Why is this interesting? - The Aura Edition

On performers, mystique, and access

Colin here. There was an incredible interview with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails talking about the internet breaking down walls that maybe shouldn’t be broken. When you are a fan of something, the mystery and mystique can add quite a bit, but the humanizing factors of things like Twitter or forums can strip that away. In an interview with New York Mag (one of the best I’ve read) he’s asked about this:

Growing up, I didn’t know what Pink Floyd looked like and I didn’t need to know. In my mind, they looked like fucking wizards, man. I remember seeing a picture of Supertramp — and I loved Breakfast in America — and I was like, What the fuck? Forget just photos: I didn’t know anything about them. Something in me needed the people making the music I loved to seem larger in life. I needed heroes. David Bowie was a fucking alien, you know? As it happens, he was a fucking alien...But demystification is a real problem. There’ve been people whose music I can’t like anymore because I’ve seen them bitching on Twitter about a waiter like a fucking asshole. 

He cites Radiohead as an example of a modern act that has kept some mystique: “You’re not saturated with stories about them. They’re not in the press constantly talking about stuff. They create an aura that makes you more interested in what they’re doing.”

Why is this interesting? 

One performer that manages to actually provide access in a way that’s additive to aura is Nick Cave. He’s a musician known for incredibly powerful performances, some of the best I’ve ever seen. While the audience was always a character in his shows, following the tragic death of his son Arthur, he’s opened up lines of dialogue that were previously not manifested. 

He offers a hint as to why in a Guardian interview: “The goodwill we received after Arthur’s death from people who I did not know, especially through social media, people who liked my music and kind of reached out, was extraordinary...Initially, I thought it would be impossible to do this in the public eye. The impulse was to hide. But it turns out that being forced to grieve openly basically saved us.”

Cave has been doing two things to further the conversation between the band and his fans after the tragedy. First, there’s been a series of shows where there are questions, answers, and some tunes. Described by Cave as “an exercise in connectivity”, no subject is sacred and audiences are encouraged to be bold and challenging, confrontational and unafraid.

He’s also publishing what I think is one of the most interesting pages on the internet these days, called the Red Hand files, where he offers up the most erudite and interesting answers to a range of fan questions. Here, he addresses the issue of interaction head on, in a response that made the hairs on my arm stand up. Nothing seems too probing or off-limits.

Answering a fan on the topic of how to jumpstart creativity, an excerpt reads: 

Ideas are timid things, in my experience. They come as whispers and you need to hold them in honest regard in order to receive them. Perhaps the idea is as scared as you. Perhaps the idea is as invisible as you may sometimes feel. It may be that the idea is simply mirroring your internal self and is reluctant to settle in a mind that is heavy with uncertainty, and that is repeating ancient mantras of self-doubt. These voices can best be banished by a spirited disobedience, a playful defiance. Disobey the voices by continuing to write. They are a lot less robust than they appear. The idea is closing in.

That is but one little illuminating nugget of many. Be sure to go in and read the entire response. And poke around some of the questions, even if you don’t know who Nick Cave is. 

As I think about it, in many cases Reznor is right. Sometimes it is not good to meet your heroes. Sometimes when the veneer of fame comes down it is brutally disappointing. But in the case of Cave, following a tragedy, the walls have come down but have sprouted beautiful, meaningful, and positive interactions that are all documented and can be ravenously poured over, perhaps further solidifying fandom (or creating new ones from previously unaware WITI readers). (CJN)

Photo of the Day:

This story and accompanying photo was floating (pun intended) around this weekend. “The body of William Moldt, a 40-year-old Florida man who was reported missing in November of 1997, has been found. And it’s all thanks to Google Maps, strangely enough.” (NRB)

Quick Links:

  • Resurfacing this Nick Cave link from WITI 5/16 - The Baby Boomer Edition: Nick Cave on what Elvis means to him is extraordinary. “Through the boundless power of music, a performer transcends his or her own wretchedness by performing a kind of public exorcism and by doing so, transforms into a deity.” (NRB)

  • Really enjoyed this episode of Felix Salmon’s Slate Money podcast with Daniel Markovits, author of the new book The Meritocracy Trap. (NRB)

  • I interviewed Sofia Coppola on a mini documentary about Park Hyatt Tokyo. The film was for their 25th anniversary celebration events but they also uploaded to YouTube for posterity. I also spoke to noted composer Ryuchi Sakamoto and the author Shuichi Yoshida. For those that know me, this was pretty much a dream project. The hotel means a lot to me, and being able to unpack why was truly fulfilling. (CJN

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)


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