B: Yeah continuing with my theme of being a complete mess, live shows are my therapy. Most people go to a therapist to talk things out in private, I decide to talk to a room full of people at an ear-bleeding volume.
M: (Laughs) I can attest to that...
B: Yeah you've been there for the punishment (laughs). It's part of the reason I do so few because they are so emotionally exhausting I'm basically a shell for weeks after. Though I am fortunate to have the most amazing family and friends I could ever dream of, the fact is I rarely leave the house, and have very little contact with the outside world. So the majority of my world is always internalized, building on top of itself into pretty unbearable intensities. Playing a live show is the time I finally get to let that all out, to say all I've wanted to say for weeks, months, even years – not only to the audience but to myself. It's kind of like hearing my own words said back to me. So it's as much a conversation with myself as it is the people there. It's cathartic, but also gutting. I'm not ashamed to say I've cried during most of 'em. So I guess it's no surprise they are usually “big”... and, as anyone who has been there knows, fucking loud. If you're gonna say something, say it.
M: I feel ya on the catharsis. Is this the main reason why don't allow your live sets to be recorded?
B: That's part of it. Would you want to bare your soul to a friend if you knew he was recording it to listen to later? And what good is it later, anyway? It was a conversation between us. Then. And that's where it should stay. It's also a matter of respect, honestly. It's just fucking disrespectful to assume you can record someone's performance for your own personal collection, to put their heart and soul on some shelf for you to show off at a dinner party. And if you don't have respect for an artist or their art, why would you ask them to share it?
That goes for everyone there. I get that you paid money, and I also get that recording things mostly comes from a good place. People just want to remember the evening, because it's important to them. Trust me, it's just as important to me. But put the phone down and be there. What's some crappy thirty-second distorted video going to do? Are you ever going to watch that later? Of course not. You're going to show it to one person to show where you were last night, then it will never see the light of day again. But to get that, you took yourself out of the whole experience. For what? All you accomplished is ruining things for people next to you that are trying to be there, besides the fact it's distracting as shit for the artist.
M: Oh hell yeah. It amazes me going to shows now how many phones are out. You can't experience the show through your phone screen and as you say the quality is horrid. I admit I have taken a pic or two.
B: Et tu, Mike? (laughs).
B: You've been there with me at shows. Before the show, after the show, let's take all the pics together you want. Even videos. Whatever. I've stayed at shows for literally hours after they're done to talk with people, take all the photos and videos they want. I actually enjoy it and it's an honor. It's fun. Hell, after the show I take pics too. But during the show, no. We're all there. Be there with us. The whole point is for us to share that night, for us to communicate our deepest thoughts to each other, and for those moments, come as close as we'll ever come to understanding life. You will remember that night for days, weeks, months, maybe years – and every time you do, the memory will change, distort, adapt to your own changing life. But it will still be in there somewhere. And it has truly become a part of your life, through its own evolving form. It happened. Now it's gone. And all you have is the memory. That's how it's supposed to be. It's fucking beautiful. Let it be beautiful. People need to stop their weird obsession with having to have some permanent record of everything. All they're doing is making their entire lives and every event in it all the more temporary.
Here's a good way to gauge it: Next time your friend starts to really open up to you about something in their life, something they probably couldn't tell anyone else in the world, tell them you're recording the conversation – or better yet, pull out your phone and just start recording. See how much longer they want to talk. Or wait until they finish, then tell them you just recorded everything for your own personal use. Why? Doesn't matter. You just wanted to. See how much longer you're friends.
And just so people know, I don't record either. For all the same reasons.
M: I'd like to know a bit more about your fan engagement. Unlike a large percentage of artists who have management and there is a bit of a buffer between fans and the artist you have and do have direct contact with your listeners. Probably hard to pick one but are there any favorite interactions you've had with fans (that you can actually talk about :)?
B: Well I do have management now (laughs) but yeah that doesn't change anything about how I interact with people. Nothing means more to me than communication and interaction with fans, you know that. The whole point of all of this is to share in each others' lives, to be part of each others' lives, and know we're not alone. Anytime someone takes the time to write an email or drop a message, I always answer, every time. And as anyone who has come to my shows knows, I really enjoy spending as much time with everyone as I can. I don't look at a show as some kind of ego-fest where people are there “for me,” to me it's all of us, we're all in it together, god help us (laughs). Every time someone has taken the time to communicate, be it through email or in person at a show, it is pretty much the most amazing and humbling thing that can ever happen to anyone. If it's not, you need to seriously look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself why you're doing this.
I have been super lucky to have some of the most amazing interactions over the years, both through email and in person, it's really beyond words, man. Some of the things people have shared about the deepest parts of their lives, and the lengths they have gone to in order to be at a show so we can share that time in person, it's fucking mind-boggling. I don't think I could ever even say how much I appreciate it, and appreciate them.
There are some, both in email and in person, been some absolutely mind-blowing ones that have literally restored my faith in humanity, which I didn't think possible. I'd love to tell you this one or that, but I think there's two problems with that: one, it's super hard to pick one (laughs), but also, because I think if I highlight one, it somehow makes another seem “less,” if that makes sense. I think everyone shares and loves in their own way. Some people may make bigger moves or have more to say than others – but that doesn't mean those who are less bold or expressive are diminished, they're just different. They do it and say it in their own way, on their own time, you know? Yeah there are some “bigger” ones over the years I will never forget as long as I live. But I remember them all, big or small. Hell, I probably remember a bunch of interactions that fans have already forgotten. They are all amazing in their own way, and I appreciate them all. They all mean something to me. They mean everything to me. For someone who has always been an antisocial misanthrope who is terrible at interacting with people, I am somehow lucky enough to have the most amazing friends and family, and fans, in the world.
M: It is quite funny as you do often speak of yourself as anti-social but I've seen almost the opposite. Even seeing first hand your fan interactions. You are humble, chill and even listen to and interact with what they have to say way beyond standard artist / fan interaction. I still to this day find your physical appearance and your true demeanor to be an interesting juxtaposition. Contrasting. I think your fan engagement, music and even your current black and white promo shot where you are holding your cat points to these contrasts.
B: Yeah I know a lot of artists who just play the show and bounce, but I'm there the whole time, from the sound check, through anyone who plays before or after me, and even after that. I'm there for the whole night – and the whole night isn't just me. I want to be a part of everything as much as possible, and that includes everyone who came. As long as anyone wants to talk or hang out, have a beer, or just shoot the shit, I'm always stoked. Until that moment, the music has been the thing abstractly connecting us. Now we get to meet each other face to face, and literally be a part of each others' lives for that time. For real. What the hell is more awesome than that? It's amazing.
It's kinda crazy because I feel like people I meet already know so much about me through the music. I feel like they already know everything about me, my whole life, but I'm meeting them for the first time. It's a weirdly vulnerable kind of feeling, there's a weird imbalance, it's almost scary sometimes. But in a good way. I don't know, the whole thing is just amazing.
I'm not a fan of people. Anyone who knows me can tell you that. You know that as well as anyone (laughs). But “people” and family are different. And fans are family.
(laughs) Yeah the cat picture. To this day I still laugh at the fact that when that went up on RA, the highest rated comment was someone saying That is not what I expected him to look like. Never judge a book by its cover (laughs). I think by now my obsession with cats far precedes me. But I guess just as a lot of people are surprised I love cats so much, they're also surprised I'm actually a nice guy. I just look really not-nice.