Music, like teaching, can be intensely political work without setting out to be. What neither field needs even half one more of is the sensible-shoe-wearing superficies of the species who are there for the summers off and the habit-forming health insurance, cozy crusts dutifully cut off the very white lunchtime bread that directly led to so much more than the sartorial slack hinged on khaki slacks. What both dirty disciplines desperately deserve is a wily, electric misanthrope that spacewalks in his own sands, an intergalactic interloper like, for instance Brooklyn’s Harry Springer, a.k.a. Moon Walker for instance, the esoteric exemplar of that dangerously rarefied philomath who can bust out of both the commercial mentality and the compliance frame of the algorithm, teach themselves to solve problems first, then revolutionize the rest of us.
At the visual level, Moon Walker is the second coming of Marc Bolan. On the sonic standard, he is Slade sashaying around Saturn holding hands with Sweet. So many of the men his age in rock today have been nice but boring, working in greyscale theatrics they believe give them the elusive appeal of Deerhunter but really only make them unattractively opaque. Any honest politician’s pretty daughter who has just come home from a date may not tell her mother which guy she wants to go out with again, but she will surely tell her best friend that it’s never the cherub without the colors. It’s always the urchin with the unruly tresses and the even more untamed mind.
Rock-n-roll does more than take us out for the night or away from the deep bench of our exterior mundanities; it has also always been taking us further in than we seem to be able to go without it. It lives inside our innermost touch-me-not trips and draws out all that is most lucid and engrossing in our hidden hearts. This is why possessing the kind of cultural sovereignty and Gatsby-esque self-creation that has allowed Moon Walker to embody the antagonistic stance that makes lethal ordnance of the ordinary is so integral to what he has already achieved as an artist. We have needed a fist with an itch in it like his, something to behead these beclouded times the world finds itself adrift in. As there is nothing genteel about the spiritual spaghetti of these days, nor should we seek for something soft in the commentary that hopes to be arrestingly honest about any of it. Never has guitar music needed a nice Jewish boy with a bit of awake-dreaming in his angle so badly—that beautiful breed that has always been the great nemesis to the nullification of sense—to re-meadow the sea in the witless wasteland of what Scottish penman Craig McLean once incisively called “the new pop normal.”
With plug-ins now pretending to stand in for actual players and a new listening generation largely unable to tell the difference between a power broker and a power chord, star-gleam of the kind Mother Nature alone can mold has been forced into the backseat of not just music, but culture as a whole. However hollow and haphazard, this is all just the basic butchery of acceptable practice within the miserly misery of the 2023 music business. Springer emerging from that suave and sinister parable of proto-horror clutching a publishing deal with Limited Edition Music Publishing/Warner Chappell Music of a scale that echoes what used to arbitrarily bank like swirling smoke around great bands in the ear economy of yore says as much about what he is actually selling as the songs themselves do: drinkable charisma and valid points that do not lazily recline on unresearched opinions.
Truth To Power, his critically lauded debut, came about because Springer wrote a set of songs he did not want to sell away to another sound library like he had been doing all his others over the course of the pandemic in order to make ends meet. Truth To Power was to be Springer’s first foray into the symbolic stratosphere of dogmatic wrangling and clear-eyed wool-plucking that would, by just one album later, define both his audible banquets and his audacious buttons. He cast his line, held his mouth right, and took his chances immediately to 30,000 feet. Justin Hawkins of The Darkness took notice. A shout from a fellow rock fiend of the fire-hazard-hair fraternity is good kerosene to throw on any career’s craic, and then there was the much more poignant piece that The Attack of Mirrors, Springer’s 2022 sophomore album, lifted his lavishly particular leitmotifs to new life at a time rife with multi-tier dying nearly everywhere else he could look.
His former band, the United States economy, a young generation’s hopes in the future as cruelly designed by COVID and barrages of backasswards beliefs—it was all going dark just as the lights were coming up on the big stage for Moon Walker, though he could not see the Fresnel glow yet. The Attack of Mirrors represents a sonic psychobiography of a psychotic time for all, and one in which the unsettling éclat of espionage settled into Springer’s sense of recurrent subject matter, having been banned from TikTok for expressing a simple separateness from religious belief. Heaven forbid anyone younger than 45 know what the First Amendment was for or be conversant in both the Constitution and the continued costs of the Holocaust, right?
