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TERRY GROSS, host:

This is Fresh Air. I'm Terry Gross. My guest, Rivers Cuomo, is the lead singer, guitarist and principal songwriter of the band Weezer. The band first got attention in the mid-'90s when the video for their song "Buddy Holly" got a lot of airplay on MTV. Weezer has continued to record and perform, sometimes with long breaks in between. They released an album last year, but during this time, Cuomo has written many songs that never made it onto Weezer albums. So, he's released two solo albums of home recordings. He wrote most of the songs, plays all the parts and does the vocal harmonies. The stories behind the songs reveal a lot about his life and musical influences. He spent part of his childhood on an ashram and went back to Harvard to study music and literature after becoming a rock star. Let's start with a song from his second volume of home recordings, "Alone II," which was just released. This is "My Day Is Coming."

(Soundbite of song "My Day Is Coming")

Mr. RIVERS CUOMO: (Singing) Sometimes I lose my pride, And leave my best behind, And everybody has a good laugh.

But still I understand The chance is in my hand. Someday I am going to make 'em believe.

So, people all around, Let me hear you lay it down. This is all the hope I have.

My day is coming. My day is coming. My day is coming. It's coming up some day...

GROSS: Rivers Cuomo, welcome to Fresh Air. Now, you actually wrote that as a soccer anthem. Your new CD alone has, like, fabulous stories behind each of the songs, so tell us the story behind this song that we just heard.

Mr. CUOMO (Lead Vocals, Weezer): Well, I was trying to get to the World Cup in 2006. I'm a big fan of the U.S. soccer team and international soccer. So, I contacted the U.S. Soccer Federation and asked for tickets, and they said, sure, but we'd like you write an anthem for the team. And unfortunately, I was super busy at the time. But eventually I got around to it after the World Cup, after the U.S. has completely failed miserably in the first round, scoring only one goal and get - losing all three games. So, I went to write this anthem after the fact, and you know, I was - it was - I was depressed, as any U.S. soccer fan was at that time. So, I tried to write the anthem, but it came out to be almost despairing, rather than triumphant.

GROSS: So, where does the material come from on the two "Alone" CDs? These are, for the most part, songs you have not recorded with Weezer. They're great songs. Where have they been?

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah. I don't think any of these songs were recorded and released by Weezer, but these - they span the entirety of Weezer's career, from '92 up until just last year. And for whatever reason, the songs weren't selected by the band to record for the albums. So, I've just had them sitting in my room and I love them so much, and it's been killing me that no one's heard them. So, I finally convinced the record company to let me put them out in this low-key way, and you know, no one's expecting it to be this big seller or anything. So, there's no pressure, I can just promote it the way I want to, and everyone's having fun. And the fans get to hear these songs that I love.

GROSS: Now, one of my favorite songs on "Alone II" is a song called "I Was Scared," which is about an event when you were a junior in high school and you were being bullied by jocks.

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah.

GROSS: So, tell us the story of what happened that led to this song.

Mr. CUOMO: Well, junior year of high school is when I figured out how to do my hair, and I was really...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUOMO: I was into heavy metal at the time, and I had been experimenting with different kinds of mousse and gel and blow-drying and scrunching and all these different techniques. And then one day I figured it out, and my hair just popped up and it looked - I thought it looked amazing. But boy, the jocks didn't like it. And me and all my friends, of course, were wearing heavy-metal-type clothing to school. And we weren't the necessarily the biggest guys, so we'd get pushed around all the time. And on one occasion, they made us an offer, that if my brother would fight this one guy, David, they would - you know, that would be the one final fight and then they would leave us alone after that. It was kind of a baloney offer, to be honest with you, and I knew it at the time. My...

GROSS: So, your brother fought and he was getting pretty beat up, and where were you?

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah, they said, if your brother meets David out back after school, that will be the last fight. And I said to my brother, it's up to you, man. If you're willing to do this, that's great. And so, we put it all on him, and he said, yes, he would do it, and the understanding was that the rest of us had to stay inside. Now, I knew very well that all the other guys, all our other enemies, were going out there to surround him, and they did. But I stayed inside like a total coward, and I felt guilt - so guilty about that, like I had betrayed my brother - and of course, I had - and I pretty much buried that in my unconscious mind for years. And then in 2003 - what's that, 16 years later? - I was doing some intensive meditation, and suddenly this tremendous feeling of guilt came up. And as soon as I got out of that meditation course, I ran to my guitar and wrote the song "I Was Scared."

