UNDONE: The Complete Oral History Of Weezer

Artwork by Fuzzysocks102.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A vastly shorter version of the following oral history of Weezer appeared in MAGNET MAGAZINE in 2014. In advance of Weezer’s performance at The Met tomorrow night, we are publishing the complete and unabridged version. Enjoy.

“The best history of Weezer I have ever read.” — PAT WILSON, DRUMMER

BYLINER mecroppedsharp_1BY JONATHAN VALANIA This year the Blue Album turns 20, and Pinkerton is old enough to vote. Two decades-plus of being Weezer hasn’t all been Buddy Holly glasses and hash pipes for The Last Band Standing, Alt-Rock Class of ‘94. At various points along the way Weezer has been at war with the haters, the fans, the industry, and themselves — wars that have ended in victory, surrender, a cease fire, and a lasting peace, respectively. As such, the Weezer saga has its share of death, insanity and betrayal. And shredding. Always with the shredding. Speaking of which, Weezer’s new album, Everything Will Be All Right In The End, is not just a return to form, it’s at least as good as the Blue Album, if not the best thing they’ve ever done. They all deny it’s a swan song, but it sure feels like one. Which is why we tracked down all the living band members past and present, and, with the help of some special friends (Ric Ocasek, Rick Rubin, Johnny Knoxville and Karl Koch, aka The Fifth Weezer), and jigsawed together the magnet_weezercombo_114 copytragicomic puzzle of the last 22 years.

RIVERS CUOMO (singer, guitarist, songwriter): My parents were Buddhists, they were part of the Rochester Zen Center, which is one of the very first centers for Buddhism in the United States. It was a very rural and agrarian environment. I had chores like feeding ponies, clearing weeds and gardening, cooking and cleaning. Yoga, meditation practice everyday, and then some traditional academics, and a lot of self-lead creative projects. I couldn’t imagine a more nurturing, safe and supportive environment for a kid to grow up in. Years later when my brother and I went to public school, we had to teach ourselves how to swear and talk shit so we could fit in better.

PAT WILSON (drummer): I grew up in Buffalo. I didn’t get a drum set until I was 19, but I had a couple of friends that did. So, I was always at their house. They were semi-uninterested and I was like, ‘Let’s set up those drums, man.’ For some reason I just loved playing them. I dropped out of college after two months. Then I sat in my house in the basement I grew up in for a solid year and a half, smoking weed, drinking coffee, and learning how to play Rush bass lines.

RIVERS CUOMO: I was born with one leg shorter than the other so I had to wear special shoes, one with a lift, just one more reason I wasn’t as cool as everyone else. Whether by nature, or by the environment I grew up in, I found myself completely incapable of fighting I just couldn’t bring myself to defend myself physically. I’d rather just be pushed around and picked on. Usually it just petered out, because I wouldn’t fight them back. Turns out it was a good defense.

MATT SHARP (bass player, 1994-1998): I was born in Thailand but only lived there for a year before moving to the suburbs of DC. My father worked for the U.S. government during the Vietnam war and he was interviewing insurgents in Thailand to find out why they were rebelling. I got a chance to go back to Thailand for one of the last shows I played with Weezer. The touring company we were with seemed to be interlinked with the Thai Mafia. Wherever we went people were terrified of the company we were keeping, just this uneasiness from all the people around us. I remember landing and the touring company meeting us at the gate and ushering us past customs, the guards were carrying M-16s and they turned their back so we could walk through. We had a police escort wherever we went. We got out of the airport and there was a TV reporter with a big light on his camera and he points it at me and says ‘How does it feel to be home?’

RIVERS CUOMO: The first time I heard Kiss, I was living at the Ashram. There were all kinds of people who would just come through and visit the Swami there. People from all over the world. One time, when I was seven years old, this girl showed up. I remember her name was Shanti, she was black, and she had KISS Rock And Roll Over and somehow, as the record was playing, we recorded ourselves running around in circles listening to it. So, for years after, all I had was this cassette tape of KISS playing in the background with us kids screaming and running around. Years later, I met Gene Simmons. He came to one of our concerts. And Ace came, too. It was pretty mindblowing.

PAT WILSON: One day I got introduced to this kid called Pat Finn, the first bass player I ever played with. He’s like, ‘I’m moving to L.A.. I’m gonna be in a band.’ I was like, ‘I’m gonna go with you.’ Pat wound up getting a job at Tower Records on the Sunset Strip where Rivers worked.

