ANTONY AND THE JOHNSONS

DANIEL BLUMIN


PHOTO OF ANTONY BY DON FELIX CERVANTES

I first heard Antony when David J (ex-Love & Rockets, Bauhaus) came up to WNYU to record a session for The New Afternoon Show a few years back and brought him along. I remember them doing a cover of “Being Boring” by The pet Shop Boys. The choice of cover was great in and of itself, of course, but once I heard Antony sing, I wondered what this person was doing singing back-up. There was a unique natural beauty to the voice that was enthralling. Fortunately, Antony told me that he had his own band, The Johnsons, and a week or so later, I got a package containing the group's self-titled debut. As expected, it was the voice that hit me first and foremost. Antony glides easily between a tenor and a falsetto, and his voice has a soulful gospel-like quality with a hint of Martin L. Gore and Lotte Lenya. Antony & The Johnsons originally came out in 1998 on the UK-based label Durtro run by Current 93's David Tibet. For those of you who missed out on the import, the album was reissued by Secretly Canadian this past summer. I Am a Bird Now, Antony's second album, is an early contender for my album of the year. It is a slightly more low-key affair than its predecessor. The songs are spare, evocative, melancholy, but somehow uplifting. Whether the subject matter is gender, aging, or loneliness, there is an effortless emotional honesty to the recordings. The arrangements are also more subtle this time around and remind me a bit of Tindersticks orchestration. Since I knew nothing about Antony and hadn't found much in the biography department, I spoke to him about his musical past, from playing Soft Cell covers during his childhood in California to performing in the New York downtown underground and, finally, to the present, which finds Antony touring the world with Lou Reed, touring Europe with the Johnsons, curating concerts and having Boy George appear on his album! Thanks for the introduction, David!


Daniel Blumin: Let's just start way back and then we'll work up to the new record. Where are you originally from?

Antony: I moved here from England when I was ten – from the south of England. We moved around a lot. We lived in Holland, England, and California.

DB: When did you move to New York?

A: I moved here in 1990 --to go to school at NYU; I went to The Experimental Theater Wing for two years.

DB: Did you complete the program?

A: I did two years there and I was finished. I had transferred from UC Santa Cruz.

DB: And were you writing music simultaneously?

A: Yeah, I was always writing songs and then incorporating them into shows, lots of nightclub shows. At the very beginning, I did a show called Cripple and the Starfish, and that was where that song came from. That was the theme song for the play, which we performed in 1991 at the Theater for the New City on 2nd Ave.

DB: And was that the first song of yours that became public?

A: It was the one that people seemed to respond to. It seemed to take on a little life of its own. Certainly , once I started to make recordings of my work. I had a little cassette that I released in 1996. For a long time, I was just doing music in night clubs and presenting songs with backingtracks that I'd make on my keyboard, and I'd just be singing one to three songs at The Pyramid or Jackie 60 or in the context of some scene at 2AM to a bunch of drunks.

DB: Was it all originals?

A: Y eah – all originals – once in a while I did a cover song.The arrangements were very influenced by that sort of David L ynch static surrealist aesthetic. I was always going for some kind of suspended feeling of time and then trying to sing a torch song over it.

DB: How young were you when you first started writing songs?

A: I started writing songs when I was like eleven or twelve years old. My mom bought me a Casio keyboard for Christmas in 1982. And that's when I started emulating the songs that I liked that I had brought home from Englandʻcause each summer we'd go back and buy the tapes that were coming out like Soft Cell or the first Depeche Mode record. Those were the things that I first started playing on my little keyboard – “Say Hello Wave Goodbye” or “New Life”. I pretty quickly started writing my own songs.

DB: Right, ʻcause…

A: Well, with blueprints like that you don't have to stretch yourself. Once you know two or three chords -- not even chords --just figure out something about melody and you're off to the races.

DB: Did your parents listen to music as well? Is that why they gave you a Casio?