GROSS: It's a great song. Let's hear it. And here's Rivers Cuomo, from his new CD, "Alone II," and he's doing all the parts on this.

(Soundbite of song "I Was Scared")

Mr. CUOMO: (Singing) Oh, whoa. Listen to me, I've got to clear the air, There's something I've held way down deep inside all these years. You always were a friend. You always trusted me. But now I must admit that I was not trustworthy.

I let you down. I sold you out. I turned away as you fell onto the ground. I was scared, and I was terrified. I was lost, and so I shied away...

GROSS: That's "I Was Scared" from Rivers Cuomo's new solo CD, "Alone II." There's a version of "I Was Scared" that's on the Internet now, where you had basically held these open auditions through the Internet to find a pianist and an a cappella group to accompany you performing "I Was Scared." And it really - it sounds terrific. I want you to talk about why you heard piano in your mind for this, because on the recording we just heard from you album "Alone II," it's guitar-based. So, why did you also hear piano as an option for this?

Mr. CUOMO: Hmm.

GROSS: And along with that, why did you want to hold auditions on the Internet? I guess that's kind of the larger question.

Mr. CUOMO: Hmm. Well, I know growing up in middle school and high school, I was very into classical music and classical singing and then later even opera. And so I have this other side to me that's very into art music and Schubert and Schumann songs, and a lot of these are just piano/vocal arrangements. I've never really gotten the chance to do that with Weezer, and working on these "Alone" projects, I feel so free I can really try anything, I'm not limited by what the other guys are into or what they're capable of.

So, - and now with YouTube, I can pretty much - the world is available to me. I can just - I can put up a call for musicians, and I've gotten hundreds of replies, and I can just pick whichever one feels right to me. And in this case with "I Was Scared," I heard it being something like a really aggressive Schumann song or something, not just a piano strumming chords, like, along to a pop song like "My Day Is Coming" or something, but somebody who could really shred. And because the chord progression's so simple, somebody could come up with very intense variations to make it interesting over the course of three and a half minutes.

So, this one girl replied, who is a Juilliard student, and she's just a fantastic musician with all the technique and power, and I knew it was going to be great. And I had had the experience singing piano/vocal songs as a teenager, so I knew I was just going to have a blast doing this. And it was one of the most fun things I've ever done.

GROSS: I really like it. So, here's a version of the song we just heard, "I Was Scared." And Rivers Cuomo is singing lead, and tell me the name of the pianist who you found through the Internet.

Mr. CUOMO: Her name is Sonia.

GROSS: OK.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: We'll keep it to that.

Mr. CUOMO: That's all I know.

GROSS: And the name of the a cappella group accompanying you, who you also found through the Internet?

Mr. CUOMO: These guys are part of the Dartmouth Aires, which is the male a cappella group at Dartmouth, from New Hampshire.

GROSS: Well, here they are, with Rivers Cuomo, and this is just from the Internet.

(Soundbite of song "I Was Scared")

RIVERS CUOMO and DARTMOUTH AIRES: (Singing) Oh, whoa. Listen to me, I've got to clear the air. There's something I've held way down deep inside all these years. You always were a friend. You always trusted me. But now I must admit that I was not trustworthy.

I let you down. I sold you out. I turned away as you fell onto the ground. I was scared, and I was terrified. I was lost, and so I shied away...

GROSS: That's Rivers Cuomo with a pianist and an a cappella group that he found through Internet auditions, and Rivers Cuomo has a new CD called "Alone II." What we just heard isn't on there, but a different version of that song is. Now, you know, at the beginning of that song is a form of rapping. And you know, in your liner notes to "Alone II," you talk about how - I think this is where I read it - you talk about how you always felt kind of embarrassed when white people would rap or try to sound really funky and black.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah.

