John Vanderslice Interview by

Name: John Vanderslice
Age: 35
Web Site(s):,,
Born In: Gainesville, FL
Outside Occupation(s): Studio Owner

John Vanderslice is one of the most gifted songwriters on earth. His music features absorbing melodies and heady lyrics that are light years beyond what one normally hears in modern pop music. Formerly with the band MK Ultra, Mr. Vanderslice eventually made the timely decision to go it alone. This e-mail interview occurred in June 2002, shortly after the release of the spellbinding and utterly fantastic Life and Death of An American Fourtracker album.

What motivates you?

The fear that I would have wasted my potential or not lived up to expectations of my family.

What do you look forward to?

Losing competitiveness and self-consciousness, two traits necessary for making records for sure. But after a while it's like being chained to a maniac...

Do you have regrets? If so, what are they? If not, why not?

Yes, for not being a better friend or allowing people into my life. Mostly, for fear of losing autonomy and free time.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Watching movies. that is the love of my life, outside of music. I see at least 3-4 movies a week, usually at home. The last three: Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (kick ass), Harry Potter (weak sauce), and Magnolia (brilliant).

What do you consider your most important sense (sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste)?

Sight. I am a very visual person, part of why I like movies and touring so much.

In general, are things getting better or worse?

Things are ohh so much better. You get happier, hopefully as you get older. My twenties were fairly miserable, I just wish someone would have told me how much easier it gets.

What are you afraid of?

I am absolutely terrified of my mother dying. It's just me, my brother and mom right now. I wonder what will happen to my mental health if my small family gets smaller...

Who did you admire when you were a kid?

Money and physical strength. I had two ongoing fantasies when I was young: that I could crush the bullies at my school and that I had gold bars hidden in an underground fortress.

What do you remember most? What do you tend to forget?

Slights and failures. I try to forget the same.

Which are better off...animals or people?

Well, humans have free will, or are supposed to, so at least you can make decisions about your environment and life that an animal can't. But who knows, a (free) animal may be in a pure state of bliss.

What offends you? Why?

Dealing with musicians who are sitting waiting for the world to deliver glory on a silver platter. it reminds me how I used to be...

Where would you prefer to be most of the time?

Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, playing pinball at night on a boardwalk, listening to music on the beach.

Are words important?

Yes, they are to me. Lyrics are my favorite thing in the world. My favorite lyricists (Darnielle, DC Berman, Dylan, Bowie) have changed the way I think and write.

Why do plants, animals, and people die?

Because matter is unstable.

What are numbers?

A way to order and limit matter. A way to stave off infinity?

What has changed your life?

Tearing my vocal cords in 1997. My immune system crashed and I went into voice rehab, it took me three years to fully recover. My ego was ground into a fine powder, which is a good thing.

Are you basically satisfied with your life or dissatisfied?

I am satisfied. I feel I am doing all I can right now.

What impresses you?

Someone who has nothing to prove.

What is success?

Muting those harsh critical voices in your head.

What is important? What is not important?

Well for me, making music that accurately represents what is in my head at the time. and making my studio, Tiny Telephone, a great place to make records.

©2002 LMNOP®

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