Interview: Fig Mints (Of Your Imagination)

Ever wanted to know a little bit more about your favourite band or musician who has appeared on The Daydream Generation? Well here you go. We’ve done the donkey work and posed the questions that somewhere somebody might have wanted to ask. Starting with the legend that is Bobby Rogan from Fig Mints (Of Your Imagination)… – he really does exist.

Smally: Ok, firstly where have you gone? Your MySpace page has recently disappeared? Why? What are you up to?Bobby: My page has gone the way of the hippies and hell’s angels. Still around as an idea but virtually invisible. I think all the junk mail and friend requests from random bands just looking to feel more important was my altamont. I very rarely use the internet, but I found myself on myspace, just goofing around doing nothing for hours every day. Then I talked to Jenny Penny’s sister, Melissa and she told me how free she felt after deleting her page. Let’s just say I was inspired… I’ll probably be back when I finish my next album, but I’m going to limit my usage. For now not having a page suits me just fine, though.

Smally: Yeah I can understand the distraction element – but if anyone is interested in hearing more of your songs after downloading one of the DG compilations where should they go?Bobby: As of now I’m going to start offering my albums for free as downloads. Well, as soon as the new Cozy Home store gets set up, anyway. I’ll plug the website now… So go there. Well, not you, Smally. I mean the theoretical cats who may be reading this interview after it gets to where it’s headed. Not to say that you, Smally, shouldn’t go there… I just meant… Ah, fuck it.Smally: It’s been a few months since you released your last album Hugs & Smiles – in hindsight how happy are you with it?Bobby: I’m pretty pleased with it. I’ve listened to it a few times since it was done, and there’s quite a lot I would change, but them’s the breaks, as they say. All in all a few songs I’m really quite proud of amidst a mess of botched equalization and shaky continuity. But no one has complained, so why worry?Smally: Any hints at where your music is going next? Radical departure or more of the same? Are you working on new material just now, and if so what’s it sounding like?Bobby: Well, that I’m not sure of. I always try to do something drastically different from what I had done previously, but it all ends up sounding the same in the end. Especially lately. Like I’ve been working on six songs for the past three months and I’m on the verge of scrapping them all cos each one either sounds like something I’ve done before, or just plain shite. But then again, I’ve gone through phases like this in between each album, so maybe this means I’m onto something… Or maybe I really have lost it this time. We’ll find out when I’m finished with the next thing, I guess…Smally: So for anyone who hasn’t stumbled across the magic of your music, they’ve got quite a lot of recordings to get through, where do you think they should they start, which album? Which is your own favourite album, and which is the most accessible?Bobby: Magic? Well, if you say so… I’d say that the best place to start is probably either “Bad Choice Brigade”, or “Is It Today Already”. “Bad Choice Brigade” cos it’s my singles album. That is to say, the album that could most easily be turned into ten singles and put on the radio, like The Cars’ self- titled album. I’d say that one is probably my best as far as the general quality of songwriting goes. “Is It Today Already” is my best production and mixing job, although nobody really got it. I personally think that overall that one is my favorite, cos it sets a mood. I actually still listen to that one when I’m by myself, which I don’t usually do after a couple of weeks of an album being finished. God, I love to talk about myself. I should be famous.Smally: On the subject of fame, don’t you think that it would damage one of the strongest features of your songwriting – the gritty, clever lyrics? And on the subject of lyrics, what would you say are the recurring themes? What do you use as inspiration to write words? Bobby: Gritty and clever… I like that, thank you. Truth is, I usually have no idea what I’m writing about until I’m done. Not to say that my lyrics don’t mean anything… It’s just that I attach a meaning to them when they’re all out in front of me and I can figure out what I was trying to say. As far as fame goes, I don’t know. I’d like to be famous, but that’ll never happen. And if I was famous, I could do whatever I wanted, so if I was hard up for material, I’d probably just put out a radio-friendly crapfest that would make me a million dollars and then get all Brian Wilson until I retire… Recurring themes… Well, being miserable, feeling anxious, and not being sober are pretty commonplace. I write love songs, too. I usually write as if I were lecturing myself on something that I don’t like about myself. It’s pretty grim, but the ends usually justify the means. As far as inspiration, I like to listen to albums that I like while being distracted. Bob Pollard’s songs are great for doing this… I’ll eventually misunderstand a lyric in such a way that I can build a whole song around the idea or image it creates… I should mention that I didn’t mean to compare myself to the Cars earlier. They were much better than me. As for them with Todd Rundgren, I’m not sure about that yet…Smally: What’s your favourite line or lines that you’ve ever written?Bobby: Off the top of my head, it’s a toss up. Either “you might find your brittle little mind cracking up before it’s time’s up, and you without the glue” or “there’s a fantastic fantasy behind the awkward silence/reality triumphs and weighs you down again”. It’s really quite a lot of fun to write words that sound well together. I should have studied linguistics…Smally: How do you record? What equipment and instruments do you use? How has this changed over the years?Bobby: I record onto cassette tape. I’ve evolved from a tiny little Tascam four track to a really big Tascam eight track. I use microphones and shit too.Smally: Haha, thanks for that, very expansive. One of the things I’m curious about is that your