Kurz nach Fertigstellung des neuen Albums Odyssey (im Februar) hatte unser Kollege Arjan ( www.arjanwrites.com ) die seltene Gelegenheit mit Casey Spooner über die offensichtlich noch frischen Eindrücke, die nicht ganz verdauten Probleme, den Streitereien und den Druck beim Enstehungsprozess zu sprechen. Da der gute Casey dabei jedoch weitestgehend ungefiltert und eben nicht kurz auf die Fragen geantwortet hat, sondern im Rundumschlag plauderte, wie wir es sicherlich nicht als Presseinfo bekommen werden, haben wir den Text gekürzt und auf englisch übernommen. Dann müssen wir später auch nicht hören, “das wäre so nicht gemeint gewesen”. Und zudem erspart es uns auch die teilweise schimpfliche Ausdrucksweise zu übersetzen ;-)
Interview with Casey Spooner by Arjan
It was a hard record to make. The first one was such a hard one to follow. Everything about "#1" was so perfect to me. The whole philosophy about it was so cool. It was all about technology, the accessibility, the inexpensive tools to make music while Napster and the internet exploded. Everything about it was so perfect. So it was like “Fuck! How can I do that again?” It was a painful process to make this record. I didn’t think I was going to be here a year ago. Warren and I just had a lot of personal problems, and I didn’t think it was worth it because I was so unhappy. We both were under a lot of pressure. He wanted to make a better record and I'm a very young songwriter. I only made seven songs before. So all of a sudden there was a lot of pressure to do that again. All the clichés about making a second record are true. Warren and I had to find a new process because we used to write everything together and he was so
overwhelmed with all the work that he had to do that he was not able to co-write with me anymore. So I felt really abandoned. And then he sorta resented the fact that I was not more of a traditional songwriter. And he'll admit to this that he was abusive and mean. It just got to the point that it was really, really bad, unpleasant and cruel. It is weird to talk about it because in a way it makes the record interesting because it was so difficult that it gave me a lot to work from, but I'm not going to romanticize it and I'm not going to allow it to be excused because I made it. I am not going to say “Oh too bad, but I ended up with great songs.” Goddamn, I hate that fucking cliché. I don’t ever want to do that. I've learned to work alone and got better. So I kinda found a way to move beyond it, which was a real fucking challenge.
I usually write about images - although “Emerge” is a more emotional song to me. A lot of times like “Sweetness” and all these different songs have a very clear visual inspiration, but the song “Never Win” is really pure hate. That's me at my most pissed off at [Warren]. He was so weird and naïve. I wrote the song and he tracked it, and then he asked me “What's that song about anyway?” And then I told him it was about him and the asshole he is. So it must be sorta awkward for him that one of the best songs on the record is about what a dickhead he is.
At first I was really insecure, because I'd never done anything alone, so I kind of submitted myself to months and months of torture under [Warren's] direction. I was literally sitting in the studio listening to the track over and over again, trying to write to it. He would be tracking me, compulsively making me sing the same line for three days. I mean seriously it were like Chinese water torture-esque rituals. And finally, there was one day that there was a big breakthrough for me when Warren and Nicolas when to Guitar Center for a few hours. It was the only time I was left alone in the studio and I wrote "Ritz 107" in an hour and half while they were gone. The whole thing came out of me very quickly. I started to find my footing and I needed Warren to leave me alone. His approach is oftentimes very meticulous and rigorous, very analytical. When we were working together, it was almost like he treated me like a computer. It wasn't like I was a person or an experience. It was more like he was pushing me like a button. So it was often very difficult to have an energy or a vibe or an expression or an emotion in that situation. So initially, the record was like the most somber, sad thing you could ever imagine. So then in the fall we took a break and we when we came back, Warren sorta confessed his anger and resentment to me, and then I knew there
were ways to work without him. I started to work at night with Kyle who helped us engineer the album. We tracked stuff and we would bounce ideas. Warren would come in the morning and go through everything and arrange and sort of respond to what I had done. So we had this weird way of working together but separate. And I just learned not to be precious about ideas. So I had to love what I was
doing and do things that I thought were cool and interesting, and not fixate on them being on the record. I just had to move through lots of ideas and not try to hold on to stuff too much and just let things live, and if we both connected to an
idea I just had to trust that that idea without me protecting it would survive. So that became very painful as well, because I got attached to things that wouldn't make the cut. And seriously like "We Need A War" in October was in the trash.Warren didn't like it.
