Sunday, September 23, 2012

Aimee Mann Interviews About Her New Album

 Aimee Mann just came out with a new album.  It has gotten some good reviews and a decent amount of coverage in the press, a couple of the most interesting of which I have included here.  She's a smart person and I enjoy listening to her thoughts on the world of music and beyond.  I will say I have not listened to the allbum yet, even though I pre-ordered it on her website.  I have been afraid to because of her track record lately. 

I absolutely loved her first three albums (In fact, "I'm With Stupid" is one of my all-time favorite albums) but I was bored with her last three albums, mostly because she forgot to write any melodies.  Maybe she was too busy coming up with interesting concepts to have time to write some catchy hooks so the songs were at best just mid-tempo dirges or no-tempo ballads.  This new one, "Charmer", is supposed to  be a throw-back to her early stuff and to 1970's and 1980's power pop, which sounds great in concept but focusing on concepts is what tanked the last few albums, hence my nervousness.  So below is the intellectual, verbal, side of Aimee Mann, which I love to hear, and maybe later I can discuss her actual music, which I'm afraid to hear.

Aimee Mann Chats About The Perils Of Making Music When No One Wants To Buy Any
(By T. Cole Rachel, Stereogum, September 17 2012)

I’ve had a soft spot for Aimee Mann ever since I was a wee nerd. It might have something to do with the fact that “Voices Carry” was one of the first 45′s I ever owned (alongside Olivia Newton-John’s “Heart Attack”) or it might simply be because Aimee Mann has consistently written great songs. And for those of us who tend to be glass-half-empty kinds of folks, few other songwriters have been able to give voice to the quiet despair and habitual disappointment of the world’s oddball wallflowers better than Mann. Her new record, Charmer, is arguably the most upbeat thing she’s done since … well, maybe ever. The stark acoustics of previous records have been all but ditched in favor of bubbly synths and singalong-worthy choruses. Still, this is an Aimee Mann record, so listeners may rest assured that plenty of perfectly phrased bon mots abound and there’s still a healthy dose of cynical good humor to give all the peppiness a healthy edge. Not surprisingly, Aimee is a pleasure to talk to.

Stereogum:I didn’t realize there was such a gap in between the last studio record and this one. It’s been more than four years since @#%&;*! Smilers came out.

Mann:Yeah, I didn’t really realize either, and I feel kind of idiotic — what was I doing during that whole time?

Stereogum:Well, what were you doing that whole time?

Mann:I think I took a year off where I was working on a musical. We were working with a specific writer, and it really didn’t work out. It’s not that the project got scrapped — we have a whole different writer now — but we’re kind of starting from square one. Me and Paul Bryan, the producer of Charmer, we wrote a bunch of new songs for the musical. So it’s not like the time was totally wasted, but you like to feel like you’re producing something that’s also moving your life along. I think that part of it was because the music business has changed so much and the industry is so weird and people listen to music in an entirely different way, and they acquire music in an entirely different way — it’s hard to know where to get your motivation from to make a record. I felt like, you know, I’m interested in a lot of different things, and I can always work on those things instead. In some ways music has become this thing that people don’t really value, or take seriously, or listen to in any way that they derive much meaning from it. If you’re not really willing to pay for something, it’s hard to not conclude that people don’t value it.

Other musicians I know are struggling with it. When no one sells any records it’s hard to feel like anybody cares. If you feel like nobody cares, then you just feel like, “Am I doing this just for my own ego, just to have a record out?”And I’ve put out a lot of records, and I’m sort of older, so I don’t really have that thing of, I’ve gotta prove to the world that I’m great, I’ve gotta get out there and show the world what I can do! So it just put me in a funny place, like if I’m gonna spend all this money making a record, isn’t that just the biggest vanity project ever if it’s not something that other people want to actually have or buy? I think even though artists don’t make art for money, feeling that there’s an audience and that you can make a living at it is a destination that, without it, you do get lost. So that was sort of part of it. It’s a strange thing.

