By John Davidson, Consumable Online, 9 May 2000
Power pop purveyors from the grunge-infected environs of Seattle, the Posies maintained an on-the-verge profile over the course of five albums and a smattering of compilation appearances from 1987 to 1998. Though never a huge hit outside of indie circles, founding members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow nonetheless built a strong worldwide fanbase with their strong songwriting, heavy touring, and high-visibility side projects such as their backing the occasionally re-formed Big Star. However, the Internet has helped in part to keep their catalog alive, and taking a break from his recent work with R.E.M., Ken Stringfellow recently talked to Consumable about the plethora of projects (a live album, a “greatest hits”, a boxed set, an acoustic tour) that are appearing from this allegedly defunct band.
CO: How did you work that (greatest hits disc) out with Geffen, since on the boxed set there’s going to be demos and stuff?
KS: The guy approached us about putting it out (from Not Lame Records), and I said that we were happy to assemble everything and find all the masters and stuff, but we’re not going to be involved in figuring anything out with Geffen. “You’ve gotta go talk to them. Any tracks that they own, you work it out,” we told him. So whatever he did, he did, and it worked fine.
CO: Did you provide him with masters you had, or did he pick up snippets along the way?
KS: We put the thing together. There have been things floating around, like live tapes, in varying degrees of quality. There were things that people thought, “Yeah, we wanna hear that!” from this bootleg tape or whatever. We actually have most of the masters for that stuff, and right now I’m kind of in the mastering process. I’ve got reference CDs of the first four discs that I’ve been listening to, and making sure the timing and levels and stuff is all good. I don’t know what all is out there; it seems like everything gets out there at some point. The advantage is that we’ve gone through and taken the time to EQ everything with the best possible master we could find and assemble it. It’s really good sounding. Some of the sound qualities that we heard originally was pretty atrocious. All our stuff we have now sounds really good. I’ve listened to half of it on my home stereo now and it sounds really good. There’s like, 22 songs that no one’s ever heard, which is pretty wild.
CO: Demo versions or actual songs?
KS: Mostly demos. There are a few studio things, but a lot of four-track things.
CO: Is this a Jon & Ken thing that you’ve been working on together or have you done things separately? Is like the old days in that sense?
KS: Well, we’re only mastering, so it’s not like we’re making anything new. We all had a good laugh at stuff, though. Actually, Jon and I played a show in Seattle in February, an acoustic show, that went really well. We recorded that, and we might even put that out. I actually haven’t heard the tapes of the show yet, though, but there’s a possibility that it might come out. Either way, I think that Jon and I are gonna hit the road.at least that’s our intention at this point, to do acoustic shows.
CO: As you look back on it, since it’s been a few years since you sort of officially called it quits, is it something that you have a hard time letting go of? Or do you think you’ve artistically moved on?
KS: Well, I think that we sort of have. But there’s no rules. I’ve thought about things, but not, “Oh, we’re definitely gonna do that,” or anything. One step at a time. Right now, there’s this tour thing, and I’ve got my own stuff going on and he’s got his own stuff going on. That will definitely continue. There’s a lot going on.
CO: As far as the Geffen Greatest Hits collection, had you been working on your own independent boxed set before they started gathering tracks together or was that a leftover label obligation to you?
KS: No, they didn’t have an obligation but they have a right to do it. I was kind of surprised, actually. We started working on the boxed set and then we got a call right out of the blue from Mike at Universal, who’s been putting together a lot of these reissues, and he was really into doing a “best-of.” I thought, “That’s great.” I thought it was very interesting because it was kind of approached like a “greatest hits”, and we didn’t really have any hits, but they could still put one out. We kinda helped them. We told them that we were working on this boxed set, and kind of narrowed things down so that they don’t overlap. There’s just stuff from the albums on the “best-of”, plus stuff from compilations and a B-side or two. There’s really no B-sides on the boxed set. I think there’s one. Essentially, they’re totally separate.
CO: Have you ever had any desire to re-work your songs? When I think of “greatest hits” I’m reminded back to when the Police broke up, Sting’s original idea was to re-work a bunch of their songs, and then release that as their “greatest hits.”
KS: He’s crazy. From the fan point of view, if I ever went out and got a “greatest hits” and got messed up versions, I’d be pretty bummed.
CO: Sting’s rationale was that songs take on a new meaning after playing them for four or five years.
KS: To that I would say, “Live album.”
CO: Getting back to the boxed set, was it fan input that led you to pick what you’re picking for inclusion?
KS: A little bit, yeah. There was a couple of people: the guy from the label and then a guy from the Posies mailing list. The guy from the list had a few tapes. The “best-of” thing is all the singles, plus a couple of key “shoulda been” singles, plus a couple of B-sides. The boxed set is just “never coulda been” singles. That’s kind of the difference between the two projects.
CO: Do you think that the Internet offers a lot of opportunity for things like this to happen with regards to distribution?
KS: For sure. The whole thing that really opens it up is the international angle, and then getting this kind of thing publicized outside and even inside of the U.S. It’s kind of an obscure thing.