Interview: Silver Jews

I've been a Silver Jews fan long enough to have developed my own set of ill-informed stereotypes about it’s creator David Berman. I’m sure they dovetail perfectly with everyone else’s opinions of the man and involve a hermetic and reclusive artist, deeply troubled by personal struggles of the past and a guy so dedicated to his craft that the tedium of touring and interviews force him deeper into his shell. So the prospect of a face–to-face interview with him evoked feelings of great excitement but also a fair dose of trepidation. These are clearly the opinions of those yet to meet Mr. Berman as I found not a trace of any during our chat in the warmth of the sunshine outside a hotel in Kensington.

From the outset it’s clear that Berman is not one to share the belief that time is a luxury reserved for the lucky few who can afford it. Every sentence is meticulously crafted and pondered over and few words stray into the margins of unnecessary waffle. In today’s music business, of which he had much to say, he is a man who possesses more than his fair share of rare qualities, a few of them being: opinions all his own, respect and concern for yours, a deep knowledge of his craft, and a genuine desire to change people. Together we thrashed out the numerous problems facing the music industry and the world at large - from the ‘date-rape’ of the modern festival, to born-again Christians who wish for your timely destruction. It seems Radiohead don’t have all the answers these days as Berman explained how they gave their music “free to your ears” but with his new record Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea he gives each song “free all the way to your finger-tips” by supplying each guitar chord to play the entire album. He’s old-school but with a hungry eye trained on the present and with donut in hand he walked us through a few things that light him up, piss him off, drag him down and turn him on.