Stereogum:It’s interesting. I’ve had that conversation a lot lately with musicians of all different ages and genres. If there’s a good thing to come of that collapse of the previous system — of people being stuck in the traditional album/touring cycle — perhaps it’s that it forces people to ask themselves important questions. Like, “Why am I doing this?” and “What are my realistic expectations for what I’m getting out of it?”

Mann:Yeah, and I think that my worry is that it kind of leaves … who really succeeds? People who are really good at self-promotion, I guess. Self-promotion is an art form. If you’re really great at self-promotion and have a Twitter presence that’s really great and interesting, that becomes your job, that’s sort of what you’re best at. And there’s a lot of musicians I know who are very quiet, they have a tough time being on tour or playing live sometimes, and are more reclusive, introverted writers. And I just think those people are going to get eaten alive. I don’t even know how those people could survive because without labels that do that stuff for you … I guess it’s not like major labels are any better. I just feel bad because there are so many great bands. It’s great to talk about that romantic notion of, “We’ll just go and tour and sleep in the van and eat scraps out of a toaster for art!” but it’s fucking hard to tour like that.

Stereogum:I always say that people who romanticize that idea have, in all likelihood, probably never done it.

Mann:It’s like being homeless. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. I’ve done some of that — not sleeping-in-a-van level — but the Motel 6 where you share a room with your band members and hookers knock on the door in the middle of the night because they think their john is in your room. It’s extremely stressful and it’s unhealthy. There’s nothing that’s arty about it, nothing conducive to writing and being an artist. And when you work that way over a period of years, it wears on you. It’s not romantic, for sure.

Stereogum:So what was the impetus to make another record?

Mann:It’s probably as simple as, “Well, this is what I do, so I should just do it.”You have to take a leap of faith. I haven’t really answered the question of why, not even for myself. If you are a singer-songwriter, you write and record a record and have to have some amount of faith that you’re not gonna completely starve. For me it’s just you put one foot in front of the other and see what happens. There’s always something that comes out of the woodwork, some interesting thing, and maybe it’s a real left turn and maybe it’s not. You do what you can do. And for now I can still afford to make records. You know maybe there’ll be a time when I can’t and then, I’ll just do what I can. And I can’t worry about the time when maybe I can’t do it.

Stereogum:Where was the bulk of this record made? Do you have your own studio to work out of?

Mann:No, the engineer, Ryan Freeland, has a studio, so most of it was recorded in that studio. And my producer has a little studio at home, so we did some stuff there, too.

Stereogum:Have you found that the process by which you make songs has changed over the years?

Mann:The way I make records is that I’ve become more interested in recording a band mostly live in the studio and getting that kind of inexplicable thing that happens when great musicians play together well. But that could change, and sometimes you’re in a different mood to just put it together bit by bit. But for the last few records I’ve gotten more interested in getting most of the tracks done at the same time.

Stereogum:Do your songs tend to change much during the recording process or do you usually go in with the pretty finished material?

Mann:The song itself is pretty much done. I don’t necessarily hear all the instruments in my head, I’m not one of those people, so sometimes getting the right vibe arrangement-wise is a little hit-or-miss. There were probably two or three songs that we re-recorded from drums up because they just weren’t working. And one of my big failings as a musician is being able to know exactly when I don’t like something, [but not] what’s wrong with it, and how to fix it. Sometimes I’ll play other songs as references and try to figure out what that song is doing that makes it sound like the kind of thing I want, but it’s trial and error sometimes.

Stereogum:How long was the process? How long did you record?

Mann:Not that long, really. I think the basic tracks were like a week. We did 14 songs, but then there were the two songs that we totally re-recorded in Paul Bryan, the producer’s, room. We brought the keyboard player back in and the three of us brainstormed some stuff. That was another week of doing that.

Stereogum:I love “Living A Lie” — the song that you do with James Mercer.

Mann:He’s really so great, just impossibly decent as a person.

Stereogum:Had you guys known each other for a long time?

