Shari Black Velvet: How did you come up with the idea of covering the no. 1 song in the charts?
Shawn Harris: We’ve got the best songs we’ve written just hanging out as demos, and each day was becoming harder not to leak them ourselves! We decided that if we did some covers, we could let folks download them for free, and in having some music coming out, we’d be more trustworthy in possession of our originals until the album is ready. The no. 1 thing was really just a way of randomizing the songs we’re covering. We don’t need to prove we know Prince’s back-catalogue. In many ways, it’s trickier doing a cover of a song you barely know. We were looking for a challenge.
SBV: The first song and video you did was for the Black Eyed Peas ‘I Got A Feeling’. You superimposed your heads into the Black Eyed Peas’ video. Have you had any feedback from the Black Eyed Peas or their label?
SH: I assume since the video is still up on youtube that they either haven’t heard about it, or are amused. It was oddly satisfying to superimpose my face atop Fergie’s body. My girlfriend was getting kind of worked up over it...
SBV: What’s Maniac going to be like in a live setting?
SH: Big. Canoes, chrome islands, fire, capes, and countdowns.
SBV: And what’s the Maniac album going to be like?
SH: It’s like Simon and Garfunkel doing Slayer covers. Ha. Just kidding. Maybe. Really, it’s born of the 80’s, like me and Jake, but in love with the 60’s. Just fun as fuck. Sounds like movies.
SBV: Will Maniac include any unreleased The Matches music?
SH: No. Definitely a different sound altogether. The Matches are going to be putting out our potential album 4 demos as an unreleased album though.
SBV: When you look back at The Matches career what thoughts, wishes and/or regrets do you have?
SH: I think the Matches went just right. I met my new bandmate Jake when his band Something With Numbers brought the Matches on tour in Australia, and we’ve been writing together ever since. The Matches was always something of a struggle... we were always stressing and second guessing. I’m over that. It was an extension to my teenage years, I guess. Finally my skin is clearing up.
SBV: Now you’re doing the new project how do you find your love and dedication to music has become? For example, has it been renewed due to starting afresh with different songs?
SH: I always loved music. A fresh collaboration can go a long way though. I want every song I write to be better than the last, and I’ve had a breakthrough writing with Jake. I don’t wear a bike helmet anymore. I’ve been hit by the city bus, and it didn’t even hurt. I want Eddie Murphy to have a cool LA convertible scene to one of my new basslines.
SBV: Your other half in Maniac is Jake Grigg. What does he have that you don’t and what do you have that he doesn’t – and what makes you two work well together?
SH: Jake has crabs, and well, now I guess I do too! I got them from a pair of tiger print pants I borrowed from him. Jake also has great hair. We sometimes switch eyes (no really) and look at our own selves from across the studio. I think if you can do that with someone, you can make the best songs in the world with them too. When we sing together, we do it on the same mic - same take, and this crazy thing happens that just sounds like reflections in raindrops or something. It’s hard to explain.
SBV: What’s Maniac going to have, musically, that The Matches didn’t?
SH: Glockenspiel, clavier, cardboard box beats, dual-lead vocals, wide-eyes, low brows. We won’t have guitars or crash cymbals. That’s a lie. But we won’t have many...
SBV: When you first met Jake how well did you click? What was it about him that made you want to start a project with him?
SH: He let me sleep on his couch and drink his pay cheque. The man is made of magnets, and I could see that we shared the same backward reality, and had the same goals. It was refreshing to hear his ideas about music, and everything in life, really. He has a knack for simplifying the convoluted.
SBV: Is there anything that you’re going to particularly miss from The Matches now that The Matches are on hiatus? And any particular songs you’ll miss performing?
SH: I love what we did in the Matches for the art that it was, but it was pretty heavy, and weighing more by the day. Had we stayed together for album 4, I think we would’ve driven it into the ground and bummed out ourselves and our fans, actually. We were just too confused and pessimistic about the music world. My favourite Matches song and video is ‘Salty Eyes’.
SBV: Will Maniac become a band or stay as a duo?
SH: We’ll be touring with a band, but in the studio, Maniac is just me and Jake.
SBV: You’re very creative and very musically ingenious. Unfortunately, this can often be a problem as the general public don’t always ‘get’ something that is very different or creatively challenging. How do you feel about this? Do you ever worry that people won’t ‘get’ your creations? Do you ever think about adding in parts to make them more people-friendly – or do you pride yourself in just having the songs be exactly how you want them to be?
SH: Who doesn’t get it?! My songs are obviously correct! Ha. I think it’s better to appeal to people who share your appreciation for music, rather than perform for people who like something you don’t much dig, but perform it anyway. I can smell it when people aren’t loving what they’re doing, and it is rotten. Someone said “be true to be believed” and I believed them.
SBV: One thing we love about you is that you’re vegan (yay). How many years have you been vegan for now?
SH: 6 years or so? I started vegetarian, and just sort of evolved toward the vegan diet. Just followed my bread-crumb-trail of hypocrisy until I got to the point that killing any earthling for a meal wasn’t cool with me anymore. I’m still following that trail. We do some pretty fucked stuff on this planet, and I want to know as much about how my food and clothes get to me as possible, so that I can choose whether to take part or not.
SBV: You’ve been on trips to Australia to write and work with Jake. How’s the Australian vegan food and how is it to be vegan is Australia? Is there a lot of vegan food and vegan/veggie diners?
SH: I can cook, so as long as I can get green things and tofu I’m pretty set. That said, we live on plain noodles in the studio. Salt. Broth. Beer. Makes the brain tick.
SBV: Is Jake vegan or vegetarian?
SH: Vegetarian. So far.
SBV: Do you think you’ll be vegan till the day you die?
SH: I hope it won’t be such a weird thing by the time I die! I wish it didn’t have to be called something dirty sounding like “vegan”. Sounds like a fucking Klingon.
SBV: Tell us about the last time you saved an animal. I don’t know about you, but if I find a little fly drowning in a drink or in the bath, I have to scoop him out and get him dry and save him. Have you done any little things like that?
SH: I don’t bathe. But I let spiders live in my room. I have an innocent until proven guilty policy. If they don’t bite me, they can clean up the flies. If I get a welt, they get to take a one way jar to the front yard.
SBV: What do you think about people who stamp on spiders or swat flies instead of leaving them or getting a humane bug catcher to take them outside?
SH: Reminds me of Jack And The Beanstalk. That Giant in the clouds probably was a pretty good dude. Jack is just this annoying little pest on his table. Of course he wants to smash him. I can sympathize with the giant. But the story would suck if he just put Jack in a cup and dumped him outside.
SBV: Finally, The Matches last album was entitled ‘A Band In Hope’. What hopes do you have for Maniac and yourself in general?
SH: We want to play a bunch in the UK and Europe. Neither of our previous bands ever really got a foothold out there, and I’ve always loved the music and culture that came from that bit of the world. We’re going to turn the concept of a show on its head a bit. I want our fun to be contagious, because it’s the best time I’ve ever had in my life.
Visit http://www.myspace.com/mmmaniac for more info.