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Daniel Day-Lewis spoke with poet, Eileen Myles in this 2002 interview. Photography by Terry Richardson.
 

Read Bjork's2001 interview with Juergen Teller from the index archives.



Kathleen Hanna discusses writing and making music in this interview from 2000 with Laurie Weeks.


Isabella Rossellini spoke with Peter Halley in this 1999 interview.


Check out our interview with Crispin Glover by Richard Kern from 2000.
Alexander McQueen's 2003 interview with Bjork.
 
  JERRY HALL
STEPHANIE SEYMORE
MARC JACOBS
  ASIA ARGENTO
DENNIS HOPPER
ABEL FERRARA
BRIAN WILSON
WILL OLDHAM
DJ SPOOKY

Fischerspooner,2000

WITH STEVE LAFRENIERE
PHOTOGRAPHED BY TERRY RICHARDSON


You could say it's been an above-average year for Fischerspooner. Since inventing themselves as a gleeful machete-attack on the corpse of downtown performance, the duo of Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner has consolidated rather impressively. Their majestic cast now includes twenty-odd singers, dancers, choreographers, set designers, costumers, and stylists. There's the blithely crazed following that crowds every show to cheer them on. And they've managed becoming art world darlings, to boot. After one uproarious appearance at Gavin Brown's Enterprise last summer they were the talk of the town for weeks. Gushed one attendee, "They're mindbenders, and I loved it!" Well, they are.
In the present version, Fischerspooner are a musical act. There are beats, vocoders, lights, costumes, and deliriously fucked-up dance moves. The show itself is a melding of so many urges and spectacles that it'd be hard to list them all, but at the top would probably be that greying ogre, "Mass Entertainment." Unlike most of their contemporaries, however, Fischerspooner don't want to knock him down so much as break on through to his ersatz little lemony-yellow heart. It's the tantric approach and it works. They've actually gotten past the irony logjam and into the far stranger regions of "Fun."
But they're shape-shifters. When I sat with Warren and Casey in an Allen Street dumpling cafe recently, they reserved the right to sudden and utter transformation from their current form. So you may want to catch Fischerspooner before their retooling as an historic stage drama or marching band. Think I'm kidding?



STEVE: On the phone last week, you told me you'd just gotten back from Fashion Week in Paris.
CASEY: Oh, it was a little bit of cultural research. But everyone was so relaxed and countrified there. You'd see one homeless person a day, with a small, poetically cut out sign that said "J'ai faim." And even they would look as well dressed as anyone else.

STEVE: What was the French response to your trash-America drag?
CASEY: You know, I'd have thought that the whole bad-high-fashion thing was by now completely integrated into Western society. So it was weird to go there and everyone looks like Jude Law in W. And this is at five o'clock in the morning at a sex club.

STEVE: That could get a fellow down, yeah!
CASEY: So I bought this Japanese high-concept faux Yohji Yamamoto suit with a snap on it that I busted off in about a day. Then I bought a belt to go over it, and a hot pink shirt. I was just having so much fun fucking up the Parisians. But Gavin had set up a meeting for me at Anthony D'Offay Gallery, so I ended up booking a ticket to London on the Chunnel.

STEVE: You probably got a better reception in England.
CASEY: Except that I hadn't had any sleep in days, was completely hung over, eating ham sandwiches on the train. I get to the gallery and am immediately swept into a whirlwind. It was like, "Here's a map to your hotel. You are to go to the Gilbert and George opening this evening." They tell me to be at Euston Station at a certain time, and draw a cartoon on a Post-it of who I'm to meet there, someone named Johnny Shand-Kydd. I get to the station and somehow, sure enough, I recognize him in the line for tickets. Then this other guy, Norman Rosenthal, shows up. One of the people who curated the "Sensation" show, as it turns out.

STEVE: Johnny Shand-Kydd is a photographer? I'm trying to think who that is.
CASEY: This aristocratic bohemian who takes pictures of artists. He's Princess Diana's half-brother. So we get on the train and I have no idea where we're going. Someplace called Milton Keynes, which is a big laugh to all the Londoners. And these two are cracking jokes the whole way. British humor is hard enough, but add an upper-class accent, a hang-over, and a bad suit.

