Rivers Cuomo Weezer press shot credit Sean Murphy

I know some people think I’m a weirdo…” Rivers on Rivers: The Weezer frontman, in his own words

The wit, wisdom and unique worldview of Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo…

For over two decades now, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo has been confusing, amusing and entertaining people all over the world. Whatever you think you know about him, nobody really knows Rivers like Rivers knows Rivers.

So who better to listen to on the subject than the man himself? That’s why we’ve dived into the Kerrang! archives and looked at what he had to say about everything from the band, his public persona, Weezer fans, their back catalogue and the world in general. 

It’s way more fascinating than any conclusions we could draw, so here in all of its unfiltered glory, is the wit, wisdom and occasional weirdness of Weezer genius, Rivers Cuomo…

On his public persona…

I’m not really as skilled as managing my reputation as some other artists. I know some people think I’m a weirdo, but I think once people get to know me most people like me and find it easy to relate to me. It does matter to me and I wish I was better at it.”

I consider myself a normal person in extraordinary, abnormal circumstances.”

Outside of Weezer world, it’s really hard for me, socially. But I think it’s also part of the reason why I have attracted an audience: all I need to do is be myself and people think it’s weird and entertaining.”

On starting out…

When you start out, there’s the excitement of being a new band, of coming up from the underground, of having people rooting for you to win. And then when we put out the second album [1996’s Pinkerton] it seemed that everyone wanted us to lose. Everyone resented how successful we became so quickly, so they wanted us to be a flash in the pan. They wanted us to be in a sophomore slump. So I guess they got what they wanted, as far as that goes.” 

On the ‘job’ of being in Weezer…

I enjoy all aspects of this job. Sometimes things crop up that bother me, or challenge me, but I actually appreciate those things because it gives me the opportunity to exert a little control over my environment. If there was something that I didn’t want to do then I wouldn’t do it. If there was something that I didn’t want to say I wouldn’t say it. That being said, I think a lot of people around me feel that I’m uncomfortable or unhappy, and they wish they could do something to make me feel better.” 

On artistry…

I’m in the business of trying to make the coolest possible music I can make on any given day. It makes no difference whether you’re a brand new artist or you’ve been around 30 years and people think of you as a legend, you’re always starting over, always starting from scratch.” 

On ambition…

My goal now is to write tons of songs and put out more music.I feel like I want to make records that people can listen to in 20 years and say, That’s a good record, those guys were serious.’”

On Weezer fans…

Weezer has survived so long and our fans are so supportive and interested in sticking with us no matter what crazy things we do, that it gives us a feeling of security. If we screw up, we’re still gonna be alive the next day. Weezer only exists because of the fans, and the day they decide they’re not interested in us anymore we’ll cease to exist.”

People always ask me why I think our fans stuck around, and the truth is we don’t know. I hope it’s because we made good records, and people didn’t get sick of them.”

I feel like we get a lot of credit we don’t deserve. We’ve always just taken from our influences, from the records we loved, and we try our own versions of that. When people give us credit for that it makes me feel a little funny.” 

On being king of the geeks…

When we made our first album [1994’s Blue album] I thought we were going to be the next Nirvana, that we were going to be taken very seriously as an angst-filled rock band. I was completely shocked and surprised and disappointed when we put the record out to find that the press story was, This is a band of geeks. Revenge of the nerds!’ That story had never occurred to me. It was universal, so I guess it must be true. I just don’t fit in and I didn’t even realise it. Put me in the wider society and I stand out as a misfit.” 

On going to Harvard…

I picked up an application, filled it out, turned it in and they accepted me. I wrote in my application essay about how disillusioned I was with the rock lifestyle’. They’d probably never received anything like that before.” 

I’ve always gone back and forth between school and band and doing nothing. I had a hard time making up my mind about what the hell I wanted to do.” 

