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"This record was a lot more time-consuming and complicated than the others," Sitek says with a sigh. "I guess you could say there was a lot more addition at the beginning, followed by a lot more subtraction," he adds cryptically. "We recorded every possible way and on every medium you can imagine. Every member of the band took ownership of different parts. We're chronic overdoers."
Sitek brushes off the suggestion that the band was upset by the rampant Internet prerelease leaking of Cookie Mountain. ("We just knew right then and there that we could make a big deal out of something we had no control over, or we could just get some pizza. We chose the pizza."). It's obvious that music is not foremost in his mind these days.
"In the grand scheme of things," he says, "given situations like Katrina and wars overseas, we're way more concerned about other, far more important things. We didn't set out to make a political record. We were just trying to cover all aspects of what it's like to be a human being right now. It was just impossible to ignore what's going on in the world."
That's obvious from the album's opening line (I was a lover before this war) and also from songs such as the free-download single "Dry Drunk Emperor," which harshly criticizes the Bush administration's handling of the Katrina situation.
Though Sitek isn't surprised, he says he's disappointed by the lack of more message-driven music.
"I do think that it's happening it's just not supported by the music industry," Sitek says. "I'm more surprised about the lack of Abbie Hoffmans than the lack of Bob Dylans at this point anyway. Huxley would say that the government doesn't have to bother controlling what people can read, since most people will just take Soma and not be interested in reading anyway. I'd say what we're experiencing right now is a combination of fear and Prozac.
"I'm obsessed with the idea that there are billions of people without clean drinking water," he continues. "It's really fucking with me. It's kind of hard to be talking about music and simultaneously thinking about that fact. I'm really into the work of Dr. [Masaru] Emoto, who wrote The Hidden Messages in Water" which postulates that water can absorb and transmit human emotion. "I read that and The Secret Life of Plants in the same month, so now I'm really sensitive to the idea that, as a human species, we're all connected, and how our thoughts can affect outcome and physical properties. What kind of overwhelmingly positive experience can occur in the world to drown out the sound of doubt and fear that's so prevalent right now?"
TV on the Radio's music poses the same question and answers with the music itself. Modesty aside, Sitek knows that there's no need to belittle its value. Music is not a luxury.
"Instead of focusing on the world falling apart, we should be thinking that something beautiful and possible could explode right in front of us," Sitek says, animated. "Music is an immediate way to break a cycle. You can blast the speakers and overwhelm yourself. With this record, we really wanted to contribute to the positive power of that feeling."