Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Shout-out on

Thanks to Karl for the shout-out on!

It goes without saying but Karl is pretty much the coolest guy ever.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

More from Karl - Part IV

Note: this interview  dates to around October 2007

MY: How does “Negativland” (Recorded May ‘93) relate to “Blast Off!”, anyway? Are they basically the same, or are there large lyrical differences that can be taken as non-SFTBH? 5/93 is way before SFTBH... “Tired of Sex”, “Why Bother?”, “Longtime Sunshine”, “Getchoo”, and “Waiting On You” are listed in the Recording History as being from January '94, so maybe SFTBH was in Rivers' mind when he did those demos? I also see “Waiting On You” was started in July '93 as a piano demo.

KK: “Negativland”’s lyrics have nothing at all to do with SFTBH. “Blast Off!” is a total reuse of the music with new lyrics.

The January ‘94 stuff was not conceived as SFTBH, but SFTBH did of course develop out of all post Blue (post fall ‘93) recordings, as they were the next things Rivers wrote and was presumably assuming would go on a new album if they proved to be good. For example, I know “Tired of Sex”'s original inspiration was not for SFTBH, it was literally Rivers freaking out about Rivers’s own feelings - not about a character. I think, in this case, like most artistic works, inspiration tends to grow from seemingly unrelated origins, but once the idea crystallizes, progress leaps ahead. So once SFTBH was the plan (late ‘94), what he had written to that point was analyzed to see if it could be integrated or not.

Side bar – Rivers’s recent revelation that “Lisa” was not SFTBH was news to me - but not too surprising either - as I recall him back then grouping it into the rest of the SFTBH songs - even though I knew back at the time it was a song a la “Susanne” - about a real Lisa who helped the band. I think he wanted it to integrate but maybe felt half-hearted about it and later when SFTBH was done/abandoned, it reverted to a "regular song". Just my take.

MY: I was watching the VCD the other night and I noticed at the start of the Pink Triangle video, you introduce it as being a new song you'd not heard, and this was January 1996. In the Recording History, you say this:

“January 1996: more "Pinkerton" sessions :  Sound City Studios; Van Nuys, CA.

The recording lasted about 2 weeks. During this time, the following songs were worked to semi-completion:

No Other One
El Scorcho
Pink Triangle
Tired of Sex

And then....
"Spring Break" 1996; continued "Pinkerton" recording sessions

Sound City Studios, Van Nuys , CA
Rivers flew out to LA, and the band got together to continue plugging away at the new album. By this time Rivers had had some major breakthroughs, having written "El Scorcho" , "The Good Life" , Across the Sea" , "Falling for you" and "Butterfly" during his strange months at Harvard.

Summer '96 : "Pinkerton" wrapped up
After a ton of last minute studio juggling, all 10 tracks were eventually finished and mixed, plus:
You Gave Your Love To Me Softly (new version)
Waiting on You
I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams (w/ Rachel Haden)

Also nearly finished were: 
I Swear It’s True
Getting Up and Leaving 

Both of these were worked on to the point of just needing a final mixdown. Although this was never official, it’s nearly certain that they would have been the b-sides to "Pink Triangle", if that had been put out as a "for sale" single. Of course, that never happened, and the songs were never dusted off and finished up.”

Ok, so, in the VCD "Making of Pinkerton", we see the band playing “IJTOTLOMD”, “Superfriend”, “Tired of Sex”, “Pink Triangle”, “El Scorcho” and “Across the Sea”, all of which are performed at Sound City Studios. I am wondering what the dates of each recording were, as the footage is kind of unclear. I assume that “IJTOTLOMD” and “Superfriend” were both part of the January 1996 session, though you haven't listed either song in the recording history. “IJTOTLOMD” is mentioned as part of the '95 Electric Lady sessions (which I guess are considered SFTBH sessions) and then later in the "wrapped" part, with Rachel's vocals, so these are clearly different recordings. That would make FOUR versions of “IJTOTLOMD”: demo, Electric Lady, January 1996, and the final one, right?

“Across the Sea” is mentioned in the Spring Break section and you allude to it in the Fall '95 section where “WYCB” and the couple other late SFTBH songs are done. I see it's in the COR [Catalogue of Riffs] as being written in Feb 1996, so that means that the January session, if it wasn't for SFTBH or Pinkerton (which I assume is defined by “ATS”, “The Good Life”, “Falling for You”, and “Butterfly” - yet to be written), was for something in between the two, especially if “Superfriend” is still there (unless it was just a 'standalone' song at this point, outside of SFTBH, which may explain the lack of the first verses in that particular performance...). I just find it odd that “Superfriend” was attempted if SFTBH was abandoned by Jan '96. Were any other SFTBH songs attempted in Jan '96 that aren't listed on the recording history?

KK: I need to update and fix the history to reflect what turned up on the videotapes, thanks for the major reminder on that! I don’t recall any other SFTBH material being tried in January ‘96 or later, - if it was, I didn’t videotape it at least. Any such surprises (which I strongly doubt exist) would ONLY be on the 24/48 track master reels (where that 1/06 Superfriend may yet reside, unmixed by the way!)

MY: So is this correct?:

IJTOTLOMD: Jan '96 (I assume)
Superfriend: Jan '96 (I assume)
TOS: Jan '96 (I assume)
Pink Triangle: Jan '96 (for sure)
El Scorcho: Jan '96 or Spring '96 (not sure, maybe I need to watch it again and compare facial hair...)
ATS: Spring '96 (for sure)

Sorry if that's confusing, I'm just trying to sort out the details and thinking aloud a bit here.

KK: I don’t have any arguments against this analysis. As for “El Scorcho”, I remember being on a tour with that dog. in early spring ‘96 and telling some weezer fans in Denver about it, even singing the chorus with the basic chords on guitar. So that would be soon after I heard it for the first time. I THINK “El Scorcho” was worked on in Jan ‘96 but not nailed till spring ‘96 (multiple attempts).

I do recall the actual Rachel “IJTOTLOMD” was recorded late in the game, I think after the semester, like June ’96; or at least that’s when she came in to sing it.

Yes, “Tired of Sex” was January ‘96 for sure.

I know that “Blast Off!” was not attempted after that 8/95 Electric Lady session.

I thought I had written somewhere in there that there was a transitional period, where SFTBH was no longer referred to but some of the songs were still worked on. I believe now that it was a dual purpose thing: Rivers (in 1/96) thinking ‘if this goes well, maybe the SFTBH thing will go back on track........but even if that doesn’t happen its ok, the net effect will be good songs well recorded, and eventually an album of some sort. And maybe this new idea I’ve been secretly contemplating, Puccini thing will work out.’

(I’m just speculating, I don’t know when the Madam Butterfly light bulb went off, but I’m guessing it was right after the January ’96 session when he went back to Harvard.)

MY: The next thing I am interested in is how does the Electric Lady version of “Longtime Sunshine” sound? There are a couple of takes listed; are they any good/different? I imagine they SOUND great.

KK: I don’t recall. I remember Rivers recording them on a grand piano in the big studio A. I think he rejected them because it didn’t sound dirty/‘down home’ enough (too pro). I do remember Pat drumming, because I was asked to drum (badly) on a scratch take before Pat showed up that day. I think there’s bass too. Not totally sure, and I’m 2500 miles from the CD right now.

MY: Finally, I was just going through the history looking at I Swear It's True and Getting Up and Leaving (songs I assume would be released on a hypothetical (in my dreams) Pinkerton: Deluxe Edition).

We have:
I Swear It’s True 8/93 (available as an mp3)
I Swear It’s True 8/11/93 : Practice Demo recorded by Ric Ocasek (I assume this the TBA: DE version, which is thus available)
I Swear It’s True Summer '96 (this one is unheard...)

Getting Up and Leaving was recorded at the same time, all three times.

Is the '96 version much different/better/worse than the earlier incarnations? It's a cool song, so if you have anything to say about either, I'd welcome it!

