The last two years have marked a spike in his own music production, with two Stamey CDs, including last year's raucous A Question of Temperature, a collaboration with Yo La Tengo. A new album, with latest production client Roman Candle, is just about done. This tour, his first in years, features fellow '80s innovators Anton Fier (Pere Ubu, the Feelies, the Golden Palominos) on drums and John Chumbriss (Glory Fountain) on bass.
MW: For A Question of Temperature, you chose several political covers, such as the Yardbirds' "Shapes of Things" and Cream's "Politician." How did you land on a song like the '70s jazz protest anthem "(Let's Make It Real) Compared to What"?
CS: "We used to play that with the dB's. We all remember fondly playing it with [Television's] Richard Lloyd at CBGB's and an amplifier catching on fire during the middle of it. We were recording last August, right before the election, so we were informed by what was going on around us. I'd say 92 percent of it was done that weekend."
You've worked closely with musicians from three generations now. What's made that possible?
CS: "Bob Mould used to say, 'Once you're on the road, you have no age.' I don't buy many records, old or new, so people will be making reference to a particular Flaming Lips drum sound, and I won't know the record. Even that's an incredibly dated reference -- I should say the Kills or something. Still, musicians find it pretty easy to communicate once the instruments are going."
Isn't it gratifying to have people search you out for the music you've written?
CS: "Actually, most of the people I've produced have never heard anything I've done. I don't know why that is. After I finished most of the work I've done with him, Ryan Adams went out and got some of our records and started asking questions about them, but that's about the only example I can think of."
"I have a compulsion to write music. Whatever's wrong with you that makes you write doesn't go away."