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Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Least Corny Man in America

could tell you what Vince Staples is eating for lunch, but we both agree that celebrity-profile trope is corny. There’s a lot in this world that Staples thinks is corny, but when we meet in downtown Manhattan on a June afternoon, he seems to be particularly peeved about the music industry. I can’t blame him. He’s only in New York City for the day, between a red-eye from Los Angeles, and another flight to London. And he’s spending his time answering a journalist’s questions, a thing he’s done hundreds of times in the past few years, and then doing a photo shoot. There are lot of things that have to be done in order to sell music that don’t involve music, and Staples isn’t particularly enthused.

“We expect niggas to make videos, to have merch, to have this whole aesthetic,” he tells me with palpable irritation. “When people start talking about these artists nowadays, music is the last thing you thinking about.”

He even quibbles with the way we describe musicians as “artists,” comparing the music industry to that of visual art, which he says he respects more. As he puts it, there are no museums for music—meaning that there are no institutions determining the rules for how music is consumed. Anyone can pay 99 cents for a song, or stream it on their service of choice, and feel ownership over it. With no one setting the rules, the work is subjected to everyone’s review, everyone’s opinion, everyone’s re-interpretation of the album art. The music is no longer about the music, but rather what the listener can project onto it. Or, as Staples says, “Everybody’s trying to put themselves in someone else’s picture.”

I don’t have the same level of reverence for the world of visual art—it’s difficult for me to totally respect any artform that deliberately tucks itself away for a highly selective audience that is determined by not much more than how deep your pockets are—but I understand his point. And that’s a big part of what makes Staples such a sought-after figure. Even when you disagree with him, his perspective is so well-considered and the power of his personality is so magnetic, he will win you over. He processes the world very quickly. His patience for stupidity is thinner than the gap between his two front teeth. His sense of humor is quintessentially black American, born out of that unique understanding of oppression while clocking the absurd logic of racism. A week after we first meet, in the green room before his recent appearance on “The Daily Show,” Staples is asked if he’s going to wear his eyeglasses on air. “Nah,” he replies, “can’t let The Man know you got a disability.”

This is the other thing that has every publication and talk show running to sit down with him. That quick wit impresses many and inspires comedy club-sized laughs. During his “Daily Show” interview, after rhapsodizing on topics as disparate as afrofuturism, the life expectancy rate of beta fish, and the thirst-quenching properties of Sprite, host Trevor Noah tells Staples that he’s the most interesting guest he’s ever had. But here the paradox of the 23-year-old’s celebrity is further cleaved: None of this has anything to do with the music.

Big Fish Theory, his second full-length studio album, is a natural extension of the sounds and themes explored on last year’s Prima Donna EP and its accompanying short film. That project had the young MC asking questions about the fragility of the spotlight he found himself thrust into after the success of his debut LP, Summertime ’06. On Big Fish Theory, he’s trying to embrace the spoils of success while navigating heartbreak, both in his romantic life and in the broader world, where blackness is still a death sentence.

At least, that’s my interpretation. You could come to your own conclusion about the meaning behind his music, and Staples would be completely fine with that. He isn’t here to determine your relationship to the music by providing explanations, a stance that would appear to contradict his art-world analogy. By declining to explain, he leaves it open for the listening audience to project their own views onto his work. But he’s steadfast in his separatism. At his core, he’s a purist—not the annoying “hip-hop was better in my day” kind, but rather someone who believes everyone should do theirthing and not be required to play the role of artist, critic, and dealer. “My job is to make songs,” he says. “That’s my place. I create things. All the other stuff, I really don’t think about it at all.”

It’s not that he isn’t thoughtful, it’s just that he doesn’t want you to get the wrong impression. He isn’t a tortured artist with a song in his heart dying to get out. He’s a regular dude from Long Beach, California who also happens to be a supremely talented rapper. He has a lot of questions that he asks out of the blue, such as, “Do you think Fiji water is actually bottled at the source?” He would rather be back home shooting dice with the homies than explaining himself to white people who only care about his teenage life as a Crip. “I understand that I come off like a deep motherfucker,” he tells me over the lunch I still won’t describe, “but a lot of times depth is in simplistic things.”