KK: The 8/93 version [of GUAL] is a classic Rivers 8-track demo with the same awesome/lo-fi yet fantastic sound as all the 92/93/94 Rivers 8-tracks you have heard. The 8/11/93 practice demo is great because it’s a full band thing (though not without a few mistakes, etc.), and the breakdown is multi-part vocals between Rivers, Jason [Cropper] and Matt (in falsetto). The 1996 version is excellent too, finally a pro recording, but Rivers changed the verse vocals (he has since changed them back/reverted, as evidenced by the recent sheet music thing). At one point some years back when I’d commented (after finally hearing this version - I didn’t have it till I turned it up on the rough cassette mix in Rivers’s own stash in '00) that the lyrics weren’t the same. He said "Yeah, .... why did I do that??" I was like "Dude, I wasn’t there for that session, so I have no idea." (I wasn’t in Los Angeles for a few bits of the Summer ‘96 stuff before we turned the album in and flew to Europe to start the tour). This is the session that I think Scott Riebling or Adam Orth played bass on. There were 2 separate times Matt was in the U.K. and Rivers went ahead and got a temp bass player in for the session. I’m forgetting the sequence of events offhand. I think somehow Scott worked on I Swear It’s True and GUAL in Boston and later Adam re-did them in L.A.

Incidentally, the tragic tale of the missing rough mix tapes originates here - I had about 40 rough cassettes (before daily CD-Rs of rough mixes they were put on tapes) by July '96, and put them in a huge padded envelope to ship home. We were at Geffen and were catching our ride to the airport from there. I packed them up, addressed it and put it in the Geffen mail, and it never got home, as I discovered months later. I have no idea what might have been on those tapes, but if they hadn’t been lost, there would have been a much clearer picture of the sequence of what was recorded and when. Though I’m almost positive there were no mixdowns of 'lost ' recordings like “Superfriend” on them, just multiple early versions of the various Pinkerton tracks.

MY: Maybe a further question would be whether you think the 'pro' SFTBH music might see the light of day at some point. Rivers's demos are one thing, but full band versions (even if incomplete) are something else altogether.

KK: I would say there’s no reason to rule out any possibilities. Not anymore, anyway.

MY: Nice.

Talking with Karl Koch about SFTBH – Part III

Note: This interview dates to around October 2007

MY: I was hoping you could clear something up for me. Rivers gave us the lyrics for several songs, but I noticed when he posted the music that the lyrics he gave us were broken up by character and not necessarily in the order they appear in the song. Thus, we have Please Remember like this:

Please Remember (:37)
Please remember I’m only a friend
You’re too crazy to settle down with
I don’t love you but I cant help myself
Please Maria, it wont ever be
Wont ever be (2X)
I love you
I do
A friend who boinks me
Then why lead me on?
Ill make you love me (3X)
Love me

KK: It’s staggered pretty much one over the next line, like call and response but they’re singing over each other partially. Sort of like this:

Please remember I’m only a friend
.........................A friend who boinks me
too crazy to settle down with
....................Then why lead me on?
....................................I don’t
 love you but I can’t help myself
.....................I’ll make you love me
Maria, it won’t ever be
....................I’ll make you love me
..................................Won’t ever be
.........................................I’ll make you love me
..................................Won’t ever be
I love you
Love me
I do

MY: You Won’t Get With Me Tonight seems to be a combo of Who You Callin’ Bitch and this song; any connection, musically?
KK: Nothing obvious to my memory. All rocking.
MY: Good News comes at the halfway point in the opera and we don't know the words. It comes at the same point in both track lists, and I figure it has some interesting development since it follows She’s Had a Girl:

She's Had a Girl
Good News!
Now I Finally See

Now I Finally See echoes SHAG and I'd like to know what happens in between, so I was hoping that you could divulge these lyrics, too. When Rivers posted the sheet music (to other songs) he said it was really complicated, which is exciting.

KK: Good News is AKA Dude, We’re Finally Landing (as you know), and that’s one of
the lyrics. It’s really not a lot to go on, as what may be the key words are very hard to make out (2 lines singing over each other, pretty but hard to make some of it out). It’s something like:

(dialogue between 1 and 2)
(1 is harmonized often, probably means its more than one character in unison)

1. Dude, dude, dude...
2. What?
1. Good news! Good news! Good news!
2. What’s so important that you (long line basically saying why are you bothering me in my room, hard to make out details)
1. (Singing counterpoint over the above line) Now we’re landing, everyone’s... (long line basically saying we’ve finally achieved our goal, hard to make out details)
1. (later joined by 2) Now were finally landing [much counterpoint on this line, back and forth, complex, all characters throwing it back and forth]
All (or 1). Get your stuff together, 'cause now were finally gonna land.
(slower now)
1. Good news! Good news! Good news!
2. So…
1. Good news! Good news! Good news!
2. (under the above line, counterpoint) ????  is a ????? now ...
(next track)
...Now I finally see what it is I want…

MY: Is it possible that the "??? is a ??? now" from Good News might be "Jonas/Maria is a father/mother now". It seems that this might be the case... Also, does any mention of Nomis pop up anywhere?
KK: I just cannot hear it, it’s too mushed together.

MY: Finally, does the last line "now" go into Now I Finally See?
KK: Yeah, that’s what I was trying to show there. A direct segue.

MY: On the subject of Now I Finally See, is it the same melody as the end of SHAG?
KK: No. its sounds like it could be in the same song as Devotion, it’s the same slow heavy 3/4 time swing, and it matches up pretty well with it – picture if Devotion had a new part, kinda. I’m referring to the prechorus where it’s like 'sad to say I pushed you away…'

MY: I was reading through our previous discussions on the Special Coda reprise, and something jumped out at me: "They sang overlapping parts of all 3 songs, creating a song cycle thing, like when you do "row, row, row your boat" and the next person comes in on the next line, etc." So I assume 'they' is Brian, Rivers, and Matt? If so, that must have been something to hear! Does this still exist?
KK: Yes, and yes!

MY: Do all of the in-between Pinkerton/SFTBH masters still exist? I know you have the cassette demos and what ended up on the CD-R, but do you still have the 'studio'
versions that didn't make the cut?
KK: I do, but don’t call them masters – they’re just rough mixes done that day in the studio. The masters would be 24 track 2" reels somewhere in Universal Music's vaults now.
MY: I just want to know what's out there to look forward to...
KK: If you see it in the recording history, in 98% of the cases, I was going off of an item in my own possession.

MY: Also, what about the demos that aren't on the CD-R? Are they on a separate CD, or just on tape? I really want to hear the demos for the Pinkerton songs to see how they compare to the final versions, especially IJTOTLOMD. Kind of like the Blue demos we've heard...
KK: There are maaaaaannny other CD-Rs you haven't seen. However, these CD-Rs all were copied from either cassettes or DATs that Rivers compiled from cassettes. Rivers still possesses the DATs and in many cases he has the original 4 and 8 track cassette masters of the pre-ADAT/DA-88 stuff (like the stuff up to about '95). I had those for years because back in the 90's he decided to throw them away and I offered to take them instead. More recently, he asked for them back and I gave them back to him. Stuff I have on cassette dubs from the old days is mostly the same that’s on his DATs and therefore the CD-Rs. But I also have some cassettes of recordings that were either unique or one of only a few copies, that I’ve since dubbed to CD-R for him more recently, so he has everything available to look at and consider and research. There would be more masters still in existence but Rivers taped over or destroyed some masters back in the 90's after he did his "definitive" mixdowns, warts and all, assuming he'd never want to revisit/revise/remix the master again. He liked the "warts" that came with not knowing how to use something properly, hence weird/annoying/funny errors like the Blast Off! rude cut beginning.

MY: So how does the IJTOTLOMD demo sound compared to the end product? Does the synth still sound as good?
KK: Yes, it’s absurd. The demo is a tad bit slower than the final. It’s also sorta out of tune! heh heh

MY: Something else I have been wondering is if you listen to the SFTBH stuff very often, or at all? It's funny that you have access to all of these things that no one else does.
KK: Honestly, I very rarely bust out any weezer stuff! Not because I don’t love it but I think it represents particular eras of nostalgia to me - I just wouldn’t casually put it on in the car, you know? Pulling it out is like a project - revisiting the ancient scrolls, haha.... especially the early stuff, its precious to me. And the big-time stuff on the albums – I’ve heard it waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many times to really get into it musically. It’s like it’s hardwired into me. That’s both good and bad, but I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way.

