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MT: Well, that's something I'm not really conscious of, because it depends on the set list, plus I play through a lot of effects, and I play with the slide or whatever, so I don't even really think of it as "acoustic guitar," very much. But it's interesting what you say about the band looking like it was more stripped down, because there's a strong thing I feel to be true in the process. I'm a romantic; I love certain things and I don't want them to change. I don't want to see the sunset turn green, for example, even though I'm sure it'll be beautiful for the next generation. But at the same time, for the music to live, and for me to live on stage and not feel like I'm doing some kind of repetitive thing, I've gotta constantly be doing new songs, and constantly rearranging old songs.
So when you talk about the sound of the live show changing when you saw us last, that's the evolution. Or the de-volution, the deterioration taking place.
NT: I sat down today and played Big Enough to Disappear and Moth to Mouth back-to-back, and Moth to Mouth. . . it was so much more about controlled chaos, it was like it came from another time zone. I kept thinking, "What happened to this guy in five years?"
MT: And the songs we're doing now, it's almost like the same five years, only now it took place in five months. I think I'm really latching onto the process lately, and it's like the feeling of swimming in the scary, black, dark, ocean. And there's something in it; I feel like I'm about to open it up, like I can light it up and we're going to swim around in it, with it, and it won't be that scary. I feel like I'm about to peer into this precipice of darkness and go into it and bring whatever it is back. And it's big, it's bigger than before, and it's scary, and it's also really nauseating sometimes. [Laughs.] Never had that feeling before. That's the truth. I'm just digging that process of finding out what's happening as I do it.
It's like the birth of anything, and I feel like maybe I'm going to have to struggle to get it. Just go through the process of birthing this big, dark space. It's the anticipation of the power coming, and being the translator, the channel where it's coming through. If you believe in anything, it has power.
I'm far less egocentric about that process than I used to be. I used to think, like Ornette Coleman used to say, "God creates the music; I play God." I don't believe that, exactly, but I'm beginning to understand that it is me, that I can be something larger, and that's when the good stuff starts happening. When all I am is "Moris Tepper," just talking about it, I'm pretty dumb. It's pretty personal, pretty small. When I can get past this human brain, the songs are larger. They're me, but they're not wholly me, or wholly my creation. They're just themselves, and I put little wigs and coats and pants on them and make them walk a certain way, but they're actually from some other place. When I used to be more egocentric about it -- you know, "Will I ever be able to write another good song, am I really a good writer or am I just mimicking" -- I had less of an ability to understand that. I would be more apt to, in the process, try to control every single aspect of it to gain a power over it.
All I think I'm saying is the more I get to understand the grace of the process, the more able I am to say, "Yeah, it's not just Moris Tepper." When I become a soul, just floating, that's when the good shit really happens.
[Pause.] You know what? Shit. That sounds a little too much like a belief system. I'm not saying scrap it, but I'm not sure I believe anything I just said. [Laughs.]
NT: Well, here's the deterioration again.
MT: Yeah, man. Deterioration is magic, magic equals deterioration. Mortality is what gives everything its beauty. I really see that . . . like, vampirism is probably the most awful of all scenarios I can imagine. The beauty of everything is just gone. In your first year, when you realize you're immortal . . . how would you relate? I mean, it would be the most horrifying thing. Everything stays forever, there's no reason to be interested in anything. But that's the magic. The life- and-death cycle is the magic. The deterioration is the magic. The limitedness of each thing. The beauty and the magic of the universe is all within the limit of it, the deterioration of it. [Laughs.] Time is a nut case, man.
NT: So let's talk about the future.
MT: Let's talk about the future . . . There's very little hope for man, don't you think? For a poet, or a romantic . . . there's very little hope for a future that, ahh . . . favors insects.