Interviews, Outliers

Kay Taylor (Parker), Taking the light behind enemy lines, Part 1.


Kay Taylor (Parker) is perhaps best known as the star of the (in)famous pornographic film series Taboo, which fetishized mother-son incest and oedipal desire. The controversy around the film is well-known, but what is little known is the story of the real-person of Kay Taylor. Kay remained in the industry for 10 years, and has reached a sort of iconic status by some purveyors of porn, but she could not exist farther from that world, spiritually, ethically, emotionally.

Taylor lives and works in Santa Monica, California, and her work as a spiritual healer and intuitive could be seen as the polar opposite her work in her past life, but that would be a misguided view. Taylor is a person that has graciously lived and seen her life as a continuum, a process of refinement, a work in progress, always towards the eventual goal of more light, more grace, more peace and truth.

This two-part interview took place at her  home in Santa Monica, where she instantly made me feel comfortable. The conversation ranged from her upbringing in the UK and Malta to the impetus for her coming to America and getting involved in “The Industry”, from her reputation as “the prude of porn” to her associations that influenced her spiritual path and current community.

Kay’s website offers more detail about her life journey and work:

The first part of the interview deals with Kay’s upbringing, history, and involvement in the industry, and part 2 is a  conversation concerning her spiritual work and focus. The interview begins after my having answered some questions posed by her concerning my career path and what sustains me.

KTP      …Yeah, well, there are no mistakes.  Obviously you know that’s what you’re meant to be doing, and uh, you know, personally I’ve always worked outside the box so you know, there are uh, challenges with that.

PH        Hm.

KTP      (Laughing)

PH        Yeah.  We’ll talk about that because I wanna know what some of those challenges are because one of the things that I’m interested in is how people  sort of take these circuitous, interesting paths, and how the experience sustains and enriches them,  You know what I mean?

KTP      Yeah.

PH        I mean, just being able to sort of make things work.

KTP      Trust.

PH        Yes, you know what I’m talking about!

KTP      Trust my relationship to God.

PH        Yeah.

KTP      It’s that simple.

PH        Yeah.

KTP      God provides.  One way or another.

PH        The more simple the better?

KTP      Yeah.  I mean, I could elaborate upon that of course, and I’m sure we will as we talk on.  But essentially you know, people say how do you do it? And I say, well I have my challenges but wherever I go, I always go back inside, go back to God and remember who I am, why I came here to this planet, what my mission is and center myself in that, and then suddenly everything gets handled.

PH        Yeah, yeah.

KTP      You know, one way or another.

PH        Have you always felt that way?

KTP      Well, I mean, I’ve been on my path, this path, in this lifetime for over 30, maybe 35 years so, always? No of course not.  You know, we all vacillate,  we all go through our ups and downs and times where you just wanna say… what?  Just, “I gotta be crazy” you know, but I’ve always had a sense of self meaning since I was a child that there was something different about me.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      I wrote about this in the book, you know, it’s like, the voice inside that said you’re one of the chosen ones which really translated that I was one who had chosen to be different, to be here and be what I call a light worker on the planet.  And because of that my path would not be like everybody else’s. If you would have asked me when I was a kid growing up and certainly as an adolescent, and perhaps even a 20 year old, I still had the dream of finding the perfect mate, having children, etc., etc.  But it just was not my destiny in this lifetime. I do believe that we all have a destiny and destiny lines us up with certain persons, places, events, that we need for our soul growth.

PH        What was pivotal in your understanding that facilitated your changing gears and adjusting to your current path?

KTP      Well  what changed was actually coming to LA after having already sort of gotten into film for a short while and then moving to LA, even though that was not my idea of an acting career you know.

PH        I understand.

KTP      So I think if I’m really serious about this I should move to LA, that’s the place to be.  I was in San Francisco at the time.  And so I came here and within a couple of weeks I met, number one, a numerologist who blew my mind with what he told me just by reading my numbers, and I went whoa, you know. I then joined a meditation group, and shortly after that I met two individuals, both men, who were my teachers, and then entered into what was really a seven year spiritual study program. During this time I met a friend of mine  who lives just around the corner now, with whom I’m doing a major project and it just started to become clear that this was a path that was already laid out long before I was aware of it, and that there was a destiny involved. That really my job was to align myself, and to surrender to that which is not easy to surrender to, because it means you have to relinquish your attachments to certain things, maybe everything.

PH        What was the hardest thing for you to detach from?

KTP      That’s a good question. It wasn’t hard for me to detach from my family, I had already detached from my family.  I mean, I love them and they’re still in my life but, I moved to the other side of the planet practically, away from them. There was a certain sense of oppressiveness in terms of living in England at that time. So, I guess the ongoing process of just surrendering the ego.

PH        We all get stuck in stuff.

KTP      Yeah.

PH        What I mean is that we all have our thorns in the flesh or the thorns in the spirit. We have things that trip us up and which are sort of consistent obstacles for us, and which if we are fortunate and diligent and open, maybe we get to navigate them so that they don’t become oppressive.

KTP      Yeah.

PH        So I guess, what, might be that thorn for you? What was that thing?  Or was there that thing? Not everybody has to have that, you know.

KTP      No, definitely.  As a child I had asthma, and uh, I’m sure you’ve run into this, but asthmatics, um, do you know who Louise Hay is?

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      Yeah, okay, so in Louise Hay A to Z, you know, illnesses may be a result of the consciousness that created the illnesses and then the affirmation.  Asthma, and I’m just referring to her definition, asthma has to do with smother love or, in my interpretation of that, is not having the space to be who you are to expand, to be who you really are.  I was just writing about this actually for my website because I’m doing it over.  So, it was a constant search for who I was and not surrendering, not succumbing to anybody’s idea of who I am.  Even after being in the porno business for 10 years, it was like that’s not who I am.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      It’s something I happened to be doing.  Who I am is, is light, is love, is God, is spirit.  I had a father who was a strict disciplinarian, you know, naval person, and a rageaholic, you know, and consequently I struggled in my relationships with men, always had, and perhaps still always do, always will, because that in a sense keeps me on a certain razor’s edge, you know, where you’re, you’re always checking, it’s always like well, am I giving away my power?