When I met Mirwais, I was in love with him. I mean handsdown Mirwais saved my life. He came in and just had a really cool fun perspective. The thing is that what was hard for me is that because I have been so aggressively lip-syncing everything to be all about the pop fakery on the first album, I set myself up for the situation where people could easily think that I couldn't sing or didn't write anything or I'm not talented. In a way, it started to backfire because a lot of people close to me started to believe it. Including Warren? Yeah, I think he was scared to let me go sometimes. I had to fight to have more expressive vocal parts and not rely on backup singers getting the best parts in a way. The thing is that Mirwais came and he made me feel so good. I thought at first he would bond with Warren, but he told might right away that regardless of time, money and all these superstars that he worked with that he was with us because he thought I had a really amazing and interesting voice. For someone like that to say that made me feel so good. What was hard was that I had to find that support from different people other than Warren.
Trust me. I've considered going solo extensively, but I really do believe [Warren] is brilliant and an amazing musician. I think that if I would do whatever I wanted to do, it would suck. And if he would do whatever he wanted to do, it would suck
as well. So for better or worse it is a more interesting combination to try to combine our different points of view. Also the whole pop expectation put a lot of pressure on us that I think wouldn't happen. We were growing through the growing pains of not having to work alone in our basement on our cool freaky art project. It becomes a different thing when you're making it and there are a lot of people involved. But these people didn't put the pressure on us. The hard thing was that they left us alone trusting us we would figure it out. I was like "Shit!” To have your dream come true became sort of a fucking nightmare. I was in Brooklyn doing my thing thinking I was a complete superstar and then all of a sudden I'm in L.A. working in some crazy, mega studio with the biggest hit writer in the universe and the fucking stool is still hot from Christina Aguilera. And then all of a sudden I had to step up to the plate. I felt physically I was going to turn inside out. I'm not worthy.
Initially, we wanted to make a concept album. My dream was to write a screenplay, like a narrative, and we would pick scenes and write songs for them. And then I imagined that the show or whatever would actually be a feature film. So the idea was this weird narrative between narrative and music. But I mean to write a damn screenplay and to make a movie, and make a major label album and rewriting my creative process ended up more than I could handle, so instead we came up with these broad concepts. I had a thing going for Paris as a starting point and Warren was hooked on the idea of 1968 and this moment where music turned from Elvis to Jimi Hendrix and became this wild expressive new style. So we worked on that and concluded that modern-day rock was really born in
early nineteenth century French romanticism. That was a way for us to connect both our interests. We then talked to a friend who is a philosopher that we know and we were talking about Brooklyn's [Rare Book Studio]. And I told her it was amazing I got back to this studio to finish the album and that it was also the studio were everything started from nothing. On this album I had to leave this studio and had to go to so many places and work with so many people, and now to come back to where it all began really feels special. It is like a journey. And she said “That is the Odyssey.” It’s all about these experiences trying to come home again. I was like “Shit, that's the album title!”
What do you think will be the format of the live shows? I feel sorta I have to start from scratch. It has been really hard and has caused me a lot of anxiety, which I guess is my new thing. I was fun-loving and freewheeling and now I'm anxious and verklumpt. Again, I have to change my process. I totally have to make the show in a different way. I just have to let go and start again. The way I’m approaching it right now is that I'm thinking about the show purely sonically and not visually. So I'm thinking about it more as a sonic journey and so it is this ebbing and flowing to create a very musical sonic experience. Before when we performed, the music was incredibly rigid because we performed to track. The thing that was fluid in the show was the way that I performed it. The spontaneity came with me stopping and starting, and talking between songs. Now, that kind of improvisation needs to happen in the music. We also have this 15-minute psychedelic documentary called "The Cave" and I'm thinking about using different sound bytes from that and creating like a sonic landscape. It is still a theatrical hybrid between music and performance but it is less about dance and more about sound. It is hard because I usually start with an image or with movement and so I'm having to start over. I have to find the music first and then come up with the image and the movement later. And I might not move.