GROSS: And you always, like, promised yourself you wouldn't do that, and that you could hear Weezer evolving towards this, like, uber-white non-funkiness.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah, that's right.

GROSS: And yet you found, I think, a way of having something that's kind of rap that sounds really true to who you are in that song.

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah, it's funny. When Weezer first debuted in '94 with the Blue Album, we had a very focused sound, and to accomplish that I had to repress a lot of musical instincts I had inside myself. I felt we had to have a very focused sound in order to become successful. But it's funny; over the years, whatever natural instincts you have in you are bound to come out one way or the other. And it wasn't too long - well, actually, it was pretty long - I think 2004, ten years later, before I really started rapping on a Weezer song. And I probably would have been really mortified if I had known I was going to do that back in '94, but yeah, in 2004, I rapped. And that was the song "Beverly Hills," and it turned out to be very successful. But now, I do feel more natural and, like, all of my natural instincts are coming out, and I feel just more whole and integrated. That's a wonderful thing for a musician.

GROSS: My guest is Rivers Cuomo, the lead singer and principal songwriter of the band Weezer. His second CD of solo home-recordings has just been released; it's called "Alone II." More after a break. This is Fresh Air.

(Soundbite of song "Undone (The Sweater Song)")

GROSS: My guest is Rivers Cuomo, the lead singer and principal songwriter of the band Weezer. His new solo album, "Alone II," is his second volume of home recordings. You've mentioned that you're, you know, not only interested in, you know, pop and rock; you're interested in classical music and art song and opera. And you studied classical composition at Harvard for awhile before dropping out and then coming back as an English major and completing your degree. But you've said that you didn't really like the atonal music that was emphasized at Harvard. Give us a sense of the kind of music that you just weren't warming up to.

Mr. CUOMO: Well, at the time - this is '96 - I was in my hardcore romantic phase. I was so in love with Puccini and Tchaikovsky and stuff like that, very romantic, emotional music. And I got to Harvard wanting to learn how to do that, and of course, that music is not only 100 years old, but it was just completely out of style after the 20th century and everything that happened. So, I don't even know what I was hearing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUOMO: But it was atonal and - but several years later I got another music teacher and I was in a different frame of mind, and I really came to love some of that 20th century music, Stravinsky and Bartok and even Schoenberg, stuff like that. I got this great composition teacher who taught me private lessons from UCLA. And he actually - some of the homework assignments he gave me at that time, 2004, I integrated into a song on Weezer's latest album, the Red Album, called "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived." At the end of that song - it's a six-minute song, very epic - and at the end there's all this vocal counterpoint. He taught me how to do all that, and actually, a lot of it is from a homework assignment he gave me.

GROSS: What was the assignment?

Mr. CUOMO: It was - I was learning how to write three-part vocal counterpoint in the style of 16th century. And as soon as the album was finished, I sent it to him. I was - I knew he would be overjoyed to hear his influence on a modern rock record. You know, as a college professor in a somewhat obscure field, you might start to think, like, you know, how relevant is this anymore? And he probably would have been overjoyed to hear that on the Weezer record. He was such an enthusiastic guy. And I was sad to learn that he'd passed away before he had a chance to hear the album.

GROSS: I'm sorry to hear that.

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah.

GROSS: But we should listen to the track that you just mentioned. So, we'll hear the end of it, where the choral music influence comes in.

Mr. CUOMO: Yes. This is my favorite Weezer song ever.

(Soundbite of song "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived")

WEEZER: (Singing in round) I'm the greatest man that ever lived. I'm the greatest man that ever lived. I'm the greatest man that ever lived. I'm the greatest man that ever lived. I'm the greatest man that ever lived. I'm the greatest man that ever lived. I'm the greatest man that ever lived. I'm the greatest man that ever lived...

GROSS: That's "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived" from Weezer's latest, the Red Album.

Mr. CUOMO: "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived." It's intentionally incorrect.

GROSS: Sorry, that - OK.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Why?

Mr. CUOMO: It just sings better.

