For the fourth and final part of our interview with Jason Lytle, DiS gets all Smash Hits on his ass and probes him about what his favourite things might be. AND WHY NOT?
DiS: What’s your favourite place in the world?
JL: My favourite geographical spot on the planet? [thinks for a long time] Definitely Montana at this point. The longer I live there, the more it reveals. It’s very slow in what it reveals, but it’s getting deeper and deeper and more incredible. Say, like, the converse of that would be being super excited and moving to a city – "alright, there’s a good burrito place down there and a good Thai food place down there and a public library with free Wi-Fi and blah-blah-blah". Montana’s very elusive. It doesn’t beckon the world to come there and benefit from what it has to offer. You have to slow down and sit there and just let it happen. Which requires being there for a long enough time to allow yourself to get to that level.
DiS: The opposite of that strikes me as being – and it’s a place that I quite like, but – Las Vegas. Do you like it there?
JL: I do love Las Vegas. Last time I was there I had a pretty incredible time. I was hanging out with Jim [Putnam] from Radar Bros. We went to a wedding, and we happened to be driving back the same way and afterwards he called me and left a message, saying it was great to hang out with me. [silly high-pitched voice] "Hey Jason, it was nice hanging out with you in Las Vegas, and by the way, after you left I threw up all over myself in the gutter… I had a great time, it was good to see you, ‘kay, bye…" [laughs] But Las Vegas is awesome. Beyond the throw-up story. I love it. It’s so fucking completely, utterly ridiculous. And the rooms are getting cheaper. The economy is so bad that you can stay in these five-star hotels for, like, ninety-nine dollars. It’s great.
DiS: Did you go to Montana before you moved there?
JL: I’d only driven through. But I had a good friend of mine, whom I trusted, who said "you’re gonna like this place". And I was always on tour somewhere. "You gotta come visit!" – "I want to, but I’m kind of busy right now!". And I finally had the opportunity to go check it out. I knew that I was gonna be leaving Modesto.
DiS: Where else did you consider? LA?
JL: Oddly enough, I was thinking about moving to LA. Only because I have a lot of friends there. But eventually I came to the realization that that’s what I’d been doing. I’d been living some place that I’m not thrilled with – in the name of work – and at some point your life has gone by, and I wanna be at some place that makes me happy every day. And there was a time to do that, and that was it. That’s what made me change my mind. It was like one big road trip, and part of it was LA. And I was actually looking at places to live and neighbourhoods and stuff, and I ended up on this big sweeping road trip through the states. But I knew I wanted to keep it kind of close to the west coast, ‘cause my family still lives there. But Montana’s a weird one. I’ve always loved the Alps, and to me it’s like staying in America, but moving to the Swiss Alps. And the culture’s just a bit different enough there. People are a lot nicer and politer than what I’d gotten used to in Modesto.
DiS: Did you get to elevate yourself in Montana?
JL: Literally! It’s a valley that I live in, but it’s about five thousand feet above sea level. I spend a good percentage of the week between six and seven thousand feet above sea level, up in the mountains, biking or skiing.
DiS: Skiing? No snowboarding?
JL: No, oddly enough. I don’t snowboard. ‘Cause that was the obvious thing to do!
DiS: Where else have you been, where you have thought to yourself "just let me stay here"?
JL: I was in Italy on one of the first tours. And I was so sad and depressed and wasted. And they have these shows super late at night, and we went and had dinner. It was one of the smaller village shows, so the people who owned the venue also owned a restaurant, and they cooked us all this wonderful food. And they gave us way too much wine. And I hadn’t had a shower in, I don’t know… two or three weeks. And I really needed one and just needed to rest. My nerves were rattled, and we were going on at midnight, and I was already drunk. It had been a long tour. And then one of the people connected with the venue drove me to her house and showed me where the towels were and how to turn on the bathtub. And I had my first bath in three weeks. I had been around dirty guys, drunk every night, and I was just exhausted. And next thing you know, I’m in this girl’s bathtub in a little village in Italy, surrounded by body wash and hair products and candles, smelling good things… I’ll probably remember that bath until my deathbed. [laughs] "I don’t wanna leave this place!" And there was nothing weird or sexual – if anything, I wanted her to go away! "Just let me sit around your bath vibes!".
DiS: What’s your favourite restaurant?
JL: That would be the Shalimar in the Tenderloin district in San Francisco. It’s this really sketchy Indian takeaway that has a few seats, and every time the microwave goes on, the lights dim, and there are these 98-year-old Indian men squatting, cutting vegetables on the floor in the back. And the food is insanely hot and spicy, and it’s ‘bring your own beer’. But it’s kind of a limited menu, and it’s just so chaotic and so cheap.
DiS: What’s your favourite joke?