PH        That’s interesting.  It’s interesting that you say that even when you were in the porno industry that you had a strong understanding that that was not your essence.

KTP      Uh-huh.

PH        Because you know the interesting thing about it is that it you have come notable for this deep compassionate otherness coming across in the performances.

KTP      Right. I hear that all the time, and by hearing that I know that I did my job. I don’t know if you had a chance to read this but there is a chapter called “Orgasm” in the book.

PH        I have not.

KTP      Okay.  It’s worth a read. Every once in a while I go back and read it. I refer to one of my dear dear teachers who taught me the wonderful art of kinesiology which I use, muscle testing, which I use extensively these days, always have.  He was an amazing man and he was one of these eccentric geniuses who had discovered all these tests for specific, specific consciousness’s shall we say.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      One day Henry called me up very excited and  said “ I’ve discovered the muscle test for passion” and I could tell this was very important, this was a man that didn’t get excited you know, he was a very sort of neutral, very evolved being. But he was excited and I said okay, I’ll be right over. Because I knew if he was excited that this would be something that would excite and interest me.  So I went over there in a flash and he said okay, sit down, knees about a foot apart, and your fingers interlaced behind your head.  I want you to think of a time when you were in passion.  So I said okay and thought of a dear friend of mine that I was in love with for many years, a Soul Brother by the way, and a well-known actor, no names mentioned.  But we were in each other lives for a long time. He was in and out of my life, but we had such a soul connection it was just a lifeline for me.  So, so I thought of one evening when he showed up with the yellow roses and the Sherry, because he knew I loved Sherry at that time, and crackling fire, you know, sensuality and…

PH        The whole thing.

KTP      So Henry said okay now, I’m going to try to push your knees together, so resist. So I’m thinking of this beautiful moment in time, and he pushed and my knees went like jello, didn’t hold. He said that wasn’t passion.  So I said whoa, okay.  So okay, he said, think of another time.  So I thought of another, same person, and same thing happened.  He said there wasn’t passion.  So I went what? Then I said wait a minute, okay, I’ve got one for you.  And I held in my consciousness the scene in Taboo, what’s called the seduction scene with the son.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      Held that in my consciousness and he tried to push my knees together and without even trying my knees did not budge.  He said that was passion.  And I said whoa. You know, it’s like, what are the implications here?

PH        Yeah, that’s what I wanna know.

KTP      Okay, well what is passion?  One has to define passion, right.  So passion to me is when you are connected, there’s a total connection, mind, body, spirit.  There are no rational logical thoughts, nothing in the way of you connecting on an almost tantric level. Tantric.  Whereas the other two incidences that I thought of, there was always something amiss, I was idealistic, I didn’t feel worthy of having the relationship, so I accepted what was given to me, with great relish. I definitely loved this man, but, he was off doing his thing and having multiple relationships, you know.  What I’m saying is that was what was delivered to me and that’s what I took.

PH        Right.

KTP      So it was not resonating as passion because, excuse me, um, there wasn’t a total connection.  Are those chimes too much?

PH        No, they’re wonderful, it’s fine.

KTP      Yeah they are wonderful, they just get a little loud sometimes, I can always close the door.

PH        No, they’re fine.

KTP      So, so when I thought of that and I thought whoa, and I thought no wonder that movie sold so many copies because you know, the camera doesn’t lie, and a person, even though a person may not be conscious of what they’re seeing, they are witnessing true passion, what a blessing, what a blessing.  It just so happened that my body was being used for this. And this is why spirit used me, even though I was entering a period of time where I was not comfortable with the fact that I was still doing movies. And I said Henry, why can’t I break away?  And he said well somebody’s gotta go behind enemy lines and take the light…., those were his very words.

PH        Someone has to go behind enemy lines and take the…

KTP      Take the light.

PH        The light, the light.

KTP      Consciousness, love.

PH        And so you were that somebody.

KTP      That spirit chose me. I chose back, but you know.

PH        What  were the responses  to you by the people that you worked with doing the years that you worked in porn, because obviously you were very atypical of many people who worked in that industry.  How did the men and the other women respond to you as a person?

KTP      In the business?

PH        Yeah, in the business.

KTP      They didn’t get me, they didn’t get who I was.  I mean, there were a couple of people that I deeply connected with, for reasons that they certainly weren’t conscious of, but I knew why. But for others I was just way too…I think deep was the word that was used about me, because I cared about what I did, even though this was undeniably something that was sort of taboo, it still mattered to me that I  connected deeply as I was performing. I would meditate before each scene; I would do this little sort of chanting thing where I called in the light and protection, always asked for protection. I did it very consciously, though a lot of people weren’t aware I was doing that part of it.

PH        Right, right, right.

KTP      But that, that was fine but, and then when I was done I would go home. I did not fraternize with people in the business, it wasn’t of any interest to me because I don’t do drugs, don’t drink, don’t smoke. I labeled myself for the longest time as the prude of porn.

PH        So you never did any of those things?

KTP      Oh yeah, I did them, but at that time I was weaning myself off of everything because it just didn’t work for me, it was like why do I do this? It was just peer pressure that’s all.  And I’ve always been the kind of person, it’s like don’t tell me not to do anything, I will do it and I will find out for myself.  So you know, um…

PH        You have to touch the stove, as it were.

KTP      Yeah, but it was really becoming clear to me that sexuality’s not something you mess with in an unconscious way which so many people do.  I mean, I saw in some cases the people who were making the films and their rage and their anger and it’s like, I’m not gonna put that on the screen, I’m not gonna put that in my performances because I care.  It was very idealistic, but there were several of us at that time who were really dedicated to doing something different.

PH        Well, what other people would you consider in that category?

KTP      Seka cared, and Richard Pacheco who is still to this day a buddy of mine, I love him dearly. We did a lot of TV talk shows at that time and I’m trying to remember who was…? There were a couple of women who were on the other end, on the production end who were also very dedicated to that.  Um, can’t remember the names at this point. But there were a few. I think Juliette Anderson who recently passed. She died about um, I wanna say about six months ago, and then Jamie Gillis went soon after actually. Annette Haven, Annette in her own weird and wonderful way was also dedicated to that and took no guff from anybody you know.

PH        I would this is an industry that has changed tremendously over the years.

