As I have been describing the upcoming album, “All these Slippery things”, to people I have been referring to two inspirations: Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia”. Besides being two of my favorite works of art, the idea of being so ambitious as to create a work that not only attempts to describe a world view, but one that has layer upon layer of depth from lyrical content, to formal connections, to transitions between different parts, to anything you can envision, is one that is whirling around in all of our attempts with this album.
It seems that in this life (which sometimes can be tragically short) we need to put ourselves out there and remove any limits we have of our potential. To be able to forget judgment and do our best to bare our souls and to have compassion for not only everyone else who is baring their souls, but for ourselves. It reminds me of a quote I have always loved, “Why not shoot for the stars, because maybe you will wind up with the moon”. I like the moon. And the stars.
Well today walking to the gym I actually had the random pleasure of crossing paths with Jeff Mangum, Neutral Milk Hotel’s lead singer, who was visiting San Francisco. Though extremely nervous I went up and told him what a fan I was and we talked for just a couple of minutes. Inspired by the craziness of the world to lead me to meeting him at the very time I am recording this album I was just reading some interviews about him and found this, which I think helps encapsulate some of the ideas in the album so I thought I would share.
This is from a 2002 interview on Pitchfork:
Pitchfork: I know you’re interested in visions and dreams, and that you sometimes record other people’s visions and dreams for your montage pieces. Do you remember many of your own?
Jeff: I did have a vision about a year ago that had an impact on me.
Pitchfork: What was it?
Jeff: Well, I was lying in bed slowly coming out of sleeping, and this voice in my head told me to go back in; to not quite wake up yet, but just to stay in that in-between place. So I did. I slipped back down and stayed in the halfway point. Then I was standing on the ocean. I saw a blur come around, from my right side to my left. It was a hand putting something next to me. When I looked closer I saw that what the hand had put there was a little sea turtle. I looked up to see who had put it there, and there was this mulatto boy looking at me, smiling. I picked up the sea turtle and put in my hand and it turned into a butterfly. And then it turned into a black spider. It kept turning into a butterfly, a spider, a butterfly, a spider. It would pulsate between the two. I put my hands around it to grasp it and blood ran out of my hands and fell into the sand. Then as I let go of it, the blood rose up from the sand and turned again into the butterfly/spider. It hovered about a foot above my hand, and turned into a little ball of light. So that whole sequence repeated two or three times: it would land back in my hand, turn into a creature, and when I tried to hold it, it would crush again into blood, and when I would let go the blood would rise back up and turn into a ball of light.
Pitchfork: Do you know what it means?
Jeff: Yes, I pretty much understood it right away. I didn’t have to analyze it afterwards. The butterfly and the spider represented two opposing sides: all the things that I love and consider to be beautiful and gentle and wonderful, and all the things that threaten me… the things about life that I can’t come to terms with because they don’t fit into my nice, happy picture of the way I want the world to be. It kept morphing back and forth to show me that they’re both one and the same; they’re dependent on one another to exist. When I tried to grasp at either what I love or what I hate, I destroyed the very ability of being able to really penetrate the essence of either. By trying to understand it, I would just crush it. But when I let go and let it be what it was, it would turn into light to show me that both sides come from the same source. I think the vision was trying to tell me to just live and be joyful and stop creating these internal wars over all the pain that is within myself and that I see all around me. That’s how I interpret it.