I’ve never heard it put that way before, but I think I have to agree with you.
So many people are mourning the death of the album. I mean I’m not standing around knocking it. I’m not saying oh it’s disgusting that albums are dead, no; I think it’s fantastic. One thing that’s great for artists is that, look kids, we don’t have to make albums anymore. Why don’t you go to your local camera store and get a Canon 5D camera for example and make films on this camera? For like $4,000 you can edit a feature film. It’s amazing. The 5D camera looks amazing; I’ve seen it and bought one. Then you go out and get a MacBook Pro or whatever with Final Cut and you’ve got a film studio on your computer. Like The Beatles picked up the sitar, right? Well, why not? We can pick up cameras. I’ve always been a visual person. Look at The Cult’s artwork and presentation after twenty-odd years and I’ve always been involved. I’ve always been involved in the production of videos as well, with selecting certain key images and getting behind the camera with directors and saying, ‘Yes, I like that but I don’t like this. Fix this lighting. Do this to this scene.’ There are some ways I’ve been involved in directing my own videos but I’ve never taken the credit to put my own name to it. I’ve been involved in the artwork so it’s a natural progression.
Young artists don’t have to make albums. It’s okay. It’s not necessary. If your statement is only like one or two songs, make films to go with it and release that. And also release the T-shirt that goes with it. And the soap powder. And the short novel. [Laughs] Who knows. We’re seeing a return to the vinyl presentation. Vinyl still has a resonance in it. There’s been an increase in vinyl production. It’s almost like, if a book isn’t published on paper it’s not a book. If a body of work isn’t published on vinyl, it doesn’t have that credibility. It’s organic. You can get a hold of it and has a mystic quality. What is it in the grooves of that vinyl recording? When you pull a piece of vinyl out and put it on a record player, or even when you just hold that album in your hands, there’s a certain anticipation to pull the shrink wrap off, to look at the artwork, to take the album out and look at the liner notes as you’re indulging in the actual aural experience. As an object, it just resonates. It’s an archetype and you just can’t get away from it. I live in New York and you know yourself, all the record shops are gone. One of the only places I go is Other Music and they have pretty much all the vinyl releases of the albums they also sell CDs of. It’s interesting that there’s this similar generation now that’s grown up with a similar reverence for CDs.
The poor cassette has sort of fallen away, hasn’t it?
The cassette is sort of like a poky little…then again, I find myself now buying cassettes because I’ve got a cassette player I used for recording for so many years. At night my ears ring terribly so I usually listen to something so I can drop off to sleep. I got bored with the computer so I got books on tape. I found this really cheap tape of Sir Alec Guinness reading The Wasteland by T. S. Eliot. I just love the idea of putting that on and listening to his voice. And then things like dissertations by people like Robert Bly, Allen Ginsberg – I found this collection of Ginsberg’s poetry on cassette – and I’ll start listening to that and it’s like ‘Oh, I wonder what Metal Box by Public Image sounds like,’ and I’ll put that in there and just start buying cassettes. I love them. I love the portable format. My god, I mean the Walkman’s thirty years old now, isn’t it? Isn’t that amazing? And somebody told me that Cheap Trick just released an 8-track.
I’m not sure about the rebirth of the 8-track.
There are audiophiles out there. This whole generation of kids who pride themselves on their knowledge of the entire discography of a band, like the Pitchfork Media kids. And then they become critics and their critique about a thing is like, ‘Artist X: 5.3’ or ‘Artist C: 7.1.’ But then you actually look at their gestation of music and the thing that they don’t have is a cultural reference of the time that those albums were made in. That perspective is a clear perspective so, instead of critiquing work based upon a more academic knowledge, whereby you are educated in an academic situation, but the actual fieldwork is so different, the conditions are completely different.
Sure, rating something is easy. Slap a number on it and call it a review. But knowing exactly why you’re giving it that score in an informed, intellectual manner is entirely different from just assigning a number.
Absolutely. To me the best critic has always been the individual. You’re your own critic. I mean, there are some guides whereby somebody will write an incredibly insightful or articulate observation of a piece of work that does compel you to want to go and see it or listen to it or participate in it. But for the most part, in my life, the things I’ve been turned on to have usually been a picture of a musician that looks exciting or compelling or whatever, or a friend saying, ‘Hey, check this out.’ It’s always been word of mouth. Or in the time of actually being able to go and see things, somebody would tell me to go check a band out. So with all respect to critics, there’s a lot of self-importance in critics who almost do this intellectual bullying, the assumption that everybody out there has a college education.
Most people don’t. Most people just work by intuition. And to me intuition’s something you can’t teach; it’s something you evolve. And that taste and intuition are something you can’t really articulate. You have to be present. You have to taste the raspberry jam, as John Lennon said. I can’t explain the taste of raspberry jam. You’ve got to eat it. So that’s what’s wonderful about the visual medium and film. There it is. Right in front of you. You can see it. There’s not this little guy inside your head saying, ‘Okay, this is how you’re supposed to look at this.’ Who are you to tell me how to look at this? That’s what’s nice about getting a little bit older and you sort of grow into it. I know what I like and I know what I don’t like. My experiences inform me. A critic doesn’t inform me on how to look at a piece of work or a piece of art, which is a whole other medium that’s exploded in the 21st century. The visual arts have exploded. We have superstars in art. I mean, Picasso’s always been a god, but people like Keith Haring, Warhol obviously, and Rauschenberg, have become pop culture icons. They’re available to the general public. In England Damien Hirst is on the cover of front-page news. It’s interesting that art superstars are out there, too. It’s a great time for culture and culture’s accessible, not just for the lofty educated, wealthy, who make their money by dark means [laughs]. Slave owners and fucking exploiters…