A: Curiously, my mother had really good music taste at that time – she'd bought that first Laurie Anderson album right when it came out. But then again in England “O Superman” was a big hit. That was really one of the soundtracks at my household in 1982 – moving to America, to California, and the Santa Cruz California foothills and listening to, “O!O!O!O!” that weird apocalyptic futurist music… My mom also had that first OMD album for some weird reason…

DB: Their first three or four albums are classic records!

A: It's so funny cos I've been thinking somuchabout OMD again. Did you see that electro-pop Mojo? I remember when I bought Architecture and Moralitywhen I was like twelve or thirteen years old. And their album was so frightening to me and so incredible and experimental. That record is so weird because it's considered electro-pop, but then all the sounds are these organic industrial sounds; it's like a perfect merging of a weird sort of industrial texture with sad and beautiful songs. I just think that OMD were so incredible!

DB: When you were doing your own thing playing the Casio and writing your own songs, did you have collaborators? Did you form a band in school or were you just doing it on your own the entire time?

A: I formed a band in high school. It was like a death rock band. I was really into Christian Death and Andi Sex Gang, which sounds terrible, but I used to really love Marc Almond. He was my favorite of all! I was really into Marc & the Mambas, particularly. That was like the blueprint for everything I would end up doing.

DB: How long did the death rock band last?

A: There were a lot of internal problems. [Laughs] Most of the members in the band were like ten years older than me and I was the main songwriter. I was fifteen. And they were these grizzled, toothless death rockers who were already veterans in 1984 or 1985.

DB: Did your voice sound different then?

A: It was a little screamy/singy. Then after that, I started to write things that were a little more pastoral. I loved all the typical things: This Mortal Coil and Cocteau Twins. All the kids now have these really sophisticated underground tastes; they were all listening to like the Harry Smith anthology when they were twelve years old. I was just listening to new wave. I guess my departure was when I started listening to American music like old American music, black American music. Then I sort of went on a different path. By mid-high school, I was starting to listen to classic things like Billie Holiday, and I was just thinking about things differently.

DB: Were you still in the death rock band?

A: Umm, no.

DB: Yeah that would be pretty amazing. Listening to Billie Holiday by day and by night… [laughs]

A: No, but the death rockers were listening to Billie Holiday and Klaus Nomi; they were suburban death rockers. They had quite sophisticated tastes.

DB: How did your voice develop from the death rock days to your singing style today?

A: That band was just a phase! I was singing pretty lyrically just from listening to Marc Almond. He was really my biggest influence as a teen. I took a tiny bit of singing classes in college, which helped with confidence more than anything.

DB: Once you started listening to this kind of music, was there any kind of middle period band between you coming to New York and the death rock in California?

A: Well I started arranging songs in high school. It's funny, did you see that movie Tarnation? That really rang a bell for me. That was very similar for me. Like the way I was dealing with culture in the mid and late 80's. I was very into Blue Velvet, and in high school, I'd find all the girls in swing choir and I'd force them to do my pervy little oratorios for 4 voices. You know, doing little side kicks and what have you, but with my aesthetic interests…

DB: Did you record any of that stuff?

A: Yeah, I have little video tapes of these chubby girls singing about… [laughs] They were so wonderful! We were just all on the same page. Maybe not quite the same page, but I went to an arts high school, so there were certain people that nurtured me and encouraged me to do my thing.

DB: If you're singing songs even remotely like the ones that came out on your first album, I could see if you're going to a regular high school, you'd have a hard time finding too many people to collaborate with. [laughs]

A: I think the songs… I did write saddish songs. But with a slightly pagan theme.

DB: What made you decide to study experimental theater?

A: I was never really interested in theater. I only got into that by default. I went to Santa Cruz and I was just studying general creative studies. I was really excited by visual stuff. I just wanted my thumb in a little bit of everything --doing a lot of visual art, painting, drawing, and a little bit of theater, but mostly the theater thing was always just serving my ideas about doing music or some extension or presentation of music. In college, I got into all the John Waters films, and I started thinking about doing more. I started presenting these transvestite musicals late at night with my friends --putting together ridiculous stories, like comic tragic stories with sort of punk feeling -totally derivative of the John Waters aesthetic. But maybe with a little bit more of an emotional punch at the center. A little bit more leaning on the tragic and emotional…

DB: As opposed to the absurd.

