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I was into literature first — when I was 12 or 13 — like Henry Miller, Hubert Selby, Marquis de Sade, and various other philosophers. And don’t even ask me where I found these books. I just found them. Then I got into music. And I got into glam music. That was the first music that really spoke to me at that time. It spoke to me, because guys weren’t afraid to look like girls. They were still sexy. Glam was very naughty. That was a real fucking relief against the long-haired, macho bullshit of a lot of music before that.
So, when I first came to New York at 14, it was in the glam phase. The guys that were in New York at that time, like Suicide, these are not normal dudes. I’m not saying there weren’t a lot of macho cock-rock bands, but everybody was doing something very different at that period. So, it didn’t feel so gender-biased. There were a lot of women on the scene, especially with no wave. Mainly a lot of guys would run away from me — but not Lenny Kaye [from Patti Smith Group], he’d always listen to my poetry. I came here to do spoken word, but it didn’t really exist yet. It was past the Beats, beyond Patti Smith — which I thought was just too traditional, and I wanted to do something beyond that. Spoken word, it didn’t really exist. After forming bands to basically get the temper tantrum out of me… even Teenage Jesus, which had half instrumentals. So, here I am wanting to be a spoken word artist, and my first group is half instrumentals — because it was a primal, precise, screaming temper tantrum of anger and hatred against all that was wrong.
I don’t consider myself a musician or an artist. I consider myself a hysterian and a journalist. I use music as a tool to further the words. Words are the most important. Even in a photograph [the titles are the most important]. I’m never going to stop saying what I say. I feel like I have to decode. For some reason, really intelligent women and men, we get into these habitual loops, because trauma lives in the body, and it’s greedy emotions. You can tamp down the behavior that has formed, because of trauma. Even if you’ve done good for ten years, suddenly that little nagging, hungry, greedy demon shadow is going to try to find a way to fuck you up real good again. So, how do you deal with that? Hence, the installation that’s part of my exhibit, You Are Not Safe in Your Own Home. We know the number of children and women that are abused in this country are not safe in their own home. The installation is littered with all of the poetry I wrote, the stories I wrote. It’s filled with the garbage of a relationship that was toxic, but from this garbage dump came a lot of fucking poetry and a lot of song lyrics. And why do I, or any of us, have to go back there over and over again? That’s the place I can create from. I have to question myself about that, too. I guess I have to expose my psychosis in my films, thank you very much, and in Paradoxia, thank you very much. [The installation] is another something that you can meditate in and pray that you’ll never be back in that room again. Or, if you’ve never been there before, you’ll never want to be in another room that smells like that again.
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You just gave me goosebumps. Thank you. Getting goosebumps, that’s called “duende” according to [Federico García] Lorca. Flamenco does it. Whenever I see flamenco, I get goosebumps and just start crying. It’s about an art or poetry that makes your skin crawl in the best possible way. Of course, Lorca was homosexual, a musician, a poet, murdered by Franco, and his body has never been found. The French, they understand the cross-section of attraction, violence, madness, and death. They don’t run from it — because they’re so romantic. And I feel I’m very fucking romantic. It’s just that my romance, like Genet’s, is never publicly pretty. In private I can be very pretty, soft, and all kinds of fucking things in between. Just because I find a need to express publicly the places where enough others just don’t go, doesn’t mean that it’s the beginning and the end of my existence. I’m a musical schizophrenic and a contrarian. I consider my body a hotel where many monsters live. Who you get to play with depends on who wants to come out. On stage, it’s important for me to represent the shadow side, the obsessions, the extremes. It doesn’t mean I’m living them every minute.
I’m going to tell you a quote I dropped to somebody a couple of months ago. I almost hit myself in the head, like, “What, you only articulated that now?” And it was this: sometimes when you need something really tiny and tender, and you don’t get it, it makes you seek something really big, brutal, and ugly. It came out of my mouth, and it just crushed me. The tortured infant denied the affection they needed, which was replaced with something far more sinister, really wants that gentle touch of kindness. If it’s forever not there, you go after the dire opposite hoping maybe to find it in the end. With violent relationships, people are in these loops. It is very hard to break, because there’s a dynamic to it, there’s a victimology to it, there’s a build-up, there’s a psychological chemical escalation that people get hooked on. I admitted in Paradoxia, I’m an adrenaline junkie. These relationships — often they involve drugs and alcohol as well — they’re really based on this chemical imbalance, which escalates in violent relationships.
