MUSIC CULTURE TENDS TO DEFINE ITS TIMES, FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE, LIKE THE WAY THAT THE MUSIC OF THE '60S DEFINES THE '60S, ETC. DO YOU THINK THAT WE HAVE THE KIND OF MUSIC CULTURE THAT WE DESERVE? ARE THE THINGS YOU COMPLAIN ABOUT IN YOUR BOOK INDICATIVE OF THE FAILINGS OF OUR SOCIETY AS A WHOLE?
It's hard to make huge sweeping generalizations, but on the other hand I've been reading these books lately about the causes of decadence, and what it means, and there are aspects of our society that do seem . . . pathetic, really. I think the Internet, for example, has done wonderful things, but it's also become another arena for people's worst habits to dramatize themselves: vanity and fad-obsessiveness. Some of the Internet things that I do are lame and obsessive, and killing time on the Internet and other aspects about today — there's something about the things I put in Retromania, the iPod and collecting and whatnot that relates to that. Obsessing over old pop culture, etc. I wouldn't say that everyone is doing that, but it seems very common.
Andy Warhol, toward the end of his life, got really into that, collecting. He and his crew, they got tape recorders and recorded every conversation they had, and then at the end of the day they'd go back to the factory and some poor minion would have to take them and make transcriptions of every conversation, every phone call. And I guess now we're living in a Warholian age where everyone's obsessed with fame and their place in it.
WELL, IT'S A REAL ADVERTISING AGE NOWADAYS, AND EVERYTHING HAS TO BE VALUE-ADDED, LIKE THE WAY THAT ALBUMS AREN'T ALBUMS UNLESS THEY'RE DELUXE EDITIONS, AND MOVIES AREN'T MOVIES UNLESS THEY'RE SPECIAL EDITION BLU-RAYS WITH BONUS FEATURES. AN OBSESSION WITH THE PROCESS KIND OF ENVELOPES EVERYTHING.
There's a weird sort of addiction to disenchantment. Like, for instance, I was watching Mad Men last night, and in between the show they have these weird ads where this thing pops up and you go online and they have interviews with the director explaining the plot arcs and themes. Any ability to get lost in this world they've created demystifies it. I mean, there's a Web site for the ultrafans and you can find out how the show is made, all this kind of stuff. It seems like there's a lot of the things you're talking about, it seems to interfere with one's ability to be lost in a work of art. You have to see past the skeleton of the thing first. It's like you see the blueprints of the building first, like the Pompidou Center in Paris with all the pipes and scaffolding on the outside.
POP CULTURE, MUSIC CULTURE, IS ALWAYS SUPPOSED TO BE RADICAL, ON THAT '60S-ISH CONSERVATIVE/RADICAL DIALECTIC. BUT THE MUSIC ESTABLISHMENT NOW IS SO CONCERNED WITH CONSERVATION IN A LITERAL SENSE, PRESERVING THE OLD TRADITION, AND YOUNG PEOPLE ARE INUNDATED WITH THIS. IS THIS A CONSERVATIVE STIFLING OF RADICALISM IN MUSIC CULTURE?