Nine Questions

Mike Sterner is a public-library clerk and writer. Back in the late-'80s, he traveled doing standup comedy, and for six months, he wrote 50 jokes a week for Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect. He sold one. He was a horn player for the Phantom Limbs and Fraidy Cats, and once opened for Tommy Tutone wearing a ski mask, pointing a banana at the crowd and shouting, "Nobody move; this is a standup!"

What was the first concert you ever saw?

Jean-Luc Ponty opening for Jethro Tull.

What CDs are in your changer right now?

The CDs sitting next to my boom box are The Rough Guide to Turkish Café; Harps and Angels by Randy Newman; Buck Owens, 21 #1 Hits; the Donnie Darko soundtrack; and They Might Be Giants, Flood (on cassette). The first three are all checked out from YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY.

How many total albums do you own (CDs, vinyl, cassettes, 8-tracks)?

200 CDs, 50 cassettes and about 500 LPs that have been out in the shed for the last three summers.

Do you download music, and if so, legally or illegally?

I just helped my 12-year-old buy and download her first track, Pussycat Dolls' "I Hate This Part."

What was the first album you owned?

An 8-track, Bee Gees' Trafalgar. I played the shit out of that thing, which was not easy to do, because, well, it's the Bee Gees, and there was a lot of it.

What song would you like to have played at your funeral?

"My Autumn's Done Come" by Lee Hazlewood.

Musically speaking, what do you love that your friends don't know about? What's your favorite guilty pleasure?

The Jackson Five. I like to play "ABC" while doing dishes, and "Ben," a love song for a rat, is the perfect convergence of ridiculous and poignant.

What band or artist changed your life, and how?

I remember walking into Circle Records in Phoenix and seeing the life-size cardboard cutout of Elvis Costello ... with the words "ELVIS IS KING" throughout. It was a complete rejection of my parents' music and their king.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

XTC, Skylarking.

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