(tss) Who plays on 'Nobody's Perfect'? When and where was it recorded?
(Phil Elverum) It is a recording of a show at the Department of Safety in Anacortes, WA sometime in April 2005 I think. As far as I remember the band was me, Dave Matthies, Alex Mahan, Ryland Bouchard, Megan MacDonald, and Jay Arner.
Have you ever seen anything unexplainable, supernatural, or paranormal?
Yes, all the time. Normal stuff usually is unexplainable to me. Light on water, fog on hills, shit like that. I have never seen a ghost or anything. But, 2 nights ago me and Geneviève were in Safeway at about 11pm in the ice cream aisle discussing the new kinds of Ben and Jerry'ses and all of a sudden the power went out. There were like 6 other people in the store, including employees. It was weirdly quiet. The hum of the freezers was gone. The music was off. There was no sound. It was pitch black. I said "I am so glad I was here for this!" and I had this strong urge to do crimes. A backup power source came on and there was light just over the check out area. We went to the door to look outside to see if the power was off anywhere else and it was. We went outside and the parking lot and the town was pitch black. It was so amazing! This is right at the busiest intersection of Anacortes (which is not really that busy, but still it is never pitch black). We walked down Commercial and almost ran into a bunch of people. There were no lights except for headlights of peoples' trucks driving home from the bar or whatever. We went in the post office and checked the PO box in the black. There was an alarm going off. Further down the street we could just barely see a huge deer trotting down in the middle of the road. It felt kind of like a presence passed us in the dark. We were saying stuff like "Here we go! The end of the empire begins now! The end of power!" We played cards in candlelight and the power came back on an hour or so later, but it felt paranormal, that whole experience. It was sad when it was over.
Why did you start your own label? Why is it important for you to continue to release vinyl?
I started it just to see what it was like, to see if I could do it. The idea of being responsible for every aspect of my work is important to me. I had the ability to do it so I tackled it. I have been making vinyl records because I don't have any love for CDs as objects and I still want to make music recordings. It is important to me if I am going to be adding to the amount of objects in the world that I am making something that is as high quality as possible, something a person would keep. I don't want to fill the world with shit. It is overflowing already.
Do you ever think about relocating? How do you think Anacortes has shaped you as a person and as a musician? How has traveling the world changed you?
The only reason I can live in a small non-utopian town is that I leave on tour fairly regularly. I like living here. I am from here. My family goes way back here. It is rare for a person to feel at home like this in North America in 2007 I think. But, yeah, I think about moving. I doubt I'll ever feel this kind of "home" feeling anywhere else though. I don't know how it has affected my music self. Maybe it hasn't? I would probably make my weird music things wherever. I don't know.
The themes in your songs, artwork, and writing are often tied to nature and man's relationship to it. Do you see Mount Eerie, and earlier on, the Microphones, as your vessel for exploring these concepts, ideas, and questions? I ask this because in person you are pretty funny and are just as apt to talk about Garfield or zombies, yet they don't seem to manifest themselves in your art.
I enjoy being strange like that. I used to make a comic but I still never put my name on it. It can be dangerous to mix the jokes with the attempts at profound observations about the world. Some people can pull it off (Adrian Orange).
I have never been too deliberate about the broad direction of my music projects. I suppose it has always just been a collection of whatever ideas were forming in my mind at the time. If it seems like there is a cohesive direction or theme it is probably just because I was going through a phase in my life. Since it has always just been me the content has been pretty solidly linked to me as a person (rather than in a band where you'll have one song about food and then the next song is about a break up and the next song is about Moby Dick)
Will there be another Singers album?
Yes. Hopefully. I had this idea that the second Singers album would just be a cover album of the only record by the Pounding Serfs, an early Anacortes folk punk band on K. It's on the list of projects.
Have you played regularly in anyone else's band since your stint as the drummer for Old Time Relijun? Do you miss playing other people's songs? Or do you get your fill from your production work?
I do miss playing the drums, yes. I miss fucking with other peoples' songs too. I don't really do much production even. That's the thing about doing the record label work. I spend so much of my time now filling orders and coordinating manufacturing and stuffing records and printing and shit. I probably should delegate some of this work because my creative side is suffering. The problem is that I like doing it this certain way I do it. I don't want some other label to fuck it up. Is it cool for me to swear on your website?
Six years ago I asked you, in an interview, "What is the final frontier for the Microphones?" You said:
"The final frontier... Right now I am traveling around a lot and trying different things with performance. I just wrote a little book. I'd like to write a real book, like a full one. I'd like to explore the frontier of language. Then I'd like to explore the frontier of solitude. Then maybe the frontier of family and creating food for myself and my babies. Then the final frontier would probably be dying. I'd like to face my own death with the same involvement that I face a CD release or something like that."
How does it make you feel now to read that? Do you feel like you've accomplished the things that were important to you then? How have you changed? What's important to you now, and where are you heading?
Wow. Huge questions. Huge ambitions too, young Phil. I have accomplished some of those things. I just made a book, although it has no words in it. It is definitely a real book though. I have explored solitude pretty deeply. That was cool. And I am married and I moved back to my hometown near my family and roots. I still don't grow any food but I know the farmers who grow it for me (some of it). That's pretty good. I have mellowed since then, of course. We all do. I don't know where I am heading.
The things that are important to me now are not that different than 6 years ago. I have these weird aesthetic ideas that I feel compelled to share with people for some reason so I make these products and go on these tours. I guess the difference is that I feel maybe a little baffled by the degradation of the world (the war, the obliteration of the natural world, the rise of the loud stupid assholes) and I feel less ambitious about improving the world with my "sacred work". Now I see myself more as a dude making ephemeral stuff out of dwindling resources at the end of an insane empire. I guess I feel a little defeated. It's hard not to at this point.
Do you feel like you'll always be making music, books, and such, and releasing them in this way?
Well, probably at least until the power goes out for good. Then I'll have to learn some real skills or get eaten.
What's important to you right now?
I am still holding on to doing this work (making books, music, touring) in my way, according to my ideals. It has been successful so far. This is important to me for now. I would like to live in my corner over here and do my things and be able to do this without having to get huge or disappear completely. I am lucky that it has gone as well as it has.