INTERVIEW : WILL OLDHAM aka BONNIE ‘PRINCE’ BILLY
Will Oldham née Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billyhas been making music under various psuedonyms for a couple of decades. His is a voice that entrances and moves us, and his songwriting is that of a warlock. Will Oldham, we just can’t quit you…
Will was generous enough to sit down with us during Larry Crane’s live Jackpot! recording sessions at Ace Portland during MusicFest NW, to talk about the sensorial adventure of singing, about failed meditation attempts, about Robin Williams. In addition to our chat, Will performed and recorded with Larry and also spoke with MyMusicRx about music that makes him feel better.
You can download the four songs Will recorded with Larry, as well as from all other mezzanine performances including Hutch Harris of The Thermals, The Heligoats, Mount Eerie and a ton of other rad artists at Jackpot! Recordings Covers Portland.
Your performance in the mezzanine was really beautiful. It made me nostalgic for being 19.
Is that right? What happened when you were 19?
Well that’s when somebody first played Palace Music for me. And you know, there’s so much angst when you’re young and dumb.
And does the angst go away?
No, I don’t think so. I don’t know. It just made me want to quit everything and go cry in the woods for a month, you know?
Yeah. But it would be great to get paid for that.
I’m sure some people have managed it. Anyhow… So, Bonnie Prince Charlie, one of the influences behind your stage name, was also known as the Young Pretender, and was part of the tradition, if we can call it that, of “pretenders to the throne.” The semantic origins of “pretend” aren’t really about falsehood, but more about the presentation of an as-of-yet unaccepted truth. You’ve said that performing under a stage name gives people a more direct, universal, relatable persona to accept, rather than someone singing their memoirs. Johnny Cash, who covered one of your songs before he passed, seems to have had a very earnest approach to stage identity, a lack of strategy around his persona and how his audience related to his work…
Yeah. But then, Cash also, for example, wore all black and then wrote the song about why he wears black, which is absolutely a persona and is completely about doing something for the audience. So they can imagine that they’re hearing all of the songs from this accepted voice, that the audience and Cash both accept as the voice. Right? And he was born with, you know, a totally salable name.
Yeah he was. He really lucked out. He wasn’t named Sue, for instance. So in my experience as a listener of your music, and in speaking with other people who have a history with your music, it seems people feel that it’s very emotionally sonorous, and it’s, you know, speaking some truth to us. Autobiographical fictionists often get sort of interrogated about what’s “really them” in their stories, and memoirists often get taken to task about what’s “really true” as well. You’ve said that you feel you’re performing even as you write. It’s possible that personal truths get perceived as universal and vice versa when your music reaches someone’s ears. They may feel you’re finally expressing for them a truth they weren’t able to express for themselves. How does this relate to songwriting as a performance?
Well, I guess…it’s an act of witnessing. When I’m performing a song that I know really well, the advantage of knowing it really well allows you to let your guard down and be surprised as the song goes on, in terms of what’s happening in the song and what’s going to happen next or where it could potentially go. It can be new because it’s second nature. But building it in the first place in such a way that, that there are surprises built in to the structure of the song or into the lines of the song. Things that that can be said again and again and each time take on a slightly different significance, I guess.
In terms of anything maybe, it seems like nothing is true. Nothing is true that we can say with words.
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Yeah, it’s almost like the drama of music is a like a fiction that everybody wants to connect to. It’s so much bigger than whatever we think of as concrete in any way.
Yeah, it’s an advantage that song has over speech, that if you’re just saying or reading, it’s pretty subtle or ambiguous, the spaces between words, whereas music fills in the spaces between words with melody and with rhythm. So right away it feels like a more truthful way of using language because it’s showing you that words don’t, can’t exist all by themselves. When we’re just talking to each other we think that the words that we’re using are sufficient, you know. That carries us through to the end of a thought or the end of the paragraph…You think, like, these words are very sufficient and we have enough language to express the things that we want to express, when absolutely that isn’t true, and music sort of says, “There’s not enough in these words. That’s why they’re being sung. That’s why there’s a beat because the words will never be enough to approximate anything that you want to say or want to try to understand. And you can vary the dynamic of something or the harmony of something to imply all the different possible or many different possible meanings of a given line or a given scenario.
I think that’s really a beautiful idea that as you’re writing a song that you intend to play… as you’re writing lyrics that you intend to sing, you realize that the writing that you’re doing is sort of inadequate in and of itself. That you’re going to have to wait to see sort of what you can build around it. That song becomes a container for experiences and surprises that you don’t even know to anticipate when you start singing. And if you know it well enough, then you can just kind of forget about it and experience it…
Yes and try to make it adequate enough that its adequacy should increase, never to complete adequacy but should, you know, gradually increase each time the song is just listened to – someone pushes play on their record player or whatever — or performed, until it is completely anachronistic.
I imagine there are songs that were recorded 90 years ago that have lost almost all adequacy just because everything valuable in it has been coopted and understood and taken for granted so that you listen to something and think, you know, “Why did this ever exist? This seems to have no value whatsoever, I don’t understand. This is a love song, you say? I can’t relate to this at all.” But at one point someone was blown away by the power of these certain love songs or comedy songs or adventure songs. And now they’re so much a part of our brains, you know… Like people have said that the insanity of a hit song by Kanye West will not sound very remarkable eventually.