Mann:No, I mean really that was the most time we’d spent together. I just kind of contacted him out of the blue and crossed my fingers and hoped he had some kind of interest in doing this, and it’s nice because I think when you commit to somebody else’s project you have no idea how it’s going to sound, and he was very game.

Stereogum:I also love the song that you did with Ben Gibbard for his forthcoming solo record.

Mann:Yeah, Ben is terrific. I love his voice and I love his sense of melody. I think he’s a really great writer.

Stereogum:You guys actually recorded that at my friend’s studio, Aaron Espinoza, whom I’ve known for many, many years. He and his wife are close friends of mine.

Mann:He’s in the band Earlimart, yeah? I don’t know much of their stuff, but what I do know I really like.

Stereogum:You will be touring in the fall, yes? What will that tour look like? Are you bringing out a bunch of people with you?

Mann:Yeah, I have a full band. There are two keyboard players, but one plays guitar. Me and bass and drums and two keyboard/guitar players, so yeah it’s a big band compared to what I’ve been touring with because I’ve been doing semi-acoustic shows.

Stereogum:Is it easier if you have a full band with you? Does it feel less exposed than being out by yourself?

Mann:I think for me it’s easier when I have a smaller band, but you definitely miss having the full-band experience and playing with a drummer and getting to hear the songs fleshed out. I think especially for the first tour of a new record, it’s really nice to present the songs more or less as they’re arranged on the record.

Stereogum:We were just talking about the pains of touring. In general do you enjoy it?

Mann:I do enjoy it, but I want to stress that I don’t have to do that sleeping-18-to-a-bed thing anymore. I try to keep it more civilized. Everybody I tour with makes an effort to keep it more civilized. It’s really the only way to get through it. When there’s a lot of chaos and people are going crazy, people devolve very quickly. I think I’ve just learned over the years what works and doesn’t work so I can structure it. We rarely go out for more than three weeks at a time, because three weeks on the road is a really long time, and people start to get exhausted after that. We’ll go out for three weeks, and come back and take a week, and then do the East Coast run. That’s when Ted Leo is touring with us.

Stereogum:He’s one of the nicest dudes in the world.

Mann:He is the greatest person, and really, really funny.

Stereogum:At this point, I feel like you’ve done so many kinds of things to help dispel the notion that people may have of you just based on your songs. Do you have the feeling that people expect you to be this hyper-serious, melancholy person?

Mann:Yeah, well it’s hard to not imagine that … when I hear people’s songs and they’re really serious, it’s hard to not feel like I know the “real” person. Just the act of songwriting or hearing thoughts put to music make it feel like it’s a view into someone’s subconscious. I totally get that. In a way it’s true. But I think I’ve done enough goofy stuff, like being on Portlandia, so maybe people have an idea that I’m not super serious all the time.

Stereogum:Aside from touring, what will the rest of this year be like? Will you be working on the musical as well?

Mann:Well the book writer has to kind of finish his draft and we’ll talk about what songs go where and write new songs, so that’s kind of out of my hands for the time being. I’m doing a movie at the end of August. That will be for three weeks. It’s gonna be this little indie movie. Joe Henry is going to be in it, his brother wrote the screenplay, and it’s going to be shot in Louisville, Kentucky. Loudon Wainwright and John Doe are going to be in it. I have no idea what I’m doing.

Stereogum:Is it super dramatic? Will you have to cry or scream?

Mann:No! Or I never would have taken it. I think there’s a small chance I can get by and have it look like I know what I’m sort of doing. It’s based on a This American Life piece where someone put together a band for a day and put them together in a studio to see what it’s like.

Stereogum:I did a cameo in a feature film earlier this year. It was sort of fun, but also much more nerve-wracking than I could have predicted.

Mann:It’s hair raising! I mean as soon as the camera is on, you realize as soon as you start acting you’re like, “Oh my God listen to me, this is the phoniest acting I’ve ever heard in my life.” And then you’re all act-y and it’s terrible.

