Puncture Magazine - Number 41

Art that refers to World War II and the Holocaust... I don't hear a lot of records doing that in 1998. Yet that was only a generation or two ago. What compelled this? You read The Diary of Anne Frank?
Yeah. I know it might sound kind of cheesy... Right before recording On Avery Island I was walking around in Ruston waiting to go to Denver to record. I don't consider myself to be a very educated person, 'cause I've spent a lot of my life in dreams.
And I was walking around wondering, would everything make sense to me if I knew the history of the world, or would I just lose my mind? I came to the conclusion I'd probably just lose my mind. Next day I walked into a
The kind of music Ferrari and Henri make is part of the same, angelic otherworldly music that's in my head, and that a lot more jazz guys seem to inhabit. It's amazing music, and it really has nothing to do with rock and roll.
How much of an influence are the sounds of the circus?
I'm very influenced by the circus. And by my dreams. In a lot of dreams I have, I'm in the circus. I'll dream there's a Ferris Wheel in flames, and I'm walking through the crowd.
Do you think of different records as like different places in your head? Places that exist, but only you can see or hear them?
Oh, definitely.
And the record is sort of a document of that?
You're right. There's a certain feeling the songs come from, and the songs can't come into being unless the feeling comes to me. It's kind of an uncomfortable, lonely feeling I get in my stomach. And I get freaked out so I have to go play and sing; sometimes a song evolves, sometimes not. The songs are all sort of in the same place for sure.
"Song against Sex," and the one on your new album that goes, "Your father made fetuses with flesh-licking ladies"—these seem to be visceral reactions against copulating bodies. Does sex gross you out?
I'm grossed out about sex being used as a tool for power; about people not giving a shit about who they're putting their dick into. I've known a lot of people who have been badly damaged by some asshole's drunken hard-on. That really upsets me.
Your work has elements of the waya six-year-old, looking at a car going by, might find it weird that such a thing exists. I hear this in Aeroplane, in the line that goes "How strange it is to be anything at all." Is that your philosophy?
I usually wake with a shock. Whatever dream I'm having has something to do with being freaked out that I'm in my body. Then I relax, forget it, go have a cup of coffee.
Do you reconnect with that first-wake-up feeling in your music?
Yeah. It's also about the crazy sleepwalking dreams I have.
You sleepwalk?
Incredibly, yeah. I have all kinds of crazy hallucinations. I open my eyes and see things. I've seen, like, spirits moving through the walls. I've seen a vortex coming through the wall. I've seen amorphous balls of light bouncing around the front yard. I've seen giant bugs on the floor. I was in a hotel in Amarillo, Texas and all I can remember is standing on the bed, seeing the wall in front of me filled with lights popping like popcorn out of the wall.
I like how the word "sober" appears in your songs: it goes against the grain of the hippy "underground" mentality still prevalent in many music scenes. There are magazines where you can't read a review without anything interesting or droney being compared to a drug. Yet doing a lot of drugs, it's much more difficult to make interesting art. Think how much better it'd be not to be fucked up.
I had the typical drug experiences in high school, but I don't do anything now. Other people can do what they want, I don't preach. Plenty of rock people have made great records while totally fried!
When I started writing "Ghost," the song that goes [he sings] "Ghost ghost I know you live within me," we thought we had a ghost living in the house, in the bathroom. So I locked the door and started to sing to the ghost in the bathroom. But that was sort of like singing about the ghost who we thought was whistling in the other room, and that kept waking me up, and then also a ghost that may or may not live within me. And it ended up being a reference to Anne Frank, too. A lot of the songs on this record are about Anne Frank.

It's so sad to see the world agree
That they'd rather see their
faces fill with flies
All when I'd want to keep white roses
in their eyes. — "Holland, 1945"

bookstore, and there wasThe Diary of Anne Frank. I'd never given it any thought before. Then I spent two days reading it and completely flipped out... spent about three days crying... It stuck with me for a long, long time.
I'm not sure I could allow myself to connect with a book that much.
While I was reading the book, she was completely alive to me. I pretty much knew what was going to happen. But that's the thing: you love people because you know their story. You have sympathy for people even when they do stupid things because you know where they're coming from, you understand where they're at in their head. So here I am as deep as you can go in someone's head, in some ways deeper than you can go with someone you know in the flesh. And then at the end, she gets disposed of like a piece of trash.
I would go to bed every night and have dreams about having a time machine, having the ability to move through time and space freely, and save Anne Frank. Do you think that's embarrassing?
Wanting to go back in time to save Frodo the hobbit... that would be embarrasing. But feeling intense empathy over a real and shocking narrative —no.
The record doesn't necessarily take place in that time period so much. It's a reflection of how i see that time. I'm not even sure anyway if time is linear, if it's all going in one direction. The world is an incredibly blurry, crazy dream I'm sort of stumbling through. Science has pretty much figured out that the reality we live in isn't necessarily reality.
A lot of the songs on Aeroplane freaked me out, and it took other people to make me be comfortable with them, and to see it was okay to sing about this stuff, not shut the songs inside. 'Cause it was too intense. I would ask a friend, "What the fuck am I doing?" It took a while to figure out the songs were positive, they were okay, not just fucked up nightmares I was throwing up. Do you think this record's lyrics are going to weird people out?
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