STEVE: A knack for adventure, that's what you've got. Were there any good parties?
CASEY: Oh yeah. Later that night I went to a party and evidently met Michael Clark. I didn't know who he was, but by that time it was two o'clock in the morning, still no sleep, more beers. I was dancing, and I saw this guy. I thought he had a piece of paper on his ear. I was like, "What's on your ear, honey? Oh, it's a diaper pin." I hadn't seen a diaper pin in years. It was Proustian. However, I have no idea what kind of entrée any of this was to London society.

STEVE: Michael Clark choreography would be good fodder for Fischerspooner. You both present this really specific musculature. Gargoyley, but lean.
CASEY: Interesting. Because by the time we get to a show, about all I can fit in is thirty push-ups, suck it in, and try to get a cumberbund from wardrobe.

STEVE: Somehow I don't believe that. There's too much silhouette and fashion commentary woven in.
WARREN: I don't think the fashion world gets what we do. We're more born out of the idea to make something entertaining. That's actually the basis of our inspiration.
CASEY: In fact, fashion people have been hard for us to work with. They have a different sensibility, and it's been a big problem from the get-go.

STEVE: What kind of music were you making before this, Warren?
WARREN: I was an experimental music bore. In the early '90s I was in a math rock band, overly complicated and technical. At one point I worked with Jim O'Rourke making excessively long and idiosnycratic pieces of music.

STEVE: So, in response ...
WARREN: We wanted to create something fun and easy. The idea was that I'd make pop music, which is easy to make, and burn a CD. Casey would make a performance for it, then we would show up someplace and I would be lead CD player. I would push "Play."

STEVE: How do you mean, "easy to make?"
WARREN: We went to Sam Ash and started shopping for the sample CDs that you can buy for eighty dollars. When you buy the samples you own them. I love that.

STEVE: So it's like eighty dollars of public domain?
WARREN: Once you buy it.

STEVE: Wow, what do they sound like?
CASEY: Like everything you've ever heard.
WARREN: For example, I have a CD that has three Fatboy Slim samples that he's made millions off of. They have vocals, drumbeats, basslines, everything. You put it into some type of looping program, and then you additively and subtractively build songs.
CASEY: At Sam Ash you could sit there for hours and listen to these things on a preview system.
WARREN: You could probably get gamelan samples and make your own gamelan music. But we stumbled across a set called "The Heart of India." It's Bollywood, but it also goes into classical Indian music as well. All the way down to tabla and tamboura, all the drones. They each have their keys and tempo markings, and they're all made by master musicians.
CASEY: I'd been trying for years to think up a structure for solo performance. I didn't want to do a Spaulding Grey, first-person, autobiographical, witty ... you know. So I had an epiphany when I heard that music. My ultimate fantasy has always been to go to India and be in a feature film. It's the only genre of cinema where men are allowed to be expressive physically. Meanwhile, for over a year I'd been performing this story about a cab driver trying to pick me up. So I put it all together.

STEVE: I remember you doing that back when Starbuck's was having performance nights.
WARREN: The Astor Place Starbuck's. Such a genius venue from which to launch a career.
CASEY: [laughing] It was like social outreach. Performing "Indian Cab Driver" for people who just came in for a cup of coffee. I come from an experimental theater background. That's all I'd done for nine years, and the audience for experimental theater is so constipated. So to do something out of control like that was liberating.

STEVE: Probably easier.
WARREN: But then we got the idea of actually seeming like a band. And then it stopped being easy.
CASEY: It's one thing to fetishize pop culture. And it's truly another thing to recreate it.

STEVE: I know that your choreographer is Jordana Toback.
CASEY: Yeah, Jordana danced with Mark Morris for years.

STEVE: Ah, okay. She works with so many arcane breaks. Marshall arts. Animotion. Showgirls.
CASEY: [laughing] Fosse.

STEVE: But who are the women onstage? The two singers are so great.
CASEY: Cindy Greene, who has an amazing voice and had never actually performed before. And Lizzy Yoder is in Sweet Thunder, a band I'm involved with. She also has a cable access show called Losers Weepers, where they find things on the street and people call in to claim them. Before that Lizzy did a cooking show, Lick the Spoon. So she's been involved in the entertainment industry for quite some time.