Weren’t you in an alternate version of a Kanye West video with Zack Galifianakis?
Indeed.
Tell me about it. Did he commission this?
No, Galifianakis had made an Anita Baker video where he lip syncs an Anita Baker song, makes it like a legitimate music video but he’s the one singing, and I think he may have done another one for Fiona Apple. And I guess Kanye West saw one or both of those and asked Galifianakis to make a music video for him, and he had extended an invitation to me over a couple of years again and again to come and visit his farm in North Carolina. And at one point, I had tried to go on a Vipassana Meditation retreat, and it was…my mind sort of… uh, it was a collision. It didn’t really work. So I fled that, and this was in rural Illinois. And I just thought, “Now what am I gonna do? Where am I gonna go?” You know, my brain was all set up to be put in order and now it’s even more chaotic than it was four days ago. I thought “Oh, that’s right! I can go to Galifianakis’ farm. I’ll call him.” So I called him. “Are you there?” “Yeah, come on over.” So I drove from Illinois to North Carolina and I’m getting last minute directions: “Okay, I am at the end of this road.” “Where do I go?” “Okay, take this turn, take this turn. By the way, we’re gonna be shooting a Kanye West video while you’re here.”
Amazing contrast.
Just like what my brain — yeah. My brain was like, “Okay, sounds great.”
Escapism!
Yeah, exactly. So I just wandered up to his cabin and I think I sat down in a picnic table, someone brought a beer over and I didn’t move from there for a long time, and then people started to arrive with their cameras and the playback system. And this video — you know, I sat in the same spot for about two hours while the video started to be shot. It was like the Lorax or something.
I like imagining that Zach Galifianakis has a farm. It sounds very calm, with the exception of the Kanye West video production. Is he calm, and well-suited to farm life?
He is still funny, but you know one thing that us lay people think, we think that comedians are… 
Constantly funny?
Yeah, and they’re not. 
Like if you were constantly singing.
Robin Williams is probably you know the a rare example of somebody who is just… He’s his comedic thing all the time. That’s what I’ve heard. But most other ones, they’re not telling jokes and they’re not all that funny in real life, except they have these inflections where if you’re in a room with Galifianakas or Steve Martin, everything they say, you’re waiting for the punch line. But they’re just talking. They’re just like yeah I went to the store.
And you’re doing a drum roll in your head… “Wait for it.” But you’ll wait forever because they’re just going to the store.
Right.
You also made a cartoon theme song about Lance Bang’s life in order to be cast as a gorilla trainer in Jackass 3D….
Oh, yeah.
Will you sing a little bit of it?
For some reason I thought that the cartoon should be called Bance Langs so it went “Bance Langs, Bance Langs…” No, I can’t remember how it goes right now, except for that part. “Bance Langs, Bance Langs…” I was trying imagine a Saturday morning cartoon theme song that would stick in a child’s head and make you look forward every Saturday morning to tuning in and knowing that the commercials were over and the fun was about to begin.
So did he bribe you to make it in order to be in his movie or…
Um, kind of. Well, he was in Louisville, because he’s been working on this interminable documentary about the band Slint, and we were just talking about what was going on in each other’s lives and he said, “Oh we’re working on another Jackass movie.” And I think I then said, “What would I have to do in order to become a part of that?” He said, “Write a theme song.” And I said, “A theme song for what?” And he said, “For my life.” So I wrote the theme song, recorded it, sent it to him and then like three days later my phone rang, and he was like, “Is this Will?” “Yeah.” “This is Knoxville. I hear you want to be in Jackass. What do you want to do? Do you want to just witness? Do you want to, you know, do something to somebody? Do you want to have something done to you?” And I said, “I’m completely in your hands. You know, whatever…”
This is what we ask people when they check into Ace Hotel too.
Is that right?
Yeah. Your choice, choose your own adventure. So, is Lance Bangs the only person that’s ever heard this jingle other than you or has it made the rounds?
I have no idea. 
It was a direct e-mail.
It was directly, I sent it straight to him, yeah.
Well, lucky him. And now I have a reason to watch Jackass 3D. Okay. So going back a bit to what we were talking about with performing. Your voice is so beautiful and also very relaxed. Some singers have a beautiful voice but they really have to kind of push it out, you know. Yours sort of seems to just rest its weight on the song but also has this vibrancy to it. I was thinking that if I could sing like that I would like never want to not be singing.
Right? That’s it. Yeah.
So I was wondering if you would kind of always rather be singing?
Yes. Absolutely.
Okay, good. And also what does it feel like when you’re singing? Where does it happen in your body? Is it different every time? Do you crave it?
Yeah. Crave it. It’s different every time and sometimes that’s very frightening because I know that it is relaxed but it’s more, like, wound up, or it’s ready for anything or ready for, ready for… ready to react. It’s a reactive performance — like reactive to the other energies that are available for the singing. So it can be very frightening because I don’t know what the strongest force acting upon the voice will be.
For example, played this show last night, and the strongest forces that I was aware of prior to walking on the stage were internal forces and they were not positive and they were not reliable. So I was just scared to death, but then the energy from the people in the theater was so strong and so positive that it completely changed everything and it made it possible to sing.
It was to the point where numerous times during the show I felt like I was at a show and hearing a singer and thinking like, “Wow I didn’t know that he could do that”… It means that the bad part about that is that there’s vulnerability.
Right. Exactly.
You know, it’s so nice to sing with other people but I’ve learned that the more the other people bring the more I’m going to be there. Like, I don’t have the power to transform something without the energy from somebody else. Like, there was a dude in the coffee place downstairs just now who brought up this collaborative record that I made with the Chicago group Tortoise. It was all cover songs. And that was, you know: cover songs, put them on the table, start doing them, and then I started realizing that I was capable of entering the ring with these musicians in the way they used improvisation, experimentation and complete solid structure all at once, and that that allowed me to sing using a similar concoction or similar ratio of those things.
Whereas, I made a record ten years ago with some older, very well-established session musicians in Nashville who were part of the country music scene for decades and they had a certain way of playing. And it was not about experimentation but more about finding a traditional emotional flow and a traditional dynamic that’s really great — but all of the sudden, you know, I’m hearing this voice come out that sounds like it’s singing in the same tradition as these other musicians. And just thinking that’s what all the singing is about and that’s what all the listening to records is about: it’s an indefinable training and preparation, it’s trying to be vulnerable and confident at the same time which is — they like completely contradict each other…unless it works.
I was actually just taking this Shambhala Buddhist class for five weeks called “Contentment in Everyday Life,” so I just went to the last session on Wednesday night. We were talking about having like confidence in your life. Not confidence like you have your shoulder pads on and you can defeat the world, but confidence that you’re going to be okay and that everything is okay and everything is workable.
Yeah.
We were talking about that kind of balance between vulnerability and confidence— like how you have to show up and be totally vulnerable in order for the best thing to happen. And so when you’re describing coming out onto stage and how terrifying it is to have to be vulnerable in order to sing, what I’m hearing from you is that you have to be that open satellite for whatever energy is there — yours and other people’s — but if you didn’t you wouldn’t be the performer that you are…
And it wouldn’t be this experience that you were describing or this psychological phenomenon. Like, yeah I wish I was always singing – but I wouldn’t if it was more like, “Now I open the door and go into my Singing Room.” It isn’t like that at all.
Right. “I put on my Singing Outfit.”
“I’m put on my Singing Outfit and here’s how the song begins and I know where I’m going to go” – but it can’t be compartmentalized in that way. So…without those structures or securities – that’s the most rewarding kind of singing.
When you see somebody who finds through doing their work that what they create is a full-on extension of him or herself — I mean, that’s what I have always dreamed of, is having my work be a natural extension… Something like a surfer or a trumpet player or a visual artist. You know Kyle Field? Little Wings. He’s got a music thing called Little Wings. And he’s a compulsive visual artist so that if you just sit in a room with him he’ll be making drawings and when I look at the drawings, you know, it, it feels so good to look at those drawings because you feel like he’s sort of taking the reins and becoming one with, or participating in the passage of time and participating in creation rather than witnessing destruction or negative entropy or something like that. Or if you hear someone play a musical solo, like Richard Thompson, you know. He’ll sit there on stage and he’ll play a song and the song won’t be anything until he starts to play the solo section and then… For that moment — because there’s generosity going on there — for that moment, you are Richard Thompson. 
That’s the gift of that kind of relationship to his ability — that he gives it to you, he’s like taking your brain, and he couldn’t do it without your brain. He’s taking your brain and saying now let’s go whoa, here, here, here. You’re like, Oh my goodness. And when you feel like you’re with the audience and everybody is being carried somewhere by this unique individual…at the end of the day his most crucial tool is your brain. It’s not his talent, it’s your brain.

