Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic his own words


In 50 Song Memoir The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt has written a song for each one of his first 50 years on earth, a gargantuan task in itself, but the live show takes it to the next level; the album is performed in its entirety over two nights by a cast of seven musicians using 50 different instruments. With a set, lighting design, director, and projections accompanying most of the songs, this show is different from anything The Magnetic Fields has done before.

On the inspiration for 50 Song Memoir'I read that Bob Dylan was coming out with an album with 30 tracks on it, and the article tried to make it seem like a trend. The motivation behind it was my record company president Robert Hurwitz, who took me to lunch at the Grand Central Oyster Bar and said that he had a good idea for a new album commemorating my 50th birthday. It quickly turned into this 50-song monstrosity.' (Music Radar)

On the album itself…'I think of it as a variety show, and in any given mood on any given day, not even I will like the entire album' (Vice News)

On chronicling his life in song… ‘On some of the songs that correspond to the years, I’ve concentrated less on what I did that year, and a little more on what happened that year. So there’s an oblique 9/11 song in which I defend New York City, saying “actually it’s quite pretty under certain circumstances, have you seen it in the snow?”’ (BBC)

On the live show… ‘The set for 50 Song Memoir looks as though it is taking place in a play, perhaps the first act of Peter Pan, with a nursery, but an eccentric electronic nursery.’ (BBC)

On autobiographical songwriting… 'I don’t see telling the truth in songs as more moral than not telling the truth. If anything, I see it as lazier. You can’t paint the Sistine Chapel while sticking with the truth.' (New York Times)

On his unconventional upbringing…'My family was very beatnik. We made our own granola. We tie-dyed our own T-shirts, did a little boutiquing. We made candles with little om symbols on the sides. My mother’s religious seeking ended up with her being a Tibetan Buddhist. My mother has travelled a lot, following various gurus around. She was in a particular kind of Tibetan Buddhism which could well be described as a cult. Her guru was Chögyam Trungpa. He was what was known as a ‘crazy wisdom guru’ – he liked to encourage drunk driving, which didn’t turn out well for him. He thought drunk driving was very good for you, to sharpen the awareness.' (The Guardian)

On his musical education…'I took recorder. That was my first instrument. And then I had piano lessons when I was 7, and only then did I have the guitar lessons, which was… ass backwards, as they say in America. But at least I learned the notes first, rather than the chords. When I lived in Hawaii, I did not play the ukulele – we didn’t have one. But now I have a lot of them.'(Loud and Quiet)

On commercial success…'The only way that I know how to listen to music online is YouTube on the phone, which is kind of like asking your neighbors to play a record while you sit at home and listen to the wall. I have a pop group, and I expect to have some sort of drum sounds on at least half of the tracks on the record. That is enough commercial consideration for me.' (Daily Mail, Agence France-Presse)

The Magnetic Fields is at Brighton Dome on 7 and 8 September