Oh, La Gaule: An Interview of French 'Gaule Wave' Band Faire

text by Agathe Pinard

photographs by Kealan Shilling

FAIRE are very serious about not taking themselves seriously. Their shows are infused with a raw improvisation that makes every performance a completely unique experience. They just play with the vibe given by the audience and then do their best to push the limits of that relationship. The images from their shows speak for themselves, filled with overflowing energy and rage. Romain, Raphael, and Simon make up the French trio Faire, a band emerging from the Parisian underground music scene. Self-labelled as “Gaule Wave,” the band mixes opposing sounds, from ‘80s synthesizers, to punk power chords, to the lyrical stylings of pop chanson.

We had a chance to chat with Faire just before their highly anticipated second show in Los Angeles. They play tonight at Madame Siam in Hollywood, catch them live at 10:00pm for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

AGATHE PINARD: First of all, how did you all meet?

FAIRE: We met at school, we were about 12 years old. There we were, the only guys listening to rock, wearing leather and boots. So we easily found a subject of discussion. 

PINARD: What’s your first experience with making music?

FAIRE: A basement in the center of Paris where we experimented with lots of anger, love, a few cries and lots of laughs. We took it very seriously, being musicians. We were rehearsing between class at least twice a week and started playing live shows pretty early on. 

PINARD: Have any of you ever had any ambitions outside of music?

FAIRE: Not really, except the fact that we love to customize/make clothes, and making videos, drawing, painting and writing. 

PINARD: What’s the meaning behind the name Faire? Did you have any other names you were also considering?

FAIRE: First we thought about “la GAULE” which is the old name for France and it also means to have a boner. It ended up becoming the name of our music: “Gaule Wave.” But we wanted to explore a maximum of different musical horizons. We thought that with FAIRE (meaning “to make” or “to do”), we could mix all kinds of music that we like, surfing between rock, yéyé, Eastern music, trap, techno and more. Also it’s a simple way for us to make music without thinking too much, and just go with the flow of our spontaneous ideas, like a manifestation of sorts. 

PINARD: Do you have any major musical influences?

FAIRE: Yes! We started playing music together while listening to Led Zeppelin, Steppenwolf… and the Motown Records really inspired us when we were younger. Later we let go of the stigma that we had of drum machines and were really inspired by ‘80’s cold wave, and especially Martin Rev of Suicide. French Pop culture influences us too, think Michel Polnareff, or all the old ‘50s songs with those incredible lyrics. Swinging by the US, people like R. Stevie Moore just transcend us. But for real, the list is really long, we’re not even talking about all the African, Indian or South American influences!

PINARD: Are there any non-musicians who inspire your work?

FAIRE: We met the incredible Charlie Le Mindu, the French hair designer who also does exhibitions of clothes made with an infinity of hair. His work is absolutely amazing. 

PINARD: What’s your personal process of creating an album like?

FAIRE: We like to be really isolated in a countryside or on a rooftop in Mexico, as we did with “Le Tamale.” Notice that we never really put out any albums, it was only EPs that we self recorded in our computer. Now we are preparing the recording of our first album, which we want to record live with someone capable to catch our live energy, because that’s where our potency lies.

PINARD: You seem to like using old women’s names as titles, Mireille, Sisi, Christiane, Marie-Louise, is there any particular reason?

FAIRE: We just love our grandmother’s stories and the era that they lived. 

PINARD: You released a very psychedelic video clip of Noizette a month ago, what’s the story behind it?

FAIRE: Some student from l’ECAL, an art school in Switzerland, asked for a song to do a video clip, then pitched the idea and we liked it! For the first time we just let them do what they wanted and received 6 different versions. We had the luxury of choosing the one we thought was the best. This battle between our faces and the Prince was exactly the kind of trip we liked.

PINARD: Is there a show you gave that you will remember forever?

FAIRE: Wow, when we released our EP « Le Tamale » in a Parisian bar people were so excited, and it was so overcrowded that the public was making waves falling down every two minutes on the little three-by-three-meter stage that they kept us from playing long. All our machines got disconnected and fucked up at the same time (it was also because of some spilled beer.) And we had 20 kilos of confetti flying around everywhere. It was two years ago, but we still have some in our synthesizers. It was definitely the best show/non-show. 

PINARD: You’re all super wild and insanely energetic on stage, how do your rehearsals differ from your live performances? 

FAIRE: (Laugh) that’s a good question. We take it really easy and chill, the exact opposite of our live shows.

PINARD: How do your audiences affect the performances?

FAIRE: We started being crazy on stage after some shows in Mexico where people were getting totally crazy, and thanks to them we took that energy, and it morphed us into these uncontrollable beasts. Now even if the crowd is really chill we get into them with all our passion and love, and push them to dance by jumping into the pit.

PINARD: What was it like to play in LA for the first time?

FAIRE: Really great, people were really into the fact that we got the mosh pits going. They weren’t accustomed to it or prepared for it at all. So we were kind of exotic with our craziness. 

PINARD: How was your experience with the city of LA, the American culture?

FAIRE: Pretty interesting, lots of cool vibes and a beautiful mix of various world cultures over there. People were lovely with us, and we met great artists there. Also Simon’s dad is from LA so we had a good introduction to the city. 

PINARD: It’s been more than a year since the release of your last EP, C’est L’été, what are you working on at the moment? You said there is a new album in the making?

FAIRE: Absolutely, we are now preparing new songs to record our first album. It will be released next year, but the date is still a secret. 

PINARD: What are you listening to right now? What was your summer ’18 soundtrack?

FAIRE: Escape-isms, HMLTD, Lil Pump and les Charlots.

Go see Faire play tonight at 10pm @ Madame Siam in Hollywood. You won’t regret it!

Pointless Prophet: An Interview With Joe McKee On The Occasion Of His New Video Premiere

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text by Summer Bowie


Joe McKee might have been everyone’s best friend in a past life. He’s full of charming witticisms, unexpected humor, moments of sober pontification, and there’s always a little light in his eyes that let’s you know he’s really listening. To hear him play music is a little bit like a secular religious experience. There’s no call to worship, but something about his sound is invariably transcendent. All of that thoughtful articulation in his discourse gets shrouded in a layered veil of sonic silk. It’s much like listening to a song in a language you don’t speak. You might be able to make out a word here and there, but you can never tell if your interpretation of the song is correct, or if you’ve just projected your own story onto it. McKee’s second solo album, An Australian Alien tells the true story of the artist’s journey through the loss of a best friend, the birth of a daughter, and the experience of processing a major life transition while being processed as an immigrant. Now five years an Angeleno, McKee is feeling much more at home geographically, but he’ll always be an alien of sorts: daringly vulnerable, abnormally modest (and not just for an Angeleno), and uniquely eloquent. I had the chance to ask Joe a few questions about the album and the pleasure of premiering his latest video  - and maybe, just maybe, I’ll find myself in someone’s living room some day, enjoying a private performance by the alien himself.  

SUMMER BOWIE: I want to start by talking about the title of your new album, An Australian Alien. You’ve been in LA for about 5 years now - do you still feel like an alien here in the States? Having been born in England, did you feel like an English alien in Australia? 

JOE MCKEE: I've always felt a little bit alien and I probably always will. I suppose that comes from being transplanted, as a ripe young chap, from the grey kingdom of Londonium to the outback of Australia. Everything was familiar but strangely different, like a bizarro world where Burger King is called Hungry Jacks and so on. I spoke the same language, but I was still the "other." I was probably quite self conscious of this growing up, but I learned to celebrate those subtle differences as I got older, I suppose. 

So, that 'alien' word was bandied about all over the application forms for my permanent residency to remain in the United States. An Australian Alien had a nice ring to it. It's musical, and it's playful. Prior to living in the US I was vagabonding around Europe, sleeping on peoples couches, outstaying my welcome wherever I was performing. Always a tourist, even at home. I feel like I've finally found a place to reside and plant some roots in Los Angeles. This is mainly due to becoming a surprise father here.  

BOWIE: So you’ve always felt a bit extraterrestrial? Do you still feel extra-Angeleno? 

MCKEE: Living here in LA? Somewhat, but I feel more at home here than I have for a long time. The album was written primarily during that transition period, when I was still in this state of flux. Living in-between. I'd alienated myself from my previous life by moving here, which was difficult and freeing at the same time. I could reinvent myself in a new place and shed all that old scabby skin that was weighing me down. So I think I just feel more at home in my fresh flesh-suit.

BOWIE: This album was recorded in a number of different locations, including a cargo ship sailing the Pacific, friends’ homes, and a marijuana plantation in Northern California. Have you always been very nomadic while recording, or was this choice made specifically for this album? 

MCKEE: I definitely come from nomadic stock. My family has moved countries every generation for as far back as we can trace. We're all running from something! Or seeking something perhaps. One of the lovely things about making music is that it's weightless. You can do it all inside your noggin' while you're galavanting around the globe. You can hum a melody into your phone, or you can write a lyric on a napkin. I don't have to lug a roll of canvas and my paintbrushes around to create something. 

Having said that, recording this album was a particularly scattered process. I really didn't have a community in LA when I first arrived, nor did I have a cent to my name, so I had snatch moments to write this record amongst all of the madness of becoming a father, moving to a new country, going through my Saturn's Return yada yada yada. I relied on the generosity and kindness of strangers really. People like Derek Brambles, Ethan DeLorenzo, Paz Lenchantin, Chris Nelson. Good humans, those.

BOWIE: If I’ve ever to known anyone to experience Saturn’s Return it would be you.  Do you subscribe to this theory, or have you gained any deeper perspective on the chaos of your late twenties? 

MCKEE: I think the Saturn's Return concept is a poetic way to understand any turmoil or life-shift. I think there’s probably some truth to it. I know what I went through was a mind-bending and ego-crushing experience. I was ruled by my ego in my twenties and I was increasingly dissatisfied with what was happening in my life to be honest. Things had fragmented and life seemed like a labyrinth. So the universe came along and obliterated my concept of reality. It dealt me a cataclysmic hand. My best friend passed away and I was becoming a father with a virtual stranger on the other side of the world. The only thing you can do when the universe, or God, or whomever or whatever deals you that kind of hand is to relinquish control. To let go. This was a drawn-out process, like untangling a chunky dread-lock, but eventually I freed myself from my warped concept of myself that I'd created. Like I'd birthed a brand new slippery, shiny version of myself. Being a father helps you reconnect with a clean slate, a tabula rasa! It helps you get back to this place that you were before all the conditioning and confusion. Before the ego takes hold! Then you can start anew, but with the knowledge that you've accrued along the winding way. Y'know? 

BOWIE: You delivered your best friend’s eulogy on the same day that you met your daughter, Juniper. Did you start composing the album very long after? 

MCKEE: I began writing the album prior to this actually. I wrote a song on the album that is sung from the perspective of an unborn child in his mother's womb, before knowing I was becoming a father. Some weird prophecy. I keep having these prophetic dreams that are absolutely useless to me. Pointless prophecies. I'm a pointless prophet. 

Anyway, Juniper's birth and Matt's death were interconnected. He was also becoming a father at the time of his death and he actually introduced me to the mother of my child. My psychic friend called me recently and told me that I was Matt's mother in a past life. I don't know what that means but I think I understand. 

So to answer your question, the album was written, before, during and after those events. So it tells the whole story in some warped and mangled way.

BOWIE: This is the second solo album you’ve released since parting ways with your former band, SNOWMAN. Would you say that your personal growth has been an analogue to your growth as a musician, or do you feel like music has acted as a sort of constant in life that helps you navigate the rest? 

MCKEE: That’s a good question. I suppose you might be onto something there. I suppose my music has become more like me in some sense. I’ve been following a thread for long enough that I'm in a place creatively that I don't know if anyone else is at. It's just a little nook somewhere that feels like home. Don't get me wrong, we're all just regurgitating our various influences, but at some point you get to a place where you've forgotten what they were and what you are making feels like it belongs to you and only you. I'm a less frightened and significantly happier person than I was in my SNOWMAN daze. I don't think it's a coincidence that my music has become less frightening and more colorful as time has passed.

BOWIE: Do you find the composition process to be very fluid and organic, or does it tend to be very labor-intensive?  

MCKEE: It's both really. There is fluidity in the conception of an idea, but the execution is laborious. The most enjoyable part of making music is when an initial spark becomes a flame, and hey presto! a song is born. The rest is quite a painful process and it doesn't come naturally to me at all. It's work. The song "I'll Be Your Host" is about the birth of a creative idea, and the eventual letting-go of that creation. It no longer belongs to me after the initial burst. I'm not terribly interested in touring these songs live and playing them ad nauseum to vaguely interested drunk people because that seems so far removed from that "first spark" moment that I'm talking about. Perhaps I'll just play private one-on-one performances for a person in my garden. Then it still feels sacred or something. Perhaps I'm rambling.

BOWIE: Your lyrics and song titles have a certain cryptic vulnerability to them. Is this intentional?  

MCKEE: hmmm... It's inherent, I'm not sure it's intentional. It sounds utterly trite but music really is a form of catharsis for me.... but I'm not particularly fond of that confessional style of song writing, so there's always a veil of some sort. I have to wrap metaphor in pataphor in metaphor to feel as though I'm saying anything in a way that feels unique or unburdensome. Is that a word? I don't want to burden people with my crap. I want to sort through it, turn it into something magical and share that, y'know. It's digestion! Songwriting (or creation in any form) is like a digestive process. The final release is the turd that I've presented to you! All the garbage that I need to release! Flushing it into the world. Magical crap. Perhaps childbirth is a nicer analogy. 

BOWIE: “A Yolk He’d Never Seen” is about people getting their comeuppance and feeling the karmic consequence of behaving like a jerk. Can you elaborate on that? 

MCKEE: Yeah that was the first song I wrote for this record. I was living a life of sin! I was genuinely trying to do things purely for myself even if they hurt other people. I made a conscious decision to do this. Madness! Of course the universe dealt me the hand that it did, and I learned my lesson. So that song is about cosmic/karmic repercussions. I won't go into too much detail, but I hurt someone, and in turn, I was hurt. Egg all over my face. 

BOWIE: Can you talk a bit about the first track you released, “I Want to Be Your Wife,” and its significance to the album? 

MCKEE: I sung it from the perspective of a woman in an unhappy marriage. I was a stay-at-home dad in a peculiar marital situation, but really it's based on every relationship I've been in and that crippling fear of losing oneself to another person. Terrifying stuff. It's a funny song, you should listen to the lyrics. You devote so much to these beings (songs/children) and at some point they have to leave the nest and you're all alone again! Then you die. 

BOWIE: Let’s talk about your use of reverb. How long have you been experimenting with the effect and do you remember what inspired you to develop this signature? 

MCKEE: Oh yeah, it's another veil, like the cryptic lyrics, it's a way for me to hide behind something. It's just like clothing for me; it feels natural to wear a suit made of reverb. I'd like to thread a sound suit together and wear it, but sound is still invisible, so it'd only ever be a representation of a sound. But imagine that! Joe McKee and his Technicolor Reverb Tracksuit. It'd be like the Emperor's new clothes. I'd be wandering around in my disgusting naked body. People would say "put some goddamn clothes on you pallid creep!" and I'd simply reply "oh you can't see the reverb? whats wrong with you? 

BOWIE: Can we expect any more music videos for the album? 

MCKEE: Yeah one more!

BOWIE: Performances? 

MCKEE: In some capacity. Not in bars though. It just doesn't really make sense for these songs to compete with the alcohol industry. I don't want to be at battle. Being on stage just feeds into this ego-worship thing that I don't think is very healthy for me. So If I play, I'll play on the floor, eye-to-eye and you can have a cup of tea. And you'll bloody well enjoy it.

Unholy Union: An Interview Of Lydia Lunch and Weasel Walter

text by Adam Lehrer

Of all the great unions of underground music, rock and otherwise; Bowie and Eno, Nick Cave and Blixa Bargeld, Justin Broadrick and Kevin Martin, John Cale and Terry Riley, Sonny Sharrock and Peter Brotzzman, and so on; the union between No Wave icon, transgressive artist, and spoken word warrior Lydia Lunch and free jazz, noise, and no wave musician Weasel Walter is perhaps the most harmonious and unquestionably the unholiest. When considering their respective biographies, both full of moments of sticking the middle finger in the faces of conventional standards of taste and decency, it’s difficult to believe that these revolutionaries didn’t find each other sooner.

Lydia Lunch is the closest thing that American transgressive art has to an icon. Lydia finds herself a symbol of everything that society doesn’t want her to be: loud, intelligent, brash, lewd, angry, righteous. First moving to New York in the late ‘70s to take on spoken word, she ended up the lead singer and guitar player for seminal no wave band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (and appeared on Brian Eno’s No New York compilation alongside contemporaries Mars, DNA, and James Chance & The Contortions). The band was short-lived but influenced countless bands that would use rock instrumentation to explore chaos, atonality, and cacophony: Sonic Youth, Harry Pussy, and Magik Markers among many others. After the band split, Lydia continued making music solo and in collaboration with artists including Nick Cave, Blixa Bargeld, Michael Gira, J.G. Thirwell, Oxbow, and all manner of sonic agitators. Her band 8-Eyed Spy followed and brought in a sense of funk to the dischord. All while these projects were happening, Lydia found herself a pivotal figure in the ‘80s New York cinematic movement, The Cinema of Transgression, that would use extreme shock value and black humor to shatter societal taboos. Lydia directed, wrote and starred in films alongside the likes of Nick Zedd and Richard Kern. Photography, collage, painting (Lydia had an exhibition last year at HOWL! Arts that surveyed her multi-media output), Lydia has engaged in all manner of media throughout her career but defines herself primarily as a poet. Her spoken word is raw and confrontational, often inciting violence, uncontrollable tears or both.

While Weasel Walter is not a poet or a visual artist, his music shares characteristics with Lydia’s output. He has employed a multitude of musical styles throughout his career but has consistently maintained a brazen disregard for the rock n’ roll and cultural status quo. Weasel started his first band The Flying Luttenbachers in Chicago in 1991. He drew upon elements of free jazz, noise, extreme metal, modern composition, and prog rock for an angular approach to dissonant sound. In the process, Weasel re-popularized the term no wave reignited interest in the ‘70s no wave bands throughout the ‘90s with his record label, UGexplode. Weasel is interested in the extremity of sound in whatever style it may come in: modern composer Iannis Xenakis, free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman, death metal band Obituary, art rock luminaries The Residents, French conceptual prog rockers Magma and Black Flag all make sense in his diverse but aesthetically unified sonic tastes. He’s played in metal bands like Burmese and Lair of the Minotaur while drumming for jazz and improv gigs. He’s neither a free jazz drummer or a metal drummer, but applies his own peculiar approach to both equally and plays his ass off. Recently, Weasel has been playing in Cellular Chaos, a New York-based no wave revival band with Admiral Grey, Ceci Moss and Marc Edwards and the band’s second LP, Diamond Teeth Clench, came out over the summer. Also this summer, Weasel released Curses, a solo LP of electro-acoustic strangeness and warped beauty. Weasel’s tireless work should embarrass the herd of underachieving underground rock musicians.

Lydia and Weasel, both pivotal figures during their respective no wave eras, had been in each other’s orbits since the ‘90s, but Weasel had to hustle to gain the attention of his hero. “No, we’d run into each other over the years but she runs into hundreds of thousands of people and I was just some skinny twerp,” says Weasel.

In 2009, Weasel landed his noise metal band Burmese onto a reunion bill for Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. He made an impression on Lydia. “They were amazing, they were absolutely great. And so, I took notice,” says Lydia. “You know, he was smiley and cute...I was like, “OK, buddy.” He “weaseled” his way into my existence.” Lydia had an opening for a guitar player for a one-off gig playing old music and Weasel stepped up. “What started as a one-off turned into a multi-national conglomerate,” says Weasel.

Weasel and Lydia formed the band Retrovirus along with bass player and band leader of New York noise mongers Child Abuse Tim Dahl and former Sonic Youth and Pussy Galore drummer Bob Bert. The band plays modernized numbers from Lydia’s archives: Teenage Jesus, 8-Eyed Spy, Queen of Siam, and more. Lydia also uses Weasel for spoken word projects: their project Brutal Measures finds Weasel drumming in unison with Lydia’s rhythmic verbal gymnastics.

Building on the Brutal Measures project, Weasel and Lydia will be collaborating with poetry icon and original Last Poets member Umar Bin Hassan on a project entitled No Wave Out. The project came into fruition when event producer Some Serious Business’s Susan Martin facilitated a meeting between her long-time client, Lydia, and UCLA. When UCLA skipped on the idea, Martin put NYU record engineer and subsequent Lydia Lunch fan Phil Painson in touch with Lydia. Painson had a direct line to Hassan, and eventually set up a meeting between the two poets. In No Wave Out, Weasel will be playing guitar along with Dahl, percussionist Don Babatunde, and drummer Shaun Kelly drawing upon no wave, funk, hip-hop, noise, and free jazz to create a chaotic swirl of sound all while Hassan and Lydia trade poetic philosophy and revolution. “[Lydia’s] a natural wordsmith,” says Hassan. “Once we got in the studio I knew there was something interesting there.” The No Wave Out performances will take place on November 2 and 3 at Joe’s Pub in New York.

I hung out with Lydia and Weasel at the Roxy Hotel in TriBeca to eat breakfast and talk about their various projects, art, music, and destroying society.

ADAM LEHRER: I hate this culture of nostalgia that we’re living in. Why are people ignoring the music of their own time despite not having been old enough to have experienced what they are nostalgic for in the first place?

Weasel Walter: The internet sort of put everything on an even keel and everyone’s too intimidated to make their way through the morass of stuff now.

LUNCH: To me it doesn’t matter, I’d rather see a fucking reunion of the Jesus Lizard than most bands now.

LEHRER: Yeah, I would too. I love David Yow. But my point is more that people are letting their lives slip by because they’re mad they’ll never see Cobain or something. It’s almost laziness to me. You can experience any music you want. It’s there for the taking.

WALTER: Most people are overwhelmed by the amount of options. I’m a music head and I have a hard time finding new shit I like.

LUNCH: That’s why I look to architecture. A lot of kids in their twenties come up and they’re like, “oh, there’s nobody in my generation.” I’m like, why don’t you look to fucking architects, chemistry or science. Why does it always have to be the lowest common denominator, which is music? But music is still the universal language, and it can be brilliant. But why does everybody have to revert to base elements? My favorite quote about architecture is that it’s “music frozen in space.”

WALTER: Your answer is: people like music.

LUNCH: Of course they do. But look,  our band Retrovirus is a retrospective because nobody heard it the first fucking time. I wouldn’t call it nostalgic though because it’s still the most brutal shit going. Well, not the most brutal: there’s also Cellular Chaos and Child Abuse but, I mean, it’s still pretty fucking brutal. Everything Weasel and I do brings a sense of urgency and brutality to the stage.

WALTER: We don’t do any trigger warnings before we start.

LUNCH: Yeah, when there’s a trigger warning I’ve already shot you in the face. Warning, my fingers on the trigger. No warnings.

LEHRER: So, did you two meet when you moved to New York in 2009 or have you known each other longer?

LUNCH: He met me in his dreams when he was fourteen. I really noticed him was when he was in Burmese and forced their way onto a Teenage Jesus reunion. I was very impressed by that band.

WALTER: There was a job opening and I stepped forward.

LEHRER: And that evolved into all of these projects: Retrovirus, Brutal Measures, No Wave Out, and so forth?