A: Well, it was both. I was interested in torch songs, and all those musicals would always climax with me singing a song, and there would be something very heartfelt at the center of it. And then I'd be electrocuted or whatever...

DB: [laughs]

A: You know circa Female Trouble. I was just like grappling with all the imagery of the work of other people I was discovering. And then, after two years in Santa Cruz, Iʻd seen things like Mondo New York. It was Joey Arias singing “Hard Day's Night” as Billie Holiday in Mondo New York that really made me feel like I had to move to New York because of the idea… this combination of queenery and really sort of subversive punk beauty. The mixture of a punk beauty aesthetic and a high beauty aesthetic was something I was really into -- especially putting it in weird contexts. Something sublimely beautiful like Joey Arias performing as Billie Holiday was sort of shatteringly, confusingly beautiful. I moved to NYC because I knew that the kind of people and artists that I wanted to be near were notoriously here in the greatest concentrations. I was really looking for signs of life that I could relate to or that I loved or thought were beautiful.

DB: When you got here, were you surprised at the New York you found?

A: Well, I remember sneaking into the palladium when it was still a nightclub, and sneaking into the private club upstairs and seeing Joey Arias sing at a Liza Minelli birthday party… He had just had his nipples freshly pierced and his hair painted on; his hairline was melting down the side of his face, and he was singing and he just looked so bizarre and wild. I just remember crouching on the floor, being like nineteen years old, and thinking, “Gosh, I've arrived”, or getting to the pyramid Club and seeing page and Richard move on the go-go box looking so sexy and so completely futurist androgynous and thinking, “These are the people that I wanna emulate; these are the people that I wanna be near.”

DB: So, it was still kind of the New York you had heard about. A lot of people who were here in the early 80's and even the late 70's have talked about how, by the late 80's, things had calmed down quite a bit.

A: I wouldn't say calmed down… I think people got kinda spooked… When I arrived, I just remember all the headlines of the gay papers, of different people that were dying. It was very mid-AIDS. Ethel Eichelberger died the week I got here. She was on the cover of, what was that magazine?Out Week?I just remember this really weird picture of her on the cover. And this one boy, John Sex, who used to have that disco 12” “Hustle with My Muscle”, which my friend Johanna Constantine and I were so excited about and used to listen to all the time when we were in Santa Cruz, died. David Wojnarowicz, too… I was just learning about these people, and I was like, “This is where the party is at. This is where the party is at and it's sort of…”

DB: Fading…

A: At the same time it was changing a lot. Like Charles Ludlum had been dead for a couple of years already; Jack Smith had died the year before I got here, and they were all people I was learning about posthumously who had been sort of cut off mid-flight. And I went into a school environment and I had certain mentors who were actually connected up with those scenes. Like the guy who got me into NYU, Ron Argelander, was running the drama department because there was no one else to do it. He was actually quite a weird dude. He appeared in Jack Smith's stage presentation of Ibsen's The Ghosts, and he was really into this legacy of underground New York, like transvestism in the avant-garde, and he sort of saw me as someone that he could… There was a couple of different people at that school that saw me as someone that they could pour that information into at a time when it felt like things weren't being documented. I was getting these private oral histories from certain professors and people that were watching this sort of vanishing thing happening.

DB: How long did it take from being at NYU to getting an incarnation of the Johnsons together?

