How’s it going?
I’ve been good. Well, “good” is standing in for a pretty wide berth of recent experience, but that’s the general trend of it, so that word will suffice. I’m good.
What’s up with the long absence from writing on your site?
Uh, words. Did you know that I started talking at age 6 months? That’s the story my mother tells. She says I learned to mimic the sound of people saying “Hi” to me. When they would say it, instead of gurgling or cooing like a baby, I’d supposedly repeat the word back to them clearly. My mother says it freaked people out. “Hi!” She never recorded me so we have no proof that I actually did this but the feeling of words coming out of my mouth before I’m even conscious of them is familiar. I’m willing to buy this as an accurate myth about my character. The impulse to translate my experience before I understand it, or as a method of understanding it, is so deep. So is the positive reinforcement of having people reflect to me that I am creating a sense of meaning. Lately when I try to describe what’s going on with me words feel difficult to access, as if they are not the right tool for the current job, or maybe a tool I don’t yet know how to use. The joy of using words is in their precision. I want to land a bullseye of accurate description every time I make a sentence. I’m trying to arrive upon a good metaphor for the feeling of applying words to experiences (of course I am); it’s always felt a lot like reaching into a bag of refrigerator poetry magnets and throwing them at the fridge and having them line up into a string that makes perfect sense. I don’t think, I just talk. At the moment, things appear to be changing in my life in a way that has demagnetized all my word tiles. I grab handfulls and throw them at the fridge and they fall onto the floor in no particular order. Sometimes they look sort of nice.
Does this freak you out?
No. I find it to be kind of a relief. It’s a relief to let myself have no idea what is going on, not to be trying to get the gold star for saying the perfect thing. It somehow poses me in a new relationship to the rest of the world. I’m taking less responsibility for trying to hold the world together with my mind, not struggling so much to contain the possibilities of what could happen. I think it’s kind of typical for children with parents who have unpredictable behavior when they are drinking (alcoholics) to be always worried of the worst thing that could happen. I have frequently found myself stretching my psychic energy out to all corners of the room like a net ready to catch whatever structure might suddenly collapse, ready to reassemble everything to make it all make sense again as quickly as possible. If you grow up feeling that way I think you take on the sense that it’s your fault that everything is breaking apart all the time. Children take that stuff on so easily, at least I did. I remember laying in my bed the summer before second grade, talking to my babysitter before going to sleep and saying, “Next year is gonna be better. Next year I’m really going to make it a good year.” Isn’t it sad to imagine a six year old saying something like that? I’ve spent almost forty years working really hard all the time trying to make everything around me make sense, and go smoothly, and feel good. My standard experience of a dinner party is extreme attentiveness to whether every single person is having the optimal amount of fun, like a sheep dog running up and down the length of the table with my mind herding everybody into the good time zone. This happens at any dinner party, not just my own. It’s exhausting. So right now I’m just focusing on sitting in my seat and watching what happens and reminding myself it’s not about me. I sort of ball myself up and repeat, “It’s not about me. It’s not about me.”
So, is that literally what you’re doing with yourself everyday?
Yes I am curled in a ball. Every time I ride the subway lately I start to cry. It’s not sad crying. It’s the feeling of metabolizing something powerful. It’s not even crying all the way, just my eyes fill up with tears and the pressure levels in my body start to change, my ears pop, my sinuses twitch. I think it’s that I am experiencing a new sensation of presence, a part of me that was always flinching and terrified of feeling something awful is finally unclenching because it’s clear that I’m probably going to be okay after all. To be perfectly frank, it’s a feeling I only ever used to have right after having (good) sex. Everything would open up and I’d think, “Oh my god, is this how I could be feeling all the time, this ‘here’?” I would usually start to cry because I couldn’t figure out how to feel so open and real in the rest of my life, like I was trapped somehow. It felt like my pieces had been assembled incorrectly. I wasn’t assembled incorrectly, though, my psyche was just structured to offer myself some protection. About 20 percent of my facilities were devoted to a constant vigilance against impending terror. When, finally, that impending terror is proven to be no longer a threat, I suddenly have 20 percent of myself that is suddenly weirdly free. That part needs to be retrained, given something new to do like maybe model ship building.
So you cry on the subway?
Like I said, it’s not full on crying. I have intense experiences on the subway. I wonder if it’s because the sphere of energy around my body rubs up against so many other peoples energy spheres in the subway cars. Maybe I can really feel myself on the subway because I’m being surrounded by people so closely, strangers who I generally ignore but can still feel. However I do other things too besides ride the subway. For example I get out of the subway and attend events. Openings, talks, parties. Also Melissa and I are making another record, which is really fun. It feels ripe.