MY: You said "I really feel that what Rivers put on tape wasn't the whole shebang, but rather the significant highlights of what would really have to be fleshed out if it was truly to be staged as a musical, or really, fleshed out into an album's worth of music"... Did Rivers have more ambitious plans for SFTBH, like an actual stage musical? That would have been amazing. I still think he should get the players back and do it again.
KK: Well, my opinion comes from: the total time is so short. Even if he didn’t realize it at the time, if they had gone into the studio back then to do SFTBH it would have been even shorter than Green [weezer (2001), aka The Green Album] and many of the short songs would not qualify as "songs" to Geffen - too short. So I feel, both practically and from my own musical opinion that many of these pieces are just too short - every "real musical" has overtures and extended link pieces, and don’t blast thru a whole story (including a 9 month pregnancy) in 25 minutes. I just think Rivers would have developed it more, had the SFTBH thing really gone into the final stages.

The original idea was to really perform it as a rock opera – we’d have to have guest artists on the road with us (Rachel, etc.) to play/sing their parts, there’d be appropriate lighting, stage props to some extent, etc. but no "acting" - just the songs performed by the assigned "actors"(musicians/singers) (unless Rivers envisioned dialogue parts just like in a real musical. If he did, he never said so).

I remember Matt and Rivers talking about it excitedly back when Rivers first revealed the idea. All agreed it would be super hard to pull it off, but no one was saying 'no' except maybe Pat, who surely was more interested in rocking out on the drums than doing a "musical". But Pat’s always been less into the 'cheesy'/cultured/musical/pop stuff that Rivers loved so much.

MY: Can you add any more insight about Rivers' comment that ROTR [The Rentals’ first album Return of the Rentals (1995)] helped kill SFTBH? You say Matt was really into it; did he help write or anything? I can see how ROTR had the same 'sound' as SFTBH...
KK: I think (and mind you - all of this is "I THINK" - 'cause I could be reading it wrong!) it was a case of Rivers feeling his sonic concept (space rock/moog heavy) was hijacked by Matt, who got really, really excited by it and pushed it to new heights as his Rentals album developed from guitar bass drums 4-tracks to fleshed out songs. Matt had a way of hearing something great and making it his own, usually improving on the idea. But Rivers doesn't (didn't) like feeling like a follower, and if SFTBH came out after ROTR, it would have looked like Matt's influence was leading the band's direction. I suspect that didn't sit well with Rivers, who was coming off massive surprise success and felt he had a stage to do exactly what he wanted now - and he wanted the credit for his ideas. You know, the ego and all that. Matt wasn't trying to piss anyone off mind you; he was just inspired by what he heard.

Another example is the for the ladies' sessions, which were directly inspired and influenced by Josh Haden's then-new band, Spain. I got the impression that Matt got a bit of a reputation amongst the Poop Alley [Poop Alley Studios] crowd as a bit of a rip off artist for a while there, but no one could deny his songs were powerful and ultimately way more successful than any of the stuff he was influenced by. The other Poop Alley types were no dummies either, they all appeared on the Rentals album and videos etc., because they knew Matt had something going on.

MY: I wanted to tell you what Joan Wasser said to me when I started this whole research thing. I thought you might like to know: “This is the first I have heard of [SFTBH] but I love the idea and at the time, I had a bad crush on Rivers... I agree it sounds like it would have been great.”
KK: That's rad, thanks! I remember that Rivers has said he never told her his plans before SFTBH was dropped, so that makes sense. Also no big surprise she had the crush - being on a summer van tour in the '94 scene, everyone in their early 20s, especially when both bands were getting on [MTV's] 120 Minutes, well... the energy was pretty intense all around. I thought she was seeing someone in the Dambuilders but maybe that was before and they were just friends at the time we toured together. She was so hot! hahaha... Many people certainly had a crush on her! Odd facts you may know: she was in a serious relationship with Jeff Buckley at the time he died. Eric Masunaga is a producer now. The drummer (Kevin March) is the dude who played on The Rentals' Seven More Minutes. Not sure what happened to the singer dude (Dave Derby). He was a cool guy.

MY: How about the touring with that dog. and Rachel? The weezer guys seem to have an interesting relationship with them, too (benefit 45s, guest spots, sound checks...). Anything similar? I recall having read somewhere that some of the Blue album songs are about one of the Haden girls but I don't really know a lot about the relationships that the band members were in.
KK: There was interest in both directions, but even I don't know how far the various combinations got. I doubt much beyond flirting, but that’s just my hunch. Everybody was entranced by the that dog. girls.

MY: Are Joan and Maria similar at all? I doubt Rivers got her pregnant, but aside from that...
KK: ha ha, I don’t think they got close enough to exchange more than information. Are they similar? No clue. Rivers had Hispanic girlfriend(s?) back in his early 20s, so perhaps his early experiences influenced his SFTBH semi-Latino characters.

MY: In a way, the SFTBH 'space mission' could be a metaphor for a tour with different bands (cooped up all year)... I never thought of it that way, though I do believe it's a metaphor for the rock life in general... Thoughts?
KK: It absolutely is, in my opinion. There’s no empirical evidence, but I recall the vibe back then, and it seems to my memory that that comparison was certainly made at times, at least casually as the songs were discussed by the band.

MY: Do you know what sort of influences/references Rivers was going on? You mentioned a few of those musicals and rock operas in the Buddyhead notes, but can you think of anything that inspired the sound/story or anything? Was Rivers really into space stuff? He mentioned Don Juan being the inspiration for Wuan and Dondo, so I'd be interested in knowing what else was inspired by literature and pop culture. Like "Nomis", what does that mean? You probably don't know any of this, but maybe you have some insights or memories that you can relate this to...
KK: Well, like everyone his age, Star Wars was massive when he was growing up, so the idea of setting it in space makes sense. But I know of a few possible influences that would be more direct: in 1994 we were introduced to the British TV comedy “Red Dwarf". Look into that for some possible influence, he loved that show, especially season 3. Also, Mystery Science Theater 3000. Both shows are goofy but the shared theme is 'stuck in space'. Another possibility, though I’m only speculating, is that Rivers may have seen the Japanese cartoon “Star Blazers” (like I did) while growing up. It was an addictive space action drama where they had to go get some sort of cure for a plague on Earth, but it was like across the galaxy somewhere. Plus Earth was being bombarded by some alien enemy and the team that was sent was constantly besieged by attacks, etc. But he might have never seen this show for all I know.

MY: The recent news that Geffen will be releasing Rivers's demos is super exciting, more so because of Rivers's comments in Rolling Stone confirming that some SFTBH will be included. I noticed that Rivers commented on his MySpace about this back in April '06 ("Thanks for your interest in these songs! I'm putting up the lyrics now because I suddenly realized that I can. I'll also put up the sheet music (when I have time) so that you can play them for each other! I'll release my home demos as soon as I am legally able."). Do you have any insight about Rivers's efforts to get this done? Is he more interested in SFTBH these days? How did Geffen react?
KK: Well, I’m not telling the tracklisting, but there are some goodies in the mix for sure. You’ll see soon enough. I don’t know/can’t say how things shifted, but it’s a pleasant surprise. Holding the music back from Geffen was of course going to mean waiting till weezer was out of their contract before there was any hope of the stuff getting released. Whatever changed was probably Geffen’s attitude toward how much control they would have over the project and the music – that’s my guess anyway.

MY: Oh yeah, did you have any input on the project or was it all Rivers?
KK: It was all Rivers. But, I imagine that the general interest in his demos over the years (from everyone from me to the fans) has always been in the back of his mind, and I guess the signs of his own interest have been there since he himself was leaking/sharing certain tracks as far as 5 years back to the RCB [Rivers Correspondence Board], etc., up to the sheet music MySpace sharing last year. I’m just glad it’s his initiative and interest that’s driving the project, as opposed to someone dragging him into it halfheartedly. That’s why the CD(s?) and book(s?) are going to rule.

MY: Awesome, I can’t wait! Thanks again, Karl.

Karl Interview II

Note: This interview dates to around February 2006

MY: I'm still trying to figure out the plot to Tracklist 1 (and some of Tracklist 2, by virtue of the same songs being on it) and I notice that the first real break in 'album time' comes after Tired of Sex. Superfriend is the next song and it finds Jonas talking to Lisa for the first time, presumably after having "dumped" Maria. You gave me the two verses that we hear on the DVD, but you mentioned that there was another verse before those two. I was hoping that you could reveal it to me, because I want to know what's going on in Jonas' head after dumping Maria, what he's talking to Lisa about, and what causes him to suddenly worship Lisa. 

