Tim Heidecker is more awesome than his television program with Eric Wareheim could even suggest. In between production of the last season of Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job! and the Tim and Eric movie, he’s just released an album with his musical partner Davin Wood. Play Heidecker and Wood’s Starting From Nowhere for your dad and he’ll probably nod his head and quip something like “Ah, I remember these guys. Your mother and I used to just get in our Buick Skylark, put on this record and drive for days. Of course that was before you were born.” Starting From Nowhere although comedic, rides the wild line between dry and blatant humour both musically and lyrically. The album is proof that if artists from the late seventies released these records today, we would play them only ironically.
Take me through the process of writing this record and how it differs from your comedy process.
Basically, the process of putting this record together took over two years sort of on and off. My partner Davin and I would get together on a weekend or at night at my house and based on little song sketch ideas and little melodies that either I or Davin would jot down at some point during the week, we would sit around, have a couple of beers and write a song and try to do as much work on the song as possible so after an evening together we kind of had a song written and recorded. Davin would take the song and clean it up and do some overdubs and make it passable, but it was a thing where I was in the middle of producing Awesome Show and other projects so it was a hobby. It was a fun distraction. After several months of doing this, songs just began to accumulate and it kind of became apparent that we should do something with this, we should get it out. As far as what’s different about the creative process, all this stuff is very subliminal kind of subconscious stuff; writing songs or coming up with ideas. It’s a hard thing to control when or how ideas are going to come. You just have to put yourself in a place whether it’s just sitting at the piano for an hour and plucking away, and you end up singing something that sounds right. The same goes with writing comedy. You just have to be open to knowing that when ideas come you should be writing them down.
How did you get hooked up with producer Pierre de Reeder?
I didn’t know Pierre. I got his information from Greg Kurstin of The Bird and the Bee who I’m friends with. We had gotten a demo of the album together and so much of the record is Davin making these sounds and making it sound as real and polished as possible. As I played them to some friends who made records for real, they said this is good but I think it would really stand to get another ear to mix it and possibility add some drums, and do a little bit of professional work on it. I was a fan of Rilo Kiley and he (Pierre) had a really nice disposition to him so he ended up being the perfect fit. He’s also putting the record out now so we got a little bit more than just a guy who comes in as a day player. He’s part of the project now.
Tim and Eric Awesome Show has so many guest comics. How come there aren’t any guest musicians on the album? Is Davin your only musical buddy?
Again it goes back to the fact that originally this was just something for Davin and I to do as a fun thing and I guess maybe we should have. We never even thought about it. We wanted something that we made basically from scratch. I tried to not make this about work for me, which as much as it’s fun to work with other famous people, that’s just part of my job. This was just something that came from me and Davin and didn’t need anything else to it.
It’s become vogue in the past few years to mock the smooth music of the late seventies. Is this album tongue in cheek or is it a tribute?
I think there’s definitely parts of it that are referential to that music and Davin and I have a love/hate relationship with it where there’s things about it that we love musically and there’s a lot of really genuinely stupid shit that they ended up doing that is obnoxious or over the top. So we definitely were going in a parody kind of direction with some of the styles of music and then of course lyrically it’s all pretty silly. For the most part it’s pretty stupid and meaningless and it manages to make you laugh if you listen really closely.
“A Song For My Father” has lyrics that obviously honour fathers, but the music is also a nod to the hits from our parents’ era. Was that intentional? Did your father’s musical taste affect this song or the entire record at all? I guess what I’m asking is, what’s your dad like?
(Laughs) I grew up around a lot of music from the sixties and seventies like the Beatles and Zeppelin and the Stones, and my dad loved that music. We played it all the time in the car and at home and it’s some of my favourite music too. Davin and I would start a song by just strumming the guitar and making up words and when you start singing the first lyrics of the song you realize “I guess I’m writing a song about my dad and I gotta finish this now.”
Were there giggles in the studio while writing this album?
Definitely. We were just playing to each other really and Davin is an incredible encyclopedia of that kind of music. I write a lot of the music for Awesome Show and a lot of it’s very simple, with almost nursery rhyme simplicity. It’s three chords kinda music and Davin is a little more sophisticated. He can add all these layers and texture to it that are really funny. Forget the idea of a studio, we’re in my little office in my house with a laptop. None of this is being done professionally. We’re sitting there and I’m writing the lyrics while he’s making the songs more interesting and yeah we’re making each other laugh.
Do you feel that there’s something wrong with the music of today?
I don’t listen to any of it. I probably couldn’t tell you any of the popular acts or any songs. I don’t listen to the radio and I don’t watch MTV so there’s almost no way for me to experience any popular music. I’m sure it’s appropriate for somebody.
What separates you from other comics?
My style and my voice. Eric (Wareheim) and I don’t try and do somebody else’s act. This is the shit that whatever it is, whether it’s the show or the music or the work we do, it’s a very simple thing. It’s just what we want to do. They’re not too pre meditated, the choices we make.
Do you think that the Tim & Eric voice has been imitated by Vimeo and Youtube comics or is your brand of absurdist comedy just the current style?
I think our work has been influential to people and we see it, but I don’t know.
So what’s been influential to you in terms of comedy? There seems to be a congruency between you and Kids In The Hall.
Kids In The Hall I used to love and watch consistently. All the staples like SCTV, and (Monty) Python and a lot of local TV in my area in Pennsylvania like the local news broadcast, infomercials and that kind of stuff. Music I’ve always used as an expression of my humour. You know I’m certainly not the first person to do that, but it’s a way for me to do something that I really do enjoy. I’m not interested in being taken seriously as a musician though.
What was your first concert?
I think it was the Monkees reunion tour.
When was that?
I think it was in ’88, a long time ago. It was their first reunion tour. I think Michael Nesmith was there. They had a song at the time called “That Was Then, This Is Now”. They were back being aired on MTV in the states. I thought the Monkees were the real deal. I also like pro wrestling.
I thought that Michael Nesmith never did reunion stuff because his mother invented White Out so he didn’t have to do any tours?
That’s what I thought, but I think he was around for this one. I might be wrong. Definitely something that I should check the facts about.
If you were talking with six year old Tim Heidecker, what would you say to him?
I’d say keep acting like an idiot, it’ll pay off. A lot of this stuff is letting yourself put yourself out there and look like an idiot and just be naked. I guess I’ve always been not too afraid of what people are going to say or think and just try and do things that make me laugh.
What’s next for you?
Well we’re just about to get started shooting our Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, a low budget feature film which we’re starting in a few weeks. After that it’s up in the air. We’re gonna see how making a movie feels and maybe make another or maybe go live on a farm somewhere. Who knows?
Who’s your favourite artist from the era that this album is a tribute to?
I’m a big Elton John fan, specifically his records from the seventies. I think I’m always writing thinking about him. It doesn’t end up sounding like him in the end but sitting at a piano working on ballads, I think his stuff is great.
This album is written around the Fender Rhodes it seems.
Yeah it really was. It’s a testament to Apple’s Logic Studio which is their version of Pro Tools which has a lot of built in midi sounds. They’ve got incredible sounding Rhodes. You just play the Rhodes and it immediately transports you into an era of music which is very specific sounding. You can get away with a lot just by using a Fender Rhodes with a major seventh chord. It’s a good way to start writing songs.
Starting From Nowhere out March 15 on Little Record Company.