An extended conversation with Tim Pourbaix
In this week's issue, we're running a short profile on Tim Pourbaix in Rough Mixes, based on a lengthy interview Eryc Eyl conducted with Pourbaix. The singer-songwriter had much more to say than could fit into that smaller piece. Subsequently, we've opted to allow Pourbaix to tell his story -- which is extremely compelling -- here in his own words after the jump.
First of all, I want everyone to know that I do not claim all the effort. This record and I are nothing without chief collaborator Jme White, Andrew Solanyk on lead guitar, Matt Morse on drums and vocals, Chris van Pelt on bass, and Jenny Morgan, my muse. Chris van Pelt also provided artwork, as did Agata.
When I was fourteen, I started washing dishes in this pizza restaurant in Arvada. There was a driver who was 21, named Max. He'd take me home, we'd pull out my dad's guitar, and play "Got Me Wrong," by Alice in Chains. My dad was an elder in the Baptist church and played guitar in a worship group. He came to the guitar as a missionary. Max got me into Radiohead, playing "Fake Plastic Trees" and "High and Dry." He showed me the way -- of drinking and doing drugs and playing music and trying to learn other people's songs at fifteen and sixteen. I didn't know this was okay, that this was something people did.
I graduated high school when I was seventeen, and I moved out on Mother's Day. All these older dudes in the pizza shop were living with their parents and delivering pizza and making a living gambling. And this was exciting and made me curious. There were writers and musicians and poets and people who were into film, and that's who I wanted to be.
When I was seventeen or eighteen, I released an EP under the name Tim Aaron -- before Denver, after high school graduation. It was called She Dies in Winter. I wasn't allowed to listen to a lot of music because of my dad. I didn't know indie rock existed. I didn't know other people were doing home recordings, putting them out, setting up their own shows. I just thought there was a mainstream, and I wanted in it so bad. I put the record at Borders Books and Music. I didn't know there was a whole scene.
As time went on, Max was pretty heavy into drugs. When I moved to Denver at nineteen, I was delving into booze, Max was delving into heroin, and we went our separate ways. He overdosed on heroin when he was 23.
I started a band and, through a girlfriend, I met Kael Smith, and he asked me to play bass in Bear Vs. Larger Bear. Kael introduced me to a lot of shit -- and shirts and shows. Then I started playing bass in Killfix.
When me and Jeff Klapperich and Brian Robertson and a bunch of other great people started Scattered Arts Collective, I had a hundred copies of a Killfix demo. My strategy was to burn demos and stand outside at the end of shows and hand out demos and fliers. No one else in the band wanted to do it. So I went to a Pinback show at the Bluebird and drank. The bartender, Laura Catone, was a poet who wrote a book and wanted to get it out there. I knew Jeff was doing photos, Ginny [Virginia Kaufman] was painting, and I was writing music. Jeff and I used to go down to Santa Fe on First Fridays and make thirty-forty bucks a night, before people were going down there.
The Scattered Arts Collective started at 1515. There'd be a thirty-pack of PBR and twenty artists, smoking pot, getting excited about ideas, brainstorming and being creative. We knew we needed a name, and we knew we wanted "Artists Collective." It was between "uninsured" and "scattered."
At that time, my technique for writing lyrics was to get a bunch of newspapers and flip through them, looking for words to jump out at me. I'm all about the written word. More important than music to me is writing stories. I read a lot. There's three things I want: I want to laugh out loud, I want to be turned on and I wanted to be depressed when the thing is done. That's what I'm going for.
Last night, I was thinking about how things come up in life -- little things, big things, average things -- and everyone's reaction is based on what they think they should do. But it's so important to be a good thinker. I just read Siddhartha, and what I read described what I was thinking before reading it. There's a passage where he meets his friend, and he's telling his friend that you're seeking too much. By seeking, you never really find anything. For me, I felt held prisoner by music. There were other goals that I wasn't pursuing. I had cornered myself because I wasn't doing anything else but writing music and selling dope. When you find something, you're truly free, but when you're seeking, you can't find, because you have blinders on.
After John Wenzel's book release party, I was pulled over on my bike with two ounces of dope on me. I was sitting on the hood of this cop car, making all kinds of promises to God and shit. And that's when I quit dealing. I decided to go back to college. I decided to be a Big Brother. I'm defined by what does or doesn't keep me up at night. Sleeping is natural. Fucking is natural. Peeing and pooping is natural. If you can't do those things, something is wrong.
And then Jme called me, wanting to do a song together. We did "Funeral Lions," about this girl I was seeing. Her mother dying of cancer. The entire song takes place at a dinner table. It's about that feeling of waiting out the death. I was so blown away by the production Jme did on it. I just played guitar and sang. Within four months, I wrote and recorded that entire album. At the same time, we wrote the record with Elly.
The Park Pourbaix record is called Songs for Short Stories. We recorded each song live, so there's some rawness to it, We had people over, [Ellison] cooked this dinner, and we left the mics on during the whole dinner party. Then we filtered that into the live set, so it's like we're playing for a dinner party. That's the theme. There's wine and good food and camaraderie and community.
When Killfix was breaking up, Peter Glenn said to me, "Dude, you're not a bass player. You weren't meant to play bass." That really hurt me. And I thought about it, and decided to put out a record. And he was right. I'm better at writing songs than I am at playing bass for other people's music.
I've always fantasized about New York. I don't want to go around telling people I'm a musician or an artist, but I want to be around those people and see what I can learn by not talking about myself. I want to be a thinker, a conversationalist, an observer and a notetaker.
The most important thing -- besides the obvious family, the universe, God, karma -- is not losing my stripes as a Denver musician. Right now, I'm a part of something. I get to play with these great musicians, and just see shows. On a Wednesday night, when I'm lonely as fuck, I still know the bartenders and the press people. You don't look for people from labels anymore. You look for press. There's no sense playing shows if the right people aren't there. I plan to come back. I wanna be back. I've worked hard just to be friends with the people I'm friends with. I'm not the coolest looking kid. For me, it was really hard to get to know certain people who were cool, but even the coolest kid is nice as fuck in this town.
There are three reasons why I'm moving: I'm in love, I want to get uncomfortable, and I've never moved outside of the state. I want to be the odd man out. As long as it took me to get where I am, I love that feeling. I remember me and Jeff, sitting in the alley way the first month we hooked up and went on a six-month bender, and saying one thing: "We will not be ignored." I might go out there and fail, but if I come back with no gigs and my heart broken, I'm still a better man.