Yeah. That’s really beautiful. So is it different when you’re singing alone?
Yeah, it’s different, and as the years go on I’m afraid of one day the voice… you know, it’s something that will eventually wear out, like the body wears out. I’m afraid of what might happen but as the years go on I have more at my disposal. Playing with other people, it’s like you walk onto the stage less afraid of what the energy in the room is going to be because you’re confident about the energy that you’re on stage with, these other people, and you know that they can throw you curve balls but you can feel good about it, excited about and even anticipating what curve balls they’re going to throw you. Whereas with the audience it’s not always exciting to think about what curve balls they could throw you.
Kind of reminds me of Venus and Serena Williams. You know? Venus’s health gave out and now she can only really do doubles with her sister — but together they’re even more powerful, together they’re like this crazy power team kicking everyone’s ass.
Right, yeah.
Yeah, there’s something in there… Downstairs just now, recording with Larry, it seemed so trusting. He’s such a sweet and awesome guy.
Yeah, being able to perform with him as the crucial audience — I was totally just using his energy to do that performance just then, because I knew I could trust his energy. Totally trust his energy.
And he was like right there with you interacting and just — full contact.
Yeah, and he was hearing my relationship to the microphone which was… That was an exciting thing because I knew like I could do things with the microphone with a certain dynamic and he was the only person who could hear it.
Have you ever heard of a silent disco? I’m going to one this weekend and I’m pretty excited because I’ve always heard of them, and wanted to just go and pull my hood over my face and dance in public silence with people. It would be so amazing if there was a silent disco but for a show where it’s like very quiet and you get that right in your ear buds, that kind of interaction, hearing breath and it’s just very intimate.
Yes, right.
Do you have any synesthesia when you’re singing or writing or performing? Any association between, for instance, notes and colors? Or when you’re really spacing out and you’re in that zone even if you are in front of people, what’s going on in your brain? For me when I play music it’s like going to this area of my brain that’s loyal to an entirely different logic. What your associations are with sound?
Mine are all related to tamber and power of delivery of any given word. It’s mostly torso and throat but I’ve got all these words that come with the songs so in the song you’ve got all these lyrics and then it’s more…so instead of color it’s melodic and harmonic and tonal and energy.
Right. And kind of physical?
And physical but it’s a full landscape or it’s a full world, it’s a full universe of places to explore.
So does it feel like that when you’re singing? Does it feel spatially like everything just becomes a different kind of dimension?
Yes, it’s as if you know, as if it turns from solid and air and these things to where everything is translated into melody and tamber and intensity and harmony and rhythm. So there isn’t anything else. There isn’t any color. There isn’t any gravity, things like that.
And it’s free to do. Isn’t that insane? And it doesn’t give you a hangover.
No it makes you feel better. But it’s not entirely free.
Right, not energetically. It takes and it returns.
Yeah, I mean one of the great redeeming factors of singing is that it’s like free jazz — it’s being able to experiment fully within very solid boundaries. So, then if you can take some of that magic from that Oz back to this Kansas and say like well you know so I did have to walk through that door so I do have to do these things, but in every movement and every tiny little decision there is pretty huge amount of flexibility and surprise. Just turning the doorknob is full of potential. And that’s what the singing is like, teaching those lessons, because it’s the same, it’s a word that has five letters, two syllables but after that you know you’re going to get to the end of the world and a second and a quarter, but all the different ways you can get through that word makes it and then you can apply those to everything. It makes the days super long.
Well, it seems also like a way of really showing up, just fully, fully showing up for, like you said: for what’s going to happen. It’s pretty amazing.
Yeah, yeah, yes.
Okay so the last thing. You don’t have to do this… What’s one of the first songs you remember remembering. The first memorable song of your life. Interviewers are always asking what songs had the strongest influence on someone as an artist. I guess I’m thinking more like something really foundational. Like was there a little lullaby that you heard a lot as a kid – or what was one of your parents favorite songs? If something springs to mind will you sing it?
Trying to … First? Earliest? That’s really tough.
It doesn’t have to be first or earliest. There’s no science to this question. Like maybe your parents were cleaning the house and it was morning and there was like a song they always listened to that you remember, you learned every breath of it. You just know it.
Yeah, there’s a lot of those. There are weird ones like a song called Robin by Carly Simon. Do you know that? It’s like, “Friends are more than fond of Robin.” Uh…she’s like, “There’s no one living in our lane, oh yes. There’s still folks still living in our lane, but they’re not like Robin. Robin I never told you that I’ll be yours until we’re old. Please learn to call me in your dreams.” And then she sings a line that I’ve never… It’s one of those things that I don’t know what she says. It’s like, “The way ayayayayahmmmm…. is just as it seems.”

It’s beautiful.
It’s beautiful. She had some good melodies, but that’s an incredible melody.
I’ve never asked him about it but my older brother made a record a decade ago where he said a bunch of poems by the French poet François Villon who was some sort of Baudelaireian, Bukowskian kind of writer who wrote 100s of years ago and I first heard about him in — have you ever read Klaus Kinski’s autobiography?
Not yet, but now I will.
It’s so good. And he, early in his career, would perform Villon poems before a live audience… But my older brother made a record where he set a bunch of these poems to music and one of them has some melodic lines that are similar to that Carly Simon song and I wonder if he was aware of that or not because we both would hear that song in the house just playing. Playing, playing, playing. Yeah. Or like The First Time Whenever I Saw Your Face, Roberta Flack. You know?
Yeah. Hit it. I’m just kidding. You don’t have to.
Good.
You’re not a jukebox.
Yeah.
Um, thank you.
That’s kind of the dream though to be a jukebox.
Sure, but you know: “Go to this room and do this and then go to this room and do this and now dance around with a little drum and…” It’s a bit much. Thank you, Will. It was so great talking with you.
Back at you.

INTERVIEW : WILL OLDHAM aka BONNIE ‘PRINCE’ BILLY

Will Oldham née Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billyhas been making music under various psuedonyms for a couple of decades. His is a voice that entrances and moves us, and his songwriting is that of a warlock. Will Oldham, we just can’t quit you…

Will was generous enough to sit down with us during Larry Crane’s live Jackpot! recording sessions at Ace Portland during MusicFest NW, to talk about the sensorial adventure of singing, about failed meditation attempts, about Robin Williams. In addition to our chat, Will performed and recorded with Larry and also spoke with MyMusicRx about music that makes him feel better.

You can download the four songs Will recorded with Larry, as well as from all other mezzanine performances including Hutch Harris of The Thermals, The Heligoats, Mount Eerie and a ton of other rad artists at Jackpot! Recordings Covers Portland.

Your performance in the mezzanine was really beautiful. It made me nostalgic for being 19.

Is that right? What happened when you were 19?

Well that’s when somebody first played Palace Music for me. And you know, there’s so much angst when you’re young and dumb.

And does the angst go away?

No, I don’t think so. I don’t know. It just made me want to quit everything and go cry in the woods for a month, you know?

Yeah. But it would be great to get paid for that.

I’m sure some people have managed it. Anyhow… So, Bonnie Prince Charlie, one of the influences behind your stage name, was also known as the Young Pretender, and was part of the tradition, if we can call it that, of “pretenders to the throne.” The semantic origins of “pretend” aren’t really about falsehood, but more about the presentation of an as-of-yet unaccepted truth. You’ve said that performing under a stage name gives people a more direct, universal, relatable persona to accept, rather than someone singing their memoirs. Johnny Cash, who covered one of your songs before he passed, seems to have had a very earnest approach to stage identity, a lack of strategy around his persona and how his audience related to his work…

Yeah. But then, Cash also, for example, wore all black and then wrote the song about why he wears black, which is absolutely a persona and is completely about doing something for the audience. So they can imagine that they’re hearing all of the songs from this accepted voice, that the audience and Cash both accept as the voice. Right? And he was born with, you know, a totally salable name.

Yeah he was. He really lucked out. He wasn’t named Sue, for instance. So in my experience as a listener of your music, and in speaking with other people who have a history with your music, it seems people feel that it’s very emotionally sonorous, and it’s, you know, speaking some truth to us. Autobiographical fictionists often get sort of interrogated about what’s “really them” in their stories, and memoirists often get taken to task about what’s “really true” as well. You’ve said that you feel you’re performing even as you write. It’s possible that personal truths get perceived as universal and vice versa when your music reaches someone’s ears. They may feel you’re finally expressing for them a truth they weren’t able to express for themselves. How does this relate to songwriting as a performance?

Well, I guess…it’s an act of witnessing. When I’m performing a song that I know really well, the advantage of knowing it really well allows you to let your guard down and be surprised as the song goes on, in terms of what’s happening in the song and what’s going to happen next or where it could potentially go. It can be new because it’s second nature. But building it in the first place in such a way that, that there are surprises built in to the structure of the song or into the lines of the song. Things that that can be said again and again and each time take on a slightly different significance, I guess.

In terms of anything maybe, it seems like nothing is true. Nothing is true that we can say with words.

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INTERVIEW : JESSICA LAWRENCE

This commendable lady just biked across the nation from Portland, Oregon to the Atlantic Ocean this summer, with a brief stopover at Ace Hotel New York before she crossed the finish line. In a self-initiated tour de wellness supporting an active, grounded and playful lifestyle, Jessica has taught us so much. When she’s not riding the steel pony like a boss, she runs Cairn Guidance, consulting with public schools about health and wellness. Soon, Jessica will be celebrated by our friends at the Clinton Health Initiative and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation at the Healthy Schools Forum in Little Rock, in honor of the funds her adventure raised to fight childhood obesity.

