Interview with
Michael Shuman
of Mini Mansions and Queens of the Stone Age
by Ryan Bird

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

How did the band get together, given that you all come from other bands?

Well, originally we were not from other bands. I was in Queens [of the Stone Age] at the time but I've known Zach since I was eleven years old and Tyler and Zach went to College together and so they weren't actually in bands at that moment. So this whole we're in lots of bands thing developed over time, originally it was just like we're starting a band.

What has the tour been like so far? How are you finding playing such small venues?

It's been really fun, I wish a lot of these venues had a little bit bigger stages because... this is the first tour cycle we've done with a real drummer so we used to just be able to play any venue, open up for any band and it didn't matter at all. Now we have a real drummer and we need the space and I need space to run around and be a monkey up there. So we just did a tour opening up for Arctic Monkeys, literally monkeys, and we were playing arenas and we had a whole stage to do whatever we want and we've been used to that. On the small stages I can't really go anywhere or do what I want to do except like hit someone in the face or get right up in them which is really fun. You don't get to do that in arenas with a f*cking ten foot barrier. You don't get to touch anyone or feel their presence. I've enjoyed sweating on people.

Have you been to Cambridge before and how have you found it?

I have been to Cambridge before. I can't remember in the last ten years having been here, I might have. I don't think Queens have ever played here.

I remember playing here, we had a seven week tour in the UK. It was God awful and I remember coming here but that's the only time.

What are Sons of Raphael like to tour with? Do they put on a good show?

Yeah they're great, they're hilarious. They're these two brothers, Zach found out about their's hard to describe them and I think their future is very bright. I don't think they're doing what they're gonna do and they're gonna prove it to people later. They're also very easy to tour with cos there's only two of them and no drummer.

The new songs sound a lot more danceable, was that a conscious decision or did it just happen that way?

It's just what happened with what we were writing at the time, maybe there was a bit of 'this record should be a little bit more upbeat' but it was a pretty natural progression. Me and Tyler write separately and write all kinds of songs, punk songs, ballads on piano and weird songs and abstract songs. Then we just go through them all and see which are the best for Mini Mansions.

For this record I was in a mental zone that I was kinda writing all about one thing and they all had to go on the record.

Do you write on the road?

Usually it's really hard to write on the road, you always think 'I'm gonna bring out my mic and my acoustic guitar and write' and then it ends up not being like that. A lot of these songs were actually started on the road because I was at a point in my life where I had to get these things out...they needed to come out immediately, some were started in the UK, some in Australia.

What was the feeling you were trying to get out on the songs?

I was in a relationship. Literally when we started our last record cycle, I'd just met this woman and fell pretty hard. So the record is actually in chronological sequence. We kinda wrote and recorded it in real time, so the first songs I wrote are song one and two because I was falling for this girl...and then the last songs on this record are the break up songs.

What would you say your stylistic influences are for this project rather than you would bring to QotSA?

What I'm inspired by never really changes, it's more just the choice of songs. I was recording 'Villains' [for QotSA] at the same time we were recording this record...there was a few demos I brought to both of them. The great thing about Queens is anything goes, our records are pretty diverse, there's rock songs and quirky songs. Although we sound very different because there's totally different people...[Josh Homme's] point of view is very different from our point of view lyrically. As far as musically, we all love everything and I think that is a misconception. We get a lot of metal or rock guys at Queens shows and they don't understand that we like everything.

It'll restrict what you can do creatively.

Yeah, who wants restrictions? Actually sometimes restrictions are good when it comes to the process in the studio like when you use digital recording you can have an unlimited amount of tracks and I think that's a problem and you should have restrictions. Tape is really great because you only have 24 tracks and you have to make choices.

Who are some artists that you are really interested in at the moment?

I'm really bad about new music, you could say I'm jaded or I don't have the time or mental energy to be playing shows and recording everyday of my life and then wanting to go and listen to new music.

But I really like the band The Viagra Boys, they're doing a great job of being a punk rock band yet having this quirkiness that you don't see in punk rock everyday. It's like a six-piece band, they have a saxophone player and a keyboard player and you don't see that from real punk rock bands. So they're like dance-y as well.

What advice would you give to new up and coming bands?

I used to say just don't ever quit, because for me it's like people start bands and then they realise how hard it is and they start dropping off like flies and it's like 'cool, more for me...go ahead, it's more space for people that don't want to give up.'

Nowadays, it's tough out there, even for us. Even though we are successful with other bands, this band is still a new band, we're growing and it's hard. We're not making money out here, we're losing money, thousands of dollars we're losing to be here.

I'd say learn the business as well, learn every part of what goes into touring and making records. You gotta be disciplined and practice your instrument every day and be the best you can, but also be you can make the right decisions so you can tell your managers and agents and labels what to do. Because sometimes they f*ck up and you should be in control of your art and your destiny.

Do you think you need labels anymore?

They're definitely on the decline, the music business is over. It's over. I came up right when it was at the end so my first band signed to a record label and it felt good and they did stuff for us but now labels are very scared to spend money and put money to a new artist because most of the time it's not going to work out.

Labels for us are needed cos I'm at the point in my life where...I don't want to be emailing radio people and promo people everyday, I just can't do it anymore and so I need that infrastructure and I do think you need that infrastructure because they have connections that you just don't have. That being said, you don't need a label anymore. It's apparent from...Billie Eilish and all these YouTube artists. You can do it all yourself, put your sh*t on YouTube or whatever format and build your fanbase and then the labels are like 'oh sh*t, you have ten million views on this. We'll give you all this money, please sign with us.'

Pic by Laurine Payet
More here

What I've seen a lot of bands doing recently is signing to a label for their first couple of records and then going independent once they've made some contacts.

Yeah, once you've built your fanbase up you don't need it anymore. After 'The Great Pretenders' record, we were signed to Capitol Records in the US. They didn't want to do the next record with us and we didn't want to do it with them, so we parted ways. Before we could get the deal done with our new label Fiction, we didn't have the money and we were ready and we wanted to go make this record. So we put out the B-Sides from our last record on this thing called PledgeMusic and it's a great format, big artists do it...we went directly to our fans with a record we pressed...and we made enough money from our fans to make our record. So that's how we did our last record and then we signed with a label.

Read Ryan's review of the gig here

Thanks to Michael for his time and to Simon Neal and Charleigh Egan at Chuff Media for arranging the interview

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?