Stereogum:It’s amazing to watch people work. I didn’t even have to speak, I just had to pretend to serve a drink, but the first time I did it, I spilled the fake drink and we had to start over.

Mann:Oh yeah, because as soon as you’re self-conscious in any way, it just ruins it all. And how can you not be self-conscious? I think actors have to be crazy in a way.

Stereogum:Well it sounds like it’ll be fun with all those people together in the same place.

Mann:Yes, and Joe is super sweet. John Doe I know a little bit, he seems like a nice guy. I’ve met Loudon and I don’t really know him, but Joe is a really decent guy, so I’m looking forward to spending time with him. We’ll see. I could ruin the whole thing!

Aimee Mann: Fame is the worst
The singer tells Salon we've become a nation of spoiled voyeurs & lost track of the value of the arts
(By David Daley,, 15 September 2012)

From the outside, Aimee Mann has one of the most charmed careers in music: A devoted fan base for her always smart and refined songs, and her own label to promote and package her music as she pleases, whether in fancy editions or with graphic novelists doing the cover art. She’s the boss of everything.

But she didn’t get to this place easily. When Mann fronted ‘Til Tuesday in the ’80s, the pressure to change her sound, to be someone she wasn’t, made her want to walk away from music entirely. And after she escaped the band and Epic Records, her first two solo albums, “Whatever” and “I’m With Stupid,” ended up trapped in Dante-esque corporate infighting.

Mann wasn’t having any fun — or making any money. Geffen saw no hits when she submitted “Bachelor No. 2,” which merely contained career-defining songs like “How Am I Different,” “Red Vines” and “Calling It Quits.” So Mann — aided, yes, when her soundtrack to “Magnolia” earned an Oscar nomination for “Save Me” — started SuperEgo Records and set out on her own. Thirteen years and several terrific albums later, it’s one of the great do-it-yourself stories in music — but not a road for everyone in the midst of creative-class meltdown. “I have a lot of help,” Mann says. “It’s asking too much that somebody know how to manage and promote and market themselves as well as make music and tour. I can, quote, ‘do it myself’ because I have three people there.”

“Charmers,” Mann’s first album in four years, arrives Tuesday, and it’s another super-tuneful and tasteful album — a song cycle about the slicksters with the confidence and magnetism to draw others into tortured relationships that can only end in therapy. Mann’s been eerily consistent for a decade; still, songwriting this solid and sturdy and hook-ridden shouldn’t ever be dismissed lightly.” There’s a half-dozen songs here that rank with her very best, including “Labrador,” with a rollicking melody that jumps up and licks you in the face; and “Living a Lie,” a grand duet with James Mercer of the Shins.  Mann called from Los Angeles to discuss her long path to freedom, the sick charm of Paul Ryan, her visit to the White House, the role of the artist during tough times — and the insanity of modern politics.

You have a new album out, but I’d like to start someplace completely different: You’re so good with those small observational details, the devastating insight into a character. Have you ever thought about writing fiction? I keep waiting for an Aimee Mann short-story collection.

Well, I’m very aware [that] to be really good at any particular art form, one has to have worked on it for many, many, many years to master its particular structures. And I just think it would be too hard. I don’t think it’s that easy. Writing prose is very difficult for me. Because I just can’t. The music does something that helps me be able to find the words. It kind of relaxes me or puts me in a state of mind, or something. As you’ll discover throughout this interview, I feel reasonably stilted in trying to write words and formulate sentences. So I think it’s really not my thing.

You’ve been mastering this one form for 25 years. Was there a moment when you feel like your songs took that turn toward characters and observational detail and became a little less first-person confessional, like they were in the first part of your career?

I think the last record, to me, had more of that kind of short-story-ish feel. But even so, I really like writing in the first-person or second-person. It’s just too distancing to write in the third person for a song. So I don’t think it’s ever going to get story-like in that way. You always have to relate it back to experience, to some degree, or it just doesn’t ring true.

This album explores the mysterious allure of the slick, charming man. What was the appeal of the charmer to you, and why did you want to take on that kind of guy?