With the sulfuric scent of the ‘kool-klub’ kyarn still burning his nostrils from his admirable defiance of online indoctrination and the social media status quo, what had previously been only embryonic noctambulations of sky satellite in Springer on The Attack of Mirrors gave rise to the complete consciousness of the Moon Walker character as he would appear, fully formed, on the album that followed close on its heels. Bearing the only fitting name for the lessons and lesions our man from Moonville had just forcibly endured, Apocalypticism is incorrigibly clever, strewing vital intelligence and seedy riffs as often as it ignores gravitational law. It is a propulsive and outward-facing record that works like a covert operative against the heretical ignorance and maggot-mawed moral tenor of the doom-scrolling day, tossing Talmudic wisdom atop its dimwitted dumpster fire as it goes.
This third sonic stick of dynamite is a work of audio allegorical nonfiction centered on domestic and international politics that reaches antic heights with a dystopian vision feeling much like a welcome infiltration, securing Springer’s spot as the new commissario of de-programmed commentary in the rock space and from the space rock. Worthy watchmen and waygoing weathervanes of this variety are vanishing by the hour, and songs like “Give The People What They Want” (which refuses to do so and thereby betters them) and “Singing For No One” (Bryan Ferry dipped in béchamel) serve as the choral crags of lava required to hit pause on the heralded demise of disposable hit culture. Moon Walker writes percussive prophecies provocatively reimagined to last.
Eponymous track “Apocalypticism” is an anachronistic pastiche built on allusions to the ultraviolence of A Clockwork Orange, but the knifing on this mope-murder weapon lands like a feather star, the marine animal, not the burlesque flapper. “Monkey See, Monkey Do,” a considered deep-dive into our deturpated modern-day forgery society, was not only the first song that came to be on this record but one that was birthed in a time of limited resources for Springer. Like real artists have been doing for centuries before comfort culture taught them not to, he made do with what was at hand to make this album and he did not make excuses about what his temporary limitations, be they wallets or walls, enforced on his circumstances, summoning the synth sounds here with a guitar and the jangle with a box of sprinkles, no keyboard or tambourine being forthcoming.
Knowing favor of any kind to be an unreliable haze through which to hock higher thinking through harmony, what Moon Walker has illustrated with Apocalypticism is his ability to exist as an insolitus insurrectionist, able to distinguish noble rot from notability in an instant and reflect not just the best of the peacenik parade but the warning shots of the war-minded as well. “American Dream Come True,” pebbled with Springer’s first-ever use of samples, shows its skepticism of youthful American hustle culture—with its near-constant sick sidekick depression—like buttermilk pie reveals its ingredients, bite-wise, and with the voice shying away from the melody a bit. It is in these glittering gaps that Moon Walker’s greatest greatness gallops in.
Who wants any kind of rock god that is estranged from magisterial maximalism? Moon Walker remains enviably unlike his contemporaneous colleagues when it is time to talk about taking the roof off any place smart enough to book him. He fluently ripped the bark off Purgatory at Atlanta’s Masquerade on October 26th with all the unbridled barbarism of Mardi Gras at midnight, and did it all strapped to an elegant cherry-red Gibson through which he channeled everyone from Brian Setzer to Angus Young to Gary Moore. Describing the effect on his fascinatingly diverse audience is a bit like trying to institute Prohibition on the sunrise. A bomb cyclone of a boy on stage, the spruceness of him is not to be undersold either. In his pink corduroy suit and neon-rad vintage MTV shirt, the unabashed bigness of what he’s doing can easily put one in mind of Europe (the band not the continent) if you took them through an absinthe-rinsed glass and then shocked their veins through with some of that “Po-wah mu-sic e-lectric re-vi-val” that Outkast made so famous outside the South.
Recently, QRO gamely attended a verbal antigravity session led by Moon Walker, taking copious notes about Apocalypticism the record as well as the concept, hearing more about his refusal to be a quiet accomplice (the worst and most dangerous kind of enabler, always), and talking through the peculiar non-thought patterns of the oafward robots seemingly all around us. Grab your astronaut helmet if you will. This trip to space is much cheaper and richer than anything Virgin Galactic has on offer, and with a view to the heartbreaking hijacking of human meaning we are all currently witnessing tear Israel and Palestine to the ground, contains galaxies more pensive perspective of a kind usable even to those without the use of their eyes.
QRO: First of all, let’s get it formally announced on record and likewise in the astral pipeline that, in my next life, I will have your hair!