A: Well, I started a group called Blacklips after I finished school in 1992. It was quite evangelical in that period. We were wearing barbed wire headpieces with like, “My cock is riddled with maggots” T-shirts and going to Wigstock and passing out fliers. Johanna and I were really off the map. Because we wanted to do something really hardcore. The gay drag scene at that period was more about feeling good, and we were feeling quite apocalyptic. I'll never forget the way Johanna wrote “maggots” in cursive on her breasts and an arrow pointing down to her… It was just so funny. And Johanna was a big reason for me being like that too. She was really the one pushing it all in that direction. ʻCause she was more, ismuch more hardcore than me.

DB: What do you think are the reasons for your being apocalyptic then? In the 80's and 90's there was quite a lot more apocalyptic music than there is now, and aren't there reasons to feel a tad apocalyptic what with the political state of the world today?

A: Yeah, my feeling is the government and media are doing that so well. I don't think there's a necessity for the artists to encourage that dialogue or encourage that momentum, which is already so out of control. I think in the 80's it depended on where you were… It really depended on what you were thinking about and singing about. The spectre of AIDS was really big for me growing up and in terms of where I was going and my direction…. That cast a weird sort of local sense of apocalypse over my sense of the world. I was also obsessed with environmental issues. Everything was still a little bit in the unconscious, which I think made it more for the artist wanting to break it through the unconscious to the conscious. Now, we're in a weird time because it's in the consciousness and now it's just a matter of denial. people either wanna deny it or they're just deadened to it. It's a very different relationship now because people are very aware of the troubles. And the relationship to the media too, the way the television works now is just so full on. people are controlled and informed by the television in a negative way. By the mid 90's, I really got to the point where it wasn't really sort of an aesthetic choice, it was one of necessity -- I needed to change di-


PHOTO OF ANTONY BY ALICE O'MALLEY

rections. I needed to sort of change paths and go more inside. I stopped ranting. I think my work became more reflective as I left my early 20's. I started thinking that all this doomsday stuff isn't helpful. I started to be very inspired by artists that were actually swimming against the tide in that capacity and seeking new criteria for a new experience of hope or seeking to reawaken a sense of internal life, a sense of safety within oneself, or a place to be emotionally available. Now, when I look at work, when I'm thinking about work that I want to bring into my own life, I'm always thinking, “Is this helpful?” It's my primary criteria. Like, is cutting a cow in three sections and putting it in formaldehyde and forcing people to stare at it helpful? Is it shedding any real light on anything? And in a way, sometimes, I think I had that sort of vibe in my own work --especially as a teenager at certain points.

DB: Just to come back to your work… You said Black-lips was formed…

A: Blacklips was like a nightclub performing group -- just a raggle taggle group…

DB: Did any people move on to Johnsons?

A: Umm, Johanna was my partner in founding that group. Johanna was sort of the muse and masthead for the John-sons, too. No, Blacklips was a huge group of people who mostly came out of the nightclub world -- people like Love Forever, Clark Render, Floyd, psychotic Eve, James F. Murphy, page, tons and tons of other people and dancers…

DB: In your mind, were the Johnsons also kind of a band that was constantly in flux?

A: Well, what happened was I was doing like a nightclub performance. I put together this collective of people and we did plays every week. We wrote different plays and we put ʻem on and then, after a while, that got to be too difficult for me. I wanted to focus more on my own work and I started John-sons, which was a group that was supposed to just do my own plays. We did those at Mother and a little bit at p.S. 122 -- only plays that I wrote and that I would direct as opposed to a collective input of the source material. And then it went from there where I got a grant and I thought, “Well, I sort of realized I'd reached an impasse with doing my performance work in theaters because I realized that there was only ever going to be the most marginal market for the kind of work I wanted to present, which had got whittled down to just looking at different hybrid beauties -- urban people that I loved in different kinds of light and open space -- and attaching dialogue and song music, but just with all the people I wanted to work with. I never worked with actors; I just worked with people that I thought were beautiful. Different kinds of New York people. And there were people who could never really grasp that it was growing out of a legacy of that kind of performance -- everything from paul Getz, Ridiculous Theatrical Company, and Angels of Light, Hibiscus's group, which he started after Cockettes, which was a big inspiration for my formation of the Johnsons, and Jack Smith. And I was trying to work out of that tradition. The conventional theater world, even the experimental theater world, could never comprehend that as more than a kind of bizarre amateurism. They couldn't fathom that it could be a legitimate form of art.