I really admire people who are charming. It’s a skill that I wish I had. And I am kind of fascinated by it right out of the box. How do people get to where they feel at ease with other people and they can talk to anyone — where they’re funny and clever and on the spot, and don’t seem to have any self consciousness? To me that’s really remarkable.

But I think that there is a kind of person who is charming who starts from a position of really mostly being concerned with appearances. And when you are mostly concerned with appearances, appearances become your area of expertise. You become expert in knowing how things look to other people, and how things are coming across, and how you’re coming off. And you can make that very subtle. That can be very subtle. Because part of that persona that you’re creating can have elements that look like humility. Or are generous. Or are self-deprecating. And it can really present this very fleshed out picture that is fascinating and attractive, but ultimately not real.

There’s a fine line between the charmer and the sociopath, the way you describe it there.

Yeah, I feel that it’s probably on a continuum. I feel like I’m definitely, like most people, fascinated by the idea and the question of what is a sociopath. Are they born or made? Are they, you know, a combination of the two? The malignant narcissist to the con man to the sociopath. It’s weird. I don’t know if those people are curable, or if they’re motivated to change. Or if they ever even perceive in themselves the need to change.

Do you feel the need to be a charmer, working in this field, performing before audiences?

I’ve never felt that I was charming. But that would be awesome. Charming people are fun. They make people feel good. They’re entertaining. I don’t think I’m that. That would be great. I mean, some of it is basic social skills that I feel I’m sort of lacking in. I don’t think that all charming people are somehow broken or diseased or dangerous, but I think the whole subject is fascinating.

“When you’re a charmer, the world applauds,” you write in the title track. “They don’t know that secretly charmers feel like they’re frauds.” There’s anxiety attached to being charming.

People have actually said that to me. People in high-level jobs who have said, “I’m waiting to be unmasked as an imposter.” Which has got to be a tough place to be in.

The character in “Labrador” experiences charm from another perspective: He or she keeps being pulled in by that charm, and can’t escape being loyal to somebody who does not treat them well.

Yeah, I think there’s a fine line. It’s hard to know when loyalty is appropriate. Being a loyal person is a very admirable trait, but it becomes a character defect if you allow it to draw you back into situations that are bad for you. I definitely understand that dilemma. I understand the dilemma of [how] you want to believe that the other person has changed, and every time you make a move to get away, they come back and have a new angle. New promises. New ways they’re going to be different. Then it’s just always the same. I definitely know people who have been in those circumstances, and it’s tough. It’s tough to watch from the outside, because usually from the outside you can tell that it’s a disaster.

We’re always really good at spotting the problems in other people’s relationships, even if we’re making the same mistakes ourselves.

Exactly. Like, we can be doing the exact same thing …

… and be completely blind to it. A lot of these characters are manipulative or going through major problems of their own. So for someone who insists she has never been charming, what’s it like to imagine the situation from that point of view?

They’re usually derived from people I know one way or the other. Or people I have known. And I try to relate to them, to relate to both sides of it. That’s the most interesting thing to me. To try to put myself in someone else’s shoes. To try and see what it’s like for them. Or what it could be like for them.

That’s what I was trying to ask earlier, perhaps without articulating it very well. Do you feel like you’re trying to write more from the perspective of other people now, compared on earlier albums that might have been more confessional? Or at least seen as more confessional.

I think now I definitely write more about other people. I always try to relate myself to whatever the situation is because that does keep it realistic, emotionally realistic and honest. I do. I don’t know if any of these songs are more about me, but most of them aren’t.

Was that a difficult switch to make at all, craft-wise? Because some of the ‘Til Tuesday albums and even your first solo albums on Geffen — they felt pretty pointed!

I don’t think so. Honestly, I think it’s part of maturity to try to, just as a person, relate to other people’s experiences. And to learn from their mistakes rather than make your own, over and over and over. I think that helps as a person if you can do that. So maybe I will learn from this.