Fair enough. But despite his protests to the contrary, Vince Staples has something to say—about black life in America, the music industry, media, art, sports, you name it—through his unmistakably SoCal accent.

Pitchfork: It seems like you don’t have a romantic relationship to rap culture, that you really do view this as a job.

Vince Staples: My question is: What’s the culture?

The music, the style, the people—making community around this.

That’s just being black, though. To me, the culture of black people is just [surviving] in the United States of America, because we don’t really have any kind of background past slavery that we know of as a majority, and we cling to different things to give us our identity. Right now, [hip-hop] is what it is, and it’s been like that for a minute. But all that “do it for the culture, do it for hip-hop” stuff is corny.

So you do view this as work.

It’s work for everybody. It’s demeaning to the whole experience of it to not know that it’s an obligation. I got responsibilities, that’s basically it. We not catching these flights and doing all these tours and investing all this money for nothing. It is a job for everybody, whether they want to say it or not. It ain’t easy to do. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be so significant that people are able to do it.

But is any part of it fun?

Yeah. I wouldn’t do nothing I didn’t want to do it. Ever. It’s cool. I appreciate it.

What parts do you enjoy?

All of it. You get to go places, to create things, and you get to make money off doing those two things. You get to feed your families. All of it is fun if you do it the right way. When people ask those questions, they don’t really be asking about music. They asking about all the other stuff. Music comes secondary, if not third or fourth, in how people look at artists. Well, not artists, rappers. Big difference.

What’s the other stuff people are asking about?

They want to know how much money you got, how famous you are, how cool you are, how successful you are in the commercial space. Nobody’s talking about the music, for the most part. It’s not really a conversation for many people.

There is a celebratory vibe to parts of Big Fish Theory, where you want to get people dancing, which feels new compared to a lot of what you’ve done so far. There’s a difference between a line like “I ain’t ever run from nothing but the police,” from 2015’s “Norf Norf,” and “I was up late night ballin’,” from “Big Fish.”

Yeah, but not really.

How so?

It’s the same mood. If you look at the songs as a whole, “Norf Norf” is more celebratory than “Big Fish” is. Both songs are hyphy music, but “Big Fish” is at a slower tempo, and there’s not as much energy in it. So it all depends on how you look at it. There are no wrong answers in this shit, you know? You do what you do.

You do present a tension between wanting to celebrate and almost feeling like you’re unable to completely embrace that part of it. There’s a lyric on the new song “Party People” where you’re like, “How am I supposed to have a good time when death and destruction is all I see.”

Yeah, I know what you mean. You can look at it that way. It gets tricky, because everything has an exact reason, but I’m never gonna say, “No, that’s not what it means.”

But what does that line mean to you? You created it.

Yeah, I know. In 10 years, when I’m washed up, I’m gonna come back with a book deal and we gonna explain all the albums and tell the story.

But now, this is my thing also: Do you consider music to be art?

Yes.

There’s a difference between a legacy artist and a currently working artist, for the most part. I look at an album like an art exhibit, it’s like a solo show. You have different works that you’ve created, song one through song 12 is like painting one through painting 12, sculpture one through sculpture 12, whatever the fuck you want to call it, right? And then you present them all, you put them on the wall, and people gawk at it. That’s the point of an art show.

Now, when you see art on the wall, it’s [coming with] two to three things at the most. It has an artist’s name, the name of the piece, when it was created. If they dead, it has when they were born and when they died. Some things have explanation. Most things don’t.

