Friday, December 12, 2008

Interview with Of Montreal's James Huggins - Part 3 of 3

SoR: What did you think of Skeletal Lamping when you first heard it?

JH: I really disliked it. Until I started deconstructing it, I didn't see how unique and multi-dimensional it was. At least for the first two or three listens, I felt like it was just really disjointed, frustrating, simple, sexual booty-pop or something and I just couldn't understand where he was going.
And then when he started sending these isolated keyboard parts and harmonies and stuff and I sort of detached myself from my personal interpretation of the lyrics just by knowing him and knowing his family and knowing his psyche, I tried to not consider that. And not consider any of the lyrics literally and pretend like it's some sort of alien voice that's just coming in and doing a little tap-dance and getting off on it. That's what he wanted.
And then I talked to him about it and said, 'God what's the point of this? Why did you end it like this?' And he was saying how it was his calculated intention to make it upsetting and jarring to listen to, and that all of those cut-in-half songs and quick starts and sharp endings were meant intentionally to kind of keep you on your toes. He wanted to make this sort-of difficult arrangement that wasn't like a standard, three-minute song, track by track for 14 songs.
So anyway, after a little bit of context and a little bit of time and then actually trying to piece it together myself and learn parts, then I got a deep respect for this album. I think it might be one of the best. But that defines any good record if you can listen to it five, eight, 10, 12 times and find something new out of it, that is definitely the case with this one.
I would recommend a minimum of 10 listens before making any sort of opinion. And, it's such a short record and it does change so often that you can stomach listening to it 10 times in as many days and it wouldn't be like some kind of chore. Just pop it in your car and ride for a half an hour and it's over.

SoR: I understand what you're saying. With each successive Of Montreal album, I think that I'm not going to like this one as much and than after 10 listens, it's my new favorite. I guess that's the mark of a good album and I guess that's what you guys are hoping for.

JH: The thing is, I think Kevin just disregards any of that when he's making them. For him, I really do think he's making it for himself.
It's really hard being an artist, and especially if you know that your voice is being heard. I can sit around and write stuff and I'll actually consider, 'Does this sound like it could be played on the radio?'
But Kevin doesn't give a shit what anybody thinks, obviously. So he's able to detach himself from any self-editing, and that's a big part of some of the creepier, sexual lyrics. He said he wasn't going to sit there and say, 'Oh I shouldn't say this,' or 'I shouldn't say condoms on my ice-cream cone.' Whatever he wanted to say he just said it, because it made him laugh and it made him smile in the moment of creation. And then he wouldn't go back and reconsider, 'Is this offensive?'
I have to respect that, not to suggest that just anything you fart out is gold. There's obviously some consideration there, and I don't think anybody wants to hear every random thought that an artist has. I do think that freeing up your ego a little bit can certainly yield interesting creative work and I think he's done that very successfully.

SoR: There's an image that people seem to have of you guys. I keep hearing the word 'superfreak' thrown out there to describe the personality that you have on stage. Is that really how you guys are or are you actually just sitting around drinking hot tea and relaxing?

JH: I think it's a very real and natural part of all of our personalities, but that's a misconception. When we're on stage, we are trying to put our best foot forward to put on a show for people to have a great hour and a half.
It's not like it's difficult for us to do that or that we're forcing some other personality on ourselves because each one of us has that in us.
But then, we all have a depressed, sitting in the back of the bus side. We all have a groggy, bitchy in the morning side. We all have a crazy, loud eccentric side.
I guess the thing that bugs me mostly when people say stuff like that is that a) we are insane, or most frustratingly, we are on drugs.
We eat well, aside from maybe drinking a little too much. Nobody even smokes pot at all, not ever. Everyone just assumes that to be inventive you have to be abusing substances and that drives all of us nuts.
Why can't we not have decided to put on this performance with a gigantic, rotating room and a man in a centaur outfit and not have it come from a night of smoking bongs?
It's like, no, we had a production meeting where we sat around and came up with that. To us, it's not that insane. It's just entertaining.
That's the thing that gets lost. It's trying to be entertaining and definitely comical. Some people feel like maybe they shouldn't laugh because this is serious art. Well yeah, it is art and we're serious about it but it doesn't have to be uptight and it can be very playful and comical.

SoR: Is this a band you hope is going to be around in 30 or 40 years?

JH: Well, the goal is not longevity for the sake of a good story. It's like, as long as there's good material and we're healthy enough to jump around, and if Kevin still wants us to work in this sort of arrangement. But yeah, I would definitely see it five or 10 years from now. I don't think we're slowing down.
I was talking with (Kevin) about that yesterday, that it's funny to me that young kids are discovering us that now we're approaching this sort of territory like Sonic Youth. Because right now, we're definitely over the decade hump. After five or six more years, and then suddenly 15 or 20 years, you think, 'God we've been doing it for 20 years.'
I could see that definitely. I'm not going to make any predictions but I will say I don't think we'll be stopping anytime soon.

SoR: I have to ask, based on the band's influences. Beach Boys: Pet Sounds or Smile?

JH: I'm always going to go with Smile because it represents everything that I love about recording, but then Pet Sounds is also fantastic. It's just two different things. It's like when people ask me the Beatles or the Stones. I think it's a ridiculous question because I love them both for so many different reasons.

SoR: I think that's the best answer you could have had.

JH: Anyway, for the sake of whatever, Smile.

SoR: Prince: Purple Rain or Sign 'o the Times?

JH: I would have to say Purple Rain personally. I was always a sucker for the hits and that one has a bunch of them.

SoR: I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me.

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