The Wig's Q & A with stellastarr*'s Arthur Kremer
March 3, 2004
TW: When did you start playing your instrument?
AK:
Well let's see here.  I first learned how to play piano in the summer before college.  Then freshman year I learned how to play guitar and then sophomore year it was the drums.  However I should point out that I feel like I am still learning.  I also don't feel like I have truly learned how to play until stellastarr* started, almost four years ago.

TW:
At what point did you know that music was "it," what you were meant to do?
AK:
It's not really like that... I look at it more in the way that we chose to do it.  Everyone in the band had other things going on... other interests.  I was into acting and design.  Shawn was into painting and did acting as well.  Mandy was into design and was gonna move to Cali to be a beach bum.  I guess Michael's thing was always music.  I guess what I am trying to say is: WE all had other things, other interests and we did music as yet another hobby or a creative outlet.  At first anyway... then it got more serious after a while...

TW
: How did you all meet?
AK: Good god I've told this story many times but here it goes again.  Well me, Mandy and Shawn all knew each other in school.  We went to Pratt Institute of Art.  At Pratt we were also in a band called Ghistor.  It was a joke band for the most part... we did however have a few serious songs, especially towards the end.  Anywho, after school we all went our separate ways for a bit.  I was still friends with Shawn 'cause we did acting together, plus he couch surfed at my place for about a year.  I would always nag him and tell him how we should get back into doing music again and maybe even start up a band.  By the way and this is a side note: Me, Shawn, and Kevin (a drummer from Elefant) almost started a band together.  I played bass, Kevin played drums and Shawn sang and played guitar.  In any case, I wanted to get something going again and Shawn said that he would do it if Mandy came aboard.  Long story short (too late) we rang her up, she was down and that is that.  Then one day I went back to my old apartment to get some old mail and ran into my ex-roommate Alex.  Michael happened to move into my old room.  We got to talking and I said how I am starting a band and tomorrow is our first practice.  I also said that we might be interested in getting another guitarist for texture and fuller sound.  Alex was like "Well... Michael here plays guitar..." I invited him to come over the next day and the rest is history.

TW: At what point, after you'd met, did you decide to form a band? And, where does the name "stellastarr*" come from?
AK: Well we formed a band as soon as we met.  In fact that was the sole purpose of getting together in the first place.  It was us fucking around at first but then it got serious.  Stellastarr* comes from... well you should ask Shawn about that.  I will say that it came from him.

TW: What were your earliest influences?  Who did you listen to early on that made you want to listen to/play music?
AK: I grew up in North Eastern Europe, so I listened to a lot of Euro-trash, Italian stuff and most importantly ABBA.  Later in my teens I got into Pink Floyd and the Beatles.  College is where I feel I have truly blossomed as far as my musical taste is concerned.  As far as what influences me... well that is very hard to say.  We live in a time where there is so much sensory input all around that it is hard to pit down a core influence.  I learned a great deal from everything, even stuff I don't like.

TW: You must now, as a band, feel that something has really been accomplished. When did that feeling first arise? At a gig? In the studio?
AK: That feeling was there from the time when we wrote our first good song (which was "Bloated Wife" by the way).  I guess having a record out in stores and seeing your own video on MTV (even if it is at two in the morning) gives us a sense of accomplishment.  Not to mention fans... core audience that gets together at every show and enjoys our muisc... the fact that we could round up enough strangers in one spot.  That gives us a great sense of accomplishment.

TW: At this point in your career, do you read reviews? Do they matter to you, or is making the music and getting it out there the final step in the process for you?
AK: I never really read reviews... maybe when we first started but haven't for a while now.  They don't matter to me especially due to the fact that most of them are written so poorly.  Besides, no review would make me change my opinion about our music.

TW: Follow-up to that: How do you measure your own success? By the critics? Record sales? The fans?
AK: I guess it's a little of both.  Also we'd have to define "success." I am sure that by some standards we are already very successful and by others we haven't even been born yet.  I think for a beginner band we are mildly successful.  More or less we are at a point where we want to be at this stage of our career and so far everything has been going according to plan without any major set backs.

TW: It seems that most bands formed and began making music in an effort to create something new because they somehow disapproved of what the current style was.  Did/Do you feel this way?
AK: We did not get together in protest or any sort of rebellion against the current trends of the time.  We got together to have fun and make the kind of music we can have fun with.

TW: Is there music out currently that you respect/listen to/LOVE?
AK: Absolutely!!! Even in seemingly worst musical trends (which I should say, is right now...) there is great stuff out there.

TW: Personally, I hear a lot of different ideas flowing through your music, noticeably, an influence from the 80s.  What, do you feel, about your music sets it apart from what else is being made?
AK: I don't know... I feel it's up to the listener to say this.  We just strive for ingenuity and to write the best song we think we can write.TW: Personally, I hear a lot of different ideas flowing through your music, noticeably, an influence from the 80s.  What, do you feel, about your music sets it apart from what else is being made?

TW: What kind of anxieties still go into the live show? Do you still, if you ever did, get nervous going on stage?
AK: There is always some form of anxiety or a sense of anticipation.  I think when all of that is gone it's time to wrap it up and just make studio albums... (see the Beatles).

TW: Are there any songs that you LOVE to play live?
AK: I love to play all of our songs live.

TW: What kinds of response do you get from fans at shows? How do you feel about having fans?
AK: Great and great.

TW: You have played with some very impressive names such as Jane's Addiction, The Strokes and Joe Strummer.  What was it like to play with Strummer? What did it mean to you then? And what does it mean to you now?
AK: It was a first show where we got to play in front of so many people.  I don't think we cared who it was with at the time.  We never got to meet Joe or even see him before or after the show.  So it didn't mean that much to us at the time.  However looking back at the event with Joe being gone and all, it was great to be a part of on of his last performances.

TW: Are there any other bands you have toured with that stand out to you? Perhaps, made an impression on you or your music?
AK: I think our best experience has been touring with The Raveonettes.  They were kind, generous and just beautiful people all around.  We became good friends.  I also respect and admire what they are trying to do with their music.  I think they are great!!!

TW: Are there any other certain people that you've especially enjoyed working with?
AK: For the most part I had a great time working with our producer Tim O'Heir.  I learned a great deal from that experience.  Also Jimmy or The Mod Alien (a guitarist from Elefant).  We recorded a few things with him and it's always great...

TW: Finally, if you could tour with any band, who would it be, and why would you choose to tour with them?
AK: Radiohead would be cool or ABBA!!!
interview by Ashley Graham
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