Q & A with The Disciplines’ Ken Stringfellow

Aside from being a sought-after producer, Ken Stringfellow counts himself as a member of no less than three bands. Stringfellow is a founding member of power-pop legends The Posies, was included as a full-time member of the reformed Big Star and is also a part of REM’s live band.

Yet he has another name to add to his growing list of bands: The Disciplines. Formed in Norway with former members of the band Briskeby, the band has made a name for themselves by melding raucous garage-rock with instantly hummable melodies.

In the midst of getting set to release The Disciplines sophomore record Virgins of Menace to North American audiences, Disciplines member Ken Stringfellow graciously took the time to indulge The MusicNerd Chronicles by answering the burning questions below:

Where do you currently call home?

I have been living in Paris for 8 years.

Why do you live where you do?

I came for love, stayed for the food.

What is occupying your time these days?

This week I have been mixing an album for a singer named Dusty Stray, an American guy living in Amsterdam. I played on and helped produce the album in Amsterdam last week. Tomorrow I’m playing bass on record for Love Wollberg,  a Swedish guy who lives here in Paris.

First record purchased and at what age?

I was ten when I got my copy of Discovery by ELO! It had come out in the spring and “Shine a Little Love” was the big disco hit of 1979 that summer. I picked up the album that fall, in my little hometown of Bellingham, WA

When did you start to play music?

I started to sing, sort of perform to no one, when I was really small. I started taking piano when I was 8 or 9. I started to play in a band (keyboards) when I was 11, and taught myself guitar around then.

What three records could you not live without?

I don’t think there are three records I couldn’t LIVE without.

Who or what is getting too much attention these days?

Oh myriads of people, I suppose. I am always disappointed by things coming along with huge hype–they always disappear and they always disappoint. Most people are boring. What’s marketed to them as the new exciting thing is actually suitably boring for public tastes. And everything you hear about–no matter how indie or tastemaker it looks–is marketed by a company. Prove me wrong.

The biggest records of today, in every category, are easy listening, for the most part. Dreck. No danger. Boring. Calculating successfully the formula of what will make you look good, whether it be indie or mainstream…is CONFORMITY. I don’t do conformity. Hence….my current position, for better or for worse.

Who or what is not getting enough attention these days?

Noel Gallagher.  Electrosensitivity. You will be hearing a lot about the latter in the coming months. The former, not so much.

What has been your most memorable show?

My first jam session with Neil Young, when REM backed him at the Bridge School show in 1998. That is a real image in my head.

Worst career moment thus far?

As Miles Davis said: Do not fear mistakes. There are none.

Most extravagant rider item?

I am all about less not more. Frank Sinatra was famous for cooking canned Campbell’s tomato soup backstage on a hot plate. The problem with asking for something really stupid is that you might actually get it. To be funny, Turbonegro asked for their entire guarantee to paid in coin, until Hovde Festival in Norway actually gave them a quarter of a million Norwegian kroner in coins. The largest coin denomination is NOK20, so they had to count 12,500 coins after the show, and carry them out in boxes. That’s almost 300 lbs of coin, by the way. And then they had to bank that.

Why should people care?

In general? I don’t think they always should. Each time I come back to the States, there’s some new celebrity/reality show drama (France has them too, but I can switch off my comprehension of French which is a handy tool. Wish I could do it for English), and people genuinely seem to invest time and energy into watching, commenting on…etc. A little detachment is well employed, judiciously.

If you’re asking people why they should care about me, or my band…I mean fuck off really! I will abstain from being another manipulator for personal gain. You don’t need to make people like you, unless you are a megalomaniac. Maybe, if everything as I mentioned, that you see and encounter is marketing, maybe non-marketing is a good marketing gimmick! I’ll leave you to ponder that.