Steeped in Classics: Stephen Malkmus 

Photo by Leah Nash

Though he played a reunion tour with Pavement, indie-rock icon Stephen Malkmus has never stopped moving forward. His second band, The Jicks, have put out six albums in the past 13 years; as reviews of their latest, Wig Out at Jagbags, were eager to point out, that’s one more than Pavement made. The players have changed, and tastes have too, but there’s a centered quality to Malkmus that’s given his body of work a rare continuity from beginning to middle (with no end yet in sight).

This week, the Jicks play two New York shows, one at The Bowery Ballroom (Feb 26) and one at the Music Hall of Williamsburg (Feb 27). We talked to Malkmus about the custom “Cinnamon & Lesbians” ice-cream flavor Momofuku made for him, the difficulty of doing anything deemed “classic” after the culture has decided your place, why horns sound better now than they did in the 90s, and what exactly he’s got against David Bowie.

Let’s start with a Brooklyn question. How did you like your Momofuku Milk Bar ice cream flavor? 
It was interesting. Much like music, with ice cream practically everything’s been done before. You gotta come up with something that’s mixing elements. I think they managed to make a flavor that I didn’t expect. It got better the more you ate it. The first taste was a little perfume-y, and it was like, hmm, I’m not sure. But I downed my whole thing, so I was into it. I just like the people that work there, and it’s cool to be associated with a really culturally influential food yanker like David Chang. 

Spin gave it a mixed review. I don’t know if you saw that...
No, I didn’t see that. That’s why they’re not a food magazine. 

Are there a lot of artists that you, as a fan, were onboard with everything, from their first band through later solo albums? 
Well, you know, that’s tough. I don’t know for sure. There’s always going to be high points and low points in someone’s thing. I was quoted in this interview as saying that our new album is “probably not going to be classic, let’s admit that,” or something. That doesn’t mean that I think the record is bad. It’s just a realistic thing about media, where your place is already decided, no matter what you do. You’re kind of yelling into a vacuum, you know? Radiohead, their fans are always going to like OK Computer and Kid A. Those are going to be the classics, no matter what. Even if In Rainbows is genius, which it is, it’s not going to have that import in the culture. There’s only so much time that you can hog everyone’s attention. Your signifiers are worn by 10 years in.


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