KK: The first verse, which I think I shouldn’t be telling you, but what the f***, is:

What the hell am I doing?
Thinking with my willy
Knowing I don’t love her
I tell her no, then kiss her toes

What the heck are you doing?
Leading on that poor girl
You know there’s something better
Deep in you
Now let it through

The first part must be Jonas, the second part is... someone else. Wuan? Danno? Lisa????? (OR Jonas talking to himself!??) its not 'pitched up', but that may or may not mean its supposed to be a man’s vocal.

MY: After Superfriend comes She's Had A Girl. Now, the problem here for me is that this would obviously take nine months. Am I correct in assuming that the mission is now nine months old (give or take)? You mentioned before not being sure who the mother is (Jonas is the dad), but logic would dictate that Maria is the mother (It seems that Lisa doesn't figure in the story before this song in Tracklist 2, leaving only Maria as the mother in that tracklist). In Blast Off! they say "cooped up all year" so I am wondering if this is actually almost a year into the mission. Thus Jonas sleeping with Maria in Come To My Pod would result in the conception, because it seems that Come To My Pod is the same "night" as Blast Off! based on the conversational nature of YWGWMT/CTMP. I suppose Oh Jonas/Maria's Theme could add some insight here, so if you remember anything about that song as well, it would be helpful. Anyway, I really want to clarify how far into the mission we are at this point. Knowing who the mom is would be good, too! Do you remember any lyrics from this one? 

KK: You’re right; the mom pretty much has to be Maria. You are correct when you assume the mission is long and time slips to allow for the birth of the daughter. In Blast Off! I’ve always assumed they are early in the mission but know that it’s gonna be long. Therefore the subsequent fertilization of Maria leads to the daughter later in the mission. As I’ve said before, I really feel that what Rivers put on tape wasn’t the whole shebang, but rather the significant highlights of what would really have to be fleshed out if it was truly to be staged as a musical, or really, fleshed out into an album’s worth of music. I guess he'd disagree, but to that I say "but the album would have been like, 24 minutes long!"

MY: Next comes Good News!. First off, I wonder, based on the similarity between the title and Blast Off!, if the song is structured in a similar manner. The alternate title, Dude We're Finally Landing, makes me think that this song features Jonas and Wuan and/or Dono, so that would also make it Blast Off!-esque. Do you know who participates in this song? Next, I am wondering if the full year is now up because they have landed back on Earth, or if they have arrived on Nomis to do whatever it is they are trying to do. If She's Had A Girl is nine months into the mission, then it makes sense that the mission's year is up in this song. Can you remember where exactly the ship has landed and any character development (lyrics)? 

KK: Not same structure as Blast Off! at all. I recall it’s harmonized, with all/many of the characters signing the same parts and then diverging, singing multi parts simultaneously, like all voicing their thoughts at the same time. Pretty cool. Not a rock song, more an a cappella thing, hat finally gets an acoustic guitar late in the song. It’s short. Rivers wasn’t kidding when he recently wrote that thing about most of what you don’t have is really link pieces and segues, not full songs.

MY: On to Now I Finally See.... You said before "''Now I finally see what it is I want' is the first lyric from this one. This lyric is reprised from the end of "She's Had a Girl." It's musically similar to "Devotion""
So now I'm guessing that in this song Lisa dumps Jonas (perhaps realizing the truth about him and Maria?) because, as I said before, I'm pretty sure Getchoo is Jonas complaining about being dumped. It would make sense, anyway. If you can add anything to that, that would be cool.

KK: "Now I finally see/what it is I want" is SORTA like the feel/melody in devotion's "Waiting for you/I’ll always be your friend", in that 6/8 style time. BUT NOT REALLY- it’s just close enough to strongly remind me of it.) Anyway, I think this line is from Jonas - realizing what he really wants. How that figures into things I am not sure. The problem: I don’t think there are any other lyrics to the song!

MY: I think, after this, I'm okay for plotline, unless Longtime Sunshine Reprise has any giant revelations (does it?)...   

KK: No - honestly I think that LTSS was an attempt to add a coda song, with a tune he had written independently of the song cycle - a song about rivers, grafted into the black hole story. The reprise is just an extended bit of it.

MY: In the Recording History, Why Bother? and Waiting On You are both mentioned as being "part" of SFTBH, but neither are really included in either tracklist. I am wondering if these songs SHOULD be part of it or not, especially since you have Why Bother as a Tracklist 1 song, placement unknown... Maybe Rivers would be better off answering this question, but if you've learned anything new about this since you updated the recording history, it would be cool to know. Both of these songs are mentioned as being part of the "Special Coda Remix" so I was wondering how Waiting On You is a "major theme" without being in either tracklist. 

KK: I think these were added later - post ANY tracklist, therefore they don’t appear in sequence or really in them at all. Because they were worked on in 8/95, I must conclude (as it was still Black Hole at that time, though not for too long), that they must fit in somehow - though no such sequence was ever made. 

Also, it wasn’t a "remix". That’s my bad, sorry. More of a multi-song reprise. They sang overlapping parts of all 3 songs, creating a song cycle thing, like when you do "row row row your boat" and the next person comes in on the next line, etc.

MY: In the recording history around 1993/1994, we see Rivers doing Beach Boys covers, barbershop quartets, all-trumpet multi-song sagas (Victory on the Hill/Defeat on the Hill) and being very ambitious/adventurous. After reading that he lost his trumpet and clarinet on the bus, it made me wonder if this affected his songwriting/recording at all. Do any of the SFTBH songs have trumpet in them? Did he ever get a new trumpet and clarinet and keep writing with them? Do you know if any SFTBH songs were "lost" in his notebook (and thus never added to the tracklistings to fill out the story, or something)? 

KK: That loss was devastating to him, though I don’t think any fully realised songs were lost, no. Plenty of song ideas, fragments, etc. on staff paper. And lots of lyrics. I’m amazed we still have what we do have original lyrics wise. Most of the original Pinkerton song lyrics and sketches were lost in the trumpet case fiasco. 

He never did get a new trumpet, but he did get a new clarinet and plenty of other odd instruments over the years.  No trumpets in SFTBH stuff.

MY: From the board: How many copies are there of SFTBH out there (I think this means physical masters/copies/CDs)? Whose CD was it that was pictured on weezernation audio archive on the SFTBH section? (that would be this one: , which I think is yours?) 

KK: That was mine. Here’re my guesses: Rivers had his original cassette 8 track and ADAT+DA-88 masters. Some of the cassettes are still around (Ii have them), others are gone. All of the ADAT tapes (Hamburg) are, I think, gone. The DA-88s are probably still around, but a few might have been ruined. Cassette copies of the mixed demos: Rivers had his, plus Matt, me, Brian, maybe Pat. 1-2 more, maybe. I still have mine, I bet Matt and Brian saved theirs, Pat’s is definitely gone, any other copies would be in the closely guarded collections of very close friends of the band- if they still exist. Rivers copied his cassette(s) to DAT, but did a bad job in places, resulting in the cut-offs that drive everyone crazy (but not the one at the beginning of blast off - see below). The CD you see in the pic is one of 3 copies we made, from the DAT tape (therefore have the same cut off beginnings/endings). 1 CD for Rivers’ archive, one for mine, and one spare/emergency one (which actually I also have - in a different location though). I’m sure Rivers’ copy was the source of the mp3s he shared/mistakenly sent out.

MY: From the board: Karl once said that the abrupt begining and endings of Blast Off! were "not due to any scotch tape action". Does this mean that there is something on the tape before what we have, such as a count-in or an intro? 

The abrupt ending yes, as it blends right into 'Who you calling bitch' ..... The middle crunchy part is scotch tape editing as previously explained. UNFORTUNATELY and to my great shock, the INTRO to Blast Off! is cut off EVEN on my own 1994 cassette, meaning it was badly mixed from the MASTER in the first place… and I DON’T have the master, and DON’T know if it still exists!! Rivers messed up a lot of his 8-track masters before handing them to me (he was going to throw them out!), it took me years to sort out which ones actually were there and missing and which were taped over with later work, and what the later work was. The thing is, he got the DA-88 system in late '94 and started working on SFTBH over Christmas break in CT, then continuing his work in Hamburg on an ADAT machine while we waited for Matt to come back from his unexpected trip back to the States. If there’s a complete Blast Off! it’s on his DA-88 master reel, which I am assuming still exists, but I’m not the caretaker of those tapes so unless/untill I can actually view them again, we wont know if there’s a chance of hearing it properly with the count-in etc.

