2014 Artist Survey: Still Corners

Greg Hughes on U2's Orwellian Move, His Favorite Music Videos as a Child, Robin Williams, His Worst Haircut, and Saturdays in Detention

Feb 03, 2015 Issue #52 - January/February 2015 - St. Vincent
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For Under the Radar's 12th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2014. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2014 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2014 print and digital issues for answers from alt-J, Camera Obscura, Chromeo, The Dears, Death From Above 1979, Deerhoof, The Drums, The Flaming Lips, Glass Animals, Hookworms, Sondre Lerche, of Montreal, Ought, Owen Pallett, The Rosebuds, Strand of Oaks, Teleman, Sharon Van Etten, The War on Drugs, Warpaint, Woman's Hour, Wye Oak, Zola Jesus, and others.

Here are some answers from Greg Hughes of Still Corners.

[A shorter version of this interview ran in Issue 52, the Best of 2014 and January/February 2015 Issue, which is still on newsstands. This is the full version of the interview.] 

Top 3 Albums of 2014

1. Jane Weaver: The Silver Globe-Beautiful songwriting, check out "Stealing Gold." Wonderful voice. At times stark and simple then rich and beguiling.

2. Perfume Genius: Too Bright-From a sound perspective it's a rare delight. The mixing is powerful and simple, big roomy drums, the synths are deep and textural. Songwriting wise I found it inspiring.

3. Sinoia Caves: Beyond the Black Rainbow-As a bona fide John Carpenter and Wendy Carlos nut this was an early Christmas present. There's a great pressing over at Death Waltz records. Glacier like, gigantic synths, pulsating and melodic. It's ominous and brooding, very beautiful.

What was the highlight of 2014 for either you personally or for the band? 

Finishing our third record.

What was the low point of 2014 for you? 

Having labyrinthitis for six months was such a big bummer.

What are your hopes and plans for 2015?

Getting out our next record and hitting the road! 

U2's new album was downloaded for free into millions of users' iTunes accounts without their permission. Was it a wonderful gift to music fans or an invasive action that devalues music? Also, which artist, other than you, deserves to have their album automatically downloaded to half a billion people more than U2?

As far as a band move goes, I thought it was bad, a little Orwellian, like this is how people would "choose" albums in 1984. That photo of Bono with his hands in the air with the CEO of Apple-not a fine rock 'n' roll moment there.

Did you take part in the ice bucket challenge? If not, why not? Grimes declined due to animal testing issues, was the grief she got for that deserved?

No, I wasn't challenged, but I probably would have just quietly donated. I tend to back away from big group stuff. It did a ton of good, so that's what matters. Claire chose to donate to another charity based on a personal belief, good for her.

Mark Kozelek was criticized in 2014 for insulting his audience (calling them "hillbillies" for talking during his set) and for making fun of The War on Drugs when their sound bled over to the stage he was playing. What responsibility do performers have to be respectful of their audiences and fellow bands?

Any code of behavior is down to the band/artist to decide and karma sorts out the rest. As always, choose your battles carefully. Think about how amazing it is that people and bands can openly say whatever they want to one another. I just watched a video with members of Pussy Riot being openly beaten on camera. Think about how incredible it is that we can entertain ourselves with musicians disparaging each other, but there are places in the world where donning a green and yellow leotard and speaking out gets you a whip in the face.

"Weird Al" Yankovic was back in a big way this year. If he were to lampoon any one of your songs, which one would you want it to be? What would the "Weird Al" version's lyrics be about? 

I love that man. I can remember having some friends staying over as a kid and experiencing the video for "Fat" and 7-Up shooting straight out my nose onto the television in total hysteria. So, one song for us? I don't know, "Berlin Donuts"? A little play on JFK's speech when said he was a donut, etc. Ha, I kill me.

What was your favorite music video as a child?