LUNCH: We’ve gone to Colombia, Brazil, Australia and mainly Europe. I would like to do more shows in America but it’s different. I mean, it’s hard enough for me to just get solo spoken word shows. We don’t even have managers. I book most the shows. Weasel is so unappreciated, and underpaid. I want to show him off.

LEHRER: How did the No Wave Out project with Umar Hassan come into fruition?

LUNCH: I met this really straight looking black guy [Phil Painson] (and I don’t have many black fans, I don’t know why, being half black myself) and he’s like “hey, you’re Lydia, Teenage Jesus is the greatest band, I’m an engineer at NYU.” I just told him the concept and he goes, “I’ve got two unreleased albums by Umar Bin Hassan.” I thought he was fucking shitting me, I didn’t know that there were any Last Poets still alive. So, after many meetings with him, we set up a meeting with Umar. Now, imagine somebody goes to vet me...

LEHRER: Yeah, things will come up in the background check (laughs).

LUNCH: Who knows what they’re going to see. [the 1988 Richard Kern-directed film is a prime example of the New York cinematic movement entitled The Cinema of Transgression of which Lydia is often considered a muse to-ed] Fingered? But, I met with Umar and explained how influential he was to me. They were the first, and best, protest artists. How’s he going to fucking know what I do? It’s off his radar. I cracked a joke and won him over. We were just talking and he said, “yeah, I’ve been married three times and I got ten kids,” and I said, “well you did that wrong, son, didn’t you.” And he goes, “yeah, I did” and I said, “have you ever been with a white woman” and he said, “no,” and I said, “well you’re not going to be with none tonight ‘cause you’re looking at Biggie motherfucking Smalls” and he laughed and by then, he got me. I had to break down my ghetto into his. We started swapping stories. Then the day after my opening that you saw at HOWL! I had slept twelve hours. I usually sleep four so I was sick with sleep and Tim and Weasel had slept four hours after doing acid so we were on the reverse schedule and they were like, “you’re going into the studio with Umar.” It was an instantaneous, improvisational, spoken word throw-down.

LEHRER: I read that you are trying to boil everything down to the spoken word.

LUNCH: It began and will end with the spoken word. It’s not boiling down, it’s all spoken word to me.

LEHRER: It’s a volatile political and sociological era. Do you think that the spoken word is the most direct way to express yourself in that sort of time period?

LUNCH: Just go back and listen to (Lydia’s 1989 spoken word performance) Conspiracy of Women twenty-five years ago. I’ve been talking about this shit since I opened my mouth. My first big solo spoken word show, called The Gun is Loaded, which was under Reagan, would have been considered treason today. But the names remain the same, the fucking problem is the same. Hence, why Last Poets are still valid. Hence, why spoken word is valid.

LEHRER: I feel like people who criticized your work most likely were just uncomfortable with feeling emotion on some level.

LUNCH: Or intelligence.

LEHRER: Or intelligence. Your art is very raw and emotional.

LUNCH: It was never meant to be liked. Those that originally came or still come to the spoken word show didn’t know whether I was yelling at them or yelling for them. And it was only two years ago that Weasel and I did a show that I actually had to slap somebody in the face. Two guys actually, which hadn’t happened in decades. They were drunk as usual; it didn’t help that one was a Senator.

LEHRER: Weasel, your music has always been narrative but it’s wordless, usually. It approaches narrative through sonic intensity. How is it different for you composing music to be laid under spoken word poetry?

WALTER: I’ve worked in a lot of bands but the approach is almost always [musical approach conceived by late free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman] harmolodic. It’s about rhythm. It’s abstract music that has a pulse. I’m the un-funkiest white man in music but there’s a duality. For example, Tim Dahl, the bass player, is influenced by funk and R&B and it’s an intersection between the melodic section and these No Wave elements.

LUNCH: Also, I don’t like rhythm under my spoken word because my voice is rhythm. So, for instance, when we do our “duolet,” as I call it, or Brutal Measures, Weasel isn’t drumming under my spoken word because he doesn’t know what I’m going to say (not that it’s all improvising because a lot of it is orchestrated). I don’t need music under my solo spoken word. When I’m doing my spoken word, the less music under it the better because my rhythm drives itself.

WALTER: The No Wave Out thing, so far, has just been improvised. We’re all improvisors. I think there’s a unique tension you can achieve by really reacting to the moment.

LUNCH: I know, with my stuff, less is more. He’s a maximalist, I’m a minimalist. So, I like to surround my minimality with maximum impact. When we do Brutal Measures, a lot of my spoken word is much more on the down low. It’s quieter. He provides machine-gunning and I bathe your bruises with my tongue.

LEHRER: Will No Wave Out release music?

WALTER: [No Wave Out] was supposed to be a whole album but it doesn’t have a home yet…It’s sort of in production.

LUNCH: I would rather have an album recorded live. I think live is where it’s at. Do you have the Retrovirus stuff?

LEHRER: I have a few of the tracks on my computer. I have tons on my phone right here: 8-Eyed Spy, Teenage Jesus, that solo album you did with Marc Hurtado.

LUNCH: Oh, I’m glad you have that Hurtado, it only came out in Spain. I composed that whole album, people don’t realize I do some composition. Hurtado just dumped like a hundred industrial samples. It’s composition appropriate for the words that need to be said. He’s a compositional and mathematical genius. Photographs and compositions are the same. Some women knit, I make a fucking montage. I have no idea how I do it. But I do it really quickly...any of those tracks are composed in like an hour. And those photographs are composed in five or ten minutes. His shit is composed by an algebraic compositional mapping. I saw some of the sheet music and just wanted to tattoo my whole body in it so one day I could uncode it. This is what’s interesting about working with Weasel. We’re completely in synch together but we have such completely opposite methodologies.

LEHRER: That’s what I find so compelling. Teenage Jesus was one of the first no wave bands, or whatever they were calling no wave then, and then they labeled Weasel and The Flying Luttenbachers “new no wave” or “Chicago new wave.” But Teenage Jesus and the original no wave bands all sounded raw and falling apart almost, where as Weasel’s work with The Luttenbachers and other ‘90s no wave bands like U.S. Maple all sound quite composed and angular.

LUNCH: Last year, Weasel compiled the ultimate Teenage Jesus live LP, and Nicolas Jaar released it [on his label Other People]. It’s amazing. Weasel was sitting on his favorite Teenage Jesus compositions. Teenage Jesus was quite different because I didn’t compose much of the music in most of my bands. Other than Weasel, nobody can play that shit. A lot of guitarists have tried, but there’s basically no set tuning to Teenage Jesus so it’s difficult to try to figure out what I’m doing. We practiced every day for years but the only notes I knew were hand-written, the only chords I knew go around your fucking neck. And then we did one show last year, just to squeeze all the money out of the record label. Weasel played bass and he broke the bass string. Tim Dahl played drums and here’s a rhythm master and you’re trying to teach him beats that make no sense. It was very difficult for a really accomplished musician, like Tim, to understand. It’s not about music, it’s about brutality.

LEHRER: Even for you, Weasel, I always found your most brutal shit always had some sort of progression or structure to it.

WALTER: I can see the structure in [Teenage Jesus]. It is concise and it’s minimal, but it’s also very shrewd because it’s more sophisticated than people think it is. And there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. You can’t make anyone play that material and get it right. There’s certain pauses in that music that aren’t metric. In some ways, It’s really irrational music. it’s got this asymmetry. It’s weird, to me it’s got this duality - the most nihilistic music ever, but totally positive. It’s extreme black humor where it’s so unfunny that it becomes hysterical.

LUNCH: When I did the Teenage Jesus reunion, the metal dudes were like, ‘Woah we love your guitar.’ I just started laughing in their faces. I know you do. It’s amazing that these serious dudes, like Glenn Branca, who I was never friends with or a fan of, dropped to his fucking knees. I’m like, get off your knees. Please.

LEHRER: I just saw him do Ascension and he got all these kids to play with him. Like famous modern underground rock kids.

LUNCH: Was it good?

LEHRER: I think the setting made it pretty interesting. It was at the Masonic temple, so it sounded thick.

LUNCH: How many kids? Dozens?

LEHRER: I think like 12 and some of the musicians I liked, some I didn’t like. The kid from Liturgy was there.  I can’t stand that band. And some other kids, who were pretty good.

LUNCH: (laughs) Hunter’s (Hendrix, of Liturgy) poetry is really good, I will say. I gave him some spoken word lessons. The writing was really good though. It was very surrealistic.

LEHRER: Really? That’s interesting. I didn’t hate hate the first Liturgy album, I hated the second one that came out where it sounds like early 2000s rap metal.

WALTER: What Liturgy stands for goes against the original black metal aesthetic enough that purists despise it. The music is neither here nor there.

LUNCH: I don’t give a shit about his music. His words were good. We actually did a show for Brutal Measures in Hunter’s backyard. He paid us. It’s the only way we’d do it.

LEHRER: I don’t know why I find their music, in particular, so jarring. Because some hipster black metal bands, like Deafheaven, I like.

WALTER: I think metal should be made by people with bald heads or long hair. There’s nothing in the middle for me, really.

LEHRER: Weasel, I was wondering if you were into [Missouri-based musician Adam Kalmbach applies 20th Century composition to black metal noise in his project-ed] Jute Gyte?

WALTER: Yeah, I like them. I don’t listen to it that often because it’s so clinical. It has elements of modern composition. I’m too insular to get into the politics of black metal. ‘90s death metal bands sound like classic rock to me.

LUNCH: I just produced Pissed Jeans’ new album. The vocalist asked me to produce it. It was really fun. It’s good, it’s chunky, it’s fat free. The lyrics are fucking hilarious. The topics are outrageous.

WALTER: I think Teenage Jesus was one of the original death metal bands. I never stated it that way, but thinking about it, the whole aesthetic is there.

LEHRER: Teenage Jesus sort of has an association with downtown New York art. Were you are aware of the association?

LUNCH: I didn’t give a shit about the art going on at the time. I hated most of it. I came to New York to do spoken word.

LEHRER: I’m always interested in the stories that journalists attach to certain movements and art. They’re sometimes so different than what could have actually been contextualized by the people making the art.

LUNCH: With Teenage Jesus, someone gave me a broken guitar. We started writing the fucking songs. I found an abandoned building. I started living there and we started practicing until it was tight as possible. Then we got a few shows. Then we got a place on Delancey. And then I found a way to take it to England. I was very focused and it was never more than 20 people at any fucking gig. Why would there be? This music would drive people insane. People would run out before our short sets would end.

WALTER: The shortest set was seven minutes. The average was about 10.

LUNCH: Why do you need more?

LEHRER: I go see Swans every time they play around here and the first hour is like, “fuck this music is so good,” and then the next hour, you’re like “damn my legs hurt, my shoes hurt,  my boots are fucking dirty. People are stepping on my feet.”

LUNCH: We never played more than like 15 minutes. Brutal Measures, we don’t even time it. It’s got to be more than 20, but I don’t like to do more than that. Spoken word shows were ten minutes. Ten minutes back and forth.

WALTER: We would play most of the songs and it was less than 20 minutes.

LEHRER: I think brevity in general is one of the things that may be has pushed mass audiences away from rock’n’roll. I mean I do have an affinity for electronic music and I think it’s just because you go to rock shows now, it’s like 50 disaffected kids staring into space, nodding their heads, feeling self-conscious. Then, you go to an electronic show, it’s kids taking drugs and losing their shit. It’s way more rock’n’roll in some ways, at this point.

WALTER: For most people, a gig is an excuse for other things: Sex, drugs. That’s what rock’n’roll used to be. An excuse to do that stuff for most people.

LUNCH: I prefer people sit down. I’ll tell you why. If the words are important: fucking listen. I want them to be in the room, focused in. When I do a solo show that has visuals and music, there’s this room you can disappear into. I’m looking at you, you’re looking at me. We’re having a very direct and intimate experience. I like to look into everybody’s fucking eyes at my shows.

WALTER: I never look at the audience.

LUNCH: You don’t even look at me. Unless I’m in your face.

WALTER: I’m focusing.

LUNCH: He’s gotta do his own shit. It’s so elaborate, what he’s doing. I have to go deep and go in. I’m more about penetration. If you’re there, you’re gonna get impregnated and it’s gonna be from my dick. That’s my tongue.

WALTER: That’s why she gets the big money.

LEHRER: Lydia, You lived in Berlin in the 80s?

LUNCH: I didn’t live there.

LEHRER: You just hung out there?

LUNCH: People think I lived in Berlin. People wanted me to live in Berlin. I would just go there.

LEHRER: You were hanging out with Nick Cave then too?

LUNCH: I saved him from OD’ing a few times, so yeah I guess that’s hanging out.

LEHRER: It’s awful what happened to his kid.

LUNCH: It’s awful what happened to his career. He became mega rich by selling ballads.

LEHRER: I still think he has a couple beautiful songs here and there.

LUNCH: He’s another one who conned the cons. I don’t know how he did it. I was thrilled to be on tour with The Birthday Party. They were absolutely one of the best bands ever. I loved the lyrics. I didn’t love The Bad Seeds. In his case, he had like three good ideas and he rode them forever. People release too many albums with the same musicians. I’m a conceptualist, he’s not. Weasel is a conceptualist too. One of his latest albums, Curses, is so different than anything else he ever did. It’s on his bandcamp, you can hear it.

WEASEL: Curses is this electro-acoustic piece.

LUNCH: It’s one of my favorites. Women really like it.

WEASEL: A lot of my music is not very feminine (laughs).

LUNCH: The album is very witchy. Women really respond to it. It’s such a different elemental force that he’s dealing with. This is one of our connective tissues. Whether it’s just the intensity, the focus, or that we’re two fucking weirdos that are outside of everything and don’t give a shit about anything.

LEHRER: Both of you have been involved in so many projects, so many different amazing types of art, just as a general piece of advice, what keeps you excited and reinvigorated to continue making more?

LUNCH: Well we cry a lot. You should hear our cry fests. Last night I was having one. We’re stubborn. It’s in our blood. I’m prolific. He’s far more prolific. I can relax more than he can. I think I am my best creation. I don’t need to be constantly working on projects, but I always am. The burning in the blood overrides everything else.

WALTER: I’m always trying to articulate things that I think are lesser in quantity in culture, especially if it’s elemental. I don’t like to make redundant art. That’s why I was never in a straight death metal band, for example, because there’s like 8 million of them. I think sometimes in certain time periods, there’s a need for me as a fan and listener for certain kinds of music that people are making. That motivation is almost like a negative motivation. What is everyone not doing? I need to do that.

LEHRER: So not out of a contrarian sense, but that something is missing.

LUNCH: It’s contrarian.

WALTER: It’s two sides of a coin. A lot of my bands were conceived because I hate what’s going on and basically I want to destroy it with my own voice. I’m always trying to articulate my disdain.

LUNCH: I’m trying to express the condition I’m in and what I’m trying to get over. I’m not just lashing out at the universe. My priority in creating anything is to get over whatever the obsession is now, to try to get to the next place of pure existence. I know other people are suffering the same insanity.

Purchase tickets for No Wave Out here. Text and photographs by Adam Lehrer. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Expansion and Retraction: An Interview Of Rising Melbourne Based Musician Oscar Key Sung

Oscar Key Sung is a rising name in Australia's independent music scene, coming out of Melbourne. He's been steadily releasing music through collaborative projects and on his own for the past few of years, but it is his unique approach to blending experimental electronic beats with RnB vocals yet keeping a pop-style element to his sound, that has gained him attention as an emerging solo artist.  His latest single 'Hands' from his anticipated debut full length album see's him continue to captivate us sonically and visually with a music video that features minimalistic contemporary dance and lighting effects. Ahead of his album to be release later this year, we spoke to him about the new record, how he defines his distinctive style and his introduction into music.

AUTRE: You mentioned once that you started playing music at 5 years old in your uncle’s “art/punk” band – what was that like?

OSCAR KEY SUNG: I was so little so its hard to empathize with how it felt at the time. But I know it was so fun. I had a beautiful connection with my uncle, he was my best friend. I remember one night they let me sing a song that I had written, and I cried the whole time I was singing. Must have just really gotten real at that moment. Must have been funny to watch, the audience was nice and supportive though.

AUTRE: Was punk the first type of music that you were introduced to?

SUNG: My parents were super into dance music and hip hop around the time I was a kid. They both worked in fashion and a lot of the clothes they designed had a street wear/rave slant. Sub cultures always have a cross medium connection between style, art, music. But they had come out of the “crystal ballroom” punk scene of the 80s in Melbourne, and they carried a lot of that mentality through everything they did. So yeh a few different styles at first, not just punk. Also my uncle's group probably wouldn’t pass as a “punk group”, more of a sort of esoteric art performance thing, he was pretty singular in his approach, hard to throw in a genre basket.

AUTRE: Would you describe your music as pop or is it something more unique to who you are?

SUNG: I think that being pop doesn’t necessarily mean not being unique. For instance Bjork identifies as a pop artist. To me pop means more that it is polished and in the mainstream, other than that, the content of the art is fair game.

AUTRE: You were a part of a musical duo, Oscar and Martin, before venturing off and going solo – is it harder or easier to work on your own or do you miss the camaraderie that comes with collaborating?

SUNG: It's just different, not better or worse. I definitely miss the camaraderie though. I also notice that groups seem to egg each other on in a way, they push each other. 

AUTRE: Through making and releasing multiple solo albums, have you noticed anything about your evolution as a musical artist?

SUNG: I think there is with out doubt a lot of change with every release I have done. It's interesting, in a way I am most proud of the solo album I put out in 2007. It is so fearless and self indulgent in a way I think I could never quite do again.

AUTRE: Can you describe the vibe behind your current single and upcoming album – is there a pervading message or theme in this album or is there something that you set out to say when you made the album?

SUNG: The current single “hands” is to me quite an ambitious track, in that it sets out to achieve a number of ideas and directions in one composition. It's somewhere between a club track, with an almost instrumental grime sort of direction, and a sensitive ballad, because vocally it is sort of sensitive and androgynous. I think the whole album plays with that feeling of opposing elements. There is always a push and pull, expansion and retraction.

AUTRE: Do you enjoy being on the stage or in the studio better – some musical artists sometimes have a preference for one or the other?

SUNG: Every studio day and every performance is some what separate. Sometimes I just pull my hair out for the day and achieve nothing when I am writing and producing. And some shows feel like a beautiful connection, and others like an outer body nightmare disaster. So it really depends. I suppose I want both, I don’t want to trade one in for the other.

Watch the official music video for the track Hands below. Click here to stay up to date with upcoming shows. Intro text and photographs by Darren Luk. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Patron Saint Of The Impossible: An Interview Of South African Hip Artist Dope Saint Jude

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text by Keely Shinners

Who is Dope Saint Jude? For one thing, she is subversive: a self-produced black queer woman from South Africa who is breaking into the cis-male dominated hip hop scene. She is cool: tattoos, leather, glitter on her lips; she has guys on gold chains in her music videos, and next week she is flying to France for the second leg of her tour. She is revolutionary: using hip hop and mad aesthetics as a means to talk about queer visibility, the politics of the brown body, the radical act of self-empowerment. Dope Saint Jude drinks coffee with you, talks about going back to school to legitimize and expand her political consciousness. Days later, you are sharing a joint and dancing at a party for which the theme is “70s DISCO, BLACK EXCELLENCE, and INEVITABLE SHINE.” In essence, Dope Saint Jude resists clean definitions. She is multi-faceted and she expands to include narratives we don’t normally read together.

Catherine Saint Jude Pretorius and I sat down to talk about making art that is radical and dope, political and accessible, impossible and, as it turns out, possible for those with the courage to love themselves.

KEELY SHINNERS: Who is Dope Saint Jude? Is she a persona?

DOPE SAINT JUDE: Dope Saint Jude started out as a persona that embodies everything that I want to be: powerful, bold, unapologetic, zero fucks to give. But Catherine and the character Dope Saint Jude are slowly becoming one person. Dope Saint Jude is the epitome of everything I want to be. Performing as Dope Saint Jude, in itself, is such an incredible process. It’s changing my life. It’s changing the type of person I am. It’s made me more confident. Maybe I would have wanted to travel. Before, it was just a dream. Dope Saint Jude is worldly. As a girl coming from the Cape Flats, the prospect of traveling was a very far away idea. Now, it’s a part of my everyday life. Like, next week, I’m going to France.

SHINNERS: That’s amazing. 

SAINT JUDE: It’s also been such a cathartic and therapeutic process, performing as Dope Saint Jude. The persona is not just a persona. It’s become a tool transforming my reality. Even going back to school has informed me. I listen to my own music, which is about being bold, being excellent, and pushing the boundaries of your potential. So I listen to my music, and I think, “I have to live my best life. I have to study. I have to be excellent.” 

SHINNERS: The imagination is becoming a reality. That’s really hopeful for enacting change.

SAINT JUDE: It’s not just an empty persona that just exists for the performance. It’s actively transforming my reality and realities of everyone I work with. I place a very strong emphasis on collaboration. The whole spirit of Dope Saint Jude is not just limited to me. It’s not selfish. It’s growing. I’m working with other young creatives who are doing inspiring things. We’re motivated and inspired by each other. It’s an explosive thing.

SHINNERS: Young creatives in Cape Town are doing really amazing things. Talking to people, it seems that some people are really disillusioned by the art world in Cape Town, while others are really inspired. Where do you fall?

SAINT JUDE: I feel quite inspired by it, but I understand why people feel disillusioned. I reclaim space, don’t give any fucks, and make my own reality. If there’s no space for me to showcase, I’ll create my own. In that spirit, that’s why it’s important for us to create our own art, to collaborate, to create space when people don’t want us. Being a queer artist here in Cape Town, there’s not really a platform for me. I’ve made my name overseas. Unfortunately, that’s the reality. I can’t earn a living here. But I’m exciting about developing the art and music scene here.

SHINNERS: So you’re doing a little bit of both, going abroad and making your own space here? 

SAINT JUDE: Exactly. I think you have to do a little bit of both. We live in an international community now that we have the Internet. I meet you now, I might bump into you in a different country. That’s the lifestyle we live now. Or that some of us are afforded; not everyone is that privileged. You’re in the global sphere; you can’t contain yourself in Cape Town and South Africa. But at the same time, we’re in a weird space here. Everyone is looking for Cape Town artists, but there is no tightly-bound Cape Town art community. It’s a divide and conquer mentality. Everyone is doing their own thing separately, trying to make money, instead of us coming together and working as one. It’s because we’re poor. If we had money and resources, we would be able to create without having to make a living. When you have the luxury to make art for the sense of art, you can make money easily.

SHINNERS: And you can’t blame people for that.

 SAINT JUDE: So I’m trying to be in the middle. I also need to eat. I don’t come from a wealthy family. I come from a poor family. I need to make my own money.

SHINNERS: You’re from the Cape Flats? What is that like?

SAINT JUDE: It’s a historically colored area. I come from a mixed-race family. We aren’t very wealthy. For me, it’s a big deal to be able to do what I’m doing. Creating art as a black South African is a privilege. To even dream that kind of lifestyle, that you can make a living from art. “It’s not real work.” That’s what people say. It’s a luxury that I’m aware of.

SHINNERS: You got started on the Internet. What about having access to the Internet informed the work that you made?

SAINT JUDE:  I can’t talk about anything of these things without talking about the socioeconomic struggle in South Africa. My access to the Internet is because I was afforded the privilege of the Internet. My parents made sure I went to good schools in the age of the Internet becoming a big thing. I became an Internet-savvy person at a young age. A lot of artists in Cape Town are doing dope things, but they don’t have Internet access. They don’t know how to use the Internet the same way I do. So, how the Internet impacted my work… The Internet gave me information that I wouldn’t have had access to. As a queer person here, the queer community is very small and racially divided. Having access to the Internet made me feel like I was a part of a bigger community, something that I call Future Queer. It’s not just gay, lesbian, whatever. It’s fluidity; it’s anyone who redefines that way of thinking.

