Interview with Tim Nordwind of OK Go
This is the interview that almost didn’t happen. GigJunkies photographer Wayne Fox was having car trouble and only at the death did the garage give it a clean bill of health. I happened to be battling my way through road closures, snow and typical winter traffic on my way down from York. Worst of all though Damian Kulash – Lead Singer and Lead Guitarist was pronounced unexplainably ill upon our fortunately early arrival. Nobody seemed to know quite what was wrong with him (there was even talk he may be pregnant) – Whether Damian would be fit enough to even do the show was uncertain. Fortunately, bands do interviews as a duo. Damian may have been too ill to talk but it didn’t stop Tim Nordwind taking to the stage and battling along solo.

Feeling fresh off the back of a multi date tour of USA’s North East and North West OK Go have so far played one date of their UK and European tour.

GigJunkies: So how was Norwich last night? Did you get the anticipated million strong crowd?

Tim Nordwind: Norwich is actually the first place we ever played in the UK. Six years ago we opened for D4, a Garage Rock band from New Zealand. Actually we played at the exact same place we played last night called the Waterfront. It made sense in a weird way that we now come back and headline it.

GJ: One thing that impressed was the fact you found about Norwich – During the 11th century Norwich was the second largest city in England.

TN: Were you at the show last night? Yeah, we were talking about that last night on stage and then we were wondering; what took its place? I thought maybe it was Wolverhampton or some place like that… I always wonder about things like that. I was born in a town called Kalamazoo, Michigan, I grew up in Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo used to be the Celery capital of the world. When people talk about it they say “Former Celery capital of the world Kalamazoo, Michigan”. So my question is who took its place? Who’s the new Champion of celery?

GJ: These are the type of questions that keep you awake at night.

TN: You don’t know what it’s like to be me man.

GJ: Focusing back on Norwich, it’s not really on a river, there’s nothing there of note that would make it so important…

TN: I was wondering about that, we played a place called the Waterfront but there didn’t appear to be any water around there. Maybe I missed it. What I did see in that town which scares me. I saw a fox running through the city. I asked someone about that and they said “oh they’ve came down from some forestry area because they can’t survive up there anymore.” It seemed like a foreshadowing of Armageddon.

GJ: There’s lot’s of city foxes in the UK, I have a fox living in my garden called Luke. And a place I go riding my bike has a really tame fox living there called Freddie.

TN: Really?

GJ: Yeah, in fact Freddie has his own Facebook page. I’ll send you a friend request if you like.

TN: Freddie the Fox has his own Facebook page? I definitely want to be friends with Freddie the Fox. Well that’s good to know, I was like oh my god wild animals are running through England – That’s global warming.

GJ: No, it’s quite common, if it’s not the animals, it’s the people.

TN: So you don’t have like Lions and Tigers running around?

GJ: Only in the zoos… And probably in the crowd tonight.

TN: I thought of any animal to be running around the streets of England. A fox seems appropriate, a fox seems very British to me.

GJ: Closely followed by a hunt, men on horseback wearing red jackets and the sound of a bugle. What has the crowd reaction been like for the new album?

TN: It’s only came out today, but we’ve been playing the songs live for a few months. I’ve been remarkably surprised at how seamless it feels to play old songs and then the new songs. I was afraid they’d be dips in energy when we played the new stuff. The new stuff is… Actually the new stuff is a lot groovier than anything we’ve ever written before. I think people just take to the groove whether they know the song or not. Which is kind of nice.

GJ: I’ve been listening to the album most of the day, I find it’s melodic with a really happy vide. Compared to your previous albums there seems to be a lot more focus on the beats.

TN: Yeah, it’s very heavy. A lot of these songs were written from the groove up versus our other two records that were written on guitar, the beat kind of comes from that. But this time we sort of started with the beat and imagined what could go around that. We kind of put down the guitars as well. It’s a pretty heavy Bass and Drum record for us.

GJ: I thought ‘Back From Kathmandu’ had quite a similar sound to ‘The Flaming Lips’.

TN: Yeah it’s weird. There are a lot of heavy groove songs on this record, then there’s also this outer space on the porch jangly feel. That’s ‘The Flaming Lips’ influence I think. Those are kind of the two sides of the record. But they go surprisingly well together.