JASON CROPPER (guitarist, 1992-1994): When I got to LA, Matt and Pat were working at this telemarketing place selling dog shampoo. Pat was like, I can get you a job.

PAT WILSON: Rivers had a ponytail and could shred with the best of them. He was like the Valley metal-jock. I don’t know if you know about those guys, but at that time it was a distinct breed of long-haired, semi-athletic, and really proficient on an instrument.

JOHNNY KNOXVILLE (friend, that Jackass guy): The guys in Weezer were part of a larger group of friends that were fairly new to Hollywood and flat ass broke. I think I was the only non-musician out of everyone. Didn’t matter though, we all swigged cheap beer together and played a lot of pickup games of basketball. Pat wilson had a hook shot that was virtually indefensible, and Rivers was scrappy as hell. A good shot too.

RIVERS CUOMO: Working at Tower Records was where I was first introduced to ‘cooler music.’ All of the employees there had much better taste. I was exposed to Sonic Youth and the Pixies, and early Nirvana. Even old records from the ‘60s like The Velvet Underground & Nico and Pet Sounds. At first I was pretty nauseated by all that, but after repeated listenings, my own taste started to change.

PAT WILSON: Rivers wanted to start a new band and he said he wanted me to be the drummer. But, he said ‘We’re not gonna have any kind of rehearsal until we have 50 songs written. So we were writing and writing.

RIVERS CUOMO: I probably got about 32 songs in, and finally Pat slipped our demo tape to Matt Sharp, who used to be our roommate. Matt was the real confident, ambitious alpha-male type of guy, so I think he immediately recognized the potential in that demo tape. He got on the phone with me and said, ‘Alright, we’re doing this.’

KARL KOCH (webmaster, historian, archivist and unofficial fifth member): They never got to 50. By February of ’92, they got too impatient and started playing together.

RIVERS CUOMO: It wasn’t until maybe two months into regularly rehearsing with those four guys in the garage that the sound started coming together. We cast aside some of the bluesy, grungier rock stuff, and focused more on major keys and beautiful chord progressions. I started singing more like I did in choir growing up, rather than trying to be Kurt Cobain.

JASON CROPPER: Getting gigs in Hollywood was brutal. Just to get up on stage, they would make you buy like 100 tickets at $6 a head and you had to sell them all or you’re out all that money, just to get up on that stage to play a stupid rock club. We couldn’t wait to get started.

RIVERS CUOMO: I kept harassing this guy Casey at [the now defunct club] Raji’s in Hollywood to give us a gig. Finally, one day he called and said, ‘The opening band for Keanu Reeves’ band Dogstar just canceled, do you guys wanna play?’ I said, ‘YES!’ And so he said, ‘What are you guys called?’ We didn’t have a name yet so I told him we were called Weezer, which was my dad’s nickname for me. When I told the guys, ‘Hey, guess what, we’re called Weezer,’ they weren’t super excited about it.

MATT SHARP: The thing that was unique to that name was the pure abuse it engendered when we were passing out flyers at clubs. There’s certain names that people just like to say. People loved to scream the word WEEZER back at you while they crumbled up the flyer.

BRIAN BELL: Ironically, the guitar player for the band gave me a flyer for the show, and so I went to go see them and they had a song called “Say It Ain’t So” that just made me think this was by far one of the best local bands I’ve seen at a club in this city.

KARL KOCH: Up until they signed with Geffen everyone felt it was a democracy, everyone had equal say in what happens, everyone contributes different things. Rivers kind of grew into the leadership role — because of his vision and his ego, whatever you want to call it, he was the most driven and most ambitious and determined of the four and the one who would make the first move.

JASON CROPPER: Clearly it was Rivers’ band, but I wanted to have more of a say about what we did and how we did it. I think I was too inexperienced to shut up and enjoy the ride.

MATT SHARP: Every record label, from little indie label to national conglomerates passed on us. Rivers was offered a number of college scholarships. He told me that if we don’t release a record such and such a time, ‘I’m going to go to college.’

PAT WILSON: Next thing you know, we’re playing these shows and people are kind of into it. I remember thinking, ‘Nobody’s into this,’ even with lots of people coming to shows. I think the industry kind of thought we were douche bags, because there was only one guy ready to stake his claim, and that was Todd Sullivan. I think he saw something really cool in the band.

