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rivulets interview summer 2002

Okay, you all know Nathan & Rivulets because you have all bought his records right?  Maybe not.  Nathan writes songs & sings good & plays guitar.  He also writes good words.  What more could you ask for in a band?  In addition to that he's a great guy & one of my favorite humans.

QRD - How would you say the tag "singer/songwriter" does & does not fit for rivulets?

Nathan - Pretty well. I write songs, and I sing them. So yeah, that's about as accurate as can be.

QRD - rivulets is currently just yourself, but how many people would you ideally have in the band & under what instrumentation?

Nathan - That depends on the situation. It's easier to describe what I try to avoid, which is the traditional guitar / bass / drums line-up. That's something many other people have done well. Were it feasible to Enigk around a string quartet I wouldn't refuse. Percussion is nice but drummers tend not to appreciate being told that they will only play on every other song.

QRD - What's up with Pretty Bruises?  How over is it & your zining in general?

Nathan - pretty bruises is dead. I have no intention of reviving it. My zining these days goes only as far as reading them. I just finished an excellent one called Off the Map. It's published by CrimeThinc and is sort of a split travel diary between two anarchist punk girls traipsing around Europe. It was nice and thick and ended up being rather touching.

QRD - Do you think you should've recorded your first record earlier &/or done more professional recordings in the J Seckel era?

Nathan - No. I do however miss J Seckel a lot and we have been talking about working together again.

QRD - How long do you think you should ideally wait between writing & recording a song?

Nathan - Just after a rivs song is finished it is recorded onto microcassette for safety, i.e. so I don't forget the melody or phrasing, but as for recording it to go out on its own into the world, it varies. Usually it seems to do some good to take it on the road and see how it works out there first.

QRD - What do you do to practice guitar & how does it differ from playing?

Nathan - I just play songs. I don't run Yngwie scales.

QRD - What's the story behind your guitar & the glitter on it?

Nathan - My dad gave me that guitar. It was his first and he bought it in the early or mid-seventies. My brother and I had this acoustic angst-rock band called Let Ring and later, Blixa, and we played pretty hard. One time this kid compared us to Live and we were pretty insulted. Looking back he was probably more than a little right. Anyway, some hack job luthier put an upper pick guard on the guitar for protection which looked ridiculous so I removed it. Naturally, with the pick guard came much of the finish and a little wood. So from time to time I put something on there to seal it. My sister had some glitter nail polish and that seemed as good a finish as any.

QRD - You seem to move kind of a lot, what effect do you think this has had on your music?

Nathan - The moving is sort of chronicled in the music. It's more or less about finding a place to be.

QRD - I know you have an interest in comic books, what good ones do you think there are today & when do you think was the best era for comics?

Nathan - It's been a few years since I have really followed comics. My favorites are still mostly the Drawn & Quarterly gang; especially Julie Doucet and Chester Brown. Adrian Tomine was once compulsive reading. He got the whole Raymond Carver aspect of storytelling which I find appealing. Zak Sally is amazing as an illustrator.

QRD - What do you think music is really about & how do you think it is more or less successful than other art-forms?

Nathan - That's like a book, Brian. Who could answer that in an interview?

QRD - Why did you go to Iceland to play a show?

Nathan - Because it's beautiful. Why not? And the people there were wonderful, honest and friendly with no weird or hidden agendas.

QRD - What's your dream car?

Nathan - Oh, hell, how about a Jaguar.

QRD - I know you grew up as a goth kid, what do you miss most about being involved with goth culture & what are you most glad to be rid of?

Nathan - You know, that whole scene is bizarre. Keep in mind I lived in Alaska then. If there was any kind of group I wasn't a part of it. For some reason it was not acceptable to like both the Cure and the Smiths. It had to be one or the other, and I couldn't give up either.

QRD - Do you think you'll ever be in a traditional rock band?

Nathan - Why do that?

QRD - What was the last TV show you saw, the last album you heard, the last movie you saw, the last book you read, & the last zine you read?

Nathan - King of the Hill, The Red Headed Stranger by Willie Nelson, Star Wars II, the Moviegoer by Walker Percy, Off the Map.

QRD - You've been doing a lot more shows farther away from your home city, what makes a show worth performing for you?

