16th Annual Artist Survey: Xiu Xiu

Jamie Stewart on Climate Change, Childhood Birthday Parties and Vacations, His First Job, and Getting Bit by a Pit Bull

Mar 14, 2019 Issue #65 - Mitski and boygenius
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For Under the Radar's 16th Annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to the last year, plus some fun personal questions. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2018 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu.

Xiu Xiu released a new album, Girl with Basket of Fruit, last month via Polyvinyl. The album was the follow-up to 2017's FORGET.

For our annual Artist Survey we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about the midterm elections, the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh, Kanye West visiting the White House, the #MeToo movement a year later, mental health conditions in the music industry, whether or not they have Flossed, childhood birthday parties and vacations, which Muppets character they are most like, whether or not they are going to The Good Place after death, and much more.

Top 10 Albums of 2018

1. Thor & Friends: The Subversive Nature of Kindness
2. William Basinski + Lawrence English: Selva Oscura
3. Congs for Brums: A Complete and Tonal Disaster
4. Puce Mary: The Drought
5. Baba Commandant and The Mandingo Band: Siri Ba Kele
6. Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo: The Insincere Sympathy of the Faraway Stars
7. Senyawa: Sujud
8. Eliane Radigue: Geelriandre-Arthesis
9. Alessandro Cortini and Merzbow: Alessandro Cortini and Merzbow
10. Coil: The New Backwards

What was the highlight of 2018 for either you personally or for the band? What was the low point?  

Highlight: Amazing new line up! Thor Harris and Jordan Geiger joining Angela Seo and myself. I am very, very much looking forward to getting back on tour. Low point: Having to push my finger into the eye of a stray pit bull to get it off my wrist and the bite making it impossible to play guitar for two months.

What are your thoughts on how the U.S. midterm elections have played out? What do you think the results mean for the Democrats' chances of taking back the White House in 2020?

Hmmm... It is sort of heartening but only sort of because legislative government is never more than sort of heartening. I want to be more excited but it was not a clean enough sweep to ease my worry. I am proud that (generally horrible) Orange County in Southern California turned blue and appreciate so much that the women there stepped up and made it happen. It is hard to say how it will turn out for 2020. It is incredibly depressing that there are more than enough racist, greedy, anti environment, and pro gun war mongers in Amerikkka to have any of the elections be close at all.

Despite compelling testimony from Christine Blasey Ford and sexual assault allegations from other women, Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in a Supreme Court Justice and many Republican women didn't believe Ford's story. What does this tell you about the general state of the #MeToo movement in 2018?  

It says that Republicans are shameless garbage troglodytes and that Dr. Blasey Ford and her colleagues in the fight are amazing. It is not a reflection on the #MeToo movement; it is a reflection on privilege, power, and cruelty.

A year after the #MeToo movement, do you feel things have gotten better or worse in terms of issues of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and misogyny in the music industry?

Well... It is hard to say in concrete terms how much things have improved but the conversation is not being ignored to the degree that it once was. It is a first and impressive and crucially important step and there are many, many more steps to be taken. Hopefully we take them.

Be honest, did you Floss in 2018? (Meaning the dance craze, not the dental care.)

I did very much enjoy watching my little nephews do it. My niece is 16 and fully over it.

Which Muppets character are you most like and why?

Miss Piggy. I am insecure, imperious, fancy pink, and scream at people a lot.

Are you less of a fan of Kanye West now that he's visited the White House and has in other ways supported President Trump?

Fuck Kanye as you would any Trump supporter. Just because he is famous and made some records does not mean he is free to be a subhuman.

Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit tragically took his own life this year. What should be done to improve mental health conditions for musicians?

Obviously this is a horrible loss and tragedy but it is not as if musicians are in a special class of people with a special class of mental health issues. What can we do to improve the mental health conditions of people who run dry cleaners? Every 10 days in Amerikkka someone with mental health issues murders four to 80 people with an assault rifle because no one takes this seriously. Our minds define what our culture is and what our interactions with each other are. What should be done for people with every job is to have mental healthcare be as normalized as physical care. Oh wait we haven't normalized physical care here yet either..

In 2018 there were more dire predictions about climate change and we witnessed some of its likely effects firsthand with various deadly storms and forest fires. What should touring musicians be doing to better offset their carbon footprint? How bad do you think it needs to get for governments and corporations to take stronger actions to fight climate change?

Become a vegan. 25% of climate change is occurring due to deforestation, methane gas, refrigeration, transportation, biodiversity loss, and water degradation. You have to chop down a forest to give cows a place to live and you have to chop down jungles to grow extra crops to feed those cows. The cows' shit is collected in bogs which seep into ground water and releases methane into the air. Do you want to contribute to this and murder a fellow earthling so you can have a fucking snack? And, carbon offset your tour at terrapass.com. It is incredibly easy and effective. Everyone who comes to your show deserves for you to care about them. And, most of all don't have kids. It is already bad enough and they are not doing jack shit. Rich white people are never going to fix this because they will be effected the least. The people the most at fault and the most responsible and with the most power to move to a resolution never have and never will. Why do we think they will save us? When in history have they ever done the right thing? And, don't have kids for the love of God, don't have kids.

Are you ready for artificial intelligence and a more automated future? Some predict that it may come sooner than we think and will lead to massive job losses.

I hate and fear my phone already as it is.

What's your favorite birthday party memory from childhood?

My mom filling empty two-liter soda bottles with pool chlorine and tin foil and putting them into full trash cans around the neighborhood. The chemical reaction makes them explode. She sang happy birthday while she was doing it. It was pretty decent.

What was your favorite family vacation as a kid? What was your least favorite?

My dad was a workaholic so we never really went on them. We tried once in awhile but he would end up panicked and crying in the hotel room until we went home.

What's been your most surreal experience in the music industry?

Seeing Steven Tyler of Aerosmith walking down Fountain Boulevard wearing an Aero Smiths shirt smoking a HUGE doobie and carrying a burrito. LA BABY!

When you die, do you think you're going to the Good Place or the Bad Place?

It is far too late for it to be up to me anymore.

Tell us about your first job. Also, what's been your most disastrous job interview or business meeting?

Working at Taco Bell: the belly of the beast. I nodded off during an interview to be an STD prevention counselor at a high school. Not super cool. 

If you were to have a hip-hop side-project, what would your rapper name be?

Lil' Jenny.

This year The Doctor in Doctor Who was played by a woman for the first time in the show's 55-year history. Which other established character would you like to see switch genders?

POTUS.

What do you most hope planet Earth and humanity will be like in 100 years? What do you most fear life will really be like in a century?

I hope that there will be a miracle, for that is what we need, and that we will be respectful, cautious, and love the remarkable, beautiful, irreplaceable planet that the universe lent us. My fear is that most of us will be dead and the few that made it will be the ones that caused the apocalypse in the first place.

[Note: A shorter version of this interview originally appeared in Under the Radar's Issue 65, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

www.xiuxiu.org

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