music always has a very punky and organic feel to it (even when it’s experimental) – are Fig Mints ever going to go electronic, embracing modern computer technology? Or do you think using sounds that translate easily to live performances are essential to your musical identity? Bobby: I don’t know. I think it would be a huge pain in the ass to have to go out and acquire all the equipment that would be necessary for me to record digitally. Not to mention I prefer working with cassettes. As far as my musical identity, I never give much thought to that. The more you give away about your identity, the easier it is for it to get stolen. So don’t ever ask me for my social security number again. I have no idea what that was supposed to mean… forget it, what?Smally: You produced the last two Jenny Penny albums earning you the tag of the Cozy Home’s “Phil Spector”. How was that? What kind of producer are you and can you see yourself working in that role again?Bobby: Phil Spector, eh? Is that something that you just came up with, or is this a common opinion? Is it too soon for a get away with murder joke? Probably. Hey, a hung jury is a hung jury, and I wasn’t there, right? Anyway, yeah it’s fun. I like not having to deal with the pressure of writing songs. And Jenny has such an amazing talent for songwriting that she shouldn’t have to deal with the pain in the arse that is recording and mixing, so I set her up, and she knocks me out. Kismet, right? Personally, I love it and hopefully I’ll be able to do it more often with other people. Actually, I recorded and produced Jenny’s sister’s album. Her name is Big Mimi and the title is “It’s On”. I don’t know what’s up with the release, but it’s out there, and it’s a good, fun listen. Toe Tag is another one that I helped with. Alan “Cashew” Cook and Jenny’s brother, Mike are an improvisational metal band called Toe Tag and I recorded and produced (with Alan’s genius ears guiding me) a one-off album from them. It was fun. I recorded Jenny’s first album, too, for the record.Smally: It’s something I just came up with. But it’ll stick. Any ideas where people can get their hands on the recordings you mentioned? Any tips for would-be producers you can pass on from your experiences? Bobby: I got the Toe Tag stuff. I’ll try to get it put up on the Cozy Home page for free download as long as it’s okay with the band. As far as Big Mimi goes, it’s all up to her, but I’ll keep everyone posted… As far as tips go, I’d just say play it all by ear and don’t try too hard. Not that my advice is worth anything. I ain’t no Dave Fridmann or nothing… Smally: The Utica Flower Company collaboration project recorded last year is soon to be released through Cozy Home – are you glad that’s finally getting to see the light of day?Bobby: Yes. Definitely. I think it should’ve been out by now, but that’s what happens when your dreams outweigh your wallet, eh? We did have some grand plans for it, and hopefully we’ll get a real deluxe version out there, if only just for the four of us. But anyone interested is encouraged to donate money to the cause. Or at least give a shout to let us know if anyone would be interested in buying a physical copy with a big booklet and great artwork, so we’ll know it’s not going to be a waste of money.Smally: It seems to be an almost integral part of Cozy Home Records that the various bands and artists musically bed-hop and morph into other bands from time to time. What other projects/bands have you been involved in? Bobby: Well, since joining the Cozy Home, I’ve played guitar in the Fucking Flame, bass in The Real Burnouts, wrote instrumentals for the aforementioned UFC, teamed up with Artie Lester for a couple of live shows, and helped him out on some Arthur rules recordings. I’ve also been one half of Euro Language Abusive and one third of Electric City Subway. It’s pretty fun to do that sort of thing. Anything to make music and share some of the responsibility of making it sound good.Smally: Its hard to ignore the fact that thanks to the internet there’s a whole new world of music available for people to discover, a low-fi revolution. What bands are you listening to, or have you been listening to recently that you could recommend? How does it feel to be a part of this revolution?Bobby: I’m quite happy and grateful to be part of something. Like I know that at 27 I’ve done more creatively than many people will in their entire lives. Whether or not anyone outside of the circle will ever care is ultimately irrelevant in my opinion… As far as bands that I’ve been listening to, I can’t really mention anything that isn’t typical, so I’ll skip that one. I don’t like to drop references, anyway. And besides, I feel so overwhelmed by the internet, I only use it for email nowadays… I will say that I’ve always been a pretty big fan of one of the DG bands, the Wheelies. Ever heard them? Pretty psychedelic, you should give ‘em a listen.Smally: Haha, cheers for the plug. It’s as subtle as a sledgehammer blow. So low-fi aside, who are the bands and what are the songs or albums that really made you want to start writing your own music?Bobby: Oh, I don’t know… Probably Sonic Youth and Guided By Voices… I can’t really say for sure, but I often find myself listening to Bob Pollard’s songs and thinking “wow, my next good song should sound exactly like this.” Wait, didn’t I say that I didn’t want to drop references? Oh well, you tricked me…Smally: Were you musical when you were a kid? In a school band or play any other instruments? Bobby: Nah. I was too busy smoking weed and listening to lame grunge bands.Smally: You recently moved out of your hometown of Utica – how has this affected your music?Bobby: I really have no idea. I’ve been quite uninspired lately. Living in a “hip” area is boring. And when it’s not boring it’s straight up annoying. Everyone is just so bloody obvious and not nearly as interesting as they seem. Or maybe that’s just me being the miserable cynic that I know I am. Goddam I feel like Charles fucking Bukowski.You can listen to and download Fig Mint’s “Three Cheers For Good Cheer” from the album “Bad Choice Brigade” on the Daydream Generation 4 compilation – available from 7th March 2008.