Feeling Strangely Busy

Fickle major labels, lethargic production schedules, desensitized index fingers--nothing can slow John Munson down

Released in September, the New Standards' self-titled debut is pretty sharp-looking, too, largely thanks to suave cover boys Munson, Chan Poling, and vibraphonist Steve Roehm. As with Music of China, the Dan Wilson-produced album features traditional songs--ranging from the venerable and mysterious Johnny Mathis hit "Nature Boy" to the more recent likes of Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes" and the Replacements' "I Will Dare."

"If anybody had told me in, like, '82, that I'd be in a band with Chan Poling," Munson confesses, "I'd have peed my pants. I was a huge Suburbs fan. Chan and I hooked up on a golf course one day and just kind of hit it off. Then [singer-songwriter] Kristin Mooney came back from Los Angeles for a gig in town. We sat in with her and it was like, 'Oh, this is great.' We started working together after that."

In addition to sharing crooning duties with Poling, Munson plays upright bass on the jazzy New Standards album, as he did on Mike Doughty's Dan Wilson-produced (see a pattern here?) Haughty Melodic, released in May. "I've been getting more calls for the standup than for electric bass," he says. "It's a little strange. I've had it for about 15 years, but it mostly just sat in a corner--once again--until Semisonic stopped being active. Then I really started digging into it."

Despite his new love, Munson remains faithful to the electric, which he plays on a forthcoming album with fellow Trip Shakespeare/E. Brown alum Matt Wilson, with whom Munson also plays in the Flops. "Who can say where else it might turn up? I don't think a Semisonic continuation is inconceivable by any means," he says. "If Dan came to me next week and said, 'I've got 15 tunes,' I'd do it in a heartbeat. We're in really close touch. Jake and I both played on his record. There's really nothing to prevent us from getting back together. We're too close and too old to be like, 'Shit didn't work out, fuck you.' It's fun stuff to work on, which is what it really comes down to."

Assuming his finger cooperates. But even given the worst, things could work out. "I can move it fine," Munson says. "It just doesn't have any feeling. I did play one sort of three-finger gig with it--the New Standards CD-release party at the Dakota. It might have been the funnest show I've ever played in my life."

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