So my question would be: Why, in music, is there a need for the artist to explain? I don’t know the answer to those questions; when you walk up to a canvas, you just start painting. You might have a general idea of the colors, of the composition, but certain things come as the process goes. So I don’t ever think into anything that deep. I never say, “I’m gonna say this specific thing right here, but this is my plight.” I don’t got a plight. That’s not my type of shit, so it don’t really mean much.

So that line you mentioned is a question. It’s not for me to answer. I’m asking, “How am I supposed to have a good time when death and destruction is all I see?” If I knew the answer, I wouldn’t ask the question. It’s not a struggle to me, as it might be to most people. I have no problem with… I won’t say I have no problem, but the surrounding elements of the environment and the world don’t bother me. I never think about stuff, honestly.

Never?

No.

That seems false based on everything that is in your music, and every interview you’ve done.

The honest-to-God truth is that the things I say in my music might seem reflective of current times, but I have never went outside of me, my home, and my homies. It’s not a bigger picture, it’s just a scene.

But you and your homies are the bigger picture.

Not to me. What I’m saying is: We walked across the street yesterday. That’s the statement, because that’s the actual. Now, what is it about? Are you leaving? Are you trying to reach your destination? Is there a fear? Is there doubt? Are you traveling alone? There are things that can go into that and further define it, but nine times out of 10, nigga was probably just walking across the street.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?” Does it really ever fucking matter? The fact that it happened is the conversation, but it’s not really up to me, necessarily, to answer those questions. It’s up to the listener to sit and dissect the music and figure it out for themselves, because that’s fire shit.

Do you think you could have a second career after this as a commentator, a la Joe Budden?

No, I’m cool. I ain’t trying to talk no more.

A lot of people want you to talk.

People want a lot of things. I don’t care what people want.

They are certain things that people usually want you to talk about. The interview that introduced me to you was on ESPN’s “Highly Questionable,” and you seemed to want to talk about sports during that conversation…

And they was talking to me about being a gang banger? It happens every time: “I heard you just put out an album, but what’s it like to be in a street gang?” Which goes back to what I said—when is it ever about the music?

So is it just that people shouldn’t even ask about the music and just enjoy it?

This is my thing: If you listen to the songs, you get an emotional response, it makes you feel a certain type of way. You share that experience and you try to get more insight into your emotions. That’s really when it becomes constructive.

One thing I’ve noticed is that fans always refute when you tell them the truth. They want to fight, because it’s just an idea of what it’s supposed to be, because everyone’s so smart nowadays. With the internet, everyone’s so knowledgeable, everyone knows so much about music, everybody got a top five. But a lot of people don’t really digest the music and just be personal with it. Like, an album must sell a million-some records for two weeks, and then you never hear nobody talk about it again, because everybody move too fast. But you can’t blame music for moving fast. There’s so much going on in the world right now, so many ways to consume things, so many ways to dish them out. So I just don’t really expect the thought-out question to happen, especially when my fans have so much stuff to digest. I don’t really even know what the right question would be.

You’ve dropped a new project every year thus far in your career.

Yeah, somebody told me that yesterday. I didn’t even notice it to be real. They said, “You dropped four projects in three years,” and I was like, “No I haven’t,” and we had to really look at the shit. We don’t really record that much, so it don’t feel like it.

You don’t have a whole bunch of stuff just sitting around?

No, we probably got less than five unreleased finished songs that got names and shit. We ain’t got songs sitting around.

So this is not going to be a Tupac situation where…

Oh, if I’m dead, it’s over.

Bob Seger’s Music

“[Bob] Seger’s absence from digital services, combined with the gradual disappearance of even physical copies of half his catalog, suggest a rare level of indifference to his legacy,” Tim Quirk wrote for NPR Music in late March in his feature, “Where Have All The Bob Seger Albums Gone?”

Today, much of Seger’s music has finally arrived in the digital realm, and so half of that late-career dereliction — whether by design or overly tightened professional security — is now erased. Taylor who?