GROSS: Oh, OK. I won't challenge that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: OK. And that's from Weezer's latest album, and my guest Rivers Cuomo is the lead singer and lead songwriter and guitarist of Weezer. But he has a new CD that's the second of - the second CD that he's recently released featuring him doing songs that Weezer never recorded. And he does all the parts on those CDs. It's "Alone," and then the new one is called "Alone II." So, we were talking about, you know, studying classical music at Harvard. You dropped out, continued to perform with Weezer, and then went back to Harvard after you had become a rock star, and you switched to being an English major. What was it like being in English class, having to submit your writing to criticisms from the rest of the class? When you were older, you were already famous, you had a lot of famous lyrics by then, it's the kind of thing that could be really potentially embarrassing.

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah. I've done a lot of terrifying things in my life. I'm not normally outgoing, I'm a shy person, but I've had to perform live on "Saturday Night Live" or "Letterman." Those kinds of things, talking to you, these things could make one nervous. But I'll tell you, submitting my writing to a class of 12 peers, 12 other kids, at Harvard and having them read it and then critique it in front of me was painful. And I know it was tough for them, too. Everyone has a reason why it's painful, but for me it was, all right, I'm 12 years older; I'm supposed to be accomplished; everyone's paying extra attention to me because I'm a celebrity, yeah. And I'm not necessarily as smart as these other kids or as good of a writer. So, it was really challenging.

GROSS: You know, we've been talking about how you studied contemporary music and, you know, classical music at Harvard. And on "Alone II," the album opens with a brief orchestral piece that I really like, because it's so raggedy. You're playing all of the parts.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: It should be, like, this stirring fanfare or something, but it's so raggedy that it's just really fun. I want you to talk about why you wrote this.

Mr. CUOMO: This is before Weezer had made their first record, but it hadn't come out yet. And already I was feeling like, man, I don't know if rock music's going to do it for me. I want to be a serious classical composer. And so I started studying on my own as much as I could how to write harmonies, and I got a violin and a trumpet and I started teaching myself how to play them. And as soon as I had any technique on the instrument, and as a composer, I quickly wrote this instrumental piece for trumpet. And it's very raggedy, but it has so much spirit to it.

GROSS: Rivers Cuomo will be back in the second half of the show. His new CD of solo home-recordings is called "Alone II." Here's the opening track, which we were just talking about, "Victory on the Hill." I'm Terry Gross, and this is Fresh Air.

(Soundbite of song "Victory on the Hill")

GROSS: Coming up, going from the peace of an ashram to fronting a rock band; we continue our conversation with Weezer's lead singer and principal songwriter, Rivers Cuomo. And John Powers reviews a new DVD release of the 1966 Roberto Rossellini film "Taking of Power by Louis XIV."

(Soundbite of song "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here")

WEEZER: (Singing) The world has turned and left me here Just where I was before you appeared. And in your place an empty space Has filled the void behind my face.

I just made love with your sweet memory One thousand times in my head. You said you loved it more than ever, You said.

You remain turned away, Turning further every day.

The world has turned and left me here Just where I was before you appeared. And in your place an empty space Has filled the void behind my face...

GROSS: This is Fresh Air. I'm Terry Gross back with Rivers Cuomo, the lead singer, guitarist and principal songwriter of the band Weezer. He's just release his second volume of solo home-recordings, collecting songs he's written that have not been recorded by Weezer. It's called "Alone II." Weezer's first CD was a real success. The second CD, not so much; it was called "Pinkerton," and it got slammed by some of the critics and didn't sell nearly as well as the first. But it has some great songs on it, and I want to play one of the songs from it which I find really interesting. And you've spoken the past about how this album was inspired in part by your love of Puccini and, you know, great romantic operas. And this is, like, a comic romantic song. It's called "Pink Triangle."

Mr. CUOMO: Hmm.

GROSS: And it's about falling in love with a woman who turns out to be a lesbian. And it's, like, you find that incredibly - you know, the character who is singing in the song finds this, like, incredibly upsetting because he was sure they'd be able to get married.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah.

GROSS: And there's a great line in it, like, everyone's a little queer, why can't she be a little straight?

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah.

GROSS: So, is this song based at all on a relationship that you had or is it just a character?