We were really inspired by her journey and wanted to snag some photos of her in the photobooth and ask her a few questions, to which she obliged.

What was the moment at which this idea came to life and started germinating for you?

I was 15 years old and had just returned from a bicycle tour trip with other teens in Europe. I told my parents I would someday ride across the US. 23 years later, I fulfilled my dream.

When you first set rubber to road after your send-off breakfast, how massively free (and terrified) did you feel?

Three friends joined me for a few miles on their bikes from the Tin Shed Restaurant to the Springwater Corridor Trail. I remember my body was buzzing. Buzzing with excitement, independence and freedom. It was a gorgeous day. Once my friends left me, I remember looking ahead on the beautiful trail and thinking, “I’m doing this. I’m bicycling all the way across this country.” I felt more proud of myself in that moment than I ever have in my life.

Was there ever a moment where you wanted to give up? Who egged you on?

Of course there were challenging moments and days. My first challenge brought me snow in Montana (blog post entitled First Tears). My second challenge was in Kansas with thorns (6 flat tires in 2 days), 105 degree weather 4 days in a row and brutal head and side-winds. My third challenge was fatigue starting in the Appalachian Range for the last few weeks. These challenging days taught me to ask for help and reach out for support when I needed it. I might have been the one pedaling and carrying 80lbs of my own gear, but I never felt alone. Hundreds of people supported me, texted me, emailed me, posted about me, loved me, prayed for me, donated to my cause, fed me, hosted me, cheered me on and celebrated with me. A few people were there for me on a daily basis. My parents, Elin and Rick Lawrence, my personal trainer Aaron Sompson, at Kinetic Integration Manuel Therapy and Performance, Jamie Sparks, a colleague and close friend in Kentucky and Jamie Waltz, Alison Hansen and Ginny Ehrlich, all close friends. There was one day in particular I reached out to Aaron and cried. I was fatigued and didn’t know if I’d make it through the day. I rarely felt lonely as a result of all the people mentioned above.

Any revelations from the road?

Many. I would say my top three revelations include: 1. I’m so proud to be an American. I never want to take for granted how safe I felt as a female bicycling across this country (in spandex!) alone. We are fortunate that we live in such an amazing country with access to potable water and well-paved roads. Meeting Americans was the best part of the trip. People were unbelievably generous, inquisitive and supportive. 2. Laugh a lot. I loved the uncertainty of what my day would look like and where I would stay each night. It could be scary, stressful but also incredibly freeing. And, with that much alone time, you heal, process, reflect and laugh at yourself. Laughter played an important role on my trip. 3. My last revelation is the belief I can do anything I want. Doing something like this, as a solo female was the most empowering experience I’ve ever had. I’m incredibly proud of myself. Road to Rhode was a dream come true.


INTERVIEW : JOHN JAY, W+K GX : PART II
Our interview with creative director John Jay, recognized this year among other legendary creatives George Lois, Louise Fili and others. See part one here.
There’s a lot of magic in the client/creative relationship, and sometimes a lot of tension. The typical origin myth for that dynamic comes in the form of assuming business needs and creative needs are fundamentally opposed. But it can’t be that simple.
These days clients are under so much pressure. They’re like baseball managers — they last maybe two years. You have to have empathy for them, put yourself in their shoes. Creatives love to complain about the client but unless you can understand what sort of pressure they’re under you can’t solve their problem. This is why, as a creative, you have to also have a business mind — so you can solve business problems in a way that means something, that has substance.
When you sell a company, or go public, that culture dissipates. This “culture” we keep talking about, it starts with the independents. In the Northwest that’s the secret sauce, that we’re wildly independent. We’re not in the shadow of Madison Avenue, we don’t have the pressure of our immediate surrounding industry and community saying “that’s how everyone does it, this is how it’s done.” Wieden didn’t germinate in a big city, and that allowed us to grow as a team in this independent environment. How do we live up to that responsibility? By standing by a truly creative culture, in an open studio where we encourage the unexpected and that which questions ideas at their core.

What are you looking for when you’re building a team?
With team building we use our own people, we send people all over the globe either to work or to find like-minded and inspired people to work with. Sometimes it’s the influence of a very young person with fresh talent, passion and a unique point of view. Talent combined with craft is a huge deal. The industry pendulum swings so far, so now everything is about the idea — well, of course everything is about the idea, but you have to activate the brain cells that connect your hands to actually make something.
In TV marketing and culture, you have the luxury of hiring the makers, but chefs don’t just sell their recipes, they actually use them and make them and get their hands in it.
Wieden + Kennedy has acted as a sort of unwitting catalyst for a kind of “failure-positive” philosophy and culture in advertising. An emphasis on that which can come out of being willing to fail, by whatever standards, and discover something unexpected — to “show up stupid every morning” as WK12 put forth. It seems like this culture is both a result and source of some of the generative tension between creative and commerce. It involves doing shit that scares you, really, which is not a very traditional business model. How do you seek out stuff that scares you?
Well I’m not sure we actually seek failure or seek what scares us, but you know when the alarm goes off. If an idea seems perfect and just right, like all our work is done — if you can tie a bow on it, that scares me. An alarm goes off. And you have to have the experience to know you’re not pushing it enough.
We pitched a client recently and were watching other agencies leave after their pitches with their envelopes and tubes full of work they were presenting in response to the brand’s brief. And we had to say, you know we don’t really have anything yet because we don’t feel your brief is right. And yeah, maybe you’re going to blow it right there, but you have to lay it on the line: “We don’t believe in your brief. We believe you want to be successful and we don’t think this is the right path.” They’re hiring you for your point of view. There were mostly senior WK members there, but some newish members as well, and they were sort of mortified before we went in, like “You can do that? You can say that?” The newer members had come from other agencies, and after that experience, they were like, “I can see now that this is what WK is all about.”
So it’s a risk, but what if you win an account based on work you don’t feel good about or that’s based on something you don’t believe in, then you have to actually live it out! You know — if we’re going to get fired, let’s just get fired now. You might as well get fired for what you believe in.

There’s a quote by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “What I’m proudest of is having a life where work and love are impossible to tell apart.” In a way, it’s a very old school idea — not very synchronistic with modern day capitalism. But somehow it feels like more of a human birthright that a luxurious form of freedom.
You have to do work you believe in if you’re going to really be able to solve someone’s problem. It has to feel right — you must do work you’re proud of. When people ask me, so John what do you want to see from such and such a photographer or artist, I say, “I don’t even know you! I don’t know what I want to see! Show me work you’re proud of!” Sure, you might have a photograph on the cover of TIME. I don’t care about a TIME cover, I care about a great image. If it happens to be a great image that’s on the cover of TIME, that’s fantastic, but it has to be something I respond to emotionally. I’m not overwhelmed because someone was on the cover of TIME. If I feel their agent has been editing their portfolio or trying to show work that will somehow appeal to me or our team, it’s not what I’m looking for. I want to see what the person is most proud of. If that ends up being vacation pictures of his two-year-old daughter, then so be it.
That’s where the energy comes from. Standing behind good work, always wanting to be better — this is just a part of being a human being. I don’t get off of work and think, “Oh now I get to finally rest, or I guess I’ll go look at something interesting.” If I’m doing my job well, I’m experiencing something inspiring and interesting each day. I’m active and inspired and the boundary between work and not work doesn’t exist. When you can’t tell if you’re working or playing, then you’re onto something.
Life is all about change through an evolution grounded by our values. Change without values and values without a willingness to adapt can both become an emotional and intellectual trap.
This is an exciting time. It is the most creative moment perhaps in our history. Evolution is inevitable, it happens with or without you, so embracing new people and new ideas, all fearless of the future, is actually my job. Embracing this moment of creative opportunity is the first step.