DB: You couldn't really write up a grant proposal for it… [laughs]

A: Yeah, because they can't understand you working with a bunch of really beautiful drug addicts, prostitutes, dominatrices, and different sorts of beautiful androgynes. The Jerome foundation isn't gonna give you a grant for that, know what I mean? And they told me in so many letters… And I just got to the point of, “ I'm never gonna get any further with this.” I had to reexamine what it was at the heart of what I wanted to do. And at the center of everything I ever did was me singing songs. So, I thought, “Well, this is the opportunity for me.” I got a grant from NYFA, and I said, “Well, I'll record a record and put together a band and musicians.” And then I had to start finding musicians. I'd never worked with musicians, so I had to seek them out through all the various avenues, putting ads in The V

oice and whatever. Then the last six, seven years really have been about learning about what it's like to be a musician among musicians. And working with other instrumentalists and …

DB: How has it been?

A: It's been an incredible journey, really. The difference between my first record and this record is the first record was just me rebounding off of all of my years of doing track shows with my keyboard arrangements and bringing in people and saying, “Well, you play this part; you play this part,” and sort of whipping it together --a first distillation of what it might sound like -- to like five or six years later having worked with each member of a little ensemble, having worked with a lot of different people, and having really honed the idea about what it is musically I even wanted to present. So, it's been a lot of growing…

DB: How did you meet David Tibet? That's the next step in the story. Right?

A : Yeah, David got my record from a mutual friend, John Marchant. David's like the founder. Like all this folk stuff, like a lot of these kids don't even realize... Especially the more art-oriented versions -- it's all coming out of stuff David was doing in the early 90's. I mean he was the one that was doing apocalyptic folk when no one would even consider it. It certainly was the blueprint for a lot of the stuff that's happening now ten years later. He was kind of doing it when no one else even really knew what to call it. All they could think of it was, “This is some kind of weird goth.” You know what I mean? Like for a long time, stuff that is regarded again as fine art at that point was still sort of roughly shoved into the goth category because no one knew what to do with it. I mean I was probably one of those things that was sort of shoved into goth because people didn't know what to do. Meanwhile, all of us were like, “My God, we camped on the grave of goth like ten years ago. You know, by the time the word ʻgoth' even popped up, it was like, “Who cares?” By 1992, my thing wasn't, “Let's fantasize some spooky world with eyeliner and veils.” It was like, “ Let's look around, what's going on in this community and in the world.” My whole thing was very reality, and goth always seemed to imply a kind of artifice or striking a pose that was not a part of my program. Then again, I was and still can be slightly over the top.

DB: Where do you draw the line now? Does artifice have a place?

A: I never really see it, you know? Like even when someone says to me, “This is cabaret. You emerge out of theatre and cabaret.” I was never really interested in the construct. I was always interested in reality. But, for me, someone like Leigh Bowery, the performance artist and designer from London, who was a huge influence on all of us, is reality. That's the truest expression. It's not hiding behind something. So, I guess it's just radically different ideas about what's beautiful. For me, I was always drawn to what was the most beautiful, and it had an immediacy that wasn't about anyone becoming someone they weren't naturally.

DB: Lets talk about the new record, I Am a Bird Now. Boy George drops in on “You Are My Sister” and he sounds great! That production is right on!

A: Right. He's just being so soulful. He just gave everything that day when he came into the studio. And he knew the stakes were so high for me. And there's something about the song and the way that we'd met and the story behind it was very powerful. It was a very powerful day. It was kind of a solar eclipse or something -- that's how it felt.

DB: How long have you known each other?