Trust me, I was freaking out about it, but just building it sonically is gonna be interesting and I should enjoy this opportunity to start all over again.
But just like with the album I need to do it under a lot more pressure and a lot more expectation. Sometimes I wish I could be the strongest person in the universe and ignore that pressure. You know what it is? I don’t know when I am ever going to have this chance again. I worked for years just to have a chance. I mean I begged for years to have a chance and once you get it you know you get one shot. Warren and I both know that this might be our only chance.
Do you know about the Ibiza thing? Okay, this is the hot tip. We're doing a residency in Ibiza at Manumission this summer. We're going to move there and do a show for three months. Yeah, it is pretty cool. The club is crazy. It is the largest nightclub in the world and holds 10,000 people. We'll be performing there every Monday night, starting July 4th going to September 18th. It will not be a regular show. We will have distinct moments throughout the show where will do acouple of songs interspersed with the DJ between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. It makes sense because the album has this trippy, Pink Floyd ebbing and flowing soundscape so it would fit to move between prerecorded and live music. It will be shocking and surprising, and visually I feel I can connect to that crowd. Trust me the label wants me to tour the States first. But before, I had about three years to develop the show. The time in Ibiza will give me the chance to really work on our new show. The music will be developed before we get there, but visually it will give me the chance to work on show projections, wardrobe and staging. Basically to bring all the visual stuff up to speed.
My fantasy was to move to Vegas, because what was hard about the first show was that we built it in New York and we could really spend a lot of time to create these elaborate productions. It was really difficult to put this on the road as a band. It was insane. We would be on a bus made for 12 people with 17 people on it and there were no damn musicians. It was the most retarded band in the world, and so it was just absurd to make our ideas move around. What I really wanted to do was to build a show, put it in one place and let it stay there and let people come to it. My aesthetic for the show was inspired by an arena pop concert, but only real pop stars can afford that setting. I put myself in this crazy situation and the press was so extreme and hyped up that I could match all the descriptions. Another good thing about performing on Ibiza is that we can visit more European countries to perform. Before we got invitations but it was very expensive to take such a large group across the Atlantic. Now we are centrally based in Spain almost two hours from everywhere in Europe. It is all perfect because I wanted to move to Vegas, but I think our sound is going to work quicker and better with the European crowd first. And yeah, I get the live on a Spanish island, how can you turn that down?
I got into the whole spam email thing because [Odyssey] is more of a pop record. So I wanted to write in a more universal language and make the language more accessible. And I was also in the idea of the collective unconscious. The whole idea of what is a collective unconscious that people can engage in. Spam email is this kind of weird low-grade information that comes at you.
How did you come up with the "Odyssey" logo
We were looking for something that was really symbolic and was visually really clear. I was really into rainbows, because of my thing with romantic paintings. I took an incredible picture of a rainbow in Hollywood. It was an arch that ended on Sunset Boulevard. All of a sudden, color and light was a big thing I was thinking about. The other thing was
that I loved the Museum of the Army [in Paris]. I was looking at a lot of images from Napoleon and understood how basically their aesthetic was stolen throughout time. People adopting a classic style to make them feel powerful. It was like Romans stealing from the Greeks, Napoleon stealing from the Romans and Hitler stealing from Napoleon. These symbols were almost like the language of power and marketing. It is always about a clear color and clear symbol. At one point I wanted to name the album "Aesthetic Imperialistic Conquest," and Warren was like 'Mmm, I don't think so."
The other thing I like about the [Odyssey] symbol so much is that it can seem ancient and it can seem modern. It functions on all these different levels. It is a color spectrum, but it is also a face, a mask and a heart. But handsdown, when I had it cut out of metal to make it into a mask [for the press photos], I was like "Yeah, that's what I'm talking about."
Den ungekürzten Text findet Ihr auf Arjans eigener Seite: www.arjanwrites.com