MOKB Holiday Interview Series : Franz Nicolay

It’s that time of year again…

Anyone who thinks the “hardest working man in showbusiness” belt went to the grave with James Brown has obviously never crossed paths with Franz Nicolay. His 2010 release, Luck And Courage, clawed its way into my yearly Top 10, and by all accounts, the former Hold Steady ivory tickler/red wine swiller is just getting warmed up. Coming up for air, Franz was good enough to share memories of Christmas past, as well as detail some of of his 2011 plans. Did I mention he’s agreed to perform at my 2011 Kentucky Derby Party?

MOKB : Any special musical plans for the Holiday Season? Any special songs or shows?

Franz Nicolay : I’m playing a benefit December 14 that Bomb The Music Industry is organizing at Knitting Factory, for Safe Horizon, a non-religious charity that helps and houses families who have been displaced due to domestic abuse. It’s BTMI and myself and Laura Stevenson.

MOKB : What project(s) have you been working on lately?

FN : Well, I’m just wrapping up my first tour with a full band, and spending December producing a new full-length for the great NYC band Pearl & The Beard. We’re just finishing mixing the new Anti-Social Music album, Anti-Social Music Is The Future Of Everything, which should be out in late March. Anti-Social Music is celebrating our tenth anniversary early next year, and as part of that, we’re uploading our archive of live shows – premieres of new music by all kinds of composers – to for free download. And in January, I’m going to the UK on a triple bill with Jack Terricloth (World/Inferno) and Dave Hause (The Loved Ones).

MP3 : Franz Nicolay/Beauty Pill – This Is Not A Pipe

MOKB : What was your favorite album or musician of 2010?

FN : Two of them: Tim Fite’s Under The Table Tennis and Sam Amidon’s I See The Sign. The latter is just beautifully orchestrated and arranged – the word “tapestry” is a total music-review cliche, but that album just feels like a Persian rug. Tim Fite made, simply, the best protest record I’ve heard in years: smart and angry first-person dispatches from the nickel-and-dimed side of the broken economy. Makes me wonder where all the other pissed-off songs about income inequality are.

MOKB : What’s the plan for 2011? Any secrets you can divulge? Teasers you can offer up?

FN : Yeah! I’m going on a long US tour in March and April with David Dondero. And I’m working on a chamber music project, which will be a song cycle based on the Peops series by the graphic artist Fly. She draws people she’s met over the years and transcribes them telling their stories (you can see the new installments in every issue of MRR). I’m going through and selecting and editing their stories to set to music.

MOKB : What was the best holiday gift you ever received?

FN : Sometimes, at the end of the holiday season, when you’ve bought everyone presents and booze and work doesn’t start up for another week, cold hard cash is the best gift of all…

MOKB : What was the worst holiday gift you ever received?

FN : Sometimes it’s about the presentation & the context, not the gift itself. For example…

Let me first say that it was a totally reasonable gift, and not my dad’s fault AT ALL. He got me a skateboard – I was around nine or so – and I immediately burst into tears, because I associated skateboards with the kind of kids at school who picked on me. But again, not a bad present inherently, and how could he know that?

Here’s another story about presentation. A guy I was in a band with came to rehearsal with four copies of John Fahey’s book How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life. He scrawled his name inside the covers and handed them to each of us. Again – great book. But it did feel a little bit like, “Did you just, in a way, give us your autograph as a Christmas present?”

MP3 : Franz Nicolay – This Is Not A Pipe

MOKB : Favorite holiday movie? song?

FN : You know what I love? The Bob Dylan Christmas record. I think it’s an awesome deadpan. I didn’t get around to listening to it until August, when it was about 95 and humid & I was doing housework, and I thought it was amazing. I think it’s Must Be Santa that’s an accordion-driven polka. I hope I’m still cool enough to do whatever-the-fuck-I-want things like that when I’m his age.

MOKB : Any special Holiday shout-outs, ultimatums or threats you like to share in this public forum?

FN : Other random things that made my year great: the Leatherface catalog. Luke Burbank’s Too Beautiful To Live podcast. The books of David Mitchell. My kickass wedding. Happy holidays everybody!

  • good stuff

    December 13, 2010 [ 12:45 pm ]

    nice james brown intro..ha

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