SO FAR AS I CAN TELL, these are all the SFTBH/Pinkerton related demos done on cassette 8-track, before the DA-88 (probably before the SFTBH idea occurred to Rivers):

Waiting On You
Longtime Sunshine
Tired of Sex
No Other One

And when you see any from these on the SFTBH tracklists its these 8-track demos done in LA. The others were done on the DA-88 in late 94/early 95 or in Hamburg, 2/95. 

MY: Do you know what Rivers' plans for SFTBH were after wrapping Pinkerton and the b-sides? Was there ever any intention of working on something using the songs NOT released at the time? 

KK: No he just moved on - Pinkerton was the end result, not a separate project. In other words, to Rivers, it was all one road that resulted in Pinkerton. He didn’t jump from the SFTBH highway to the Pink highway - he stayed on, renamed and repurposed the SFTBH highway INTO the Pink highway. Hence his reluctance to treat it as a legit unfinished project - to him, it was paved over with Pinkerton, what he feels is a superior and correct result.

MY: Back to the 'unheard' songs, could you go through this list and say which songs are fast/upbeat (like Blast Off! or YWGWMT) and which are slow/sombre (like Come To My Pod or Longtime Sunshine)?

KK: Tracklist 1:
3. Maria's Theme   this = Oh Jonas (:30)                   
8. She's Had A Girl  (:55)   slow sad acoustic
9. Good News!  (1:05)   baroque, musical, multi vocals w/ multi parts. slow. happy.
10. Now I Finally See  (:40)   huge rock, slow
15. What Is This I Find?  (1:20)  slow, pretty, acoustic.
17. Longtime Sunshine Reprise  (? - :30?) like Longtime, slow, pretty.

Tracklist 2:
2. Who You Callin' Bitch?  (:45)   slow but huge, rocking.
4. Please Remember  (:40)  rock, mid tempo
12. Lisa  (3:05) rock, fast
14. Superfriend Reprise (:25) slow/mid tempo. Instrumental Superfriend part.

MY: Of those songs, which is the longest (how long)? Which is the shortest (how short)? 

KK: See times above.

MY: In the recording history, there are a lot of times where you are unsure of whether or not a song is a home demo (Christmas '94) or a Hamburg recording. Is this because multiple versions of some songs exist?
KK: No it’s because I just am not sure which ones were done where. Remember I wasn’t looking over his shoulder; he worked alone, and later presented us with the sequenced cassette. I can sorta tell by how they sound, but not really in some cases.

MY: The Blast Off! we have now is the one that ends with "Whooooo you" which obviously goes into Who You Callin' Bitch?, which we do not have. However, in Tracklist 1, it's supposed to go into YWGWMT. Does this mean that there's a different 'version' of Blast Off! for Tracklist 1 that flows better with YWGWMT? If this is the case, does this version not include the vocoder verse? I'm just wondering about when Tracklist 2 was started and at what point the current available Blast Off! took shape.

KK: Nope there’s no other version, aside from the 8/95 Electric Lady one, of which I explained the various differences (evolutions?) to the '94 OG demo in the previous email. It must be, as it sonically matches up this way, that he originally had it the "second tracklist" way, then substituted YWGWMT, then later swapped back - ergo the second tracklist order (in that case of songs 1,2,3) is just the OG restored to its OG order…
I think Tracklist 2 is just a later Rivers reordering/finalization of the plan. I can’t get in his head and figure out what the deal was, but it clearly re-used some old demos and substituted other, newer ones, plus rejiggered the order. remember, the "Tracklist 1 and 2" thing was my way of dealing with this discovery: I had a cassette from early ‘95 that I THOUGHT for years was the deal, then discovered the "new" tracklist when I want to dub Rivers' DAT tape to CD. So, if that’s the tracklist RC settled on (why else is it on his own 'final' DAT this way?) then that’s the "final" tracklist. (So far as I can tell)

Let me postulate the following, you tell me if it matches what is known at present:

+ means added
= means moved to/from within the listing (not brought in or discarded)
- means removed

1. Blast Off!
=2.YWGWMT - (moved to #19) 
+3 Who You Callin’ Bitch (added later)
3. Maria’s Theme/Oh Jonas
+4. Please Remember (added later)
5. Come to My Pod
6. Oh No This is Not for Me
7. Tired of Sex
=8. Superfriend (moved to #17)
9. She’s Had a Girl
10. Good News/Dude We’re Finally Landing
11. Now I Finally See
-12. Getchoo (removed)
+14. Lisa (added later) 
- 15.No Other One (removed) 
- 16. Devotion (removed)
=17. Superfriend (added - moved from #8)
+18. Superfriend Reprise (added later)
= 19. YWGWMT (added - moved from #2)
20. What Is This I Find?
- 21 - Longtime Sunshine (removed)
- 22 - long time sunshine reprise (removed)

Come To My Pod: A Look Inside weezer’s Ill-fated Rock Opera Songs From The Black Hole

My first post is the first article/interview I wrote. Much of the information is outdated and/or has been proven to be plain wrong. I'll fix that as I go. It should be noted that not only have we now heard most of the demos for SFTBH (and at least one version of all known songs), we have also now read The Pinkerton Diaries, in which Rivers Cuomo has published many of his original notes for SFTBH. In this sense, much of this article is moot. I wanted to post it (and its follow-ups) here to preserve the feelings it captured in 2005 (and slightly beyond).

Come To My Pod: A Look Inside weezer’s Ill-fated Rock Opera Songs From The Black Hole
By: Mike Young
Originally published July 15, 2005 on the defunct "SFTBH Pod" message board.

Since their first album in 1994, weezer has had an interesting history, to say the least. In short, they have been popular, maligned, forgotten, and popular again. Lost inside this short description are many interesting details, especially about Rivers Cuomo, weezer’s lead singer, guitarist and principal songwriter. One detail which has been lost on the mainstream culture surrounding him is the fact that he wrote and recorded songs intended for a rock opera set in space, called Songs From The Black Hole, an album which he failed to complete before moving on to what is now known as Pinkerton. This article will outline weezer’s history while placing Songs From The Black Hole into its proper place alongside weezer’s more celebrated works. It will then outline how the Songs From The Black Hole legend grew. Finally, thanks to correspondence with Karl Koch, many unclear details surrounding Songs From The Black Hole will be brought to light for the first time.

 On May 10, 1994, weezer released their self-titled debut album and quickly became a mainstream success. Riding high on the popularity of the singles “Undone (the Sweater Song)” and “Buddy Holly” (whose Spike Jonze-directed videos were extremely marketable), the band quickly earned a reputation for being a fun, geeky, quirky, post-grunge pop band with a leaning towards heavy metal. Their leader singer, guitarist, and principal songwriter Rivers Cuomo had a knack for strong melodies as well as the ability to write interesting lyrics to match them. The ten song album was surprisingly strong for a debut, with several outstanding compositions, including “No One Else” and “Holiday.” Under the guiding hand of producer Ric Ocasek, who helped give them their radio-friendly sound, the band was able to hit the big time. This newfound success did not hinder Rivers’ songwriting, however, and more ambitious projects lay ahead.

Prior to the release of weezer, Rivers had begun writing and recording new songs on his 8-track, including “NegativLand,” “Waiting on You,” “I’m Tired of Having Sex,” “Gitchoo,” “Why Bother?” and “Longtime Sunshine.” This ethos of writing continued after the release of weezer as Rivers used the time between tours to come up with “There Is No Other One,” “Proto-Devotion,” and “Devotion” in July 1994. After a very busy summer and fall, weezer took a break for Christmas. On weezer’s website it is written: “Over Christmas break, Rivers worked feverishly on writing, and recording 8-track demos at home in Connecticut, and emerged with a ‘mock-up’ demo of what he was starting to envision as weezer’s next album. Influenced by musicals, operas, and ‘rock-operas’, Songs From The Black Hole was an ambitious concept album idea.” Rivers was riding high the success of his band, and it came through in his songwriting, as he was taking risks and becoming more inventive with his music. The time off allowed him to focus his efforts on Songs From The Black Hole and really craft it into something special.

