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The Tom Linton Interview Explained
Added: June 2 2002

Read: [Interview: Tom Linton of Jimmy Eat World]

Back in early 1999, during the two-and-a-half months I was a member of The Little Dipper, Dipper drummer Adam Kriney asked the other members of the band for submissions for his zine. I was already carrying my portable audio recorder to tape our shows, so it seemed a worthwhile reach to aim for an interview with one of the members of Jimmy Eat World.

Yeah, save for the fact that I'd never interviewed anyone in my life. Over the days preceding the show, I jotted down every random question I could possibly think to ask.

There really was a lot to go over. Jimmy Eat World had basically been treated like crap during their tenure at Capitol. Their first record was hardly promoted whatsoever. While recording their second record, Clarity, the man who signed them to Capitol, then-president Gary Gersh, left the company in a dispute with the higher-ups. (He later became the band's manager.) Capitol then shelved the completed record, forcing the band to work out a deal with Fueled By Ramen Records to release an EP featuring two songs from Clarity and three b-sides. They worked the EP by themselves to various radio stations, including KROQ in Los Angeles, and eventually scored some radio airplay. Capitol tried to capitalize on the attention that the band had acheived for themselves by finally releasing Clarity, then stuffed the single, "Lucky Denver Mint", on the soundtrack to the Drew Barrymore flick Never Been Kissed. The video for the song, featuring clips of the movie, was about to debut on 120 Minutes in the weeks following the night of my interview.

This was a very tumultuous time for the band. Clarity was in its fourth week of release, and the band was suddenly beginning to play in front of real crowds. In November of 1998, I caught the band at MJQ Concourse in Atlanta (with Jejune opening), and there were roughly thirty people there. Less than three months later, there they were at Twister's in Richmond playing to a packed house. The band was finally finding a sizeable audience - and you could tell that they weren't expecting it at all.

To me, the most interesting part of the interview is how much the career of Jimmy Eat World ended up moving counter to the expectations they had at the time. There was no second single. The band felt the soundtrack attachment was a good idea, but it absolutely was not. By attaching the song to the soundtrack and weighing the video down with movie clips, Capitol all but guaranteed that people would buy the soundtrack and not Clarity. And that's precisely what happened.

Fortunately, Capitol's blundering didn't ruin the band. By this point, they were already accustomed to doing everything themselves, so getting dropped (which happened during the summer of 1999) didn't make too much of an impact on the band. Truthfully, I assume they welcomed the freedom. In 2000, they released a compilation of their old vinyl singles on Big Wheel Recreation, and the profits from that one album yielded enough to produce their next record, Bleed American, on their own. They then had the freedom of shopping the album they wanted to make to the various labels, eventually joining the Dreamworks team.

More specifically with the interview - some of what we discussed may need further explanation. "Rocktropolis" was a music news website that was later acquired by CDNow. (It was folded under the AllStarNews banner later in 1999.) Singer/guitarist Tom Delonge was the member of Blink 182 who ranked Clarity the number one album of 1998. And, for those who missed the significance - Clarity wasn't released until February of 1999. Tom voted it his favorite record of 1998, even though it hadn't come out yet. (At that time, it didn't even have a scheduled release date.)

I think it's funny, in retrospect, to realize that "Sweetness" is now more than three years old. The version I heard in Atlanta in 1998 was somewhat different than the version we know today. Mostly, it was shorter - the verse sections were about half as long. In total, it was probably a two-and-a-half minute song. I recorded that show, but I used the wrong mic, and resulting tape was totally distorted. But, even as distorted as it was, you couldn't deny how insanely catchy the song was. I listened to that version of "Sweetness" for months, until the studio version mentioned by Tom was leaked over the Internet. (Part of me still prefers that short version, only because it makes total sense in a Green Day kind of way.)

Now, truthfully, I didn't know who I would interview beforehand. Singer/ guitarist Jim Adkins is usually the popular candidate, and I think I leaned in that direction beforehand. But after the show ended, Jim was surrounded by fans, and Tom was just hanging out. And I'm glad it worked out that way, too - Tom was in a totally laid-back mood, and I'm sure that helped me get through the questions. Plus, you can tell this interview was long. My interviewing inexperience meant that I wasn't sure how or when to quit, so I went until I got the vibe that Tom was ready to stop. (I think I asked every question on my list.) Any interview with Jim would definitely have been a lot shorter.

The sad part is that this interview went completely unpublished until now. I submitted it to Adam before I left the band in May of 1999, but, for whatever reason, Adam opted to publish the next issue of his zine (which ended up being the last) without any of the band's submissions. That wasn't really a disappointment, though - at the time, I wondered if Jimmy Eat World was becoming too mainstream for the type of bands he covered in his zine. (He clearly wasn't as much of a fan as the rest of the band was.)

To date, this remains only interview I've ever conducted. So much for that music journalism career.






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