Does the process of making a new record feel different from the last one?
Yeah. Writing and recording the last album entailed a lot of thinking, and trying, and reconfiguring. We made models and tried to construct them. Often we’d smash apart what we’d made and smash apart the model too, then make another model and another new version of the song. This time it’s a groovy party with a lot less thinking: it’s the 70’s. A major difference is that we are playing instruments directly. With the last album we sketched out demos using midi instruments and then recorded samples to replace the software instruments. Then we assembled all the samples into meticulous little mosaics in Pro Tools. That’s how we went about writing things, with me at my computer in the kitchen and Melissa at her computer in the other room, passing files back and forth. It was time consuming. After the album came out and we toured for a month, we drove out west and spent the winter in Los Angeles and in New Mexico. Our intention was was to drink white wine and do yoga and chill the fuck out, which we did. There were cacti and avacados. We set up our studio in the places we subletted, and we would just jam. Melissa’s gone to lengths to design a new system where we can play together and it all sounds amazing right out of the speakers, without having to process everything in some other fancy studio. I guess the whole process is more embodied and less compartmentalized which goes nicely with my personal current psychological developments. Melissa is an audiophile. She has an eagle ear for sound quality. I’m a brute who doesn’t notice and just wants to bang on things and see what happens, but even I can tell that the sounds that come out when I touch the keyboard are special. All velvety and with a bit of shimmer. So yeah, it feels nice.
Do feelings matter?
I don’t know if they do, in the big picture. I do believe though that emotions are the major motivation for just about everything that happens- the feelings of people who then act on them and cause other reactions. The World Trade Center was brought down by feelings, unless it was an inside job, and then it may have happened out of some sneaky twisted conservative strategy, but behind that strategy there would have been feelings as well: someone was feeling small, someone wanted to be a big dude and have a lot of power. If the question is do my feelings matter, the answer is that I don’t think they should be of consequence to anyone but myself, but I experience them powerfully, and I need to understand them in order to keep them from having a negative effect on others. Feelings are fascinating, but there are on a long list of ultimately trivial things that I truly enjoy, like fashion and sushi and Mad Men. I guess this leads to the question, “what does matter, then?,” and the answer must be something about people having the conditions to be able to live with a bit of dignity, like food, shelter, some respect. But I don’t know, I’ve made myself a bit of an expert on feelings, at least it feels like I have, and I’m not so well versed on the other subjects at this point.
This may be slightly off the topic of feelings, but I think it’s related: I’m practicing lately listening to what my impulses tell me to do. Impulses seem like relatives of emotions, they’re either what lies below a feeling, or something that results from one, I don’t know the exact science. If I hear myself giving myself an instruction or a suggestion, I listen to it and note that I’ve heard it. Something like, “Eat an orange.,” or, “Go to the gym.” If I hear myself make the same suggestion a second time, I follow the instructions, whatever they are. “Walk around the block.,” “Email your long lost friend.” The amount of mental wrestling that I have done in my life around my impulses has been pretty significant, and so much space is cleared up by just doing things instead of considering them. It feels like the impulses are a trail of bread crumbs to follow throughout a day; it’s kind of fun to put a different part of myself in charge of what I’m doing. I just roll with the commands and see where they take me. I think it helps me to trust myself. There might be a wild voice in my head that would shout that I should jump off a bridge, but I doubt I’d ever hear that voice repeat itself.
What is something that is on your to-do list that you’ve been putting off, and why?
Let’s see- “photoshop a tshirt onto Rihanna.” Not because of the amazing shirtless pictures of her, it’s for a webpage where people we like are wearing little blow shirts. (ed: It’s done now.) What else? I have a postcard with an image of a man’s pelvis in an old fashioned swimsuit, it appears to be from the 70’s or 80’s. I used to have it taped up in front of my desk as a reminder to start writing a, well, a book, that I’ve had in mind. I need to tape the postcard back up on the wall. It seems lofty to say that you’re going to write a book, and I am saying it now as a bit of a dare to myself, I guess. Even sitting down to write this entry on my site was a bit of a coup, a far cry from something as complex as a book, but the gesture is correct. Multiply it by 2000 and entice the faeries to work some delicate maneuvers on my mental sphere and maybe we’ll be headed somewhere, closer to crossing it off the list.
Did writing about it make it feel a little bit more possible?