JOHNNY KNOXVILLE: I loved their music from the beginning. I can’t tell you how many of Weezer’s shows I went to in the early days at Club Dump, or the Gaslight. It was crazy when they blew up because the week before me, Handsome Jack Polick, and two or three other people were the only ones at their show. Then they get signed and at the next show a week later, people are lined up around the block. It was nuts.

JASON CROPPER: Todd’s like ‘We need to get a producer, we need to get a big name producer, we need to get a cool producer.’

RIC OCASEK (producer, leader of The Cars): I got their [demo] tapes from Geffen Records when I was out in LA working on another project. I listened to it in the car and just thought it was phenomenal. Having no idea what they looked like, I thought they were a heavy metal band that had really good melodies.

JASON CROPPER: The next thing we know Ric Ocasek walks into our practice space, he sits down he makes himself really small and he’s just so kind and he’s got his little pad and he’s just drawing things.

MATT SHARP: Ric is the icon from all of our youth, he was the voice of 50% of all radio and MTV when we were growing up.

JASON CROPPER: We had prepared a cover of “Just What I Needed,” you know sort of goofing around and honoring him at the same time.

RIC OCASEK: I was only sitting 10 feet away and they had everything turned up to ’12,’ just a wall of frequencies. [chuckles]. It was really great and I immediately wanted to produce the album.

PAT WILSON: I wasn’t even sure what that meant— a producer. From my perspective, it was jazz. Capture our playing and it’s a beautiful record. But it wasn’t like that, he had to tighten that shit out. Tie a lot of bits together. It would have sounded like Pinkerton if we hadn’t practiced it. Everything would always sound like Pinkerton unless we had Ric Ocasek.

RIC OCASEK: I talked them into coming to New York and recording at Electric Lady. I thought it would be inspiring. I liked the demo so much, I was basically trying to get the same sound as the demo. Warm, without a lot of clarity but a lot of power.

PAT WILSON: Ric insisted that “Buddy Holly” was on the record, and Rivers didn’t want that. I think he thought of that song as being on the next record.

RIC OCASEK: Obviously, there was tension in the band, the guitar player got fired by the end of the recording.

KARL KOCH: Jason had a girlfriend back in LA and one day she called him and said ‘Oh, I’m pregnant’ and from that day onward his personality became really intense and frantic. He wasn’t handling it well. A couple times the band would pull him aside and be like ‘Are you OK, are you sure you can do this?’ And he always said he was fine, but then 20 minutes later he’d be up on the roof of Electric Lady screaming or something. The other guys in the band got a little spooked.

JASON CROPPER: The final straw? The woman I married a few years later showed up in New York unannounced while we were making the record, with no place to stay. And that was it. Rivers was like ‘I can’t fucking take any more of this inconsiderate guy,’ and you know he was right. He explained it to me as kindly as he could, he was like, ‘I like you, we’ll stay friends but I can’t…this is a really special moment for the huge amount of work we’ve done to get here like a life’s time of work and I don’t feel like you get it in the same way.’

PAT WILSON: There was no shouting or screaming or anything. I don’t think Jason was stoked to be there.

RIC OCASEK: The last day of recording Rivers called me up and said ‘Jason’s not going to be in the band anymore so I have to re-do all his parts.’ I said ‘Why don’t you just keep the guitar tracks you got because it’s done.’ And he said, ‘No, I have to do all his parts over again, don’t worry it won’t take too long.’ So I said ‘OK OK.’ We went back in he did all the guitar parts in one day. And they were perfect.

BRIAN BELL (guitarist, 1994-present): I kind of played it cool when they first asked me, like a girl that you really want to go out with, you don’t call her back right away, I played that game. I played them pretty hard. They left a message and I didn’t call them back right away.

They call me up and the first question Rivers asks is what is my favorite Star Wars character. I thought of the most obscure character I could, which was Hammerhead. I also knew that Rivers loves Kiss, and I could care less for Kiss, but I totally lied and said I was way into Kiss.

They sent me a plane ticket, then I get picked up at the airport by this little man in a tuxedo with a hat and gray hair, I’ll never forget it, I thought, “I feel like I’m in Led Zeppelin all of the sudden.” I took the redeye so I get there at like 5:30 am. I went straight to the Gramercy Park Hotel, and Rivers answers the door and he had a horrible mustache. He said, ‘Welcome to the band. Oh by the way you’ll have to grow a mustache.’ River’s said ‘Here’s the floor, get some sleep.” So I slept on the floor the first night. Pat came in and said “Hey,” then he turns around and moons me.

