3/13/92 - Walt Mink Signs Record Deal

Found in the March 13, 1993 issue of MacWeekly. Written by Ander Murane.

A couple of Saturdays ago I talked to Walt Mink at the Let it Be Big Star tribute for which they had driven all the way from Madison in order to play one song. I asked lead singer/guitarist John Kimbrough for an interview with the band, they said “sure, why not?,” I got their phone number and we went on our separate but merry ways.

But when I finally got back to John, he told me that they were leaving for Madison the next day to begin their month long recording debut with independent label giant Caroline at Smart Studios. So, not being able to talk to them face to face I settled for the wonders of Japanese technology and did a phone interview which I recorded on my answering machine. It went something like this:

Mac Weekly: So, are the rumors true about you being signed with Caroline?

John: Yeah, it’s true. We are signed with Caroline.

Weekly: Is it also true that Butch Vig is going to produce the album?

Kimbrough: No, that’s not true. We’re actually working with two co-workers of his that run that studio. Butch Vig is way too busy these days to do this project. He’s currently producing the Sonic Youth record and that’s probably going to take him… oh God, it’s probably going to take him well into 1996. And then after that he’s got about forty other projects. I hope he gets to hear the mixes of it and get an opinion, but no, he won’t be involved in it.

Weekly: That would have been too good to be true.

Kimbrough: Yeah that would be amazing. We thought that was gonna happen, it was close. He was the one who hipped some of the other people to the music. Yeah we’re happy with the way it turned out this time around because it turns out that Quincy Jones is gonna be producing, so we’re really psyched.

Weekly: And Michael Jackson is going to come in and do a spot with you?

Kimbrough: Well Michael’s got a bit of an attitude, he’s a little bit of a rock star. He doesn’t even talk to us, but Quincy’s been really mellow about it.

Weekly: So you’re not looking to be selling your tapes in Super America?

Kimbrough: Well, possibly. I don’t know [asks Joey and Candice]. Um, yeah, I think we’re looking at some sort of limited Superette release. Maybe the Holiday chain of stores.

Weekly: What’s going to be on the new album? Are you going to re-record old Mink stuff so that other people can hear it or are you going to record new songs?

Kimbrough: Oh no,no,no, we’re going to be doing all the stuff. It’s funny ‘cause probably a lot of the people who like our stuff now are going to be getting higher quality recordings of the stuff that they already know. But since nobody else in the country has ever heard it before we’re kind of considering it as new stuff.

Weekly: Will I get my $4.99 back at Northern Lights?

Kimbrough: Yeah, Yeah tell everybody they can go to the stores that they purchased their little demo tapes from and they can get complete refunds. No, better yet, they can exchange their demo tapes for a CD copy of the recording.

Weekly: Is “Pink Moon” (a Nick Drake song) the new single?

Kimbrough: One of our new singles. We actually put out two singles.

Weekly: Whafs the other one?

Kimbrough: We put out one on Crackpot Records which is going to be released really soon and that’s got a song called “Shower Down” and a song called “New life.” And the second we released on Red Decibel Records which has “Pink Moon” on the A side and “Free to Be You and Me” on the B side.

Weekly: Oh! You’re putting that on the B side? God bless you, that’s one of my favorite covers anyone’s ever done! [I am unable to control my gushing on hearing this.]

Kimbrough: Cool, I’m glad you like it.

Weekly: OK, some more questions about Caroline. Did they court you or did you have to put your feet in some doors?

Kimbrough: No, no, no we were really fortunate as far as that went, we got courted. We got lucky too. A guy who knew a lot of people at Caroline saw us in New York and really liked us, got a bunch of tapes from us and hipped us to all those people and they started calling us and talking to us and that’s how that kind of happened.

Weekly: Are you nervous?

Kimbrough: Are we nervous? I don’t know [asks Joey and Candice.] Joey’s a little nervous, I can tell.

Weekly: Well if you have to ask it doesn’t sound like you’re too shaken up.

Kimbrough: No, we’re not nervous. We’re psyched, but we’re not nervous.

Weekly: Are you going to play Springfest?

Kimbrough: I don’t know, nobody’s asked us to play Springfest. Oh, we are? Oh, Joey says we are. Joey’s our booking God.

Weekly: Where is this mythical “all-nite grocery store.” SA closes at Midnight and that’s frustrating.

Kimbrough: Rainbow food at Midway. That is he original, the all-nite grocery store as far as I’m concerned. At least for the Macalester community.

Weekly: All right, thanks. Have you met Smashing Pumpkins? You’re along the same vein musically and you’re both on Caroline.