GJ: It took me a few listens to get into the album but that’s usually a good sign.

TN: Most of my favorite records have come that way. ‘OK Computer’ was like that for me – I’m not comparing our record to that. But I remember hearing ‘OK Computer’ and being like, I get that this is the band that did ‘The Bends’. But it took me a minute to get my brain around it. It was slightly more challenging in a way I appreciated.

GJ: The vocals on a number of the songs seem to be inspired by Prince.

TN: That was definitely deliberate, we were listening to a lot of ‘Prince’, especially ‘Purple Rain’ whilst we were making this record. That’s one of the first records I think all of us ever owned. We’re of that age where ‘Purple Rain’ came out when we were like 10 or something like that. It was like this really confusing album of sexual tension that we didn’t even understand but mixed with this amazing pop melodic sense and soul and groove and all that. For a little kid it’s both scary and awesome. You’re like “ God, I don’t know what this guys all about, he’s kind of scary, but it’s kind of awesome and I kind of feel it”. We were trying to channel that spirit and energy a lot on this record.

GJ: Having listened to the album for only one day I’ve certainly picked it up that vibe so I’d say you succeeded.

TN: Thanks; It’s one of those records that never really goes away from us. If we’re in the car someone’s playing it off the iPod. Something by ‘Prince’ always comes on and usually something from ‘Purple Rain’. You let it play to the end you don’t fade it out. Like being a DJ, you don’t mix something else into ‘Prince’. We were listening to a lot of ‘Prince’ and we were also listening to the first ‘Neutral Milk Hotel’ record. That’s sort of the acoustic side of our record. They made this record that’s super blown out acoustic folk. It’s crazy; it’s great headphone music. They were big in 96 / 97 in the States, part of the Elephant 6 Recording Company. There was a another band called “Olivia Tremor Control’ all these musicians played in each others bands. It’s great, this really clinky blown out folk music. Production wise ‘Neutral Milk Hotel’ is really blown out. The music itself sounds like it’s going to bust your speakers for the most part.

(Tour manager Neil, pops by “two more minutes guys, we’re about to sound check”)…

This came as somewhat of a surprise! OK Go are obviously most famous for their highly original, fun one take videos. It’s estimated the total hits on YouTube are in the region of 250 million. Here It Goes Again – The Treadmill video alone accounts for around 49 million hits. So here we are interviewing Bassist Tim, talking about Prince, Celery and Foxes. In all honesty though this pleases me. During every single interview these guys are always going to get asked about their videos. To finish I managed to sneak in a couple of questions regarding videos…

GJ: Videos then, are you working on anything new?

TN: Soon we’re heading home to LA to make another video. We’re working with a bunch of NASA scientists. We’re building a machine that more or less tries to dance with us and destroy us and we kind of have to get through this machine. I can’t you say too much… There’s some danger involved in this one actually.

GJ: Real danger?

TN: Yeah, real danger so we’ll see how that works out for us.

GJ: So if you don’t make it back then we’ll know it all screwed up.

TN: Exactly, this might be one of the last interviews we do.

GJ: I see the video for ‘This Too Shall Pass’ was released today. How did that come about?

TN: We made a video with the ‘Notre Dame Marching Band’ where they’re playing our song ‘This Too Shall Pass’ live. We did an alternate version and recording of the song for that video with them. If you’ve not watched the video yet, watch it! There’s a bit of a surprise. We made the video with about 200 of the guys and girls from the ‘Notre Dame Marching Band’. The video that we’re doing with the NASA scientists is the studio version of ‘This Too Shall Pass’.

GJ: Last question, and it’s going to be a cheesy one – What are your thoughts on gyms these days? Do you still view them as inspirational adventure playgrounds?

TN: I suppose anything is a potential dancing partner. I feel like I’ll never stop looking at things that way. These days I prefer to keep the gym strictly to a keep fit type situation. But you never know…

You can see the review of the gig here…

Words by Lee Hathaway
Photo by Wayne Fox

5 Responses to “Interview with Tim Nordwind from OK Go, Birmingham, UK – 12 January 2010”

  1. Gig Junkies – Live Music is our Drug! » Blog Archive » Interview … | Sector D Says:

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  5. Wayne Says:

    And here is the video, and it’s ASTONISHING.

    Thanks Tim.

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