sure we all want to quit our day jobs, but there's really no way we can just do it. It's a catch 22.

SLF - Tell me the true story about "Uncontrollable Hops" and Trent Reznor and the record release party?

Peter - Trent was going to come to the show so we thought it would be cool to do a song with him. His manager said he would give him a tape to learn the song, but evidently he never gave it to Trent. He lead us on to think Trent was going to do it, but he didn't know anything about it. I don't think Trent ever got the tape.

Jeff - A lot of people went to the show and were disappointed that he wasn't there. He was there, though. We just always wanted to do a cover song. Led Zeppelin has always been kind of funky, and the Devo song has the same riff.

Peter - It's too bad that he didn't do it, too, since he mentioned those two bands in the Spin interview that came out right after that. It would have been perfect, had he been told.

SLF - What did you think of Trent?

Peter - He's a cool guy.

Jeff - I met him the first time after the Peter Murphy gig he did at the Citi. I got backstage because we heard he had heard "Hire a Bird" in a Burger King and liked it. We sort of lost track of him lately, though, after he moved into that Manson house.

Last updated: 6/18/98