Now living in Portland, Isaac Brock, a native of Issaquah — where he launched Modest Mouse, back in 1994 — and longtime Seattleite sounds like he has settled down from his wild-living days.
Once there was a City Mouse, rowdy, full of angst and anger, very creative and unpredictable. Some viewed him as more of a Rat than a Mouse, as his wild sense of humor bordered on obnoxious.
The City Mouse was known to drink immodest quantities of alcohol, and drunkenly dance within reach of the Cat. Loved to tempt fate, flirt with danger.
The City Mouse had a friend and polar opposite, the Country Mouse.
Quiet and likable, the Country Mouse was a modest and reliable husband and father.
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Where the City Mouse was brash and outrageous, the Country Mouse was loyal and steady. You wouldn’t catch him messing with any Cats.
This is the tale of two mice.
Isaac Brock is atop of the rock world. This volatile, sharp-witted artist has risen from local sensation to a top-selling, big-label act. It seems as though the only thing that can slow him down is the stocky, fiery-eyed dude smirking back in the mirror.
Now living in Portland, this native of Issaquah — where he launched Modest Mouse, back in 1994 — and longtime Seattleite sounds like he has settled down from his wild-living days.
So how’d he spend the night before this interview?
“Last night I flew on an airplane … I was visiting my fiancée’s family in Orange County. Then I watched an episode or two of ‘The Mighty Boosh,’ ” a BBC comedy.
He wasn’t planning a decadent celebration over sales of the new Modest Mouse album, “We Were Dead Even Before the Ship Sank,” either. In its first week of release, some 130,000 copies of the album were sold, making it No. 1 in the country. It’s a good bet to follow “Good News for People Who Love Bad News,” the previous Modest Mouse album, into platinum sales territory. (“We Were Dead” dropped to No. 11, with about 50,000 copies sold, in its second week.)
The album has also been getting strong reviews, many praising the work of new Modest Mouse member Johnny Marr, the legendary Smiths guitarist. Brock says it has been smooth sailing with Marr.
“He’s having a great time,” Brock said of Marr. “He gets what he calls ‘happy attacks’ a lot. This has been really refreshing for him. And I’m really, genuinely happy to have him on board.”
So Brock’s got a stellar new guitarist, a top-selling album and he’s engaged to be married — sounds like he’s traded in the angst for bliss, right?
Well … there was a concert in South Dakota in mid-March, during which Brock pulled out a big knife and slashed his chest, ripping through his T-shirt and drawing blood.
Brock doesn’t deny cutting himself on stage but says it was really no big deal.
“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.”
Wearing an Econochrist T-shirt, 16-year-old Eric Judy — having just moved from Northern California — was wandering around Issaquah. He walked into a video store, and “saw this kid with long hair wearing a T-shirt of a punk band [Jawbox]. I thought, ‘Here’s someone I should talk to.’ “
Judy and Brock hit it off, and started hanging out at a shed outside Brock’s mother’s house, listening to music and making their own. Back then, they both played bass guitar. Brock eventually took up lead guitar, with Judy playing bass for Modest Mouse. Drummer Jeremiah Green rounded out the lineup, a trio for years.
“I’m still in my first band, and still with my first girlfriend — I married her,” Judy said, from the backyard of his West Seattle home.
Judy is the picture of loyalty — though not quite perfect. “Once, I tried to quit [the band] while we were in Japan — but I was also really drunk. The next day, I apologized to Isaac and Jeremiah, and told them I didn’t really want to quit.”
For the most part, Judy has been the anchor of stability in the band. Green had to leave the band for close to a year when he suffered a nervous breakdown, and Brock is … well, he’s Brock.
In addition to being an unpredictable artist, Brock shook things up for Judy by adding Marr.
“I was happy to discover he was an upbeat, positive person to hang around,” Judy says of Marr.
Green is back with the band full time, but now Modest Mouse has two drummers, with the addition of Joe Plummer (Black Heart Procession), plus multi-instrumentalist Tom Peloso.
Judy is full of praise when he talks of Brock’s leadership characteristics: “He’s a bit of a workaholic. He’s very conscious of all of our feelings and ideas. He’s a good band leader.”
The soft-spoken, thoughtful — there are long pauses after he is asked a question, as he thinks through his answer and delivers it sincerely — Judy is the father of two. He and his wife lived in Capitol Hill, Ballard, Ravenna and the U District before buying a house in West Seattle two years ago.
“There’s a ton of kids on our block, and we love all our neighbors,” Judy said. He laughed, then added, “I’m not going to move to Portland.”
Tom Scanlon: firstname.lastname@example.org