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interview with Matmos

December 29, 2011

interview took place on 6/2/10 in Montreal, QC

q: What do you think of Lady Gaga?
MC: I think she’s a good indicator of the low point which gay culture has reached. Talk about derivative, uninteresting, supposedly alternative…echk.
Drew: Yeah, i don’t know. I have a bunch of queer media and academic friends who have to write about popular culture, because that’s what they do. They’ve come up with various ways, with great sophistication, to declare how saavy her wielding of the lesbian phallus is in the “Telephone” video, or whatever. I just have to, at the end of the day, dig in my heels a little bit and say that i just get no pleasure from her. I think it’s garbage. I don’t give a fuck. It’s sort of in bed with various corporate interests that i don’t support. I don’t want to give her some kind of ghetto pass, and i think a lot of queers are falling for this idea.
And i mean the problem with that is, coming from me, that just sounds like a standard, avant-gardist person who hates popular culture, feels threatened by it, is snobby about it, rejects the demographics of the people who enjoy it; trashy gays like it, and i want to be a cool gay so i’d better not like it. But whatever. i have to be honest. I think it sucks, so fuck it.
MC: It’s just that everything interesting about her is stolen, straight up, from someone else. So why not go to the source, instead of this sort of pathetic imitation?

q: To me, you make experimental, really smart music seem like something any shmuck can do.

Drew: Yeah, i think that’s right, because in terms of playing an object like a rat cage, you know, you don’t go to a conservatory for years and years and years to learn how to play a rat cage. You just have to stick with the object and kind of see what you get. I think a lot of people just don’t give themselves permission to play with their environment. And, i’m really distracted, cuz…he’s really hot [shirtless stud starts walking in front of us, we all giggle].
See this is where Montreal is kind of upstaging Matmos, you know? It’s like, i’m trying to talk about “me, me, me,” but all i can think about is like, “Damn!”

q: So how did you two meet?

MC: Drew was a go-go dancer. and i put a dollar in his underwear.
Drew: Yeah, it was at Club Uranus in San Fransisco. I was a college kid, stripping for cash while getting my philosophy degree at Berkley.
MC: And i was looking at him, and my friend was like, “You know he makes electronic…i swear this is actually true…he makes electronic music,” and i was, you know…You don’t think about the interior life of strippers when you’re watching them strip.
Me: They’ve clearly got plenty of time to kill up there on that pole.
MC: That’s right, thinking about stuff.
Drew: We’ll have to find out tonight about people are thinking about when we’re at Club Taboo.
Me: Yeah, Taboo’s the best. I worked there for a bit, but i found the conversation part to be annoying.
MC: You did?
Drew: What did you do there?
Me: I danced.
MC: Really? Bless your heart.
Drew: And what songs did you dance to?
Me: Aphex Twin…
Drew: Which one?
Me: Boy/Girl Song
Drew: Oh, nice. Pretty fast, though.
Me: Yeah, you have to do a fast song and a slow song. A fast one for when you’re initially disrobing, and then a slow song afterwards so that your bits aren’t going every which way.
Drew: Right. So what was your slow jam?
Me: Sometimes i would do The Knife, sometimes there was this Natalie Imbruglia song i really got into.
MC: Torn?
Me: There you go.
Drew: Oh, wow. Well, the raunchy implications of Torn are obvious too, right?
[giggles all around]
MC: So are we evil that we want to go there?
Drew: Did you think your customers were just the rock bottom scum of the earth?
Me: No, a lot of them were really decent, and, i mean, i was a customer before i worked there.
MC: It’s funny, because a lot of people, who are generally not gay, register sort of shock and disgust when we mention that specific place.
Drew: I guess it’s because they imagine that the dancers are straight and are just gay for pay.
Me: A lot of them are. It’s supposed to be the highest percentage of gays out of all the clubs in the city. But in the back it was all really gross, straight porn playing the whole night.
Drew: It’s always the shoes that kill me when i see straight porn.
MC: The shoes and makeup.

