The End: Hamilton Leithauser on Endings and Death | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The End: Hamilton Leithauser on Endings and Death

"There is something noble in being eaten by something large-like a bear, a shark, or a python."

Apr 24, 2015 The Walkmen
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To end out the week, we ask Hamilton Leithauser some questions about endings and death. “The End” is our recurring feature that runs on the last page of each print issue. This interview originally ran on the last page of Issue 50, but this is its debut online. Leithauser’s band, The Walkmen, may be on “extreme hiatus” (as they announced in November of 2013), but last year Ribbon Music released the singer’s debut solo album, Black Hours. Read on has Leithauser discusses how he’d like to die, his funeral, the afterlife, and his favorite endings to albums, movies, TV shows, and books.

How would you like to die and what age would you like to be?

Hamilton Leithauser: I don’t want to die. I feel like I have a lot to live for and I love my family and friends and find the world to be an interesting place. But I will say that I think there is something noble in being eaten by something large-like a bear, a shark, or a python. I would say I’d prefer to live a long time before this horrible ending, but it’s a classic and honorable way to go.

What song would you like to be playing at your deathbed?

This is a grim thought. After a little consideration, I’ll go with “There’s a Riot Going On” by The Coasters. That song has always gotten me fired up, and I guess I’d like to go out fired up.

What song would you like to be performed at your funeral and who would you like to sing it?

Ouch, this one is a downer. If Rostam [Batmanglij]‘s still around, maybe he could come up and do [Black Hours track] “I Retired.” I think that’d be a good final thought for me.

What’s your favorite ending to a movie?

It is a movie that has yet to be made. Only the ending has been written. It was written by one of The Walkmen-either Walt [Martin] or Paul [Maroon], I think. There’ll be a scene where some guy busts into an apartment building’s front doormaybe like an old Harlem tenement kind of place. Then he’s running up flights of stairs really fast, music really picking up. At the top of the stairs he kicks open a door and there is someone in an apartment waiting for him. The guy pulls out two pistols and stuffs one in his mouth and aims one at the other guy/girl and pulls both triggers. Great ending. No movie.

What’s your favorite last line in a book?

I love this, from Martin Amis’ The Information: “And then there is the information, which is nothing, and comes at night.” It is just raw, uncut horror. It is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. I give it an A+.

What’s your favorite series finale of a TV show?

I was pretty satisfied with the end of The Wire. I mean, the show had its ups and downs, I guess, but overall it was really the best TV show I’ve ever seen, and I think they did a good job of wrapping everything up. That’s got to be really hard once you’ve spent so much time and effort creating such a massive and complex story.

What’s your favorite last song on an album?

This is probably kind of a passé answer, but I’d say [Bob Dylan’s] “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” at the end of Bringing it All Back Home is pretty hard to beat. I mean, it’s concluding one of the greatest albums of all time, but it adds such a fantastic, wistful, great-sounding touch at the end. I’ll go with that one. Also “Joan of Arc” at the end of Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate comes to mind. It sounds so nice after “Sing Another Song, Boys.” Another one is “Waiting on a Friend” at the end of [The Rolling Stones’] Tattoo You-such a great second side and it’s a fantastic ending.

What’s your favorite last album by a band that then broke up?

The Beatles’ Abbey Road. I mean, I could try and come up with someone else, but why bother. It’s a really great record.

If you were on death row, what would you like your last meal to be?

I’d imagine my stomach would just be an absolute mess, so something lighta goat cheese salad.

What’s your concept of the afterlife?

I’m not sure where I stand on this. It is a very complicated question that I spent years bullshitting my way through in college. I think in the end I do not believe in a divine being, or the existence of an afterlife. But it irks me that there is no answer to what is known as the mind-body problem. I am not particularly religious these days, but metaphysics leads you to some unanswerable questions that seem to always point to a higher authority or an inconceivable other level of reality.

What would be your own personal version of heaven if it exists?

The opposite of my next answer, a subject I find much easier to wrap my head around.

What would be the worst punishment the devil could devise for you in hell, if he exists?

Stick me in a hot, crowded, and noisy room. I’ve completely lost my voice and I am trying to communicate with someone far away. I have two or three bulky and heavy pieces of musical equipment with me that I need to drag through the crowd. It is very late, and I am utterly exhausted. I’m disappointed in something I have done very recently, and I’m feeling clumsy and tired as I’ve had too much to drink. Some cartoonish indie dance song is playing at an unthinkable volume. I am somehow aware that I have a very early obligation the following morningin not that many hours from right nowand that I have not yet secured a place to sleep this very night. I am also somehow aware that I will be doing all of this again tomorrow night. Hell is the intersection of bored and scared.

If reincarnation exists, who or what would you like to be reincarnated as?

The wombat at the Prospect Park Zoo. I admire him there oftenhe’s so relaxed and content to mull around in the dark, eating bugs and bat shit.

What song, album, or achievement would you most like to be remembered for?

My new record Black Hours. I’m very proud of everything on it, and I stand behind it 100%.

What would you like your last words to be?

“This is brutal.”


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