Harry Springer: [laughs] Oh, it’s wild today! I got my dog a wig of it.
QRO: Okay, I’m naming him “Barc Bolan” no matter what he may already be named [laughs]! Canine alter egos is a great place to start because I have said more than once that I felt like you were the answer to my continuous and increasingly more desperate audio prayers for the return of some boys that could give me proper Diamond Dogs-level glam rock.
HS: Thank you so much for even mentioning my name in the same sentence as his! That means so much to me because when I discovered T. Rex, I had a feeling like that music was sent down from some divine place just for me. It was one of those times when you instantly connect so deeply with something and with your whole personality. I was about 19 when that happened and already a professional musician, so I had an idea of what I thought music was. My band at that time called ourselves a ‘glam rock’ band and was doing sort of Queen and Bowie-inspired things. Somehow we weren’t fully aware of T. Rex until slightly later, and seeing Marc Bolan for the first time, someone with long, curly hair playing and singing the way he did, had a major impact on me. For a long time, if my hair got past a certain length, I would think, “Oh, you have a “Jewfro” like it was some kind of negative or self-conscious thing. I also thought, up to that point, that I never wanted to play and sing because I thought I needed a frontman in some way that I could not be. He is obviously one of the most incredible performers of all time and it’s not like he relies on the hair or the guitar for that, or as if he was cool in spite of his hair. He was the one to make me understand that he was cool, in part, because of his hair. I always liked my hair longer, but that’s when I really let it go and become…this [laughs]!
QRO: Well, that is fantabulous on every level because your hair is nothing short of stunning and should never be anything but adored for its natural beauty! Most importantly, I feel you are very much channeling Marc in far more than your fiery filaments. The fact that you have lasered all this down so early in your career, which by the way I do feel is about to blow wide open shortly, sets you apart as much or more than your visuals. You are not an artist in search of a look or a meaning. As far as your image, how did you land in such a distinctive place when so many of your age peers are languishing in the Instagram saturation of sameness?
HS: That is such a great question! I was in a band called The Midnight Club for years and years. I’ve been in a band constantly since the sixth grade. Not always legit, but always had to be playing guitar! I like producing and I would love to score a film, but if there is one thing I have come to know it is that I need to put together the music video and the record. That is what I live to do—to create the whole package as an artist. It wouldn’t be good enough for me to just do the music or be a part of a band.
In The Midnight Club, there was a lot of growth. Whatever we started as, from the 80s synth-pop moment where everyone pretty much sounded like The 1975, into something maybe a little more equivalent to Måneskin, full on to the glam! I had been sifting what I loved in the sounds I was going toward for years. By the time I created Moon Walker, it was there without me having to think about it. I could not have done without that ten years of constantly trying to gently rip things off, and trying on things that might or might not feel authentic.
Even where it becomes something that I could not describe so easily as when I was younger when I would try to Frankenstein specific things together, if I just play to my tastes, I will end up with the best and the most unique product. This record feels more natural than it ever has, and less thought has gone into it than any record I’ve made before.
We live in a country where so many people feel uncomfortable just existing while other people feel so comfortable opposing their existence.
QRO: When you get into that zone of instinctual creation like you’re describing, you are then in the blow radius of your best self, as an artist and a person, I firmly believe. Removing the template opens you to all sorts of things that don’t have names.
HS: I could not agree with you more! And that was the spirit of this whole album, wanting things to feel carnal. Parameters are not bad things either when they serve something higher and better than simple restriction, and I am always conscious of how elements are mixing, trying to be sure I don’t get too many in there that don’t match well, but this album is very maximalist and also very unstructured.
QRO: You’ve just touched on the other thing I love about it right there! I am a more-is-more kind of person, not a less-is-more sort, and I love watching you get all Velvet Goldmine with it.
HS: One of the best movies in the world! The song “Hot One” is seriously one of the best songs ever written.
QRO: Shudder to Think! I kid you not: at least twice per week since 1998, I have devolved into an unplanned puddle of self-fury on the floor for not having written that song! [laughs]
HS: That’s justified! I’m mad about it too! I don’t understand how that isn’t one of the most well-known songs on the planet. Thom Yorke sings so many songs on that soundtrack, and that movie is responsible for getting me into Brian Eno’s solo stuff. I had come to Roxy Music separately from that, but I didn’t realize how many Roxy Music songs I had heard in that movie.