SHINNERS: On the flipside, as you’re putting out your work, you’re putting it out on Soundcloud and YouTube as opposed to looking for a label. Is the accessibility of the Internet important to you?

SAINT JUDE: Because of the stuff I’m creating and the climate in South Africa, which I think is quite conservative for queer people, you’re put in a box. I hate when people label me as a “queer artist.” I hate that type of thing. I feel like I’m accessible to a lot of different audiences. The Internet gave me the platform to be able to communicate that. I just say, this is who I am. Different people take away their own ideas. As soon as you associate yourself with any kind of institution – a label or whatever it is – you’re automatically branded and given a type of audience. I like that the Internet opens the audience to anyone. My music has interest from an academic audience, as well as a “black girl magic” audience because of the strong brown girl power messages in my music.

SHINNERS: You said that you don’t want people to put you in a box. Still, a lot of the interviews I read say, “Dope Saint Jude, a queer black artist.” To me, it seems fetishizing. Do you feel that way? How do you deal with that?

SAINT JUDE: I do! I don’t do “queer hip hop.” That’s part of my identity, and I’ll never deny my ties to the queer community. But saying you’re a “queer artist” is so limiting. Like, we don’t say, “He’s a white guitarist. You should listen to his music.” It’s bullshit. I feel like my music has so many different elements. I’m influenced by Dr. Dre and girls chilling in the hood, Lil’ Kim and Nicki Minaj stuff. But I’m also woke. Don’t limit me. That’s the thing the media is guilty of. We want to fetishize people. It’s too complex to comprehend, so you want to put it into a box. That’s why I’ve called my EP “Reimagine.” I’m constantly reimagining. I hate it when people do me the disservice of limiting me to one narrative. I have multiple narratives. Also, it feels racist when people do that. They limit your narrative to your struggle, and that’s all. No, I’m joyful. I smoke weed with my girls. We ride in the car and go to the beach and party.

SHINNERS: And the media spins it in a way that sounds like, “You will be edgy and cool if you know about this queer underground artist.”

SAINT JUDE: To an extent, it’s nice. I do exploit it. People want to box me into whatever, but that clickbait can open me up to a new audience. I have to deal with it. I also can’t be upset about it all the time. It’s important that I’m visible as a queer artist. There are so many young, black, queer people who are scared and insecure. For me to actively identify with that, it’s cool. But when big, big blogs do it, it upsets me.

SHINNERS: Being a self-made artist – making your own beats, collaborating with people who want to work with, making your own visuals – seems very important to you. What is the thought process behind doing everything on your own?

SAINT JUDE: One element is that I don’t want to be a rapper who raps over other people’s beats. I see myself as an artist. I want to be involved in the creation of every aspect of my art. I don’t exclusively want to work on my own beats, but it’s important that I use that language because it gives me power in the process. It’s important that I feel in control of my own process. And it just makes the art better, when you’re in control. As a woman, I don’t want guys making beats for me, telling me, “This is how you need to be on this beat. We would prefer it if you were sexier.” As soon as someone makes a beat for you, they feel like they can direct your process. I don’t like that. There are so many male rappers who do that. No one ever credits female rappers on producing and rapping themselves. It’s a powerful thing. Also, in terms of the visuals, it’s important for how I communicate as an artist. I don’t want videos that other people direct just because being hot in front of a car looks cool. If I want to be hot in front of a car, I must know why I’m doing that. I want things to be done in my terms. As a female artist, it’s revolutionary to be in control of your process. 

SHINNERS: What, to you, is the relationship between hip hop and activism? 

SAINT JUDE: Hip hop is really cool because it was the music of oppressed people. That’s where it comes from. It’s cool to explore different struggles in hip hop. Not only rapping about it. You don’t want to rap about problems all the time. It’s cool to communicate using hip hop visually and in terms of the sound. You can throw in things subliminally. It’s accessible. You can talk about things in a cool way. I like to exploit the cool. Young kids and teenagers watch my videos and aspire to that because of the look. But it’s a buy-in to get them into a revolutionary way of thinking. Hip hop is a really cool medium, but it has its limitations. Some people think hip hop and queerness don’t go together, because hip hop is historically quite patriarchal and leans on masculinity. But I think that hip hop is a tool for oppressed people, not just black men. There are other people who are entitled to use the music to express their joy and their pain and their power.

SHINNERS: How do you balance making music that is political, revolutionary, and confrontational towards people’s ideas about blackness and queerness while, at the same time, making music that is accessible?

SAINT JUDE: I think that the idea that the two can’t exist together is a fantasy. In the past, people imagined conscious music as music to sit and think, to blaze and go on a trip. And then there was Lil’ Wayne, turn up music. But I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. That’s something we need to debunk. Like, I find Kanye West’s music quite revolutionary, but it’s also cool to turn up to. It’s small things, like having good beats, that make is accessible, incorporating other facets of cool. For example, if you are a revolutionary thinker and artist, that doesn’t mean you don’t want to go to the club and smoke weed and drink. I want to talk about both sides. 

SHINNERS: We can have a multi-faceted idea.

SAINT JUDE: We’re not limited to one thing. I also like to utilize cool things visually, like fashion. Fashion is revolutionary, but it’s also cool. It’s nice to use that as a tool to bring people in. When teenagers see the fashion, when they see sexy people, they are drawn in. The listen to the music, and it can be informative.

SHINNERS: It can lead them to other avenues.

SAINT JUDE: There are so many things you can do. Shooting dope videos. Messing with the art design. Having interesting-looking people. And if you’re art is good, it’s cool anyway.

SHINNERS: You are a very powerful woman, both in your music and outside of it. But we have two conversations about power going on. We have the “dismantle power” conversation, and we have the “embrace your power” conversation. How do you navigate undoing power while championing your own power when making art?

SAINT JUDE: In embracing my own power, I’m dismantling other structures. My power is valid, and it’s just as important as yours. Also, it’s reimagining this idea of power. Me being powerful doesn’t mean the next person isn’t powerful. The patriarchy and white supremacy champion exclusive power. But the power that I’m embracing is power for all of us. It’s not limited to me and my experience. Also, I try not to focus too much on dismantling all of those structures. It’s draining for me. Why do that when I can empower myself? I happen to be a part of all these disenfranchised groups: black people, queer people, women. It’s exhausting to say, “Fight the patriarchy. Fight this and fuck that.” It’s exhausting on your spirit. I’d rather celebrate that pure joy then perpetuate that “Fuck you,” energy. It’s not helpful. It’s necessary to be angry, but I don’t want to cultivate that in myself. You grow so much from celebration. That’s the revolutionary act. Actually celebrating yourself. Self-love is a radical act.

SHINNERS: When you imagine self-love, what do you imagine?

SAINT JUDE: Small things. Not being hard on yourself for stupid things. Being your own best friend. Promoting yourself. Having you own back. It takes courage to believe you are worth something and that your voice is valid. It doesn’t matter if other people don’t like what you’re saying. The fact that you’re saying it is important. It starts even with just putting lotion on yourself everyday because you love yourself and you’re important to yourself. There’s no shame in buying yourself something nice to wear. For conscious hip hop people, we’ve been taught that it’s selfish to want to indulge and do nice things for ourselves. That’s counterproductive. We need to be kind and gentle to ourselves. Self-love is making your dreams a priority. It’s not far away, wishful thinking. Love yourself to make your happiness important. I think about where I come from. My grandmother cleaned houses and sewed things to make a living. My mom became a teacher. She loved her job, but a lot of women, particularly black women, spend their lives doing jobs that weren’t their first choice. At this point, self-love is allowing yourself to do things that make you happy. You don’t have to suffer. We’re not limited in that way. Structurally, some people are. I’m privileged enough to be able to do art. But self-love is opening your mind to that possibility, that you deserve it. Love yourself enough to work hard and transcend your circumstance.

SHINNERS: That goes back to what you were saying first. You imagined this persona that carried all these desires that seemed unattainable. Now, your life is catching up. 

SAINT JUDE: It’s all because of self-love. If I didn’t love myself, I would have been stuck working for some job that I hated. I didn’t think I deserved to travel or live the life I wanted to. People are in mental prisons. They can’t even imagine being happy. People are so used to suffering because we come from generations of suffering. We accept that as the norm. When you start to love yourself, you can start imagining that it could be a reality. Your life can be enjoyable.

SHINNERS: You just came to the US on tour. Why do you think your music speaks to an American audience?

SAINT JUDE: My point of reference as an artist in terms of pop culture in media is American. That makes me accessible; I can speak that language. Even the humor, the jokes, the sass. It’s informed by the American media I’ve been consuming my whole life. Also, I feel like the US and Europe have a more progressive queer community, and a more progressive art community. To an extent, I was very surprised. There’s a lot of Cape Town slang in my music. People still fuck with my music even though there’s a lot of shit they can’t understand. 

SHINNERS: In Catholicism, Saint Jude is the patron saint of the Impossible. What impossibilities – in work or in life – can you identify? How are you overcoming them?

SAINT JUDE: It’s such a fitting name. My mom named me Catherine Saint Jude because she had four boys, and I was the only girl. She thought it was gong to be impossible to have a girl. I’m glad I chose the second name my mom gave me as my performance name. Everything I’ve done is kind of impossible. Before I was Dope Saint Jude, I was a drag king. I started Cape Town’s first Drag King troupe. Put up a wall, and I will only see it as a challenge to overcome. I grew up in a strict Catholic home. I was super involved in the church. But I’ve felt excluded from the world because I like girls. Now, I’m reimaging and reworking my relationship with my creator. That’s an impossible thing to do, but I’m doing it. If I think about what Christianity is really about, it’s about embracing people who are different. Jesus would have been hanging out with me and my girls. 

You can download Dope Saint Jude's latest album, Reimagine, here. She will also be performing at Festival Les Escales in Saint-Nazaire, France with Iggy Pop headlining. Text, interview and photographs by Keely Shinners. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Happy Endings: An Interview With Alex Cameron and Roy Molloy

These days, being an indie musician is harder than ever and no one knows that better than Aussie based Alex Cameron and his “business partner” and saxophonist Roy Molloy who have been on tour for three years supporting Cameron’s various releases. Next month, Cameron will release his official debut album, entitled Jumping The Shark on Secretly Canadian. The album is very much a collage of disillusionment – disillusionment with the music industry, love and life in general. It’s a raw album that howls with the sentiment of an artist that has been raked over the coals more than once. But it’s not all doom and gloom – these “four minute tales” of failed ambition and self-destruction that comprise the upcoming album are really relatable, listenable and offer a sense of catharsis akin to copping a fix. Cameron’s darkness is evident, but behind the devilish disguise is a brilliant songwriter belting out mythical, Homeresque lyrics in a deep monotone that recalls Ian Curtis or the late Alan Vega. Henry Rollins, of Black Flag, once described Cameron as being "right out of a David Lynch hell dream.” Currently, Cameron and Molloy are touring through Europe. We got a chance to catch up with them in at a bowling alley in London right after the United Kingdom ‘brexited’ from the EU. The darkness of those events add another even layer of pall over this interview, which explores tour life, global catastrophe, and finding yourself through a deep sense of self-pity.

JESSICA GWYNETH: You’ve officially finished with the UK portion with your tour for an album about failure. You couldn’t have picked a more ironic time to be here. What has the past week been like for the both of you?

ALEX CAMERON: I don’t know if I see irony, but I definitely see suitability. The album we’ve written is growing in relevance. The way I see our work is it’s like a thread that moves forward,  communicating with the future. It’s not just about the present it’s a comment about what is on its way as well. So if we’re asked how we feel to be in the UK right now and if we’re feeling that it’s ironic to be here given that we write about failure, it just feels suitable, it feels relevant, it feels what we’re doing is appropriate to our work.

ROY MOLLOY: It’s not ironic, it’s beautiful.

CAMERON: It’s quite beautiful, really, suitable. We feel good. I feel disgruntled by the way things have happened here and we feel empathy because of the way things have happened in Australia as well because it’s quite similar, politically. And when we write about failure. Our message is also primarily about overcoming those failures and celebrating, so personally I think it’s high time that the youth step up and started to play a bigger role in what happens politically around the world, because I think that the longer you spend alive as a human the more jaded you become. It’s all cyclical so you’re not around long enough to realize that everything that’s happening has happened before.

ROY MOLLOY: You saw it happening in Sydney... 30% of people under 25 voted. Same thing back in Australia, they said, “Ah it’s an apathetic generation, people don’t show up and don’t do their parts politically.” Then as soon as people started hitting the streets and protesting and shit, they’ve put in a bunch of laws prohibiting that and giving out jail times. They’re going to blame me for not voting and when I do they’re gonna shit their pants.

GWYNETH: Are there any particular cities along the tour that you’re looking forward to the most?

CAMERON: Budapest. We’re touring with Mac Demarco and he’s basically selling out everywhere so I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for us. It’s great that he invited us. We’re good friends and he’s really generous with his success. He likes to invite people that he’s friends with and appreciates their music so well. And for us it’s about the hustle, so doing Eastern Europe is a big thing for us because our music hasn’t really reached that part of the world yet. I’m looking forward to Budapest and I’m looking forward to Vienna as well.

GWYNETH: Yeah it’s supposed to be really great in Vienna.  

MOLLOY: People keep asking us if we’ve got a fan base in Eastern Europe but I don’t think we do. That’s not how you get a fan base, you know? You get it by doing hot shows and making people feel the love and pay attention.

GWYNETH: So far you’ve been touring with Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Mac Demarco. Is the vibe significantly different depending on who you share a stage with?

CAMERON: Yeah, they all have different audiences and have different vibes. Our job is to make sure we stay consistent. A lot of people sort of feel the need to discuss whether or not it’s relevant for a support act, but it’s never a discussion for us. It’s never about being suitable, it’s whether or not we can win over an audience no matter who we’re opening for. And the answer is always yes. We just have to focus on what our job is, which is performing our songs and doing our set. The stronger you are in what you do as an artist, the more successful the experience.

GWYNETH: And Angel Olsen will be joining you in the States. Not only is her sound a definite departure from a lot of your current tour mates but yours as well. Have you played together in the past or is this a completely new experience for you?

CAMERON: We’ve been trying to tour with Angel for the last couple of years because we’re friends. We were on the same festival circuit in Australia a couple years ago and that’s how we met, but I think what we share or what I think I share with Angel as songwriters is that we’re kind of both not concerned about whether or not we’re departing or remaining the same. The concern is about trying to reach some degree of transcendence and truth in songwriting. And I think it applies to performance as well, it’s about putting on a great show. The more different we are as performers, the more exciting it is. It’d be dull if it was three of us doing the exact same thing. So we’re or I’m excited--are you excited?

MOLLOY: Yeah definitely, you don’t want to be like a crappier version of the band you’re touring. [laughs]

CAMERON: If you do a really fuckin’ excellent version of what you do, people go ‘holy smokes that’s exciting’. 

GWYNETH: Your new album, ‘Jumping the Shark‘ is described as a collection of four-minute tales that provide insight into inner workings of failed ambitions and self-destruction. Are there any recent events in your life that inspired the album or is it more based on your life overall?

 CAMERON: It’s based on a sense of self-pity that can be generated inside someone from inactivity and/or high ambition. I think we’re real ambitious guys and we don’t see the ceiling of what we do. We’re expecting a lot of ourselves in terms of work, rate, and degrees of success, so it’s just our way of commenting on the vast feeling of sadness you can experience if you don’t match those expectations with work. The songs are all based on things that have happened to me or Roy, or our friends and family, of what just altered them to fit into this one singular world where these stories trail on or mark the other. For anything particular that inspired it?

MOLLOY: The fear of global catastrophe.

CAMERON: The fear of global catastrophe is a big one, lots of substance abuse, trying to find a way to release the self or the shame that builds up over the course of your life, because there’s so many embarrassing things that I’ve done that you’ve just gotta get through it and find a way to turn it into something positive. We like to call where we operate in as the “no-judgement-zone”. We don’t like to judge anyone but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to talk about what we absolutely need to talk about.

GWYNETH: In 2014 you released a short documentary that chronicled your experience at South By Southwest. In it you state, “I wonder of those fortunate enough to adore their own faults in a mirror of success.” Is this excerpt a foreshadowing of the current album in any way?

MOLLOY: I forgot about that quote, I like that one.

CAMERON: I guess those two things are kind of unrelated. That’s me just contemplating on what it’d feel like to be successful. The album ‘Jumping the Shark’ doesn’t speak directly about success but speaks directly about failure. I don’t think it has anything to do with the album, though.

GWYNETH: Aside from your solo work, you are also one third of Seekae, a critically acclaimed Sydney-based electronic group. Are there any major life lessons you’ve learned from as a group?

CAMERON: Just to stay in control of what you do and not rest on the fact that people out there are saying they want to help you with your music. It doesn’t matter if you sign a contract with a small label or a big label, you just gotta make sure that they’re the right people to work with. Because when you’re starting out as a musician, a lot of people will tell you they’re going to help you, but I don’t know, they’re kinda collecting little toys, you know? Musicians have become little collective items for these rich kids who say they have labels. It’s kind of weird. But the lesson I learned from that was to maintain control over your work and workload and if you want it to be more, go and get some work. Don’t sit around because someone says they’re gonna help you.

GWYNETH: Do you prefer being in the studio or being on stage?

CAMERON: They’re just so different. I don’t know, I like them both. Right now I like being on stage because we’re touring but in the studio it’s also electric.

MOLLOY: It’s like playing basketball on the court by yourself or being on the team--it’s all good.

GWYNETH: What is most exciting and what is most difficult about being on tour?

CAMERON: The most exciting thing is that sense of work of getting paid cash off the show and getting those rewards that you think and wonder if they’re still out there...You don’t find them but they’re there. The most challenging part?

MOLLOY: That’s the easiest part to answer. [laughs] Don’t worry kids, get out there and do it! But keep it positive, you know?

CAMERON: It’s work so it is what you make of it. Sticking to a schedule can be a little bit difficult but make sure you brush your teeth, have clean socks ready in the morning, and...

MOLLOY: Pack your bags the night before.

GWYNETH: And do you have any plans once the tour is over?

MOLLOY: This is a never-ending tour as far as we can tell.

CAMERON: Yeah we’ve been gone for three years.

GWYNETH: You’re not taking any time to decompress?

CAMERON: I think we have time here and there but really, we don’t see this as some special vacation. This is work and if you work you get a three-week break per year.

MOLLOY: It’d be nice to see family on Christmas.

CAMERON: Yeah. We got more music to record and write. I don’t know, you gotta think about this as something we’re doing that is 24/7.

MOLLOY: We’re not doing this because we’re seeking escape from the 9-5, you know?

CAMERON: Yeah, this is our job now. 

Alex Cameron's debut album Jumping The Shark will be out on August 19 via Secretly Canadian - preorder it here. He will also be touring with Angel Olsen in the United States this fall - see tour dates here. Interview and photographs by Jessica Gwyneth. Intro text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Pop Music Is Not A Dirty Word: An Interview With Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor

For the past 16 years, the quintessential British electronic group Hot Chip has been releasing album after delicious album, with a bevy of catchy tracks that are pop magic at its majestic finest.  At the core of Hot Chip is a singular voice that is longing, soulful and demonically angelic. That singular voice belongs to Alexis Taylor, who this month released a new solo album, simply titled Piano, that is perhaps best described as antithetical to the grand pop balladry of Hot Chip, or even his own past solo records, but still maintains that signature wistful expressiveness. If Hot Chip is music to get high to, and to dance the night away to, Taylor’s newest album is music for reflection, introspection and soul-searching. The entire album, recorded at Hackney Road Studios by Shuta Shinoda, is simply Taylor at a piano and the reverberating notes – notes that are politely infused with his delicate, intimate vocals. Each refrain is a love letter to past mistakes, spiritual burdens, regrets and lost love. There is also a stunning cover of Elvis’ Crying In The Chapel that blends so well, it is almost in disguise. And if you hear religious incantations in the songs, you wouldn’t be so far off – Taylor calls it an “atheist's gospel album.” Nevertheless, it’s an important album that deserves a full listen – all the way to the surprise, untitled bonus track that crackles like a warbling 45 on an old phonograph, until it fades out and simmers on a low heat in your brain’s limbic system, even after the song is completely over. We caught up with Alexis Taylor at the Ace Hotel in London to ask him a few questions about pop music, Hot Chip’s place in British musical history and what he enjoys doing when music is not on the menu. 

FLO KOHL: What was your musical diet growing up? Was there a certain style of music that was always on repeat, or was it all eclectic?

ALEXIS TAYLOR: Definitely very mixed. A wide-range selection of music. I grew up in the 80s. I had heard all the massive records that were on chart rotation: Peter Gabriel, Prince, Dier Straits. Pop singles. I had two older brothers who were really into music, and my parents were really into music. My childhood was soundtracked by music, all the time. My oldest brother, Will, bought quite a lot of interesting music. I think he had good taste. He was into hip hop in the late 80s, early 90s when it was coming through. He had all the Prince records, one after the other as they were released. It meant I was paying a bit more attention to things, rather than music being this background.

KOHL: I don’t think that’s sort of normal. My parents weren’t into music at all. I didn’t become musically aware until I went to school. At home, there wasn’t always music on.

TAYLOR: With me, it was records playing, tapes playing. Both my parents occasionally played the piano. Never professionally, just as a hobby. But they could read music a bit. It wasn’t like being brought up to do music. It was just around.

KOHL: You’re often called “the soul of Hot Chip.” Did it take you a while to embrace the unique vocal style? Other electronic bands have to sample to add that soul.

TAYLOR: Maybe they do. We weren’t really trying to be like other electronic bands. We weren’t scratching our heads like, “How do we put soul into this music?” It just came out the way it came out. I don’t think people thought it was soulful in the beginning. But we were interested in soul records. That was a big influence, those older, more classic bits. But more pop than R&B or soul: Destiny’s Child, Whitney Houston. Things that were produced by Timbaland and the Neptunes. That was a new, very exciting phase of pop music that was, to us, soulful. To some people, they didn’t get it. I wasn’t the same as that northern soul. People came around to it over time. It’s still a major influence on pop culture.

For us, it was a combination of wanting to completely do our own thing, and also wanting to make records in the spirit of those people. People like other indie rock bands, hiphop artists, electronic producers, classic pop people. We weren’t able to study what they did. We just took a little but of inspiration from them and came out with something else that felt pretty far away from sounding like those. We’re not very skilled at copying. Some people are, and that’s great, but it doesn’t lead to original music. It does mean that people get where you come from. Whereas, with us, people are just confused.

KOHL: You have the DJ culture right now, these musical curators who might be very good at grabbing things and putting them together, but might not be creating something.

TAYLOR: We were influenced a lot by sample-based music: DJ Premier, Public Enemy records. We were sort of sampling ourselves, as it were. We would play loads and loads of hours of music, and then we would chop and edit, taking the best bits. It was a way of sampling. There were so many rediscoveries of little phrases that you didn’t know you played because there was so much improvising. Sometimes, I have a song that I’ve written and exactly how it goes. Other times, you’re literally just improvising things over a beat. You realize you’ve got some good things later on.

KOHL: When you first started making music as Hot Chip, where do you think music was historically in the UK?

