Charlie Rose Interview


*Note: I put forth a lot of effort to type this out...please don't steal it :)

Ok. I could not believe my good luck when I stumbled on this interview. I was flipping through the TV stations when I saw the "Bent" video playing. I stopped, thinking I was on VH1 or something. Then I looked at the corner of the screen, where I saw that it was on PBS. So that was very strange! Not even to mention that we had heard nothing about this interview. Anyway, Rob was on some show called "Charlie Rose." Iíve never heard of it before but it was entertaining. They finally addressed the Napster issue, which I know a lot of us had wondered about. Just in case you wanted a mental picture the set was just a black background and then two of them sitting at a round table. Charlie Rose was a middle-aged man in a suit who probably never has even listened to any of matchbox twentyís songs. So it was amusing when he didnít know that when you release a song, its called a single! Lol I had issues with that but Rob seemed amused.

Charlie Rose: Iím here with a singer/songwriter whose collaboration with Santana earned him three Grammy awards. I am pleased to have Rob Thomas at this table. This weekend you sang with Santana at Jones Beach.

Rob Thomas: Yeah, I was fortunate enough. I try to do that whenever I can. I like to go under the guise that I am doing it to help him out, but its not that at all. ::laughs:: Yeah, whenever weíre around. He was at New York, here at Jones Beach and you know I went, got to hang out, watch the show. Itís an easy gig.

Rose: I did a profile on Santana for sixty minutes two and you told me what it meant for you to have him perform one of your songs.

Thomas: Sure. To have him not only [do] that but to be swept up in something like that. I mean Supernatural was just that. It was an aptly titled record and I think it was amazing to be right in the middle of a hurricane. You know it was his year. It was his parade, and then there you are. And youíre there considered something thatís helping someone out who helped you since you were twelve years old. Someone who helped you define what you want to do.

Rose: How did he do that? What was it about him that made him be...defining?

Thomas: I think it was just the idea that he did everything for the right reasons. Here was a guy who never pandered to any one side to do anything else. He was a musician, and anything else he collected along the way he accepted and he didnít take another road because he thought it would get him somewhere quicker. Everything he did was, you know, "Iím a musician and it would be great if I became a successful musician." He told me: "Iím a human being. Iím a father. Iím a husband. Then Iím a guitar player."

Rose: Heís a phenomenal success. What did it do for you, other than Grammys?

Thomas: Our band had taken a long break and, I think, to be quite honest, the way pop music tills its soil, we could have moved right down to the bottom. And I think thatís something that puts you on the other side of the fence, you know, that ĎIím a songwriterí side of the fence. You go into this when youíre eighteen years old and you say "I wanna be a pop star." That just sounds like the greatest thing in the world. And then after a while you realize that it doesnít hold a lot of weight. And then you realize that youíre not going after celebrity, youíre going after notoriety. You begin to realize the difference between the two.

Rose: How many of your songs, like Smooth, do you actually write?

Thomas: Most of them. Smooth was a collaboration with Itaal Shur, a New York guy that I just had the good fortune to meet up with.

Rose: How did Bent get to be the first song out of the CD...the first song to get attention?

Thomas: ::laughing:: Cause we whined enough. We liked it. We thought that...::makes whining voice:: "Its our record! Weíre not gonna play." I think that for us, looking at everything, there were some songs on the record that described it better, maybe even that we liked better. But "Bent," it seemed like a band song. It seemed like a matchbox twenty song to come out with. And itís not cheating! Thatís what we thought people might wanna hear first. ::laughs:: Give them that before we move into the other ones, which might scare people.

Rose: Do you know whatís second?

Thomas: Yeah, a song called "If Youíre Gone."

Rose: When you go about the dynamic of a band, how do you take care of this notion that youíre out front and youíre getting all the attention? Much more than they are, even though they are every bit as good a musician.

Thomas: Theyíre better. I think that we go into this realizing that frontman is called that for a reason, that youíre out front.

Rose: Is that what they call it? Frontman? Is that term of art? The frontman, Rob Thomas.

Thomas: Yeah, yeah. Frontman. Thatís just part of my job. And then part of it becomes taking the brunt of everything else. And so after a while, if there was any animosity, it gets stopped pretty quick cause they realize that youíre out there and they realize that: "Hey! Iím having all the success that theyíre having. Iím getting to do all of these things, and I can walk through a mall, you know, without someone all these problems. I can shop at a grocery store without someone stopping me to see what Iím buying."

