20 January 2016

Don't Talk to Sociologists

Mayo Thompson interviewed for BOMB magazine, speaking about divergent modes of creativity and the "waxen herring" of a 50-years-old conjectural musical project...

KC: Would you say you see Red Crayola as a product?

MT: Mike Kelley once told me that he was no democrat, but that we were going to have to have universal democracy before anything interesting could happen again. He was thinking about product, good product. Though he did not think art is redemptive, Mike was a utopian. He believed in progress. I don’t. And I don’t think anything is necessarily interesting. Something’s being interesting only serves those in whose interest it functions. Punk qua form wasn’t about making interesting music, rather about music as self-realization. Even poor punk was interesting, though, particularly if it sold. That’s what made the Crayola viable. Sales made it interesting in a broader sense. When we started we knew we couldn’t play up to the standards operative in those days but didn’t let that stop us. We made a virtue of what we could do that conventional musicians couldn’t do, and exploited that, with the idea of making them eat it thrown in. We were playing a theoretical endgame. We let the world know we couldn’t be bothered. You might say that was and to an extent remains The Red Crayola product. Our music expressed our aggressiveness, our attitude. When I heard The Beatles, Dylan, I thought, 'Fuck, cool. If that makes it, I can sing too.' The Sex Pistols had the same effect, giving people a sense that they might empower themselves. People discouraged me when I sang as a child, said, 'You can’t carry a tune in a bucket.' People still say that. Well, fuck it. I haven’t been trying to carry a tune. I’ve been essaying, expressing my interests in abstract terms, devil take the hindmost.

KC: So you do not consider the records that you have made to be works of some kind?

MT: If you mean artworks as such, no. I think of them as candidates for asymmetrical functional relations, open to interpretation.

KC: Having said that, would you refer to the band as a condition of a sort?

MT: Condition? You mean like, pneumonia? No.

To my lights, it just represents instrumental potential inasmuch as its value is tied to its use. Music has been instrumental to my being able to put ideas in play, having more fun than you’re supposed to, that sort of thing. I’m no purist, and don’t believe authenticity or sincerity save anything, not necessarily. The game is to make things that have to be dealt with on the terms they instantiate. My stuff doesn’t carry or necessarily suggest imperatives for others. It’s not well-formed in the scientific sense. In personal terms, it entails a measure of shame, because it would be nice if everybody were as fortunate as I in doing what they like.

Full interview here.

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