A: I met him at this Broadway show that he was doing called Taboo, which is about Leigh Bowery and him. And I was sort of brought in to help with that because I was peripheral to that world of Leigh, and his best friend, Charles Atlas, the filmmaker, was also one of my best friends. Also, I have Leigh's stature and I can do his voice and I'm sympathetic to his mindset, so I was doing some readings in helping them develop the scripts. And although I decided not to understudy George in the role of Leigh on Broadway, we became friends and hung out some, and it just came to pass that at a certain point in the production of the record I asked him to participate. For me, it's very powerful because, when I was like eleven, he was really the first one. He was probably the reason I became a singer. Because of Boy George, it was like, “Ok, there I am. There's the adult role; there's the adult version, for better or for worse, there it is.” [laughs] It was the first time I had ever seen a reflection of myself in the world you know? So he probably had more influence than anyone other than Marc Almond, but George was the first one in that way. And he was only like nineteen. But that's the other thing that kills me. I was having lunch with him the other day, and we were talking about our age now because he was so many worlds away from me when I was a 12-year-old kid on top of a mountain in California, desperate for connection with the world, and there he was, in the center of the hubbub in the early 80's, putting out these incredible soul songs with the voice of… You know, no one could even wrap language around what he was at that time. There wasn't even language to talk about what George was in the early 80's. He was like 19 or 20 years old and he was recording “Do You Really Wanna Hurt Me”, which is probably one of the greatest recordings of the 2nd half of the 20th century. I mean, really, it's like one of the most shockingly beautiful vocals you could imagine. people got so overwhelmed by his persona that they sort of forgot that he was one of the greatest singers of England. He's like somewhere between Jimmy Scott and Marianne Faith-full now. In his early 20's, he was just so Smokey Robinson; now, twenty or twenty-five years later, his voice is so weathered. It's been through so much; it has that Marianne Faithfull quality of brokenness and torn-ness and wrenching emotion. But also it has soulfulness and this sort of strange ornamental beauty of Jimmy Scott. I played that track to Lou Reed when we first recorded it, and he just nailed it. He said, “It's just pure emotion.” And I realized that when you talk to George, the thing that really strikes you about him is that he is pure emotion. Everything he does just comes from his heart or his sense of feeling. And I was so delighted to be able to do something like that with him.

DB: Did you co-write the song? I think it was your song, right?

A: Yeah, I wrote the song for my sister, and then when he said he would do it with me, I actually kind of ironically wrote the verses. What's so great about guests on the record is that it created all this new context and all this new meaning for the songs. They bring their identity and it just changes the meaning of everything --sort of creates new levels of it. Also, on that song, Devendra Banhart's playing guitar. Devendra's one of the greatest guitar players. Just the warmest beautiful delicate sort of caressing Spanishy feeling… He's such an incredible musician, too. Devendra's presence on that song is really important too, and it's not really talked about. But, for me, Devendra being there and in that supporting role was really also a very amazing part of the chemistry of it.

DB: Were there a lot of takes on that song?

A: I think we did two takes. And I think we used like the first ten seconds of one and then we used the rest of the other. And then George overdubbed his vocals. He came in and all the musicians just watched, and I just played the piano next to him, and he sang his vocal. And we did it a few times and then put it together...

DB: Was there any difference in the method of recording the other songs, or was it pretty much the same like, “Go in there, do a track a day.” Was it fairly tight in terms of the scheduling?

A: It was hard. The record took me a long time to make because I kept trying to record it and not succeeding, not capturing something I wanted. It took me a couple of years of recording and throwing away recordings and finally sort of getting to a place where I just said, “Well, the only way we can do this is all go into a room and just record live with no separation.” -- to literally just make it live performances. “My Lady Story”, “What Can I Do?” and “Spiraling” are the exceptions. Those were slightly more tracked. But the basic approach was always like a live approach. To get as much of it as possible and then overdub whatever little vocals and what have you.

DB: And that was different from the first record.