The other side to this is, some people are just fucking brutal. They’re intense, and they need an intensity that is not found in the average experience, because part of them has already been deadened. They’re flatlining, they’re physically just insensitive. Violence, I’m obsessed with it, I always have been. I don’t ever, in my private life, get very angry at anything. Because my anger is so much grander. I am so accepting of people. Just because you’re being an asshole, doesn’t mean it’s going to hurt me. I’m talking in the emotional sense. I’m so interested in the individual being themselves and seeing where they’re going with how they are, that I’m very nonjudgmental. I’m not easily thrown off. I’ve only felt insulted once in my life, to tell you the truth. Honey, there’s been a lot of hatred in my direction thrown like fucking spears for decades. I just don’t feel it. I don’t take that in. I don’t understand what an insult is, because that’s your opinion. I don’t really care. That’s why I don’t accept fucking comments [online]. Arguments? I just don’t engage.
I never turn the knife against myself. I think with women — and this is also for people who are weird, non-mono gender, or outsiders by nature — are so trained or, I don’t know what the right word is, into judging ourselves and used to being judged on such superficial levels. Being expected to be so nice, so pretty, and so delicate. The insecurity is pounded into us as women, that we’re not good enough. You have to become your own love. You have to be your biggest fan. I’m my biggest fan. I love to tell the audience, “I know you love me, but you’ll never love me as much as I do.” Lack of vanity or insecurity is what ruins so many human beings and prevents them from living a real existence. They’re just cowering, afraid of being compared to the insanely unattainable examples of beauty, wealth, or whatever. We love to promote these examples of celebrities who are so rich for doing nothing other than being celebrities — so surgically enhanced, so show-us-everything-but-tell-us-nothing. You really have to disavow yourself of the cancerous emotions: jealousy, envy, insecurity, guilt. Anything that’s corrosive. I felt jealous one time in my life, and it was so poisonous. I’m glad I felt it. I think my advantage was, I just turned the knife always outward. I never felt I did anything wrong. I never felt guilty for my behavior — even though I did anything I fucking wanted to, and I still do. I never want to wound anyone for my behavior. I want everybody to do exactly what they want to do.
We gotta get through to the other side. Just like the way that junkies and alcoholics have to bottom out, otherwise you’re just skidding on this perpetual… you’re straddling the divide. I’m just describing a different kind of addiction. I’m describing an addiction to adrenaline. It’s a very specific zone I’m talking about, and to a very specific group of people. This is why I have a salon mentality. I’m surprised there’s anybody ever at my shows. I’m glad they do [come], but I would still do it if they didn’t come. To me it’s best to be in a room with 50 people or less. That’s… amazing. I want to look into everybody’s eyes. I don’t want anybody there that doesn’t get what I’m fucking doing. What’s the fucking point? Preaching to the choir? Yes, exactly what I like to do — those that want to hear it.
A few things. I feel strangely so clean, it’s bizarre. I feel really compassionate. Teenage Jesus came out of the gate throwing a fucking temper tantrum. I didn’t want to engage. That’s one reason I quit 8-Eyed Spy. People were looking at me the wrong way. It’s like, “Don’t fucking look at me like that. You think you get this? You think you like me? Fuck you.” Ultimately, especially with the spoken word, it’s always very important that I can look into people’s eyes, because I want to penetrate and pull out some poison. It’s why many people need to come up and hug me after my shows. I feel like I’m Mother India, which is great. That’s why they’re there. It may appear like tough love, because I’m aggressively articulating everything I do, but they know it’s not against them. This is another reason why I like to fucking rock and why I have Retrovirus. That really balances me. It’s really fun to rock. I’m not sitting here obsessed with the apocalypse every minute of my life. I’m laughing. My mantra for decades has been, “Pleasure is the ultimate rebellion.” I’m a fucking hedonist. I want my own utopia outside of the killing zone, which is where I go into to create what I do, hoping some people will find fucking relief and beauty in it. It’s a shit in the face of this history that is fucking killing us slowly or quickly — whether they’re poisoning everything or killing us country by country, by the millions.
Silence. No sound. No people. And this is the problem with most people, and what technology is doing to the fucking youth. They cannot be five minutes alone without being suckered into the latest consumer technology — of which they put their face really close to so it sucks their fucking brain. They look into a picture that’s smaller than a playing card, avoiding the big picture, which is outside and around. Intimacy will be swiped from their memory banks, because they’re deduced to 140 fucking characters that say nothing.