No less than 13 of Seger’s previously unavailable albums — Beautiful Loser, Night Moves, Live Bullet, Stranger In Town, Nine Tonight, Against The WindThe DistanceGreatest HitsLike A Rock, Greatest Hits 2The Fire InsideUltimate Hitsand Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man — are now available on most major streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, but notably excluding both Pandora Premium and Tidal.

Unlike many streaming holdouts, the vast majority of Seger’s music — even his bestselling Greatest Hits — was also never available to purchase as digital files. Compounding the problem, physical copies of many of his greatest albums also remain difficult to find, though some of Seger’s albums, including Greatest Hits and his 1968 debut, Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, are now being reissued on vinyl.

Punch Andrews, Seger’s manager, told NPR Music that the catalog had remained offline mostly because of the low rates they pay artists. “For years, we have been asked to bring the catalog to streaming,'” Andrews said. “We have not pulled the trigger there because the rates are low; so low, in fact, that the label would not break it down and show the artist how little he would make. Bob has always been an album artist and that format has served him very well. Streaming and downloads have always favored singles artists.”

Quirk’s article, however, found that as availability of Seger’s catalog, both digitally and physically, dwindled, so did radio plays (and, obviously, sales). Will Seger’s new availability bring with it a new relevancy, or will he simply be another spoke in the wheel? Another blade of grass in a great big field?

Geri Allen, Pianist, Composer And Educator

Geri Allen at the Village Vanguard in 2011.
John Rogers for WBGO and NPR/JohnRogersNYC.com

Geri Allen, a widely influential jazz pianist, composer and educator who defied classification while steadfastly affirming her roots in the hard-bop tradition of her native Detroit, died Tuesday in Philadelphia. She was 60, and had lived for the last four years in Pittsburgh.

The cause was cancer, said Ora Harris, her manager of 30 years. The news shocked Allen’s devoted listeners, as well as her peers and the many pianists she directly influenced.

In addition to her varied and commanding work as a leader, Allen made her mark as a venturesome improviser on notable albums with the saxophonist-composers Ornette Coleman, Oliver Lake, Steve Coleman and Charles Lloyd; drummer Ralph Peterson, Jr.; bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian; and many others. Her recent collaborations with drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, in separate trios featuring bassist Esperanza Spalding and tenor saxophonist David Murray, found her in a ceaselessly exploratory mode, probing new harmonic expanses and dynamic arcs.

Allen’s solo piano work, from Home Grown in 1985 to Flying Toward the Sound in 2010, reveals an uncommon technical prowess and kaleidoscopic tonal range. The subtitle of Flying Toward the Sound claims inspiration from Cecil Taylor, McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock specifically, but on this and other recordings we hear Allen, unfailingly distinctive. From Home Grown, the track “Black Man,” with its looping, interlocking pulses and forward momentum, points clearly toward a rhythmic sensibility heard today from such celebrated pianists as Craig Taborn and Vijay Iyer.

Geri Antoinette Allen was born June 12, 1957 in Pontiac, Mich., and raised in Detroit. Her father, Mount V. Allen, Jr., was a principal in the Detroit public school system, and her mother, Barbara Jean, was a defense contract administrator for the U.S. government.

Allen took up the piano at age 7 and went on to graduate from Cass Technical High School, the alma mater of jazz greats on the order of Paul Chambers, Wardell Gray, Gerald Wilson and Donald Byrd.

While in school, Allen became a protégée of the late trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, who directed the Jazz Development Workshop and also mentored saxophonist Kenny Garrett and violinist Regina Carter, among many others. (Belgrave would go on to appear on Allen’s albums The Nurturer and Maroons in the early 1990s.) From another mentor, the late drummer Roy Brooks, Allen developed a deep love for Thelonious Monk, whose compositions she masterfully interpreted.