MC: We pretty much gave up on “gay” when we moved to Baltimore.
Drew: There’s more rocking out, i guess. There’s less gay to go around in Baltimore. I mean, there’s plenty of freaks and weird to go around, but not as much gay.
MC: Given the choice between normal gay and freaky straight, i’m afraid we chose the freaks.  Besides, gay bars, thanks to the liberalization of the world, are kind of not so much fun anymore.
Me: Yeah, like a sports bar.
MC: There is literally, in D.C., which is very close to Baltimore… If gays move to the area, or anybody with money moves to the area, they move to D.C., because “it’s okay there,” you know? It’s rich there. There is literally a gay sports bar called “Nelly’s.” I’ve never been to a duller fucking gay bar in my life.
Drew: I guess it’s just a function of gay men’s insane hang-up about masculinity and sort of seeming masculine. and the conformist imperatives that drive it. But yeah, it’s sort of sapping lots of what’s cool about queer culture. I don’t know. I guess boring, un-reconstructed nellyism isn’t interesting either and is just as conventional and stereotypical, but there has to be some third way.
Me: Yeah, it’s sad how being queer doesn’t really count for anything anymore.
Drew: We saw this mcdonald’s ad in France that’s all about feeling alienated from your parents because they don’t know yet that you’re gay. Then it just ends with “mcdonald’s: come as you are.”  And it’s so amazing to see that, wow, it’s really over. There is no subversive wedge that that experience drives through what we think about society. It’s just like, “Oh, we understand your queer suffering, you want fries with that?” It’s just so blatant.

q: Queers in the military, queers in holy matrimony, what do you think?

Drew: I feel like queers have a chip on their shoulder and something to prove about masculinity, and so the military’s been this way to do that. And the closet was the price of the ticket. If the closet goes away, i think it might also change the number of queers that go into the military for those reasons.
I knew someone who joined the military, basically, because of his shame about his sexuality. He ended up an alcoholic wreck, and a mess…
MC: …because he killed people.
Drew: Yeah, he fired on protesters in Panama…
MC: …and it broke his mind.
Drew: So i feel like if the mainstreaming of gayness continues in this direction, which i think for sheer fairness it should, it also hopefully is going to force a stronger divide about what is gay and what is queer. Like. when do you go beyond the gay to the queer, and how the queer stay ferocious and not just a demographic?
I see the difference when i talk to my brother. He’s ten years younger than me, and he had boyfriends in high school. It was weird at first, but essentially so much less fraught with this self-hatred and suicidal rage than i felt, you know, because of the closet.
MC: I’ll say to its advantage, that all that certainly makes people think harder. You had to do a lot more self-reflection then, which i think was good.
Drew: When i think of marriage, i always like that fact that being queer meant you made up you own rules and that you were outside of these social norms and institutions, and i thought that was one of the big advantages of it. Not that your picking and choosing because of that, but that its one of the nice side advantages of it. And it’s been weird to see my mother being like, “So when are you guys going to get married?” and really eager for Martin and myself to be married. I just have this strange feeling of why would i choose to have the government validate that, why would i want to do that?
MC: And then there’s god. Yeah, i want to make right with a priest about my gay marriage. I don’t care about any of these people, why do i want them to approve of me?
Drew: For some people, i guess that’s important, and there’s lots of reasons to do it or not do it, but i feel like, after eighteen years, i’m as married to Martin as i’ll ever be in the ways that count, and i don’t need the state to ratify that. In fact, i’ve seen the way that, as friends of mine have gone through divorces, that the marriage part, to the extent that it’s this structural government form, just makes something that sucks on its own terms so much harder.
MC: There’s a handful of practical reasons like hospital visitation, tax benefits. I don’t mean to sound like i don’t live in the real world, because i do, but i still envision a better world,
Drew: You have to start by refusing the things that you don’t accept, rather than just trying to buy into them.
MC: Obviously it’s absurd that people who aren’t your family can’t visit you in the hospital. That’s the problem. The problem isn’t that we can’t get married, it’s why don’t they offer tax blah-blah…whatever, i’m not a politician.
Drew: Maybe the productive thing is to insist on a queerness that isn’t so tied to legible membership in a community. If you start to let queerness mean whatever is exceptional to a situation, whatever can’t get included in it, then it becomes this more fluid idea. But that is going in the totally opposite direction of this buying into the normative persistence of a marriage that’s til death do you part. The stabilizing force of some of these norms that gay culture wants to invest in, they’re going in completely the opposite direction of what was always supposed to be bad about queers, which is promiscuity, effemerality, things that don’t last, that are in the moment. Things that fail, people who can’t live up to these standards of reliability or decency. So it’s kind of funny to see the work of purification that’s happening in gayness and the way that the bad old forms are being scapegoated, and maybe there’s something valuable in some of those things.

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