I’m lazy, believe it or not. I’m a contrarian. I love to lie down. Shut up. Leave me alone. I love it. And there are times when I have to read as many books as possible. I have to watch like ten episodes of something I’ve never seen before. It’s a balance. I tour a lot. I tour alone a lot, which I really like because I enjoy walking around and really knowing nobody. One of the reasons I like living in Barcelona is that I feel still like an outsider on a perpetual vacation. It’s one of the most architecturally beautiful cities in the world, and I get great comfort in architecture. Sometimes I feel like I’m reading the blood in the bones of the brick, which is why the war is never over. I have photographed the blood on the bones of buildings, and then used that as the skin over children’s and my own face. There are certain parts of Italy, where the old grannies are always bleaching the sidewalk. Sometimes I just sit down and go, “Oh my god, they’ll never get the blood off.”
It doesn’t smell or look of blood anywhere, but I feel that. One of the lines I have in one of my poems is — and this isn’t completely accurate — imagine that every stone, every brick, every step, every street that you tramped across, you were recollecting a form of the dead piled up, and your job was to give voice to those ghosts. This is my murder.
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There’s so much bullshit on the fucking Internet. My Facebook is going up mainly for the exhibit, because people want to know what I’m doing. I know it’s been a stubborn, silly rebellion, but I hate it. I’ve always known it’s a fucking surveillance site. You’re not my friend unless you look me in the fucking eyes. You have a comment? Go write it on the fucking bathroom wall. You want to write an essay? Fine. I don’t really care. I’m not here for your essays, your applause, or your insults. I have a lot of haters. A lot of haters are dumb, white boys who are insecure and haven’t done shit. That’s their problem, not mine. I guess they just don’t want to suck a dick.
It really depends on what I’m writing. For instance, if I need to write a book, it’s very ritualized. Usually it’s between 6 and 9 AM every day. If I only write one line, or if I write 100, I’m only doing that in the morning. That’s when I’m freshest, no one else is awake, and nothing else is getting in the way. If I’m writing lyrics, it depends. Since you’re usually only writing one lyric at a time. I just wait for the first line to come, and then it usually takes ten minutes. But the first line can come in an hour, two weeks, two months, or who knows. Speeches, I usually write them in three sections. It’s a lot of pacing, it’s a lot of agitation for the spoken word stuff. The way I do the spoken illustrated word, it’s broken into song-sized chunks with different music. It’s just like I’m writing songs. The connective tissue is all the stuff that pisses me off, which is basically always the same thing it is, just trying to find a new music or language to articulate the level of where that irritation is now in my psyche. It’s always different. Every type of writing has a different ritual. I don’t rewrite. I only sleep in two-hour increments. It’s a sleep-maintenance disorder. I’ve had it all my life, but I’m not tired. I often write big swatches of my speeches in my sleep, the bones of it. I don’t sleep enough to ever really go into a dream state, so the brain’s gotta do something.
I’m a conceptualist. First comes the concept. I never think, “Oh, who would you like to work with next?” Nah. Never. It’s who’s the best for whatever. Swamp rock New Orleans? Who else? Roland S. Howard. Raunchy hard rock? Gallon Drunk [of which several members formed Big Sexy Noise with Lydia]. Weasel Walter volunteered for this job. I had a list of 15 guitar players. I called one, and then I said I wasn’t calling anybody else. And then Weasel Walter called me. And I’m like, “Of course!”
A lot of those things were my idea, yeah. We were just standing around in a club in London all together, and I’m like “Hey, why don’t we go to New York for Halloween?” Then we went.
Exene’s sister managed Teenage Jesus. When Exene came to New York, I thought she had a problem with me. I approached her and said, “Do you have a problem with me?” She goes, “No.” She’s very bizarre. I love Exene. I went out to LA. Somehow we just decided to do Adulterers Anonymous. She was staying at my house. It was so riddled with bizarre phenomena, she just couldn’t take it. She went back to where she lived. We wrote Adulterers Anonymous, just like writing back and forth in notebooks on the couch and stuff. Then when we did Rude Hieroglyphics, it was really fun to do something with tag-team [poetry]. That was just great. She’s very interesting, Exene. I love her writing. She’s always been very political. She gets it. She’s just a gem.
No, because again, it’s the concept. Most of the men I work with are pretty fucking sensitive, very cool, and really talented. I’m a big cheerleader for people. There’s no bullshit in collaborations. I’m really positive to work with. I bring in the people I want to be in concert with, because they’re the perfect person for the job — and I want them to bring what they are to it. If they’re perfect for the job, they’re going to do the job perfectly. That’s why I can collaborate with so many people. I consider collaboration the sacred space where all bullshit lies outside that. I consider art the salve to the universal wound. Other than one or two examples, who I’d rather not name, guys who aren’t macho don’t really have a problem with me. I think it’s those who are insecure and extremely macho who have a problem. It’s not about men or women. If they like the concept, want to have a good time, want to make some noise, want to make a record, want to go on tour, or whatever we can do, then let’s have some fucking fun. Let’s make something that would not exist outside this combination.