Allen graduated from Howard University in 1979, as one of the first students to complete a jazz studies degree there. She earned an M.A. in ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1982. For part of a year she sustained herself touring with former Supreme Mary Wilson. In 1984, she debuted with The Printmakers, a tight, imaginative trio session with bassist Anthony Cox and drummer Andrew Cyrille.

LIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD

Soon afterward, Allen made a series of statements with the vanguardist M-Base Collective, spearheaded by Steve Coleman. She appeared on his debut album, Motherland Pulse, in 1985, and on several subsequent releases by his flagship band, Five Elements. Her own album Open On All Sides In The Middle, from 1986, featured Coleman in a bustling electro-acoustic ensemble, alongside other players including Belgrave and trombonist Robin Eubanks.

Trio summits followed with Ron Carter, a fellow Cass Tech alum, and Tony Williams(Twenty One); with Haden and Motian (EtudesLive at the Village Vanguard); and with Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette (The Life of a Song). In each setting, Allen proved more than a virtuoso able to marshal the greatest rhythm sections; she was a musical partner with prodigious ears, motivated by the percussive energy of the avant-garde, the elusive unified spark of straight-ahead swing and the expressive truth of piano balladry.

Allen’s 1996 encounter with Ornette Coleman, documented on the albums Sound Museum: Hidden Man and Sound Museum: Three Women, stands out in part for its historical significance: this was the first time since Walter Norris on Somethin’ Else!!!!in 1958 that an acoustic pianist had recorded with Coleman.

The piano had little use in his free-floating music, because it tended to impose a conventional chordal fixity; not with Allen on the bandstand. She played a multifaceted textural and contrapuntal role, her ocean-deep harmonic knowledge guiding but never limiting her, from gorgeous and evocative rubato episodes to urgent free blowing. Her melodic voice, too, sometimes moving in unison with Coleman, brought a clarion intensity that remains unique in his output.

Along with her rare qualities as a player, Allen had significant impact as an educator for 10 years at the University of Michigan. She began as director of jazz studies at the University of Pittsburgh, her alma mater, in 2013, succeeding one of her mentors, Nathan Davis. Three years later she became artistic director of the Carr Center — characterized by Mark Stryker, author of the forthcoming book Made In Detroit: Jazz From The Motor City, as “a downtown Detroit arts organization that primarily champions African-American culture and has a strong arts education program.”

In both her institutional work and her musical projects, Allen engaged in a serious way with jazz as part of a larger African-American continuum in the arts. Her 2013 album Grand River Crossings: Motown & Motor City Inspirations was a hometown homage, but also a reflection on the porous boundaries of black music. Last year the artist Carrie Mae Weems welcomed Allen and her trio to the Guggenheim Museum for part of a performance series called “Past Tense/Future Perfect.”

In her own work, Allen often sought to broaden her reference points and sonic palette, featuring the Atlanta Jazz Chorus on Timeless Portraits and Dreams (2006); the electric and acoustic guitar of Living Colour’s Vernon Reid on The Gathering (1998); and tap dancers Lloyd Storey, on Open On All Sides In The Middle, and Maurice Chestnut, on Geri Allen & Time Line Live (2010). She shed light on the legacy of the still-underappreciated pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams on Zodiac Suite: Revisited, credited to the Mary Lou Williams Collective, with bassist Buster Williams and drummers Billy Hart and Andrew Cyrille.

Allen is survived by her father, her brother, Mount Allen III, and three children: Laila Deen, Wallace Vernell and Barbara Ann. Her marriage to the trumpeter Wallace Roney ended in divorce.

Along with a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008, Allen received the African American Classical Music Award from Spelman College and a Distinguished Alumni Award from Howard. In 1995 she became the first recipient of Soul Train’s Lady of Soul Award for jazz album of the year, for Twenty-One. The following year she became the first woman to win the Jazzpar Prize, a highly prestigious Danish honor.