BRIAN BELL: On that first tour before we made the videos, like 10 people would show up in a 3,000 seat place or something, we go to Berkeley Square and it’s just zero paying people or playing after the movie Rollerball in Portland and hardly anyone stuck around. And then we made the videos.

KARL KOCH: There were no videos when the album was released, there wasn’t even a single. It was really hard to get Geffen to spend a dollar without seeing some potential and the potential came when Undone started getting played on the radio in Seattle, 107.7 The End. And then modern rock stations all over started following suit and Geffen was like, ‘OK, we need to make a video.’

MATT SHARP: Spike Jonze was a friend of ours from way back. I remember telling Spike we just want to do a straight performance video, but in a blue room, like the cover of the album. That was not his thing. He took a minute to think about it and called me back and saying ‘OK, a straight performance video in a blue room, but with dogs.’

KARL KOCH: We couldn’t get the dogs to do what we wanted them to do. I mean it was a big room with loud music blaring so it was hard to get them to hit their marks, and you had like 15 different trainers trying to tell their dog which way to go. At one point one of the dogs came over and crapped on Pat’s drum pedal. At that point we realized this was ridiculous and we should just let everyone do whatever the fuck they wanted, dogs included, and it will be fun.

PAT WILSON: He came to us with this idea of using a Steadicam but he used this weird trick where guys in the beginning are hanging upside down on gravity boots, but the Steadicam is also upside down. So you walk in, and they look normal. And then you walk through the door, and the steady cam slowly flips, and we’re like, ‘How did that happen?’ He’s always been thinking of clever things like that. It’s so cool to see him become an iconic director.

KARL KOCH: Spike came to us with the Happy Days idea for “Buddy Holly,” and everyone but Rivers said ‘Hell yeah.’ He was worried that people would think we were a joke band.

MATT SHARP: The thing that I remember the most about the “Buddy Holly” video was they had trouble getting all the Happy Days actors to sign off on letting us use their image in the footage we used. So we had to get Joanie’s release and Potsie’s release etc. They were apprehensive at first, but when The Fonz said ‘I’m in’ everyone else said, ‘If the Fonz says it cool, it’s cool.”

PAT WILSON: The best thing about that video is that there’s no CGI going on. It’s all just clever camera work. And clever editing. I get to the point at the Fonz and he goes ‘Ayyy.’ I mean, come on. I loved Happy Days as a kid. It doesn’t get any cooler than that.

KARL KOCH: Geffen never told us [they had negotiated a deal with Microsoft that would have the “Buddy Holly” video included with Windows 95] and nobody in the band even had a computer at that so we had no idea how big a deal that was.

PAT WILSON: I was furious because at the time I was like, ‘How are they allowed to do this without our permission?’ Turns out it was one of the greatest things that could have happened to us. Can you imagine that happening today? It’s like, there’s one video on You Tube, and it’s your video.

BRIAN BELL: It was literally like living inside the eye of the hurricane. People were telling me, ‘You don’t know how big this is, you’re on Windows 95.’ I didn’t have a computer, I didn’t know what that meant, so I never really got a grasp of how big we were becoming.

PAT WILSON: The first time I realized we were blowing up was after a show in Philadelphia and mob of kids were rocking our tour bus while we were in it. The was the first time in Philadelphia I was like, ‘Holy fuck, what’s going on?!?

MATT SHARP: There were definitely moments of ridiculousness, where I just said ‘OK, life is silly.’

RIVERS CUOMO: I was so disappointed in so many ways with success, which I think is kind of a common thing for bands of our generation. You try so hard to make it, and then you make it, and you’re disappointed. No one really cared who wrote the songs, or even who was singing them. So I felt very unappreciated. I remember riding the bus in Boston, I saw a kid wearing a Weezer shirt on the bus. And he just walked right past me.

BRIAN BELL: Fame is never how you imagined it would be. It was disillusioning. I didn’t like being recognized. I remember the first time when we were on that Lush tour and we saw kids running toward us that were like ‘Holy shit, run!’ and Rivers said to me something like, ‘Being famous sucks.’

RIVERS CUOMO: I really loved being in college, and I loved learning and studying. I had applied and been accepted to UC Berkeley, and I was planning to go there. Then we got swept up in the whole promoting the Blue Album thing, and that was great for a while. But then I started to feel super anxious that I was wasting my life in this kind of Groundhog Day touring routine. When the tour came through Boston, and I went up to Harvard and walked around, and felt this immense craving. I got an application, filled it out, and they accepted me.