TAYLOR: Honestly, we weren’t thinking about the state of electronic music. Maybe with hindsight, you might look back and do that. What I remember is that we seemed quite at odds as a band. We started out playing small gigs. Nobody else had five people and a drum machine, no drummer. That was a weird lineup. We didn’t intend for it to be so weird. It was just what we wanted to do. It was a way of learning how to play what we recorded. It all stemmed from recordings. We were thinking more about those R&B pop records that looked nothing like the performance on stage. We didn’t have the production value to do a Destiny’s Child-style show. And yet, that was the music that was exciting to us. We weren’t referencing the tradition of New Order or Depeche Mode. We were ourselves. I don’t know what state it was in. I know the more genuine dance music we had grown up. Joe was really into grime. I was more into UK garage. Some of the drum programming was influenced by that stuff, like a sticky record. We didn’t’ try to comment on electronic music.

We kept thinking about pop music. Maybe we went out on a limb. Pop music is kind of a dirty phrase. It came back in vogue, with Justin Timberlake when he was no longer in a boy band. It was taken more seriously. Where I was, there was a lot of resistance to that, initially. I used to work at Domino, the label that we’re on. I used to listen to all these different albums: Smog, Scritti Politti. But when I put on the Justin Timberlake album, some people were like, “We can’t deal with this.” They were form a very indie mentality. I just liked it.

KOHL: It was the sound at the time. Pop music wasn’t boy band pop music anymore.

TAYLOR: It’s funny, talking about it now. Everyone takes it for granted. That music was at the center of culture, and it has kind of drifted away since.

KOHL: Was there a community in electronic music?

TAYLOR: Gradually, we met people. Generally, they were from America. We met the DFA label, and through that James Murphy and Jonathan Galkin. I was in New York, visiting my girlfriend at the time, who was a student. I went to this talk at her university, and in the same building, there was a talk with James Murphy, Trevor Jackson, a member of Public Enemy. I just happened to bump into Jonathan who runs DFA outside the building. I was wearing a Hot Chip badge, and he didn’t know how I could have heard of that band. I said, “Oh, I’m in the band.” We ended up signing with DFA and going on tour with LCD, Black Dice, and Chk Chk Chk. At that point, there was a community of people who were interested in performing dance music live. You could see their influence, years later. Every band had a drum machine on stage. We were an indie band, but we had one token synthesizer. It began to have an impact.

KOHL: What makes the perfect pop song in your eyes?

TAYLOR: Honestly, don’t know. Still struggling to find out, after all this time. I suppose I’m interested in the song and the production combing together in an interesting way. The song could feel hooky and immediate, but it still have a strangeness to it. Like an ABBA song. There are so many things going on melodically and harmonically that are easy on the ear but interesting. Then the production will be glossy, but at the time, kind of adventurous. Those records still stand out now. A different kind of example would be a Neptunes production from the early 2000s. It may have very little in the way of long flowing melody. It will be more in the rhythm, and the hook would be something incessant or interesting in the keyboard parts. A lot of people talk about the classic pop song coming through on the acoustic guitar or piano. I don’t think that’s really true. I think it’s built on the way it was produced, the construction in the studio.

KOHL: When you aren’t in the world of music, is there something really far removed from it that you like to indulge in?

TAYLOR: I do spend a huge amount of my free time traveling around flea markets and garage sales, looking for bargains and bits of musical equipment, records, all kinds of different things. It’s not always to do with looking for music. 

Click here to download or purchase Alexis Taylor's new album Piano. Photographs and interview by Flo Kohl. Intro text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Very Little Bad Vibes: An Interview With Cult Comedic Hero Tim Heidecker

text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper

Most people know Tim Heidecker from his brilliant Adult Swim series ‘Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!’ and ‘Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories.’ While it’s easy to use colorful adjectives to describe his brand of humor, it’s even harder to define it. Whatever it is, he’s developed a massive cult following. He’s an everyman that blends a sort of slobbish machismo with the mind of a stoner philosopher, but there is also something sinister about his wit and irreverent spin on, well, everything. Like every great comedian, Heidecker doesn’t identify himself as one. His role in Rick Alverson’s 2012 film The Comedy proves Heidecker is a brilliant, natural actor with an ability to show a haunting, dispossessed vulnerability that encapsulates a very distinct ennui and disillusionment belonging to the comedown between youth and middle age. As he gets wiser, Heidecker exudes a certain suburban boredom – a boredom that he makes seem exciting in his new album In Glendale. It’s a true ode to the singer songwriters, like Warren Zevon, Harry Nilsson, and Randy Newman, who wrote about their surroundings and life with a beautiful banality. Because it’s Harry Nilsson or Zevon or Newman, it works, and just like that, Heidecker can pull it off too. I got a chance to chat with Heidecker about comedy, music, getting stabbed in the back and dream projects that haven’t materialized yet. 

OLIVER KUPPER: The new album is great, by the way. I really enjoyed it.

TIM HEIDECKER: Thank you. That’s a good place to start.

KUPPER: Yeah, compliments are a good place to start. This is your first somewhat earnest album, right?

HEIDECKER: Uh huh, whatever that means.

KUPPER: What’s it like writing songs versus writing comedy? Is there a different wavelength you need to be on?

HEIDECKER: I don’t know. Songwriting is a little more meditative. Obviously, it involves an instrument usually - singing, playing guitar, playing piano, noodling around, finding phrases and subject matter. It’s something that I’ve done for years as a hobby or a way of clearing my brain of other stuff. It can be spontaneous; you can be sitting in a car with other friends and start singing something catchy. Comedy is generally driven by a project. What are the ultimate goals of this? It involves a lot more people, a lot more collaboration. I’m very productive when I’m in collaboration with comedy. I don’t sit around and dream up amazing ideas all day long. It generally involves getting lunch or going on a road trip. It’s doing something where there’s a conversation with a buddy – Eric, Gregg [Turkington], or Doug [Lussenhop]. Someone I’m close with. Music is more singular.

KUPPER: Were you craving that singular, cathartic experience?

HEIDECKER: Not really. With this record, I had always written lots of music. Certain songs would end up in a folder on my computer. Like, I don’t really know what this is. It might not be appropriate for comedy. It’s not really funny; it’s sort of sincere. I was reluctant to share that publicly. But once the first couple of songs on the record starting coming out of me, I thought, there’s a theme here that kind of works. It might be nice to put a record out without it being couched in a joke or a character.

KUPPER: How did you team up with [Jonathan] Rado from Foxygen?

HEIDECKER: Through Chris Swanson, who runs Secretly Canadian. I had known him for a while. Those guys financed the movie that I was in, The Comedy. We were friendly. He was a big fan of our work. He knew I was doing music, and he nudged me to take a stab at making records in a more current or straightforward way. He was curious to see what I could do if I did something outside of parody, if I could be a pop music guy that was doing interesting stuff. Rado and I connected on very similar interests in music - 70s singer/songwriter stuff. I love talking about the process, how those guys got the sounds they got, and getting back to that straightforward songwriting. He just wanted to help and be involved.

KUPPER: He’s super talented. That band is really great. Who were some of the singer/songwriters at the top of that list that you would talk about?

HEIDECKER: For me, it’s Randy Newman, Warren Zevon, Harry Nilsson - the greats, the big ones. I’ve been really enjoying them for the past several years now.

KUPPER: I’m obsessed with Harry Nilsson. When you decided to go in and make this album, did you feel like you had enough songs? Did you throw yourself in the studio and see what you could come up with? Half and half?

HEIDECKER: The process by which this record was made may be interesting, maybe not. Half the songs were written in a period of a month or so. The other half were songs I had written over the years; they didn’t fit into any one category. I had my little home recording studio. I would try to build up the track. You know, not just me and the guitar, but drums, bass. It’s a fun way to work, to build tracks, and getting it to sound good, but never that good. I’m not that good at it. I made a demo version of the album at home. It was in the order of all the songs, with a couple extras. I took this home demo to Rado and his garage, and we started making the songs from scratch at his place. He’s such a great piano player and drummer. We recorded on tape, and we had four or five demos out of that. But they were still demos; they weren’t what we both wanted, which was really clean studio, major-label-sounding recordings. So we took those demos, and I gave them to my band that I play with live - City City. They learned the demos, and then we went into a real recording studio. In the course of a week, we laid everything down. Very quickly, because we knew all the sounds and what we wanted to sound like. We wanted the level of professionalism and the clean sheen that those 70s records had.

KUPPER: You work with a lot of musicians. It’s like a ten-piece band, right?

HEIDECKER: Yeah, there’s a ten-piece band that I put together. It’s mostly that band, City City, and a little horn section. It’s a little bit extravagant; there’s two background singers, two electric guitar players. I could probably shave that down if I needed to. But right now, everyone just gels. They all came in and brought their own talents to the record. I’m very grateful.

KUPPER: Do you think the audience for your music is different from your comedy audience? Your comedy following is big. Will the same people come out for your music, do you think?

HEIDECKER: For right now, a large percentage of my fans will find me through comedy. With this record, we’re trying to present it to the largest group of people possible. I think some people who are coming on board either didn’t know or didn’t care for my work, but they like the music. It’s not intended just for the fans; it’s intended for people who like the music. I get a lot of, “Oh, this Tim Heidecker record is actually pretty good.” They’re surprised. Some fans who have been following me a little closer aren’t surprised because they know that I am a big music lover and music maker. That early music might be sillier, but it has the same core qualities.

"I don’t necessarily identify myself as a “comedian.” I do comedy, I do standup and sketch comedy. I make all kinds of stuff. But I don’t concern myself with what to call it or how I should be perceived...I think it’s unfortunate that we expect people to stay in their lanes."

KUPPER: It’s interesting. Not a lot of comedians can bounce between these different mediums and be taken seriously. Especially when it comes to acting. Your role in The Comedy was a really serious role. There are certain actors, like Robin Williams, whose acting is so good that you don’t necessarily think of them as a comedian anymore. Do you ever think about the implications of being too serious?

HEIDECKER: It’s a thing that’s put on us by journalists and certain people that have perceptions of what people are supposed to do. It doesn’t affect my decision making when I decide to do something or not. I generally try to do something based on the desire to do it, whether or not I think it will have quality and be successful. I don’t necessarily identify myself as a “comedian.” I do comedy, I do standup and sketch comedy. I make all kinds of stuff. But I don’t concern myself with what to call it or how I should be perceived. If anything, it’s more interesting to have different facets and abilities. I think it’s unfortunate that we expect people to stay in their lanes. Actors, musicians, directors, whatever - most of us started out just wanting to make stuff, to do something creative. There was more of a push towards doing comedy, for me. But I still have interest in lots of stuff. As long as there’s a market for it, I want to pursue those things. I also understand that there is context. There’s a challenge when someone who is usually a country singer comes out with a rap album. It’s going to be hard. But some people can do it really well. I admire Steve Martin. He can be silly, very serious and intellectual, he can play music and go on tour. I just hope that you can place this record of mine in the context of my larger body of work and say, “This guy has ideas. He has an interest in expressing himself in different ways.”

KUPPER: There’s a lot of freedom in that. If you see yourself as an artist and not specifically in one lane, you can do anything, even if there’s not a market for it.

HEIDECKER: I want to have that reputation, that you don’t know exactly what to expect when I present something. It should, theoretically make you more interested in what I’m doing next.

KUPPER: You still maintain the cult comedian aura. Is that something that you try to hold onto, or is it a natural progression of you as an artist?

HEIDECKER: It’s all just been fun, playing with identity and the media, trying to create work that leaps the dimensions of television or linear video. It’s been more fun, for On Cinema, to let those characters have a life outside the show. This record, though, is really straight. There’s really not an angle for me to be anybody but myself. If there’s something stupid, like something from the Tim and Eric Show, the work speaks for itself. Let’s just party.

KUPPER: Do you feel like you get a lot of stupid questions? Do you like doing interviews?

HEIDECKER: It depends. It’s interesting to see the spectrum of people who are interested. Our publicist works very hard to get as much press as we can. My attitude has always been, do as much as you can. You never know when someone is going to read something out of the blue, and it turns into their favorite thing. But there are so many young people doing this who don’t seem interested. Like, I had a kid come to the Decker screening, and he ran out of questions for me in, like, a minute. I don’t know if this is the best career choice for you if you can’t think of any questions. He’s like, “Yeah, my editor wanted me to talk about Trump.” He asked me three questions about Trump, and then he got tongue-tied.

KUPPER: They want clickbait.

HEIDECKER: Yeah. But generally, if there’s someone like you, someone thoughtful and interesting, I think it’s pretty harmless. It helps me figure out what the hell I’m doing. You can make stuff, but you don’t really analyze it too much until you start talking to someone about it.

KUPPER: It’s interesting how that works. That’s why real criticism is important, too. People are too focused on clickbait, and they don’t think that the most interesting thing is to analyze the work and talk to the artist to find answers.

HEIDECKER: I think some criticism tends to be very quick, not thoughtful, not researched. The negative criticism I’ve gotten has usually come without a frame of reference to me or my work. It’s a very easy, “This is just Dad rock.” I’m insecure with that person, who doesn’t know the context. It’s safer and quicker to go with a buzzword that they just heard.

KUPPER: You’re premiering Decker next week?

HEIDECKER: Yes, Friday the 17th.

KUPPER: And you’re working with Gregg Turkington again, which is great. What’s that experience been like?

HEIDECKER: Gregg and I have known each other for about 10 years now. I was such a huge Hamburger fan. I roped him into doing our show. Our wives get together. We’ve got kids who are the same age. We just share a lot of common interests. Once we started doing this On Cinema thing, it seemed like we found this endless well of material that we could keep feeding and growing and developing. We established these two characters that are so fun to write for and behave as. It keeps entertaining us, this world. And it keeps getting bigger, because we keep adding fuel to it. Also, he’s just a nice guy. I’m so grateful to do this. On the TV show, we were able to elevate things a little bit. We were doing it as a full time thing. It was one of the most stress-free, joyful experiences. Everyone doing it loves it. It’s an easy thing to make. It’s so shitty. It’s not like you’re doing tons of takes and waiting for the perfect light. There are very little bad vibes in that environment. At my age, you want to be around that kind of energy as much as possible.

KUPPER: Especially in collaborations.


KUPPER: It’s been ten years since you had that famous interaction with your neighbor [where he stabbed you in the back]. Do you still think about that, or is it ancient history at this point?

HEIDECKER: Strangely, I’ve been thinking about it lately. Not to pat myself on the back (and not to be ironic), when that kid did that to me, I didn’t want to press charges. It felt like such a futile thing to do. He was 19 or 20 years old. He was on some insane drug. If he was going to go to jail for a significant amount of time, he would end up way worse. He’d be a bigger problem to the world. He ought to be given another shot. Those with white privilege are treated with more leniency, and that’s not fair, but it shouldn’t be, “Let’s throw this kid in a dark cell for the rest of his life.” It should be, how can we give disadvantaged kids better opportunities? We need to look at the prison system as not the answer to our problems. It’s a heavy thing. When you’re actually faced with the choice to punish somebody, it’s a hard thing to do. If you know anything, the prison system is designed to fail. It doesn’t make any sense.

KUPPER: You have to rehabilitate.


KUPPER: Do you have any dream projects that haven’t materialized yet?

HEIDECKER: We’re kind of doing it all. The more of an audience you have, the easier it is to do all these things. That’s the challenge, to get the word out, to get people to tune in. The futility of that is I know I don’t have a lot of power there. It either connects with a larger group of people, or it doesn’t. To answer your question, the next record I want to do, we want to bring in some of the guys that actually played on those old records who are still around. People like Jim Keltner, those guys who are still doing sessions and available. I would love to go in with Murderer’s Row and the people who made that, just to do it, because you can. I think that adds a whole other level.

KUPPER: I look forward to that, for sure.

[helicopter-like sound]

HEIDECKER: Cool. My helicopter is here, so I guess I got to go.

Tim Heidecker's new album, In Glendale, is out now on Rado Records. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Photographs by Cara Robbins. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

One Night In Candy Land: An Interview With The Larger Than Life Candy Ken

text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper

His face splattered with Hello Kitty temporary tattoos, a chiseled male hustler body and a thick Austrian accent, Candy Ken is a Harajuku Greek God run through the sieve of a culture on digital overload. If you held a mirror to the teenage zeitgeist of the twenty first century, Candy Ken’s smiling gold grill would be twinkling right back at you. Over the weekend, the Berlin-based performer released his first official album, entitled Real Talk, and he did it as his own manager, promoter and record label. With tracks like Fuck Gender, the artist replies to his critics and Internet trolls, who are quick to label his sexual identity, with a swift auto-tuned retort: “Gender rolls are over….the new sex is what I am.” And it’s exactly that sex that has garnered the attention of the likes of fashion designer Jeremy Scott and stylist/creative director Nicola Formichetti who last year flew Candy Ken out to Milan for a Diesel campaign after seeing his images on Instagram. Formichetti also introduced Candy to Terry Richardson who shot him in the nude at his New York studio. The controversial photographer is also the subject of a song on Candy’s new album, about the attention he received from that shoot. To celebrate the release of Real Talk, an album that celebrates the prismatic lifestyle of the artist in grand fashion, Candy Ken hosted a decadent club kid party at Visions Video Bar in London. We also got a chance to chat with Candy Ken about the strange and manic universe he has created, what it was like to work with Terry Richardson, and his dreams for the future.

OLIVER KUPPER: So you wanted to throw the party as a means of saying goodbye to the club scene and for your new album, right?

CANDY KEN: The party was for my album. We performed all the new songs of Real Talk, that’s the album name. We also used the party just to celebrate all the club kids, the whole club kid scene. We got everybody down, because they support me so much. It was very beautiful.

KUPPER: Is this the craziest party you’ve ever thrown?

CANDY KEN: Definitely the craziest.

KUPPER: Your new album is your second album?

CANDY KEN: No, this is my first one.

KUPPER: This is your first official album?

CANDY KEN: Exactly.

KUPPER: But you’ve been putting out music for a little while?

CANDY KEN: Exactly. But always EPs, never an album.

KUPPER: Do you have a record label?

CANDY KEN: No, it’s all self-produced.

KUPPER: I want to go back to where you grew up in Austria. Were you always creative as a child? Were you always making art?

CANDY KEN: Yeah. Luckily, my parents supported me from day one. They always put me in art classes and drawing classes. I created art since I could walk. But, of course, it changed with the Internet and social media. I had to use the new media to express myself. I found music videos, performances, and photoshoots through Snapchat and Instagram. Those are great platforms for me to express myself.

KUPPER: When you were studying art, who were some artists who really inspired you?

CANDY KEN: David LaChappelle, Wes Anderson, Tarantino, Die Antwoord, M.I.A., FKA Twigs, Riff Raff. And then, of course, fashion designers like Jeremy Scott had a big influence on me. Nicola Formichetti, Gianni Versace.

KUPPER: And you worked with Jeremy Scott and Formichetti right?

CANDY KEN: With Jeremy Scott, we just talked over Instagram. We never met, so far. My goal is to work with him very soon. I’ve worked with Nicola a lot of times, yeah.

KUPPER: And he flew you out to Milan at one point?

CANDY KEN: Yeah, he flew me to Milan and New York for Diesel. He also arranged a photoshoot with Terry Richardson because they’re, like, best friends. That’s how I got to work with Terry.

KUPPER: What was that experience like?

CANDY KEN: One of the best experiences ever. Terry is so humble and such a nice guy. He had so much energy. You don’t expect that out of so many celebrities and photographers. He was so welcoming. He played my music, and he was like, “Oh, Candy Ken is in the house!” He was very enthusiastic and happy. He could shoot me like I’ve never seen myself before. He’s a very good guy.   

KUPPER: Were you just in Rankin’s studio in London?

CANDY KEN: Yes, yesterday.

KUPPER: That’s a pretty big deal too.

CANDY KEN: Yeah. I want to make a name in London. I think I need more exposure in Europe. Mostly, I get booked in Asia. Last time, I was in Tel Aviv and Mexico, but not that much in Europe. I really want to work with photographers in London. Rankin Studios was really, really great.

KUPPER: When did you become Candy Ken?

CANDY KEN: I feel like I’ve always had Candy Ken in me. But I was not able to express myself until two years ago. Before that, I always had it in myself, but you get pulled down by society. You’re not sure of yourself. You’re not confident to really go for it. I didn’t get my confidence to express Candy on the outside until I moved to Berlin.

KUPPER: Were you part of the club scene in Berlin?

CANDY KEN: Not really. I’m more into the London club scene. In Berlin, it’s very dark. I’m very colorful.

KUPPER: That makes sense. Tokyo is probably easy to fit into as well.

CANDY KEN: Oh yeah. They really appreciate me in Asia.

KUPPER: We’ve been watching a lot of your videos on YouTube. There are a lot of beauty and workout tips, as well as music videos. Some of them feature your younger brother. Does he look up to you?

CANDY KEN: Yeah. He’s ten years younger than me. We’re really good friends. We have a really strong relationship. He gives me a lot of shit. He is a good source of criticism. It is good to have siblings, because they tell you things that might offend you if a friend said it. If it’s family, you can really get it. He is very critical about what I do, and he teaches me a lot actually. I’m travelling a lot, so I’m very happy if I can spend time with him in Austria. I’m really thankful to have him in my life. He’s very supportive.

KUPPER: Does he have some of the same interests as you?

CANDY KEN: He’s definitely interested in art. We both really like the same kind of movies, like Grand Budapest Hotel, that Wes Anderson look. We also listen to the same music.

KUPPER: That’s amazing. You said that your parents were supportive of your art. Are they supportive of what you’re doing as Candy Ken?

CANDY KEN: Yeah, definitely. At some points, I had to warm them up. I think they want me to be secure. They want their kid to be successful. But they are very supportive. I’m very lucky. Being Candy Ken is something that’s hard to take in for a lot of people. It works with provocation, nudity – it’s really out there. For my parents to accept that, I’m very lucky. But I also teach them a lot, I feel like. They got to know Terry Richardson. They’ve been introduced to 2 Chainz and Lil’ Wayne.

KUPPER: You’re introducing them to culture. They probably really appreciate that.

CANDY KEN: Exactly.

KUPPER: Speaking of rappers, especially American rappers, do you want to collaborate more with people in the U.S.?

CANDY KEN: Yeah. I feel like American rappers are similar to me because they don’t take themselves too seriously. I really appreciate people in the music industry who don’t take themselves too seriously. That’s why I’m a big fan of Lil’ Wayne. Even his name, to use your social disadvantage in a fun way – that always impressed me, since I was a kid. I really want to work with American rappers. 

KUPPER: A lot of press is describing you as “post-gender.” Where do you see yourself on this spectrum?

CANDY KEN: As an artist, I have to work with society and what happens around me. I cannot ignore what happens around me. It’s not a coincidence that I’m from Austria. The gender role is very important. Growing up in Austria, there are a lot of things you’re allowed to do, but there are also lots of things you’re not supposed to do. I feel that I have to work with this gender problem, because it affects me too. What is my role as a male in society? How do they want me to be? I love opening people’s minds and waking people up, making people more acceptant and tolerant.

KUPPER: That’s a really important message.

CANDY KEN: I’m also living that a lot of people can’t live in their life. I’m expressing myself, trying different outfits, hair colors, shoes. That’s what a lot of people want to do, but they can’t because of their job, their family, or their friends. Most people put this cage over themselves. They could do everything, but they’re too afraid to fall out of the whole system of getting money, being secure, having family and friends. You think you lose all of that if you change something. I need to show everybody that I can be all of what Candy Ken does and still be accepted and loved by a lot of people, and the right people. Most people try to impress the wrong people. I tried to impress the wrong people for such a long time. If you want to impress all these people, you’re not following what your passion is. Once you really go for what you like, you will find people who have the same hobbies and passion. It’s so much better. You should really stop trying to impress stupid people.