Photos by Wieden’s own, Hope Freeman

INTERVIEW : JOHN JAY, W+K GX : PART II

Our interview with creative director John Jay, recognized this year among other legendary creatives George Lois, Louise Fili and others. See part one here.

There’s a lot of magic in the client/creative relationship, and sometimes a lot of tension. The typical origin myth for that dynamic comes in the form of assuming business needs and creative needs are fundamentally opposed. But it can’t be that simple.

These days clients are under so much pressure. They’re like baseball managers — they last maybe two years. You have to have empathy for them, put yourself in their shoes. Creatives love to complain about the client but unless you can understand what sort of pressure they’re under you can’t solve their problem. This is why, as a creative, you have to also have a business mind — so you can solve business problems in a way that means something, that has substance.

When you sell a company, or go public, that culture dissipates. This “culture” we keep talking about, it starts with the independents. In the Northwest that’s the secret sauce, that we’re wildly independent. We’re not in the shadow of Madison Avenue, we don’t have the pressure of our immediate surrounding industry and community saying “that’s how everyone does it, this is how it’s done.” Wieden didn’t germinate in a big city, and that allowed us to grow as a team in this independent environment. How do we live up to that responsibility? By standing by a truly creative culture, in an open studio where we encourage the unexpected and that which questions ideas at their core.

Ace Hotel Wieden Kennedy John Jay Interview

What are you looking for when you’re building a team?

With team building we use our own people, we send people all over the globe either to work or to find like-minded and inspired people to work with. Sometimes it’s the influence of a very young person with fresh talent, passion and a unique point of view. Talent combined with craft is a huge deal. The industry pendulum swings so far, so now everything is about the idea — well, of course everything is about the idea, but you have to activate the brain cells that connect your hands to actually make something.

In TV marketing and culture, you have the luxury of hiring the makers, but chefs don’t just sell their recipes, they actually use them and make them and get their hands in it.

Wieden + Kennedy has acted as a sort of unwitting catalyst for a kind of “failure-positive” philosophy and culture in advertising. An emphasis on that which can come out of being willing to fail, by whatever standards, and discover something unexpected — to “show up stupid every morning” as WK12 put forth. It seems like this culture is both a result and source of some of the generative tension between creative and commerce. It involves doing shit that scares you, really, which is not a very traditional business model. How do you seek out stuff that scares you?

Well I’m not sure we actually seek failure or seek what scares us, but you know when the alarm goes off. If an idea seems perfect and just right, like all our work is done — if you can tie a bow on it, that scares me. An alarm goes off. And you have to have the experience to know you’re not pushing it enough.

We pitched a client recently and were watching other agencies leave after their pitches with their envelopes and tubes full of work they were presenting in response to the brand’s brief. And we had to say, you know we don’t really have anything yet because we don’t feel your brief is right. And yeah, maybe you’re going to blow it right there, but you have to lay it on the line: “We don’t believe in your brief. We believe you want to be successful and we don’t think this is the right path.” They’re hiring you for your point of view. There were mostly senior WK members there, but some newish members as well, and they were sort of mortified before we went in, like “You can do that? You can say that?” The newer members had come from other agencies, and after that experience, they were like, “I can see now that this is what WK is all about.”

So it’s a risk, but what if you win an account based on work you don’t feel good about or that’s based on something you don’t believe in, then you have to actually live it out! You know — if we’re going to get fired, let’s just get fired now. You might as well get fired for what you believe in.

Ace Hotel Wieden Kennedy John Jay Interview

There’s a quote by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “What I’m proudest of is having a life where work and love are impossible to tell apart.” In a way, it’s a very old school idea — not very synchronistic with modern day capitalism. But somehow it feels like more of a human birthright that a luxurious form of freedom.

You have to do work you believe in if you’re going to really be able to solve someone’s problem. It has to feel right — you must do work you’re proud of. When people ask me, so John what do you want to see from such and such a photographer or artist, I say, “I don’t even know you! I don’t know what I want to see! Show me work you’re proud of!” Sure, you might have a photograph on the cover of TIME. I don’t care about a TIME cover, I care about a great image. If it happens to be a great image that’s on the cover of TIME, that’s fantastic, but it has to be something I respond to emotionally. I’m not overwhelmed because someone was on the cover of TIME. If I feel their agent has been editing their portfolio or trying to show work that will somehow appeal to me or our team, it’s not what I’m looking for. I want to see what the person is most proud of. If that ends up being vacation pictures of his two-year-old daughter, then so be it.

That’s where the energy comes from. Standing behind good work, always wanting to be better — this is just a part of being a human being. I don’t get off of work and think, “Oh now I get to finally rest, or I guess I’ll go look at something interesting.” If I’m doing my job well, I’m experiencing something inspiring and interesting each day. I’m active and inspired and the boundary between work and not work doesn’t exist. When you can’t tell if you’re working or playing, then you’re onto something.

Life is all about change through an evolution grounded by our values. Change without values and values without a willingness to adapt can both become an emotional and intellectual trap.

This is an exciting time. It is the most creative moment perhaps in our history. Evolution is inevitable, it happens with or without you, so embracing new people and new ideas, all fearless of the future, is actually my job. Embracing this moment of creative opportunity is the first step.

Ace Hotel Wieden Kennedy John Jay Interview

Photos by Wieden’s own, Hope Freeman


TBA INTERVIEW : KATHLEEN HANNA of THE JULIE RUIN
Kathleen Hanna is the fairy godmother of punk feminism. When she started Bikini Kill in the 90s she started a unquenchable fire in every girl’s heart that burned through the brush to a clear place where girls could see each other and themselves more clearly. How other people saw them — who gives a shit. Kathleen is now back on stages and on tour with the second incarnation of her group The Julie Ruin, and they’re bringing their irreverent and joyful noise to the opening ceremony for PICA’s TBA Festival this Thursday. Here, an excerpt from NPR Music's Jacki Lyden interview with the woman in question.

Girls like us like cotton candy, plastic handbags, alcohol. Girls like us sometimes ignore people on the street, even other people that we know. Girls like us sneak breaks at Wendy’s and girls like us invented jazz. Girls like us have no foundations, creation myths are so passé. Girls like us.

Tell me a little bit about how this song came to be. What’s going on here?
You tell me. The lyrics are really kind of random. It’s like, girls like us eat salt for breakfast, girls like us stand back to back. They’re kind of an anthem for the people who there is no anthem for. You know, it’s meant to be kind of a tongue-in-cheek thing of like, we’re all different. I thought that song was a really playful way to say there is no girl like us. You know what I mean? There’s just as many different kinds of feminism as there are women in the world.
You were forced to take a long time out; this is your first album in nine years. People were wondering what had happened. And recently, it came to light that you were suffering very seriously from an undiagnosed illness. Would you tell me more about that?
Yeah, I have late-stage Lyme disease. And I still, you know, have good days, bad days, good weeks, bad weeks. And I’m still in long-term treatment. It’s been a tough nine years. And I didn’t think that I would ever be performing again. And that was a very bitter pill to swallow along with the other 84 pills I take every day, ha.
Are you on good terms with the woman who started Bikini Kill?
I think I am now. I’ve kind of made peace with the mistakes that I’ve made and also feeling proud of what I’ve made. I think that people who are involved in community activism, it’s like, don’t stand out. We’re all equal, you know, especially if you come from a punk rock background that’s anti-hierarchy. And I always had this thing of, like, don’t be a leader. And I think that fed into me not being able to say: Hey, wait. That was really cool what I did.
I had to, you know, downplay the interesting things that I had made, kind of even to myself. And I’m still as pissed off as ever before. I think I’m just a little bit more directed. I have a better direction for my anger. It’s less kind of loosey-goosey all over the place. And I’m more apt to look at a larger world view than just, you know, what’s going on inside my apartment building. And now I think both the 21-year-old and the 41-year-old are pretty happy with each other…

TBA INTERVIEW : KATHLEEN HANNA of THE JULIE RUIN

Kathleen Hanna is the fairy godmother of punk feminism. When she started Bikini Kill in the 90s she started a unquenchable fire in every girl’s heart that burned through the brush to a clear place where girls could see each other and themselves more clearly. How other people saw them — who gives a shit. Kathleen is now back on stages and on tour with the second incarnation of her group The Julie Ruin, and they’re bringing their irreverent and joyful noise to the opening ceremony for PICA’s TBA Festival this Thursday. Here, an excerpt from NPR Music's Jacki Lyden interview with the woman in question.

