Panther's sophomore album, 14 Kt God, came out last week. Where does the title come from?
Joe [Kelly, drummer, formerly of 31 Knots] came up with it. We were driving and he saw a sign and thought it said "14 karat god," but it said "14 karat gold."
What about song titles like "Beautiful Condo" or "Total Sexy Church"?
Well, "Beautiful Condo" is basically about all the shitty condos going up in Portland. It's just like everywhere you look, there's a new, horrible condo. But "Total Sexy Church" just sounded fun. I wish there were a better story about that.
How did Panther get started?
Panther got started in 2002, when I was with my old band, The Planet The. Somebody asked me and a whole bunch of other people from bands to do a solo night kind of a thing, like a solo-acoustic thing, and then I kind of just for fun decided to quickly record some shitty drum beats on a four track and I kind of just sang to that—so just kind of starting from that, almost as a joke, really. Just to mess with this one night, then it kind of kept going from there.
And now you've grown to a duo. Do people take you more seriously now that you've added Kelly on live drums?
I hope people take it more seriously, but I guess you never know. I think it's made a big difference as far as the live show is concerned. It's so much nicer. It's more real. I got so sick of doing it by myself. My last record—I probably shouldn't say this—but I didn't even really like my last record. It was just kind of finishing it off, I suppose. Then I had to tour on it, and that lasted almost a year, and so it was kind of a bummer. It was so nice to get someone else in the band and have it be different.
Your last album, Secret Lawns, was all electronic, but the new album sounds like it was recorded completely with live instruments.
Yeah, there's no sequencing or anything electronic involved.
What prompted that shift?
I just got totally sick of most electronic music, and I'm also not very good at programming stuff, so I figured it was time for a change. I just didn't want to hear fake drums. I've been playing a lot of guitar and cello, so I thought it would be fun to see if I could do that instead. Plus there were a lot of people doing the one-man-band, electronic thing. I was trying to distance myself from that as far as possible, I suppose.
You think that's run its course for a minute now?
I think so. I mean, it has for me. I don't know, nothing against the people who are doing it, because I did it for a while, but now I'm just like, "Jesus Christ, it's kind of boring to see some dude up there, just a white guy with a microphone, singing and dancing."
Live, though, it's still just the two of you, and a lot of the live instruments are still sequenced or prerecorded. Have you ever thought about assembling a full band for shows?
Yeah, that's what's going to happen next. I'm playing guitar and keyboards more now, and for the next tour I'm definitely going to try and make it a full band. There's more improvisation now, but there's still the prerecorded track, and it would just be so much nicer to be able to feed off other people.
What's the worst reaction you've ever had at a live show? Any rioting? Near-rioting?
I've had people get up on the stage and try to stop me, which is really weird.
How did they try to stop you?
I had a weird show in a basement of a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco, and this guy got up onstage and tried to put me in a headlock. Then some other guy ended up putting him in a headlock. He was just trying to stop me; he was really bummed out by it. The weirdest thing was I saw him the next night, I played in Oakland, and he was in the front nodding his head or whatever; I was like, "Okay...."
So you converted him?
I don't know if I converted him or maybe he hadn't taken his meds that night or what. There was another time with The Planet The where a guy got up onstage, and he was huge! He wouldn't get off the stage, and the bouncers wouldn't take him off the stage, either. They were totally afraid of this guy. So he was just up onstage, hanging out for 20 minutes. I just got so bummed. Everyone else was confused or thought it was a joke, and it just kept going on and on. The weirdest part was his girlfriend was on the side of the stage, giving us the finger and then showing us her breasts. It was psychotic. I was like, "Oh my God, this is like David Lynch."
Panther play Tues March 4 at Nectar, 8 pm, $10, all ages.