Nathan - I don't know. I'll do pretty much any show actually with some unfamiliar faces out there; maybe people that haven't heard me before that might be interested in what I am doing. I did a little coffee house show a couple of weeks ago & there were forty kids there & it was cool. They all sat down & were quiet & seemed to care and pay attention & that's nice because even if nothing else, that's forty people who never would have been at a rock bar show.

QRD - You just finished your record & you had a lot of guests on it & are you happy with how it ended up & is it done?

Nathan - There's still a little tracking to do on it & it needs to be mixed. Alan and I will mix it together soon. It was kind of surprising. The idea was just have everyone come in & then do what they heard in the demos without me having any concrete ideas as to how the songs would ultimately turn out. The majority of the basic guitar & vocal parts were recorded first & then everyone else showed up & I ended up with a lot of stuff that I never would have thought of. Everyone who came laid down at least a track or two that elevated the songs from humble me-and-guitar stuff to something more. I'm really proud of everyone's work on this record. They were all incredible, and incredibly inspiring to work with.

QRD - Have your musical influences changed from being actually listening to music to conversations about music?

Nathan - A little of both, but lately more of talking about music.  There's only so much you can get out of listening to Nick Drake or whomever & ultimately what you're going to do is be your own & it may be heavily influenced by something, but it's still your own.  Actually I don't even own a CD player right now - I borrow a boombox from my roommate & I have a tape deck in my car & that's it. So most of my music listening is when I'm driving & that's usually nothing like what I play. NPR and frothing right-wing radio are consistent travel companions. Lately though it's been more mixed tapes from friends which keeps things varied. It does seem though that anymore it's the artists I know and the things we share which have more of an effect on what I'm feeling out musically than some random music I happen to be listening to.

QRD - How many people would you ideally like to have in the live rivulets if you were playing in stadiums?

Nathan - It may be nice in ideal situation for the band to have two or three other people. But all of them would be multi-instrumentalists rather than doing just one thing. One thing I don't enjoy doing is practicing, so they have to be people who are spontaneous & have good ideas which fit in. Confidence and instinct are key, because I don't want to have to tell you what to do, and you don't want to be told. & then sure it would be good to have strings and even horns, but that's pushing the limit.

QRD - Do you think you're more responsible for The Alcohol EPs coming out than anyone else & why was it important to you that it be released?

Nathan - Everybody worked really hard at it & I don't work at the label, so Brian & Jon in the end really made it happen.  It just presenred itself as an interesting concept.  I like that it's ambiguous & isn't saying, "drinking is bad," but there are points on my part where I'm a drunken ass & you can see drinking is retarded & uncool.  So it's kind of an honest portrait.  I also like there being an EP by each band on one CD.  It's kind of hard to explain to people, but someone can buy it for Remora & find out about Pale Horse and Rider or buy it for rivulets & get turned on to Remora.

QRD - When you decided to give up work & just do music, did you have a problem with the lack of security?

Nathan - It wasn't so much of a problem then, but it's not good to not know if you can buy groceries this week. I couldn't go back to working nine-to-five. I haven't worked under someone for over a year now & it would be just a total shock & I'd be really bitter & unhappy & that's not worth it.

QRD - What's the best thing about Joe versus the Volcano?

Nathan - I can tell you the worst thing about it is this dreadful hippie-jam-Phish-Grateful-Dead type band took their name from it & they're called the Big Wu & they're from Minneapolis & they're actually pretty huge. So that's something Joe versus the Volcano spawned that I wish it hadn't. The best thing is probably at the end when they're floating on their massive travel trunks & it's a completely hopeless situation, but it's all right because he's with her.

QRD - Do you think TV is worse now than when you were growing up or that it's always been this bad & we're just now noticing?

Nathan - It's probably always been this bad. FOX didn't invent bad television, they just perfected it.

QRD - What good shows do you think there are?

Nathan - There's the Simpsons, and King of the Hill.

QRD - Do you think the future of the world looks promising or disturbing?

Nathan - Disturbing.
Other QRD interviews with Rivulets:
Rivulets interview (July 2015)
Guitarist interview with Nathan Amundson of Rivulets (June 2010)

Rivulets interview (February 2007)
Rivulets interview (December 2000)