In an age when so many artists are reluctant to reveal the person behind their persona (See Wooden Wand feature) - let alone tell the back story behind their recordings - John Vanderslice sticks out like a goth at a Belle & Sebastian show.
Inquire about the brutal personal drama that inspired the newly autobiographical bent of his most recent album, Pixel Revolt (Barsuk), and the San Fran indie pop purveyor claims he prefers interviewers who "ask things that are really pushy and rude and unexpected. I love being challenged."
Perhaps more remarkable in a business where superhot producers can singlehandedly produce a hit for even the lamest wanker (Kevin Federline owes Disco D his next-born child), Vanderslice willingly shares his production secrets with the world. Or at least with visitors to his website, who can pore over 'Slice's detailed diary of recording Pixel Revolt.
You'd think the guy, whose self-owned and -operated Tiny Telephone studio has produced stellar albums for Spoon and the Mountain Goats, might worry about spilling the beans. Nah.
"If artists can't see they're just chimps in tuxes jumping around, I dismiss their work," Vanderslice laughs. "David Bowie is my lifelong idol, and it's partly because of his approach to making music in the 70s. He was so aware that, regardless of the genre, the players or the artist, music was just theatre. So much of Bowie's music was about transcending the particular. My heroes have never had problems with being transparent about their work."
Vanderslice says that transparency (and a nudge from Mountain Goat John Darnielle) prompted him to incorporate his own life into his lyrics.
"It's more difficult to write confessional stuff. When you pull off lyrics where there's no distance between the writer and the figure in the song, it's incredible. But cuz that ground is so tread-upon, you're operating at a deficit. I've always been afraid of writing about love because it's so difficult, not because it's so clichéd. I mean, how can you beat John Donne?"