KTP      Yeah.  And really I have to, I mean I only hear, I have no interest in it whatsoever anymore, it’s like, as I told somebody my banner has changed so much over the years, it’s not, it’s like, it’s like a dream that came and went but I, yeah, I think it inevitably has changed tremendously.  But I hear all the time about people who were still drawn to, to the vintage films because they, they had more heart and soul. We had scripts; we had multiple days in which to shoot.  You know, I mean…

PH        Some “story” or what have you.  But I have one question that I wanted to ask and then we can move on to other things.  There’s an element to the whole pornographic experience that has a strong flavor of compulsion and addiction for the men who are purveyors of it…

KTP      Yep.

PH        Men who use it on a regular basis.  When you were acting, did you ever connect to being part of that reality at any level at all, I mean, did you ever ask yourself about that?

KTP      Sure. 

PH        Yeah.

KTP      Sure, because there were gentlemen that I would run into from time to time that admitted to me that they were either hardcore addicts, or just addicted, you know, that it was far easier for them to sit at home with films than go out and actually seek a relationship.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      There was actually one very well known film producer who( this was after I moved to LA), called me up and told me that he had a job for me in a low budget mainstream film that he was doing that turned out to be just a ruse to…

PH        To try to get to know you?

KTP      To try to get to know me, and what was interesting, one of the amazing experiences I ever had was to sit with him while he consumed two bottles of wine, by himself because I don’t drink, and I had to walk him to his car that night. He had admitted to me over dinner that he had jerked off to me many times and he said I would much rather do that, it’s easier for me to do that than to seek a relationship or to go through the steps of having a relationship.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      So, as I was closing his car door, I don’t even know why I let him drive, I should have insisted, but anyway, that’s beside the point, but he said to me, he looked at me and very sort of wistfully said lady, I don’t wanna go to bed with you, I’d like to wake up to you. And I said well, I would just ask you one thing…. remember this conversation that we’ve had tonight.  Because first of all, I was brought there on false pretenses, you know, and that I’m a pretty intelligent person, I know what’s true and what’s not. But there was higher purpose in that whole situation, that whole meeting and uh, I’m sure it left an impact, it left a mark on his spirit. But it was interesting hearing, coming from somebody like him, he probably could have had the pick of all the young starlets in Hollywood and yet what he was saying was he’d rather just stay home uh, and watch, he said me, but I’m sure he watched other, I mean, I’m sure it wasn’t just me, I’m sure it was other women, but….

PH        Well that’s, that whole sort of compulsion, it pulls people into a  netherworld to where I think if they go deep enough it’s quite difficult for them to find the boundaries, you know,  and that’s hard and it takes effort, and transparency and vulnerability to actually be in a relationship. 

KTP      Yes.

PH        And then when he was actually confronted with the real person he found out that he liked you.

KTP      Yeah.

PH        And you know, finding out that he liked you, you know, really turned things on their side.

KTP      Yeah.

PH        And I think that’s, that’s really a wonderful process, that if we open ourselves up to all kinds of people on different levels, people can surprise us and we can surprise ourselves, and then it’s easier to sort of let go of this nasty murky stuff that we create that has nothing to do with other people.

KTP      Yeah, I mean it is, yeah, I mean, to go deeper into that, it was, I was saddened by the fact that there were addicts in the world of individuals who are lonely, who are um, unable for whatever psychological reasons to reach out and to be vulnerable enough to expose themselves to uh, meeting women.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      Yeah, I mean I was aware that there were tons and tons, there was a time when you know, there were a lot of magazines, I don’t know if they exist anymore today but I was in touch with a lot of the magazine publishers and people who wrote a lot of articles for them and it was a whole different time…

PH        Right.

KTP      And so I had much more exposure to a lot of different areas and it was really obvious to me that there was one slice of society who were totally okay with their sexuality and they were very um, experimental and open, something that I had never been, believe it or not, I used to call myself the prude of porn because, because I um, hold on one second.  I wanna make sure he takes this envelope here.  She did.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      But that, but that one area of the lonely, the lonely men or the lonely middle aged virgins, and there were a lot of them, you know, were sad, and again there was a time where I was very idealistic.  I used to write a lot of letters to these people, I handled my fan club myself, I used to spend a lot of time writing letters and also to men incarcerated because my position was not to judge but rather to shed some light where I could and always, until it got to the point to where it’s like oh my God, I’m spending way too much on this, I’m not making any money, I’m losing money if anything, but it was kind of like my mission at that time, you know, it was kind of like a, what do you call it, um, ministry. You know, so, and then I, then I let that go.  But still today I get letters from individuals, from men who are obviously lonely and inept at the whole art of interacting with other people, um, painfully so.

PH        Then there’s some men, that’s not so much their dynamic, they just are consumed with lust.

KTP      Yeah, oh yeah, they are different.

PH        Men can be just as simple as that.  You know, there’s nothing else to it, there’s no psychological, you know, whatever, they’re consumed with lust, they have regular relationships, they have lots of sex, they have successful jobs and whatever.

PH        But let’s shift gears a little bit.  I’ve read a few  cursory things about your background, but I’d like to hear you talk about that a little bit more… when you were in England, what your family situation was like, what were sort of the precipitating things that led up to you leaving and coming over here.  Like how did you get to San Francisco?  You know, what was that path?

KTP      Right, well, um, I actually did not spend that many years of my childhood in England because my father was in the Navy as I said earlier.

PH        The United States Navy?

KTP      No, no, no, British Navy. And so we, we spent about five years over-seas, on the island of Malta actually. It was great, it was like another lifeline for me because when I was in England I was depressed, the weather was cold, I mean, I didn’t wanna be there, for whatever reason.  Often, you know, even as a child, I would um, kind of look up at the heavens and say “why here? “You know, it’s like, this doesn’t make sense to me.  And I remember as a kid  spending a lot of time struggling for breath because I had asthma, which was as far as I’m concerned just as my resistance to my circumstances and the constriction and the oppressiveness of my father, and a post-World War II depression.  I mean, it, it was tough, and so when I spent all those hours sort of struggling, holding on for dear breath, I talked to God.  And then when it was summer and I was outside I would lay on the Earth and I remember just loving the smell of the Earth! Every British person has a garden so you know, I mean, if you’re fortunate enough to have a little strip of land behind your house you got a garden and you grow vegetables and I loved to go up to the garden and pick the vegetables and just smell things and just be in touch with the Earth.  I’m a Virgo so maybe that’s what that was but…

PH        When’s your birthday?