Girls like us like cotton candy, plastic handbags, alcohol. Girls like us sometimes ignore people on the street, even other people that we know. Girls like us sneak breaks at Wendy’s and girls like us invented jazz. Girls like us have no foundations, creation myths are so passé. Girls like us.

Tell me a little bit about how this song came to be. What’s going on here?

You tell me. The lyrics are really kind of random. It’s like, girls like us eat salt for breakfast, girls like us stand back to back. They’re kind of an anthem for the people who there is no anthem for. You know, it’s meant to be kind of a tongue-in-cheek thing of like, we’re all different. I thought that song was a really playful way to say there is no girl like us. You know what I mean? There’s just as many different kinds of feminism as there are women in the world.

You were forced to take a long time out; this is your first album in nine years. People were wondering what had happened. And recently, it came to light that you were suffering very seriously from an undiagnosed illness. Would you tell me more about that?

Yeah, I have late-stage Lyme disease. And I still, you know, have good days, bad days, good weeks, bad weeks. And I’m still in long-term treatment. It’s been a tough nine years. And I didn’t think that I would ever be performing again. And that was a very bitter pill to swallow along with the other 84 pills I take every day, ha.

Are you on good terms with the woman who started Bikini Kill?

I think I am now. I’ve kind of made peace with the mistakes that I’ve made and also feeling proud of what I’ve made. I think that people who are involved in community activism, it’s like, don’t stand out. We’re all equal, you know, especially if you come from a punk rock background that’s anti-hierarchy. And I always had this thing of, like, don’t be a leader. And I think that fed into me not being able to say: Hey, wait. That was really cool what I did.

I had to, you know, downplay the interesting things that I had made, kind of even to myself. And I’m still as pissed off as ever before. I think I’m just a little bit more directed. I have a better direction for my anger. It’s less kind of loosey-goosey all over the place. And I’m more apt to look at a larger world view than just, you know, what’s going on inside my apartment building. And now I think both the 21-year-old and the 41-year-old are pretty happy with each other…


INTERVIEW : JOHN JAY, W+K GX : PART I
Does John Jay need an introduction? Recently named one of the top most influential art directors of the last half a century — next to George Lois and Louise Fili — he’s also one of the top most wonderful human beings we’ve ever met. John’s philosophies on making, collaborating and creating beauty in the world are a beacon in a plasticine era. With the launch of his new lab GX at Wieden + Kennedy’s Portland flagship, he’s pushed his canoe off into thrilling new creative adventures and relationships — fueled by his many nocturnal and extracurricular endeavors over the last few decades.
How do you reconcile beauty with advertising?
You can design a product beautifully, or you can design a product and be half-assed about it. You can art direct, write copy and concept with beauty and craft in mind. The world is a better place when there’s beauty, but beauty is most certainly subjective. In the sense of wabi sabi, the most fucked up, destroyed version of beauty is best — but of course, in that regard, nature is the best designer there is.
In advertising, we’re hired to solve a problem — a business problem. We’re really storytelling, with music, film, typography, graphics… elements that add beauty. I do believe that creating beauty is a contribution to society, it’s a way of giving back to the world.

You’ve spoken about GX as a means by which you can get the best work from yourself — it’s been formed from two decades of work with Wieden, and all the experience you’ve carried forward from other endeavours. Talk about your role as a creative director, and what GX means for you as a beacon of creating and doing.
My job is to be inspired. It’s not my client’s job, or my employer’s job or my team member’s job. It’s my job to stay curious. To be ambitious. The first job of a CD is to inspire. You might have this fat Rolodex with numbers from all over the world — well, what are you going to do with it? I was talking to a client in Berlin and he was asking about GX, what had motivated me to create GX, and I told him that selfishly it was so that I could work with him again myself. I’ve been orchestrating these connections between people and brands and artists, but what if could actually activate those connections myself? To actually do something, physically and creatively, with those relationships and ideas.
Dan [Wieden] asked me if they were still getting the best out of me — he asked how they could set me loose. His advice, “Free yourself.” To be honest, the way to get the best out of me is not for me to sit in meetings for eighteen hours a day. You know, I was co-executive creative director of the whole company globally — it was, and is, an absolutely incredible job, but it was no longer really the right fit for me. Every W+K office in each city also has two executive creative directors, and each account has a creative director team who then manages all the creative work for the account. I loved the IDEA of my job on the Global Management Team but truthfully… I wasn’t really making the kind of impact that was important to me.
I’ve always had a version of Studio J [John’s independent studio with his wife and creative partner Janet]. When I was at Bloomingdales, I still had a studio where I was working in publishing, restaurants, graphics. No matter what my day job is, I’m always creating a night job for myself, always creating these opportunities for myself.

I wrote a piece about George Lois the other day and I was talking to him about his Esquire covers — I said, “Not only were those covers masterpieces, not only were 30 of them just shown at the MoMA, but that was your night job!” You know, that was what he did after dinner.
You make your own energy — you have to be “selfish” in that respect, to figure out how you can generate your own energy. But somehow, when it’s done with authenticity and wonder, it always seems to become a more universal source — everyone working to keep themselves at their most inspired, their most energetic.
W+K Tokyo was like a dress rehearsal for GX. When we were recruiting for the team in Tokyo, I offered to hire all the management, but as I was giving this spiel about why Tokyo would be such a great job I thought, “Why would I give this away?” So I decided to open the Japan office and it ended up being an extraordinary time for me.
At the time, Dan said about Tokyo that we should make it the “hothouse” — a place where we could do experiments that no other company was able to do. Eventually, he asked me to bring that energy back to the mothership [in Portland]. And it was great, but you know, the air changes, you change, and you have to continue to feel actively creative. How can I continue to inspire people?

And how does GX allow to you relate to your clients differently?
At GX, and at Wieden + Kennedy as a whole, we get to really make a choice about who we’re working with. Each brand expresses itself in a unique and personal way so to be in a position to choose clients, to be independent, to make our own decisions — this freedom is at the core of being able to do good work. To be able to say no is one of the most powerful things in the world.
When you’re running a business, you have to think about — yes, we need money to keep the company going, but you also need to be able to say “This would not be a good situation for us, creatively, morally, spiritually.” If you’re a publicly-held company, if you’re owned by the bank, you don’t have the power to say no to a poor fit. We can think selectively, as independents, and we can say no. Though you do have to be careful who you say no to — it’s a small world.
When you say no to something that isn’t right for you, that’s 10 more minutes of quiet, peaceful sleep you get to have each night, knowing you are doing work you believe in. That’s powerful.
Stay tuned for part deux, planted soon.
Photos by Wieden’s own, Hope Freeman

INTERVIEW : JOHN JAY, W+K GX : PART I

Does John Jay need an introduction? Recently named one of the top most influential art directors of the last half a century — next to George Lois and Louise Fili — he’s also one of the top most wonderful human beings we’ve ever met. John’s philosophies on making, collaborating and creating beauty in the world are a beacon in a plasticine era. With the launch of his new lab GX at Wieden + Kennedy’s Portland flagship, he’s pushed his canoe off into thrilling new creative adventures and relationships — fueled by his many nocturnal and extracurricular endeavors over the last few decades.

