Nancy Guppy Interviews Singer Chris Ballew
Lead singer for longstanding Seattle band Presidents of the United States of America (PUSA), Chris Ballew is also known as kindie rocker Caspar Babypants. This month, PUSA releases a new album and celebrates Presidents Day with two local shows: 2/15 at Showbox and 2/16 at The Triple Door.
LOCATION: Ballew’s tiny home recording studio in West Seattle
Ballew’s DRINK: Ginger tea *No actual coffee consumed.
NG: PUSA turns 21 this year—how do you keep the old songs fresh?
CB: I imagine songs as living things that mutate and change. There’s no fixed version.
NG: What can fans expect with this new PUSA album?
CB: A lot of shoe gazing. A lot of anger. [laughs] Fans can expect the sound of the Presidents finally coming full circle and not caring about anything except pleasing ourselves.
NG: Is there a quintessential PUSA song?
CB: I would say “Lump.” I’ve never performed “Lump” and not been completely present in the moment. It’s like playing it for the first time every single time.
NG: You are a killer front man—where did you learn how to lead a rock band?
CB: Well, there’s that Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours thing. Plus, I’ve become a better front man since I started performing for children, because kids will interrupt me in the middle of a song to tell me about their new jacket, and I just stop and let things flow.
NG: If you could rework/redo a moment or a time in your life, what would it be?
CB: I would not have quit the Presidents in late 1997. I would take a break, not break up.
NG: Are Chris Ballew and Caspar Babypants one and the same?
CB: Pretty much. The main difference is that Chris Ballew of the Presidents gets to balance innocence and innuendo. Caspar just has the innocence. But the little glowing core of telling stories about characters, or food I like, is the same.
NG: Has there been a creative high point in your life?
CB: Right now. The Presidents are alive, and the Caspar Babypants thing is just an unstoppable volcano of material.
NG: Who’s your favorite audience?
CB: A 10:30 a.m. library audience.
NG: What’s your best quality?
CB: I work really hard to be generous with music. I wanna give people songs that are useful and can brighten their day.
Nancy Guppy showcases Seattle artists on her show, Art Zone (seattlechannel.org/artzone).