Before you made that turn, there was a time when you were so frustrated with the way your albums were treated by record labels — and the various messes and demands they’d made all the way back to the ‘Til Tuesday days — that you were ready to walk away from this entirely.

There was certainly a time when I wasn’t getting anything out of it in terms of being associated with a record label. Personally, it was very discouraging. The people were very discouraging. It wasn’t like I was making any money. And then, to add on top of that, people at the label were trying to control the music. You start to think, “Well, I’m not even making any money.” It’s not a situation where I can say to myself, “Look, you’re making a living. People are going to have to make concessions. Bite the bullet.”

So I was like, “I don’t even know why I’m doing this.” It’s one thing to sell out. It’s not like it’s even that easy. I think that when you try to tell somebody how to make their music and how to make it more commercial, how to make it some other way, then I’m trying to think with your brain. And I can’t think with your brain. So why don’t you do it, and I’ll go do something else. I wasn’t trying to be super stubborn. I just couldn’t do that. I just can’t do that.

Anytime I’ve sat down and tried to write a, quote, “song” I thought would be more commercial or a commercial song I thought they wanted, you know, I always ended up writing some jazz waltz or something. I was like, “This is really commercial.” And then you listen to it later and think, “That’s not a commercial song at all.” But that’s, you know, if you’re telling me to do that, that’s my interpretation. So, you can’t make people do things they don’t naturally do.

What you’re gonna get is a lot of people who are so desperate for attention that they’ll do anything to get in front of an audience and show off. And that should yield a lot of “great art.” [Sarcasm.] Some of it will be. Because some of those people will, you know … it doesn’t mean that they aren’t great artists. But you know how it is. If you get people whose main motivation is a desperation to have the approval of thousands of people, then emphasis on art isn’t probably going to be top of the list.

Fame is not a particularly good motivator for much of anything.

And people have a really distorted idea of what being famous really entails. I think it’s very traumatizing for people. I feel sorry for huge movie stars who are followed around by paparazzi. I think it’s extremely psychologically tortuous and traumatizing. And I don’t think people want to acknowledge it because they have this belief that money and fame are at the top of their value system. That that literally is the goal. That’s madness to me.

Was that kind of fame ever a motivator for you? In the early days when “Voices Carry” was a smash?

No. You know, when I was a kid, I might have thought for a second, “It would be great to be famous,” but I think when you’re a kid what that really means is, “I wish somebody would care about what I did. Care about me in some way.” So, no. My brief brush with fame was when I was in ‘Til Tuesday and we had a video that got played a lot. We were very recognizable for a couple of years. I just found it very unsettling. When people recognize you, they’re just going to be disappointed. Because you don’t know them. And they feel like they know you, but … So you’re perpetually in that circumstance where somebody feels like, “You jerk. You don’t remember me.”  And I don’t want to disappoint people, but there’s nothing you can give a total stranger that’s going to make them happy in that circumstance.

I remember going to school in Boston and reading an interview with you, probably 20 years ago, almost an exit interview of sorts. You talked about being so miserable on those ‘Til Tuesday tours that you were ready to cut your hands so you couldn’t play.

Touring was exhausting. And that’s another big surprise because it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be difficult; it sounds like it’s going to be fun. And then you sort of start to understand those reports of, “So-and-so was hospitalized for exhaustion.” And I go like, “Yeah, that actually could be true.” Because I know what that state is. You don’t get much sleep. You often don’t get enough to eat. You’re keeping weird hours. It’s hard work. And you’re crossing time zones, so there’s an extra jet-lag exhaustion thing.

How did you manage to take control of your career again and get to a healthier place?

Over time you figure out what works for you, and you kind of insist on it. Leaving the major label really helped with that because the major label really pushes you to do stuff that you can’t do. And then you’re afraid to cross them because you feel like your fate is in their hands.

