Blank Dogs Exclusive Interview
As Blank Dogs, Mike Sniper has spent the past couple of years shelling out one scrap of lo-fi crust and psych filth after the next for banners such as Sacred Bones, Sweet Rot, Woodsist, and his own Captured Tracks imprint. His latest for the In the Red label, Under and Under, features more of the same from the dexterous New Yorker, with a couple of cameos from Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls popping up throughout the album. Here Sniper chats with us about Blank Dogs, life in New York, and Sheila E.
XLR8R: I wish I had gotten to ask you this question sooner, but do you remember what you were doing the moment you found out Michael Jackson died, and what your initial reaction was upon hearing it?
Mike Sniper: I heard about it pretty early, from a friend at the BBC. My initial reaction was a bit of not being very surprised; I thought it was suicide. I think most people didn't even think of him as a human being, just this parody of a pop star or whatever—it's a pretty grim world. I think, like a lot of people, ultimately, you feel bad for him.
Another MJ question: If Thriller-era MJ squared off against Purple Rain-era Prince back in the day, who would win?
Well, I have to side with Prince, since he wrote all of his own songs and played almost everything on every record. "I Would Die 4 U" is better than any MJ hit, I'm afraid. I heard he's a huge Cocteau Twins fan and that he just likes to listen to his own records all day.
What can you tell me about the early days of Blank Dogs? Specifically, what were you looking to do with this project that you hadn't done in DC Snipers and your other bands?
I guess the main goal was to make the music that I wanted to hear when I was 13 or 14. I didn't really set out to have a particular sound. DC Snipers was just a band that didn't really have any goals. I played bass and wrote some parts.
You put out a bunch of material on a number of labels before ever performing live—why wait so long? Also, name one hang-up you may have noticed to performing Blank Dogs live.
I never intended for it to be live, just because I didn't have a band. It's kind of boring teaching people these simple parts, but when you get it together and perform well, it can be gratifying. The idea of "must be a band" and "record in a studio" and "pay your dues" is something I can understand, but, for me, actually writing the songs and recording was enough. It's great that labels wanted to put it out.
Where are some of the best places (in New York or elsewhere) to buy afghans and wooden tribal masks?
I have no idea because I've never worn or bought one.
Name five essential components of the Blank Dog anatomy
1. Having everyone already know who you are.
2. Wearing polo shirts and black jeans.
3. Never wearing a mask.
4. Never wearing bandages.
5. Not wanting to go to photo shoots because they are boring.
With all the press you've gotten over the last couple of years, what is the most puzzling or annoying thing you've seen written about your band?
That I wrap myself in gauze and perform like that. It's more amusing than anything else. Someone sees a photo and just assumes that's what you wear on stage.
If you could go back in time and erase one moment in history, what would it be?
When Biff found that Sports Almanac from 1950 to 2000 and then he gave it to himself in 1955. Wait a second...
If you own or owned a pet (particularly a cat) what flavor of ice cream would it be (i.e. My Russian Blue for example is licorice)?
I don't like pets or ice cream. So, I dunno, water flavored?
You were part of a pretty sick festival during the Fourth of July weekend in Brooklyn. Which band owned it as far as you're concerned?
Everyone did really well. Brilliant Colors or Fresh and Onlys for me, though.
Who would you say might be the most underrated performer on the label?
I think caUSE co-MOTION! is the most underrated in the gang.
Speaking of Woodsist, Wavves has been getting a lot of flack lately in the press, specifically from the dudes in Psych Horseshit and Black Lips. If you could sit down and have a one-on-one with that kid, what's the best advice you could give him?
Don't read anything on the internet about yourself. Don't say "yes" to every press opportunity. Relax. Write some more songs. Jared and Matt are friends of mine, and so is Nathan. They're all very similar.
Out of all the albums you've put out under the Blank Dogs umbrella, what has been one of your proudest contributions (album or song) and what do you like in particular about it?
I really like "Slow Room" as a song. I just like the way it was mixed. I think Diana the Herald is a pretty good record, but I haven't listened to it since it came out.
If Blank Dogs existed in the 1980s, and you had to choose to go on tour and open for one of the following, who would it be and why?: Sheila E, Tone Loc, or Bananarama.
Sheila E. She could do some crazy Latin percussion over some Blank Dogs songs. Like she did with Prince.
If you found a $100 bill on the ground right now, what is the first thing you would go buy?
Dinner for a friend. Lobster or sushi or Korean food.
What are some of the songs at the top of your karaoke list?
I've only ever done it once. I think it was the Righteous Brothers?
If your life was made into a romantic-comedy, what would its title be and who would be the two in the starring roles (i.e. you and your love interest)?
Oh, god, I have no idea. Eric Stoltz and Mary Stuart Masterson.
Name three do's and don't for someone visiting NYC for the first time.
Do's: Go to the Met, go to MoMA.
Don't's: Make too many plans, make a schedule, go to the Museum of Natural History, eat the Mexican food.
If Blank Dogs had the option of scoring the soundtrack to one of these movies, which one would it be: Splash, Naked Gun, or Cat People.
Splash. Mermaid music.
Name a club that every band should play at at least once in their lives.
The Pits in the Netherlands.
What celebrity just needs to go away and never come back in your opinion?
Sheesh. I don't like Adam Sandler movies, but I don't wish him ill-will or anything.
We're already halfway through 2009 — name your top five albums or singles for the year thus far.
LPs: Cold Cave's Love Comes Close, Vivian Girls' Everything Falls Apart, Oh Sees' Sucks Blood, that reissue of Grouper's Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill, and Woods' Songs of Shame.
Singles: Crystal Stilts' "Love is a Wave," Fresh and Onlys' "Come Dance With Me," Dum Dum Girls "Longhair," Grouper/Pumice split, Teenage Lovers' [last] single. I obviously like everything I put out on Captured Tracks, but I thought that'd be unfair.
And finally, what can we expect from Blank Dogs in the coming months?
Some shows, some touring, some recording, hopefully some sleep.