QRO: “Baby’s On Fire” will be sung at my funeral, hopefully by Jonathan Rhys Meyers or Brian Eno himself if I can manage to live right before I die! That song is so autobiographical for me that it’s terrifying.
HS: Well, if they don’t sing it for you, I certainly will! [laughs]
QRO: Perfect. Those men are examples of the path I think you’re carving. Here’s what no one tells you when you’re a young artist, so I make sure to say it to all of you that I meet: something amazing always happens only if and where you stick to your guns way past what others will say is safe.
HS: Thank you for that. You never know if what you are doing is going to work and mostly you get by on making yourself happy with the thing you create, but I’d like to pay the rent and be doing something I love too–like anybody.
Artists have a responsibility to make people uncomfortable, but right now that need has never been greater because there are so few people willing to stand up and push back, being too wrapped up in how that is going to make them look to some demographic that equals either dollars or fake likes to them.
QRO: Like ole Russell from Stillwater, right? “And it’s not about the money, man….although some money would be nice!”
HS: [laughs] Exactly! It wouldn’t have to be about the money at all if we could get a different framework for society going, but who asked me?
QRO: The same one who purposefully ignored my ballot, I’m sure. I do want to ask you about a song like “I’m Afraid I’ll Go To Heaven.” I know that one is off The Attack of Mirrors, but it’s such a strong example of what I mean when I say that you do the best libertarian agnostic lyrics in the game.
HS: Oh, thank you so much! That song’s title, believe it or not, was made up by an 8-year-old! I made it into a song almost immediately after I heard the kid say it because I thought it was so profound the way a child, someone everyone would think deserves to go to heaven, saying it in that particular way instantly de-weaponized the politics in an inflammatory statement like that.
QRO: Ingenious—and speaking from a place where the choke-hold of religion has done about as much damage as it can, you are echoing many thoughts I’ve heard expressed, including many of my own, about not being sure about the fine print on the heaven contract if certain people who are so sure they are going are going to be there!
HS: Definitely, that’s it! I don’t think those people realize what the sales pitch is. If my team is going to hell and yours is going to heaven, and you think that’s a good impetus for me to join your team, please know I will sooner reexamine every single one of my convictions and beliefs rather than reexamine that maybe hell and heaven either don’t exist or don’t represent objective good and bad. It made me feel good that that song resonated with so many people, and I don’t mean the obnoxious atheists who are pushing a thought regime every bit as closed as any of the religious zealots, but people who were genuinely trying to understand where all these people are coming from.
QRO: Your own openness of intellect is what you are to be most praised for in that. When I was a teenager and up to my early twenties, we were all unaware of how spoiled for riches we were in being able to look to the Riot Grrrls and the Dogtown Boys because we had a subversive culture sitting at the very top of the mainstream during that time. The Nineties is the last era in which that has occurred. What the hive mind of the internet has done since is take away people’s feelings that they could say a sentence like what you just did. It has flattened the narrative for the subversive people, which are my people. People like you who are burning the box get the shaft in that deal.
HS: Wow, that is incredibly well said, and thank you for that as well. I do think that there is an element of people needing to feel uncomfortable and challenged, always. Nobody is exempt from that, but we live in a country where so many people feel uncomfortable just existing while other people feel so comfortable opposing their existence. My generation grew up wrongfully thinking that any world wherein we could go further into problematic territory with things like racism and sexism was in the past. Not only did I probably not grasp how deep our systemic issues ran, but I certainly did not believe that I would ever see them get worse.
The symbolism in Trump’s election says enough, but the truth is, socially, people with platforms are proposing genocides and taking it that extra step. Artists have a responsibility to make people uncomfortable, but right now that need has never been greater because there are so few people willing to stand up and push back, being too wrapped up in how that is going to make them look to some demographic that equals either dollars or fake likes to them.
If you’re speaking up for people, there’s a sensitivity that has to lead everything, and most of all you better be helping!
QRO: I would ask you to run for office if I didn’t know in my heart that they would assassinate you within the first week like they do all the pure of intention who take any seat at the Big Chair where tears do indeed become fears. I’m the hardest person on Earth to offend–you have to work at it with me. What I see becoming ever more common is that people have begun to conflate a true psychological trigger with an actual internal signal that they have some self-governed growth to get started on at the speed of light.
HS: No question! The difference is the danger. When I can sense the danger in what someone is saying, the way it can incite those who are never going to think for themselves–and yes, that sector is real and has to be accounted for–then I’m going to be the hardest person imaginable to deal with because I’m not going to sit back and dismiss these types of things as “personality discrepancies” or whatever.