PAT WILSON: Rivers was born with one leg shorter than the other, which precluded him from sports, and it only gets worse as you get older and causes all kinds of problems. So he got his leg lengthened. Just another bizarre anecdote about Weezer, ‘Oh yeah, and right here is where they chopped Rivers’ femur in half and stretched it out. Made it grow back together so he could get some length on his leg.’ I think it grew an inch and a half. He looks completely normal to me now.

BRIAN BELL: On tour Rivers was asking for pianos everywhere. He decided that he wanted to practice the piano for three hours a day. He wanted one in his room, one in the rehearsal room, wherever, he had to practice three hours a day. He was writing the second album and I think I was one of the first ones to hear what he was doing. We were in a hotel in Nashville and he played me a song called “Songs From A Black Hole.” And he was like, ‘Okay, the next record is going to be a musical set in outer space.’  I don’t know when it changed to Pinkerton. Rivers got obsessed with Madama Butterfly.  Pinkerton was a character in Madama Butterfly.

RIVERS CUOMO: Obviously, it was a good experience having Ric there for the first record, but I had always wanted us to produce ourselves. As soon as we earned the right to do that for our second record, we went for it.

PAT WILSON: A classic sophomore error, if you ask me. In a weird way, there’s kind of a beauty to that blind reaction against what you’ve just done. At that time we weren’t really getting along very well, and we just weren’t very functional. When you’re young, you think you know things. And then you get popular, and you have different ideas about what that means, I guess. It didn’t feel very unified at that time. You can kind of hear that in the way Pinkerton sounds. It’s a perfect match of angry people and Rivers has a broken leg.

BRIAN BELL: We thought for sure that “El Scorcho” and “The Good Life” were strong singles. When I listen back now I think it sounds nuts.

PAT WILSON: What I remember about Pinkerton was playing out of the way places and having people know the words to non-singles and shit and thinking, ‘Hmmm, that’s weird.’

BRIAN BELL: I know the Rolling Stone review really affected Rivers. It said it was one of the worst albums of the year. We had put all our heart into it. People probably wanted the same record again, and I thought it was great that we weren’t making the same record.

RIVERS CUOMO: It quickly fell off the charts. I didn’t think it was possible to sell as few copies as it did. In a year, it probably sold 200,000 copies, which was just 10% of our previous album sales. A 90%  drop off. It was utterly crushing, and humiliating, and all the more so because I felt like it was all my fault. I had, against everyone’s wishes, made it such a personal album and lead us straight into annihilation.

KARL KOCH: The last show of the Pinkerton tour — the last show before going dark for three years — was a memorial concert for Mykel and Carli, the two sisters that ran our fan club, who were killed in a car accident. They were travelling with us, organizing fan club meet ups at shows. Driving from Denver to Salt Lake whoever was driving fell asleep. We decided to schedule a memorial show at the end of the tour in Los Angeles to help the family out. Three of their daughters passed away—Mykel, Carli and the sister who was in the vehicle at the time. It was brutal.

MATT SHARP: My life this point was: go on the road for however long with Weezer, come back on a short break and work on Return Of The Rentals go back out on the road with Weezer and come back on a short break finish Return Of The Rentals. Go in the studio with Weezer. Go on tour for Return Of The Rentals, then back into the studio to finish Pinkerton.

PAT WILSON: Why did Matt Sharp leave the band? That’s a question with a million answers. I can’t really give you the definitive reason.

RIVERS CUOMO: From my perspective, he must have thought he had better options somewhere else. It’s hard to appreciate how grim it looked for Weezer at the end of ’97. I think it’s a combination of our ship sinking and his ship setting out.  Actually, he was working on his second [Rentals] record. I respect him for it. He was extremely passionate about it, and all-consumed. Kind of like how I was with Pinkerton. He got bit by this artistic bug, and he had to realize his vision.

MATT SHARP: I didn’t [quit the band] — I’m not going to go into it — Rivers fired me, essentially. And that’s kind of all there is to it. There’s not much of a story. Everything we just talked about I have no desire to share with anybody. I have no desire to set the record straight, ultimately I find it all insignificant. I will always be very apprehensive about ever talking negatively about my time in the band. As a fan of other bands, I never liked to read that shit. I consumed so many band biographies and when it comes to those Behind The Music moments  — you know John Lennon calling Paul McCartney a ‘twat’ in the NME, whatever it was — that never helped me enjoy what they created.