A: The first record was tracked in stages. Rhythm section, then vocals, then overdubbing the strings. With these new songs a lot of them were developed as an ensemble and some of the string players like Julia Kent really helped to create the body of the music with their arrangements. There are much denser arrangements than I would've ever thought to, that I knew how to create. And on stuff like “Man is the Baby” and “Bird Girl”, those are all really significant creative contributions from members of the string section. And the way those songs were being played necessarily needed us to all be playing at the same time because it affected the song so much. I tried to track those songs doing the rhythm and the piano first, the way I did the first record, and it was just stiff and lifeless. We ended up realizing we had to all be playing together to get the flow of it. It was a lot of trial and error, of expensive trial and error -- all my personal resources were poured into it. It was expensive because of the process of learning; the learning curve was so brutal for the second record, but it was worth it, I think.

DB: Is the subject matter more of an intellectual artistic pursuit or is it more personal?

A: The subject matter of the work is really… I don't really spend a lot… I don't really second guess… My whole process is very intuitive and sort of naÔve almost, in terms of the way I put things together. I just slowly realize that my process is cumulative. In terms of lyrics, everything's from my diaries. I carry a diary every day, so I'm just always…whenever it strikes me, I write in it. It's pretty direct. There isn't a lot of…

DB: Conceptualizing?

A: Yeah, not really. I usually do most of that after the fact. For me that's the arranging part. That's the thing I love to do -- create the context, create meaning and put things next to each other -- even just the voices on the record, for instance. However, the way I get the raw materials is pretty basic. It's almost like the way you grow hair. But, then once you have all these little bits of hair and stuff… Then you arrange them and you can put them…. You create meaning by putting them in a certain way.

DB: That's a great way of looking at it! [laughs] Looking at the first full length, I was thinking about some of the lyrical content. “Hitler in my Heart”, for example. Have you had to answer many questions about it?

A: That has as much to do with the fact that I was just so… It's just so typical that I wouldn't even realize how [laughs]… that I would just put that together and think that every one would understand how earnest… It was just typical of where I was coming from. At that time, I was pretty fringey. I just didn't ever realize I'd have to answer the ʻWhat on earth does that mean?' question three million times, I thought it would be self-evident. And so much of that first one is about victimization. The first album certainly grapples with the theme of victimization, amongst other things. I am not sure why I took that bend in the road. I have always been drawn to things that walk that line, that sometimes seem to embody opposites simultaneously. I love that kind of singing that takes a sad feeling or subject and shakes it and shakes it until it is jubilant, radiant.

DB: The new record is very different with respect to the subject matter.

A: Right. Actually the one song on the record, “Fistful of Love”, comes from an earlier period of songwriting. You can see that that's a thread from the old line. Yeah, the other stuff isn't really about that.

DB: Do you know about anything that's going on in late spring/early summer for The John-sons?

A: There's a show at On the Boards in Seattle that I've put together featuring William Basinski, Devendra Banhart, CocoRosie and me. That's on April 22 – 23… And then I'm going on tour in Europe in May and June. In America, I'm not sure.

DB: Are you gonna be doing anything more with Lou Reed. That was another big part of your recent past – accompanying Lou Reed on his 2003 tour.

A: Yeah, we didn't really talk about that, but he's really important to all of us. We just work on different things together whenever he wants me to do something. We just have fun singing together.

DB: Do you have any other musical projects or collaborations in the works?

A: I'm working with this boy Nico Muhly on a project in Holland. He's this incredible boy. He did the arrangement for Bjork's “Oceania”. And he's working with Bjork on a new Matthew Barney soundtrack. He's 22 years old; he's this sort of incredibly genius sort of orchestral dude. And he's like Philip Glass' protege. Nico wanted to do a little project, so we're working on this thing for this fashion biennial in Arnhem, Holland. And that's really exciting to me. It's completely a different style of music. This is like sort of new classical, which is so radically different from anything I can possibly put together. I'm kind of excited to see what it's like.

I Am A Bird Now is available on Secretly Canadian Records.

For more info:
www.antonyandthejohnsons.com or www.secretlycanadian.com



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