Interview with Jacob Thiele of The Faint

The FaintEven musicians who have been in the biz for a decade can’t escape the painstaking task of rummaging through a year’s worth of bills and receipts to present the right records to the tax office. And while The Faint’s synth-genius Jacob Thiele might live the high life as he travels from city to city touring with his long-standing, upbeat and funky new wave electro group, when it comes to yearly number crunching, Thiele is in the same boat as the rest of us. And he conveys exactly the same amount of dread as anyone else.

“I’m in my office doing my taxes and scanning documents,” he says, with an obvious sense of frustration. “We have accountants and stuff because we get paid in different countries and different states, so it gets pretty complicated, and I don’t really trust myself to do it. But I still have to get everything organized—and this is the least fun I get to have.”

If a couple of hours of boredom means that the rest of the year is open for Thiele to get creative with his fellow Omaha indie rock dance veterans, then enduring this tax torture might just be worth the pain it temporarily inflicts. With two back-to-back gigs scheduled for Webster Hall, The Faint, who have been in the game since 1995, are gearing up to unleash their latest bag of tricks off their most recent delivery, Fasciinatiion, an album fully written, recorded and produced by the group’s members.

Thiele says their long haul in the music business provided them with the experience, confidence and know-how to take music matters into their own hands. In addition to tackling the entire creative process themselves, last year The Faint announced a split from their previous label and decided to self-release their latest offering. “It feels like these last 10 years have been kind of a crash course in the music business so we thought, ‘Let’s see what happens if we put out our own record.’ We felt like we understood how that worked,” he says. “We didn’t really decide to put it out ourselves until we had done all of the other things ourselves—as far as the creative process went—but we knew we wanted to try something different for the sake of not repeating ourselves. And that’s why we were talking to majors and whatever, having power lunches and stuff. We just wanted to weigh our options. We knew we wanted to try to have a new experience.”

When it comes to The Faint, they’re one group that rarely does things in halves, and in-between their ’04 release, Wet From Birth, and their ’08 release, the band went so far as to build its own studio. Thiele says it was a luxury to have a space of their own that was free from restrictions and limitations. “There was a sense of freedom because we had no time constraints, since it was our studio. We probably spent a little bit too much time working on some things but it was fun and it’s all part of the process. And we learned a great deal.”

One of the biggest lessons the band members have had the opportunity to glean, and witness, through their long tenure in the industry has probably been the music business’ shift from a world where record sales once measured a group’s success, to a world that is instead dominated by the ups and downs associated with the huge amount of access to music on the web. Thiele says over the last decade he’s been lucky to have developed a perspective that a lot of younger bands might never have the opportunity to grab hold of. “It’s difficult to predict what the trends in music listening—and buying and selling of it as a commodity—are going to be in this day and age. For years, there always had to be a physical format and music was more of a possession to people, but now it’s becoming less of that and more of a street form of art that we share. People sample each others’ beats and make collaborations and remixes and all that kind of stuff. It’s sort of evolving into something else and that unfortunately means that some people that had a job, or a place in the business of music, may not anymore,” he says.

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