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Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
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Fat Possum
LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

June 18, 2003
At home in Berkeley, California, Scott "Spiral Stairs" Kannberg is performing quite the balancing act. He's mapping out a stage plan for his upcoming tour dates with Wilco and conducting phone interviews, while a home life filled with barking dogs, family chit chat and the delivery of a refrigerator (which was our cue to end the interview) buzzes in the background.

As the founder, guitar player and co-songwriter in the now legendary indie band Pavement, Kannberg enjoyed a 10-year career that included six full-length albums and accolades as one of the best bands of the 1990s. In 1999, Pavement called it quits on the passive-aggressive heels of its Terror Twilight tour. When I asked Kannberg about his feelings toward Pavement, he gladly elaborated. "Pavement is still a part of my life, but everybody's doing their own thing these days trying to move on and having a good time. You know, we did that for 10 years. I'm kind of doing the same thing that I was doing in Pavement, just at a much smaller level- which is really nice. I'm happy doing this. I'm totally proud of what we did in Pavement. But I don't miss it. Maybe I would miss it if I was not writing music and able to go play shows."

When Kannberg talks of writing and playing, he is referring to his post-Pavement band, Preston School of Industry (named after a reform school in the Stockton area). Preston School of Industry hit the ground running in 2000 after Kannberg began reworking some of the songs that he had written for the Terror Twilight album. "I had 'Whalebones' and 'Encyclopedic Knowledge of' and a couple others. I had been writing songs for awhile and just kept putting them on these little tapes, and I didn't really think about doing [anything with them] until Pavement had pretty much officially broken up." With newfound time and energy, Kannberg's writing spree ensued, producing a plethora of songs that would end up being Preston School of Industry's first full length- All This Sounds Gas, which was released on Matador Records in 2001.

Because a few of the songs on All This Sounds Gas were written during Kannberg's time with Pavement, it makes the comparison between the two bands inevitable. "Some people ask me, 'Well you know your record sounds like Pavement. Did you try to make it sound like Pavement?' ... I can't [not make it sound like Pavement] because I don't know what sounds like Pavement. I just write songs that sound like me." While leaving Pavement out of the Preston School of Industry equation is almost impossible, those who say this record sounds only like Pavement are merely scratching the surface of All This Sounds Gas. Once you dig a little deeper, a gem of a debut is unveiled with influences ranging from country music to The Cure, giving the record a range of sounds that make it hard to pigeonhole. Most of this is due to Kannberg finding himself captain of his own ship, free to stack the album with vibrating guitar layers, horn blasts, wandering lap steel guitar and an occasional cello arrangement. Kannberg adopted an anything-goes, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach on All This Sounds Gas, which possesses a musical maturity and seriousness that seem to reflect his forward movement. And by seriousness I don't mean that it's boring.

Kannberg explained the kitchen-sink direction he took with the album by saying "I was just trying to make the record I wanted to make. All those horns and all that extra stuff in there, I love that kind of stuff in songs." To accomplish his sonic goal, Kannberg hired several Bay Area musicians to play on the record. For the live shows, he has compiled a lineup that includes Mike Drake on guitars and Jim Lindsay on drums, both members of the San Francisco indie rock band Oranger. But for the some shows Drake will be missing in action, replaced by a guitar and pedal steel player.

Preston School of Industry and Oranger's relationship extends beyond shared band members. Kannberg and Drake run an indie label, Amazing Grease Records, which has released full-lengths from Oranger, Carlos, The Moore Bros. and others, including Preston School of Industry's first EP Goodbye to the Edge City.


Spiral Stairs Shares

How he got his nickname Spiral Stairs: We were just sitting around one day -drunk- thinking of funny names to call ourselves. I love those bands that have these classic punk rock names like Swell Maps, so in the tradition of that I named myself Spiral Stairs.

What he's been reading: Thomas McGuane's The Cadence of Grass.

What he's been listening to lately: The Shins.

His favorite band: The Clean.

His favorite song: The Zombies' "A Rose For Emily".

His favorite album: Echo and the Bunnymen's Heaven Up Here.

What's new on his record label Amazing Grease: Ten Years of Noise Pop- a compilation that includes unreleased tracks from The Flaming Lips, Preston School of Industry, Guided By Voices, Oranger, Mates of State, Creeper Lagoon and several others.

SEE ALSO: www.prestonschoolofindustry.com

--
Lyle Hodges
An infrequent LAS contributor based in New York City.

See other articles by Lyle Hodges.

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