KTP      August 28th.

PH        Mine’s September 6th.

KTP      Oh, so you’re a Virgo too.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      Ah-ha, okay.  So I had these, not visions, I suppose they were sort of visions, of other realities. What does a child know except lots of kids talk about the fairy kingdom and things that adults don’t talk about, and they talk about them until adults tell them not to talk about them and try to shut them down, you know, but it’s all, as far as I’m concerned it’s all very real. It’s not just a fantasy land.  So I was aware you know, of, I was aware of let’s say another reality.  So, I grew up and got back to England and was enrolled again in a girl’s school and I hated it, it was just so completely ridiculous as far as I was concerned.  I wasn’t aware I was learning anything, so as soon as I could get out, I got out, which was interesting because my parents let me and I…

PH        How long were you stuck at this school?

KTP      Well, I was actually out of school at 15½.

PH        Okay.

KTP      Now there’s, the English, the way that the English school curriculum goes is that, is that for grammar school students, grammar school being college prep, it’s different from here, there’s an exam called the 11 plus, which determines which school you go to. But at 15 you take the GCE, which is the certificate of education Well, I failed miserably because in Malta I’d been studying the Cambridge syllabus where at the school in England they were studying the Oxford syllabus so it was screwy you know, so, and my only choice at that point was to go back and redo two years and it’s like you gotta be kidding, no way. So I left school and I, I took a couple of jobs, you know, in shops, and started commuting to London… and it just was like one of those things where I just need to leave, I just needed to go.  And as it so happened, I met a German boy in the summer, I met a German boy, soul connection, so it became my ambition to leave and go to visit him in Munich, and he lived in Munich.  And in a sense, he was my carrot.

PH        He was your…

KTP      Carrot.

PH        Your carrot.

KTP      To leave.

PH        Right, right.

KTP      So, just shy of my 18th birthday a friend and I left and we hitchhiked around  Europe for a bit and I landed in a town called Wurzburg, which it has an American military base. Because I had met a boy.  The girl I was traveling with, her money got stolen in a youth hostel so she had to go home, her parents called her home and I said I’m not going home.  Because my father’s words to me as he put me on the train to Europe was you’ll be home in, I think, what was it, he gave me six weeks I think and he said you’ll be home, mark my words and it was kind of like one of those things where it’s like, there’s no way I’m gonna go home and give him…

PH        He threw down the gauntlet.

KTP      Yeah, the satisfaction, so, sounds to me like you know these kinds of things.

PH        Yeah, a little bit.

KTP      Little bit.  So anyway, so I decided I was going to stay and I had met um, not the friend who originally drew me there but another boy and he ended up taking me to his family in Wurzburg who were so sweet and wonderful to me and put me up for a while and then I was there for about nine months. I was working for Americans actually at that time, but I was realizing that I really wanted to speak the language and so my goal had been to learn another language and I wasn’t doing it because I was just speaking English all the time.  So I ended up moving to Munich, I took a job with a family, a very prestigious family who were involved in the world of opera, worked for a gentleman who is very well known in German opera, throughout Europe and theater, and it changed my life.  They were so wonderful to me.

PH        In what way, I mean, just the exposure, the acculturation…

KTP      Just the exposure, yeah, the exposure to the culture and uh, and within about three months I had picked up fluent German, this was amazing, and um.

PH        You still speak?

KTP      Not much, not much.  I’ve forgotten, I’m very rusty.  I mean, I could pick it up again.  But what I realized, I came to realize many years later was the reason it came so easily to me was I was just retracing old steps, that I was German in my last lifetime.  And, this is when I became interested in past lives and looking at the bigger journey and it was also very familiar to me, even Wurzburg by the way was familiar to me, so I had for some reason, somehow, I had been guided back there.  So anyway, so I worked for the family in Munich for about a year and then my father was taken ill and I had to go back to England and I quit the job because I wasn’t going to spend my life working as an au pair, you know, so.

PH        Right.

KTP      And once again, my father was kind of like the catalyst for me moving on. After three months you know, he had recovered enough and I left and went back to Germany again, not quite knowing what I was gonna do.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      But the American people I had worked for came through and they pretty much handed me not only a ticket to the States but a green card and I ended up spending the first year in Santa Fe, New Mexico, because that’s where they were going.  They were getting ready to retire from the Army and  they were headed to Santa Fe because they had relatives there and so that was my first stop which was amazing, you know, for somebody you know, young and wet behind the ears as I was at that time, the first stopping place to be Santa Fe, New Mexico.

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      It was amazing, I loved it.  And then I went from Santa Fe to Boulder, Colorado for a year.

PH        I love Boulder.

KTP      Yeah.  Not knowing that several friends who I would later meet were there at the same time that I was, including Aaron, my mentor, my dear mentor.  So that was about a year and then I got pregnant and it was one of those things where okay, what am I gonna do.  So I was fortunate enough to be able to get an abortion and right after that I got on a Greyhound bus and came west to San Francisco.  So I landed in San Francisco in ’68. Slap bang in the middle of the flower child era, sex, drugs, and rock and roll baby!

PH        Uh-huh, absolutely.

KTP      Yeah.

PH        Yeah.  Yeah, I was 8 years old. 

KTP      It was an amazing time.

PH        Yeah.

KTP      It was an amazing time.

PH        Yeah, people keep trying to recreate it so I assume that it is a…

KTP      They do?

PH        I mean, they try to create the aura of it but they don’t do a good job I think, recreating the conviction of it.  I mean, you could go to Haight-Ashbury now and it’s still hippies and stuff but it’s…

KTP      Is it?  I had no idea.

PH        You know, it’s different.  I think that was a special time in the history of this country.

KTP      Well, you know, I moved around for a while within San Francisco and then I, I moved to Sausalito.  I don’t know if you know the area…

PH        I know that area very well.

KTP      So across the Golden Gate Bridget here’s a little town called Sausalito which is a little tourist area…

PH        Right, yeah.