QRO: Good, because that’s where the things like pervasive anti-Semitism are allowed to live–in the silence of the well-intentioned. I have to share that I too have been shocked and shaken at finding out in these recent months just how wide and violent the anti-Semitic sentiment runs in this country and even in the industry itself because, in my family, we were raised to revere people like Mike Bloomfield and Bob Dylan. Some of my very best memories involve being snugly ensconced in fully Jewish communities both in Atlanta and in New York. When you look across rock-n-roll history, any fool could see it is populated with heaps on heaps of unstoppably gifted Jewish people. I’ve had my bubble burst pretty heinously in recent days about what other people are thinking as regards the unassailable worth of the Jewish people, and how far away they are from coming to make any of those realizations.
HS: Me too. As a kid, the stereotypical Jewish shots about being cheap or frugal, the hair, the nose, and all that bothered me less than how much anyone would chastise you for not believing in God. This is not to say that I was in any way oppressed, but people really have skewed views of morality when it comes to anyone who is not Christian.
I remember having a conversation with my Dad where I told him I was not a Jew because I did not believe in God. He said, “You’re a Jew because your great-grandparents fled the Russian pogroms. You’re a Jew because they’ve tried to kill us for the past 2,000-plus years. It’s a culture and an ethnicity.” It didn’t sink in and I didn’t get it until the last few weeks, honestly. I notice that the people on TikTok who will even call Kanye out are only doing so from the angle of “he’s messed with the wrong people this time,” in keeping with the classic conspiracy of Jews controlling the banks, the media, and all that craziness. I realized that even the few people speaking up who thought they were on my side were anti-Semitic. These are Nazi talking points that people are buying into in what they think is defense of Jews.
Not to get off on a tangent, but I have been learning a lot lately about the way anti-Semitism uniquely exists everywhere, and changes to fit the party wanting to employ it. On the far left it looks like people equating Semitism with Zionism and criticizing any support of Israel. On the far right it’s about only viewing someone as Jewish if they are Zionists, having no respect for the human rights of Jews unless they support Israel. The Christians harbor the idea that Jesus changed the “chosen people” to them, thereby effectively erasing what even the word means to be Jewish. Then you have communities that support propaganda like the Black Israelite thing, which amounts to complete erasure of both Jewish history and Black history.
I center a lot of what I do around criticism of religion so this matters to me on multiple levels, and it validates a lot of the songs I write. Not only do I have an obligation to say I’m an atheist because there are so many people out there who need to unlearn stereotypes about that, but now it’s also important for me to say I’m a Jew because everybody has all these crazy prejudices that are getting even more deeply ingrained thanks to people like Kanye West and Marjorie Taylor Greene. It’s great that we freely talk about gender, white, and financial privilege now, but religious privilege is not just equally real and awful, it is the corrosive element of society being allowed to grow daily because no one will say anything about it. It’s not even being talked about, much less tamped down.
Nobody is ever going to make a great song by thinking about what is going to sell well. That person might make a popular song, but never a great one.
QRO: I cannot even articulate in sensible words how much I agree with you. Did you see the documentary called Hail Satan? that came out in 2019? The filmmakers are expounding on your eloquent and brilliant thesis here. They filmed at various public places like schools and parks to show the governmental preference toward Christians in real-time, and they did things like try to follow the letter of the law about getting monuments that reference any religious content erected or dismantled. Essentially, what the film illustrates to perfection is how I could be Jeffrey Dahmer and be totally accepted in this system so long as I have a Bible in my hand, and I could likewise be Mother Teresa with any emblem of a pagan or alternate religion on my person and have to live in real fear of stoning in the street.
HS: I have not seen this film, but this sounds beyond amazing. I’m putting it on my watch list right now; thank you so much for the recommendation! As someone who speaks up about a lot of things that immediately affect me and just as many things that don’t, all of this has given me a lot of perspective about how people feel torn when something happens and they feel it does not directly affect them. If you’re speaking up for people, there’s a sensitivity that has to lead everything, and most of all you better be helping! Though I can somewhat see why people are hesitant, I do think we have an obligation to speak up against injustices whether we are centered in them or not. At the end of the day, we have to amplify voices of people being oppressed, and one of the key ways of doing that is simply to speak.
