One in 2000: Nat Bessey

Hails from: Originally I’m from Birmingham, Alabama, then I moved to St. Louis and then Rochester, New York. And I lived in Boston for two years in the midst of all that.

Current residence: Wood House

Top five movies: Fargo. I don’t know my top five movies at all. Well Fargo’s on it, as is Rushmore. You know, Transformers the Movie, Citizen Kane. And, the fifth is Back to the Future parts one, two and three, just for you Rolando.

Top five favorite albums: Radiohead The Bends; J.J. Johnson and Stan Getz, Live at the Opera House; Cannonball Adderley, Somethin’ Else; John Coltrane, Live at Birdland; and The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground and Nico.

How about you tell us about the inception of Fat Cat Sampson? Is it an interesting story?

No, the history of the band itself, or the name?

Anything interesting about it?

We’re a group of people – some of us played together sophomore year – and last year we got together and sort of snapped up a couple of good freshmen and formed a group and have been playing together for two years.

How does one snap up new freshmen?

Well on the first day of Jazz Ensemble we corralled them after rehearsal and asked them if they’d like to play in a small group. And the name itself comes

from a CD that Jason Horowitz ’98 had, which was regrettably stolen from his home on Spring Street his senior year. But it was some comedy group – the name of which I don’t remember – and they had a skit called Jazz Chat. It opened with a guy speaking in a jazzman voice introducing tunes, and one of them was Fat Cat Sampson doing the Crazy Cold Shuffle.

So your name is a huge copyright infringement?

No, it’s not a copyright infringement; it’s an allusion.


Sure. For example, Radiohead gets its name from a Talking Heads song. Toad the Wet Sprocket, those erstwhile sort of pain rockers, got their name from a Monty Python skit. All the world, Rolando, is just one huge allusion.

To what? You’re a philosophy major: if the whole world were just one huge allusion what was the original thing we’re alluding to?

I don’t know what we’re alluding to. I don’t really think the whole world is just an allusion, but I do think there’s a great deal of self-reference within the world of pop culture. If you watch MTV these days; Total Request Live and Eminem’s hip video, which is relentlessly topical and speaks about Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears.

Are you talking about “The Real Slim Shady,” the new single?

I suppose I am, Rolando.

Do watch a lot of MTV?

I don’t, but I try to keep up with the kids.

Do you watch TRL?

I’ve only watched a little bit. The other day I saw, in Baxter mailroom, both the Eminen single, “The New Slim Shady”

[interrupting] “The Real Slim Shady,” thank you.

I’m sorry, just don’t make me sound like an idiot.

I’ll try really hard, but there’s only so much I can do.

I understand. And I also saw the new Britney Spears video – that in itself is a towering achievement of self-reference insofar as it seems to have ripped off the instrumental track, note for note, of her first hit, “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” only superimposing the terrifying catch phrase, “I’m not that innocent.”

Were you aware that when she was releasing her new album she said she wanted to show how she’d grown as an artist?

[laughter] I was not aware of that.

Yet her new single is called, “Oops, I Did it Again.”

Indeed. Well, at least she was hit in the head with a camera during the filming of that video.

What is your favorite part of the whole teenie bopper renaissance that’s been going on since Titanic came out?

I have a sort of loyalty to the Backstreet Boys out of all the groups…because I actually got into them before they got popular, although that’s the type of claim that you typically only hear about bands like Dave Matthews. My roommate Lucas Peterson had a Netherlands dance hit CD, and on it was the little-known Backstreet hit, “Get Down (And Move it All Around),” which had the immortal line: “Oh baby you’re so fine, I’m gonna’ make you mine, your lipstick tastes so [dramatic pause] sweet.” We learned all about them when they were much dorkier.

And not only do I know all of their names and all their history, but I have some paraphernalia that a friend of mine bought for me in France, because it was a great big joke for us. Lucas and I went to Canada and got a poster and had a big laugh. And then I came back sophomore year and they were huge, and I was one of the throng. Then my ironic enjoyment of the Backstreet Boys was undermined by the fact that they were legitimately huge in America.

Was your heart broken a little when ‘N Sync broke Backstreet’s sales record?

Not at all. Let’s just say I’m not as invested in the Backstreet Boys as Williams College is invested in, say, Phillip Morris.

[laughs] Could you tell us more about that, or would you rather not?

No, I don’t have anything to say other than that snide remark.

You’re a senior, so I feel I need to ask you to look back on your Williams career; how about something simple, something clichéd? Looking back, what do you think you’ll remember most in few years?

I’ll remember all the people I’ve gotten to know here. You ask a standard question and you get a standard answer, but that’s absolutely the case. I think that the value of any time you spend is in the human relations you have…and we have a sheer wealth of outstanding people. So if you know me, that’s a compliment.

Is there anything you would have changed?

Well there are classes I did poorly in that I wouldn’t take again, but for the most part I wouldn’t want to change anything since I’m pretty pleased with how things wound up. Take the advice of the great – um, whatever the name of that lion played by James Earl Jones was – him.

The lion played by James Earl Jones?

Yeah, you know, the one who talked about the circle.

The “Circle of Life?” Can you sing that for me?

Absolutely not.

What’s the value of being in school?

For me it was the whole experience of being in a community. Just being involved in things beyond classes – my band, being a JA. But I guess I’m probably just going to reiterate what I said earlier about being with good people.

Are you more of night person than a day person?

Yeah, I guess I am. I like the nightlife; I like to boogie.

So, did you protest sleepy-time when you were a kid?

My parents got rid of bedtime for me pretty quickly, so I don’t remember chafing under the pressure.

Any closing anecdotes?

I always remeber from my freshman year, one Friday afternoon, when I didn’t have anything to do, Lucas Peterson and Kai Gross and I were hanging out in my common room, playing some music; and spontaneously Kai pulled out his guitar and I pulled out my trombone, and we had a little jam session for about an hour and a half. We played “Freebird,” a Nirvana set, Simon and Garfunkel, the Indigo Girls…. it was hilarious; we sounded awful.

Why does that anecdote come to mind?

It’s what I want to remember about college: not taking myself too seriously. That’s something that I’d like to hang onto as much as I can.

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