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Stacking The Deck with The Motor Tom
Friday, October 11, 2019

Stacking The Deck is a feature exclusive to Adam’s World where I bring packs of 1991 Pro Set Superstars MusiCards to artists, and we discuss who they find in each pack.

Serious musicians who are equally serious about having a good time, The Motor Tom have been giving NYC’s indie rock scene a heaping dose of fun for over half a decade.

The fivesome (photographed L to R: Chris, Luca, Andrew, Nick, JJ) just released their latest EP, Lava Land, and according to frontman Nick Schupak, “(It) will be the first in a series of 4 or 5 … or 10 EPs, all existing in a universe of loose affiliation, like Tarantino characters, or ‘90s video game levels.”

Any universe The Motor Tom is providing the soundtrack for is a universe you want to be in.


I caught up with Nick, Andrew, and Chris at the legendary Upper East Side dive Subway Inn to open up some packs of MusiCards, and the artists we found sparked conversations about a brutal review of one of Nick’s earliest attempts to sing, an unexpected porn connection, and waking up to Paul Stanley.



Michael Bolton

Andrew: We’ll start with Michael Bolton. My Michael Bolton story is that when I was growing up, when I was about 12-16, I looked exactly like Michael Bolton, but not this Michael Bolton, Michael Bolton from Office Space.

I would go into the guitar store and the guys would go, “Huh huh, Michael Bolton’s here, huh huh,” and you know what, they were right, I did look a lot like Michael Bolton.

It ended up working in my favor. I embraced it. Lots of my early band stuff has me in an Office Space Michael Bolton t-shirt. I embraced that, and I thought it was great.

Nick: What you should have said when they said, “Hey, you look like Michael Bolton,” is, “Well you guys can just eat my ass.”

Andrew: Yeah. Exactly. It was a weird meta situation because the whole point was Michael Bolton shared the same name as Michael Bolton, and he was a no talent ass clown, but I shared the my face with Michael Bolton, who I thought was a no talent ass clown, but I didn’t know how to say that in any way, shape, or form, so it just really made my head spin.

It’s tough as a teenager.

Andrew: It’s not the best years. {laughs}

Nick: This is not about Michael Bolton, per se, but the song “When a Man Loves a Woman” … in sophomore year of college, before I actually learned to sing – I wanted to sing, but I hadn’t studied singing at all, and didn’t know how to do it – I was absolutely belting “When a Man Loves a Woman,” the original version (by Percy Sledge), not realizing my windows were open, because I was smoking in my room, which you weren’t supposed to do.

We had invited a friend of ours over who, when she walked in she rapped very loudly on my door and said, “Nick, we can hear you all the way down the hill, and you sound terrible.”

Everyone: {laughs}



Lord Tracy

Chris: Did you guys see Lord Tracy?

You know Lord Tracy?

Chris: Do you know who Traci Lords is?

Yes.

Nick: That makes a lot more sense now, doesn’t it?

Chis: That’s a much more intimate association.

Nick: Before porno was supposed to make you cum.

{reading the back of the card} “They were originally named 3-D, then The Tracy Lords, but a lawsuit of the same named actress caused the change to the present moniker.”

Chris: Wasn’t she underage?

Nick: Yeah, she was a 16 year old girl.

Chris: I mean, the content is still out there.

I think if you access it you’re in a lot of trouble, though.

Nick: You’ll be fine doing that. Just do it before 8AM. They haven’t woken up yet.

If you were to rename The Motor Tom after a pornographic film star who would it be?

Nick: Jenna Haze.

Andrew: I can’t believe you’re just shafting Tori Black like that.

Nick: Or it would be a male porn star?

Andrew: Lexington Steele.

Nick: He went to Syracuse.

So you have a connection.

Chris: It’s a big connection.

Nick: Lexington Steele did go to Syracuse, class of ’91, lived on South campus. He said it snowed so much his sophomore year there was nothing to do but fuck. It’s like, that kinda sounds like your entire life.

Chris: Just like my college experience, except the exact opposite.



Madonna

Andrew: I picked Madonna because we’re not necessarily deep late ‘80s / early ‘90s type people, but our music really really is, and I think a gigantic reason for that is Madonna.

For my whole life there’s been some songs by Madonna I’ve always really liked, but the last few years I’ve really really gotten more into her, and what she does, and I appreciate her influence on all music.

I think one of the fun things about us in relation to Madonna – which I think about a disturbing amount of time – is that our music is kind of blending the electronic elements of Madonna, and that kind of inherent danciness, with what we do, but then kind of overlaying a little more ’60s / ‘70s vocal style, maybe early ‘80s. Vocal sounds are a huge part of what we do.

I think the drum sound, for sure, (is an influence), and the biggest thing that I take from (her music) is the Stratocaster rhythm part. The in-between position of a Strat is kind of this plucky, ducky, funk sound, and it’s all over so many of her songs, like “Like a Virgin,” and “Like a Prayer.”

Chris: Do you think that comes from the Nile Rodgers influence?

Andrew: Absolutely. 100%. Although I think her very first album wasn’t with Nile Rodgers, but it sounds a lot like Nile Rodgers.