KUPPER: How would you describe your new album?

CANDY KEN: It’s really from the heart. It’s very honest. One song is called “Fuck Gender.” One song is called “I Love Blue.” One song is about the Terry Richardson nude photos that came out. One song is about the Candy Crew. Every song, you get into what I’m thinking, how I see myself, how I deal with society’s problems. It’s very new. It’s not about stupid breakups and a love story like all these albums right now. It’s more about society and stereotypes and stuff like that, things I have to work with.

KUPPER: Do you have plans to tour in the U.S.?

CANDY KEN: If they want me, definitely. I am actually going to LA and New York for two months this summer. We are organizing music videos. We are doing a Kickstarter right now. We’re trying to do a very crazy, colorful David LaChapelle music video in LA. I hope I can perform that month in LA and New York. But I have no agent and no management.

KUPPER: If you could describe Candy Ken in three words, what would those words be?

CANDY KEN: Kawaii, yummy, and explicit.

You can stream Candy Ken's new album Real Talk here. See more photos from the album release party at Visions Video Bar in London here. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Photographs by Flo Kohl. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

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Craving Danger: An Interview With Strange Names' Liam Benzvi On His New Solo Project

Soft Ethnic is the brainchild of 25-year-old, Brooklyn-based Liam Benzvi. In what sounds like an amalgamation of queer no-wave and r&b of the late 70s/early 80’s, the melodic insistence of Benzvi’s songs feels original in delivery, and familiar in musicality. The name “Soft Ethnic” comes from a type-casting term that was given to him during his years of acting school in Minneapolis, cheekily attributing his skin tone to his ability to be cast as a variety of “ethnic” characters. Turning to music, Benzvi co-formed new wave-pop outfit Strange Names. Their debut LP, Use Your Time Wisely, came out last Spring on Frenchkiss Records, and a second LP is on the way. Benzvi says Soft Ethnic is an experiment, mostly in its performance: “a means to over-saturate the city with my feelings.” Soft Ethnic's debut EP will be out in the Spring of 2016. Today, Autre exclusively released Soft Ethnic's Memphis Milano inspired music video for the track Prints, co-directed by Jarod Taber and Alex Rapine, with set design by Marki Becker. We got a chance to catch up with Benzvi to discuss Soft Ethnic, type casting and his new music video.   

Autre: When and how did you start making music?

Liam Benzvi: I was more invested in lyrics for a while because I didn’t need any kind of musical vocabulary or skill to quantify what I was making. I’m a product-oriented songwriter, so even if something isn’t done, I’ll say it’s a finished demo as an exercise of my full authority over the song. When I got my first computer in college, composition was suddenly a very user-friendly experience for me. The bounds of the software ended up pushing me to seek out real musicians to collaborate with because I was dissatisfied with the computer sounds, and still didn’t think I had any capacity to learn anything myself. It was getting into a room with real musicians—my best friends—that ultimately allowed me to make the music I wanted to. When I was in my first band in college, I semi-stole my band mate’s DD6 pedal, and would make really expansive vocal loops that crafted the majority of my first fully formed songs.

Autre: I understand that your name, Soft Ethnic, comes from a type-casting term that you encountered quite a bit while acting in Minneapolis. How did you get into acting and what kinds of characters would you play?

Benzvi: I went to performing arts high school in Manhattan, followed by a conservatory acting program in Minneapolis. I got into it because I loved the backstage culture of theater. My friends, talking in class, talking about what we liked/disliked—these were my people. I really wanted to get into my body and be as self-realized as I could be by the time I had to move out of my parent’s house, and being on stage was the best way to do that. I was always cast as villains—I had the most fun when I had to be old or monstrous and grotesque in some way. I was told I was “soft ethnic” by a bunch of casting directors that would teach us workshops about being the “CEOs of ourselves” and understanding how we would be perceived at first glance, walking into an audition room. It felt shallow, funny, and very real all at once. And I always knew I’d take the term and turn it on its head—not necessarily to be political, but to make it more personal to me if that was indeed how I was “perceived”.

Autre: Do you plan to continue acting or are you focused exclusively these days on music?

Benzvi: I’m committed to music right now, but I always intend to make it as performative as I can. I think I’ll act again, and I’ll be much better than I was, because of what I’m doing now.

Autre: Each character you play in this music video is distinct from the next and represents a clear embodiment of the melodic components that comprise the song. Are they all separate sides of yourself, or is there one that feels more connected to your true identity?

Benzvi: My friends that have seen the video like the drunk character the most, and they say that he is my true essence. It’s probably true because I’m more unhinged. I also like the archetype of the dude in the band that’s just really excited all the time about everything. That’s the character in the flamingo pajamas.

Autre: How did you discover Ettore Sottsass and why did you choose his Memphis Group aesthetic for this particular video?

Benzvi: : Marki and Jarod had just birthed their film/design group Wash & Fold, and they brought me a bunch of paint swatches. At that point I had no real idea of what Marki was going to design and build. I just knew that I wanted it to look like a baby’s bedroom—she took it from there. When she came back with a design, she had gravitated to the Memphis Group for the playfulness of the shapes they used in the 80s. The personality of the Memphis objects allowed them to be read as set pieces but also added a layer of continuity to the video and gave me fun shapes to interact with for each character.

Autre: There are some very clear parallels between this new sound and that of your other group, Strange Names. Although, with Soft Ethnic you take a clear shift toward a much more mellow drum line, which makes for a slower, more contemplative groove. Was this a conscious choice, and are there any other ways that you intended to branch out from the sound you’ve been crafting with Strange Names?

Benzvi: I approach all my writing with a uniform simplicity. When I write for the band, I always keep in mind that whatever I make alone is only a third to half way to the finish line—it’s really liberating. With Strange Names, I fundamentally trust Francis and Fletcher with their unique creative authorities and I can allow myself to let go of ideas when they’re not necessarily a complete demo on my end. In the last year or so I had been listening to a lot of no-wave electronic stuff. It didn’t feel very flashy, and it was kind of bizarre, but all the hooks were there. It felt like pop and jazz and funk at once; totally achieved with not much more than a drum machine, some synth chords, and a very up-front, grandiose, indiosyncratic vocal. To name a few—Indoor Life, Lizzy Mercier Descloux, Patrick Cowley, Tuxedomoon—verging on punk, but still a little too weird/queer for it. This kind of not-belonging theatrical energy was something I wanted to experiment with on my own. I knew that I would do it in my own way, and if it sounds like Strange Names a bit at the onset, it's only because it’s my voice singing and it's my melodic instinct in the writing. As far as execution, the simpler construction is definitely intentional. I like that it sounds like a demo. There’s some spoken word involved—kind of in a Jarvis Cocker kind of way—and for the live show, I’ve begun collaborating with dancers and devising choreography and that’s been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.

Autre: I’ve read that Strange Names has constantly been restraining its avant-garde tendencies in order to make the sound more accessible. Is that something you feel you need to do with Soft Ethnic as well?

Benzvi: You could say that. With Soft Ethnic, I want to be unapologetically myself in every way, from start to finish—I suppose that could form a window to potential avant-garde tendencies. Making something accessible is in reference to the hustle of being in a band, trying to get picked up. We were in Minneapolis and we were listening to all sorts of music, reading all the blogs, trying to methodically figure out how we could be successful. It was and will always be exhausting, but when we moved to New York that all changed because we really sat down and made the record we wanted to make. We realized that our collective admiration for anthems came from the inclusive feeling it evoked—not talking meaningless and vacant American Idol-penned anthems, but Human League hooks and B-52s summer-of-love type music. I think we’ve stopped giving a shit about people turning their noses up.

Autre: Strange Names came out of the Minneapolis music scene and has since made its way to New York City. Can you talk a bit about how those music scenes differ and whether or not this has affected your sound?

Benzvi: I think that in New York it’s really easy to be alone, and because I have a lot of alone time here I’m more inclined to make things alone. Since Strange Names has been a New York band, when the band gets together, we’ll all have made something alone and bring it into the room and have to make collective sense of it. Is this something we can all attach ourselves to? And great results always come from that kind of dissecting. With Soft Ethnic, I have no idea how something is being received because I keep it completely to myself and then perform it and see what happens. I crave that sort of danger so that I can keep working hard at all times. I want to be the most resourceful performer I can be, and I always want to be learning about how I can be as compelling as I can on stage.

Autre: When you’re not making music how do you spend your free time?

Benzvi: I’m trying to collaborate with as many people as I can lately. Making friends. Drinking. Writing. I’m not really sleeping that much.

Autre: How would you like your sound to evolve over the next 5 years?

Benzvi: If whatever I’ve made is aggressively of my doing, I’ll have probably evolved in some way.

Click here to watch the music video for Soft Ethnic's track Prints. Photograph by Charlotte FergusonInterview by Summer Bowie. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Not So Innocent Anymore: An Interview With Actress and Musician Rainey Qualley

Rainey Qualley is gunning for the big time.  It wouldn’t be a big surprise to see her selling out stadiums in only a few years. For now, though, you may know Qualley (who is the eldest daughter of actress Andie MacDowell), for her seductive scene on Mad Men wearing a long chinchilla coat with not much on underneath, coquettishly auditioning for Don Draper’s character during the show’s finale. Lately, Qualley is going in a different direction, for the moment, than her mom and focusing on music. For the past two years, Qualley made a splash in the country music world while living in Nashville – with repeat plays on the radio, opening for Willie Nelson and a set on the iconic Grand Ole Opry. However, pop music is Rainey’s passion and she has moved to Los Angeles with a set of demos and is ready to release a “debut” album of sorts. The pop music she is making is a distant departure from her country hits. Her voice has a tinge of late-90s Top 40 R&B, and when she crashes into her refrains you can hear shades of Sade’s angst and assured sexiness. There is also a Lynchian darkness to her music that blends kitsch and popular music sensibilities, a la Julee Cruise or Chris Isaak. Whatever the case is, her music has plenty of room in the contemporary zeitgeist. We got a chance to catch up with Qualley during her recent transition from recording in New York and moving to Los Angeles, to ask about her quiet upbringing in the country, her passion for pop music, opening for Willie Nelson and what it was like to act half-naked in a fur coat on Mad Men.

Autre: You grew up kind of under the radar, in Montana and then in North Carolina. What was it like growing up there?

Rainey Qualley: Spending my early years in Montana was very idyllic.  I remember playing outside catching salamanders in the streams and riding horses and building forts in the forest.  We moved when I was 9, and I am thankful for my southern roots having grown up primarily in North Carolina.  I think growing up in those areas kept me a little bit sheltered and innocent.  But I was always very eager to move away.

Autre: How did you know you wanted to get out of there, go to Nashville and LA to perform? What was that like?

Qualley: I started dancing when I was 2.  And I grew up in a creative household.  So I've always been drawn to the arts.  I kind of realized I could sing when I was a kid and always loved doing it behind closed doors - I used to be very shy.  My dad taught me to play guitar when I was a teenager.  I went to regular college for two years and hated it.  And then when I was 19 I moved to New York and crashed on a friend’s couch while I figured out what to do.  I didn't really have a plan I just knew I had to start trying.

Autre: You’re based in New York now, do you feel like that’s your new home or do you sometimes dream of going back to country living?

Qualley: I spent the last month in New York writing music.  But I’ve actually been based in Nashville for the past 2 years.  As I write this, however, I am on a plane moving back to LA.  And no, I don't see myself going back to the country.  My dream is to have a little place in LA with my sister where we can have some bunnies and chickens and whatever animals we want in the back yard but still have all the perks of living in the city,     

Listen to an exclusive clip of a track off Rainey's Qualley's upcoming album

Autre: Your sister is a dancer and your mother is an actress, did you ever want to rebel against that and do something completely different?

Qualley: No, I've always wanted to make music and act.  For me, it's really nice having family members who are in similar fields.  We all help each other out and inspire one and other.  Plus we are sympathetic to the difficulties that this kind of profession breeds.  

Autre: You debuted an album, “Turn Down the Lights,” back in June and you have a new album coming out. In the future, do you see acting or music as your primary focus?

Qualley: I think music and acting compliment each other.  I am the type of person who always has to be working on something or else I feel like I'm wasting time.  So having multiple creative outlets keeps me from going crazy.

Autre: “Turn Down the Lights,” is predominantly a country album. What attracts you to that genre and are you going in a different direction on your new album?

Qualley: I actually kind of fell into country music. I took a writing trip to Nashville two years ago and the very first song I wrote started playing on XM radio.  So I was like, "Ok, this seems like it's working out. I should try country music.”  I have had so many wonderful opportunities the past two years - I got to open for Willie Nelson at the Ryman, I played the Grand Ole Opry multiple times - things I only ever dreamed of.  But ultimately, pop music is what I'm passionate about.  The new project I'm working on is entirely different from anything I've released in the past.  And I am aching to share the new songs.  

Autre: What was it like opening for Willie Nelson? 

Qualley: I got to open for Willie two nights In a row at the Ryman auditorium, it was very surreal and humbling. It was also my first big show after signing with CAA so I felt a lot of pressure to impress the agents. And to give a performance worthy of the venue and the headliner. The whole experience was a thrill. The shows were really fun and the audience was incredibly warm. I only got to met him briefly after his show on the second night and he was so cool. Plus I fan-girled and got photos with "trigger" his guitar back stage.

Autre: You had this iconic role in the seventh season premiere of Mad Men. Everyone was talking about this “Mystery Girl.” What was your reaction to entering the spotlight like that?

Qualley: Being on Mad Men was dope.  I hadn't really watched the show before I got cast.  But once I started, I couldn't stop.  So it was cool to have been a part of, even though it was such a small role.  I was only in one scene, so I really didn't expect people to react they way they did.  But it's flattering that people liked the scene.  And no it wasn't my first role.

Autre: You’ve been involved with a few films now, including one with your mom. Can you tell us a little about those projects?

Qualley: I've worked on a few independent films, and they were great experiences.  I've been taking kind of a hiatus from acting to focus on music.  But I'm really excited to get back to LA and start up again.

Autre: What next for you?

Qualley: The big thing on my mind right now is my pop project.  I have about 13 demos recorded already that I am so so so psyched about.  The tough part now is deciding what I like the best.  But I'll be releasing new music soon. 

Autre: Favorite era for music, film culture?

Qualley: I don't really idealize any one era the most.  I love Motown/Soul music so the 60's were pretty great for that.  The 60's also saw some beautiful folk/singer-songwriter stuff come to life.  Sick pop music came out of the 80's and 90's, 2000's.  There's magic in every decade I think.  But, if I could travel back in time I'd like to spend a week or so in medieval civilization.  I'm pretty happy existing right now though.

Rainey Qualley's debut album will drop sometime this summer. In the meantime, follow her on Instagram. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Photographs by Kevin Hayeland. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

The Rockabilly Art Fag Speaks: An Interview With Dan Sartain On His Dark Musical Departure

There is something sinister in the Southern air. Dan Sartain’s newest album, Century Plaza, which was released last month on the One Little Indian label, is a departure for the Alabama-based musician who has been steadily putting out albums since the early 2000s and garnering the attention of musical kindred spirits like Jack White. In fact, Jack White asked Sartain personally if he would open for the White Stripes on a 2007 tour. While his earlier music reflected his Southern roots – with tinges of country and rockabilly – Sartain’s new album is darker, more malevolent and has an electro beat that harkens early Suicide and British synth-pop wave, like Depeche Mode. What you hear in the music sounds like an artist on the verge of burning down his house and hitting the open road in a black Cadillac, cigarette burning in hand. His music video for the track Walk Among The Cobras illustrates the album perfectly: it opens with Sartain driving, black and bloodied eyes (which the press release states is very much real), and goes into an erotic carnival scene that seems like a scene from a lost Cronenberg film. In the following interview, we got a chance to ask Sartain about his music departure, dressing up as Alan Vega for Halloween, and what it’s like to be an untalented rockabilly art fag.

Autre: You’re from Alabama? What was it like growing up there?

Dan Sartain: Everybody I went to school with loved football and Bone Thugs N’ Harmony. It was bullshit. I hated it. I still live there and I still hate it. Birmingham is the city I’m from, and there seems to be a lot of pride about it now. We have some nice clubs and things now, but it’s mostly the same bands from the last ten or twenty years. I’ve been around for twenty years. Young people should be doing things I don’t understand and don’t like, and they are! Everything is right on schedule.

Autre: How did you get into music?

Sartain: I just heard it one day and it was pretty good. 

Autre: What kinds of artists were you listening to in Alabama that influenced your musical style?

Sartain: You had to make friends with whoever was around. So that meant any kind of musician was a friend. You’d have to play with Christian ska bands, white blues guys, cock rockers, math rockers, Pop punks, crust kids with their blast beats, fake Fugazi bands, fake Cure bands, literally ANYONE. We all had to be friends, or at least fake friends, to make anything happen. 

Autre: You have toured as an opening act for The White Stripes and the Hives. What was that like? 

Sartain: It was nice being a part of something bigger. I suppose that’s what will go on my headstone. It’s also a thing I have a chip on my shoulder about too. When you go around with a chip on your shoulder people want to knock it off. Then some time goes by and you just kind of realize you were a dumbass. It’s vicious. I love it. Its nice work if you can get it. I started at clubs and I’m back at clubs now. I feel that’s where I do my best work, but if the opportunity comes to play arenas again, I’ll be ready.

"There was a lot of talent going around but it was all misguided. So I basically thought I could save this genre by being an untalented rockabilly art fag. It totally worked, you’re welcome."

Autre: Your newest album, Century Plaza came out recently. What was the inspiration for this album? 

Sartain: I just wanted to make an album as much like Depeche Mode as I could. I just pretended Depeche Mode called me on the phone and asked me to write them an album. 

Autre: Your previous albums are a mixture of blues, rockabilly, and punk rock, while Century Plaza is pop/electronic music. Why was this album different than the ones you worked on before? 

Sartain: Seeing the names “blues, rockabilly, and punk rock” in print like that sounds really horrible. There’s lots of music that sounds like those three things together… and it all sounds bad. That is not to say there isn’t a lot of rockabilly and punk albums that I love, but it just has this cheesy stigma. I think what I was trying to do early on was to restore the image of the good things about those styles of music you mentioned. I’m not sure I was the right guy for the job, but I was trying to convey some of those things with taste. I basically came around in the late nineties- early two thousands. It was a horrible time. People were swing dancing and wearing flaming bowling shirts. That Dick Dale song was everywhere. It was really just corny and not moody or weird or artsy at all. The late nineties were to rockabilly guys as the late eighties were to metal guys. There was a lot of talent going around but it was all misguided. So I basically thought I could save this genre by being an untalented rockabilly art fag. It totally worked, you’re welcome. 

But to answer your question, I just work with what is at my disposal. Electronic music sounded the best to me right now. 

Autre: You originally recorded “Walk Among the Cobras” in 2005. Why remake the song? 

Sartain: Actually, I recorded that song in 2001. It’s one of my oldest and best songs. I feel like its kinda my anthem. It’s the first song I wrote where I felt like I could compete in the world of music. I wanted to keep playing it. Even if my musical brand faced a complete overhaul stylistically. 

Autre: The video for “Walk Among the Cobras” is really amazing. What was the inspiration for the video?

Sartain: We didn't really plan on making a video. We went to Panama City Beach, Florida, which is a very neon place. We went there to shoot photos for album art and such. We went into a laser mirror maze for children and tourists and it just looked amazing. I figured it looked like a million bucks and people would never guess where we filmed it. Families and children keep coming through, stumbling into their own reflections, past us filming guerrilla style while I’m dancing with my shirt off. That footage just looked awesome so we expanded from there. We went to a haunted campground in Georgia where they filmed a Friday the 13th movie. We fogged up the woods and brought lasers and lights and things. It was pretty creepy. We heard footsteps, which we later found out, is one of the things one of the resident ghosts is said to do. I don’t believe in ghosts and I’m not saying we saw one but it was totally a ghost and we saw one. 

Autre: How do you see film and music coming together?

Sartain: At the same time. 

Autre: Is film something you’re interested in? 

You mean as a viewer? Or as a participant? Yes to both

Click here to purchase and download Dan Sartain's newest record Century Plaza. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Interview by Keely Shinners. Photography by Haley Grimes. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Romantic Funk: An Interview of Harriet Brown by Astronauts, Etc.'s Anthony Ferraro

Ahead of their national tour, which kicks off tomorrow night at Club Bahia in Los Angeles, Autre has exclusively premiered Harriet Brown's cover of the Astronauts, Etc. track "I Know." Helmed by Oakland-based musician and songwriter Anthony Ferraro, Astronauts, Etc. was a bedroom project that blossomed and found him playing in places like Tokyo and Australia. Ferraro also found himself in the role as touring keyboardist for Toro y Moi and is close friends with singer Chazwick Bundick. The track covered by Harriet Brown, an up-and-coming Los Angeles based musical artist, can be found on Astronauts, Etc.'s latest album Mind Out Wandering on the Hit City U.S.A imprint. In the following short interview Anthony Ferraro talks to Harriet Brown about the unique rendition of his song, the responsibility of music, Sade and more. 

Anthony Ferraro: Can you give us a brief description of the parallel universe that you pulled this cover out of?

Harriet Brown: A glass of red wine. Late, quiet nights on the beach in southern Mexico, ocean waves accompanied by the muted thump of bass drifting in the air from the half-empty reggaeton clubs down the shore. 

Ferraro: What is one responsibility of your music?

Brown: Sending a transmission out to beings and places (geographical/emotional/spiritual) I might not otherwise be able to reach, and hopefully in the process communicating at least little bits of truth with which others can resonate. 

Ferraro: Would it be at all accurate to say that Harriet Brown represents your anima?

Brown: Sure, in some way, but Harriet Brown is also just me, subconscious or not. Although I guess my anima has never been very closeted to begin with.

Ferraro: Who is your biggest woman hero?

Brown: Sade.

Ferraro: We met in music class around four years ago and were both making very different music back then. On a scale from free will to determinism, how much agency would you say you’ve had over the direction your music has taken? I.e. how inevitable was it that Harriet Brown would become what Harriet Brown now is?

Brown: I think it was 100% inevitable, but still up to myself to undo the latch and allow Harriet Brown to emerge in full. The seed had been planted as a boy, but I had at one point become ashamed of the desire to express myself with such bold, deliberate, passionate, careful intention. That time has passed, and I’ve never felt more true and natural about making music, and really just about myself as a person, than I do now. 

Ferraro: What is the main reason you have to be optimistic about the future of music?

Brown: Humans love music — it’s everywhere you go, even in the most sterile of places. The industry is always changing, always with both pros and cons, but regardless, we humans continue to desire music, and I don’t think that desire will ever die. 

Click here to purchase tickets to see Harriet Brown and Astronauts, Etc. at Club Bahia. Click here to listen to the cover of I Know. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Nine Morbid Songs About Dying: An Interview With New Zealand Soul Singer Marlon Williams

Marlon Williams, the New Zealand born soul crooner whose self-titled breakout album drops today, isn’t just a throw back. Sure, his slicked back hair, tight fitting Brando style tees and general ruggedness may suggest a yearning for 1950s Americana, but this vocal prodigy from the Southern Hemisphere is merely singing from the heart, which can transcend time and space and musical genres. In his voice and vocal style, there are also strains of religious spirituals that can be tied to his family’s Maori upbringing (his father was a Maori punk singer) and singing in church choirs. Already selling out concerts and becoming a household name in his native New Zealand, Marlon Williams’ self-titled album will surely see the young musical artist gain international recognition, especially in the United States with multiple tour dates sets, including a spot at SXSW with his backing band The Yarra Benders, in March. We got a chance to speak with Williams about his Maori roots, soul music and his new album. 

