I was about eighteen when I discovered I could charm people with my voice. A short man came up to me and offered me a career in showbiz.
“This. This is what the people want,” he assured me with spit in his voice, something about it sounded infinitely more evil than what mine was capable of. “I’ll call someone to clean things up here, we’re heading down to the studio.” That was actually the first time I had been in a car, yeah, never had to use my bicycle for anything again after that day. I didn’t have the money for a car or even something with an engine. Or didn’t need one, rather. I’m from a small town – only one paved road, cobblestones. The rest was all dirt roads, probably still is. We, my brother and I, we had this wheelbarrow and we’d take turns sitting in there and driving each other across fields of grass. So, no, nothing fancy like the big city. It was Simple, natural, but not in a primal way. It felt like gods were still around. Nothing like the city. I’d seen pictures before. I thought they were frightening, loud. They looked loud. I had to know the name of my capital, used to chant it to myself like I was warding off some type of beast. It scared me. The city – singular, there was just the one back then – it was a beast to me. Later, after my town got drunk on my singing, I found out it was actually the lair of the beast.
So cut to me, held hostage in this moving thing, too scared to say anything. I remember the smell, more like a pungence, that of leather and nicotine. Two processed, man-made things. Peculiar, isn’t it? Animals and plants killed, mashed, repurposed into unrecognisable dead things, simulacra of nothing we’ve ever seen before that we think of as stylish. It all felt very artificial; a pantheon to Dionysus in the back of a limo. The short man in front of me kept smiling at me while cracking his knuckles. Not in a boxer kind of way, but just as violent: fingers bent perpendicular to the palm. Joints popping in rapid consecution, like a flock of angry crows pecking into Prometheus, both fed up with the tedium and grown accustomed to the savagery of it all, deciding to go for his ribcage instead.
Not that there were any gods around, the temple we were driving in had long since been abandoned. I looked out the window, wondering if the street lanterns, the neon signs, the flaming skyscrapers, all those lights in a great, dark outside, were gods. Turns out anything electric facilitates disaster and sadness really well. Bukowski would phrase it like, “we seek refuge in the lights, but they only cast attention to how much darkness there really is,” or something similarly silly.
“You’re gonna make it big here, kid,” he again assured me with that watery voice. You’d drown in his voice, not in a romantic sense, you’re left to the saltwater wrath of Poseidon, a sad god terrorising coastal hamlets because Athens chose Athena over him. My producer talked with a cigar in his mouth, his left incisor stabbing into the wrapper like a hunter and his knife carving into game, drool cascading from his bloodshot lips to suggest that man was the real beast after all. “That voice of yours, you’re a song that’s never going to stop,” he unsheathed his cigar and twisted it into the skin of beasts he was sitting on. ‘The way skin melts’, the title of my debut album, came from that awful moment.
I remember signing a contract “who can I be now?”, I remember singing, “can you hear me?” I remember thinking, “help”, My producer, pale, shiny, reflecting the fluorescent lamps, blinding me with secondhand light, he looked like a promise, he aimed a microphone at my throat and that was the start of my career. My first album sold well. People listened to me because they needed something new, something exciting, something that’d stopped them dead in their tracks. I was happy to provide. My first live concert, I pulled a sweet young thing up on the stage and sang for him. Held his body in my arms for the rest of the gig. Flashing cameras didn’t scare me like the streetlights hadThen came the interviews, autographs, parties, signing deals, I don’t remember what names I wrote down on any of my contracts. ‘Myself’ became a scribble, me a concept.
Water and meat was all I ate, was all I needed, really. I fed, sang, and slept, and it was good. Not much time ever passed between recording albums. We kept contracting new musicians, seeing as the old ones died working with me. It also eliminated the critics; people just… knew my name was good, whatever it might have been at any point in time. I was Orpheus gone right. He walks on ahead, unafraid of turning back, Eurydice is waving farewell and turns around herself. Everything behind faded into obscurity. I was a young american in Los Angeles and could not be stopped, although I had to be. I became used to the lights, to my producer’s drownage voice, to this lair, I could feel my own chains. I was worshipped but not like a god. People chanted my name like warding off some type of beast.
Then I heard my own music. I stopped dead in my tracks. Like Orpheus I turned around and saw myself standing there, looking like shit.
Thanks for the interview. Please let me go.