For the part of the song [that goes] “People like you fuck people like me,” I wanted a screamer. So I called like three screamers. I called Gerard Way, who didn’t answer because he didn’t recognize the phone number. I called Brody. I called somebody else; nobody was around. I thought Billie Joe [Armstrong of Green Day] was around; he wasn’t around. So, I went over to my friend Bret’s house, and he’s a director … I [told him I] was too pitchy to scream this part. And this little voice goes, “I can sing it,” and I’m like “Who’s that?” And the little voice goes, “It’s Mariah.” And I’m like, “Okay, Mariah Carey, you cannot sing ‘People like you fuck people like me.’” She goes, “Yes I can. I did a rock record once; we just never released it.” So I went over there, and there’s no recording of it, but it was the two of us screaming—and she can rock sing. Mariah, she’s a badass. Like, she could rock sing. I couldn’t even believe it.
There’s no recording, you said? I mean, that’s pretty incredible.
I wish to God there was.
I can’t even imagine what that sounds like.
We had absolutely nothing in common, but we also didn’t threaten each other in any way. I really liked her, and I gave her this antique shawl. I don’t think she does antique, but she knew it was valuable, and she goes, “Whatever this is, I know it’s really a good thing,” and I was like, “Thank you.” We took a bunch of pictures together that night, but no, there’s no recording of Mariah singing, “People like you fuck people like me.” It’s so funny, but it happened. I wish somebody recorded it. Nobody did.
Have you seen her since?
No. We were supposed to have lunch, but then I got to New York, and I just never, you know, and then she got married, and we just didn’t. We really have friends in common, but we didn’t ever … We thought that that would be a really funny post-modern experiment.
But, you know she’s an industry.
Without a doubt.
When I went over there, she had her vocal coach; she had a pretty large crew with her. It was funny—I couldn’t get Brody Dalle, but I got Mariah Carey when there was no one to record.
Right. Have you considered recording with Brody again?
Well, I asked her that night. She didn’t seem that interested, and I don’t get along with [her husband and Queens of the Stone Age leader] Josh [Homme], so …
I can ask her again. But, you know what I think: With her, I think she’s sort of not as ambitious as she used to be.
I don’t see … I don’t think [Brody Dalle’s new band] Spinnerette was an ambitious record.
It had like some really good songs on it, but some of the songs toward the end were shit.
Yeah. I think if you—I mean, this is just my opinion—I think couples can collaborate all they want, but if you marry a guy who’s got a particular esthetic sound, you should keep him out of your studio. I don’t know if he was in her studio; it’s really none of my business. But, when I listened to that record, I felt like Josh was all over it.
It definitely wasn’t the Distillers.
I’m not trying to be a bitch. I like her. She’s nice.
I know what you’re saying. It felt a little too over-produced for what her sound should be.
Maybe she just doesn’t care.
They only had the one, right?
Yeah, just one.
So, you’ve got eight songs that you’re recording.
We’ve recorded eight songs, yeah.
Are you going to be playing those on the tour?
We’re going to play everything but the single. There’s two songs on the single. We’ll play like a song called “Pretty Your Whole Life.” We’ll play some new stuff, but we’re not going to play the single. I mean, there really aren’t any rules anymore. It’s like, I know a guy who was the CEO of Warner Brothers; maybe he’s still the CEO, I don’t know. I just look at him like ‘You have the worst job in the world.’ And he fucking knows it, man.
Why is that?
Because it’s like, 10 years ago that’s a killer job. Right now, that’s a job that’s going to last you six months unless you figure out the Internet. And no one’s going to figure out the Internet.
Totally. It’s the same with news.
You know? I mean, it’s just that those days are gone. It’s over. It’s sort of a meritocracy. The kids decide, you know? Unless you’re in that really rarified strata of people like [Lady] Gaga and Madonna or Mariah who are getting financed for every single thing still, you know what I mean? Or you’re a very successful rapper.
Of course. Yeah, the rappers kind of have their own thing.
Rappers are everywhere.
What’s your experience been like over that? Because you’ve been around since before the Internet had any say over music.
I don’t make as much money anymore, but in a way, it’s kind of [separating] the wheat from the chaff, you know? It’s like, OK, is this what I do? Because I’m not going to make a lot of money at this. I mean, playing rock music is now a middle class job for sure. Maybe upper middle class, but still middle class. You still get nice perks and stuff from being well known, but in terms of the finances, you’re not going go be buying a $20 million mansion. It’s just not going to happen.
Would you say you’ve got to tour a lot more now?
You better either really like your job or have another job.
Have you picked up any odd jobs over the years?
I did menial labor, and I stripped, but I also did an art show that was really pretty successful, and I’m doing a fashion line that I hope will be successful. It’s really weird fashion, but it’s mine. There’s a lot of money in fashion. And I did my first corporate thing for these [Njoy] e-cigarettes. But then, you know, what are you going to do with me? You’re not really going to put me in a Pepsi ad, so e-cigarettes are kind of perfect. I played a few corporate gigs, which are awful, but you know, it’s more money then you make playing Philadelphia. But, I mean, you’ve got to play for the kids.
What kind of stuff do you play at corporate gigs?
I say hi to the guy that invented the app, and then I keep to myself. I say hi to the guy whose birthday it is ‘cause I have to. Someone picks up the check, and then I split. Take a cab back home.
It sounds like these are tech companies that are hiring you?
Yeah. Like, tech guys’ birthdays. They want a rock band for their birthday and, you know, kind of like that.
Right. Those are the guys now who have too much money.
So much money, man. Too much money. They have all the money.
Well, they learned the Internet. That’s what you've got to do, I guess.
Yeah. My real father told me to learn the Internet instead of the guitar. In 1982, he gave me an Apple Lisa 2, and he said learn fractals, not chords. The only good advice that guy ever gave me, he’s such a creep. But I’m glad I learned chords instead of fractals. He also put a dancing bear sticker on there, which was kind of a turn-off. Not a fan of the whole dancing bear situation.
Rusted Root's eclectic mix hits Coda