By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
I like when, in the song, fish swim down the stairs.
Fish and birds and trees and insects and streams all come indoors.
It's postapocalypse, but from the positive viewpoint of the nonhumans. So, you grew up in New York and you moved to L.A. Why is it that if a New Yorker ever moves, they'll move to L.A., and vice versa?
I went to school for the visual arts and I love music so much I thought I'd give that a shot.
And L.A. seemed like the place you could most likely do those things and make enough money to live?
I doubt it. I like the weather here. I'm kind of a skinny guy, and I don't like it when the winter freezes my fingers off.
What made you do a whole album about Highland Park?
I wanted to make a Kinks-style record and explore my neighborhood just walking around, from my own perspective. I've sung from a lot of far-flung vantages — from the perspective of a bee, of Albert Einstein. So I just wanted to do one album of just me, what I observe and think, and about my home.
Why didn't you send me the all–Sex Pistols–covers album or give me a link?
That's not available on iTunes. The lawyers shot us down. I guess they didn't like the thousands of dollars I sent them. When you do a cover, you have to send Harry Fox 11 cents per song per mechanical copy. On top, there's another percentage taken out of royalties.
I think you're the only guy in the world who's actually paying these rights.
I was happy to do that, because they wrote great songs. But I would rather the Sex Pistols got the money and not their lawyers. The lawyers have killed the music industry.
If you send me a copy, I won't tell Harry Fox if you don't.
They should feel stupid for not making more money off me. I was willing to go on sending them money, but they shot me down.
Here's a lyric from Historic Highland Park: "The rats are swimming towards our rising ship." Are the rats the hipsters?
Yeah. I'm singing from the vantage of a psychotic paranoid pseudohipster who is afraid that Highland Park is the new Silver Lake and he sees these trendies moving on over here.
But he's a trendy himself, right? Who loves the hipsters? They're like Nazis; nobody loves hipsters. Not even hipsters!
Hipsters are the first to hate themselves. That's part of the whole thing. And all over the world is provincial. In L.A. we have an Eastside-Westside rivalry because that's fun. Within the Eastside, we have northeast L.A. versus Silver Lake.
It's The Northeastside Story, Rats vs. Rats.
We ended up here just because it was affordable and didn't seem that dangerous. You have to have a home somewhere; this is the one we washed up on.
What is your definition of masculinity?
Haha. I think it's pretty open. I think a lot of what's left of the music industry embraces dudes who are angry and very dudelike, singing about dude problems. And the girls get to be, you know, sexy. Whereas the innate self of most people is bigger than their gender.
Is that why you sing so much from the perspective of animals and insects and dead people?
Why not sing from the perspective of a worker bee? Why just take on the persona of a pissed-off dude over and over? Why not be a little more transcendental?
It's funny, because a bee will never imagine that it's a human, but a human will imagine what it's like to be a bee. One of the definitions of being human is that you imagine the nonhuman as self. On occasion.
I try not to project human feelings, to anthropomorphize. I try to stick to the facts of life and death and work and reproduction.
My son is autistic and he was thoroughly digging your music and paintings in the 26 Animals book. I'm wondering who is the average Artichoke fan. Because it's not often that he likes something, and when he does, he goes crazy. He obsesses.
That's so great! I do think the really excessive fans ... a lot of musicians are, that's where they came from — an obsessive love of music. Music took over their brains.
Did you ever want to be a scientist?
Yes. I studied physics and geology and art in college. I was interested in being a scientist, but when I had to make a decision, it was to be an artist.
Your wife is an artist, too?
Yeah, she's a costume designer and a photographer.
And you guys survive?
Haha, just barely. I paint theater sets for a living. I get to go to some industrial space, crank some music and paint a backdrop.
A friend of mine moved to L.A. and got a job repairing or refinishing public art — murals, statues. On the East Coast, we either let it rust, or we tear it down.