The "Fat" video by "Weird Al" stands out. I can remember staying up till 2 a.m. waiting for 120 Minutes on MTV to finally play Pixies' "Here Comes Your Man" or They Might Be Giants' "Ana Ng" video and loving it. A Tribe Called Quest videos, when they were played (and that was rare). "Welcome to the Jungle" was a fave, it scared me and I liked that.

Which subject do you wish you paid more attention to in school?

I skipped a lot, so I wish I studied how to not get caught better. I spent a few too many Saturdays in detention.

Both Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman died in 2014. Did either death deeply affect you and do you find it strange to grieve for a stranger? Which celebrity's death in your lifetime has most affected you?

Robin Williams' passing really took me by surprise. Some of his films were big for me as a kid, especially Dead Poets Society, which definitely played a part in turning me onto poetry and words more. I also really loved The Birdcage and Good Will Hunting. He gave off a real light and the fact that he took his own really brings you back to square one, that we're all in this together, facing the abyss, and even someone who looks like they really have it under control doesn't. Really shook me up.

Which event in your life would you most like a do-over on and why?

Maybe if I had known that recording engineers didn't come from outer space and that it was a viable job, I would have found a place to study that and get a jump on it earlier, as opposed to studying physics and philosophy (which is what I chose). I just had no idea that it was a real thing, totally outside my paradigm.

Which well-known filmmaker would you most like to direct one of your music videos?

Jim Jarmusch or Peter Weir. Both make incredible atmospheric movies that are beautiful, cool and moving.

This year Grimes scrapped her new album due to negative fan reaction to its first single and her unhappiness with it. How much should fan reaction/expectation play a part of your creative process? Have you ever abandoned a big creative project far into it due to your dissatisfaction?

Personally, I struggle to see the connection between fan reaction and making a record. For our third record, we thought we had it last January (which is about a year ago), but as it stands now, only two songs have survived from that period. So no one is as brutal as we are, is what I'm saying. If an artist starts imagining what fans will think and using that during the creative process, they'll be torn apart.

What was your most disastrous haircut experience?

I had a job at [TGI] Fridays as a teenager and one of my shifts was starting at 2:00 p.m., so I went to get a haircut at some place I had never been about an hour before. This place was off the highway and in a strange, dark ramshackle little building. Some might even say it looked like something out of a horror movie. The guy cutting my hair took a real liking to me and I was too shy to say I had to leave. Plus, he was taking a LONG time cutting it. It took almost three hours, plus I had to drive to work, which was another 30 minutes on top. When it was finished it was so bad. I mean, it was weird and lopsided. I was really embarrassed and hours late so I called in with some shit excuse and they totally fired me.

In 2014, what was the best movie you saw, book you read, comic book you read, video game you played, and/or TV show you watched?

I read all of Scottish poet Robin Robertson's work and it's been incredibly inspiring. I also listened to a taped retreat with Pema Chodron that has changed my life. Film-wise, I watched Deep Water, about Donald Crowhurst's ill-fated sea voyage around the world. It's a must-see and also very moving. Everyone should watch Blackfish, a documentary on the treatment of Sea World's animals, and see how they can contribute to making a change. The new Life Story series on BBC, probably David Attenborough's last work, is a masterpiece.

Do you have any other thoughts about 2014 (such as on the World Cup, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, immigration reform, the failed Scottish Independence Referendum, ISIS, Ebola, Winter Olympics, celebrity nude photo hacks, etc.) or the state of the music industry?

The vibe I'm getting is that people are really feeling like the world is going down and that despite things being bad in the past, that somehow now it's different and it's worse. Things seem out of control and people are frightened. There are some real horrific things going on. The best bet we have is to work twice as hard to understand, to love, and to stick together. That may read like some bullshit hippie thing to say, but it's not, and the more people project that and turn others onto it the better. Turning on the television reveals a bankrupt throwaway culture. Turn it off and do something for your loved ones and those around you. Don't complain about mediocrity, grind against it by doing something positive and helping however you can. In that struggle, you'll do more good and learn more about yourself than you can imagine.

www.stillcorners.tumblr.com

 

 

 



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