Autre: Can you talk a little bit about your upbringing in New Zealand...I read somewhere that your roots go far back to a native Maori tribe, is that right?

Marlon Williams: That's right. My dad's half Maori, my mum's quarter so I'm some ratio too. I was brought up in a port town outside of Christchurch in the South Island. It was a classic small town upbringing, a lot of freedom to kick around the streets as a kid

Autre: And your dad was a Maori punk singer...that is very different than the music you make - do you have memories of seeing him play - what was the name of his band?

Williams: He kinda stopped playing by the time I was around but he played in a band called the Boneshakers. New wave punk from the rural North Island. 

Autre: What was your earliest exposure to music - how did you gain access to music that influenced and inspired you?

Williams: My dad always introduced me to new stuff, pretty steadily throughout my childhood and into my teenage years. It started off with Elvis and the Beatles and eventually lead into The Band and Gram Parsons.

Autre: Who are some of your folk and blues heroes?

Williams: Dave Van Ronk, Peggy Seeger, Vashti Bunyan, Robbie Basho, Blind Willie McTell, Lightnin Hopkins, Bob Carpenter. This list won't ever end.

Autre: Does New Zealand have a strong folk scene?

Williams: It really does. A lot of really great underground stuff and some more well known. Aldous Harding, Delaney Davidson, Nadia Reid, Eb and Sparrow. All good friends, all great musicians.

Autre: You have accomplished a lot in a short amount of time, and you've won a lot of awards, were you surprised at your success as a musician or is this something you've always wanted?

Williams: It's all I've ever really known so it's hard considering alternative paths, but it's certainly a nice feeling to be appreciated. As long as I can do it how I want I'm happy.

Autre: You are being hailed as "the new Elvis" is this something you balk at or embrace?

Williams: Neither. It'd be a dick move to react too strongly to that one either way

Autre: What is your ideally suited environment to write music...do you have a ritual or does it come to you at all times?

Williams: I have no ritual. It just happens when it does. It's a very frustrating way to write music, especially when it doesn't hit you for a while. I need to get disciplined

Autre: Your music video for the track Hello Miss Lonesome is very intense – where did the idea for the music video come about?

Williams: That came from the director, Damien Shatford, who's a good old pal of mine. He's made a couple of videos for me and they both feature me getting smashed up.  You'd have to ask him why. Maybe I did something to him I don't know about

Autre: Your new album is self-titled and it almost seems like a “break out” album – whatever that means – do you feel like you want to reach a much wider, global audience with the record? 

Williams: Who doesn't? The more people I can get to hear my music the better. It means the Kiwis and Australians get a break from me for a while

Autre: You are planning to tour in some major cities in the US – is this your first time touring in states and do you have any apprehensions? 

Williams: This is my first headline tour in the states, yeah. Not particularly. I only ever worry about survival and love 

Autre: What can people expect from the new album? 

Williams: 9 morbid songs about dying

Autre: What do your parents think of your success as a musician...have they supported you all along? 

Williams: My mothers a painter and dad the singer so they'd be hypocritical to condemn me. They've always been behind me 100%. 

Autre: Where do you want to go with your music after this album…any grand, surprising plans? 

Williams: I'm not completely sure yet but it'll be really, really good

Marlon Williams' self-titled album on Dead Oceans records is available here. Watch the music video for highlight single Strange Things below. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Photograph by Justyn Strother. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Transcending the Blues: An Interview With Legendary Record Producer Daniel Lanois

Daniel Lanois lives and breathes music in a very literal sense. As a true audiophile, he seems to be marinating in centuries of sound waves, honing in on some of history’s most visceral musical compositions. It’s as though he pulls rhythms directly from the ground and resonant frequencies from the stratosphere. This description may seem over the top, and while it comes from a place of genuine reverence, I can say that over the 3 hours that we spent together, I witnessed this phenomenon with my very own eyes and ears. When he tells a story, it doesn’t suffice to tell it in words. His life story wouldn’t make sense unless he sang it to you, played it for you, and punctuated it with his signature, “yea, man.” Which is why I had to compile all of these bits in an audio file to give you a real feel for who he is and how he communicates. It’s really quite elevating.

Growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, the steel capital of Canada, he was raised in a community that was directed by the shifting of the harsh seasons. A community that gathered to play traditional French Canadian folk music; the true salt of the Earth. The melodies he heard as a child stuck with him and he felt that he needed to capture them, so he made himself a recording studio in the basement. Pretty soon he was recording music with the likes of Rick James and was determined to find the roots of the American soul. He gravitated south to the Mississippi delta where he found the guttural rhythms that live in your hips and the pain and the suffering that gave birth to the blues. But when the Mississippi River spills into the Gulf of Mexico most people stay put, singing their woeful stories of yore. Nevertheless, Lanois took those symphonic lessons and synthesized them with his Northern roots to produce music with some of the 20th century’s most groundbreaking artists: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Peter Gabriel, U2, Brian Eno, Sinead O’Connor, and the list goes on. He’s been nominated for 7 Grammys, 4 of which he was awarded, and yet, his humble beginnings are invariably evident in his unpresuming temperament. 

These days, he’s making music with the free wheeling musical outlaw, Rocco Deluca. They have a friendship that is bonded by their two major loves, music and motorcycles. Together they create a sound that is at once arresting in a way that makes one feel buoyant and unencumbered. When you spend time with the two of them, you get a sense that their lives are filled with nothing but positive, creative vibes, and it seems impossible to abate the longing to just tag along and pretend this is a normal day for you too. We met them at a café, followed them back home, and continued the night with several friends who tagged along and indulged in the privilege of a private listening party. Here’s what we took away.

AUTRE: You were just singing a gospel song, and I’m not familiar with it specifically, but it seems like it comes straight from the slave trade.

LANOIS: Yeah, “Once I’m taken away, I will not fold” is the message.

AUTRE: I think that is the roots of this country. Everything that this country has been built off of has been the elbow grease and the blood and the sweat and the tears of the black community. So for that to be the source of our strength is no surprise.

LANOIS: For that church music to reach the top of the charts in the early 60s. Sam Cooke was not a pop singer, Sam Cooke came from the soulsters and from church. It was that beautiful church harmony that made its way into popular music. We were just talking about James Cleveland who is from the LA area, he’s not from Chicago.

AUTRE: And Bo Diddley, I mean he invented Rock n’ Roll. And Big Mama Thornton.

LANOIS: All that. Well the Bo Diddley beat is an old African beat. But I’m Canadian. So for a Canadian kid to come south of the border - I went to New Orleans and made a great record with the Neville Brothers - for me to actually work with the Neville Brothers? As a white French-Canadian kid? That was the cherry on the cake of my PhD.


AUTRE: Absolutely. It seems like you’ve had an autodidactic approach to music. Or have you?

LANOIS: Without any doubt, every day I learn something new. And I hope it keeps coming my way. I never went to school for any of it, I’m self taught. But when I was a kid I got to work with Rick James in my mom’s basement. I didn’t have to come up with any tuition money. For Rick he came in by himself, and in 20 minutes there was a fully flourishing piece of music coming out of the speakers and I was practically in tears. Oh my goodness, I could not believe this was happening. I was in the presence of a Beethoven.

I was talented, I knew what I was doing, but I had never before been exposed to anyone like Rick. He came in, and I recorded him some demos – mindblowing. I realized that I needed to go somewhere where the bass was good, so I went to New Orleans. I got to work with the Neville Brothers and George Porter from the Meters. Leo Nocentelli, perhaps the funkiest guitar player out of America. To be in that place, to hear the parade bands, where so much music had come from – that was amazing. The music of the North was so stiff. The music of the South had funk.

AUTRE: Going back to the beginning, what was your initial experience with making music?

LANOIS: As a kid I played slide guitar and I played woodwinds as well. I started a little recording studio at home, so that was the basis of the whole thing. I was in and out of bands up in Canada. I got to be a good player as a teenager. But I always had my recording studio and that was the mecca, the crossroads for so much. I was connected with a gospel music association in Canada, and they brought acapella groups in from across the world to tour Canada. One of the touring stops was my studio. So I made acapella quartet records - dozens of them.

AUTRE: Oh that’s amazing.

LANOIS: They had great singers too. So imagine this white French-Canadian kid sitting there and hearing the four-part harmony. Tell me that’s not an education to hear all that, and then that related to all other four parts of any other genre. Funk music has four parts, you know. The intertwining of these four parts provided me with a really great understanding of how music communicates. How significant the harmonic interplay is. That was kind of it. Plus on top of that, the Pop music on the radio was the best stuff.

 AUTRE: Back then, yeah.

LANOIS: You heard Sam Cooke on the radio, you heard James Cotton, The Jackson’s. Psychedelic stuff. It was kind of amazing. We didn’t hear any fluff, you know we had to listen to some of that British music, but I didn’t mind that.


AUTRE: Yeah, that was before they had found the algorithm for selling commercial products with pop music.

LANOIS: The force was certainly different, it just belonged to that time. It was a cultural revolution on the rise. The Poet’s Society, rebellious Rock n’ Roll, psychedelic. It all came to a head - how special is that? Plus, also the front end of a medium, not everybody had a camera so if you shot pictures it meant that you were involved with something special. You know, you look at photographs from the late 50s and 60s and they all look significant, because people were discovering something. Not to criticize modern times or anything but there are so many pictures now. Now we’re not at the front end of the medium - but when you are at the front end of a medium, things are more special.

AUTRE: I think that’s a good point you make though about the fact that we didn’t have an image associated with the music. There wasn’t a music video for every track. So when you listened to an album, you had a listening experience - just listening. Now musicians have to sell themselves as more than just a sound. They’re a sound and an image. Plus, their social lives are on blast through their social media. So, you have their personalities to judge as well. There is so much less focus on creating amazing music and leaving it at that.

LANOIS: The other concern is including merch. You know, “how’s your merch going?” Merch?!

AUTRE: Exactly. You have to boost your T-shirt game.


AUTRE: You’ve worked on some incredible records. And it seems like you’ve always been innovating your sound. This music you make with Rocco - you sit there and if feels like you’re floating in sound.

LANOIS: We try and break new ground on every project. I didn’t come up through a referential time, so coming up as a kid everything was new. We didn’t think jeez let’s try to make it sound like a 1948 tune, that would be a cool sound, no everything was new. So I’ve never bought into the referential aspect of music making. Even in these modern times where it’s easy to say - the grunge and the punk thing in the 90s, that was cool, lets adapt that look and that sound - well no I’m not interested. I’m glad that it happened and I respect that it did, but in regards to anything we’re going to do from here on I want it to be original.

AUTRE: Who are some of your Rock n’ Roll heroes?

LANOIS: I’ll always appreciate pure forms, sometimes I go to the Thirsty Crow on a Monday night and there’s a guy there who plays a lot of old records. We always appreciate hearing Electric Mud from Muddy Waters. They play a lot of 70s R&B on that night, a lot of stuff from San Francisco. That era of the 70s where things were getting funky but experimental.

And you know we have modern day heroes as well. I listen to some of the Hip Hop out of the Long Beach area. And the D’Angelo record that came out a couple years ago, I enjoyed that a lot. Any pure form. Anything strong that qualifies as soul music ultimately. And we’re not talking a genre of R&B particularly, but something that seems to exist for the right reasons.

AUTRE: There seems to be this reemergence of soul music, of traditional 60s soul music coming in through a lot of newer pop music these days. It’s being revisited, which is really interesting. I talked to a young woman who I really respect and she said “you know, in some ways I feel like maybe Hip Hop is coming to a close.”

LANOIS: Maybe a certain aspect of it.

AUTRE: A certain aspect of it, yeah. But in the same way that Soul music had its own era through the late 50s, the 60s, and a little bit into the 70s but then it kind of veered into Funk. Which then veered into Hip Hop. I feel like it is kind of coming back, and that there is an urge to find its roots; to get back a little bit of that heart that was really pulsing through it originally.

"Miley Cyrus naked with her bare cunt on a cannonball – is that all you got, baby? You know go up the flagpole and back down, bare cunt. I’ll throw some confetti. So, I kinda like that whole thing that’s happening in America right now where the girls are just in charge of fucking pop. I say, take more clothes off, have more hits, own the fucking country, get to the top of the charts and I’ll be eating popcorn."

LANOIS: You hear it a little bit with Alabama Shakes, their recent record is pretty adventurous. I hear some shades of 70s experimental Soul, but I wouldn’t offer a lot to support the theory. But I’m ready to be educated.

AUTRE: Where did your love of motorcycles come from?

LANOIS: Since I was a kid I just loved everything that went with it - freedom, and to feel that wind on your face. When I was a kid I got my first Harley and me and my brother rode from Canada all the way down to Florida.

AUTRE: That’s a long trip! How long did it take you guys?

LANOIS: Oh it took a long time. We could only ride so long because it was freezing, but by the time we got to Kentucky and Tennessee it started getting warm. I love wintertime riding.

AUTRE: You grew up in Ontario right?

LANOIS: I’m French-Canadian but I came up as a teenager in a place called Hamilton about an hour from Buffalo on the Canadian side. It was a steel town and a real working place.

AUTRE: Do you go back much?

LANOIS: Yeah! I still keep a place there; my mom is there still. I have a soft spot for what I call the Great Lakes of Culture.

That part of the world is very harsh in the winter. The harvest comes in and the root vegetables will keep all winter. And I love that - you wouldn’t dilly dally through the fall. You cut your wood in the summer, make sure you can and jar in the fall. That way you can have some fruits through the winter. That’s sort of long gone now because of the coming of Whole Foods. You can get a tangerine in Toronto in the winter, that wasn’t the case at one time.

AUTRE: So how long have you been living in this house?

LANOIS: 14 years. Nobody wanted this place 14 years ago. At the time I was working with Melanie Ciccone, Madonna’s sister. Madonna looked at this place, and Melanie knew about it and she said “well my sister doesn’t want it but you should get it” and I came here on a rainy day and I loved it.

AUTRE: It’s beautiful.

LANOIS: I came up with a mix today I’m very excited about. The performances for this record were all done here, and I took them back to Toronto and I manipulated them and added some new ways of looking at the works. Some of it is very pure form hand played, and some things are more built. It’s not a point of bragging but I’m a sonic specialist so I get in there and I build things. One of the things you’re going to hear that was built is one called “Low Sudden” and it’s more of a trance. It visits some of what I was doing in the early 80s and touches on some of those sounds you’ll hear in a minute.

AUTRE: We’re excited to hear it.

LANOIS: Some elements are a little crazier and symphonically driven - I’ve gone into harmonic places that I’ve never known before. Now this is significant because you might think “well we’ve done it all, and same old chords” but there are a few turning points in this music that provided me with a glimpse into the future.

AUTRE: So where do you think that inspiration came from?

LANOIS: Perhaps, I might have gotten disillusioned with the usual chords. It’s not a rhythmic record; you’ll hear the strangeness of the chords and the textures. It will conjure up feelings you’ve never had before. One has a very Italian melody – things that I would never come up with, because I see myself as a rocker. To bump into this whole way of looking at harmonics has really opened up a new side of my imagination. Crazy ass shit.

AUTRE: The devotion you have to music is astounding. Your collection here is amazing.

LANOIS: I have a couple of comic friends. Jim Carrey is one of them. He is so smart; he could do a routine at the drop of a hat. He walks in here and says, “This is how to live! Close to your passion! What are you passionate about? You can’t take that to the grave! You could take this to the grave!” He gave a whole sermon to justify the mess I made in the front room.

AUTRE: Well it seems this is your living room, and this is how you want to live.

LANOIS: It’s better than buying yachts and going to St. Barth’s.

AUTRE: How did you get a hold of this piano?

LANOIS: If you’re lucky enough to have an acoustic instrument that sounds beautiful, you can always restore it back to its former glory. Even if it gets funky or messed up, you can always return it to the sound. It will maintain the sound. When we found this barrelhouse of a piano, it needed refurbishing, but we could tell it had heart. We resurrected it.

AUTRE: There’s kind of a similarity to motorcycles in that.

LANOIS: Yeah, a little bit. It’s nice to respect a tool, to imagine what it was like in 1915.

AUTRE: Going back again to your beginnings, how did you get into music?

LANOIS: In the beginning, my father and my grandfather were violin players. They played some of the traditional music of their French Canadian culture. There were no nightclubs back then, so people would gather around their houses. They would whip out their violins. There were piano players. All my uncles sang. I was exposed to that as a kid. The melodies really got in my brain. There was nothing popular about them; they were just old songs.

AUTRE: What was your first introduction to rock and roll music? 

LANOIS: [Sings.] “You’re so young, and I’m so old. This, my darling, I’ve been told. You and I will be as free as the birds up in the trees. Please, please stay and be mine, Diana.” That’s the guy who wrote the theme song for the Tonight Show. A guy named Paul Anka.

Where we lived was between Detroit and Buffalo. We got great broadcasts out of those cities. I got to hear all the great Motown stuff on the radio. We had some cool DJs in Toronto. They were stoned out of their brains. This was a time when they let disc jockeys do whatever they wanted, late nights especially. And they were beat poets, spinning some yarn, playing an entire side of an album. Back in the day, there were no pictures of anything. I would sit in my mother’s basement, listening to the crazy music on the radio, imagining what it would be like out in the world.

AUTRE: Was there anyone in particular who really influenced you?

LANOIS: Rick James.

AUTRE: Were you invited down to New Orleans, or did you go there to seek out music?

LANOIS: I saw a piece in Life about the architectural significance of New Orleans. So I thought, I think I’m going to go down there to finish my record. I took a train from New York down, going through all the backwaters of the cities. I got to see industry in America. I got to see its decay, the decline of manufacturing and the steel industry. I was practically in tears – there is so much poverty. We grew up in North America thinking everything is great, but I saw the opposite when I went down there. It was a real eye-opener for me. It was a musical journey to go down there, but I was just as interested in everything else that was happening culturally.  

AUTRE: What was it like being a Canadian kid down south?

LANOIS: Amazing. You would hear stories about this crazy river, the bloodline of creativity. It’s called the delta, where different influences come in from different parts – blues, bluegrass, Texas swing. All these different forces. What did it add up to? Rock n’ roll. I got to work with the greats. I got Rockin’ Dopsie to play on a Bob Dylan record. Are you kidding me? I’m a dumb French Canadian.

AUTRE: How do you feel about music now?

LANOIS: It’s fine. You’ve got Maroon 5, force-fed rock. I kinda like the thing that’s happening in America where girls are just fucking in charge of pop music. So, Miley Cyrus naked with her bare cunt on a cannon ball – is that all you got, baby? You know go up the flagpole and back down, bare cunt. I’ll throw some confetti. So, I kinda like that whole thing that’s happening in America right now where the girls are just in charge of fucking pop. I say, take more clothes off, have more hits, own the fucking country, get to the top of the charts and I’ll be eating popcorn. I won’t make records like that, but I’m kinda glad somebody else is.

AUTRE: You keep coming back to real, pure form, for the experience of music rather than whatever movement you might be a part of.

LANOIS: We have a responsibility in these referential times. It’s easy to be spot-on with style. I don’t want to make a referential record. There’s nothing stopping me from sampling a song, but will that fill us? I don’t think so. I don’t want to do referential. I don’t care if I’m penniless. I want to do new things. I want to see the future of music. I may not get there, but I’m going to damn well try. 

Autre will be releasing Daniel Lanois and Rocco DeLuca's track The Resonant Frequency of Love with an accompanying short film on Valentines Day, 2016. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper and Summer Bowie. photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Touch The Leather: An Interview With Fat White Family Lead Singer Lias Saoudi


Full disclosure: there is nothing objective about this article. I love Fat White Family. The band, to me, represents everything I’ve ever held dear about rock n’ roll: chaos, rebellion, sleaze, art, drugs, poetry, and politics. The first time I saw the band play live, about a year and a half ago, I was more excited than that time I saw Martin Scorsese walking down the Bowery (re: very excited). After housing beers and watching various members of the band run around the venue with their most famous fan and cheerleader, Sean Lennon, I elbowed my way to the front of the hall and got ready to let loose. 15 minutes went by when the band’s six members, gangly, unkempt, and skinny, took to the stage, launching into a particularly cacophonic rendition of the opening chords of the band’s lead single off debut album Champagne Holocaust, Auto Neutron. Lead singer Lias Saoudi, already half naked and sweating like Usain Bolt at the finish line, jittered to the front of the stage like a character in a Chris Cunningham music video and the band belted in unison, “AH AH AHHHH AHHH AHHHHHHH!” Instantly, bodies began colliding in joyous punishment. In various levels of intoxication, the crowd bowed to the revolution of the Fat White Family. It hurt so good. By the end of the song, Lias had his cock out. The scene erupted like a Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition come to life.

The band; Lias, as well as Saul Adamczewski (guitar), Adam J. Harmer (guitar), Joseph Pancucci, (brother of Lias) Nathan Saoudi (keyboard), Severin Black (drums), and Taishi Nagasaka (bass); formed in 2011 while they were squatting and enduring various levels of impoverished horror in Peckham, forming an alliance and an agenda in the process. From the time that the band released their electrifying debut record, opinions of them were divisive but absolute. Hero worship and skepticism were thrown around equally, but nigh any journalist could argue against the fact that this band was relevant to our sick, scared, and poor era. Noisey called the band, “A reminder that rock n’ roll can mean something.” The Quietus called Champagne Holocaust one of the best records of 2014. Pitchfork, in a more lukewarm review, nevertheless described the debut record as the “shambolic beginnings of something.” Case in point, Fat White Family wants rock music to have substance again. Charged up by leftist politics and rally cries against the agonies of capitalism, Fat White Family is both aware of the culture while totally antithetical to the culture. The music, while certainly energizing, has its touchstones: the anarcho punk ethos of Crass, the shambolic poetry of Mark E. Smith and The Fall (they even released a single called I Am Mark E. Smith), the nihilist poetry of Country Teasers, and the early garage psych of The 13th Floor Elevators. But the music is only half the story with the band. I often say that the most effective (and my favorite) politicians (Obama, Churchill, etc..) do what they must to achieve power, and once the power is achieved use it to shake the culture and make change. It seems every article out there in one way or another finds different adjectives to describe the pestilence and grit and grime that define the entity that is Fat White Family. Though those descriptions aren’t false, they fail to mention the intelligence behind the art. Fat White Family is intimately aware of the power of performance and media. With a militaristic look, an aura of degenerate mystery, and ratchet stage antics full of blood and nudity, the band commands attention. Now that the attention has been achieved, the band can have their ideas known and their message spread.

Fat White Family’s new album, Songs for Our Mothers, is out today on Fat Possum. It continues the band’s political nihilism while incorporating a more subdued if not at all toned down sound. The melodies are more pronounced, and the incorporation of synths and horns brings to mind the more ambitious records of British pop music history. From opening track The Whitest Boy On the Beach, there is something off-kilter and more thought-provoking than the band’s earlier onslaughts, bringing to mind bands like Devo. It seems the album’s central conceit is an exploration of the volatile conditions that often create the best art, as the band has cited the work of Ike and Tina turner as a central influence on the band.