The notion of a band doing something so outlandish for a second album was quite striking, especially immediately following a hit debut album on a major label. Rivers continued to work on this project every chance he got. During a holdover in Hamburg, Germany in February 1995, Rivers rented some studio time and recorded the song he had started as “NegativLand,” now known as “Blast Off!” For the first half of the year, the band discussed the logistics behind the album and whether it was even possible to pull it off.  As the band began to do proper studio versions of some of the tracks for Songs From The Black Hole, Rivers started to question the direction and feel of the project.

In the fall, he enrolled at Harvard University and continued to tinker with the album. He wrote new songs for the concept to replace some of the songs from his early 1995 tracklist. He compiled a tape of a second tracklist featuring these new songs, but the completed album was not to be. At some point during the fall of 1995, his songwriting focus had changed and he was exploring new themes outside of Songs From The Black Hole with such songs as “El Scorcho” and “Pink Triangle.” By the end of 1995/beginning of 1996, he had given up on Songs From The Black Hole. During the spring of 1996, Rivers returned to the band with a new concept and a new set of songs, including “Falling for You,” “Across the Sea,” and “Butterfly,” to fill out the second weezer album.

As the story goes, weezer decided to self-produce their second album, Pinkerton. The album proved to be a commercial disappointment. The sheen that Ric Ocasek used so well on weezer was gone in favour of shouted vocals, squealing guitar feedback, and loose, pounding drums. For whatever reason, the teeming masses that lapped up weezer didn’t pick up on the lead single “El Scorcho” and the album failed to stay in the charts long enough for the follow-up single, “The Good Life,” to make a large impression.

Despite its lack of commercial success, Pinkerton was still a very strong album. The lyrics were more to the point, embarrassingly confessional, yet poetic. The melodies were still as grand as ever, with songs such as “Across the Sea,” “Pink Triangle,” and “Falling for You” matching (or surpassing) anything on the debut. The great songwriting didn’t stop on the album, however. The b-sides to both “El Scorcho” and “The Good Life,” proved that weezer could do no wrong at this time, at least musically. Unbeknownst to the public at the time, many of these songs had been part of the scrapped rock opera.

In the years between Pinkerton and its follow-up, another self-titled release in 2001 (aka The Green Album), weezer’s fan community grew to love weezer and Pinkerton more and more, to the point where it was rabid with anticipation for a weezer comeback. After the departure of original bassist Matt Sharp, who was replaced by Mikey Welsh, the new album came in May 2001. As with the debut, The Green Album was produced by Ric Ocasek, with similar results. It was a new era in alternative music, and the sound of the album reflected that. With two more hit singles (“Hash Pipe” and “Island in the Sun” and their accompanying ‘quirky’ videos), weezer reclaimed their original claim to fame as a geeky, good-time, summer power pop band.

Rivers Cuomo’s songwriting style had changed dramatically between Pinkerton and The Green Album. His songs were tighter and more focused on a single motif. They were straight-ahead pop songs with seemingly banal lyrics. In a way, they were perfect pop songs; so perfect, in fact, that the album seemed to lack the character of the first two albums. Whether this new style was intended as an intentional turnaround from the established weezer ethos, ironically in order to recapture their past glory, or whether it was just what Rivers was into at the time (he had purposefully become a songwriting machine, churning out song after song, day after day) is still somewhat of a mystery.

After their regained success, weezer went right back into the studio to record their next album, which was also self-produced. Scott Shriner had stepped in to replace Mikey Welsh, who was let go by the band due to personal issues. Released in May 2002, Maladroit was the product of Rivers wanting to churn out albums in rapid succession like The Beatles had done in the 1960s. The album was also an interesting experiment in fan participation, as the album was routinely posted on the band’s website,, as a work in progress, with various versions of the newly-recorded songs popping up every few days. The fans would then discuss what they liked and didn’t like about the songs on the band’s official message board and other related boards. Ultimately, the album proved to be a disappointment for all involved, though it did contain a hit single and video with “Keep Fishin’.” The elder fan community was clamouring for a return to the form of the 1990s weezer that it had grown to love so passionately. Little did they know that their hopes would be fulfilled with a “Blast” from the past.

It was during the end of 2001 and beginning of 2002 that several old recordings done by Rivers Cuomo and/or weezer were made available to the public in mp3 format. Among them were several songs that were written during the period from before the debut album up to the release of Pinkerton. These songs included “Blast Off!,” “Come to My Pod,” “Oh No, This is Not For Me,” “Longtime Sunshine,” and the original demo of “Tired of Sex,” which had come out as the leadoff track to Pinkerton. These songs all had the distinction of being a part of the aborted space rock opera titled Songs From The Black Hole.

Immediately these songs were hailed as ‘classic weezer,’ especially “Blast Off!” and “Longtime Sunshine.” The shifting dynamics, the strong singing, the interesting melodies and lyrics, and the overall sound all hearkened back to the ‘good old days.’ The recordings were primarily the 8-track demos recorded by Rivers in 1994 and 1995. It was revealed that, in addition to these songs, several of the Pinkerton songs and b-sides were also intended to be part of the rock opera. weezer’s history had just gotten a lot more interesting.

weezer’s official website provided a wealth of information courtesy of band friend/historian/webmaster Karl Koch. In the ‘info’ section of the site, he listed all of the recorded songs intended for Songs From The Black Hole, including the two track listings that Rivers had compiled at different points during the project:

Tracklist 1:
1. Blast Off!
2. You Won’t Get With Me Tonite
3. Maria’s Theme
4. Come to My Pod
5. This Is Not For Me
6. Tired of Sex
7. Superfriend
8. She’s Had A Girl
9. Good News!
10. Now I Finally See
11. Getchoo
12. I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams
13. No Other One
14. Devotion
15. What Is This I Find?
16. Longtime Sunshine
17. Longtime Sunshine Reprise

Tracklist 2:
1. Blast Off!
2. Who You Callin’ Bitch?
3. Oh Jonas
4. Please Remember
5. Come to My Pod
6. Oh No, This Is Not For Me
7. Tired of Sex
8. She’s Had A Girl
9. Dude, We’re Finally Landing
10. Now I Finally See
11. I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams
12. Lisa
13. Superfriend
14. Superfriend Reprise
15. You Won’t Get With Me Tonight
16. What Is This I Find?

The songs from Tracklist 1 available on Pinkerton were “Getchoo,” “No Other One,” and “Tired of Sex.” The b-sides “Devotion” and “I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams” were also included. Of these, the outstanding “I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams” was the most important song. It featured a guest singer, Rachel Haden, singing lead vocals because the song was written from the perspective of a female character. This showcased the depth of the characters involved in the album, as well as the overall sound of a hypothetical completed SFTBH, including the extensive use of an analog synthesizer, the Electrocomp 101.

Once the weezer fan community caught wind of the existence of these demo recordings, not to mention its appetite having been whetted by the release of part of SFTBH, it cried out for the remaining recordings. For one reason or another, the flow of rarities had stopped, however, and no new SFTBH recordings were made available. The song that many fans wanted to hear the most was “Superfriend,” as it was said to be one of Karl’s favourite weezer songs. From here on out, fans would have to work with the song titles and the lyrics of the songs they did have in order to piece together and decipher the story in the rock opera.

In May 2003, it was announced that “Superfriend” would be released on a Buddyhead compilation called Gimme Skelter. As fan excitement rose during the build-up to the CD’s release, a curve was thrown into the works: the Buddyhead staff had decided that the song “You Won’t Get with Me Tonight” would be a better song for the compilation and they made the switch. Though there was disappointment in not getting “Superfriend,” the prospect of getting a new SFTBH recording was still too exciting to pass up. In September 2003, the song was ‘leaked’ from the compilation and the fans had a new piece of the puzzle. The release was greeted with much enthusiasm, as yet another ‘classic’ weezer song had been made available. It also cemented the legend of SFTBH, which continued to grow each day as more weezer fans discovered it.

The Buddyhead CD was officially released in October, 2003. The booklet contained detailed notes, written by Karl. “This track was written and recorded by Rivers as a home demo in early 1995, and was intended for the second weezer album. At the time, the second album was to be called Songs From The Black Hole and was intended to be a ‘space opera,’ along the lines of Tommy or Jesus Christ Superstar,” he wrote. “The song lyrics may seem confusing, but what must be understood is that there are 2 different characters here, one male and one female, and that on this demo, Rivers is singing both parts. The song is really a conversation between two characters.”

