Published Mar 13, 2015When Isaac Brock first began recording music under the name Modest Mouse, he went on an absolute tear, self-releasing a series of cassettes, EPs and 7-inches on various labels and subsequently three albums in four years, not to mention a better-than-average compilation collecting a lot of those scattered releases. And so the release of Strangers to Ourselves — the band's first album in eight years due on March 17 via Glacial Pace — comes as an unusual lull in what was otherwise a prolific career.
As history has shown, though, Brock has led a pretty unusual life, one struck by a number of tragedies, brushes with the law and a hard-knock childhood. Modest Mouse will serve as the Timeline for the upcoming April issue of Exclaim!, but to whet your appetite, here are five noteworthy facts you may not have known about Brock and his band.
1. Sub Pop had first dibs on releasing Modest Mouse's debut album but passed.
In 1996, Modest Mouse release a 7-inch called Broke for Sub Pop. The band pass their demo, Live in Sunburst Montana, to the label, but Sub Pop rejects it. Up Records, whose office is on the same floor as Sub Pop, receive the tape, love it and offer to release their album. Brock explains what happened to the Sex Sells fanzine: "Up just liked it, and Sub Pop just kind of played around with us and shit. And I guess it turns out they wanted to sign us and things, but at this point I'm glad that didn't happen. Anyways, Up tried a lot harder with us… They let us do our first album as a double album, and I know Sub Pop wouldn't have done that."
2. Modest Mouse were nearly killed by a cow.
At the start of a spring tour, on the way to a gig in Chicago the band's van spins out and nearly drives off a bridge in Montana, with only the guardrail stopping them. They buy some chains for the tires and drive on, only to discover that they've damaged the lines that bring fluid to the brakes. All roads in the area are closed but one due to a blizzard, but they plough through snowdrifts and nearly kill a cow standing in the middle of the road. The van dies in a drift and they finally flag down a stuck but running Ford Mustang with a cowboy inside. He invites them in to stay warm overnight. In the morning, a hay bailer attempts to pull the van out of the drift but tips over; a second bailer manages to unstick the van. Writes Pat Graham in his book of photography, "By the time we made it to the Empty Bottle in Chicago it was one in the morning and the band was supposed to play at ten. We unloaded quickly and MM managed to play a couple songs to a few people before the place closed."
3. The only time Nardwuar the Human Serviette interviewed Isaac Brock he tried to find out if he was related to the Canadian war hero of the same name.
In a phone interview, Nardwuar the Human Serviette tries to determine whether Brock is a descendent of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, the "Hero of Upper Canada," through the colour of his pubic hair.
4. Isaac Brock had his jaw broken by a gang of teenagers, which completely changed how the band recorded their third album, The Moon & Antarctica.
While recording the next album with Brian Deck in Chicago, Brock gets his jaw broken in a fight. He recalls the moment to AV Club years later: "We were living in an apartment above Clava Studios, where we were recording The Moon & Antarctica, and we'd been out at a bar. We drove back to the apartment, and there was a park kind of kitty-corner to it, where local kids were just hanging out. I was going to smoke a cigarette outside before I went in, I'm all friendly drunk-guy, and I decided to shoot the shit with these kids. I'm like, 'Hi, how are you all doing?' And before I can get more words out, some dude from the side just full-on punches me, breaks my jaw. There's 14 of these fuckers. They were chasing after our dog, throwing bottles at me, still throwing punches — but they never landed another one. That's one of the things that could make me think that maybe I'm full of shit on this higher-power thing, because there's no reason that they kept missing after that first punch. I remember turning around and saying, 'You broke my jaw!' and they're just like, 'Fuck you, cowboy!'"
5. On two separate occasions, Isaac Brock mutilates himself onstage.
During a Modest Mouse show in 2002 at the Diamond Ballroom in Oklahoma City, Brock asks the crowd for a knife then proceeds to slice up his arms on stage. During a 2007 show in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Brock unexpectedly channels Iggy Pop and slashes his chest with a blade, after smacking himself in the head with his microphone. He later tells the Seattle Times, "I had lost my voice kind of early on that tour, and someone told me drinking single-malt whiskey opens up your vocal chords. So I was having a good time and got a little rowdy… I was having a good time, it was not a cry for help — [the cut] was really superficial… I'm not going off the deep end."