The mailman would not deliver the mail, because he kept saying there were black shadows hiding near the doorstep. I was seeing geometric patterns of light in the day, in the house, forming in the atmosphere. Exene’s floor under the bed — there was a Murphy bed that slid into the wall — she said, “There’s something living under there.” Her, Rowland, and one other person have had this experience, which is very bizarre. You’re sitting down, you’re writing in your notebook, drinking a coffee, everything’s fine, la la la la la. Could be the day, could be the night, and suddenly you both get, like, a panic as if an axe murderer has just entered to get you. Frozen. I would get this with Rowland, too. I would always just run right to it. I’m not going to sit there in fear. I know there’s nothing there. Whatever it is, the atmosphere just shifted. Whatever, it’s free energy. I think there’s so much we don’t fucking know and can’t fucking see. I believe in energy, and to me energy is nature.
Tracey Emin doesn’t go far enough for me. Sophie Calle is great.
Yeah. I don’t expect anybody to create music or art for me. My favorite piece of art is Étant donnés, by Marcel Duchamp. Do you know this piece of art?
It’s my favorite in the fucking world. Enough said.
Carla Bozulich, from The Geraldine Fibbers and Evangelista. I really like her. I think she’s one of the best vocalists and lyric writers out there. I was excited to see Babes in Toyland recently come back. I like a lot of what Weasel Walter does. Cellular Chaos, his other band, is great. Admiral Grey [of Cullular Chaos] I really like. She does all kinds of weird things. She’s been a singer, but she’s also into theater, plays, and her own music. She’s awesome. I like this group out of London called We Are Birds Of Paradise that are two sisters who do very twisted cabaret music. I like this sax player in New York, who’s a real avant weirdo called Chris Pitsiokos. There’s a lot of great people out there.
Schorle [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
When I wake and breathe every single fucking day, and I get another one. I’ve done every single thing I’ve ever wanted to for as many minutes of my fucking life that I could squeeze into doing it. I’m just doing what I want to fucking do, and I’m doing it as often and as hardcore and as macho as you. I’m not just doing it for me, I’m doing it for you — because you fucking get it. I’m not alone, and you’re not alone. And it is like a tribe, a coven, a commune. We all don’t have to live in the same place, just because we’re commune-ists. That’s why the first spoken word piece I ever did was called “Daddy Dearest.” It’s not only my issue. I never felt that my pain or my particulars were that important. Mine was not the worst. What was important was getting to the root of these devastating events.
I don’t like any of those pigeonholes. They’re dirty. I hope I set an example for the individual to strive, thrive, and not merely survive. I don’t want anybody to do what I had to do, or do what I have done. Fist of all, I did it. Do what you do. That’s one of the things I say the most. It’s sort of a mantra. “Do what you do.” Role model? No. If people are inspired, that’s fantastic. My role model is Hubert Selby. So, here’s one of the best American writers living in a bachelor pad in West Hollywood as an accountant in obscurity who wrote four of the best books in American literature (he did write more than that, though). And when he died, nobody fucking notices except the French. So, because he was my first hero, in a sense, I was just never jaded. Because if I can just write four great books, if I can just make an impact on somebody, anybody, the way he saved me… amazing. I never thought beyond the next project. I knew I was shitting in the face of history from day one, but only because I’m a brat, and I will do that. I didn’t think this would go on this long in my life. They die young in my family. I just didn’t know. How do you know? You’re 12 years old, you’re writing in journals. You just start, and you keep going — and hopefully, you just keep fucking going.
I feel like I have at least two more books I need to write. I don’t know about any more music. This year alone, I made it with Big Sexy Noise, Cypress Grove, Medusa’s Bed, with a female avant violist, Mia Zabelka from Austria, and Zahra Mani, a Pakistani female bass player. But I have like four bands that play in certain places at certain times. Not that I’m done with music, but until the concept hits…. I’m really excited with Retrovirus. That’s just joyful. The guys in the band are great. Bob Bert [of Sonic Youth] is one of my oldest friends. It’s fun. There’s young people who know the lyrics that were written before they were born. That’s great. And there’s just not enough hardcore, brutal, raunchy rock out there. It’s an important genre. It’s hard, it’s ugly, it is not compromising, but on top of it, somehow, it makes me laugh. It gives me some perverse, weird joy. That was never the point of making music, because with a lot of this shit, I’m wringing out my blood. There’s like gauze coming out of my skin, fiber by fiber, soaked in blood. And I’m trying to scrape it on vinyl. This is the most joyous. I guess because I’m working with such incredible people, and we all love to laugh. We love to have a good time. We don’t take anything fucking seriously.