STEVE: Who are the other two dancers?
WARREN: Vanessa Walters and Mindi McAlister. Also with backgrounds in contemporary dance. They are invaluable.

STEVE: The first time I saw you perform, Casey, you were doing a fill-in for someone named Mono Trona. You had her clothes on and were doing her songs. It was kind of brilliant, but I kept wondering, "Who the hell's Mono Trona?"
CASEY: She's actually a pretty well-known Korean singer. I met her at the Gershwin Hotel when she performed there and we became friendly. So later when we were on a bill together, and she wasn't able to make it, I took her backing tracks and her wardrobe and did her set for her.

STEVE: She has a following in Korea?
CASEY: Yeah, but they're not too down with her performance style. So she tends to make most of her money off recording soundtracks for video games, and the live stuff's more a hobby. It's amazing being around a Korean performer, though. Mono has such an intense sense of myth and archetype. She's not interested in naturalism in any way, and she has absolutely no fear. I don't feel I'm nearly the performer she is.

STEVE: Really. That kind of suggests how conscious you two are of your own methods.
WARREN: I'm always concerned about an agenda creeping to the surface with Fischerspooner, and having to redirect it in a way that ends up being awkward, actually. Trying to read what we do as we make it introduces too many real-world issues.
CASEY: I mostly work intuitively anyway. It's part of the process. Usually when I tell Warren some of the things I'm thinking about, he'd rather not hear it.

STEVE: Maybe that's the feeling of juxtaposed opposites I get from the shows. I mean, even your art world audience seems perplexed by some of what you're doing.
CASEY: I don't know, for some people there are issues of integrity. If you're a serious artist, why would you, after ten years of toiling away and making absolutely no money in downtown theater, jeopardize your respectability by making something ...
WARREN: ... that could be construed as accessible. There's this fear of pop.

STEVE: But blurring the distinctions between crass, insightful, and ridiculous is what makes it so powerful. I mean, thank god there's a growing interest in less linear themes, I guess.
CASEY: It's gotten a little weird. People have started showing up in outfits imitating us. And then the whole bootleg thing.

STEVE: What's that?
CASEY: Stores had been asking to sell our CD, so I found the bootleggers who had burned the CD. I bought them off the bootleggers at cost, and now we're selling our own bootlegs.

STEVE: Wait. Someone had already made a bootleg of your music?
WARREN: Yes.

STEVE: That's wild.
CASEY: It takes all the legwork out. They produce it and we buy it off them.

STEVE: The sound you're making right now is sort of kicked-out minimal electro. Have you been into that stuff all along?
WARREN: No, not at all. I started in hardcore punk rock, moved into metal, and then into jazz fusion. Then New Romantic ...
CASEY: You went into static and beats at some point, as I recall.
WARREN: ... and experimental and 20th-century classical music. [to Casey] So what were you listening to?
CASEY: I think I've always had bad taste in music. I never know what's going on, I still don't. I just respond to stupid things. When I was a child all I liked was The Captain and Tenille, Tony Orlando and Dawn, and Shields and Yarnell.

STEVE: Shields and Yarnell were mimes.
CASEY: There you go.

STEVE: I've noticed that you lip-sync your own voice on stage, and other times you sing. And sometimes you don't bother even opening your mouth for either one. That's got to aggravate some audiences.
WARREN: Hmm. We've always b
een interested in going in and out of live performance, so I think we're past that debate.
CASEY: It's unreal how much people want to believe you're actually singing, though. I remember a show where my microphone was completely dead, and the audience was just going wild. There were even multiple-layered vocal parts that were not humanly possible. Actually, one of the comments we get lately from people who come to see us is that they feel like they're in a music video.
WARREN: The artifice is pretty foregrounded.

STEVE: Lately I can't stop listening to this new Klaus Nomi retrospective. And I got the idea that by being so wildly artificial and melodramatic, he ended up with more room to work in. Does that ring a bell?
CASEY: Sure, but I have no objectivity about it. I think I've always been like that. If anything, I have moments of regret after a show when I realize I could have been more extreme.

STEVE: Well, we're all a little intimidated by the new century.
WARREN: Steve's hoping we'll come up with some off-the-wall, creative response.
CASEY: Okay. I had this interesting conversation with Bob Colacello at a bar two years ago and he said he didn't think there was going to be any change in the arts until after the turn of the century, and then there was going to be this big shift. Of course, he said this at three o'clock in the morning at Beige.

