HITS Daily Double

I met Merge Records co-founder Mac McCaughan (that him to your right) in 1995, when Corey Rusk, the head of Touch & Go Records, and I flew to Chapel Hill to discuss my possibly working a new Superchunk single at Modern Rock radio. The song was called “Hyper Enough” and Mac was also the band’s singer. That was the beginning of two decades (so far) of working with and for someone I admire and adore in equal measure. Mac’s answers to “11 Questions With” arrived just past the deadline for the last issue of HITS, but I couldn’t celebrate 25 years without his inclusion.

25 years ago, were you alive, what were you doing, and what were your goals? How’d that work out for you?
I had been alive for a while at that point. The only goal was to be in a band and make records—that worked out OK!

Whom would you consider your mentors in your career?
Whether it was in situations where we would directly ask specific questions, or just being around artists and music business people we respected, and seeing how they worked, I would say I learned invaluable things from tons of people, including Ian MacKaye, Gerard Cosloy, Mike Watt, Corey Rusk, Yo La Tengo and our old booking agent, Bob Lawton.

What moment changed your career and/or life?
I don’t think it has ever come down to one moment, though seeing The Who’s The Kids Are Alright in the theater in 1979 made a big impression on me.

What do you consider the best decision of your career?
I think our best decision AFTER HIRING KAREN GLAUBER TO WORK OUR 1995 SINGLE “HYPER ENOUGH” was not signing to a major label in the early ’90s.

What record of yours that never happened still breaks your heart?
We’ve put out so many records on Merge over the years; obviously we thought all of them were great and that many deserved more attention than we got. But we were never in the business of “needing a hit,” which is especially handy now, since there aren’t any anymore.

What’s your favorite career memento?
I have many great posters and flyers, but looking around my office, from where I sit now, I will pick this small flyer I made with a woodcut for a Fugazi show that my band Bricks opened, and also a Chills poster that I snagged the first time we went to NZ and got to rifle through the Flying Nun closet.

What has been the highlight of your career, thus far?
On the Merge side, having Top Ten albums by Arcade Fire and Spoon were great moments, but so is getting to work with our musical heroes, like David Kilgour, The Clean and Bob Mould, or seeing artists like Lambchop grow and change over the years, producing incredible records every time. 

On the Superchunk side, it's impossible to pick one show or one tour, though the sidestage of Lollapalooza in ‘95 was a great couple of weeks. On our stage were Helium, Versus, Built to Spill, Redman, and more. On the main stage were Sonic Youth, Pavement, Elastica, Jesus Lizard, Beck, etc. 

How many grudges are you currently nursing, and against whom?
I don't want you to have to add more pages to your magazine. 

What do you do for fun, if that’s still possible?
I try to see as much art as I can. It happens during the daytime, unlike these rock bands who still insist on playing late at night. I buy records; I make records; we travel with our kids... 

What do I, Karen Glauber, mean to you?
Karen, somehow you've managed to live and work in L.A. all these years—in radio, no less—but you still like good music. You have been our way into the mainstream, albeit for brief flashes of time! Considering what you've had to work with, I’m still amazed. 

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