JL: Um… I’m definitely one of those people that don’t retain jokes very well. But! I do have two favourite sayings. And I got to use one of them on the beginning of the record. The whole two shits thing. [in a Southern States accent] "You know what, I could give two shits what you think about that!’" That’s one of them. The other one is "Yeah, go fuck a duck!" [laughs] So, somehow I’m able to justify using "two shits", but at some point I’m going to have to come with a song where I’m able to incorporate the "go fuck a duck" thing. [laughs]
Video: Jason Lytle: 'Birds Encouraged Him'
DiS: 'Birds Encouraged Him', version 2?
JL: Yeah! [laughs] Rusty’s joke with 'Birds Encouraged Him' was – ‘cause it’s all serious and pretty – right before I kick into the solo, I go "as birds encouraged him on life to hold", and then I go [whistles bird noises], as if the bird is talking to the guy, and Rusty’s supposed to sing, and he just starts dying laughing, and then the song just self-destructs. [laughs] You know! That’s how birds talk!
DiS: Not too long ago, my friend interviewed Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, who told him a joke that I can remember. A guy goes to the doctor, feeling really bad. Then the doctor says to him, "you really have to stop masturbating", and the guy goes "why?" – "because I’m examining you!".
JL: [laughs] That’s actually really not that good! Is that the best he could do? I heard a couple over the last few days that were a lot better than that one!
DiS: Well, let’s hear ‘em!
JL: I don’t retain them! I laugh! For, like, eight seconds, and then they’re gone!
DiS: What’s your favourite song anyone ever did?
JL: [thinks for a long time] You realize how hard this is, right?
DiS: No, I thought you’d have it ready. I thought you were gonna say 'Livin’ Thing' by ELO.
JL: If anything, I would say Waterfall by ELO. It still knocks me out every time I hear it, and I still love the fact that it’s not one of their big hits. Like, ‘Waterfall! You know, Waterfall!’ – ‘um, huh?’. (laughs)
DiS: What’s your favourite song that you yourself ever did?
JL: My favourite doesn’t exist. But if I got the opportunity to properly re-record 'Levitz', then that probably would be my favourite.
DiS: What’s your favourite word?
JL: Uh… ‘Sleep’. It’s got a good ring to it. It means strength. There’s nothing better than what it symbolizes. You can be as tired and exhausted, and you could have the worst things happen to you, but if you get eight hours of solid sleep, you’re like… Superman.
DiS: What’s your favourite movie?
JL: Gold Rush, Charlie Chaplin. It has everything a movie needs. It’s more mind-blowing than any movie with modern special effects and capabilities. It just so happens that it’s also a silent film. It’s like this pure product of Charlie Chaplin’s imagination.
DiS: What’s your favourite drink?
JL: Um… Depends on what time of day it is. How about that? Can it depend on what time of day it is?
DiS: No. If you ever only got have one alcoholic drink ever again.
JL: Oh, it has to be alcoholic?
DiS: Yeah, ‘cause water would be boring.
JL: I’ll take a… I’ll take an Absolut and tonic with two wedges of lime in it. Please.
DiS: What’s your favourite experience with a female fan?
JL: [laughs] Oh, man… Breaking up with her. Ending our eight-year relationship, how about that? [laughs]
DiS: What’s your favourite invention? The guitar?
JL: Absolutely not. [thinks] Ketchup! ‘Cause it goes good with everything. And it tastes great!
DiS: Vinyl, cd, or cassette, and in what order?
JL: Cassette, cd, vinyl.
DiS: Cassette is your favourite?
JL: Yeah. I just wish technology accommodated it better. I’ve been listening to cassettes lately, and a well-recorded cassette on a good cassette player actually sounds pretty incredible.
DiS: You’re not a vinyl fetishist?
JL: No, no, absolutely not. They don’t really make it the right way anymore. They make it off of digital masters.
DiS: Who’s your favourite actor?
JL: Charlie Chaplin.
DiS: Who’s your favourite actress?
JL: [thinks for a long time] I don’t know her name. Who’s the girl in the Spiderman movie?
DiS: Kirsten Dunst.
JL: Yeah. I like Kirsten Dunst. She’s really pretty. I have a leaning towards Scandinavian girls… She looks a bit Scandinavian, doesn’t she?
DiS: I would say.
JL: I don’t like the Angelina Jolie types, the exaggerated ones. I like the more kind of understated thing. Kristen Dunst.
JL: [in a Swedish accent] Kirsten Dunsten!
DiS: Last question and you’re off the hook. What’s your favourite favourite?
JL: My favourite favourite? [sighs and laughs] Do you know how tempted I am to say ketchup again? [laughs, then thinks for a long time] Alright, here’s my favourite favourite. This is like a big serious answer. I had a really sketchy, fractured family growing up. But my dad… I don’t know, he just wanted me to stay out of jail. He didn’t really care if I went to school, he didn’t care what I did for a living. He had an upbringing that he wasn’t terribly pleased with. He was always stressed, and he had a really bad temper, and wasn’t the nicest guy in the world. But… as soon as things started working out, and once he started seeing I was making something out of this band… he became like a superfan. And he’s my favourite. He’s my favourite favourite.