They realize it. Our guitar player Adam once said that the most attractive thing in someone is wealth and obscurity. If you have these two things then you have it all.

Rose: So heís happy?

Thomas: Oh yeah. They say theyíll never take my job.

Rose: What is it that you like best about doing what you do?

Thomas: Thereís a freedom that comes with it. Thereís a freedom because Iíve managed to work out a small success for myself. Its on my own terms, basically. I can look back and say ĎIíve done this and Iím not a slave to anyone. Iím not a slave to an office. Iím a slave to my mind. And Iíve created something out of thin air and I brought it to a group of people and we connected enough that weíve all created something else out of that.í And that is what got us where we were.

You grow up and you never wanna be your parents. You never wanna be nine to five. Its great for some, if youíre doing what you love to do. We work earlier than five and later then nine. Weíre constantly working, but weíre doing what we love and it doesnít feel like it.

Rose: Walk me through the creation of Bent.

Thomas: Bent. Bent had to start a couple years ago with the creation of a melody, walking around backstage somewhere going I hear it! I hear it, you know? And you wait around for the right mood to set the lyrics. And I wasnít quite sure what I wanted to say with it. It became my nineties co-dependant love song, is what I called it, like after I met my wife. And I realized the song is about, ok, Iím screwed up and youíre screwed up. But if weíre the only thing that matters to each other than nothing else really matters and its ok. Then we can live with each otherís eccentricities. We can live with each otherís slightly left of center habits. Weíre ok with that. For me, it was like my pinnacle of understanding.

Rose: Does the music come first? Or is it sometimes the lyrics come first and then the melody?

Thomas: Yeah, sometimes. I find that my favorite songs come when Iím driving down the road and I have nothing. And so by the time I get from point A to point B I have it in my head, and I have to keep singing it until I can get to a piano somewhere where I can sit down and try to figure out the chords for it. I feel bad taking any credit for it, or too much credit. Cause I donít know what it is. I hear songs that donít exist, and thatís my job.

Rose: Whatís easier for you, the melody or the lyrics?

Thomas: Theyíre both, kinda. If one comes then the other one is there. I mean, some days Iíll have a lyric in my head but it only goes this long And I feel dishonest putting anything to it until I have the music behind me to set the mood. Its kinda like being a storyteller, but you donít have the time to set up your characters, you only have this four minutes. So you use major or minor chords, you use melodies in your vocal. You use all these things to set up a mood, to set a tone, to set up a feel. You and these five guys. Youíre trying to tell a story in four and a half minutes.

Rose: I talked early in this program to a guy name David Boise, whom I admire a lot, and heís a great lawyer. Heís representing Napster. Now youíre at the other end of this thing. Youíre an artist. What do you think?

Thomas: I think that everyone is kind of running around like crazy right now, cause itís a new technology. And everybody has an opinion to base things on. "I think this is right. I think this is right."

Rose: Is everybody talking about it now?

Thomas: Yeah, most everybody. When you come from a place where you feel so lucky to get paid to do what you do, and you donít do it for the money, and so you feel weird standing up at any point and saying: "Wait a minute! I should be getting paid." But everyone else is. Napster is! Napster has set themselves up as the workingmanís answer to music and how to get music. But Napster is a big corporation. Napster is the man. Napster attornies wouldnít work for free. I donít think anyone else should either. They wanna make is some kind of a one-sided communism. Weíre gonna do what we do over here, and everyone else is going to work in the normal capitalistic society, but youíre gonna run and go do it for the people.

Rose: Ok, but is it the hypocracy that bothers you or is it, you feel, that it is going to take money out of your pocket?

Thomas: I think itís the idea that the money...I saw once in an interview, just some guy on the street, and the take on it [the whole Napster issue] was, you know, "I see where this is wrong. There are copyrights that are being violated here. There is music that is being transferred that no one is getting paid for. But sometimes I donít have the money to buy a CD. So for that reason I am down with Napster."

Well, sometimes you donít have the money to buy a shirt, or sometimes you donít have the money to go to the theatre. But if you sneak into a theatre then they are going to throw you out.

Rose: Right.