This new song really opened the floodgates as far as the storyline was concerned, as the dialogue tied together what was happening in “Blast Off!” to the next set of songs starting with “Come to My Pod” (on Tracklist 1).

The next major announcement came at the end of 2003, when it was known that Karl was putting together a DVD of weezer’s history up to that point. The DVD would contain previously unreleased footage of the making of weezer’s albums, weezer on tour, and some performances of songs that had been unheard up to that point. One of the songs was going to be “Superfriend.”

When the DVD was released in March 2004, fans couldn’t wait to hear the “great lost weezer song.” What they heard confused, frustrated, awed, and puzzled them. It turned out that the footage of “Superfriend” was recorded at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California, when weezer were recording what became Pinkerton. The footage was shot from inside the booth looking into the studio where the band was playing the song live. The sound heard in the booth was inconsistent, as the engineer at the session was working the mixing board as the band played. Vocals came in and left, drums drowned everything out, and then, most frustratingly, the phone rang in the studio, and the song was drowned out by a conversation. The only thing that could be clearly heard was the chorus:

Pain, pain, go away
Come again another day
I’ve got a friend tonight
A superfriend to make things right

Needless to say, the fans who wanted to hear “Superfriend” were disappointed in not getting a good-quality version of the track. The DVD version of “Superfriend” has contributed to the myth of SFTBH without providing any real insight. Since then, no more SFTBH material has surfaced. weezer released its fifth album, Make Believe, in May 2005.

After over a year of SFTBH inactivity, the fans were starting to think that the chances of the remaining SFTBH tracks being released were diminishing, even though interest was as high as ever. In the search for more information about SFTBH in general, this writer found himself in correspondence with Karl himself, discussing many long-pondered details. Here are the results:
MY: Hi Karl, I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of 8-track
Rivers was using to record his home demos in 1994/1995.

KK: Tascam Midistudio 688. It was black and had the flip up panel at the top with the LEDs showing the levels. It was the midi version of the 488 I believe. Not like we ever touched the midi part.

MY: I was wondering if you wouldn't mind being 'interviewed' about SFTBH for our 'SFTBH Pod' message board that a few of us have created.

KK: I’d be happy to answer a few questions via email, send ‘em over.

MY: There are several characters. I know Jonas (Rivers), Lisa (Rachel Haden), and Maria (Joan Wasser), but I would like to know more about other characters. Who is Jonas' friend in “Blast Off!” and who would have 'played' him?

KK: I don’t know the name, but it’s a weird name, and I think it’s said in both “Blast Off!” and “YWGWMT” [“You Won’t Get with Me Tonight”], and I’m assuming it would have been Brian [Note: This is Brian Bell, weezer’s second guitarist]. In the 8/95 Electric Lady version, Brian does the other guy's lines.

MY: Also, does the robot from “Blast Off!” have a name (M1?)

KK: M1 is the name, no idea who would have played him. Rivers with a vocoder, heh heh. In the 8/95 version mentioned above, the M1 part has been removed/replaced with a new bridge part that then falls apart and the song ends.

MY: Of the SFTBH songs that were released on Pinkerton, would any of them have been duets, or songs sung from other characters' point of view (not Jonas’)?

KK: I don’t think so, which I think is why they were ‘ok’ to adapt for Pinkerton.

MY: Some of the Ft. Apache Pinkerton demos [September 1995] have different lyrics from the final released versions. Are these alternate lyrics the SFTBH lyrics?

KK: Can’t say for sure, but that’s likely, as at that point it wasn’t Pinkerton yet.

MY: Of the songs we have not heard, do any of them share musical themes with the later songs from Pinkerton (“Across the Sea” through to “Butterfly”)?

KK: As far as I recall they are all independent compositions with no shared musical parts that you’d recognize.

MY: The released version of “I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams” appears to be the best example of a fully realized SFTBH track, as it is synth-heavy and features Rachel singing as Lisa. Is the released version of this song a close representation of Rivers' ideal vision (production aesthetic) for SFTBH?

KK: Pretty sure, yes.

MY: Do the different tracklists reflect different stories (as far as the full plot of SFTBH goes)? Are these stories complete (i.e., could there be more to them)?

KK: No I think the earlier tracklist was incomplete, and things had been re-jiggered to something closer to the final deal by the second tracklist (i.e., whatever list matches that jpeg that surfaced of the archive CD) [Note: This can be seen on]. I really don’t think it was ever considered finished, but it’s totally possible that the songs we know of represent all the songs that were intended for the story/album. Both lists clocked in at under 30 min total, so it’s likely there was going to be more bridge material (instrumental) to link things together and fill it out. When you listen to the demos in order, it’s like a rock opera on fast forward – you’re left going "wait - this story is totally moving along too fast! Slow down!"

MY: Are there any alternate versions of songs that we have already heard? I know of “NegativLand,” and I assume that there are SFTBH (8-track) demos of the Pinkerton-era songs... Are there any more alternate versions?

KK: Whatever I know is in the recording history, including 'prototypes' etc.
Note that there are references on pages besides the 'black hole' page of the recording history
[Note: – SFTBH is primarily on Page 7].

MY: Are any of the songs we haven't heard instrumentals?

KK: Everything’s got lyrics, but some of them are very short and only have a few lines, tops.

MY: The lyrics for “You Won’t Get With Me Tonight” are intelligible except for two lines:

So pissed at those boys
Let me comfort you and hold your hand.
Especially that ????
Acting like he knows he's got a ????
I know his type; you're safe with me for a while
But that don't mean I'll get with you tonight

Can you enlighten me as to what those lines should be? There's a theory that the first ???? refers to Jonas' friend (see the first question) so it would be nice to know what is being said.

KK: Especially that "Danno"
(I really can’t recall. This is likely the same weird-ass name as heard in “Blast Off!” at the end of the first verse – “oh, Juanie Danno” is my best guess at that - its weird...)
Acting like he knows he's got a big thing
(I think)


New data!!!! Latebreaking!

It's "Oh, Wuan and Dono" (possibly Donno) (w/ accent mark over the last 'o') = 2 characters. One to be played by Matt the other Brian (not sure which is which)

Wuan pronounced Juan. All names in story vaguely hispanic, yet 'futuristic/distant galaxy' style (kinda the way Star Wars names are 'different' yet familiar, like 'skywalker', etc)

M1 was to be played by me!! hahahahaha i forgot this entirely.

MY: Another member of the board has made a guess as to the lyrics for Superfriend based on the DVD clip. He wrote:

Someday, [we'll meet again]
I could try and [get] back [with her]
If only I could realise that now

??? "penin"
Save me seats for the [opera]
You can show your [will] to me
[Just] close your eyes and kill [Lisa's light]

Pain pain go away
Come again, another day
I got a friend tonight, a superfriend
To make things right

KK: Note, these [the first set] are the second verse. The DVD footage, though it appears that it goes from the beginning of the song, does not. For some reason that run-through that I happened to film started part way into the song, I don’t know why. Or rivers was already altering the song, or just experimenting. The demo has a full verse and chorus before the part you see in the DVD.

Person 1 (assumed to be Jonas):
Turn away from weakness
Turn to something better
Show me how to live right
I never noticed you
Now I worship you

Person 2 (female, presumably):
Don’t be talking silly
Save deceits for the young girls
You can talk for real to me
Close your eyes
And leave the lies

Correct chorus

This song is basically Jonas (?) and a female (??), discussing stuff. Jonas (?) in the 1st verse (which you don’t have) is deriding himself for giving into sexual desire with a girl he’s not really into. The other person (female I’m assuming) is reinforcing this - i.e. don’t lead her on, you are capable of better. As we see in the second verse now Jonas (?) is now suddenly 'worshipping' this other person (female I’m assuming), who tells him to chill and just get real.

MY: One reason I am so interested in SFTBH is the story development that I have heard so far (the songs are great, of course). I have made a guess as to the plot for each song. Could you help me with some of the songs we haven't heard?

KK: I’m not going to be much help, as you’ll see. But for the most part I don’t think you are far off...