On metal…

Metal was extremely important to me, musically and spiritually. It was more than just music. It was a faith, a cult, a religion that one could belong to.”

Nothing gave me a sense of community like metal did. It meant everything to me, it was so important. I started out liking KISS, but I also liked Quiet Riot, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden… then of course I discovered Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Yngwie…”

When I was in school and when I first moved to LA, I was almost anti-punk: I did not like punk music, or the whole punk aesthetic. My attitude was pretty much exclusively metal: practice your scales, your arpeggios, use a metronome and don’t play sloppy. I was anti-nihilist, really.” 

Weezer May 2020 Promo Credit Sean Murphy

On Pinkerton…

I had mixed feelings about Pinkerton. On one level I thought it was the most amazing album ever, but when it came out I saw how many of the Blue album fans hated it, and that was a tough time. In my person life the record caused all kinds of problems, and even within the band there was a lot of negativity to what I wanted to do. It’s taken me a long time to deal with that fallout…” 

On Pinkerton’s ‘failure’…

Embarrassing. I felt I was responsible for the whole thing pretty much, me being the songwriter and having it be such a personal record. We were coming off this tremendous success and I put my neck on the line and said, Alright guys, I have to make this really personal statement – trust me, it’s going to work.’ And everyone hated it. I remember we were having so many fights [in the band] at the time. They definitely brought up that subject.” 

After that album had died, I mean died, we were making a very concerted effort to get the band together, to write songs, to rehearse and try. But for whatever reason I just didn’t feel good about what was going on. I was writing songs every day, but something wasn’t clicking for me. It felt terrible. But I just kept banging my head against the wall. Eventually the guys said, Rivers, we can tell this isn’t going anywhere. We’re leaving.’ So they all left town to do their own thing. And then I was just on my own in my apartment. And at that point I really didn’t have any friends in town either. I disconnected my phone and I painted the walls of my room black… I wasn’t aware that I was turning into a freak or that I was becoming negative. In my mind I just felt that I needed to be alone.” 

On the aftermath…

I stopped getting emotional about things. I adopted a very scientific attitude. I told myself, Okay, here’s how I’m going to figure out how to climb out of this, one step at a time.’ I learned not to get overly dramatic about having fallen, but instead every day try to get up and write a song and try to figure which parts didn’t work.” 

Gradually I stopped talking to everybody. I had my phone disconnected. I didn’t want to see anybody. I just wanted to be alone. Casual social interaction became very painful to me. But it honestly felt as if I were totally sane, just that I had some serious work to do; although I knew that it appeared that I was going nuts.” 

I’ve always had faith in my potential, and I feel as if I’ve made some huge steps forward now. I don’t feel like I need the emotional support of those around me, and that’s very liberating.” 

Weezer Promo Credit Sean Murphy

On the band’s 2009 bus crash…

I was frozen on the floor and I couldn’t even lift my head. At that point I thought, Maybe I’m on the way out here, maybe I’m going to die.’ I had limited sensory information and I was utterly powerless. And it actually felt kinda peaceful. A little sad, but not scary. I think I’m the kind of person that doesn’t have many illusions about the permanence of life, but it definitely underscored the fact that any moment could be your last. Any song I write might be my last, any vocal I record could be my last. So it’s extra important now that I should give everything I have and say everything I want to say. The actual moment of the crash wasn’t as scary as you might think. But I started to look back on it and feel more scared, like, Wow, that was actually pretty traumatic.’” 

On fatherhood…

Being around a toddler is so inspiring, to see how spontaneous and fun they are. And also having this mindset where it’s not all about me. I have to be supportive and entertaining, even if I’ve had a tough day.” 

On the state of the world…

I think it’s normal for an old person like me to be totally mystified and confused about where things are going. I just trust that a new generation is going to rise to the occasion and be like, Oh yeah, we got this…’” 

All quotes sourced from Kerrang! archives. 

Posted on June 7th 2021, 11:30a.m.
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