Jonathan Donahue of Mercury Rev
by Dave Robbins
"If you go to Germany they say we sound like sharks"
RAD How did Mercury Rev come to be?
Donahue We were just making some music for some nature films we'd taped off tv, overdubbing it onto films about polar bears, stuff like that. We never really wanted to be a band.
RAD Do you still use any kind of visual stimulus when you write your music?
Donahue Yeah, probably the same as we used on our first record. We used to watch a lot of tv; all we had was like 3 channels and one was PBS, so if we got a chance we'd watch a movie. We do a lot of film soundtracks, like for student filmmakers and European television.
RAD Where did you get started where you only had 3 channels?
Donahue It was in Buffalo. Some of us were going to college and couldn't afford cable tv. We had one channel with Green Acres, and the PBS channel.
RAD Did you have one of those coat hanger antennas?
Donahue I don't think we were even that advanced. It was really just propped up by some pizza boxes, and turned on around 11:00 at night.
RAD What was the last student film soundtracktudent film soundtrack you did?
Donahue Probably this summer, it had the word Daggar in it. It was for someone at NYU film school. A lot of their films look the same--sexual eroticism mixed with some soft core violence with some indie band's music or something. We've never done anything large scale.
RAD So that's not one of your aspirations or anything?
Donahue Well, if Martin Scorsese called us up we'd take the call. Just based on past films, you know there's a few we can all agree on, like we all liked Rumble Fish a lot, and some other similar low -key, black and white films, made on a low budget scale rather than something with a whole bunch of pyrotechnics going off.
RAD For See You on the Other Side was there any kind of an image behind the sound?
Donahue Yeah, I suppose the title has that double or triple or quadruple entendre, I don't know if any of us agree about what it means.
RAD What was the reason behind axing your lead singer?
Donahue We didn't get along. You know, it's really hard to record guitar lines when you're throwing punches.
RAD Yeah, you really need both hands.
Donahue Especially when you don't play like Steve Vai and you can't do the hammerons properly. It just wasn't very productive anymore, it was just bickering.
RAD It seems like I read in Melody Maker or ody Maker or one of those British magazines that Mercury Rev sound like asylum escapees with musical instruments. How does that strike you?
Donahue We're probably not as motivated as asylum escapees would be. That's cool. If you go to Germany, they say we sound like sharks. When we play in Russia they say we sound like a communist Lynnard Skynard you know. Usually, whatever the interviewer likens us to is better than anything I could come up with.
RAD What was Lollapallooza like? Would you do it again?
Donahue No, we couldn't. We got kicked off. They said we were too weird and too loud. Go figure. I don't really know the details, our road manager just ran on to the stage and said they were going to cut us off, so we just laughed. Then when we turned around they had our sound man lifted off the ground by his neck in a choke hold.
RAD Are any of you guys into computers? Is there a Mercury Rev web site or anything?
Donahue. Yeah, we're building one now, if that's the right term to use. This guy in Chicago has something there that's producing our web site. I think right now there's just a small standard one that says what we've put out, but there's a guy now who's designing one for us on the computer.
RAD Do you have any connection with the Flaming Lips?
Donahue. I suppose. I played with the band for about five years, and recorded two rrded two records. The pink record and the one after that. Not the most recent one with the Vaseline one.
RAD What's next for Mercury Rev? Are there plans to make a new album yet?
Donahue There will be. I don't know. We'll have to wait till we get home, see who's left standing. We're going to go to Japan, stuff like that, have a good time. I can never look further than the next few weeks.
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