How do you reconcile beauty with advertising?

You can design a product beautifully, or you can design a product and be half-assed about it. You can art direct, write copy and concept with beauty and craft in mind. The world is a better place when there’s beauty, but beauty is most certainly subjective. In the sense of wabi sabi, the most fucked up, destroyed version of beauty is best — but of course, in that regard, nature is the best designer there is.

In advertising, we’re hired to solve a problem — a business problem. We’re really storytelling, with music, film, typography, graphics… elements that add beauty. I do believe that creating beauty is a contribution to society, it’s a way of giving back to the world.

You’ve spoken about GX as a means by which you can get the best work from yourself — it’s been formed from two decades of work with Wieden, and all the experience you’ve carried forward from other endeavours. Talk about your role as a creative director, and what GX means for you as a beacon of creating and doing.

My job is to be inspired. It’s not my client’s job, or my employer’s job or my team member’s job. It’s my job to stay curious. To be ambitious. The first job of a CD is to inspire. You might have this fat Rolodex with numbers from all over the world — well, what are you going to do with it? I was talking to a client in Berlin and he was asking about GX, what had motivated me to create GX, and I told him that selfishly it was so that I could work with him again myself. I’ve been orchestrating these connections between people and brands and artists, but what if could actually activate those connections myself? To actually do something, physically and creatively, with those relationships and ideas.

Dan [Wieden] asked me if they were still getting the best out of me — he asked how they could set me loose. His advice, “Free yourself.” To be honest, the way to get the best out of me is not for me to sit in meetings for eighteen hours a day. You know, I was co-executive creative director of the whole company globally — it was, and is, an absolutely incredible job, but it was no longer really the right fit for me. Every W+K office in each city also has two executive creative directors, and each account has a creative director team who then manages all the creative work for the account. I loved the IDEA of my job on the Global Management Team but truthfully… I wasn’t really making the kind of impact that was important to me.

I’ve always had a version of Studio J [John’s independent studio with his wife and creative partner Janet]. When I was at Bloomingdales, I still had a studio where I was working in publishing, restaurants, graphics. No matter what my day job is, I’m always creating a night job for myself, always creating these opportunities for myself.

I wrote a piece about George Lois the other day and I was talking to him about his Esquire covers — I said, “Not only were those covers masterpieces, not only were 30 of them just shown at the MoMA, but that was your night job!” You know, that was what he did after dinner.

You make your own energy — you have to be “selfish” in that respect, to figure out how you can generate your own energy. But somehow, when it’s done with authenticity and wonder, it always seems to become a more universal source — everyone working to keep themselves at their most inspired, their most energetic.

W+K Tokyo was like a dress rehearsal for GX. When we were recruiting for the team in Tokyo, I offered to hire all the management, but as I was giving this spiel about why Tokyo would be such a great job I thought, “Why would I give this away?” So I decided to open the Japan office and it ended up being an extraordinary time for me.

At the time, Dan said about Tokyo that we should make it the “hothouse” — a place where we could do experiments that no other company was able to do. Eventually, he asked me to bring that energy back to the mothership [in Portland]. And it was great, but you know, the air changes, you change, and you have to continue to feel actively creative. How can I continue to inspire people?

And how does GX allow to you relate to your clients differently?

At GX, and at Wieden + Kennedy as a whole, we get to really make a choice about who we’re working with. Each brand expresses itself in a unique and personal way so to be in a position to choose clients, to be independent, to make our own decisions — this freedom is at the core of being able to do good work. To be able to say no is one of the most powerful things in the world.

When you’re running a business, you have to think about — yes, we need money to keep the company going, but you also need to be able to say “This would not be a good situation for us, creatively, morally, spiritually.” If you’re a publicly-held company, if you’re owned by the bank, you don’t have the power to say no to a poor fit. We can think selectively, as independents, and we can say no. Though you do have to be careful who you say no to — it’s a small world.

When you say no to something that isn’t right for you, that’s 10 more minutes of quiet, peaceful sleep you get to have each night, knowing you are doing work you believe in. That’s powerful.

Stay tuned for part deux, planted soon.

Photos by Wieden’s own, Hope Freeman


image

WARM UP INTERVIEW : KIM ANN FOXMAN

Kim Ann Foxman performed last weekend at MoMA PS1 Warm Up 2013 in Queens, NY. Enter now to win a pair of passes to this Saturday’s Warm Up shows. Make sure to be quick, they’re a hot commodity round these parts.

What’s the song, producer or moment that propelled you from being a fan of house to a maker of house? What drew you to that culture before you became one of its producers?  

Growing up on stuff like technotronic and freestyle tuned my ear to love electronic sounds. I always gravitated towards that. Later came the rave scene, which was really exciting for me: it was so underground, so wild and so much fun. Moving from Hawaii to San Francisco, I really dived into that scene and I got really into DJs and started collecting vinyl and mixed tapes. I always loved to dance so much. One day in San Francisco, at a party, I took a break from dancing my ass off and I somehow got into a conversation with this guy. He mentioned that he made dance music, I thought that was really cool. He invited me over to see how we could collaborate if I was interested. So I went over to his studio a few days later. Eventually we started working together, I got my first sampler and drum machine. After that, I was hooked: we ended up as a  two man electronic band. We had ten shows in San Francisco… and then I moved to New York. 

American house music has its roots in New York, from the Paradise Garage, and in Chicago. Now that house is moving to the foreground of dance music in the United States in a sort of unprecedented way, people tend to associate the genre more with New York. What do you think of the current, possibly less appreciated, house scene in Chicago, and do you draw any inspiration from that culture in the past or present? 

That is true but I think that although there is now much less of a “scene” in Chicago for house music, people everywhere else are still inspired by the sound and acknowledge it, and there is a lot of respect. It may be a really small scene but the tiny part that is left of it is proper. And you can see that the roots are deep down in there although current trends may have shifted very much. I get a lot of inspiration from classic Chicago tracks and I play a lot of that sound in my Dj sets as well. 

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If you weren’t making music, what would you do for a living instead — in an alternate reality?

Something creative and fun. I am pretty open to creative possibilities: design, or have a brand of some sort. Maybe have a quirky venue, even. I also always thought it would be dreamy to do something adventurous, like documenting exotic places, new species and discoveries for something like National Geographic. At least I think that would be really exciting anyway. 


Erin Garcia : Whatuuuup professorevans.
Lucy Rose: Oh hey.
Erin Garcia : It’s Erin.
Lucy Rose: I figured as much — ha, Professor Evans.
Erin Garcia : PHD status
Lucy Rose: I like it.
Lucy Rose: I know this is the laziest way to do an interview ever, but it just makes editing so much easier — besides, we get to erase all the umms before we even say them. It makes us both sound so much more intelligent.
Erin Garcia : haha
Erin Garcia : Works for me.
Lucy Rose: (I’ve done this before)
Lucy Rose: Ok, shall we start?
Erin Garcia : Let’s do it.
Lucy Rose: Ok, so you’re from Ohio, right? Tell me a little about where and how you grew up.
Erin Garcia : I’m actually from North Carolina.
Erin Garcia : ha
Lucy Rose: Forgive me, I’m from New Zealand and am still working out the whole US geography thing.
Erin Garcia : I grew up in Winston — Salem which is a med-small city in the middle of NC.
Lucy Rose: What was life like there as a kid? What did you spend your weekends doing?
Erin Garcia : As a kid it was rad, lots of riding bikes and playing in the woods.