I would say you’re seeing a lot of her stuff from the early ‘90s come back, a lot of that house piano type stuff, and rolling 909s instead of 808s, you’re seeing a lot of that stuff in music this year. We’ll see if it’s a trend, or if it really goes on, but we’re definitely borrowing from a little bit of that,

Nick: Also, I sucked Dennis Rodman’s dick.

And drawing off of that, The Motor Tom are very big supporters of Kim Jung Un.

Andrew: We did play in North Korea once.

Nick: We did play Pyongyang.

Wait … really?

Everyone: {laughs}

Andrew: We do have an album called Live at Pyongyang that has not been released.

Nick: It does sound like it was recorded at Pyongyang.



Paula Abdul

Nick: I don’t know Paula’s music very well, however, Paula was dating a man named Brad Beckerman, who was the son of the founder and president of Starter. Remember the sports apparel company?

Yeah, Starter jackets.

Nick: So, my first concert ever was Boyz II Men, right after their second album.

How old were you?

Chris: 48.

Everyone: {laughs}

Nick: Still a virgin, though.

Andrew: Like Madonna?

Nick: I was probably around 10.

What an odd age to see Boyz II Men live.

Nick: Yeah, that was my first concert, me and my dad seeing Boyz II Men. Brad Beckerman came over and showed me how – and it was still culturally appropriate to say this out loud – how to do the “Black” handshake.

Andrew: Is Mr. Beckerman Black?

Nick: No

Andrew: Also, before we get sued for libel I want to say we’re making this entire story up. That man doesn’t exist. There were no Starter jackets.

Nick: But they went on stage that night, and it was a great show. Paula Abdul is tangentially involved in this because she was dating Brad Beckerman at the time, who I ran into at the concert.

Wow. That is quite the off-ramp. Did you score? I mean it WAS a Boyz II Men show.

Nick: I fucked my dad.

That’s not a great story.

Nick: Andrew said coming into this, “Say things that are outrages. He’s looking for a headline.”

Andrew: So far, so good.

Chris: “The singer of The Motor Tom fucked his dad after Boyz II Men concert”

At age 10.

Nick: Who said after?



The Neville Brothers


Keeping things in the family – The Neville Brothers


Nick: The way I know Aaron Neville, beyond the cotton commercials, is because he sang a lot with one of my all-time favorite artists, Linda Ronstadt.

I was raised on a steady diet of U2, Bob Marley, and Linda Ronstadt, so I heard a lot of Aaron Neville singing with Linda.

I think one of the things that’s interesting about her is she’s been quoted on a number of occasions saying how she was never terribly interested in working on her own music, she didn’t really want to write songs, but delivering her own approach to songs that were already written was always something that steered her creativity.

This has always been something interesting to me because, especially with The Motor Tom, we’re quite the opposite. It’s fun to play other people’s songs, but we don’t really tend to do it.

Andrew: Which is exactly why Chris and I announcing today that we’re departing to become The Eagles.

Everyone: {laughs}

Nick: I hate the fucking Eagles.



KISS

Andrew: Nick has an actual connection.

Nick: A good friend of my dad’s is Bob Ezrin, who produced a number of KISS albums. He also produced The Wall, and wrote a number of songs on The Wall.

Bob wrote (the KISS song) “Beth,” and he co-wrote “Detroit Rock City.”

Bob’s also just a very warm, sweet, guy. I always think back, I haven’t seen him in like six years, and the last time I saw him was one of the times in my life when I was sort of transitioning from being a real rock n roll guy to trying to be more of an upstanding fucking midtown money making corporate cog, so when I saw him, instead of giving him a big hug like I normally would, and like he would like, I shook his hand, and I think that hurt his feeling a little bit.

That’s one KISS story, another KISS story is my little brother, who is nine years my minor … is that right?

Nine years your junior?

Nick: I write the lyrics in the band. {laughs}

By the time my brother was four years old he was a huge KISS fan, so he had every KISS album, KISS figurines, KISS everything, and we shared a room for the first seven years of his life.

Bringing home a girl must have been fun.

I didn’t have to worry about that. I didn’t have to worry about that until I was 28.

So KISS came out with an album – they were on their farewell tour, which, by the way, they are still on – the album was called Psycho Circus. I had that sweet CD player that hung on the wall, and had two little built in speakers, and you could set it as your alarm clock to start playing a CD. So every morning from 9th through 11th grade you would hear Paul Stanley – imagine what Paul Stanley’s singing is like 30 years after he was a bad singer – “Hello / here I am / here we are / we are one.” That would wake me up for school every morning, so I would turn that off and go right back to bed.

Andrew: You know Chuck Klosterman, I think he did a ranking of every KISS album … I think he forgot that one.

On this card they were on their 23rd album.

Andrew: I think there’s like 30 or 40 (now). It’s a lot, but I will say this about them, they are definitely, despite that, still a little bit underrated because of the influence they had on so many amazing bands. Weezer, obviously, is a gigantic one. That kind of major low end guitar power cord type rock.

Performance-wise they also influenced a whole lot of artists – wearing makeup, elaborate stage shows, pyro.

Andrew: And yet I feel like they’re not in the canon, you know what I mean?

Because they’re thought of as basically having one song that they keep repeating.

Andrew: Right, but yet they have 40 albums. They’re such an enigma.

Nick: They’re rock stars. Whether you want to call them great musicians or not, that’s up to you.


For more of The Motor Tom, check out themotortom.com, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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