Kimbrough: Yeah we met them actually. When they came here they were opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the St. Paul Civic Center and they went on early and we were playing that night so they came down to the entry to see us and we met them briefly. We also met Pearl Jam, just for the record.

Weekly: My response to that is big fucking deal.

Kimbrough: [Laughing] Yeah well that’s… well I can’t say anything quite as flip as that or it gets printed and I feel bad.

Weekly: Is it encouraging to see a band like Smashing Pumpkins receiving so much acclaim?

Kimbrough: Totally. When I first heard the record I was kind of bummed ‘cause I felt like we do that too and somebody had beaten us to the punch or something. I think what we do is different enough so that you know… [aside in a mock voice] Oh I’m sorry. The phone chord keeps tickling the back of your head. Can you print that?

Weekly: Sure.

Kimbrough: I think that we’re two very different bands. I love what they do, I think what they do is incredibly awesome, and if we could make our record sound half as heavy as that record I’d be completely psyched. The production on that record is humongous.

Weekly: I doubt you’ll have any problem with that. (I’ll take Mink over Smashing Pumpkins any day!)

Kimbrough: Well I hope so man, I sincerely hope so.

Weekly: Were you kidding when you said that the Sonic Youth album was going to take until 1996? [asks the gullible one]

Kimbrough: Yes that was a joke, I was joking.

Weekly: I feel kind of played.

Kimbrough: No, no, no that was me being sarcastic. I consider sarcasm to be soul food. Can you print that too please?

Weekly: Absolutely.

Kimbrough: If there’s a section in the article where there’s bold print, where you take an excerpt, will you quote me as saying “I think sarcasm is soul food” in giant, bold 14 point lettering?

Weekly: How about a headline?

Kimbrough: Yeah that’s good.

Weekly: Alright, let’s try a Barbara Walters - if you could be any flavor convenience store burrito, what would it be?

Kimbrough: Convenience store burrito? They don’t make avocado convenience store burritos do they?

Weekly: No, I don’t think so.

Kimbrough: [Repeats question to the others] Joey says bean and cheese and Candice says hot beef. I would have to go with… God, so I can’t be bean and cheese or hot beef? What else is there? [Armageddon ensues] Peppercheese? That’s a little rough. I don’t think they make that.

Weekly: Ask Candice if that was a blatant phallic reference.

Kimbrough: [Relaying Candice’s answer] It was a reference to her own phallus. [Aside to Candice] It did come out a little fast, it was sort of instantaneous. [Laughter in the background]

Weekly: Sorry, just picking the subconscious. Alright, I’m going to pry now, how much money are you going to make off this?

Kimbrough: Um [aside]…can I tell him how much we’re making? We signed for a $750,000 advance.

Weekly: You lie.

Kimbrough: Yes, I do lie. I’m kidding. We’re making practically…we’re making nothing.

Weekly: So you’re not about to ditch the day time jobs?

Kimbrough: Oh no, we don’t ditch them yet. Hopefully someday we’ll be able to. But no, it’s not like some fat guy chewing a big cigar comes up and says [assuming a fat cigar chewing corporate exec.voice] “Kid, you’ve got talent. I’m gonna make you…” and instantly lays all this on.

Weekly: Of course not. Alex Chilton was washing dishes a while back.

Kimbrough: Oh, Alex Chilton is still washing dishes. Alex Chilton is wondering where his next car payment is coming from.

At this point the conversation turns to Alex Chilton and Big Star, but for brevity’s sake…

Weekly: Well, that’s about all for now, any more bold print words?

Kimbrough: How about a bold print to everyone we like. We just want to say hi to Macalester and we love them very much and we’re gonna play there really soon and I like hanging out there still and all that kind of stuff.

Weekly: So now that you’re big shit you’re not about to leave us in the dust?

Kimbrough: Yeah, exactly. Now that I’m BIG SHIT in my little like studio apartment eating… Campbell soup in a can. I won’t forget my fan base of 250 people.

Weekly: Well, good luck. Maybe I can talk to you in the spring and see how the session went.

Kimbrough: Yeah, that would be great. Maybe we can all actually be in the same room together.

My sentiments exactly. John was extremely friendly, charming and hopefully I can do a follow up with all of them in April, but next time not via AT&T. Mac’s most illustrious musical alums (and that’s impressive considering that both Lou Reed and Duke Ellington went here, didn’t they?) are currently recording for Caroline, one of America’s biggest and successful independent labels. Not a bad start for a bunch of old Scots.

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