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INTERVIEW : IRA GLASS : PART III
Do you recommend to “beginners” that they be fearless about putting work out there to be judged, as long as they know it’s going to be a learning experience?
Yes. It was interesting to me these last two years watching Mike Birbiglia turn himself into a movie maker and at every stage he both had the arrogance of believing that he could do it and the humility to know that he wasn’t any good yet. He had a rough script, and it was okay, I guess, not quite there and he got into the Sundance Screenwriting Lab and they paired him with Mike White who’s an amazing screenwriter who gave him notes, but then he also went out to talk at length to Miguel Arteta and Noah Baumbach and other filmmakers, and he showed the script around to lots of people. David Wayne is another filmmaker. He showed it to Lena Dunham. He really just got input from a lot of people and got them to explain to him: “Okay, here’s how to handle this or that.” I just had incredible respect for it, and when we started to put the film together, he hired this amazing cinematographer who could teach him that world, and we had this amazing editor.He knew what he didn’t know and then he used other people’s expertise to pull him forward. I feel like that’s how you get there. I think so many of us are too shy to. We don’t want to be a bother to other people. We don’t know how to approach other people, and I think that’s a huge advantage that he had just in terms of his personality — he wasn’t self-conscious about that somehow. He knew he needed the help and he was secure enough to just ask. In a way that, for most of my life, I haven’t been so able to do. He was much bolder than I ever would be.[[MORE]]
Right, you came with $50 bucks. He just asked. Do you think that most people are willing to give advice? That people do so much work toward reaching a pinnacle in their career or their lives, learning all sorts of things, but might not get asked — if someone would only ask them, they’d be willing to open up and share what they’ve learned?I think it’s a really delicate thing and people have to be approached in the right way.Does it depend on the level that they’re at or just the way in which they’re asked?It depends on all those things. It’s really just like a human connection you’re trying to make. With Mike, I think he was performing his one-man show and some of these people would come and see the one-man show and the one-man show is amazing and he’s so talented. They would come backstage and chat with him afterwards and he would get to know them that way. They have respect for him even though he was not a filmmaker yet.They knew he’s got something on the ball, I guess. He had that going for him. Occasionally, I’ll be giving a speech or something and somebody will press a CD in my hands who has never done anything and a lot of people are like, “I’m busy. I have stuff that I’m supposed to be getting to that I’m not even getting to,” and they don’t feel they can take on fifteen minutes of listening or half an hour of listening and write somebody a note. It’s a thing. They’d have to be pretty convincing or make the story seem compelling. The best thing that would get me into it would be if the story they were telling on the CD had some promise for me where I felt like, “Oh that just sounds good. Even if they can’t totally execute it, I kind of want to hear that.” That’s the thing that sells me.In your Goucher College commencement address you said to students: “You will be stupid.” I’m curious if that ever stops, the whole being-stupid thing.If you’re lucky that never stops. Ideally, if you’re trying to do creative work the worst thing that could happen is that it gets too easy and then you’re doing the same thing over and over. If you’re successful what’s happening is you’re constantly setting new goals for yourself and inventing new things and trying things that are really hard. That’s been one of the great things about doing the radio show is that we can constantly reset what we’re doing to make it hard again, and I have to say, it’s really hard. It’s easy for me to write a radio story. I know how to write a radio story, but making a show is really difficult still and I feel like that’s a sign that we’re doing the right thing. It’s like we’re constantly trying to invent stuff we’ve never done.Thanks, Ira.

INTERVIEW : IRA GLASS : PART III

Do you recommend to “beginners” that they be fearless about putting work out there to be judged, as long as they know it’s going to be a learning experience?

Yes. It was interesting to me these last two years watching Mike Birbiglia turn himself into a movie maker and at every stage he both had the arrogance of believing that he could do it and the humility to know that he wasn’t any good yet. He had a rough script, and it was okay, I guess, not quite there and he got into the Sundance Screenwriting Lab and they paired him with Mike White who’s an amazing screenwriter who gave him notes, but then he also went out to talk at length to Miguel Arteta and Noah Baumbach and other filmmakers, and he showed the script around to lots of people. David Wayne is another filmmaker. He showed it to Lena Dunham. He really just got input from a lot of people and got them to explain to him: “Okay, here’s how to handle this or that.” I just had incredible respect for it, and when we started to put the film together, he hired this amazing cinematographer who could teach him that world, and we had this amazing editor.

He knew what he didn’t know and then he used other people’s expertise to pull him forward. I feel like that’s how you get there. I think so many of us are too shy to. We don’t want to be a bother to other people. We don’t know how to approach other people, and I think that’s a huge advantage that he had just in terms of his personality — he wasn’t self-conscious about that somehow. He knew he needed the help and he was secure enough to just ask. In a way that, for most of my life, I haven’t been so able to do. He was much bolder than I ever would be.

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PART III : LINDA GERARD & DJ DAY

Dear faithful readers — if you know us and love us at all then you know who Linda Gerard is. And you know that we love her beyond reason. And you know that she is currently facing off with the asshole named cancer — and we’re hoping everyone can chip in to help her out. Coin, vibes and kind words all matter.

Above, you’ll see Linda’s brief chat with Andrew Andrew during Desert Gold 2010 — the fifth edition is fast approaching this month. And below is part three of Linda’s interview with DJ Day — you can grab Linda’s Sissy Bingo t-shirt and her latest record, a compilation of greatest hits, Fabulous Selections, on our shop — all proceeds go to Linda’s Kick Cancer’s Ass Fund.

Read on for more from this right-on woman — you can also catch up on parts one and two while you’re at it. Light a candle, sing a show tune and dress everyday as though for paradise, in her honor.

Next up in our interview series: Ira Glass!

Can we talk about Funny Girl?

Well what happened with Funny Girl — I was with William Morris, and the pianist for Funny Girl was a guy named Peter Daniels. Peter Daniels was my accompanist. He was also Barbra Streisand’s accompanist and Lainie Kazan’s. He worked for all three of us and when Funny Girl opened, I went to opening night with my husband at the time, and I remember nudging him and saying, “It’s going to be me up there someday.” I knew that role was written for me.

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PART II : LINDA GERARD & DJ DAY

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Our friend, fashion idol and philosophical guru Linda Gerard serenades devoted fans every Monday night at Sissy Bingo at Ace Palm Springs — a storied songstress of Broadway and Follies fame, she also peppers random lunches and dinners at King’s Highway with show-stopping belters, raising her bejeweled hands to the sky as she slays the final notes of Zing! Went the Strings of my Heart to thundering applause, having, each time, gained a couple dozen new groupies.

Recently, we were shaken by the news that Linda is in the process of kicking cancer’s ass. She was diagnosed earlier this year and is currently in the process of treatment and recovery. We love her dearly and would bend over backward to help and support her. This Monday, join us and her massive posse of friends, family and fans in the Commune for a festival of positivity, love and posse-rallying, with DJ Day, Alf Alpha, Giselle Woo, JP Houston and others. Donations at the door enter you to a raffle with damn good prizes, and proceeds from drinks go toward Linda and all rooms booked for that night at Ace with code FABULOUS are not only 25% off but go toward Linda’s support fund as well. See more about the event on our calendar.

Find here part two of three chapters of DJ Day’s interview with Linda about life, love and Lawrence Welk. DJ Day’s ridiculously great new record Land of 1000 Chances is up on our shop, as is Linda’s Fabulous Selections — which we released recently — and, you guessed it, proceeds from her record and our Sissy Bingo shirt go toward Linda as well.

Read on, show the love and stay tuned for chapter three, forthcoming soon.

Talk about the Rose Tattoo time…

What happened was, when my girlfriend broke up with me in ‘87, I needed a new beginning. I bought the Rose Tattoo in ‘88.

This was in West Hollywood and obviously huge at the time. I mean, Barry Manilow?

They all came. They all came to the Rose Tattoo and it was very, very exciting.

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