Nothing bolsters an artist's popularity like a smidgen of controversy. In 2000, John Vanderslice released a moody rock number called "Bill Gates Must Die" on his debut solo album, Mass Suicide Occult Figurines. Rather than letting this faux death threat fade into obscurity, however, Vanderslice orchestrated a hoax that included an angered Microsoft threatening legal action over the song. (In the end, the joke was on Vanderslice: Manufacturers were wary about publishing the album's Windows-inspired artwork after the charade.)
More than 10 years later, though, singer and storyteller John Vanderslice's influence in the indie-rock landscape is vast. His recording studio, Tiny Telephone, nestled in the Mission District of San Francisco, is home to landmark albums by Death Cab for Cutie, the Mountain Goats, Okkervil River, Deerhoof and Spoon.
Earlier this year, Vanderslice released his eighth studio album, White Wilderness, written and recorded with Minna Choi and her Magik*Magik Orchestra. Rich layers of string arrangements adorn Vanderslice's signature lyrics -- always narrative and often suggestively charged with morality and politics. Vanderslice took time away from his nationwide tour to chat with The Pitch about his new album, his dreams of living like Henry David Thoreau, and life on the road without cats.
John Vanderslice, with Damien Jurado. Friday, April 29, at RecordBar.