In anticipation of Songs for Our Mothers, I spoke to Lias on a Viber call. He is nothing like his stage persona. Expecting a bamboozled alkie, I found myself speaking to a fiercely intelligent young guy deeply worried about the state of the economy, highly aware of contemporary art, and fiercely committed to original art. Topics that came up were housing, the band’s unhealthy obsession with Irish actor Sam Neill, the divide between human being and performer, and of course lots about the new record. I also snuck in a question about Lias and Fat White brother in arms (as well as brother from same mother) Nathan’s collaborative band with electronic act Electronic Research Council and Sean Lennon, The Moonlandingz, whose record Expanded is out now.

Autre: Perhaps I’m off base here, but from the moment I first got into the band I detected at least an awareness of a performance art aesthetic, is that at all accurate?

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah definitely. I went to college for four years, at Slade School of Art in North London, so it’s something I’ve been a part of for a while.

AUTRE: What about politically? Did you develop your own sort of ethos on your own? Or did you pick up certain ideas from family members or friends growing up?

LIAS SAOUDI: Well my mum is sort of like a Yorkshire coal miner who was there during the strikes. My dad’s an Algerian immigrant. It’s not like I grew up on an estate, but I wouldn’t jump to say that I was, myself, working class. I was afforded opportunities both my parents never had, because they worked really hard. But both of them, yeah completely. But myself I guess I would say I was more lower-middle class. We would go on a holiday abroad every now and then. . I think it was the kind of environment, which set me up to take it where I am now. It was probably always going to turn out this way.

AUTRE: I find it interesting how some adults think that people our age, millennials or whatever, are apolitical or don’t care. But I just don’t find that to be true these days, certainly with bands like yours, and with what’s going on in the States right now with everything rallying around Bernie Sanders and things like that. Do you feel generally hopeful that at least people seem to be more aware than they were in the last few years?

LIAS SAOUDI: I think a certain amount of apathy has lifted, but I fail to see any real, genuine hope in the situation being altered. I think there is something to rally around and I think that’s really positive. I think it’s the lowest kind of cynicism to just not even bother. My issue with bands and music and the people here in London while I was kind of squatting around and studying is that people were just concerned with climbing up a ladder socially. There’s no way you’re getting anywhere.

AUTRE: Yeah, absolutely.

LIAS SAOUDI: I mean I’ve been in London for 12 years and we worked pretty hard at this project. From an outsider’s perspective it must seem like we’ve had some success. But my living standards have never increased, if anything they’ve diminished. And London, the city that I’ve kind of grown to love and consider home, is kind of out of my reach. That brings anger.

AUTRE: Yeah it’s the same situation over here in New York. What’s insane to me is that one of the main reasons people want to move to cities like New York or London is because they want to eat at great restaurants with really talented chefs, or see great bands or artists. But if they don’t start regulating the rent, these people aren’t going to exist and these cities are going to suck.

LIAS SAOUDI: It’s just become a little bit like Paris. The restaurants will remain, but all the other good stuff will fuck off. It’s prohibitively expensive to live here while you’re trying to do something creative. It’s always been tough, you know you have to work a shitty job while you’re doing your painting or your band. The city is for tourists and millionaires and for people to invest in property while you’re pushed further and further out of the housing market and the red market. It’s boring. There’s nobody standing up for you, there’s no rules, there’s no law anymore.

AUTRE: It’s pretty insane. Living in New York, I’ve been here almost four yeas years but I’ve already had to bounce around from three neighborhoods. It happens too fast. Blame it on hipsters moving to your hood all you want, but people are going to live where they can afford. No one is at fault other than greedy landowners and a government that doesn’t protect its citizens from encroaching poverty.

LIAS SAOUDI: It’s alarming that the government, our government, doesn’t want regulation when it comes to things like the housing market. But they are perfectly comfortable with regulating the Middle East. It’s like you won’t put a fucking cap on the rent in South London but you’ll happily bomb Libya. I’m confused now by what they mean by regulation. It’s just such fucking dog shit. Bands don’t traditionally come from London- they come to London to make their way. And I think we’ll see an end to that.

AUTRE: So I wanted to ask you some stuff about the new record, which I’ve listened to and I love. The first thing I noticed is that right from the first record, right from Auto Neutron, it kind of had this groovy but nevertheless full on oral onslaught. The new one seems a little bit more textured, maybe are there some synths in there?

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah there was a little bit of a disco element. Everybody was kinda getting into Donna Summer at that point.

AUTRE: Yeah, that’s interesting. I thought of the first Devo record honestly when I heard that second track.

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah it is that kind of vibe. I think it was just a lot more thought going into it. Not that we didn’t take it seriously the first time. It takes a long time to make a record. That’s always the case, it’s a refection of what everybody’s been into. It’s is a little less schlocky, a little bit I dare say understated. I’ll be held to that no doubt, but it’s about drawing a juxtaposition between that understatement and what actually goes on in the songs, the events and fleshing them out. If there’s a shock value that’s where it is.

AUTRE: I’ve always thought you guys even at your most cacophonic had some serious grooves going on. I feel like it comes in even stronger when you’re quieting down a little.

LIAS SAOUDI: It’s kind of like dance music I suppose essentially.

AUTRE: Yeah you can dance to it for sure. I know Joe Strummer had a quote that was like “the best rock and roll music just makes you want to stop thinking and dance and not give a fuck what anyone thinks.”

LIAS SAOUDI: I think so, and I think if you can do both at the same time that’s kind of the goal. If you can have both angles, and you can realize what you’re dancing to. The story behind it, the narrative.

AUTRE: Substance.

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah you’ve got two layers going on there. There’s an ever so slight intellectual side to it.

AUTRE: I caught some psychedelic vibes too, are you guys into Psychedelia at all?

LIAS SAOUDI: Yea of course I mean we’re steeped in that. I think especially on the first record. There was kind of all that dodgy psych that was all pouring out during the last five years. A lot of it was just an interesting sound, but it didn’t seem to have any essential purpose. It was kind of like vintage shop psych for metropolitan dudes to pose around to and get laid. There was no essential struggle or crisis. Which given the times we’re living in, like we were talking about earlier, I find a little apathetic and irresponsible to an extent.

AUTRE: Definitely. I thought it was interesting, when I saw you guys at the Bowery Ballroom last year I saw you running around with Sean Lennon. He actually co-produced this new record, and you guys are doing a side project with him? The Moonlandingz?

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah the Moonlandingz man!

AUTRE: I love that video.

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah it’s good, it’s fun. Kind of tongue in cheek, the whole thing. It’s all really well written stuff. We were playing this fictional band within a concept record, we just decided to take it to the next level. And then Sean got involved. I got something from Sean the other day actually, Yoko Ono is on one of the tracks now.

AUTRE: Oh sweet!

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah, we’re having a scream off on one of them I think. It’s nice, we’re in a position now where you can kind of cross-pollinate with other artists much more easily. Maybe the financial rewards are not as great these days for musicians, but if you get a little bit of a break you can start working with all kinds of people. It’s kind of exiting.

AUTRE: Definitely, and I feel like Sean is almost a perfect mentor for you guys because he for one thing is massively famous just because of who he is, but he also has an ear to the underground always.

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah and he’s a really great musician man. It’s great to have him in the studio. He’s just always been really lovely with us and always supported us since the first day we met him. He’s been a great ally to have, whenever we’re stateside we always hit him up.

AUTRE: Most people associate you guys with influences like The Fall and the Birthday party ad Crass, all that stuff, but I hear soul on your records, I hear funk. And he’s a good producer for that because he knows a little bit about everything.

LIAS SAOUDI: He’s kind more into the sensual side of it all than the harsh, politically charged kind of punk side of it. And that works well for us.

AUTRE: I feel like Fat White Family has a lot of hero worship attached to it. Rock n’ Roll lovers have a lot of faith in you guys. I mean Noisey described you as “the band making Rock n’ Roll mean something again.” Do you welcome this? Or are there times when you want to just play rock music without people attaching so much to it?

LIAS SAOUDI: I try and remain as ignorant as possible. I kind of gravitate towards things that I don’t really understand. I don’t really think about it that much, I just try and get on with my job. I find it extremely difficult to write and I’m quite precious about it, so I’m just getting on with it and I hope it works out. It’s not the most stable profession, all those people saying that is great, you know, wonderful, but it’s kind of just a lucky byproduct of what we’re doing.

AUTRE: You do get a lot of positive reception in blogs, but I can’t imagine it actually compares to the reactions you guys get at your shows when kids go fucking nuts.

LIAS SAOUDI: That’s great, that’s my favorite part of it. I was doing a little bit of performance art at the end of college, and I was kind of at a loose end- didn’t really know where to place myself. I’ve really become quite jaded and disdainful with the whole contemporary art scene. But being in a band you could kind of just do that at your own street level instead of having to curtail to some type of elite the whole time. So that was important to me, and the performance thing remains priority #1 for me. 

AUTRE: That is the benefit of Rock n’ Roll over art, because art is still contingent on you being able to sell your stuff to some rich guy, where as Rock n’ Roll is just contingent upon kids losing it over your music.

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah. You know when you’re shit because people just don’t stick around. It’s a lot more difficult to lie to yourself.

AUTRE: When I saw you at the Bowery Ballroom you had your cock out within the first three minutes of the show.

LIAS SAOUDI: (laughs) I don’t know where that comes from really. As a person I’m usually quite reserved, quite shy, quite insecure essentially, so it’s like an outlet I suppose. It’s not really like a pre-meditated thing. It just feels nice. Theoretically, again if you’re doing that in contemporary art it raises all sorts of questions. Difficult questions. But I think if you’re doing that in Rock n’ Roll it’s just a bit of spice.

AUTRE: Yeah! So you once wrote “Hell hath no fury like a failed artist” in Is It Raining in Your Mouth. The band has if not become overwhelmingly financially successful has gained a certain level of notoriety. Is it as easy for you to write those same sort of vibes with the success that you have now?

LIAS SAOUDI: Well a lot of the time when I’m writing there will be some sort of historical context, some sort of totem culturally that other people can gather around and hang their hat on essentially. When I wrote that I was actually talking about Adolf Hitler.

AUTRE: Oh shit that makes sense!

LIAS SAOUDI: (Laughs) Yeah! But it worked for me as well so I just put that in there. So that’s usually the angle I come in at when I’m writing sometime. So it’s kind of personal but it’s also got a different context usually.

AUTRE: Do you consider the rock star version of you to be you and a part of you? Or like a character that you have to get into to become what you are on stage?

LIAS SAOUDI: When I go on stage it’s a peculiar experience, I don’t feel like that person at all really. That’s just the way it happens when I perform. It’s strange when you get up on a stage in front of a big crowd of people, there’s all kinds of things that happen in your brain. Some of them healthy, some of them not so healthy, I think naturally I must be a real attention seeker. Because I do love it. It’s a weird one.

AUTRE: I was looking at the press release for the new record and at the end there it says something about this record being about love, death, sex, the actor Sam Neill. What’s with the obsession with Sam Neill?

LIAS SAOUDI: I don’t know where that comes from exactly. It’s a real thing in the group.

AUTRE: He’s good man.

LIAS SAOUDI: (Laughs) I think maybe it’s the film Event Horizon, which is arguably one of the shittiest films ever made.

AUTRE: He was in Possession, have you ever seen that movie?  Sam plays a spy that comes home to his wife who acts increasingly unstable wife who ass him for a divorce, that description doesn’t at all sum up the head fuckery that follows.

LIAS SAOUDI: I’ll have to check that out man.

AUTRE: That’s a good horror movie.

LIAS SAOUDI: He’s in one of the songs. In Satisfied, there’s a lyric in there about Sam Neill working outside or something. It’s fun when you bring things back down to the juvenile level sometimes.

AUTRE: Do you find it difficult to stay out of the bullshit side of the music business?

LIAS SAOUDI: It is weird and it’s slightly disturbing when what you do as a bunch of friends; living together in a shitty house; suddenly becomes your bread and butter. It’s something you just kind of have to get a grip on so you don’t have to go back to making pizzas or whatever. There’s an element of anxiety there. You’ve been struggling and then you get a little bit of a break, and then you have to grapple with how making art is an economic act whether you like it or not. You have to accept that.

I try to get at a part of that on the record, by talking about the relationship between Ike and Tina Turner. Just how in a way everybody kind of endorsed the violence that took part as a fan and a listener of the music. It’s in there.

AUTRE: It is interesting with Ike and Tina though because those songs are so beautiful but you can hear the tension between them. Or you go listen to old Phil Spector productions or something and they sound so perfect and pretty but then you realize that the guy who’s making them is quite psychotic really. It gives everything an interesting spin.

LIAS SAOUDI: It’s a brutal dichotomy and it’s something which you kind of find yourself in all of a sudden. As far as it being a business, and you have all these people around you, and you have to decide which you trust and which you don’t. There’s things that go wrong and it’s difficult but that’s the reality of the situation.

AUTRE: It must be even more frightening because Fat White Family does have potential to become quite a big rock band.

LIAS SAOUDI: I mean maybe, I don’t know. I’ll take what I can get. The more people that listen to it the better

AUTRE: Are there any other bands these days that you find to be adequate if not pretty great?

LIAS SAOUDI: There’s a couple of really great bands kicking around. There’s a band called Meat Raffle who are a new band just putting out their first release, but they’re worth checking out. I’m a fan of the Sleaford Mods I think they’re really good.

AUTRE: Oh yeah I like their new record a lot.

LIAS SAOUDI: It’s funny and it’s brutal and it’s full of the right kind of spite. It revels in its own authentic misery, and I think that puts the fear into all the right people. That’s the ultimate kind of process. You can just kind of dance to the pain, and that’s what it sounds like to me.

AUTRE: So are you guys going to be touring the states on this new record?

LIAS SAOUDI: Yeah we’ll be over there. Our management is based in LA now so they’ll be really key in getting us over there. I imagine quite a bit in the next year. I think March, and then maybe later on in the year. I like to spend time over there, although touring is a bit tough. It’s a lot of fucking driving and a lot of shitty food. It’s that whole middle bit, which is quite a big bit, it’s pretty tough to get in the van and drive around and do shows. But once you get to the big cities its always fantastic you know?

AUTRE: Yeah. Alright man, I can’t wait to see you guys next time you come to New York, it was a pleasure speaking with you. Good luck and congratulations!

LIAS SAOUDI: Cheers man! 

Fat White Family's new album 'Songs For Our Mothers' is out today via Without Consent/Fat Possum Records, purchase here. Watch the music video for Whitest Boy On The Beach here. Text and interview by Adam Lehrer. Photographs by Flo Kohl, shot on location in London. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Leading The Hip-Hop Renaissance: A Conversation With Viper Magazine Publisher Lily Mercer On The New Golden Age of Hip-Hop

I’m one of those weirdoes who actually gets excited for the weeks when new magazines drop. I get my art fix with Juxtapoz and ArtForum. Politics get imbibed with the New Yorker and the Atlantic. The need for weed is expressed through Heads. Fashion frenzies with Purple and Arena Homme+. Rock n’ rolling with Mojo. Freaking out in experimental music with the Wire. But it wasn’t until this past summer when I discovered a thick UK-based magazine called Viper that I’d get to read about hip-hop in an intelligent and creative manner (the Source isn’t really doing the trick anymore).

That issue, the Spring/Summer 2015, immediately spoke to me. A fantastic block letter logo emblazoned upon a cover depicting two of the best MCs on the planet, Earl Sweatshirt and Vince Staples. On the inside, I found a magazine that was creatively akin to much missed culture and fashion magazines like Index and the Face. It isn’t just about the music; it examines hip-hop as a culture and a lifestyle. There was an ode to the late A$AP Yams. There was an examination of the cultural and fashion impact of FILA. A photo series documented the migrant crisis of Greece. Not to mention, articles on some of hip-hop’s most under-praised and creatively fertile artists: Milkaveli, Earth Gang, and the aforementioned Earl and Vince. Here was a magazine that gave life to the love that hip-hop inspires. This magazine, revolutionary in its impact to the culture it targets, is the brainchild of the young North London-hailing music journalist Lily Mercer.

Mercer was studying fashion journalism before growing disenchanted with the industry, generating a knack for interviewing rappers. Quickly she found herself generating bylines with respected music rags like Noisey and Clash. Noted for her taste making talents, she was given her own radio show through Rinse FM, The Lily Mercer Show, that airs Monday morning from 1 to 3 am where she breaks grime artists and Chicago MCs on a regular basis. Viper Mag was unleashed upon the world as a 50-page zine in 2013. It was born out of frustration. Mercer wanted to read the magazine that the hip-hop community deserved. So, in a naively punk manner, she did it her fucking self. “I was trying to find a magazine that I enjoyed reading, and there were none,” says Mercer. “So, I made my own. And we are all the luckier for it.”

The magazine is now 150 pages deep and holds an accompanying website that is updated daily. Mercer also keeps a personal blog where she espouses on all manner of her ideas and beliefs. It is no small feat becoming a personal brand in the world of journalism (I should fucking know, believe me), so it’s all the more impressive that Mercer has become something of a celebrity in her own right. She has done so through buckets of knowledge, insane enthusiasm, and an unbridled work ethic that flips millennial stereotypes on their heads.

Holding my Earl/Staples issue of Viper, I gave Mercer a ring on Skype. We had a wonderful conversation spanning her career in hip-hop, fashion and hip-hop, hip-hop culture, hip-hop politics, and lots of other things hip-hop. Enjoy.

Adam Lehrer: We always talk about Golden Ages of hip-hop—, late ‘80s, mid-90s. But people never seem to realize that they’re living in a Golden Age. Do you think we’re living in a Golden Age of hip-hop right now?

Lily Mercer: I do. For me, it started in 2010. Now, I look at the artists I listen to. The only thing I would wonder about is the longevity. I don’t know if they are lyrically better artists, but for me, there are way more interesting artists now.

AL: There are your Kendricks and your Earls, but hip-hop has gotten more adventurous sonically. I like shit from the bottom up—from Dr. Yen Lo on the underground, to the stuff that Future put out this year in the mainstream. The pop artists and the underground artists are all good.

LM: I agree. When an artist like Kendrick gets to the level where he is now, that’s when you realize how many new artists are out there.

AL: Do you remember the moment you fell in love with hip-hop?

LM: Yeah. There were two songs. One was “Wishing on a Star” by Jay-Z. Weirdly, that’s the Jay-Z [track] that no one thinks of. My mum had grown up playing Motown, so there was a soul connection. It was hearing a song that was accessible but also quite deep. To me, those songs were quite profound at eight years old. After, when [rap] became an obsession, was when Eminem came out. That was a gateway drug. He’s a white rapper with middle class parents. I was a middle class kid, so it was the kind of hip-hop that was acceptable.

AL: There was an interview the other day with Vince Staples and Mac Miller, talking about the difference between white rappers and white guys who rap. White rappers come with all the stereotypes. White guys who rap are the guys who do it and respect the culture and the history.

LM: I’ve always said I’m quite racist because I never liked white rappers much. I didn’t actually listen to Mac Miller until recently. I do like his music now. I don’t know why I don’t listen to white rappers as much. This might sound weird, but white people in the industry don’t like other white people in the industry. There’s only one person around in this clique. You sit outside; I’m in this crew. They get cold towards you. I never understood that, but maybe that’s why.

AL: How did you realize you wanted to be on the editorial side of the industry, as opposed to making music or working in publicity?

LM: I’m musically disabled. I can’t read music. I can’t count beats. You would be surprised how little I know about the technical side of music. The business side can be shady, so I didn’t want to get into the business side of the industry.

As a five-year-old child, I was collecting magazines. Then, I ended up at fashion school doing fashion journalism. As soon as I finished, I thought about how much you could spend on a handbag, and I fell out of love with fashion. I graduated, then, literally a month later, I started interviewing rappers. I could create the images and the writing with authority.

AL: That’s interesting that you fell out of love with fashion. What was your relationship to fashion before?

LM: I always loved fashion. At age 5, I was dressing myself. My mum taught me how to sew. I always wanted to be a fashion designer. I met Alexander McQueen when I was about 14. I was out drinking one night (the drinking is 18, but we used to get away with it much younger).  I just went over to him and said, “You’re my favorite. I love you.” It sounds weird, but if I had become a fashion designer, I would want to be better than Alexander McQueen. And that’s impossible. There was nothing I had to offer the fashion world.

AL: Fashion is weird for me. I come at it from more of a music angle. I didn’t know about it brand-wise until Kanye West lyrics, to be honest.

LM: It’s funny, I used to dress like A$AP Rocky before A$AP Rocky. I thought, “These rappers are getting into fashion.” I think it’s a good thing for the fashion industry. The fashion industry benefits more than the music industry does.

AL: It’s crazy. You see men wearing Rick Owens’ dresses because A$AP Rocky said they look cool in a song.

LM: Especially with the whole skinny jeans thing. it was so skinny, then it went to baggy, then it was back to skinny. More than fashion, I’m really into street fashion and street culture. In London, we have a very large Caribbean community. Growing up in East London, the best-dressed men were Jamaican. If you asked me my fashion icon when I was growing up, it would have been Ghostface, with the gold, the Wonder Woman bracelet.

AL: Ghostface is my favorite MC of all time.

LM: Me too. He might as well be number one, because he’s all around—lyrics, interests. His imagination is cool. The way he speaks to people is amazing.

AL: It’s interesting, he’s hyper-literate with his lyrics, but in interviews, I can’t always understand him.

LM: One of my worst/best interviews was with him. It was in a caravan before he went on stage. He basically said I had two minutes. And I thought, “What am I going to do in two minutes?” He looks at me and says, “Are you going to start?” As soon as he said that, I snapped at him and said, “No, you’ve given me two minutes, what the fuck am I supposed to do?” He started smiling, and went from being in a really bad mood to being happy. Two days later, my friend saw him in the airport, and he said, “Oh, your friend was that cool blonde girl.” I can die happy now.

AL: You clearly are internet-savvy. How did you start to learn the power of the Internet? When did you realize how powerful it could be?

LM: It was all in building my own website. I’m not totally [internet] literate, I’m still figuring things out. It took me years to figure out how to use the Twitter handle properly. I’ve never tried to get followers out of anything. I’ve always been quite natural about it. Being a broke journalist, the Internet has made my career in London. If I were into rappers ten years ago, I wouldn’t have anywhere to go. The blog and Twitter have given me a bit of a following.

AL: How did the Lily Mercer Show, your radio show, come into fruition?

LM: It’s funny, I never thought I would do radio. But I was living in Queens. I got a DM on Twitter from this girl asking, “Did you ever think about having your own radio show?” She really knew about the artists I was playing, when no one else knew about them. These weren’t big people yet; they were really just my friends. She thought that would translate well into a radio show. I thought about staying in New York, because that’s where a lot of new things were happening. But when I got back to the UK and started working with Rinse, they asked me to do the show by myself. That was the summer of 2012. The show has been weekly since February 2013, which is crazy.

Nobody knows how big Rinse is in the UK: dubstep, grime, jungle, garage—all these really significant movements that were happening in the UK were broadcasted by Rinse when it was illegal. It was an illegal pirate radio station. They were literally climbing up random rooftops to get it broadcasted. That’s the most rebellious thing in the world. I love being on a stage with that history.

AL: Do you find that it was just really good timing, and that the show came into being just as Skepta and Novelist and all these guys were taking off?

LM: It was. You could hear people like Wiley and Skepta all over when it was still illegal. A lot of [grime artists] are managed by the station, actually. I was playing people Chance the Rapper and Tinashe two or three years ago. I started playing Kali Uchis on Rinse in the beginning of 2014, and she was on the Viper cover. Now, she’s got an album deal.