Over years of seeing Allen live, it’s striking to recall her at Caramoor in 1994, when she shared a solo piano bill with the great Kenny Barron. She parsed Monk and other material, including her own, and encored in a riotous two-piano showdown with Barron on “Tea For Two,” dealing impressively with a tune of older vintage. Years later, at the Village Vanguard, she led an engrossing quartet with Hart, bassist (and fellow Cass Tech alum) Robert Hurst and percussionist Mino Cinelu.

In terms of the unexpected, however, don’t for a moment discount Allen’s 2011 Christmas album, A Child Is Born. She plays not just piano but also Farfisa organ, celeste, clavinet and Fender Rhodes, taking “Angels We Have Heard On High” and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” to harmonic places they’ve likely never been. Even at its most searching, complex and sonically novel, there’s a contemplative quality in the music that makes this a worthy listen as we mourn Allen’s untimely passing

Musical

Joe Scarborough plays The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on February 21, 2017.
CBS Photo Archive/CBS via Getty Images
It’s the Thursday before the Fourth of July and Joe Scarborough, the MSNBC personality, is having a surreal morning. A little more than 90 minutes ago, the President of the United States took to Twitter to hurl a volley of insults at the Morning Joe host (whom he’s nicknamed “Psycho Joe”) and, far more crudely, co-host and fiancée Mika Brzezinski. President Trump, who’d been friendly with Scarborough for years until their relationship turned sour during the 2016 presidential campaign, has attacked the couple before, but this time, the president’s comments were so objectively coarse that congressional leaders from both sides quickly denounced his words.

Trump’s Graphic Insult Of Cable Host Crosses A Line For Many
POLITICS
Trump’s Graphic Insult Of Cable Host Crosses A Line For Many
Scarborough is on the line to discuss his musical side-project, a five-song EP called Mystified that hit streaming services last Friday. The former Florida congressman turned talk-show host, who started playing in bands when he was 14, estimates writing around 400 songs over the past four daces. Finally, a year or two ago, he went into the studio to record 10 of them and came out with 50. “It’s what I love doing more than anything,” he says. “It drives me.”

We spoke to Scarborough about his plans to release an EP every month for the next two years, the reaction to Mystified thus far, and Trump: The Musical. (Yes, Trump: The Musical.) Read on for an edited transcript.

Watch Scarborough’s Music Video For ‘Mystified’

Last summer in a GQ profile, you were in the early stages of writing and pitching something called Trump: The Musical. At the time, you’d said that his win would be “even better” for the project’s viability than if he lost. But now that he did … well?

Joe Scarborough: When I said that, I, of course, didn’t think he was going to win. Nobody really thought he was going to win. Trump: The Musical was going to be historical fiction. I wrote the songs in the middle of the campaign, in the summer [of 2016], and people would always stop when we were recording and say, ‘What if he wins?’ I’d go, ‘It’s not gonna happen.’ Then after he won, I’m like, ‘What are we gonna do?’ But then suddenly … the problem is just the opposite — I could write a song every day about another crazy thing. But it’s moving forward. [My agent] Ari Emanuel and I are working on it. It may be a multi-platform deal where it’s not just a musical, but a reality TV show about a musical — American Idol meets A Chorus Line, where you have people trying out to play the president and members of the Trump family.

That’s so meta.

It’s very meta. We have a feeling everybody’s gonna want to be a part of it.

He’ll tweet at contestants.

Exactly.

You know him. Does he have taste in music?

No. In a decade of knowing him, I’ve never heard him talk about music one time. I think he mentioned Elton John once in an Anderson Cooper interview, but that’s about as deep as it’s gone.

As president, he’s used the score from [the 1997 Harrison Ford movie] Air Force One. It’s bizarre to watch the actual president in the actual Air Force One arrive to a soundtrack about a fictional Air Force One and a fictional president.