STEVE: By the way, who's the boy that dresses and undresses you onstage, Casey?
CASEY: Man, what made you think of that?

STEVE: Probably mentioning Beige.
CASEY: His name is Peanuts. He was attending Marquette University in Wisconsin and someone sent him a tape of us playing live. He said it was enough inspiration that he dropped out of school and moved here. Naturally I'd like to believe that, but he also claims to be a cousin of mine. It's all a bit off, but we put him up on various couches.

STEVE: Everyone's from the midwest lately. Artists, writers, performers ...
CASEY: ... Peanuts. Well, I also lived in Chicago from '92 to '95, which was an incredible time and place. I'd go out to all the black, gay house clubs, and there'd be live drummers and guitarists performing with the DJs. Dance was totally different there. It was a language. People would have their styles. Not group styles, individual styles. I would steal, and every week I'd do a variation on that movement and keep building on it. It was a huge influence.

STEVE: That sounds idyllic, to be allowed to dance without going to some trendy hangar and handing over twenty-five bucks.
CASEY: At that level New York has been very frustrating to me. People are so not expressive. One of the ideas with Fischerspooner is hopefully to create a movement back towards dance.
WARREN: I was almost going to say that we hope to transcend those issues. Audiences are so splintered nowadays.

STEVE: But different aspects of your project are going to grab different people.
WARREN: Oh, absolutely. Right now we're doing remix 12-inches that are going to stores in Japan, Europe and here. It'll be interesting when djs start playing our music, because a certain crowd is just going to relate to us musically. The only problem with that is a year from now Fischerspooner might not be doing music anymore.

STEVE: When you did your shows at Gavin Brown's gallery, instead of being on a stage the entire show took place in the audience.
CASEY: Because it was an unusual space, and small. So we decided that the show should start with a feeling of safety and then encroach on the audience until they were submerged in it. We actually ended up on top of them. You'd hit your blocking and there'd be someone standing there, so you'd move them or just step over them. At one point, there was a guy sitting in a window, and when I put my leg up on it his face ended up in my crotch.
WARREN: We had spotlights set up above the audience. So there you were in relative safety in the darkness and a dancer suddenly pushes you aside to hit her mark just as this column of light blazes on, and she's perfectly lit.

STEVE: The gallery was just mobbed.
CASEY: Well, we decided to set it up like a carnival ride. Twenty people at a time were allowed into the back gallery. And this was the last week in July. There was no air conditioning, no ventilation, no windows, in a very small space. We had rehearsed in there for days and gotten acclimated, but it was so hot by the night of the performance, we couldn't wear anything.
WARREN: By necessity everything became minimal, wardrobe-wise. [laughing] It was very much like a strip show.
CASEY: For costuming we bought twenty dollars worth of pink lycra, and Arianna, one of our dancers, made tubes to wear. Actually they were more like glorified waistbands. At one point the dancers had to literally glue their panties on, otherwise they'd go up their ass in the heat. So it was a 120-degree funhouse for three-and-a-half hours.

STEVE: So how many separate shows did you end up doing that night?
WARREN: We did twelve ten-minute shows, and then a final one where all the songs were done in order. Because there were still a lot of people who hadn't gotten in.
CASEY: The conditions of staging, even temperature, are interesting to us. We really want to do a cold show.

STEVE: I understand that for another event a see-through plexiglass dressing room was stilted above the crowd and you sang from inside?
WARREN: See, we want to open up the idea of the art-directed environment. I think changing the relationship between performer and viewer is the big breakthrough that that would enable. It's the kind of thing we're always moving toward. You know, what's interesting is that it's been like a steam engine, slowly trying to get the production values up. And now that we have, our concerns are more conceptual and less technical.

STEVE: I was impressed when you played that tiny bar at the top of the World Trade Center and rented lasers for the show.
CASEY: That was fun. We had been strictly forbidden by the management to introduce the lasers and the fog machines. So naturally we went ahead with it.
© index magazinegelatin1
Fischerspooner by Terry Richardson, 2000
© index magazinetobias
Fischerspooner by Terry Richardson, 2000
 
 
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