RIVERS CUOMO: At the beginning of 1998, we came together in L.A. with the intention of starting The Green Album. I just lost my confidence. We met up at the rehearsal studio in January, February, ‘Wait guys, let me write a few more songs. I think I’m almost there.’  March, April, May, June, ‘OK guys, why don’t we break for a while. Let’s stop rehearsing. I’m just gonna go write songs. Uh, sorry about that. Just give me a minute.’ Then it’s 1999…2000…

PAT WILSON: I don’t think Rivers was feeling it.

RIVERS CUOMO: It really felt like we were over and done with, and totally forgotten.

PAT WILSON: We thought we were done. One day our manager called us up and said, ‘Hey, you got a big offer to play this festival in Japan.’ Somehow, we wound up doing it. We needed a bass player, so we got Mikey [Welsh].

BRIAN BELL: Rivers met Mikey in Boston and invited him to a rehearsal in LA and we immediately clicked. It was a huge relief to have found a new bass player.

RIVERS: CUOMO: We started hearing about this new generation of kids who were into ‘Emo’ music, and we were one of their heroes.

BRIAN BELL: I first heard the term “Emo” in some music rag and I asked my sister what it meant. She told me that it was short for emotional. I found that ridiculous because isn’t all music and art based on emotions?

PAT WILSON: The thing that tripped us out was playing some Warped Tour shows. It was madness. I mean, real madness. I felt so bad for the bands who had to go on before us, because their chant was just ‘Weezer!’ I remember being shocked. I love playing, and I’m amazed that people want to hear us play.

RIVERS CUOMO: I think it was those shows, finding out that people actually loved Pinkerton, as well as The Blue Album, that helped me get up the courage to commit to a body of songs and to make another record.

BRIAN BELL: We were back with Rick O. and what I remember the most is Rick’s persistence in getting the feel just right to “Island In The Sun.” It’s a good thing he did that because the song is still our biggest hit ever in France.

RIC OCASEK: That’s when I realized how prolific Rivers is, I remember getting all these demo tapes, there must have been 50 songs to choose from. They were all so good, it could have been a triple album. At this point, Rivers didn’t like to hear things loud in the control room. So when we listened back it would be just barely audible.

PAT WILSON: It didn’t feel as spontaneous. As tight as the Blue Album was, the Green Album was doubled-down on that. There are some great tunes on there, but it’s absolutely nothing like Pinkerton. There couldn’t be anything like Pinkerton.

RIVERS CUOMO:  How was the album received? It’s complicated. I mean, there was one group of fans that was waiting for the next Pinkerton and was disappointed that we put out the anti-Pinkerton. There was a whole set of new fans that were super passionate about the super-poppy rock band. It became apparent that Weezer could be successful in different ways for different crowds, and please some people and anger others.

KARL KOCH: The day they launch the Green Album, they fired their management company. I think Rivers felt that he could manage the band better. They had some disputes, and Rivers said, ‘Alright, that’s it. I’m tired of arguing with these people, we’re gonna do it our way.’ Next thing you know, Rivers is basically managing the band.

PAT WILSON: This was the time of Rivers having an anti-boner against the industry and management, and just wanting to be free. I don’t think any record company wants to deal directly with the artist.

RIVERS CUOMO: We broke off relations with our record label Interscope,  went and made the next record on our own, without asking anything from the record company. Then, we printed up 500 copies of a sampler. We got a mailing list of all the radio stations, all of the college stations, and all the press, and we sent it out to them. None of this involved our label. The first single started going up the chart, and of course the label was completely panicking because we haven’t given them the record yet. They contacted our lawyer and said, ‘You have to contact all of these radio stations and tell them to stop playing this song.’ Weezer wrote all of the radio stations a letter and said, ‘The record company has asked us to stop playing our song. Signed, Weezer.’ Of course, that just made them play it more. I don’t know what the heck we were doing.

KARL KOCH: Rivers managing the band lasted all of one album.

PAT WILSON: Mikey and I were tight. We yukked it up hard. He toured with us for months in that little van. It was so much fun, driving around. And then I think Weezer became a huge bummer for him. I think he just felt like, ‘Ugh, this is not what I signed up for.’ I just remember him slowly getting crazier and then one day he calls and he’s like, ‘Hey man, I’m in the hospital, overdosed.’