AL: I am a huge fan of Viper Magazine. What were the magazine’s origins?

LM: Basically, the first issue of Viper was a 50-page zine. That was our way of showing the world what we were going to do. Then, the next issue came about six months later. It was a full print magazine with 150 pages. It took me about nine months to plan it all out. I spent a lot of time figuring out 1. how to market it, 2. who I would want to put in the magazine, and 3. the actual logistics of it. It was ridiculous. When I did it, I was quite naïve. I didn’t realize how much work it is.

AL: You kind of have to be, right?

LM: Oh, yeah. I never would have done it otherwise. I made the magazine out of frustration.

AL: It reminds me of what The Face was for the fashion world, but for hip-hop. It’s writing about something that people might not take seriously, but in the culture that it exists in, it’s taken very seriously. But it’s still fun and enjoyable to read.

LM: The dream was to have it like that. I was buying Face in the last few years of it. That magazine killed itself well; it ended as one of those legendary magazines. Unfortunately, we’ve fallen into a bad state of journalism. Viper is as much about lifestyle as it is about music.

I remember reading about the crack epidemic and homelessness in hip-hop magazines. For the very first issue of Viper, the zine, I wrote a piece called “The Sound of Chiraq.” This was the end of 2013. It was basically asking, “Why are we so focused on the violence and not the incredible music that’s coming out of that city?” There were really poor documentaries that came out about Chiraq after that. Yesterday, I interview Saba, who is from Chicago. He was saying, “I don’t know why people don’t pay more attention to the music.” It’s still such a relevant topic now.

AL: Vince Staples was asked if people take hip-hop too seriously. He was like, “are you kidding me? Hip-hop isn’t taken seriously enough.” He said it’s the most important popular art form in the world right now. I totally agree. It reaches the most people and still says the most things.

LM: I agree. Vince is one of the best. He does something that’s really difficult—managing really difficult things in between things that are quite funny. You might not understand what he’s saying, but you’re aware of it. Earl does it really well. In “Hive,” he says something like, “It’s lead in that baby food,” and I thought, he’s talking about that thing in India. I recently watched a documentary on Tupac, and he says some things that are so explosive. He’s the last revolutionary musician we’ve had. He’s the last Bob Marley. He was the last guy to say something against the government. Kanye tried to do it. Somebody is going to stand up. Maybe it’s Vince, someone with the balls to say the things he does.

AL: It seems like the better fashion, art, and music journalism is coming out of London. There’s Viper for hip-hop. You have i-D and Dazed. In the US, everything is just a print version of Buzzfeed. Why do you think you guys are still able to maintain business models while writing about things that are interesting?

LM: I will say one thing: Rupert Murdoch bought Vice, and then he bought i-D. It’s genius. He can control the next generation. Young people go to Vice to feel intelligent, but they have no idea it’s owned by Murdoch. That’s not to say it’s going to become totally right wing. Besides that, London doesn’t have conglomerates. It’s easier to be independent.

On the other side, the English mentality has always been quite revolutionary and anarchist. I feel we have so much revolutionary history in our country. And a huge part of that is immigration. That’s what made the country. London is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world. I’ve spent time in New York and LA, and they are still quite segregated cities. London is not like that.

The music scene is really exciting in England. Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix—they all lived in London for certain parts of their life.

AL: Hendrix became Hendrix in England.

LM: There’s something about this tiny island that’s in the middle of everything, but at the same time, is entirely its own. As close as we are to European cities, we don’t have the same lifestyle. I do feel that growing up in London, we have a real chip on our shoulder. You get these people who are really tough and moody, but who also have a sense of humor. There’s something about British culture that’s quite rebellious.

AL: Is there a single article you’re most proud of at this point?

LM: Oh, that’s hard, because I also wrote a really great article on the sexualization of men. It wasn’t a huge feminist statement, but I just wanted to write a piece that balances out the double standard. It started when a friend of mine didn’t believe that women watched porn. Like, women can be really sexual people, but at the same time it’s like, “You can’t touch me. You can’t say sexual things to me.” My friends and I will be like, “Oh, look at that guy,” but if a guy did that to us, we’d be offended.

But the Mick Jenkins article, I asked him, “What’s the biggest conflict in your life?” He said, “White people saying the N word at my shows.” Immediately, that opened the floodgates. We talked about really crazy things. He actually went in on Vice, about the Chiraq thing, and the way the mainstream media focusing on the (Chicago] violence. I don’t know why it’s my favorite. He made me feel like I could contribute a lot of my personal opinion on things.

Outside of that, I think probably my Nas cover interview for Clash. One, it was my first ever cover story. Two, there was so much room for me to say what I wanted to. I told his entire backstory.

AL: Rappers can be rather prickly. Do you have any interviewing tricks that you use to disarm a subject?

LM: Method Man and Ghostface were probably the hardest. I interviewed Method Man and Masta Killa at the same time, and then U-God and GZA that same day. I previously interviewed Rae and RZA, so I had done almost the whole Clan. That was sick. The first was Method Man. The people who had come in before me had given him books, so the entire time he was reading through a book. It was the worst thing in the world. I found him to be really defensive. I said something about the origins of the gangs in Staten Island, and he was saying, “We weren’t a gang.” Finally, at the end, we talked about his film How High and how everyone thought they were high and not actually acting. Finally, he looks me in the eye and says, “Yeah.” That was it—I got on his side.

I also think eye contact is the most important thing in the world. If I can’t make eye contact with someone, I’m not engaging.

I also find that a good question to ask anyone is, “What’s your favorite animal?” I never open with it. But when you ask disarming questions that aren’t about music, people open up a little bit. They become more human.

AL: Top 5 rappers?

LM: I would say in terms of legend figures, Ghostface is number one. Nas has to be in there, because he’s Nas. I really like Sticky Fingaz, which is a rare one. MF Doom. I’m not even going to say B.I.G. and Tupac, because that’s a given. The fifth one is really fucking hard. I might say Big L. He was so slick.

Learn more about Lily Mercer at www.lilymercer.co.uk and read Viper at www.vipermag.com. Text and interview by Adam Lehrer. Photographs by Flo Kohl. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

A Bromance In Vinyl: An Interview With Elijah Wood and Zach Cowie of The DJ Duo Wooden Wisdom

photograph by Kenneth Bachor

text and interview by Scout MacEachron


At first nobody noticed when Elijah Wood and Zach Cowie began playing music. In those moments the duo had everything they wanted; anonymity, influence and unmediated feeling. Wooden Wisdom, the Wood Cowie DJ duo, was playing the Art Basel party Illuminate the Night at the unfinished Brickell City Center in Miami.

Then people did notice; women in ball gowns, 20-somethings in dresses a mother wouldn’t approve of, Miami types, men in whatever men wear to these things. The DJ booth was surrounded. The crowd gathered it does on a major subway line during rush hour: relentlessly, unpleasantly and pathetically.

It didn’t seem to matter that they were interrupted every minute so some partygoer could take a picture with Elijah Wood. It didn’t matter that the police put up a metal barricade half way through the set because people wouldn’t stop taking goddam selfies with Elijah Wood. It didn’t matter that most weren’t there to listen to music. What mattered to the two men was what they were playing music. And they were good, artfully leaping between disco, rock, house, jazz, funk and more. Wooden Wisdom’s style isn’t assault (like the DJs at MDMA fueled festivals) so much as warm suggestion. Wood and Cowie play what they want to play and it’s up to the listener to take it from there.

The duo met at a party in 2011. Wood spontaneously joined Cowie for a set and they’ve been spinning side by side almost ever since. Their first official tour was in January of 2015. Wood began mixing during long stretches on set in New Zealand; he was bored and had a lot of CDs. Cowie has been in the music business since anyone can remember, first as a record label guy then as a DJ. They share an obsession with the hunt for new music, old music, really any music they haven’t heard and Vinyl. They get each other and when on stage communicate without saying anything (a gift only the strongest artistic partnerships possess). They know that they get attention because of Wood’s fame but they don’t really think about that. For them it’s about the flow and selection that is DJ’ing, not image. Their passion is intrinsic. So much so that in a room of 400 flash-hungry Basel attendees if you listened closely, really closely, all you could hear is the music. In the following interview, Autre chats with the duo about their musical obsessions.

AUTRE: We’ll start with a boring question. How did you guys end up here, at Basel?

ELIJAH WOOD: We played a gig almost a year ago here at Bardot and I believe it was through that promoter. He kind of put us up for this. Is that right?

ZACH COWIE: I think that’s right.

AUTRE: So music and DJ’ing are clearly both art forms. For you two, as a team, what do you see as the specific artistry in DJ’ing? In mixing songs, in being up there, in selecting songs, in interacting with the crowd…

WOOD: It’s selection I think and mixing. But really it’s selection. I think that’s what sets any DJ apart from anyone else at its core.

AUTRE: The songs that you select?

WOOD & COWIE simultaneously: Yep, yeah.

AUTRE: So how do you two select?

WOOD: Prior to any gig, or if we’re going on the road for a small portion of time we’ll often just have a conversation about what we want to put in our bag. What we’re kind of feeling and that will sort of set the tone. Then we’ll pull based on those ideas. Then we’ve got kind of a basic very broad statement that we can kind of work within.

COWIE: Read the crowd, work around with it.

AUTRE: So do you plan out what you’re going to play?

COWIE: Nooo.

WOOD: No. We bring enough records that we don’t have to. We can kind of play it very organically.

COWIE: Yeah, and I think the beginning of the record pull is just the stuff we really want to hear today. Personally that’s how I pull all my bags and records. I start with the empty bag and I put in like 3 things that I really want to hear right now and I try and compliment those things with other stuff in our collection. And our tastes are so similar that they usually come pretty close. In fact we generally will be bringing a lot of the same records accidentally. [Both laugh]

AUTRE: When you say bag, do you mean an actual bag?

WOOD: Yep.

COWIE: Yeah, yeah we just play records so we don’t use the…

AUTRE: Right you guys just play records?

WOOD: Yeah, yeah. So they’re just like these travel bags…

COWIE: Flight cases.

AUTRE: So I know you’ve been asked this before but why just vinyl?

WOOD: [Zach] started with vinyl. I didn’t actually. I started with CDs and then ultimately iPod for a long time. So for me the difference is it’s active. It’s tactile, it’s physical.

COWIE: And a lot can go wrong.

WOOD: Yeah. And there are so many variables that can get fucked up over the course of an evening playing with records that it causes, it causes you to be fully active at all times and that’s something… you’re engaged, you’re constantly engaged. It’s a far more enjoyable experience from a technical standpoint. And it also sounds really good. It’s real, it’s physical.

AUTRE: So how do you deal with those mess-ups or accidents or whatever goes wrong?

WOOD: Pull another record.

COWIE: Pull another record. It’s stuff like that that makes everybody know they’re alive which, I think that’s… that’s where it’s at for me.

WOOD: The imperfections.

COWIE: The imperfections are the important part. If you’re listening to somebody on CDJs or something it’s like somebody is just tapping you on the shoulder at a steady beat for an entire night.

WOOD: And I also think that for me coming from having played with CDJs for a long time just for fun…. My problem with digital and the reason I moved away from it is that there are too many choices. I like having a finite amount of choices. When we pull records for a gig or for a two-week thing we’re pulling a finite amount of music that’s really specific. It’s broad but it’s specific.

"At a certain point when there’s a sweet spot. I feel like I’m in the music. I’m not really in the crowd I’m in the music. When it’s going really well that’s the universe I’m in and that is a really incredible feeling."

AUTRE: Finite in sense of the time?

WOOD: No, finite in terms of the physical space of the bag. So with a laptop or USB stick you have an infinite amount of choice and I think that that’s not necessarily a good thing. I love having parameters and working within those parameters. See what I mean?

AUTRE: Absolutely.

COWIE: There’s a DJ that I, that we both, love named Theo Parrish. I watched a documentary where he said that he’s never been comfortable trading artistry for convenience. That’s my favorite quote about that. We love records. That’s why we do all of this is to go out and find records, play records. It’s like, if it’s not in my hands I don’t feel like it’s a real thing.

AUTRE: Do you spend a lot of time… do you go to record shops and dig?

COWIE: All the time. All day, every day.

WOOD: Between record shops and Discogs and…

COWIE: I was buying stuff online on the ride over here. [Both laugh]

AUTRE: How do you feel physically and emotionally when you’re on stage and holding a crowd in your hands?

WOOD: Some of the greatest moments…

COWIE: It’s super fun but I also don’t really think about it.

AUTRE: Really? You just get in to it and don’t…

WOOD: Yeah, I think when you’re actually in the zone you’re not thinking about the audience. You’re kind of thinking about… for us, I don’t know maybe I’m speaking for myself. At a certain point when there’s a sweet spot. I feel like I’m in the music. I’m not really in the crowd I’m in the music. When it’s going really well that’s the universe I’m in and that is a really incredible feeling.

AUTRE: Kind of like Malcom Gladwell’s concept of flow.

COWIE: It is a flow state. It’s 100% flow. I know the day that I hit 10,000, it’s weird. It’s a real thing.

AUTRE: You just had a sense or you actually counted?

COWIE: No I just… there was a day when I stopped having to think about all the technicalities and only think about music. Like a guitar player doesn’t have to look at the neck of his guitar anymore. It was a cool moment. [Laughs]

AUTRE: How does feeling out the crowd and feeling their mood change what you play? Do you just feel it? Is there a zone?

WOOD: Yeah.

COWIE: Yeah. You can tell when something’s bombing. There’s just a vibe. And on the other hand you can tell when something’s really working. We try and act fast to compliment the stuff that’s working.

AUTRE: How do you guys work together or communicate when you’re on stage?

COWIE: Well we’re standing right next to each other so…

AUTRE: But I mean do you both control what’s playing? Do you look at each other before switching songs?

WOOD: No, there’s not a lot of conversation.

COWIE: We’ll we can’t hear each other because it’s so loud.

AUTRE: Do you wear headphones?

WOOD: We do wear headphones, yeah.

COWIE: We’ll just be like holding stuff up at each other and being like…

WOOD: Well if he’s got a good idea yeah he’ll throw something out and be like, “Do you wanna do this next.” But oftentimes we’re not even sharing what we’re going to do next except for the occasional glance over. It’s happening as it’s happening and there’s not a whole lot of conversation except for ‘that was awesome.’ [Both laugh]

COWIE: [Laughing] ‘That one’s really good, where did you buy that?’

WOOD: Or ‘can I take a photo of your record.’

COWIE: [Laughing] Exactly.

AUTRE: Last question. What do you want people to feel or experience while listening to you DJ and watching you on stage?

COWIE: I just want everybody to love music and to be inspired to go out and find records that they love. That’s all you know? It’s all music. I don’t want them to pay attention to us.

WOOD: Not at all.

COWIE: I just want them to love the music.

WOOD: I think we’d be really happy if we were in a box.

COWIE: Behind a brick wall.

WOOD: Honestly we don’t really like… sometimes we get put on stage and there’s lights focused on us and we don’t really love that because it becomes about something else. We’d be way happier tucked away and if it’s just about the notion of people focusing on the music. But I mean for people the takeaway… if people hear something that we’ve played and it inspires them to seek it out and they’ve heard something they’ve never heard before, that’s a really wonderful thing to try and impart on people.

You can follow Elijah Wood on Facebook and Zach Cowie on Twitter. Text and interview by Scout MacEachron. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Aarhus Is On Fire: An Interview With Danish Band On The Rise, Liss

Put a ‘B’ in front of Danish band Liss’ name and you have the perfect description of their unique, blissed out sound. Comprised of four teenagers from Aarhus (which is a little bit like the New Orleans of Denmark), Liss sounds like an amalgam of Arthur Russell angst and 90s R&B.  Currently, Liss – who are on the Escho label (known for introducing Iceage and KLoAK to the world) – is making waves on the international music scene, and it is only a matter of time before they blow up in the States. In the following interview, Søren Holm, Vilhelm Strange, Villads Tyrrestrup, and Tobias Hansen chat with Autre about musical upbringing, their unique sound and their new single, which will be released at the end of this month. Also, listen to their incredible track, Always, at the end of the interview. 

Autre: How did all of you guys meet each other and did you know right away that you wanted to make music together?

Tobias: Villads and I met each other at a music school we went to. Since that we've been playing a lot together. I knew Vilhelm a bit and had heard some music he had made with Søren which I really liked and we agreed to meet in me and Villads' rehearsal space to try something out. So I guess so. 

Autre: Growing up in Denmark, how did you gain access to music and what music were you listening to that inspired you the most?

Søren: By my older siblings, who introduced me to, for example Björk, Massive Attack and Prince - All the classics… And I guess that those are the ones who still inspire me the most musically today, but there is a lot of new music that also inspires me… I like all sorts of music. 

Tobias: My dad is a music teacher and he always played me a lot of music, so I think mostly through him. Also when I was little one of my dad’s good friends who lived in our neighborhood used to burn CDs for me with all kinds of music I should hear. It was music like Beastie Boys, Sex Pistols and Daft Punk - I remember listening a lot to that stuff. 

Vilhelm: My father was a big jazz fan back in the day, but he kind of gave up on listening to records when he got kids I think. I learned to play guitar through my brothers, and when I was around 13 I bought my brother's Stratocaster. I think the biggest musical influence I've had was when I discovered Radiohead and Portishead years ago. It kind of introduced me to pop music in some way...

Villads: Pretty similar for me. My dad is a music teacher and he played me a lot of his records. 

Autre: Do any of you have musical backgrounds….I know that in some countries, musical training is required in the curriculum?

Villads: I had quite a lot to do with music in school.

Søren: No, I started playing piano a few months before I met the other guys. 

Autre: Your sound has been described as “Nordic soul” – what is Nordic soul in your own words and would you use any other descriptions to define your sound?

Tobias: I don't really think we are Nordic soul. It's difficult to put a stamp on your own music but I guess we make pop in a way. 

Vilhelm: I think it’s always pretty hard to define your own music, it’s always easier for the observers of course. I usually tell other people we play pop music if they ask. Pop is such a broad concept - in my opinion it has no limits.

Autre: Are your parents supportive of what you are doing – it seems like they would be with all the attention you have been getting?

Søren: Yes, they are very proud, and they have been supportive from the start.  

Villads: My parents have always been supporting me musically

Autre: Most of your lyrics are in English…was their a conscious decision to sing in English versus Danish?

Søren: I've mostly been listening to music with English lyrics, so it just felt natural. 

Autre: What are some of your favorite things to do in Aarhus?

Søren: Aarhus is great because when I’m in town I get to visit my friends and girlfriend. 

Villads: I like to cycle.

Vilhelm: Hanging around the parks in the summer. Aarhus has some really great parks.

Autre: What do you want American fans to know most about your band?

Villads: That we really want to play for you all, and we hope it’s gonna happen sometime. I guess for all musicians in Denmark playing in America is a really big thing.

Autre: Where do you see yourselves in ten years?

Villads: I see myself in a bigger city but I don’t know if it’s Copenhagen or somewhere else. And I hope and think Liss will still exist at that point. 

Søren: Hopefully still evolving musically.

Autre: What’s next? 

Tobias: We are working on an EP right now, which will be out soon, hopefully. And then continue to write songs and do concerts.

Vilhelm: We’ve been using a lot of time finishing songs for the last few weeks, so I can’t wait to get back to writing new stuff.

You can preorder Liss' limited 7" single here with tracks Always and Try. You can also purchase digitally here. Keep up with tour dates here. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

The New Funkadelic Revival: An Interview With Boulevards' Jamil Rashad On Bringing Funk Back To The People

“Funk is the DNA for hip hop,” George Clinton once said in a television interview, when asked why his music had such staying power. It’s true, funk music is the double helix of sorts for the hip hop that rose from the streets to the top of the record label chain and to a sort of a blanketed commerciality that makes the rap music of today seem very watered down. This is where Boulevards comes in – not only are they bringing back the downhome funkiness of hip hop, they are also making funk music for the 21st century, which is amazing. The best part is that it’s being made from scratch. Today, Boulevards is releasing a self titled EP with four beautifully produced tracks that are awash with tectonic plate shifting beats and a driving, panther-like sexuality. It’s the kind of music that elicits the kind of dancing that might get you arrested. Boulevards is essentially a one man band – North Carolina native Jamil Rashad – son of a jazz radio DJ who grew up listening to the kind of music that would shape his future musical endeavors: jazz, blues, R&B and, of course, funk. Rashad also went to art school and has an affinity for punk and hardcore music. Autre got a chance to ask Rashad a few questions, about his upbringing, his musical taste and about bringing funk back to the people.  

OLIVER KUPPER: I know your father was a jazz radio DJ, do you remember any specific musical artists that you were really inspired by growing up?

JAMIL RASHAD: When I was younger, a lot of the artists were Earth Wind and Fire, Kool and the Gang, Prince, Rick James, Miles Davis, James Brown and Con Funk Shun – a lot of Philly soul as well since my father grew up in Philly.

OK: When did you realize that you wanted to make music…was there a specific moment or did everything lead up to it?

JR: I mean I was 16, maybe 12, I used to write poetry. Those poetry lines turned into raps. I used to freestyle with kids in the bathroom and back of class. So in that moment I knew I wanted to do something with music, I just didn't know how.

OK: You gravitate a lot towards funk music…what is it about funk that moves you so much?

JR: Funk music is special. I love the complexity but simpleness about it. The style, the songwriting and how it crosses over to mainstream. I enjoy the syncopation of the instrumentation, the bass lines and some slap bass. But when It comes down to it, it's the grooves that I love so much and the way it makes me feel personally when I'm on the dance floor. My parents, your parents had funk music when they were growing up for their generation. Now I'm going to bring that feeling back for this generation. People want the funk.

OK: It seems sort of incongruous that you got into punk and hardcore…was that a phase or do you still have a little bit of that punk ethos?

JR: It wasn't a phase, I still listen to some hardcore bands and punk bands. I guess I always enjoyed the energy of their live shows and their instrumentation of music as well. It has always interested me and still does.

OK: What was the scene like in North Carolina….was it a strong hipster scene or cool kid scene?

JR: Raleigh is my home. Its not about being hip or cool. We are just us. We enjoy music, we enjoy live music, we enjoy new things, we enjoy being us and that's what makes Raleigh a special place. So much talent there. So many great things happening.

"My parents, your parents had funk music when they were growing up for their generation. Now Im going to bring that feeling back for this generation. People want the funk."

OK: Let’s talk about your personal fashion sense for a moment, because it's amazing…how would you describe your style?

JR: My style is simple. I'm about just being comfortable. That's really it. My father growing up was a big influence.

OK: Jumping back to your music…your new album is coming out, how would you describe this record?

JR: The EP is cool. I released the songs on my own label, Dontfunkwithme Records. Just have some jams I worked on with some of my favorite producers, Taste Nasa, Isaac Galvez and Rollergirl. They understand the funk. But it's a taste for what's to come in 2016 and beyond. I just want to create infectious jams for the dance floor.

OK: Listening to the track Honesty, it seems like you add a little fade out at the end that encourages DJs to mix it into their rotation, do you see people dancing the night away to your music?

JR: Thank you for that!! I've always wanted people to dance and feel good when they listen to my music. That's all I want. That's why I create the jams, so you can dance the night away with your friends, family and significant other.

OK: What’s next? 

JR: What's next? Just working on new music!! Creating the best music I can create to my ability.

Click here to download the digital edition of Boulevards' self-titled EP here - and the physical version here. Boulevards will also be making a few exciting live appearances in New York in November - more here. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper