John Linnell: Easy on the Octopus

Epicurian Musician, June 16, 2010

They Might Be Giants have been rockin' out since '82, changing styles, members, and locations throughout their career. They won a Grammy in 2002, recently came out with a children's album, and officially don't suck. Seriously, not many people can make the cross from rock to Raffi and still come off as bad ass. EM chatted it up with front man John Linnell to talk about munchin' on the road and the finer points of eating octopus.

Last thing you ate?

I hate to admit this but I'm actually eating a sesame bagel with cream cheese RIGHT NOW, please forgive me.


I'm a terrible cook but there are a few things I can do. Being a guy, I'm a good griller. We have a charcoal grill here in Brooklyn, and upstate we have a gas grill--this is the season for grilling. If it weren't for grilling I would be a criminal as far as cooking goes.


Carnivorous omnivore.

Eating on tour?

Eating on tour can be pretty rough, this past season we did our swing through the south and unfortunately the fast food I was having to eat between shows and squeeze whenever it was convenient was so challenging to my digestive system that I got really sick, partly because of all the horrible food that I was eating. I wasn't making time to eat properly. We do try and make a point of eating well when we can; like, there are times when the whole band will take a stand and decide we are going to go somewhere very good and foot the bill ourselves so we can actually eat properly. More often than that, we eat total crap. At Bonnaroo, we are going to get fed by a catering tent behind the stage, there is usually someone who can cook for us so we don't go around the festival scavenging for food.

Guilty pleasure?

I like to eat fatty food a lot, it is kind of an ongoing problem, fat and salt.

What do you like in your omelet?

I'll tell you what my number one ingredient is, avocado. Avocado is good with almost anything.

Has living in NYC increased your food appreciation?

It has increased my appreciation but I still mainly like simple eating. I'm not really much of a hot cuisine type. I really like Katz's delicatessen, they make a really good pastrami sandwich. I've never had pastrami anywhere that's as good as Katz's and that's the type of food I like; bagels, sandwiches, steak, falafel, just ordinary food in NYC that happens to be high quality. The one thing that we haven't really got in NYC is good Indian food. As far as in the circles I travel you have to go to London to get good Indian food. We live in Windsor Terrace, not too far beyond the pale, and there are some very good restaurants in our neighborhood.

Most exotic food?

I've tried weird stuff in Japan. I had a taste of sea cucumber which I did not like. Also, this thing they sell at outdoor stands in Japan which is a sort of fried ball of octopus. I really like marinated octopus, octopus sushi, but this fried octopus ball thing they sell is one of the grossest things I've had.

Food dislikes?

Aside from fried octopus ball and sea cucumber, generally I can get over stuff. Haggis is good, haggis is delicious. The worst meal I've ever had was at Niagara Falls. There was a fast food stand selling some type of cheese and meat sandwich and it was absolutely rancid. Where you ate was at a round table and at the center was a hole about 12 inches wide which also served as a garbage pit. It was really hot, garbage smell and rancid food, an awful memory and an awful meal.

Food & Family

My family likes Japanese so that's a pretty regular thing for us. My son is 11 and having him absolutely changed our eating habits. We spent many years going to family restaurants. We've graduated to a lot of other things since then, we really like this place called the 99, the chain restaurant. Mostly Japanese and Italian, a little ethnic food.

TMBG just got back from Bonnaroo and is headed off for their European tour. Check out their recently released kids album Here Comes Science here, cause even the kid in you wants to touch the kid in you.