KTP      And I ran a store there, a little head shop. Marin County was the home of so many of the bands and musicians; it was music central during those days.

PH        Jefferson Airplane.

KTP      Well, my old man for a while was Joey Covington who was the drummer for Jefferson Airplane for a while.  Joey and I met in the store that I ran, this is the funniest thing, he used to come in and buy all this stuff right, and I ended up living with it all, and it’s like, oh God, there’s some kind of weird karma here but you know, but um, that’s how we met.  And we ended up having a relationship for a while.  I actually saw him last year by the way um…

PH        Any experiences with Grace Slick?

KTP      What, sorry?

PH        You know Grace Slick, the…

KTP      Well, actually, I never actually met Grace.  I knew Marty Balin because Marty and Joey were very good friends and uh, and so many other musicians from that era but never met Grace.  Um, what’s funny though is that, and Joey was saying this last year, that they, they have a bond that’s kind of like, it’s just unbreakable, it’s kind of like a fraternity, they just hang together year after year after year and they’re all in their 60s now.

PH        Right, yeah.

KTP      It’s like all these old musical codgers, but, it’s kind of funny.  But Joey’s a hoot, I mean Joey’s one of these ageless type of people..

PH        It’s interesting to me, you know, that you get from the Bay Area, you know, from San Francisco, to LA. This is quite trite, but you know, we all do it, we sort of type people as to locations  It’s like even just after having spoken with you for just for a little while, you just seem so more suited to be in Northern California than Southern.

KTP      Yeah, yeah.

PH        It’s just interesting.  I mean, how did you make your way down here?

KTP      Well, and it’s interesting you say that because before I moved here, I had only been here a couple of times, once with Joey as a matter of fact, and one of the times that we came down here was we actually stayed with Papa John Creach, does that name mean anything to you? 

PH        Uh-huh.

KTP      Papa John was amazing and his wife was even more amazing.  We stayed with him because Joey discovered Papa John in the unemployment line, I mean, this is story after story after story, this amazing gentleman who was absolutely, he was, he had arthritis so badly but the minute he stepped on that stage he came alive.

PH        He could play, yeah.

KTP      And it was gone.  So um, but I couldn’t stand LA, even that time, I mean, as much as I enjoyed our time with the Creach’s, you know, it’s like, it was like get me out of here, to me it was like this cultural wasteland.  I didn’t enjoy the life, you know, it wasn’t time, it wasn’t time.  So I had to go back. Joey and I broke up and da-da-da, and then finally uh, after I got involved in film, it finally became time for me to move down here and once I was here I never looked back.  This is my home.

PH        Yeah.

KTP      But Santa Monica’s my home, I mean…

PH        Yeah, Santa Monica, Santa Monica’s like an island to me.

KTP      It is, it is.

PH        I really like Santa Monica, I’m not that fond of the rest of LA.  I used to spend a lot of time here for a lot of different reasons and…

KTP      Yeah, I mean, just being by the ocean and plus my family, my spiritual family is here, this is the whole thing is I came down here to reconnect to my spiritual family and they’re all around me now so this is where I was meant to be.  That’s the journey, you know, you, you kind of follow the flow and here you are. 

PH        Right.

KTP      So, yeah.

Interviews, Outliers

Cintra Wilson : The Voice of one crying in the WILDerness….

I love you, and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies.

Pietro Aretino

If an interesting monster can’t have an interesting hairdo I don’t know what this world is coming to.
Bugs Bunny

Both of the above quotes, Aretino’s cautionary and pointed, Bug’s filled with a bit more levity, but still just as pointed, can apply with equal vigor to my friend Cintra Wilson. Behold, Dagnabit, the voice of one crying in the mother******* WILDderness. Cintra truly is a child of Aretino, one of the first writers’s to put a definitive stamp upon the territory of satire. When there is something to say worth saying about some façade obstructing the flow of the clean water of truth, or some big freaking beam sticking out of an eye, hers or someone else’, the wall will come tumbling down, by her hand and at her command. Girlfriend has a truth-tellin style. But despite that she has a love of the weird, of spontaneously bold individualism, of little saccharine transcendent nuggets that make one  go…. really? For all her big brain and incisive wit, this is a woman that will admit to liking Tevin Campbell for God’s sake! How scary can she be? Pretty fucking scary according to some, but I find her to be well, just a little bit fabulous.

It would be easy to interpret Cintra’s tenacious, moralist need to point out the lurking truth as being the result of some sort of crusading propensity, but I see it as anything but. It’s really kind of simple I think. It’s just too damn difficult and counter-productive to choose to stumble around in the dark. That being said, I don’t think she is above or beyond the occasional and ill-aimed wack at immovable objects in the light either.

I came across Cintra’s work just recently, in March of this year actually, when a reader of my blog turned me on to her book  A Massive Swelling, Celebrity Reexamined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease and Other Cultural Revelations. I promptly read it in an evening. Her examination of the fatuous nature of fame was timely for me, as it has been one of the areas that I am probing artists about in the interviews and profiles I have been doing for A Necessary Angel. I was intrigued as much by the plethora of anecdotes chronicling unimaginably putrid acts of  ego perpetrated by some of our brightest “stars” as I was by her lucid, and to my view, spiritually on-point assessment of what the entropic process of seeking fame does to a person, not to mention to society at large and the idea of culture. Wilson’s other books include  a work of fiction called Colors Insulting To Nature, that features a heroine aptly named Liza Normal, and her most recent work Caligula for President. All of her work is satirical and in a modernist way, prophetic. Cintra does not take on the mantle of self-obliteration and denial that is part of the mythos of the prophet, regardless of whether the seed of interpretation is Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or otherwise. She reserves the right to stand in the middle of the culture, to sample its wares, feed on the edge of its excesses, carefully avoiding hypocrisy, always observing the right to call bullshit. She’s extremely effective at this. One attribute that enables her to build upon this effectiveness is that she seems to truly not give a shit about being judged, or if she does, is able to bear or ignore it.

It recently struck me that I had read her scathing denunciation of Sarah Palin in Salon in 2008 before I knew who she (Wilson) was. From her first paragraph:

I confess it was pretty riveting when John McCain trotted out Sarah Palin for the first time. Like many people I thought “Damn, a hyperconservative, fuckable, type A, antiabortion, Christian Stepford wife in a ‘sexy librarian’ costume—as a vice president? That’s a brilliant stroke of horrifyingly cynical pandering to the Christian Right. Karl Rove must be behind it.

