Track by Track is a recurring new music feature in which an artist offers a comprehensive rundown of their new album.
Comedian Tim Heidecker’s roasting of the Donald Trump presidency and the #MAGA movement has manifested not just in his standup comedy and Adult Swim series On Cinema and Decker, but also in his signature brand of robust, rollicking yacht-rock. We heard “Trump’s Private Pilot” during the 30 Days, 30 Songs campaign and “Trump Talkin’ Nukes” for Our First 100 Days. Since then we’ve also gotten a taste of “Mar A Lago” and “Sentencing Day”. Those songs and several more have now been compiled on a new compilation, Too Dumb For Suicide: Tim Heidecker’s Trump Songs, which is now available for purchase and streaming.
The album finds Heidecker riffing on everything from white supremacy (“Richard Spencer”) to 4chan trolls (“For Chan”) to Trump’s “black,” “hard as a rock” bowel movements (“Imperial Bathrooms”). He’s joined on the tracks by longtime collaborator Davin Wood, Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado, and even video editor and national treasure Vic Berger, who sings backup on “Sentencing Day”. As a bonus, Heidecker has also included Father John Misty’s mournful piano cover of “Trump’s Private Pilot”. Not featured, however, is “I Am A Cuck”, Heidecker’s riff on Paul Simon’s “I Am A Rock”. “You fucker,” Heidecker says of Simon, who apparently put the nix on the song’s release.
Speaking with Billboard earlier this year, Heidecker said,
“Trump, of course, to me and to my friends and just about everybody I know, is this great comic character that doesn’t seem to turn off. He just keeps getting crazier and crazier. With the music, I’d done this record in 2012 [inspired by then-presidential hopeful Herman Cain] called Cainthology: Songs in the Key of Cain, so I kind of established a precedent to find ways of doing music, doing comedy and talking about politics or the world. And I’d done this song called “Our Values Are Under Attack” for [the Adult Swim series] Decker that was kind of satirical and political and from the point of view of a Trump-style right-winger. So that’d been kind of bubbling, and now there’s just so much going on that every couple weeks there seemed to be new material for me to draw from.”
Stream the whole album below via Spotify or Apple Music.
For further insight into Heidecker’s comedic and musical approach to dark political times, he’s broken down Too Dumb For Suicide for our latest Track by Track. Check out what he had to say down below.
This one was written very quickly a few days after the election. I probably had the end chorus first. “Since 2010/ He’s been the butt of my jokes…” is in direct reference to a bit I’d do in my standup where I’m this blowhard, conservative jerk who talks about how great it’d be if Donald Trump became president. I tried to track it myself but kept screwing up the piano part so I called Davin Wood and asked him to play it. He recorded it at his place and sent it over. I wasn’t expecting the EXTENDED intro but I like it now. The ending hums are a direct rip of Warren Zevon’s “Desperados Under the Eaves”.
I went over to Jonathan Rado’s garage to record “Wilbur Ross” and had this one in my back pocket if we were doing good on time. I had a very rough version of it, but Rado had the idea to treat it like an Elvis Costello and the Attractions song. I snarled my way through a “This Year’s Model-era Costello vocal” but what really sealed it was Rado’s Steve Nieve organ sound. It’s a bit of levity after the dark “Trump Tower”. I love thinking about DT sitting in the oval office eating fast food and what that’s doing to his body. Yuck!
I wrote this very quickly on the day after inauguration when news was going around that white supremacist Richard Spencer had been doing an interview and was roundly socked in the jaw. It’s a very funny video considering the self-satisfied attitude he’s projecting. My angle was that the lord had told me that we must not react with violence but, hey in the case of this asshole, a bop on the chin might just be alright. I deflect the call onto God himself. I’m ambivalent about political violence and don’t have any desire to get into any fights or be bopped myself. Much like Lennon in “Revolution #1″ where he hedges “you can count me out… in…” I don’t know.
Anyway, I put out a really rough piano version which kinda blew up on the ‘net but later that weekend I went to Jonathan Rado’s garage for the FIRST time for these sessions. He assembled two incredible players, Kane [Ritchotte] and Max [Whipple], and we found a groove. I was so ecstatic about the sound we got. It felt really warm and simple but full. Rado played some gospel piano and we recorded this and “Trump Talkin’ Nukes” pretty much live in one day. I knew this was the way I wanted to make records from now on.
I was playing a benefit at the now-DISGRACED Cinefamily (not a benefit for Cinefamily, God no, a benefit for the ACLU) and I wanted to play a new song so I had just come off some months of battling with these trolls that live on the website 4chan. They are the nastiest little worms; they posted disgusting, altered pictures of my wife, they found out where I lived and posted the address and pictures of my house. But some of them were fans or former fans of mine who had somehow felt abandoned by my politics. I understand how they may have identified and appreciated much of the nihilism and absurdism in much of our work but at some point they became radicalized by hateful, racist, sexist, homophobic, you name it. I felt I wanted to touch on the power they feel they must have and that they may actually have! I toyed with the lyrics about them being fat because a) it’s probably not a very accurate stereotype of these kids b) who am I to talk? c) it’s just a little mean. But I’m also a lazy writer and really just got attached to the cadence of “fattest actor.” My deepest and sincerest apologies if you’re offended.