But once I was on my own, by that point, I’d kind of realized that touring … well, if I’m going up for three weeks, then I’ll take a week off, take some time off. And if you have a bus, you sleep on the bus. Or you’re with certain people. All of those things are big factors. If you’re out with people that are really out of control or have a drug problem or something, it makes it a million times harder — because it adds a lot of stress and chaos and drama to the tour and the group dynamic. You just have to be cognizant of all that stuff. And then plan it in advance.

Tell me about being at the White House for celebration of American poetry with President Obama and Michelle. That must have been a wonderful moment.

It was really lovely. And the White House is this adorable museum almost. We got to hang out the whole day there because there were two parts. The afternoon poetry seminar, where the poets talked about their process and they took questions from high school kids — and it was really inspiring to listen to those people talk. It was just inspiring to be part of the whole day where this idea of poetry and art was really embraced as something that was actually important to humans. Not like in a “How many dollars is it going to yield if we educate our kids in the arts?” [way,] but [in the way] that it’s important as a human being to have art in your life. Because we’re not just a herd of fucking monkeys. We’re not just beasts roaming around in a pack. So that was very inspiring. It made me think about art in a way that I’d never thought about it before. It really was what defined us as a civilization.

How closely are you following the presidential campaign?

It’s grim. It’s grim. There’s a great tide of fascism that is creeping in, and people are just getting used to it because it’s the slow boiling of the frog. And the media gets caught up in its own … having to chase things that are sensational because of ratings. And the candidates get caught up in the thing of having to boil their messages down to almost a propaganda-type thing because they … It’s a crazy system.

But they do, of course, attempt to be charming. When I listen to the title song of the new record, the character I imagine is Paul Ryan.

Talk about his fucking six pack or, you know, that he’s hot or something. And I know that we’ve become this nation of voyeurs where like, we’re spoiled and we’re tired of everything and are just like, “Let us see his body!” It’s this kind of cynical posture that insulates us from the whole horror of what’s really happening. Nobody is talking about global warming anymore. It’s the main thing that we should be concentrating on, but you know, Obama’s gotta fucking campaign for a solid year because this is the fucked-up system we have, where anybody can buy an election.

It’s the last phase of the Weimar Republic. Right before someone swoops in and takes over. I mean, I don’t mean to be gloomy. I just think it’s kind of an accurate reading. I mean, when we’re talking about Ayn Rand — that’s fucking crazy.

Speaking of Ryan, exactly. Unlike the character in the song, I’m not sure he believes he’s a fraud. I think he believes he’s all that and the six pack.

Well, they’ve got God on their side. You know, all thought kind of ceases when you think that God has signed off on what you’re doing, or you know what God wants you to do. You don’t second guess it. And then you lose all of your humility. There is no humility in saying, “I’m God’s right-hand man.” Because, you’re basically saying, “I’m my own higher power now. I’m the decider. I make the decisions.” I don’t have to have a sense of humility to sit and think “What is the right thing to do?” It’s when you take on these kind of hard and fast and rigid rules that you apply to everything, you don’t really allow for … That’s not allowing for any kind of presence of a higher power. Suddenly this discussion has gotten very deep.

What do you think the role of the artist, or the poet, ought to be at a time like this?

I don’t think artists have a role. But I think, if everyone is lucky, you have the result where people are connected to each other. Once you’re connected and you realize that we’re all in this together, you do start to think about things like health care and global warming and poverty. Birth control. You know, you do start to think about that stuff. Because it’s not just all me.

I think that the vision of the right is the idea that I can go into the wilds of Alaska with a .22 and a bag of rice, and [say], “Fuck all y’all. I can make it on my own, and I don’t need you. I don’t need anyone.” But, first of all, it’s incredibly unrealistic and incredibly arrogant … and it’s a very idolatrous position where you are worshipping yourself and your own will. And it’s all about you, and you don’t see that you’re affecting other people, and you don’t give a shit.

It’s fun to believe that you are all-powerful. It’s fun to believe that you are a God in yourself. Everybody would like to believe that. It’s fun because it’s only about your ego and your ego would love to believe it. But it just isn’t true. And you can’t build a policy on top of a fucking delusion. Which is the place where we have come.



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