INTERVIEW : JAPANTHER
F&H: So you actually conduct some interviews on your own. Is there a recent one worth noting?
I just published an interview with Patti Smith that I’m really proud of. I interviewed her for my zine (99mm). It was one of the more notable ones. I interviewed her about the Hunger Games, which is a great book. I like to read fiction a lot. Young adult fiction has been a guilty pleasure for a long time.
F&H: Patti Smith is a fan of the Hunger Games or did you just bring that up?
I actually saw her at a small private concert and she was wearing the Mockingjay button. I don’t know if your’e familiar, but there’s a button; a pin that you wear that has the Mockingjay. It’s a symbol of the revolution and she was wearing it on her guitar strap and I though ‘Aw, Christ. That’s such a great in to talk to this woman that I admire. I was like ‘ah I don’t want to bother you, but I noticed your’e wearing the Hunger Games button and I love that book and was wondering why you like the book.’ and she gave me the best answer; she was like ‘It’s about love and family and prosperity, but then there’s a woman with a bow and arrow and that’s the best part.’ She’s right. Fiction really does transcend the human experience. If you had seven dollars and were in an airport in 2011 you’ve probably read the Hunger Games. I like cultural phenomenons.
F&H: It’s an easy way to get on the same brainwave as a lot of people.
That’s one of the reasons I like concerts. You can be on the same page as 20 to 2000 to 20,000 people. It’s an interesting part of the human experience. The reason I read the Hunger Games is the same reason I listen to Marilyn Manson or Slipknot. It’s like ‘I don’t get this, but obviously these 20,000 people do, so if I can get this experience a little bit and enjoy what they’re enjoying, I bet it could be a lot of fun that I wasn’t expecting to have, which is sometimes the best fun.
F&H: What were some of your earliest influences?
When I was in 3rd or 4th grade I would go to the store and buy these things called cassettes. I would get Beastie Boys & 2 Live Crew. To me, 2 Live Crew were hated, you know, by Tipper Gore responsible for Parental Advisory. I think they’re still brilliant, sexualized, comedians. They’re hilarious. To me, 2 Live Crew was a great example of American culture. Here I am; a white kid up in the west coast of the U.S., as far away from Florida as you can be in the U.S. and their experience is hilarious to me because Tipper Gore is saying ‘You can’t hear that.’ She was trying to tell me I couldn’t do something so I was saying well then that’s exactly the tape I need.
F&H: For a while the Explicit Parental Advisory logo became a kind of badge of honor.
Of course it did. Rocksmth made a parental advisory hat that Lil Wayne wore and now they can’t keep them on the shelves. Lil Wayne is the new 2 Live Crew to me. Him and Magnolia Shorty. If your readers don’t know Magnolia Shorty it’s someone they should know about. She has one of the best voices in hip hop.
F&H: What are some other artists in your wheelhouse you would recommend people check out?
There’s some amazing creativity going on right now. There’s this band called Audacity from Los Angeles that I really love. Dr. Dog just released an album and video and that’s like the Beatles of our day. Kimya Dawson I think is incredible. Kimya Dawson, to me, is the Bob Dylan of our time. She’s one of the best poets and authors with an acoustic guitar. I love a lot of hip hop that is coming out of the south. The trap music coming out of Chicago. We listen to a lot of mixtapes, so I’m not sure who does the exact songs on those (laughs). But, like, Young Scooter, I think, is one that I like. We were down in New Orleans in the bounce scene. Big Freedia is someone we’ve done a lot of shows with. Nicky Da B is an amazing MC coming out of New Orleans right now. Sissy Nobby, to me, is the greatest bounce MC in that game. Go bump ‘Consequences.’ It’s just a very sad, very heartfelt, very queer hip hop song. New Orleans is an interesting place right now because the MCs are gay and no one’s able to say shit about it and I love that. The whole situation needs a push and they are pushing the envelope. Our friends in New York, like the Unstoppable Death Machines, The Death Set and Ninjasonic remain our friends and we feel really lucky to be surrounded by them and those creative types. Some bike cultures too. The Black Label Bike Club is like a family to us. We like to try and facilitate and stay arrested in beginnings. I think beginnings are much more interesting than ends. I’m obsessed with scratching records, for example, and make hip hop beats, but I come from a punk experience, so scratching a record will be something I will enjoy being arrested in the beginning of.
F&H: Do you feel like you’ve been able to stay arrested in the beginning with Japanther?
In a lot of ways, yeah. We probably shoot ourselves in the foot daily with missed opportunities because of the idea of staying arrested in the beginning and that’s fine. That to me keeps something interesting. Remain interested in your own life. If you have a million dollars and big galleries and cars and a baby and a wife; that doesn’t guarantee fucking happiness. I’m personally involved with some people like that; they have millions of dollars from their art and an apartment in Manhattan and they are much angrier than me. I live in a car, I have less than ten thousand dollars to my fucking name, but I feel very confident in my own happiness. I remain interested in my own life.
F&H: Any advice to emerging artists?
As a musician you have to know that people in the music industry are thieves and are getting shadier and shadier. You have to remain vigilant and not go down those shitty roads with those shitty people. You’re dealing with banks. If you’re going to sign to a big record company in 2014 you’re dealing with a bank. It’s a small business loan. You’d get better interest rates if you went down to the banks that are getting bailed out by the government. I hope musicians are conscious of that and help take the keys away from the parents on a more permanent basis. I think we’re almost there. In 10 years I think we’ll have a very decentralized entertainment industry and that’s a very interesting time to be alive. It’s exciting to watch these major established corporations fail where children are succeeding. Kids are starting companies that are successfully distributing music and then you got record companies coming in with their sponsored delivery of music and the distribution system doesn’t work and it folds.
F&H: Do you have a favorite song to play live?
As an artist you always want to think your newest work is your best work and i think that’s bullshit. I would tell you my newest poems are the funnest to scream out, but certainly I think the answer to that question is very easy and it’s a song called ‘First of All’ on our album ‘Beats, Limes & Rice.’ It’s a really cathartic song and the reason I love it is it’s equal parts tragedy and comedy, but the tragedy becomes less tragic each time (we perform it) and the comedy becomes funnier each time and that’s not easy to do. There’s a balance there. I was feeling melancholy at the time about a death of someone really really close to our band and each time we play it I feel like we’re honoring him and his art.
F&H: Japanther has a reputation for playing shows in very atypical settings. What do you find most memorable about those experiences?
I would say just human connectivity and taking risks that you do not know the outcomes of. Never ask. That’s one of our rules.
F&H: Do you think Zebras are white with black stripes or white with black stripes?
Zebras are jerks. You know that right?
F&H: Are they?
They bite and kill. They’re terrible. They can’t be domesticated because they bite their rider…and like they draw blood from their riders. It’s pretty intense. I think they’re jerks. I think it’s for camouflage, though, right? So I guess I would say black with white stripes would be my answer. I don’t know. Good question. I just know they’re jerks.