Fame has its rewards. There’s the money. There’s the ability to have anything you want, whenever you want. The freebies (i.e. Daniel Craig can pull any Aston Martin out of their warehouse whenever he likes). The flocks of supporters ready to hand you their lives and souls (sounds a bit ominous, but there’s something redeemable about having minions). Penthouses on the bay. Drinks with billionaire progressives and oil tycoons. And… groupies.
If you’re not married, and you live the life of a rock star, the groupies are a perk of the gig. Man or woman, who wouldn’t want some sort of sex-starved model walking around your hotel/house/apartment/recording studio in their skivvies, ready and willing to comply with your wishes? We’re all human, right?
Well, this brings me to a recent episode of WTF with Marc Maron. I’ll start with The Largo.
The Largo is a comedy/music club in L.A. that features upcoming, as well as contemporary acts. Comedians the likes of Paul F. Tompkins and Marc Maron, as well as musicians like Jon Brion and Rhett Miller have frequented there. I’m telling you this, because the Largo’s congregation of acts is the impetus for the episode of WTF, where Maron invited Largo regular, Rhett Miller — solo musician and frontman of the Old 97’s — by for one of his no-holds-barred discussions.
The conversation, of course, revolved around Miller’s musical influences, his upbringing, his career, and Kanye West having sex “five feet away from him.”
Ok, let me properly set this up. Rhett Miller has worked occasionally with genius music producer Jon Brion. Brion is not only a musician, but he created the gorgeous, ethereal scores for films like Magnolia and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. In 2005, Kanye West watched the latter film, and immediately contacted Brion to help him craft his sophomore album, Late Registration. In an interview with MTV.com back in 2005, Brion spoke a bit about his unusual collaboration with West:
When he hears something he likes, he knows it. He has vision, and when the guy makes quick, intuitive decisions, he just has it. I’d watch him take a rough track that I had worked on and completely stand it on its head in 10 minutes — and it’s just better. It was mind-boggling.
Brion and West were working in the studio one day, when Brion called his buddy and collaborator, Rhett Miller, inviting him to come by the studio to hear their progress. “C’mon in,” Brion said, “It’s fun! Kanye’s not here.”
Miller went to the studio, expecting a fun, vibrant, musical atmosphere he could melt into. That’s not exactly what he walked into when he arrived. Instead of the fun atmosphere he was promised, everything was eerily quiet. “It was all quiet and dark, and everyone was super serious,” Miller told Maron. “I hung out for a while, watching them work and stuff, then I was like, ‘Dude you asked me to come down. You said it was fun. What’s going on?’ ”
Jon Brion broke the news. “Well, actually, Kanye is here now. He’s in the vocal booth, taking a nap… with a lady.”
Perhaps it was for inspiration. Perhaps it was to blow off steam. But to paraphrase Miller’s account of the situation, Kanye was apparently standing out on the street — outside of the studio — a pretty girl walked by, Yeezus asked if she wanted to hear a “dope beat,” she obliged, and the next thing Miller knew, he “winds up in the vocal booth, five feet away, going to town.”
And so, folks, the moral of this story? Make some f*cking hot beats. The rest is gravy.
“That’s why I got into (music),” said Miller.
To hear the entire story from Rhett Miller himself, check out WTF episode 554.