Thomas: Napster needs to work out something like we have with our record companies. We sign a contract. This is a corporation. We set ourselves up as a corporation and say: these are the guidelines that we are going to work under. Its not unheard of. Whatís that? Itís a contract. Itís the way things are run in the music business. And, I think, all that weíre asking is for Napster to play nice.

Its not about people using it. I think its about people using it without [other] peopleís rights. No one else has the right to do that. No one else has the right to sell your record without you knowing about it. No one else has the right to use your image, or your likeness without you knowing about it. Why would Napster? Why this one company that came out of nowhere, came out of the depths of the working class and give them...where do they have the knowledge to give?

Rose: Have you ever gone to the site yourself?

Thomas: I donít go on computers. That makes it even doubly odd. So I find even less of a reason for it because I donít live on the web.

Rose: Do you think it has had an impact on the sales of your album, Mad Season?

Thomas: No. I donít think so, which is why I think I am in a good position to speak. If youíre a band like us, a middle of the road band, coming out with our second record, people are either going to buy our record or theyíre not.

You look at someone like Metallica, at one end of the spectrum, who makes their living off their backlog. Thatís the only place they will be seeing music. People will buy their new albums, but theyíve built a history here. They put their sweat, and their art, and their time, and their talent, and their lives into that, so that it will be there for their children, and their childrenís children, and their fans, and their fanís children.

Or a new band, who just started out. Theyíre not getting record company support, the necessary attention. They could go there and thatís a good vehicle for them.

Someone like us, I donít think it is a huge offense. I, myself, donít feel like Napsterís reaching into my pockets. But I feel like a part of a fraternity here. Like Kurt Vonnegetís Slapstick. I feel like I am a part of a whole, and that I should speak up for the whole.

Rose: What do you think is going to happen?

Thomas: I think that weíre gonna go back to Sun Records. ::laughs: Like re-inventing SoundScan. Theyíre already working on chips to put into the CDs. People are gonna look back and say, "Hey! Remember the time that Napster tried to screw everybody?" And theyíll say, "Oh, we didnít screw anybody." And its just gonna be another corporation.

Rose: But 22 million people use it. And they are up at arms about the fact that they are being sued and they are trying to kick them off the internet.

Thomas: ::laughs:: Well, its free music! Of course people are! Its not a question of whether or not itís a popular idea. It is a popular idea to give away things. Its just, not everyone is benefiting from it.

Rose: Can you see a time when artists might say "Well, weíre not recording any more albums. Weíre just gonna do concerts?"

Thomas: If this were the way it were to stay...If we were to say that if you put out a record, Napster can get it, anyone can download it without ever having to buy it. And with technology you can burn your CD right at your home, and they can take that and put it in their car now. Its not a matter of them having to stay home and listen to the CD, or in their office. I think, the only thing to me that would make any sense would be to only record liveÖgo to live shows. Let people record your live shows. Charge five dollars more and then you can bring home the CD of the live show. If youíre playing live, if you get a new song, then you just start adding them in to your repertoire. And then you start having three and a half or four hour long, Bruce Springsteen-sized concerts.

I think itís the only way that musicians can be musicians and feel like theyíre doing something for a purpose. It takes a lot to make an album. It takes a lot of time, and producers, engineers, people in the band. People taking up a lot of the actual time in your life. To create this; something that youíre hoping is just gonna help you exist. Its your only form of income because all of your time is spent making it, creating it. And thatís the whole set-up. That is how we work this out.

Rose: So Napster. Thousands of young artists, other Rob Thomases, who canít get a recording contract. And this gives them the opportunity to distribute their music.

Thomas: I think that if they want that to happen then they have the right to say: "Here. Take this and do that." But then you should have the right to say: "No. Donít take this and do that. You can have this and weíll work out something where we will use Napster in a way that we feel comfortable with."

I think it goes back to the one-sided Communism. I was that young band that was playing the clubs. And I happen to become successful at it, get lucky, and get a foothold in the business. And it just doesnít seem like now I should start moving backwards at that point. It just doesnít make sense. Iím all about helping the young bands, but I think there is a way to do it without casualties.

Rose: So you view it as a violation of your copyright?

Thomas: Yeah. I completely do.

Rose: Mad Season by matchbox twenty. Rob Thomas. Thank you!

Thomas: :::turns to camera and gives thumbs up::: Download it!! :::laughs:::