In Conversation with Fischerspooner

It’d be offensive to label Fischerspooner as anything less than icons. We owe it to Casey Spooner and Warren Fischer for shaping the sound of early-2000’s electroclash and marking themselves as figureheads within New York’s untamed, hedonistic Downtown art scene off the back of their 2001 debut record, #1, since forging a near-two-decade-long career of truly enthralling, illustrious queer music and art.

Remaining relatively silent since 2009 LP Entertainment, their reemergence kickstarted 12 months ago with Spooner’s exhibition and photography collection at Mumok, Vienna’s modern and contemporary artwork museum. The collection, aptly entitled ‘SIR’, showcased images and visuals of Spooner with companions, lovers and friends all connected through nudity and queer sexuality. A new record was made, also titled SIR and produced with Spooner’s first lover, R.E.M’s Michael Stipe, whilst the duo published a photography book as a further step into the world of visual art.

With the latter half of 2017 spent teasing their new musical project with (extraordinarily great) singles dotted across the months, the return of Fischerspooner seems more necessary and needed than ever prior. Ahead of SIR‘s 2018 release, Casey Spooner divulges on how gay culture, the portrayal of older gay men in the LGBTQ+ community and “pushing back against this Neo Nazi-ism” shaped a record you should be as excited about as we are.

It’s been almost a decade since the release of your last record – quite simply, what have you been up to?

Casey Spooner: A lot. I’ve been working theater with The Wooster Group. I’ve made three books for Fischerspooner. I made a movie called DUST. And just closed a museum exhibition at MUMOK in Vienna. I divide my time between working in film, photography, music, and performance.

How do you find sifting through 10 years worth of experiences as inspiration material when first tackling the songwriting process?

I’ve been focused on developing the current material since 2013. What you see now is the culmination of four years of thought.

The oh-so-wonderful Caroline Polachek (of Chairlift) is on the new record – how did that collaboration come about?

I met Caroline at a Gareth Pugh event in NYC. We immediately clicked. I asked her to come in and help additional vocals on a song. She blew my mind. I knew she was the perfect female foil for me and our creative love affair began.

Michael Stipe and BOOTS all appear across SIR too – aside from work with Warren, is collaboration an easy process for you in terms of creating music? Is this the same case from art and visuals, like the SIR exhibition?

Yes! I love to collaborate. I’m a very social person and I love to share. I need time alone to find the core idea but I’m thrilled when such super talented people help me find ways to express the ideas. The idea is more important than ego for me. I also learn so much by working with other people.

You describe the new record as “aggressively homosexual” (in which I personally feel everything in life should be) – how did you go about channeling that into the album making process?

When I started this album I knew I wanted to represent queer narratives. It’s that simple. I’m also angry about the current political climate. I’m pushing back against this Neo Nazi-ism.

The SIR exhibition, along with your edit of the Togetherness video, make for some of the most epic, beautiful, queer visuals that I’ve seen in recent memory. What sort of inspirations fed into your own visuals surrounding this record?

Yuki James made amazing photographs that were the basis for the exhibition in Vienna. Yuki and I developed a series of images shot in my apartment. The cast was a mix of lovers/friends/collaborators. I also wanted to use my personal space as the backdrop. I wanted to create a cinematic personal landscape that reflected the shifting notions of privacy, emotion and sexuality.

Alongside its overtly sexual and playful elements, there’s an incredibly personal, intimate feeling that the Togetherness video gives out, almost like witnessing a scene from a live-action memoir play out. How easy have you found sharing the intimate or personal elements that surround SIR and its lyrical content?

Juan Pablo Rahal who dances in the video was a lover. We had a one night stand in that bed 2 years earlier. We met on Grindr. I think you can feel the sexual history on camera and that it all happened in that room/in that bed. It’s not hard for me to share my experience but I’m only just now feeling the impact. I fear I may have gone too far sometimes. Maybe I’ve overshared. But it’s too late now. I’ll accept what happens in hopes that my honesty has a greater impact.

You’ve previously mentioned how “the body in gay culture is really your currency” which essentially puts into words something that so, so many members of a gay community are familiar with or have battled with on a personal level or when seeking acceptance. Was reinventing your personal image a conscious decision or something that has evolved naturally?

I ended up with a body as a side effect of working on a play with The Wooster Group. I played a general from a mythic tribe. We didn’t wear much clothing in the production and all the actors became very competitive about our bodies. The long hair and mustache were also kinda by accident. I needed hair to pin my wig into. But I started seeing people’s reaction to my street look. I found thematic ways it connected to the history of gay erotic heroes. I kind of pre-AIDS cliche. I love to use cliches as a tool to draw an audience in. But I’ve also had to wrestle with dysmorphia and body image in doing so. I constantly feel like I haven’t achieved my goal. I’ve made my body part of my visual motif. So now I’m having to make failure and acceptance part of the work. I dream of looking like Laocoön.

You’ve mentioned how the “older, sexualised gay man” is pretty much ignored from representation in the LGBTQ+ community. Can you predict where we are headed as a community in terms of the portrayal of older gay men?

All the cool gay men died so we have a gap in our history. I’m having to learn how to be a gay mentor when I didn’t have many older gay men around me. I feel a little naive when I’m expected to be wise. I’m making it up as I go along. I’m still surprised when younger gay men come to me for love and guidance. I feel like I’m learning from them. I was raised with so much shame and fear. Younger queer people teaching me how to be free and accepting. In terms of image, this entire era is a challenge to myself. I forcing myself to confront aging. I’m seeing my face change. It’s so weird. Just the other day I saw an image and I was shocked. I thought someone put on “old” filter on an image. It took me a minute to absorb the truth.

What have been the key changes to the LGBTQ+ community that you’ve noticed since your breakout in 2002?

We are living through so much change. The impact of technology on sexuality is huge. We live in a much more sexually liberated world. Also the notions of gender and queerness are expanding. There’s no such thing as straight vs gay. It’s so much bigger. Ultimately we are moving towards a greater understanding of nature. Also the PrEP has completely shifted my sexuality and many others. I’m not a fan of big pharma and I deliberated for some time about my sex being tied to big business. But for the time being it’s made me able to connect and grow sexually without fear of HIV.

And finally, how do your aspirations with your work as a musician and artist compare to what they were when you began as Fischerspooner?

My goals have always been the same and are rather selfish. I’m happy when I’m creative. I love ideas. It gives great meaning to my life. As long as I’m healthy and I’m creative….I’m good.

New single Butterscotch Goddam is out now. New LP SIR is out 16 Feb.

Photo Credit: Rinaldo Sata

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