Hear The Theme To ‘Air Force One’

Yeah, a fictional Air Force One and a fictional president who gets kidnapped aboard his own airplane. He’s playing a role. We’ve always said … he wasn’t playing himself as a politician, he was [playing] a reality-TV-star politician. When he tries to surround himself with the trappings of the presidency — or decide what songs he’s going to play — so much of it has to do with what he thinks a president should look like on TV or in the movies. It is not surprising that he plays the soundtrack to Air Force One — he doesn’t read, he doesn’t understand history, he doesn’t understand politics, but he understands pop culture. And it seeps through everything he does.

Right now, we’re at a critical political moment. What role does music play?

I think it’s more critical than ever. The mistake a lot of us have made, in reaction to Trumpism, is nonstop outrage and shock. The much better way to get at him is by laughing at the insanity of it all. Mocking him. And you’re allowed to do that with more of a 30,000-foot glance if you are a movie director or a poet or a novelist or a songwriter — you have more distance than hosts on CNN or MSNBC or editorial networks that’re just responding, that day, to the insanity.

Mystified is your first EP, but you’ve made music your whole life. Why are you doing this now?

It’s the worst rock-star story ever, the least glamorous reason to get into a rock and roll band — or to start releasing your songs: I turned 50. And I was like, ‘Oh my God, this has been the center of my life, for my entire life, and my kids don’t even know about this side of me.’ People have known me as a lawyer, a football coach, a politician, a TV host. But they’ve never seen what was actually at my core, what I value most outside of my family. So the idea was, I was going to record 10 songs. I’ve always been sort of a studio rat. And it went so well, at the end of a year, we had recorded 50.

YouTube
Now you’re planning to release EPs monthly. What’s the strategy to that schedule?

Everybody’s got a band: ‘I’m a tennis player, but I want to be in a band’; ‘I’m an actor, I’ve got a band.’ I’m the reverse. I’ve been playing music since I was 5. Anything I’ve done, I’ve done to support my music habit. So, for the first month, everybody will say, ‘Gee, isn’t it cute?’ Then the next month, I put four more songs out. And if I don’t get absolutely horrific reviews, four more. After one year, I will have put out 50 songs. I’m confident that at the end of a year, people will say, ‘He doesn’t completely suck. There are actually some good songs in there.’ For me, that’s really important. The downside is, if the [songs] don’t keep improving every month, people could tune it out.

You run the risk of fatigue, but you’re hoping once the novelty of “Joe Scarborough has a band” wears off, people will hear the music more objectively.

Right. It’s a lot like Morning Joe: We got some early reviews that were grudgingly respectful; nobody could admit that they liked the show in polite society. And our favorite review — which we still use whenever we’re introduced anywhere — was when the New Yorker called our show “appallingly entertaining.” That was their way of saying they liked it, but still being snide about liking it. Some of the reviews about Mystified are like that.

Yes, they’re like, “not awful,” “surprising,” and “better than expected.”

It’s absolutely hilarious. After a couple of reviews, I called my bandmates and said, ‘You don’t understand, but I’ve been through this with Morning Joe. Those are the best reviews we could ever ask for.’ One I loved said it was like “Walk on the Wild Side” [being sung by] a light-blue gingham shirt. I don’t care what else you put on me: If you compare me to Lou Reed, I’m good.

What’s your fantasy Scarborough concert look like? Let’s say you can play with any artists — living or dead, from any era of their careers — and the show can take place anywhere. Who’s on the bill and where is the show?

I really love British music, so the show would be in 1977, during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, the night The Sex Pistols went down the river blaring “God Save the Queen.” I would talk to The Beatles, all solo, and somehow figure out how to do what Lorne Michaels couldn’t do [and get them to reunite] and maybe offer them $500 apiece to sit on the river as The Sex Pistols go blaring down it. Also, I would talk to young Elvis Costello and The Clash, who are about a year away from their big breakthroughs, and have them there.

Are you headlining or opening?

I would be too intimidated to play. Instead, we’d have a roundtable. We’d interview them Morning Joe-style