Mike Viola on Get Him to the Greek, Breaking Bad, and Living with Kim Fowley at 13
Mike Viola is one of those guys you've heard a hundred times and not realized it. He's the vocalist singing "That Thing You Do" (from the 1996 film of the same name); his '90s band The Candy Butchers scored serious buzz along side his friends Fountains of Wayne; he's written songs for Get Him to the Greek (including "Furry Walls," the best Oasis tune Oasis didn't write) and Walk Hard; and has sat behind the production desk for Mandy Moore and Rachael Yamagata.
Viola is scheduled to perform Wednesday, November 30, at the Crescent Ballroom with Yamagata, as part of her band and in support of his new power pop record, Electro de Perfecto. Viola took some time away from band rehearsal in Woodstock, New York, to discuss Breaking Bad, making music for movies, and his unusual experiences as a 13-year-old with maniac producer/rock 'n' roll legend Kim Fowley.
Up on the Sun: Thanks for talking, Mike. I really like the new record. I've been a fan of yours since [struggles to recall name...]
Mike Viola: Live at La Bonbonniere?
No, since the one with "What To Do With Michael."
Ah, Hang on Mike.
That's the one I got from a friend, and from then on, I've followed your stuff. I've really enjoyed it, and this new record [Electro de Perfecto] is my favorite thing you've done, I think.
It's not unlike Hang on Mike in as much as its approach to just writing about what's right there; what's right at the surface wanting to come out, you know? Rather than spend all this time kind of digging and trying to find out what the record is all about. It's just, "You know, it's really about that," and then I just kind of did it. That's how Hang on Mike was done, too. Even though they are sonically way different, a lot of fans have been comparing the two.
So you start off with the lyric "I'm on a mission." What was the mission with this record? Was it what you just said, focusing on what is direct?
Yeah, because, for someone like me, who has a couple records [under his belt], and I've had years behind me, it's easy to get caught up in this idea of "What could I have done different, or what should I be doing different, what can I do to make this different?" Really, at the end of that day, if you just focus on what's right in front of you, it's like, "Things are pretty great, you know?" In all their kind of gore and glory. [It's] like the TV show Breaking Bad, where like, things are just kind of put out there, and a normal life all of the sudden becomes supernormal, or supernatural, rather. And you're like "Woah." And all our lives are kind of like that in a nutshell; these little moments -- and we're so distracted by malls and TV show -- it's so easy to forget that it's pretty much a gory, glorious life that we lead. So for me the mission was to take it all, and get into it, and use it as positivity, not negative.
[It became kind of an] electric experience, because I met these great musicians in L.A. working on that movie Get Him to the Greek, and I met them during that. We just started jamming like teenagers. Just jamming, and you know, these songs came out of that experience. These songs came out of that experience, and it all just became super-positive. I think that's the mission is to be like, "C'mon, man, you get to play music," and when it's really stripped down and supercharged, like this record, that's when it's really fun.
I think a lot of guys in my idiom turn to -- and I respect it and I've done it in the past -- but you turn to "chamber music." The chamber pop kind of thing, and you almost justify your "adultness" or something; you start to get more ornate and complex. I don't know what happens [but] it's easy to do that, and a lot of people miss it on this record because it's just guitar and bass and drums. Other people miss the ornate stuff that people do, but I think it would take away from the message, you know. It would kind of slow down the car. It slows down the dynamic.
You mentioned Breaking Bad, where the drama comes from these bare-bones, emotional moments. It's like a Raymond Carver story or something. It's like, "This is it." And you find the drama in the simplicity.
That's right. That's exactly right. That's what I think makes that show such a success, as far as connecting to people. It's like, "Yeah, I get that."
Where does the title of this record come from?
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