MY: For Tracklist 1:
1. Blast Off! - We hear that Jonas slept with Maria in the academy
2. You Won't Get With Me Tonight - Jonas tells Maria that he won't sleep with her
3. Maria's Theme/Oh Jonas - ?Monologue from Maria explaining how she loves Jonas?

KK: Pretty sure.

4. Come to My Pod - Maria convinces Jonas to get with her tonight
5. This Is Not For Me - Jonas realizes he can't do it
6. Tired of Sex - Jonas realizes he wants love, not sex
7. Superfriend - ?Jonas tries to get with Lisa?

KK: Possibly. See above - somebody wants to get with someone he knows he shouldn’t

8. She's Had a Girl - ?Either Lisa or Maria gives birth or one of them is a lesbian?

KK: Somebody gives birth, Jonas's kid. No lesbian activity.

9. Good News!/Dude, We're Finally Landing - ?The ship has made it?

KK: Yes

10. Now I Finally See - ?Someone realizes the truth about someone else...?

KK: ‘Now I finally see what it is I want’ is the first lyric from this one. This lyric is reprised from the end of “She’s Had a Girl.” It’s musically similar to “Devotion”

11. Getchoo - ?Lisa burns Jonas, just like Jonas did Maria?

KK: Possibly/probably

12. I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams - ?Lisa realizes she made a mistake - did she have a love back home and cheated on him/her with Jonas?

KK: Possibly

13. No Other One - ?Jonas realizes that Maria's all he's got, even if she's bad for him?

KK: Possibly

14. Devotion - ?Jonas settles for Maria, whom he thinks loves him?

KK: Possibly

15. What Is This I Find? - ?A twist in the story - Jonas does not end up with Maria, but why?

KK: This is about some package that was discovered opened. “I wonder which of us best of friends opened and used it?”

16. Longtime Sunshine - Jonas is filled with regret and longs to go home or even die

KK: Seems logical.

MY: Can you clarify the meaning of She's Had a Girl?
KK: Somebody definitely has a baby, that’s for sure, and I guess Jonas is the father. Honestly, I’ve never seen the lyrics nor heard detailed explanations from Rivers, (not since 1995 anyway), so I don’t know how much I can help you with this. As indicated above, many of your guesses wouldn’t surprise me if they were correct - they don’t sound 'off' to me.

MY: Does ‘Danno’ at any point in the story hook up with Maria (or even Lisa)? It would be an interesting twist, I think. The “Blast Off!” lyrics are somewhat ambiguous as to who says what (at least in the Hamburg copy we have) because there's no panning like on “YWGWMT” or pitch-shifting/falsetto since it's all male. You mentioned a later version with Brian singing ‘Danno's’ parts. Could you clarify who says what? (I understand that the version with Brian singing is a different structure, but maybe you can help, anyway) [Note: I sent Karl the lyrics from]


Rivers (Jonas?):
Blast off! Up to the stars we go
And leave behind everything I used to know
Somebody's giving me a whole lot of money to do what I think I want to
So why am I still feeling blue?
Oh what a time though

(Note: this is the lyric I think really is addressing the other character, i.e., ‘Danno’, like “Oh, (something) Danno,” or a full name that’s really weird, “Oh, Juan Danno” or something)

Brian (other dude ('Danno'?)):
Goddamn, get your head out of your hands.
Here's to all the times we're gonna have.
Cooped up for a year with the two best-looking babes I've
seen all year Get me another bottle of beer
'Cos I'm feeling fine

Both in harmony:
Go ahead, waste your head
We've got the time. I hope you don't object if I speak my mind

Then it goes into a bridge section that sounds like it was just being written, it breaks down part way into it, and the recording ends.

Continuing along with the demo...

Don't forget the purpose of the mission
Or Nomis will be swallowed by its sun
Each one of you is a top graduate of the Star Corps Academy
It's up to you reach for a dream

*in my opinion*, this next part would have been Brian’s:

Go ahead and waste your life
I'm still in fear
(I think this line is really “with silly fears” or something - Brian/'Danno' would not show any fear in my opinion)
I hope you don't object if I
Crack another beer

This next part seems to be Jonas, sort of to himself now (remember, that in operas/musicals, you cant assume all the "conversations" are with other characters, there could be parts that the person addresses the audience or 'talks to himself') - or you might be right, it could be a trade off every line...? Good theory, but there’s no way to know this.

Hold on, who is it here that I see?
Wasn't she a she a favorite bitch in the Academy?
I don't know if I wanna lead on this woman
You know I've done that before
She's actually a good girl
Or at least a cheap ho...

Who you....

Here I’m a little stumped - it goes right into “Who You Callin’ Bitch,” which is also a conversation, but one voice on the demo is 'sped up', implying it represents a girl character. It segues so fast that I’m not sure who’s supposed to be 'present' on stage for it. I forget what’s 'said' exactly though. I recall it’s a debate, I think the girl is sort of defending the guy who called her a bitch! UNLESS I’m remembering it wrong - which is entirely possible.

Also I wouldn’t accept 'Danno' as a real character name - I'd keep it in quotes as a 'placeholder' for whatever the real name is. Only Rivers knows the real name, unless Matt or Brian happens to remember it.

MY: So do you think that there's a possible storyline involving 'Danno' and one of the other girls? Based on what you said about the last verse, you seem to not know... I was hoping that there would be something more explicit, maybe in a later, unheard song (later on the album, I mean).

KK: I honestly just don’t know. Only Rivers had the story in his head.

MY: Does the plot with Nomis and the sun ever pop up again (maybe in “Dude, We're Finally Landing”) or does it just disappear around the personal conflict on board the ship?

KK: As far as I know, no. Really, the SFTBH is still woefully incomplete, in my opinion, for a rock opera. I mean it’s like 27 minutes long. I think if Rivers had kept working on it, it would have addressed that Nomis plot and many more topics. Calling it finished or complete I think is a major error - even though the whole (character) story arc is apparently addressed in what exists.

MY: I assume you're talking about the Tracklist 2 version of the album. I have made a 'fan mix' of the songs from Tracklist 1 (using the Pinkerton versions of those songs) and that totals 24 mins without “Superfriend,” which, based on the DVD, is probably upwards of 4 minutes. Would it be fair to say that Tracklist 1 is a more 'complete' version of SFTBH and Tracklist 2 is only part of the story? I got the impression reading the two tracklists that #2 was only half of the story, especially based on the placement of “YWGWMT” and the seeming non-resolution given by “What Is This I Find?”... Would this be accurate?

KK: I believe so, yes.

MY: Since you say SFTBH is incomplete, I'd like to know if it was ever actually pitched to Geffen [weezer’s record company] as an idea for the 2nd album or if it was replaced by Pinkerton before even making it that far. Do you know at what point SFTBH officially 'died'? The Recording History seems to indicate that SFTBH was still around in fall 1995 but gone by January 1996. I guess while at Harvard Rivers decided to quit working on Tracklist 2 and he just scrapped most of it in favour of the new Pinkerton material? This would explain why it's woefully incomplete. Have I got this right?

KK: Yeah, exactly. Once Rivers was at Harvard, Black Hole faded away and Pinkerton came into being. But it took the whole school year. The January '96 sessions (after one semester) were no longer considered for Black Hole, but the Pinkerton concept was not revealed yet. By spring break, the remaining Pinkerton-centric songs (like “Falling for You,” “Butterfly,” etc.) were locked in and Black Hole was already a distant, abandoned memory.

There was never a pitch of Black Hole to Geffen. Rivers and the band knew of Black Hole but didn’t tell anyone yet - or if they did tell Todd Sullivan, their A&R guy, he never spread the part about the rock opera (very weird for a band with 1 album) plans to his superiors, and was likely very relieved when he learned they weren’t going to do a rock opera.

MY: I would like to thank Karl for his generous contribution, time and effort in dealing with me for the sake of this article.

-End Interview-

The implications of the information published in this interview for the first time, such as the lyrics to “Superfriend” and the details about the unheard songs, will truly be felt once the weezer fan community learns about it and discusses it. The ultimate purpose of this article was to raise awareness of Rivers Cuomo’s lost work and inform the world of what it was missing in one of the modern era’s most masterful songwriters’ most ambitious project. Songs From The Black Hole was written at a time in Rivers’ life where he was possibly his most inspired, creative, and skilled at his craft. The fact that this music does exist on tape means that there is hope that we may one day hear it and enjoy it.