KARL KOCH: He became very erratic on the road, but had no clue at the time that he had mental illness issues, which he did and was later open about. He was bipolar, he had schizophrenia, I believe. At the time, we thought, ‘Well, Mikey likes to drink wine, he likes to get fucked up, he likes to trash hotel rooms. That’s his trip, you know?’ We were all 29-30 years old. We were just kids that hadn’t grown up yet, and nobody really recognized that this guy was in trouble.

The last show we played with him was The Jay Leno Show, and it went fine, and we all went to the airport or whatever, and it was like, ‘Alright, see you next week.’ Then Mikey went missing. Later, word came back that he was in a psychiatric ward in Boston, and he’s not doing well. This was all like, ‘What!?’ He had done some crazy shit in the past, but nobody knew that he was in a condition that could lead to that. Mikey eventually reached out and said, ‘I’m sick. I’m not well. I don’t know when I’m going to be well, but will you please wait for me?’ I think basically the answer was, ‘We’d love to wait for you, but we’ve got plans to start a tour in two weeks. We can’t wait, you know? Get better, get well and we’ll talk to you after this tour. We’ll figure it out.’

SCOTT SHRINER (bassist, 2001-present): My first gig was on 9/11. So I woke up and the alarm was set way too early and I didn’t check it and it went off at like 5:30 am and they were talking about the second plane hitting the World Trade Center. I didn’t know what it was, it was like “War of the Worlds” or something. I woke  up and just thought it was the end of the world. Obviously that show was cancelled, but we went to the next date in Vegas and only a very small amount of people showed up. But we kept going and people started showing up and the world became orderly again.

RIC OCASEK: Scott is an unbelievable bass player, that really improved things — not that they needed improving. But he really solidified that band, interacts with everyone in a great way and he’s just a phenomenal bass player.

SCOTT SHRINER: I’m not for everybody and I know that and I accept that, and some people have their bass players as their main guys and they see me and I’m not for them. I can’t take it personally, you’re either down with me or not, maybe I’ll grow on you, just give me some more time.

RIVERS CUOMO: After Maladroit come out, our A&R guy said to me, ‘If you guys could work with any producer in the world on this next record, who would it be?’ Instantly, I knew it was Rick Rubin. Every musician has a favorite different Rick Rubin album that changes their lives. For me, it was Slayer’s Reign In Blood. They contacted him and he came down to the studio right away.

RICK RUBIN (producer, sage): The band was uncommunicative and held resentments with each other, it wasn’t conducive to their doing their best work. I suggested they see a communication coach to help repair years of bad habits. Before the coach, I always saw a lot of hostility towards each other when they were together.

RIVERS CUOMO: He referred us to this woman who had worked with the Chili Peppers. She was a very nice lady and she gave us a few communication skills so we could be more gentle with each other.

PAT WILSON: We were all sitting there like, ‘You made me feel bad, and now I’m sad.’ And ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘OK.’ And then it went back to what it was like, it was so funny. I’m glad we stopped doing it. If you need to go to counseling, you’re 90 percent done.

RICK RUBIN: Rivers seemed disconnected and unhappy when I met him. I gave him some different books I thought might speak to him, and one was about meditation. He told it interested him but the idea frightened him. I think he may have seen it as giving up control of himself by meditating, which is the exact opposite of what happens. I’m not sure why he eventually chose Vipassana, but once he did, he dove in deep.

RIVERS CUOMO: Around this time, Matt Sharp sued Weezer and our manager and our business manager. I’d say a lot of bridges were burned, but when I started my serious mediation practice in 2003, I pretty quickly realized I wanted to settle whatever differences I could, and to make amends for whatever pain I had caused anybody. Any of the big ones, anyway. Sitting in silence with nothing but your own thoughts for week after week. Any kind of tension or unresolved business can be extremely aggravating. You want to get that stuff settled and move on.

PAT WILSON: We tried meditating once before the show. We thought it would be cool. I fell asleep.

RICK RUBIN: RIvers was a very prolific writer who talked about writing songs in a formulaic way. I was hoping to get songs from his core being versus songs as equations. Through his meditation practice I think he got more in tune with himself and his songs became more personal.

PAT WILSON: I really liked the way Rick Rick work with us  — all of us in a room. But for some reason, Rivers wasn’t happy with it. I don’t think Rivers ever wanted to put that record out, to be honest.

RIVERS: I think if we had done a vote, I would have voted for ‘Let’s keep working on this,’ for sure.

PAT WILSON: I remember when we started working on The Red Album, we were doing sessions in Shangri-La up in Malibu, and it didn’t feel good. Everyone was willing to show up, but I wouldn’t say the band was functioning. But we turned it around somehow, I think it’s the last bitchin’ record we put out, personally.

