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Tim Heidecker’s History of Embarrassing Beatles Dolls and Terrible Band Names

Tim Heidecker, listening in

Tim Heidecker has been an Adult Swim and alternative-comedy staple for nearly a decade, working with collaborator Eric Wareheim to creating absurd and cringe-inducing hilarity on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Tom Goes to the Mayor, not to mention his supporting role as the painfully plain Gene on the current season of HBO’s Eastbound and Down. He’s a multi-format threat, though. On November 12, the 37-year-old will release his second album as Heidecker and Wood, joined once again by multi-instrumentalist Davin Wood. The LP, Some Things Never Stay the Same, finds the two delivering satirical songs in the vein of Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, and Warren Zevon. Heidecker phoned SPIN from Los Angeles to discuss the music of his life.

What’s a song you’ve listened to in the past 24 hours?
I’ve been listening to the new Bob Dylan Another Self Portrait box set and I love it. I never hated the Self Portrait record. I get why people were mystified by it with its gloss and overdubs. This new box set is kind of stripped down and feels more like just a couple guys in the studio playing old standards. It’s really loose.

What’s the name of a mix or playlist on your phone or iPad?
I’ve got “Dinner Party Mix,” which is music that’s not going to annoy anybody. One of my go-to records if I want something innocuous is the Nick Lowe album The Convincer. Every tune is great. There’s not a fast song or a quiet one; it just stays at this same level. It’s a great-sounding record. Something I’ve been trying to do is listen to more complete albums — not just have my iTunes on shuffle.

Was there anything your parents objected to you listening to as a kid?
They were pretty cool. I went through a period where I didn’t know what I liked yet, so I just listened to whatever was popular or on MTV at the time, like Mötley Crüe and the first Beastie Boys record. My dad was a baby boomer, and a huge Beatles and classic rock fan. I remember my sister and I making fun of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” singing with our noses closed, but within a month of that I was like, “I like music! Who are those people?” It started to become more of trying to figure out where that music came from.

Who was the first artist you idolized?
The Beatles. I became a nerd about it, and started getting all the books and collecting stuff.

Did you ever pick up anything really collectable or cool?
It’s so embarrassing: I have these three-feet-tall stuffed Beatles dolls that my grandmother got me. I think it was my grandma trying to connect with me. I was just kind of into this weird thing, and I think my parents liked the music, but didn’t give a shit about who made it. They didn’t care where the members were born, and then I’m like, “Well, did you know that John Lennon and Paul McCartney met at a birthday party?” and I’d know all these dates.

Were you in bands when you were a teen?
Yep. We had the worst names. There was Time and Other Things, which was just really pretentious, and then there was Shaggy’s Belt Buckle, and that was a comedy band. That band I thought was what I was going to do for the rest of my life when I was in my senior year of high school. We were going to make a demo and take it to the next level. Then everybody got preoccupied with drinking and fucking around.

Do you remember what you were listening to the first time you smoked pot?
Not pot. I feel like that was always happening outdoors and, like, walking around the woods or something. I do recall doing psychedelics in high school, and this is going to sound super corny, but Jimi Hendrix‘s Axis: Bold as Love — the title track was basically written for people peaking on acid. It was so intense. It was like a fucking orgasm. In the suburbs, on a trampoline, listening to that album, it was pretty great. I never want to do it again and I’m not endorsing it, but it was seminal.

Who is an artist who helped you through a tough time?
I have a memory of a report card coming in when I was in high school that was going to be pretty lousy. I had just gotten the first Velvet Underground record, and I didn’t know it yet, but I’d heard about it and read about how important it was. I was waiting for my dad to come home from work, and I knew I was going to get shit for the report card, and then it’d be a rough couple of days around the house. I remember distinctly listening to that album in headphones on my Sony Discman, lying on my bed, lights off, and thinking, “This is some dark stuff.” It just settled me into the dark mood I was already in.

Do you have a go-to karaoke song?
I do Bruce Springsteen‘s “My Hometown,” because I have a pretty good Springsteen impression. I don’t care what people think. It’s a good song, and I really like Springsteen.

Have you guys been doing any covers performing as Heidecker & Wood?
I thought it’d be really funny — not sure how funny it turned out — to do John Lennon’s “Woman,” and to do a corny rendition to match how corny the actual song is. I set it up onstage as if we were going to do “Imagine” or something. I was like, “This song really changed things,” and just kept building it up to be one of Lennon’s greatest works and talking about how we missed him. Then we just launched into “Woman” with a cheesy arrangement.