Chuck Klosterman interviews Stephen Malkmus and talks about the upcoming Pavement reunion shows this year…eventually.
“I SUPPOSE YOU DON’T like sports, do you?” This is what Stephen Malkmus—the enigmatic architect of Pavement—asks me as he sits in a Thai-sandwich restaurant, waiting for his bacon. He is casually pawing at a local Portland alternative newspaper that features Trail Blazer Greg Oden on the cover; it’s the day before Thanksgiving, so Oden’s patella is still unexploded. Malkmus seems slightly (but unspecifically) annoyed—his wife’s parents are in town for the holidays, he’s just spent the last ninety minutes at a school party for his 6-year-old daughter, and now he has to waste two hours with some bozo who probably doesn’t know why Greg Oden is interesting. He keeps his head down as he speaks. At this moment, Stephen Malkmus looks so much like Stephen Malkmus that it seems like sarcasm. In fact, he looks like someone playing Stephen Malkmus in an ill-conceived Cameron Crowe movie: He’s unshaven, he’s wearing Pony high-tops that no longer exist on the open market, and his baseball cap promotes the Silver Jews. His T-shirt features the logo of the Joggers, a Portland band whose greatest claim to fame is being mentioned in a GQ story about Stephen Malkmus eating at a Thai-sandwich shop. The restaurant is loud, so I initially mishear his question. He asks it again.
“I said, I suppose you don’t like sports.” I tell him that I do like sports. I tell him that—honestly—I’m probably more qualified to talk with him about sports than I am to talk with him about Pavement. Immediately, everything changes. He’s no longer irritated, except when I suggest that Greg Olden might be no better than Erick Dampier. For the next forty-five minutes, we discuss our respective fantasy teams, pretty much nonstop. I cannot exaggerate the degree to which Malkmus enjoys fantasy sports; he almost seems to like them more than music. His fantasy football team was devastated by the loss of Ronnie Brown to injury, but he’s stayed in the playoff hunt by picking up Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice. (“You could just immediately tell he was going to be Favre’s guy.”) The most productive player on his NBA team is under-publicized Pacers forward Danny Granger, but he’s more satisfied about stealing the Nets’ Chris Douglas-Roberts off the waiver wire. Malkmus does not watch the NHL, yet he still participates in a fantasy hockey league. He’s that kind of guy. I don’t even try to talk with him about rotisserie baseball.
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