“Mar A Lago”:
Mar a Lago was in the news (The Winter White House) and I just couldn’t believe no one had approached the topic from the “Jimmy Buffett” angle! I hummed the tune to the chorus in the shower and headed down to the garage, listened to some Buffet to figure out his moves and got to work. I played everything on this one and had it written, recorded and out the door the very next day! I’m very happy with the lyrics. It’s pretty playful and fun with a little darkness. I remember there was a story in the papers about Trump’s early days at the White House and how he roamed the residence alone in a bathrobe… I took the perspective of Trump as the dumb guy who didn’t really want any of this. I don’t think that’s the whole truth but it served this song well. Also, everyone likes to hear the word “penis” sung. I don’t know why the Beatles avoided it over 14 records.
“Trump’s Private Pilot”:
I don’t have a strong memory of writing this one. Had to have been written before the conventions… I remember thinking, “How can we stop this runaway train? Well, a few people actually can!” I released a quicker, jangly version, Dylan-style which didn’t get much attention. Then some folks at McSweeny’s asked for a track and I recorded it slower with piano and (digital) strings. I played this live a lot over the past year or so and it’s really remarkable the reaction the end gets. People fuckin’ cheer. It’s cathartic and very sad and I always well up singing it. It’s sad, I think because I really don’t want to feel this way about another person, ya know? It’s sad that it’s come to this.
This is definitely an “album track.” The label and I started talking about doing a proper release but at the time it was a little thin so I wrote this one as an assignment. It’s got a fairly obvious premise: What do you mean by making America great again? And… for who? You can tell I”m not all in on this one as I decided to do my version of a Levon Helm vocal. I had some fun with the ending though! Again, I’m playing everything on this one; wouldn’t waste a real musician’s time on this goof!
This one is very special to me. I had been goofing on our Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Twitter, pretending I was deeply in love with him. He’s so funny looking! Then I read about his propensity for very expensive embroidered slippers. I sat down and sung the first line. The name “Wilbur Ross” just rolled off the tongue… It all seemed really “Randy Newman-esque.” I did some reading on Wilbur and found out in the ’80s he bought the failing Bethlehem Steel plant and basically sold it for scrap. This hit, literally, home as I’m from neighboring Allentown, PA. I tried something: I would write from the perspective of the blue collar Trump voter who maybe saw Wilbur as a last hope; he would bring the jobs back. But then in the second verse, a big change happens. Wilbur and Trump didn’t deliver. It was another in a long line of cons. Recorded over at Rado’s with my dream team and some horn boys. I went in thinking we’d get an “All Things Must Pass” sound but we ended with more of a The Band, The Band (the brown album). I’ll settle for that!
“Cooked Chinese Chicken”:
Another ripped from the headlines, Randy Newman-style ballad. I was pretty down about it all whenever I wrote this. Might of been the week he tweeted about Mika Bryzinski’s bloody face? Who knows! It all felt futile and broken and… over. The last bit is a real story I read that’s pretty much reported accurately here in the song. It ties back into the ideas up there in “Imperial Bathroom”. We tried re-recording this in Rado’s garage but couldn’t get that weird talk/timing down right. So you’ll have to settle for just me in my garage, creaking away.
“Trump Talkin’ Nukes”:
One thing In Glendale taught me was I could write autobiographically! I wrote this after hearing a story about Trump’s desire to dramatically increase our Nuclear arsenal. It occurred to me that I hadn’t really thought or worried about a Nuclear holocaust since I was 13 years old, and suddenly there it was, back in my brain. Fuck. The first of these songs to be recorded over at Rado’s garage. It’s a damn depressing little song. I’m thrilled with it, especially Kane’s touch on the drums. He does a thing at the end on the kick drum that reminds me of John Lennon’s “How?”. That makes the whole thing almost worth it.
The last song to be recorded — I was doing some stand up shows in London in August and the club had a nice piano. I got in early one day and worked this one out. I played it that night, half-written and finished it backstage during Neil Hamburger’s set! Back home a few weeks later I recorded it, sparsely with just piano and some (digital) harpsichord. I wasn’t happy with my own harmonies and I asked Vic Berger to sing the harmonies. I was happy to have him on the record, since he recorded the Art Garfunkel harmonies on “I Am A Cuck” which I was getting word wouldn’t make the cut on this record for legal reasons (ahem Paul Simon is a fucker). Vic is a brilliant musician in his own right and I sent him the early versions of most of these songs for feedback. Like I said, I’m really glad he’s on the record.
“Trump’s Private Pilot” (Father John Misty version):
I was driving home, illegally looking at my phone, when I heard some rumblings of a Father John Misty cover of this song. I got home, searched and found it on his Soundcloud page. I couldn’t believe it! I was such a fan of his, but we didn’t know each other personally. I put my headphones in and started to listen. Oh my God, it was so beautiful, I starting welling up. Suddenly, I heard my wife yelling for me! “Tim! Tim! I need your help” Fuck! I paused, the song, ripped from my emotional moment to find my kids causing wife havoc in the kitchen. A dad’s life! I got in touch with him after finishing the song and being properly blown away by his take on the tune and we met up and became fast friends. Kinda neat. God bless.