Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times

Thursday, December 14, 2000

LENGTH: 932 words

SECTION: Tech Times

HEADLINE: She's a Simple Mann

BYLINE: David Colker



Singer-songwriter Aimee Mann is so defiant of commercial trends that she bought back her latest album, "Bachelor No. 2," from a major label and released it herself to ensure it would not be tampered with. Her independence has won her devoted fans, including numerous music critics and fellow artists.

Film director Paul Thomas Anderson made her songs an integral part of his 1999 movie "Magnolia," and her best-known song, "That's Just What You Are," written with Jon Brion, was the theme of "Melrose Place."

When not on tour, Mann lives in Los Angeles with her husband, songwriter/producer Michael Penn.

Desktop: It's a Mac 9600 I borrowed from Dave Foley [of "Kids in the Hall" and "Newsradio"] a couple years ago. He lived down the street from me. I borrowed it, and I guess it's been long enough that he's entirely forgotten about it.

I like having a Mac. It goes hand in hand with being a Nader supporter.

Q: Do you use it in writing your music?

For songwriting, I am super low-tech--I sing into a microcassette recorder and take it from there. Actually, the microcassette recorder I had for 15 years just broke, and I am looking for a replacement on EBay.

Q: You can't just buy a new one?

I got one, and it was not as good. The sound was very muffled. The old one had a little speaker, but it was a lot better.

I do some recording on my computer, but I don't really know how to use it. I have to have some non-computer-loser friends come over and engineer for me.

Q: That's the extent of your computer use in your work?

I do the art for my record sleeves, and so I kind of know how to use Photoshop. But it's very rudimentary.

Gadgets just don't interest me. I realized a long time ago I'm not particularly adept at gadgetry--it takes too much of my attention for too little return.

Laptop: No. I believe in packing light and don't want to schlep a lot of stuff around. It's not worth it just to check e-mail twice a day.

Hand-held: No. I already know how to write things down on a piece of paper. I use a Filofax, one of the small ones. I have an old-fashioned love for paper and pen.

Q: Any pen in particular?

The standard Bic, but it has to be a certain one--the black crystal see-through model. I'm getting worried because they don't make them anymore, and I'm down to my last boxes. When they're done, maybe I'll go back to the quill.

Bookmarked Web sites: I was one of the first EBay addicts. I did the crazy things like waiting until the very last minute to snipe [make the final bid]. It was addictive and time-consuming.
It started about three years ago, probably when I was looking for a wedding dress. I found some vintage clothing and started to bid on it, and it got a little out of hand. I would get this stuff and realize I didn't have any occasion to wear it.

I once went into an antique shop and saw this 2-foot-high Santa--you see them around sometimes. They are cuddly and yet creepy at the same time with this plastic face. I went back the next day, and it was gone; someone had bought it. Then I went on this search on EBay for the perfect Santa I missed out on.

Q: Find it?

Pretty close. I ended up with about 15 of them. They sort of started to take over the office.
As for sites I go to now, I like the Onion [], and I go to something called Borderline Personality Disorder Central [] because I'm really interested in psychology. I love the nut cases.

But the greatest is this guy Richard Mitchell, called "The Underground Grammarian" []. It's not about grammar--he's a real critic of the educational system and hilarious. He talks about how supposedly progressive educational practices just totally erode the educational system. Like teaching self-esteem. What is that about? Why don't they teach kids how to read and write, and then they will have self-esteem?

Q: You have your own site [].

A friend designed it; I kind of directed it. We had somebody donate their services to get it up and running. My primary thing was to make it simple--no animation, no dancing rabbits, just let people get to where they want to go, fast.

Cell phone: I have one but don't use it all that much. I turn it on in the car, and that's about it. I'm not that eager to get a brain tumor.

Home audio/video system: I don't know any musicians that have a really great system at home. We have a nice pair of KRK speakers borrowed from a mixing engineer, but that's about it. We don't tend to listen to a lot of music [at home] because of it being our business.

And we just have a small TV; I don't know the brand.

I think you have to be careful not to get caught up in this need to entertain yourself. If you entertain yourself too thoroughly, you will never do anything else. I think your attention span can be eroded by pop culture. Writing is something that you can't do with a short attention span.