Mr. CUOMO: Most of the songs I write are just very directly from my life. I don't have a big imagination. Whenever I try to write from fantasy, it comes out sounding really fake. So, I just pretty much write exactly what's happening to me most of the time, and so that's what this song is. I got to Harvard in '96, really happy to be there. I saw a girl in class, and she was so beautiful and so cool. I watched her over the weeks, and you know, all kinds of fantasies started happening about getting married. And then one day she came to school with a button on her - it was actually on her backpack, not on her sleeve, like in the lyrics. Sometimes they change a detail here or there, but that's not important. So, it was on her backpack, and it was a button of a pink triangle. And I took that to mean that she was a lesbian, and I was crushed. And at the same time, it seemed like a really novel experience for me, and confusing, interesting, and I went home and wrote a song about it. And then I found out after the album came out, a year and a half later, that she wasn't a lesbian at all.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUOMO: She just was showing support...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUOMO: For gay rights or something.

GROSS: Was it too late for you?

Mr. CUOMO: I was onto something else at that point, I'm sure.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: That's really funny. Well, I'm glad you really terrific song out of it. So, this...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: This is "Pink Triangle" from Weezer's second album "Pinkerton."

(Soundbite of song "Pink Triangle")

WEEZER: (Singing) When I'm stable long enough, I start to look around for love. See a sweet and floral print, My mind begins the arrangements.

But when I start to feel that pull, Turns out I just pulled myself. She would never go with me, Were I the last girl on Earth.

I'm dumb. She's a lesbian, I thought I had found the one. We were good as married in my mind, But married in my mind's no good.

A pink triangle on her sleeve Let me know the truth. Let me know the truth...

GROSS: That's Weezer from their second album, a song written and sung by my guest, Rivers Cuomo, and his new CD is an album of solo performances of songs that Weezer hasn't recorded, and that's called "Alone II." When you were growing up, you grew up on an ashram that your parents were a member of. And it must have been - I mean, I'm thinking that the experiences that you had growing up there must have been really different than the experience of the friends who you made later in life after leaving that community. Tell us a little bit about what life was like when you lived on the ashram and how old you were at the time.

Mr. CUOMO: Oh, goodness. OK. When I was born, my parents were associated with the Zen Center in Rochester under Roshi Philip Kapleau. And then when I was four my parents split up and my mom ended up in Connecticut at the Satchidananda ashram in Pomfret. And we were members of that ashram, and some of the time, actually living there, and I was going to school there until I was 11. And then ashram actually split and moved to Virginia, and we stayed in Connecticut.

So, what was it like growing up on the ashram? Well, it was a beautiful environment, giant property, rural, peaceful, and it was a very spiritual place, a lot of emphasis put on morality extending as far as non-harm to animals and vegetarianism. So, it felt like a very, I imagine, a relatively peaceful and safe place to be, and a lot of fun for young boys, young kids, to play in that environment. And in addition to that, at school, all the kids were in one room. There were no divisions by grade. I think there were probably 30 kids there at one time. And the classes were - they weren't any kind of traditional classes. It was - somehow they managed to keep us where we needed to be academically, because when we transferred to public school, we were right where we needed to be. But I don't remember any kind of formal lessons. I just remember a lot of exploring whatever we wanted to do. But that, you know, I'd hesitate to say that, though, because somehow we did learn what we were supposed to learn.

GROSS: Were there disciplines that you were expected to follow? Like, were you taught yoga as a child?

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah. That was my next point, was part of - I think the main emphasis of the school, actually, was mental discipline. And every day we did hatha yoga, and we did meditation. This is part of school. And of course, it wasn't fun at first, but we just came to accept it, like, OK, this is a practice we have to do every day. And I ended up feeling like I got a lot of benefit from it, just in my ability to stay calm in difficult situations.

GROSS: And you still meditate, right?

Mr. CUOMO: Oh, yeah. It's not the greatest thing to talk about in an interview because it's not very interesting, but it's definitely at the center of my life. I feel like it's just - it's been so wonderful for me, and I really - yeah, I just give it so much importance.