QRO: If you only knew what non-theological gospel you are pouring back into my soul, young sparkle-squire! Thank you for getting that very nuanced corner of care. So many who are much older than you do not, and you are admirably alert to recognize the never-ending cost of silence on people who may be living nothing like you. Because your music is doing so well in the online formats and everything we just discussed is really all about active inquiry, talk to me about the balance of your brain—which is an inspiringly vivid instrument—against an internet world that is not coded to revere smarts. You have been sharp enough to put the bridle on social media and turn its tossing head in a favorable direction for what you are trying to do as an artist. How does that work?
HS: On a personal level, I do not think social media is good. I never bought into the false advertising of it all, and sharing personal things on social media had a pressure/payoff balance that I continue to have no interest in. I don’t need the unnecessary burden. On a professional level, it has been only good. I released music back when you had to get the advance, then make the music video and deliver it to the label, hoping and praying that they could make something happen with it. You had to do every interview, play every show, and, more than likely, see nothing at all in return.
I remember when people had to handle the promotion and distribution, and most of them were bad at their jobs unless you were already huge and didn’t really need them anyway. Social media is great in the respect that it removes the middle man, you don’t have to pay to reach people or beg others to help you reach people. The beauty is aspects like “If you like Cage the Elephant, listen to this.” Then 100,000 Cage the Elephant fans just found your video. That part couldn’t be more suited to what all of us hope happens with our music.
The downside is exactly what you are talking about: it is really easy to get booed off the internet. All I can control are the valid reasons that can happen; no one can predict the invalid ones. I can’t control anyone’s reaction to the music or me, but I just try to make sure nothing I put out is insensitive, and that means mostly having my eyes on lives I could have little knowledge about. In the reckoning between the undeniable bad social media is doing for humanity and the good it is doing for music, who knows what that leaves us! It definitely cheapens interactions.
Every time I release something I worry that the only people I will reach are the ones who agree with me, which would be a failure in my eyes.
QRO: That’s the exact reason I never joined and never will. No one gets access to my life for free, no matter what door prize they bring to the pixie potluck. You’ve done an exceptional job of holding your own riches back from all of that though, and I love seeing you manipulate the most manipulative force humanity has yet unleashed upon itself to your advantage and that of your music.
HS: That is so kind of you to say–thank you! It probably goes without saying, but I’ve been really adamant about what it can never touch or impact, which is the writing process. You know how it was in the radio days: the chorus has to start within 30 seconds, the vocals have to start within 14 seconds, the song has to be three and a half minutes. These parameters permeated my mind and informed how I wrote music and that’s garbage. Anything that is instructing your decisions about the song that is not rooted simply in what sounds good for the song is horrible. The truth is, that’s not a social media problem, but one that social media has shifted the shape of. If you’re marketing music, it’s your obligation to make the music and then figure out how to market it, not make the music while thinking about how to market it. Nobody is ever going to make a great song by thinking about what is going to sell well. That person might make a popular song, but never a great one.
QRO: That holiest of all distinctions is one people have not one clue how to make anymore, I find! The day that I started getting press releases that led with someone’s number of TikTok followers, my soul curdled and continues to do so!
HS: Oh wow, yeah as TikTok has no discernible translation to other platforms nor to monetization, for PR to lead with that seems like an act of deception.
QRO: Bold-faced! I wonder how much of that is to do with the history of measuring artists solely by numbers, which is, in ways, more recent than people realize, and certainly more vicious in its current degree of shallow baiting. It used to be record sales, concert tickets sold, and calls to radio stations. Now it’s the number of streams. Something so intangible, non-committal, opaque, and even accidental at times. There is a measure of sacrifice that goes into any artist coming to the foreground of his or her field. There are people who can do that past a point of sustainability and those that cannot. It’s about mettle and those internal mirrors so many are going to be damn sure they avoid at any cost. Both of your most recent records reference this, to my eye. The Attack of Mirrors has played its part in leading to Apocalypticism, in your records and in real life.
HS: That’s so interesting for you to point out because my original idea for the name of the record that became The Attack of Mirrors was It Suddenly Comes Into View. I even shoehorned that as a lyric into the first song! I was writing all of these songs about mirrors, and the funny thing is that most of them did not make the record. I liked the concept of the mirror because it’s a place we go and blame everything else for what we see, and then we go into the world and project all of this hatred onto everyone else, when in reality all we have a problem with is what we see in the mirror.