SCOTT SHRINER: Raditude took a while to grow on me. What changed my mind about that record was my son who is absolutely nuts about that album and knows every song and learn to play every song on drums. He’s six now, but he’s been listening to it since he was two and it’s still his favorite. So what does that tell you?

PAT WILSON: I think that was kind of the time where Rivers was trying to get Dr. Luke-y about shit. He wanted to feel like we were relevant. Not my favorite. I’m gonna get in trouble now.

SCOTT SHRINER: Hurely was another challenging one.

PAT WILSON: What do I remember about Hurley? Not much. I don’t remember much. I remember people being like, ‘OK, now Weezer’s just fucking with us.’ Which I loved, by the way. There was a Kickstarter thing to raise $10 million to pay us to break up. I tweeted, ‘Make it $20 million and we’ll do the deluxe break up.’

SCOTT SHRINER: Different names started circulating for producing the new album. I wanted to work with Ric [Ocasek] because I’d never worked with him and love the two albums that he did with Weezer. The Cars was one of those bands that changed my idea of music.

BRIAN BELL: I just think he ‘gets’ us.

RIC OCASEK: It’s clear to me that they’re much better friends, much closer, know how to communicate with each other pretty well.

SCOTT SHRINER: There is not one song that rubs me the wrong way on the new album.

KARL KOCH: The new album’s origin dates back to late- 2011, the year Mikey Welsh died [of an apparent drug overdose]. I know Rivers has been working on songs since then, trying to come up with a suite of songs that work together, and bring the band to life, that everybody was into. He made a real big effort to make something that was a Weezer record, that he believed in, and that Weezer fans could believe in.

RIVERS CUOMO: In the last few years I definitely developed a heightened awareness of the impermanence of everyone and everything, including myself while I was writing this album. I remember when I was in my poetry class and Harvard and we were studying Keats’ “Ode To Autumn.” It was my professor’s favorite poem and she described it just like you described our new record. That sweet sense of melancholy and loss. I think that poem was written towards the end of his very short life. He must have known he was on his way out.

JASON CROPPER: River’s called me a few years ago, right around the time he got married, he was really cleaning up messes and putting things right. We had a really great talk and it was very emotional and very heartfelt. I was able to really let him know how sad it was for me to leave the band because we never had time to before, He didn’t have time to listen to me moan and groan about anything and rightfully so, the guys been busy for 20-plus years non-stop, whether it was being a rock star, going back to college,  starting a family. But he took the time to come around and try to make things feel okay between us, like we are friends, like he said we always would be when I left. I’m really grateful that he did that.

RIVERS CUOMO: Perhaps the most valuable lesson I’ve learned over the last 20 years is to be patient and not to put too much stock in the initial reaction to a new album.The worst received album of Weezer’s career was Pinkerton, by a long shot. That has turned into one of the most beloved albums for our fans. That just goes to show you that initial critical and commercial reaction can be very misleading. At the time, in 1996, I believed what I was hearing from everyone, that it was a terrible album and I made a terrible mistake. And I’m so glad we have that album, I’d say more than any album its at the core of our relationship with our fans. If this record were to meet the same fate, I would be nothing but happy.

JOHNNY KNOXVILLE: I was so happy for them and proud when they first blew up — it made me believe that maybe i could make it too. It helped my confidence a great deal. These were guys I knew, and they did it. I thought maybe it’s not impossible. I owe them a lot for that.

PAT WILSON: I constantly fuck with Scott, like, ‘Man, wait till we get Matt back in the band. It’s gonna be amazing.’

MATT SHARP: In the end, the only thing that matters is the music that we made and the connection that we had to our audience. Everything else is just meaningless. I’m proud of the albums we made, and the audience we were lucky enough to find. We laughed to together and sang together and lost our minds together. I cherish that moment, but don’t have any desire to recapture that moment.

PAT WILSON: I can only tell you the reason I’m still doing it. It’s the best job, and I like doing it. Who gets to do this? Who gets to go up onstage and play drums for a living? I was just thinking about this, what other bands from the early nineties are still together, let alone playing shows? It’s crazy. You know what the secret is? Always feel like you’re breaking up. If you look at the arc of bands, they usually start out all together, and then they get successful, and then it changes. They go from high-unity to disunity. We’ve always just been so fucked up from the beginning, there was nowhere else to go but up.