"The best advice you can give anyone who is meeting people is just be a good listener and don’t have bad breath"
by Nick Keppler
My boyfriend works a minimum wage job that leaves him a lot of time for his band. While this was attractive to me when we were in our early 20s, a few years have gone by and now I’m thinking about home ownership and kids and long-term plans. We don’t have enough money for any of that. Should I tell him to drop the band and focus on a career?
People have to do what their dream is. I think if he’s really, really an artist and really into it, there is no way of stopping him from doing that.
I’m sort of a weirdo. I’m into cosplay and the Ren Fair and building art assemblages in my backyard. I found a woman who thinks all of that is endearing but she asks me to downplay it when I’m around her friends or parents, or at least to take off my steam punk goggles when we go out to dinner. I guess that’s not unreasonable but I feel like she is embarrassed by me. Should I be worried?
Different people get off on different things. I think people can love you and still be embarrassed by you. Maybe what you like about her is that she is not as freaky as you. You’ll just have to try to get along with each other and see what happens. I would hope in the big picture she would think, “What do I care what people think? What’s there to be embarrassed about?” but easy for me to say. Don’t worry yet would be my advice.
"You Lust" is the latest in a line of videos that have used nudity for a surreal, jarring effect. What has been inspiring you to use so much skin recently?
We do a lot of videos but those get a lot more attention than the ones where the band is singing a song or whatever. Even though to us, we just do a bunch of videos and you have to put something in them. We don’t have any limits or any rules. The concept is that Sarah Barthel from Phantogram, the other singer on the track, and I visit this futuristic sex compound where you go into these rooms and you psychically exchange pleasures and pains with some other bunch of freaks, and obviously we are the more conservative ones because we are just sitting in a room, and they’re the weird ones because they are laying there naked with monkeys and frogs running around. We thought it would say something about the inner workings of our minds. The idea that people are naked we don’t really care.
As an artist what effect you think that image of a naked body elicits from the viewer?
You know it just represents people, humanity. It’s not about their hair. It’s not about their clothes. In the Bible, everyone is naked or just has these thin robes. But I don’t think at length about it. For this video, Sarah and I were both going to be naked and we were going to be electrocuted as we were singing the song. But she didn’t want to do that. I didn’t know that until the last second when she said, “I changed my mind. I don’t want to be naked.” Within moments I changed the concept to we’re in a room and they are out there and we’ll have these things over our heads, so it was a lot of panic putting it together, but I think that’s sometimes better. I think if you have too much time to think about things it becomes too logical.
That sounds like something that happened last year when you tried to shoot a video with Erykah Badu naked in a bathtub for your collaboration cover of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” She felt uncomfortable and you hired her sister as a body double, and Erykah was upset when the video was released. Then the video and track were replaced with a new version with Amanda Palmer. What is your side of that?
Well, the Amanda Palmer video is its own video and they‘re not really connected. We did a video for Amanda [“Do It with a Rockstar”] when she told me, “I love that song ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.’ Could I do a version with you?” And then we recorded it there, or maybe she recorded it and sent it to me; I forget. But I have a studio where I put it together and then she wanted to do a video, so I just added that to what we already had. I knew people would say, “Oh, this is Wayne’s answer to the trouble with Erykah Badu,” but it really wasn’t. It was just Amanda’s idea of doing a video because she’s like that and she’s crazy and she’ll get naked. I think when she did it, it really was an ecstatic release. It’s just her in the bathtub feeling overwhelmed.
In the case of Erykah, she just changed her mind. There’s nothing more to it than that. The people who know Erykah know there is no way I could trick her, especially into being naked in front of a camera for 12 hours, and her sister is the same way. When we set out to do it, I told her, “We have to make the ultimate mind-fuck video of all time,” and she said, “Yeah, absolutely,” and she had been naked in her own videos, so I thought we were OK. The video is intense but it’s more absurd and funny than anything else. In the beginning, she really loved it and then I think she got some other people’s opinions about it. So, she changed her mind, and that’s what art is; it’s not a committee of rational people making decisions together. You feel one way one moment and another the next.
The Terror is an incredibly dark album. The songs speak of emotion as a dark burden, about love almost as an explosive device. Did you worry people wouldn’t want to hear that message?
No, I think anybody who has thought deeply about what love is and what emotions are has felt that. There isn’t just one answer that suits you forever. You can think one thing at 2 in the morning and wake up and think another later. Those are both true. To me, a lot of truth about life happens in these grey areas. But I agree that when I hear the album it is some dark, terrifying shit, and I’m OK with that, and we didn’t intend to make an album like that. We just hit on that kind of sound.
I had read that The Terror was inspired by a dark time in your life. Does doing a project like this expel some of the anxiety you sing about or do you just relive it every show?
I didn’t say that. I think people have said that about it. These songs are two years old now and they’re about a certain state of mind. But we’re not in that state of mind all of the time, and I’ve never wanted to be in one mood all of the time.
I haven’t been in a relationship in a few years. I set up an online profile but I can’t seem to get to a second date with anyone. I’m worried I seem anxious and eager and put out a bad vibe. What can I do to seem less anxious and more appealing?
The best advice you can give anyone who is meeting people is just be a good listener and don’t have bad breath and smile a lot. Try to be happy and be fun. Nobody really wants to hear about your problems at length. I would say be a great listener, laugh and don’t worry so much.