Now this piece drew all kinds of ire from the right, and a little bit of stupidity from the left, in the form of  the opinion that there are “so few women in potential positions of power” that we should basically ignore galactic levels of incompetence on principal….but that’s another story altogether. What slapped me silly about the Palin piece was the fact that it was so utterly and completely true. Palin was obviously a completely insidious neo-con calculation. The perfect blending of the potentially prurient and the obviously wholesome. The fuckability  factor is undeniable, the sexy librarian thing painfully obvious. There is porn in them thar Alaskan hills. The cynicism of the packaging is such that the actual pornographic parody reads more like a conceptual tie-in than parody….and Wilson was keen to this dynamic and willing to point it out immediately. That’s not simply a satirical exercise for the sake of being clever. That’s prophetic energy aimed at the revelation of hypocrisy of a particularly repellent type.

So, after completing “A Massive Swelling” I decided that we must talk. I sent an e-mail through to her blog, and she responded rather quickly, stating that she was amenable to some discussion about art, politics, fame, whatever. I knew that this was a conversation that was going to best be had in person, and arranged for us to meet during a trip I took to NYC at the end of April.

We arranged to meet, Cintra, my wife Lisa and I, at a comfortable and semi-noisy Tribeca café that had amazing coffee, and a monstrously handsome barrista, the kind of person that possesses the type of beauty  that makes you understand in a moment that we are all potentially bisexual. I think he made me find my .0008%.

When Cintra arrived by car from Brooklyn, I was keenly aware of her considerable kinesis. Thin, fit, blond bright-eyed Kinesis…. The direction of the response is certainly not controlled by the direction or intensity of the stimulus. This is a person whose mind, body, eyes, and senses are on the move, keenly tied in to what is going on around them, taking in their surroundings in colossal gulps. Basically, Cintra is a sensorial multi-tasker, but you never feel ignored, cause well, you’re not being ignored. Dealing with both my and Cintra’s knee-jerk and barely controllable verbosity made me respect my lovely wife even more. Lisa has a great ability to morph herself to any situation she finds herself in. She just let us rock and roll.

We did not have to make small talk. There was no nervous banter or ill-timed starts and re-starts.  She is a physical talker, alternately leaning in to make a point, hands, eyebrows and fingers working as extensions of punctuation. I felt as if I was talking with someone I have known my whole life, which can be good or bad when you are doing an interview. Good because you can get to some good shit you never would have thought of in a constructed way, bad because you can go all over the map feeling you were brilliant, and come away with nothing. I think our conversation fit the former category. Wilson describes herself as “a maladjusted kid from Marin County” that exhibited in spades what would be seen today as ADHD. She heard over and over from the adults in her life that she was not “living up to her potential”. This, to no surprise came to be a self-fullfilling prophecy that lead to a series of legal misadventures ending with a stint in juvenile hall (Juvee is the name of one of her first plays). The artist in her was analyzing these experiences, creating a cautionary tale feedback loop that she could continue to use. And as always there was the critique. She would be as hard on herself as she could be on others. The internal maloika constantly working, working….

In talking about her formative years, and strange jobs that she has had, we spoke of her stint as a “Yagermeister Shot Nurse”:

“The weirdest gig I ever had was as a “Yagermeister shot nurse” where I dressed up in this bondage outfit, had a reclining dentist chair and a canister of yager which I would shotgun down the throats of people for ridiculously inflated prices..there is only so much a throat can handle” “This happened at a bar I worked at…”

 So there were not a bunch of “normal” gigs while she was at SF State, writing plays, and taking part in some “shamanistic explorations” in the Haight Ashbury… there was a type of falling into a life it seems, a process of following the muse and opportunity, carefully and shrewdly, yes, but most of all faithfully. This lead to some creative and subversive creations, like the character Winter Steele that she created and voiced for MTV’s Liquid Television. I don’t think to ask her how she came to capture these opportunities, the business side of things, because it was a time (late 80’s, early 90s) where there was still a little bandwidth for creating artistic business opportunities. Every potential pathway to artistic creativity and possible success was not blocked, like it is now, like a bloody rag in the bloated nose of every creative industry.

Our conversation morphs between the territories of interview and interested exchange. I ask Cintra about writing for Salon, and we discuss the writing business in general, she noting that the disintegration of the business of writing/publishing has mirrored that of the other arts. She notes that she get’s offered 1/10th the amount to write some articles or features than she would have received 10 years ago. It creates a situation where it is often impossible to take the gigs without losing money. I commiserate.

Cintra Wilson is a culture critic. It is an apt term to encapsulate the personal and professional Cintra. It is what she does, commercially and just moment by moment. That being said, we did have the inevitable discussion about Tiger Woods. I ask Cintra what she thought of the  Nike Ad, that in my opinion amounted to a public lynching for his errant behavior. A lynching with his complicity, yes, but a cyberlynching nonetheless. She says she has not seen it, but when I describe it to her she says:

That(seeing the ad) would have been deeply disturbing to me….I think that this came not just from Nike, but from Tiger….can I just be totally frank here? I have dated a number of black men, and I have always found that deep down, deep down , no matter how much school, no matter how much assimilation, no matter how much success, there is this gnawing kernel of guilt that comes from being fucking detested for hundreds of years.That has always pained me terribly…”Tiger’s situation is a bit more weird though, because of Obama. Suddenly he and Tiger are “the master race “suddenly the coolest guys in the world are these guys who are half-black mostly black identified….I do feel like he felt a disproportionate need to publically atone like a Japanese business man….

 When she said this my immediate response was to launch into a posture of denial (internally, because I did not engage her on this issue at the time), because I had always associated that kernel with anger, not guilt, guilt over what? But guilt can become a deep psychological wound that is experienced as effect and not as intention…you don’t feel guilty for, you feel guilty because. Because you have been told, verbally, and by the machinations of society that you are guilty…..of being black. So Tiger was not just guilty of errant and irresponsible dick swinging, it was errant and irresponsible black dick swinging. Another animal altogether.

