Q&A: Stephin Merritt On His Favorite Gear, His Reasons For The No-Synth Trilogy, And Being Scooped By Trent Reznor

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The Magnetic Fields' new album Love At The Bottom Of The Sea (Merge) is the first in more than a decade to feature the shimmering synthesizer lines for which the endlessly malleable indiepop icons first became known. As I learned when writing this week's Voice profile of Magnetic Fields songwriter Stephin Merritt, he loves talking about the gear that helps him command those sounds—he gets downright giddy, which is both unexpected (given his cantankerous reputation) and endearing.

Below is a gear-centric excerpt from our conversation, which took place at an old-timey Greenwich Village restaurant that uses real anchovies in its Caesar salad, and where the waitress brought him his pasta before he even cracked open a menu.

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Lou Reed And The Velvet Underground (3) Match Wits With The Magnetic Fields (14) In SOTC's March Madness

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‚ÄčThe Round of 64 for Sound of the City's own version of March Madness—in which you, the Sound of the City voting public, help determine the quintessential New York musician—is a little jam-packed today. (The schedule and results so far are here; the full, updated bracket is here.) Here, we return Downtown for a battle of the frontmen, as Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground match up against Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields. Check out the arguments in favor of each below, and vote at Facebook for your favorite.

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Q&A: Director Kerthy Fix Talks Strange Powers, Her New Documentary About Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields

"That I can go to Google and the third thing that comes up "Is Stephin Merritt a racist because he doesn't like hip-hop?" It was so wrong and immoral, and it had never fully been cleared up."

A generation of terrified journalists and collaborators will tell you that Stephin Merritt is a fundamentally unknowable guy--prickly, dismissive, and exact in his tastes, which are manifest in the charming, sardonic twenty year output of the Magnetic Fields, Merritt's main songwriting and performing outlet. But notoriously glum Merritt is also beloved for these qualities, as is his band, and though he might seem at first glance to be an unlikely subject for a documentary, it makes a certain amount of sense. He's a singular artist, and a vivid personality, and in Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields, a new film from directors Kerthy Fix and Gail O'Hara, his charm shows.

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Here Is the Trailer for the Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields Documentary

Seems that the long awaited and slaved over Stephin Merritt documentary now has both a name and a trailer. Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields is set to debut at the San Francisco Film Society, February 28th, and will hopefully then eventually make its way to New York, where some of the footage was clearly shot. Why they needed Peter Gabriel and Sarah Silverman in this film, who knows, but the part where Merritt has to explain to a cab driver why there are cameras following him around is pretty immortal. Official world premiere details (San Fran is supposed to be just a "preview") will be announced Thursday. We are way more excited about this than we were two weeks ago! [Strange Powers via Monitor Mix]


Stream Realism, the Newest from Magnetic Fields, or Watch the Stephin Merritt Documentary Premiering in San Francisco Next Month

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It's our experience that Stephin Merritt is far more open about his life and work than people seem to give him credit for, but those who've found him impenetrable in the past will now have another way to get to know him--via documentary. The as-yet-untitled, 10-years-in-the-works film, directed by Kerthy Fix, has its unofficial premiere via the San Francisco Film Society on February 28th, where Merritt will be in the audience. After that, it's slated for a festival debut; Merritt calls New York home more often than not, so odds are good the doc will make its way here before the year is out as well. Those impatient for their Magnetic Fields fix need not worry--Realism, the lower-key Distortion follow-up due out next Tuesday, is currently streaming in its entirety at MySpace (through Saturday). Not sure what to make of it yet, besides that "You Must Be Out of Your Mind" is a gem. The rest, unclear. [h/t Pitchfork]

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