“The attack of mirrors” was just a lyric from “Turn Off This Song (Before It Takes Your Soul),” but I eventually came to see that it was the perfect title because all that is happening with government and media are flagrant attempts to stir up panic and controversy based off people’s worst sides. The only thing that is actually attacking us is ourselves because we are creating all of these problems, either through willful participation in divisive mentalities or inaction in their presence. In response, we get the government we deserve until we have a majority that is willing to do the work to change it.
The irony is that nothing whatsoever can be reliably determined about a gay person or a marginalized person beyond who they are attracted to or what institutions probably gave them a life of grief, but there is a lot anyone can determine with certainty about a person based on what they will believe.
QRO: I remember someone asking Bono what he thought about it directly after Trump was elected, and he instructed the questioner that the helpful thing to do would be to talk in an open and welcoming manner to the people who actually voted for him. His suggestion was the only sane, natural, or rational one available to us, frankly, which is to try to understand, to ask questions, and not to go on such playground offensives. The tribalization of the internet rarely allows for that kind of humanity. That is the most detrimental thing that I see not just affecting music but society as a whole. Where is the music supposed to go? If you think about the connection as being a round robin: society creates the artist who is meant to change society, but if there is no society willing to listen to change or to anything different from what they have already heard, what happens to the art?
HS: Seriously, and to the point of no return! Good art is meant to upset a lot of people and bring comfort to the people that those people are upsetting. Every time I release something I worry that the only people I will reach are the ones who agree with me, which would be a failure in my eyes. Indifference from the people who should be upset and complacency from the people a song is meant for is the worst. With my songs, I am trying to appease myself and unseat people who are just way too comfortable being oppressive. The message here really isn’t, “It’s okay to be yourself,” the message is “You MFers better change.”
I’m not preaching some bland, baseline acceptance at its core because there is so much that should never be accepted in our country right now, and everywhere. That whole culture of, “I love you, I just don’t like your character traits, I don’t like that thing about you” or “I love you, but I don’t like your lifestyle.” None of this is love. I always think, “That’s great because I love you, I just think your beliefs degrade you intellectually by a significant margin.” I have no tolerance for intolerance! [laughs] The irony is that nothing whatsoever can be reliably determined about a gay person or a marginalized person beyond who they are attracted to or what institutions probably gave them a life of grief, but there is a lot anyone can determine with certainty about a person based on what they will believe.
QRO: Or what they will refuse to believe once it is staring them down with the cold finger of fact giving them the F-You to the face. To bring it full circle, it’s not like the old guard received Marc Bolan poorly at first because they couldn’t process what he was doing; they hated him because he represented the move away from everything they knew as the norm. He stood for the future they could not see and did not want to believe possible–the irony there being that the reason they couldn’t believe it possible was their own harboring of vicious troves of all the qualities they were ascribing to people like Marc Bolan: intellectual atrophy and audacious ego. It’s a very different thing we are seeing now where you do not have an aged population reacting to a society moving unilaterally forward in the way that it did when David Bowie was first seen kissing another man; you have a statistically tiny, mixed-age minority sect only that can see every liberating value we have fought so hard for since the 1950s going backward and disappearing. Everyone else now thinks that because they think something, you have to accept and acknowledge its worth. That’s a hard pass from me!
HS: Well, exactly! You want to scream: You are not free from the consequences of your beliefs. You should obviously not have a consequence for existing, but you should absolutely have a consequence for every single thing you say. That’s where you can tell how fake cancel culture is.
QRO: Cancel culture was designed for the sole purpose of pouring lighter fluid on extremist beliefs.
HS: Yes! It pushes the Right further to the right and splits the Left in two.
QRO: I deeply respect any artist such as yourself that will freely lock horns with things the internet says you can’t say.
HS: Thank you! I hold myself to: if you wouldn’t feel uncomfortable saying that shit in a conversation, then it’s probably not worth a song.
QRO: Please put that solid gold wisdom-doubloon on every t-shirt and your tombstone too. I’ll be hitting you up for the former when you get to Atlanta!
HS: I can’t wait to play Atlanta–it has always been one of my biggest Spotify cities.
QRO: You and I will surely have time to solve all the world’s problems before the show [laughs]. I’ve had such a good time talking to you about your music today. Thank you for taking time out of your Tuesday to restore my faith in music and mankind!
HS: We have so much symbiotic energy; this conversation has been a treat for me! Thank you for all of it, and I’ll see you very soon!