GROSS: You know, I'm thinking earlier in the interview we heard your song "Scared" about bullied, about being bullied when you were in high school. And it must have been culture shock to go from this, you know, spiritual and protected community of the ashram school to then end up in a - I don't know if it was a public or a private high school, but still, it wasn't going to be that kind of, like, nurturing, spiritual...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Kind of environment exactly, where everybody's practicing yoga. And you know, the song is about being bullied by jocks. Was it culture shock to be in that kind of environment, where in some ways it was perfectly acceptable for some kids to be beat up other kids?

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah, it was a giant shock, and not just for me, but for a number of the other boys that we all transferred together around sixth grade. And I remember ahead of time we were all thinking, this is going to be great. We're each going to have our own desks. We're going to have homework. We're going to have school colors. We're going to be able to join a football team. This is going to be awesome. And then we got to school, and there were a lot of great things about it. But at the same time, we were shocked by the level of - ah, what's the word? - anger and violence in people and meanness, and that took some adjusting. We had to, I guess, get thicker skins or - we - I remember we were practicing swearing together, so we could...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUOMO: You know, seem somewhat normal.

GROSS: How did you practice swearing?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUOMO: Just by, all right, here we go.

(Soundbite of beep)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUOMO: As a group.

GROSS: But did it sound funny coming out of your mouth at first?

Mr. CUOMO: It felt so weird.

GROSS: What was it like when you hooked up with the people who are Weezer, your band? And to have a band that you connected with, people you connected with, musically?

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah. Well, I never felt perfectly at home with these guys. On a personal level, it seemed like I was coming from a different place, and at first, I might have worried, like, maybe these aren't the right guys. But they - what sold me on the situation was listening back to what we recorded or feeling what was happening when we were playing live, and it was a chemistry I couldn't deny. And it was because we were all coming from different places that there was some complexity there and some large-mindedness that I could never have accomplished on my own. And I've really come to value the collaborating with different people coming from different places.

GROSS: My guest is Rivers Cuomo, the lead singer and principal songwriter of the band, Weezer. His second CD of solo home-recordings has just been released; it's called "Alone II." More after a break, this is Fresh Air.

(Soundbite of song "Island in the Sun")

WEEZER: (Singing) Hip hip. Hip hip. Hip hip. Hip hip.

GROSS: My Guest is Rivers Cuomo, the lead singer and principal songwriter of the band Weezer. His new solo album, "Alone II," is his second volume of home-recordings. There was a period, and maybe you still feel like you're in this period, when you were struggling to figure out what kind of songs you wanted to write and what your best songwriting process was to come up with a decent song. So, you started keeping a journal and experimenting with different approaches to writing songs. It sounds like a very analytical approach to something that for some songwriters is really very intuitive. Can you describe a little bit a couple of the different processes that you tried in songwriting?

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah, for a couple of years there - well, I've always been an analytical person, but for a couple of years, I just got really analytical in keeping track of every detail of the process of writing a song and intentionally varying individual elements to see what the result would be. And - but sometimes these experiments were, you know, indistinguishable from how any other rock person would write a song. For example, in mid-2000, I - somehow my experiments developed to the point where step one was, take a pill of Ritalin; step two was, take three shots of tequila...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUOMO: Step three was, go out in the backyard, sit down in a chair; step four was, close your eyes and imagine the song. And that's how I wrote "Hash Pipe."

GROSS: So, shall we hear some of the song that was the outcome of this experiment?

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah, sure. I think you'll hear it.

GROSS: OK. Hear it comes.

(Soundbite of song "Hash Pipe")

WEEZER: (Singing) I can't help my feelings; I'll go out of my mind. These players come to get me 'cause they'd like my behind. I can't love my business, if I can't get a trick. Down on Santa Monica, where tricks are for kids.

Oh, come on and kick me. Oh, come on and kick me. (Whoa oh) Come on and kick me. (Whoa oh) You've got your problems. (Whoa oh) I've got my ass wide. (Whoa oh) You've got your big Gs. I've got my hash pipe...

GROSS: So, that's "Hash Pipe," the band Weezer, and my guest Rivers Cuomo is the lead singer-songwriter and guitarist of the band. His new CD features his solo work.