 Cintra notes that Tiger went and found the synthesis of white femaledom to marry, the whitest woman possible. A tie-in to the guilt maybe?

 After Tiger, we discuss her take on the Tea-Party Movement:

 The  tea party movement is like when Brittney Spears shaves her head and defecates in a taxi-cab, and like vomits on Paris Hilton, then like, runs around and calls herself the anti-Christ…you know what I mean? It’s all just so disgraceful that it is hard to see it as anything other than: wow,  these people are the most filthy gnorant nazi’s in America… I feel like we only pay attention to them because they are so aggressively ass-out. I can’t take them seriously as a political movement.

“ It all comes down to what will attract them press. There is no such thing as positive attention anymore.” “If you kill and eat the orphans you get press. They have harnessed the ability to acquire fame, and fame is about quantities of attention, not quality.”

The disgust she has for the self-righteousness of entities like The Tea Party Movement is palpable. It’s the blatant dishonesty and need to control that disgusts her, even more than the moral inconsistency, for which in certain circumstances, she has a great deal of grace.  We had discussed Chogyam Trungpa earlier, the controversial guru who was the founder of both Naropa and Vajradhatu Universities. He was seemingly morally inconsistent, but it did not stretch outside the bounds of honesty, agreements he had made concerning his voracious sexual and sensory appetites. He did not hide his intentions behind psycho-emotional projectiles aimed with the intent to control others. The prophetess comes out with claws extended, fending off all attempts of control, especially by liars.

Wilson is working on a new book about what she calls “Fashion Determinism”, about how what we wear is so closely aligned with our political environments and destiny. The Critical Shopper columns she has been doing for the New York Times have served as a bit of a research pad for this project. While we are talking about this, a thin, flamboyantly dressed young black man comes in the café, dressed in an extremely individualistic manner, in a way that is impossible to ignore. Fashion is clearly art and communication with him. Cintra addresses the young man, saying that he will definitely be in the book, as he is a perfect example of fashion determinism. Wilson notes that “there is a really rich and unfinished language” regarding the geopolitical and sociological implications of fashion, and that “regional political economies dictate our fashion sense, which in turn dictates our future”. While she is saying this I can almost see the neurons glowing, the synapses firing off, steeling that big brain to spew forth another big glob of imminently original thought.  

We talk a little bit about the seeming contradiction of the culture critic/prophetess taking the occasional personal shopper job, which she does every blue moon, and she says “if some dude wants to pay me to take him shopping for shirts every now and then, I don’t mind”. This is a completely different thing than taking writing work that in no way shape or form resonates with her. I did not ask why. I can only venture a guess that the shirt buying experience is a potentially very human one…you never know what you will find with any given person, and Cintra, at the core of it, righteous prophetess aside, likes humans. Writing a shit article is simply indentured servitude in a moment. No humanity whatsoever involved.

We take our conversation to another café that actually has food and not just pastries, as Lisa and I are hungry, and we talk for another 25 minutes or so about the publishing industry, the music industry, and artistic inspiration. Our time is running out as she has to make a 2:00 Flamenco class. It keeps her dopamine receptors happy, body fit, mind in a pleasant state of tired when need be. We say our goodbyes with still so much to talk about. There are people  that you meet in this life that you are so bloody glad are here, drawing air, raging against the dying of the light, wearing the mantle of prophetess provocateur,  beautiful monsters with  interesting hairdos…. Cintra Wilson is one of those people, and I’m glad she is my friend.


Announcing a new blog series: Outliers

I just recently posted a story on ex-pornstar Abby Rode, which was the first in a series on Outliers. To put all suspicion of prurient intent aside, this will not be a pornstar series, although two of the interviewees will be Kay Taylor (Parker) of Taboo Fame, and Sasha Grey, fresh from starring in Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience. The series will be concerned with people that have lived lives considered beyond the pale, and have either turned back more towards “normalcy”, whatever that is, or to a higher calling. Due to the extremity, difficulty, piety, or threatening natures (good can threaten as well people) of their lives, or personal philosophies, These people inhabit,or have inhabited, terrain outside of the edges of polite experience.

The second interview of the series will be with Cintra Wilson, the culture critic, playwright, writer, and general prophetic curmudgeon, in my view. We are lucky to have her unfiltered analyses of fame, sexual politics and cultural misappropriation.

An interview with Incognegro writer Frank Wilderson will follow. Frank’s new book is called Red, White and Black: Cinema and the structure of U.S. Antagonisms. Frank’s view of the nature of the racial divide in America is well outside the established dogma of a leftist reading of history. Frank posits that racial conflict is due to a structural, ontological antagonism, a master-slave dynamic that is still in play, vs. a conflict between two entities considered equal in status.

An interview with influential Avant-Garde singer/songwriter Robert Wyatt will also be part of the series. Wyatt ‘s singular musical genius has been so far ahead of the curve that the idea of catching up verges on the inconcievable to me. His last CD Comicopera is a must listen to. The only other living auteur of such tortured, bittersweet and poignant pop music is Scott Walker. They are in very limited company.

San Francisco Cabaret Chanteuse Jill Tracy will also be profiled.  Even though I am biased because she is a dear friend, I can honestly say nobody does what she does.

I’m open to suggestions of other artists to pursue interviews with that fit my aforementioned definition of being an Outlier. Send me your suggestions, and stay tuned.

Interviews, Outliers

Diamanda Galas in flagrante delicto, 1999 interview



The Diva, as she is often known to both her admirers and her detractors, is a complex woman possessive of one of the most singular voices of the age. Known for her amazing compositions/productions such as the Plague Mass and Defixiones, her phenomenal gift has existed in her life as a sort of Sisyphean force, in that the perceptions of the listening audience are so easily inflamed by the strong persona behind this voice that myth often obscures the truth, about Galas as woman, Galas as artist. This interview was done in 1999. A 30 minute telephone conversation revealed a lively personality, one who laughed often, and who expressed joy concerning the stage in life that she was in at that time. Topics ranged from her dealings in the music business, to her great admiration for the turn of the century African American Renaissance man Paul Robeson, to some very curious anecdotes about some significant figures in the world of Jazz. The Diva at her, to use her own words, cantankerous best.

