If I Have Ever Driven Drunk, I Was Not Apprehended
The musician and performance artist the Blow on working with her girlfriend, drunk driving, growing up on Queen Anne, Lindsay Lohan, Sting, and other stuff.
You have been making music as the Blow since 2002. These days, your collaborator is Melissa Dyne, a conceptual and installation artist. You used to collaborate with a boy. Are there differences between collaborating with boys and girls?
Yeah, I guess there are some differences, and they probably fall fairly in line with my own predilections for romantic gender preference—for example, working with Melissa, 75 percent of the decisions that we make in the project are discussed between us. Whereas in my experience of working with boys, we would be more likely to talk about maybe 25 percent of the material/decisions and the other 75 percent would be navigated nonverbally.
I think great work can come from working nonverbally. That said, I really love to talk and to share my ideas viscerally, so the experience of getting to work with a girl, and a girl who falls into my girl stereotype, is nice. Girls tend to want to talk about everything.
It seems like it would be complicated to collaborate with the person you're dating.
Yes, full disclosure, Melissa is my lady. And I guess it is complicated, but in another way, it feels like it's the ideal situation. I mean, if she were working with someone else aside from me, and their collaboration was as intimate as ours is (and I mean intimate in terms of being psychically intimate), I think I would feel fairly left out.
When I met her once, I kept thinking, "Man she's so smart. And hot."
Melissa is a really brilliant artist. Her vision is massive, and she has the kind of patience that allows huge things to happen. She isn't burning to prove herself in every second. Which gives her the fortitude to actually accomplish what might seem impossible. For a long time, her work was just legendary to me, because her biggest pieces had taken place in Mexico City and Hong Kong, so I didn't get to see it up close.
When I saw you in New York City a few years ago, you told me you really wanted to write pop songs for Lindsay Lohan. I remember thinking you were serious.
I was. It really appealed to me to write songs for someone else, and to let them go out and sing them and have my words be expressed through someone else's voice and body.
Because she was making choices that I could really relate to: She was publicly dating a girl, and the way that the press reported about their relationship really gave the impression that they were in love. When I looked at pictures of them out in public together, wearing Mickey Mouse hats and no makeup at Disneyland, I felt like I could totally relate to that situation. She looked so absolutely happy and at ease. I knew that she has a singing career and that she doesn't write her songs for herself, so I figured it would be exciting to try writing something for her. It seemed like an interesting challenge.
From what the internet tells me, the new Blow show is a concept piece about an imaginary collaboration with someone who is probably Lohan but is never named. Is that right?
One journalist who saw the show wrote a piece that seemed bent on puncturing all bubbles of illusion in the narrative, and it was a funny thing to read, because up to that point, the show was working with some layers of uncertainty about what is real and unreal. He seemed so intent on clarifying that I am absolutely not writing songs for the celebrity, and it was funny to me—it was like that uncertainty made him uncomfortable and he needed to establish reality from nonreality. And I am really interested in what seems like it could be real but isn't. Or what seems hard to believe but actually is true.
Have you ever had two DUIs?
If I have ever driven drunk, I was not apprehended. And certainly never photographed.
Do you ever desire to be that well-known? That photographed? It seems like you can't make pop music and not on some level want to be an icon.
Wow, no, certainly no. If I were magically going to do something worthy of being as famous as her, I would want it to be in a Cate Blanchett or a Helena Bonham Carter kind of way. I would want to duck in and out of the red carpets and then be well left alone the rest of the time. The thing is, though, as an actress, as a spectacular actress like Cate Blanchett, you are well-known for being able to transcend your own personality and to change in your roles. But as a pop star, or as an American-style actress where mostly you become a star for being an interesting personality, I think there is a lot more projection about who and what you are, and I think people get really attached to the idea of that product. That would make me insane. Having my external identity compressed into such a tight package.
Do you sing "Hey Boy" in this show?
Because there's this boy who hasn't called in a grip and it's starting to make me sad, and whenever I feel like texting him, I listen to "Hey Boy" instead, which means I've been listening to it a lot. It's so good. How did you make it so good?
I made "Hey Boy" good by getting burned by a boy who I really felt should have called me. I thought I had the upper hand in the situation, or at least an even hand, and when it turned out that I was being dogged, that reality was so unbelievable to me that I was in a fever for days until I realized the situation for what it was, that I was being dogged, and the song just popped right out of my mouth.
I'll be standing in the grocery store looking at eggs and singing to myself, "A, you're gay, B, you've got a girlfriend..." over and over.
Maybe you will pick up a new boy that way.
Another of the songs on Poor Aim quotes so heavily from "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," it's practically a cover. Describe the history of your feelings about Sting.
I remember that in third grade, Mike Lee brought a Police album to class, the one that had the alarm-clock-style letters on the cover, and I had the feeling that it was one of those things the boys liked that were too cool for me to know about. I don't know when I actually listened to them, when it was that I felt invited to the club. I must admit that in 1993, when I was an exchange student, I got pretty swept up into Sting's solo "Fields of Gold" album. It coincided with the first time I fell in love, and it seemed to be the sonic record of the feeling of riding doubles on a bike through golden Danish fields with the smartest girl I had ever met.
What is this thing you're doing at Henry Art Gallery the night before Friday's show at the Crocodile?
On February 3, Melissa and I are giving a lecture at the Henry about our performance and our collaboration on it. We've been scheduling the lecture in tandem with the show in various places, and it's been exciting to get to have a different venue to dive into some of the ideas surrounding the project. Basically, it's an artists' lecture.
Does your mom still live on Queen Anne?
Yes, my whole life. And my dad, too. When I was growing up, it really felt like a small town. And that was the best and worst thing about it. I knew everyone, and the parents of all my best friends from grade school still live on the hill—it's still a tight little place. Growing up there was cozy, and idyllic, and neighborly, and claustrophobic, and limiting, and lovely. Did I mention I went to the Catholic school with the same 20 kids from first to eighth grade? I think that colors the experience significantly. It's like having 20 siblings, and those people come to know you really well, and in other ways never really have the first clue about you.