Mr. CUOMO: I've noticed that you've been introducing me as singer/songwriter and guitar player for Weezer, and I understand why you'd say that because that's what I've been for a long time. But at this moment, I'm noticing that doesn't feel quite accurate, because I've found that not only aren't the other guys singing a lot more and singing some lead vocals, I've been doing a lot of co-writing. I'd say, on new songs we're working on, I have about 50 percent of the writing, and I haven't played any guitar at all. So, I'm just noticing that my role is diminishing and other people around me are stepping up and taking on larger roles. So, the label you've given me is - it just feels a little funny at the moment.

GROSS: I understand. Yeah, thanks for pointing that out. So, now that you've corrected me, how would you like to be introduced?

Mr. CUOMO: Well, wow, you've really turned the tables on me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUOMO: Uh, hmm. I'm - Rivers - Cuomo, member of Weezer?

GROSS: OK. Well, now you're married and you have a child. How do you like family life after, you know, so many years on the road?

Mr. CUOMO: It suits me. It suits me very well. It - yeah, I'm not fighting my nature. I have somebody I love, and I have a little daughter now I love so much. And it's like everything I want is right there in my house or right there with me on the road, on the bus or in the hotel or in the dressing room. They're always there, and I just feel very content. And because of that, now I can just go nuts with music and creativity and take all kinds of risks.

GROSS: You know, we talked a little bit about how in your solo work you can go to places that you can't with Weezer and how you're always open to, you know, wanting to find new approaches to writing songs. One of the things you've been doing is collaborating with people, strangers to you, through the Internet, asking them to participate with you in a collaborative songwriting process. What are you finding interesting about that process?

Mr. CUOMO: Well, first of all, just the process of writing a song is - can be really gratifying. Just - I guess I also like seeing it happen step by step. I post a set of instructions for each step. For example, I'll, say, - I'll make a video saying, hey, I want a melody, sing a melody over this track, and I want it to be really beautiful and heart-wrenching. And don't give me anything amateur; it's got to be great. And then 50, 60 people will respond with their melody, and then I go through and listen to them all. And sure enough, there's usually a couple that stand out as great, but then there's one that rises above the rest. And it's great for me because I have - there's just so many options, and each step of the way I end up with something great.

GROSS: Then you put the melody out there and ask for a lyric?

Mr. CUOMO: Yeah. Then I put the melody on the track and then I make the next post and say, now, we need a lyric, and I'll give the instructions for that. Yeah, I think we're up to 16 steps now over the course of many months, and it sounds so great.

GROSS: What are your intentions with the song? Are you going to record it?

Mr. CUOMO: Well, with anything I'm a part of, I want to give it the highest platform possible and let the greatest number of people be exposed to it. So, I've submitted it to Weezer, and there's a chance they will select it to put on their next - on the seventh album coming out next year. And if not that, I'll find the next best thing for it. And one of the reasons I'm excited about this song is we may break some sort of world record, in that I think there's got to be at least 20 people listed in the credits for writing the song.

GROSS: Well, I really want to thank you a lot for talking with us. It's been great to talk with you. Thank you, and I wish you continued good luck with your explorations in music.

Mr. CUOMO: Thank you very much, and I'm so excited to talk to you. This is great.

GROSS: Oh, that means a lot to me. Thank you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Rivers Cuomo is a member of the band Weezer. His second volume of solo home-recordings has just been released. It's called "Alone II." After we recorded the interview, he sent us an excerpt of the collaborative song he's worked on through YouTube. Here it is.

(Soundbite of YouTube collaboration "Let's Write a Sawng")

Mr. CUOMO: (Singing) Turn it, turn it, Got to get another. Turn it, turn it, Make me shout it. Turn it, turn it, Let's do it together. Turn it, turn it, Waking up a neighbor.

It's the rock. It's the roll. It's the pop. It's the soul. It's the funk in your (unintelligible). Don't you change. Don't you stop. It's the hits It's the (unintelligible) in your tea And she (unintelligible). It's the cream of the crop All your day. (Unintelligible). Try all the ways...

GROSS: Coming up, a DVD release of a film about political power in the pre-democratic era. John Powers reviews Roberto Rossellini's "The Taking of Power by Louis XIV." This is Fresh Air.

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