Percy: I’m very interested  in the new album, Malediction and Prayer, you have a new arrangement with Asphodel, how did this come about? You are still with Mute, correct?

Diamanda: I still have Mute for the world, but I have Asphodel for America, saying America I mean the United States. Naut Humon (owner of Asphodel) has been a friend of mine for many years, since 85, and I met Mitzi several years later, he and I used to do some music together. He was one of the only people that was supportive to me when I was working on Plague Mass. He was very supportive when most people were very discouraging. They didn’t understand, people kept saying “What is any artist doing any musical work that has anything to do with AIDS?” Of course the whole thing has changed since then. He was sincerely interested and he helped me a lot, in terms of just being there when I was trying to work, helping me with certain electronics and so on. That’s how I met him. Just recently they expressed that they would like to have the voice and piano stuff out on their label. As I’m looking at the CD now it’s beautiful, they have done a magnificent job on it. I’m a very happy woman!

Percy: One of my interests now is in discussing with artists how they function within the context of a musical industry which may have very little to do with supporting them as an artist. The situation with Asphodel may be somewhat different, due to the personal and relational context of your relationship with Naut, but …

Diamanda: Well, curiously enough, Mute is headed by Daniel Miller, who used to be an experimental film maker. He also became interested in electronic music at an early time, so in a sense, his main money makers are Depeche and Erasure, and things like that, but he has this kind of other interesting “more out” music. I mean clearly he must be, to be putting Boyd Rice out you know, I mean, let’s face it! But of course he has to deal with the realities of people telling him at least that the weird shit can’t sell. So then of course you know what happens: the deal is that for all of the Depeche Modes, etc., that get stocked in the record store, they will stock one half of a copy of a fringe artist. I’ve had to deal with that reality.

Percy: Well, you have been fortunate from that standpoint

Diamanda: Fortunate! That is a marvelous word to hear

Percy: You have been fortunate that you’ve been able to carve out a significant career as a performer, and not just a recording artist.

Diamanda: Tell me all about it. I really need to hear the positive aspect of this now!

Percy: A lot of artists are in the situation that they don’t really perform. What they do is support a record, but the actual aspect of performance, of translating the spiritual effect of their work across to an audience in a real time environment, paying very close attention to the nuances of that translation such as you do, is a neglected vocation. So these types of artists become very dependent on record sales.

Diamanda: Someone heard at my record company years ago that I had ‘private money’, which of course is totally untrue. At Mute in London they heard that I had private money,

Percy: What is ‘private money?’ It’s an oxymoron!

Diamanda: So that they didn’t have to worry about me. I somehow had this stash of private money on the side. This is fascinating! Let me tell you something, if I had a fucking stash of money on the side I’d charge them more! I’d be really fucking cheap man! You know that I don’t have any money. You know because of the way that I act I don’t have any money. My idea is that I will always make money performing. If I don’t sell any records, that will be unfortunate, but I will never have to survive on that basis. So I told them, if you want to sell the records, OK, if you don’t, OK, but I don’t depend on you for fucking money.

Percy: So you don’t believe in fostering dependence upon somebody else’s decision making process?

Diamanda: There it is! It really does work when you tell people that you can live without them, it really is a general rule that I am now discovering in my dotage (laughs)!

Percy: Concerning your persona, there are the ongoing issues around this, as far as the way you are presented in the media, what I’ve read in interviews, etc. You seem to be often portrayed as this gigantic, Wagnerian female Vampire Bat…

Diamanda: That weighs 700 pounds? I know! I always disappoint people when they see I’m not fat. You know who called me a Satanist the other day?

Percy: Who?

Diamanda: Cecil Taylor! That motherfucker! I said you’re the biggest pederast in New York and you are calling me a fucking Satanist? You pig! What happened is that I was in this gay restaurant the other day with my friends, and I said to myself, I have had tremendous respect for this man’s music for 20 years, so I thought, I’m going to buy him a drink. So I bought him a drink. The next thing I know, he’s sitting at my table, and he’s looking at me, and he’s talking to his friends and he’s saying (in a low croaky voice) “She’s a Satanist”.

part 3  

 Percy: This leads me to a question that I have been wanting to ask you for a long time, and that is …

Diamanda: Am I a Satanist?

Percy: Nah, I don’t ask stupid questions like that.

Diamanda: I know, I’m just giving you a hard time!

Percy: The thing that is intriguing to me is that you have appropriated many of the very strong themes of Christendom into your art, into your ongoing illumination through your music of the plight of the suffering. The Mass, The Liturgy, certain paradigms of community that seem to have to do with Christianity, the whole issue of transcendence and dealing with the body, what is the role of the body vs. the role of the spirit, if you destroy my body my spirit still exists … all of these things. But there is this perception, á là Cecil Taylor, that you exist in this spiritual space that is decidedly antithetical to Christianity.

Diamanda: Isn’t that incredible?

Percy: What do you say to that?

Diamanda: Let’s see, what do I say to that? At first I just you to say “Oh, you are absolutely right, no spirituality here, none whatsoever!” I always thought “I’m not going to have an argument with a fucking idiot”, so I’d just let them think what they wanted to. So I used to laugh about it, but as of recently I’ve been fortunate to talk with some people that have some brains, so I’d talk about the issue more forthrightly. People tend to read into art what they see as perceived through the mirror of the values of the mainstream society. So somebody who supports the rights of homosexuals, and very aggressively the rights of women, is not going to be one who is interested in communicating to the mainstream. Take breeding for example. This is something that I wasn’t put on this planet to do. People who have these attitudes, towards for instance homosexuals, often think things like “Those people have all this money, and they spend it on trips to the Bahamas, they don’t have to raise children like we do, and buy them diapers, and send them to school”, and all this stuff … the things that these people present as blasphemous are things that they are jealous of. I think that there is a jealousy of certain cultures that makes people hate them. This seems to be the case in cultures that exterminate other cultures. The culture that I know a lot of, the Turkish-Greek, the Turks exterminated the Turkish Greeks and the Armenians, they were jealous of them because they saw them as independently wealthy, and they became scapegoats. I think that there are a lot of parallels here. I talk of breeding as being a sacrilege in my religion. I really believe that. In my particular religion. Nobody has to be in it.

Percy: When you say your particular religion, what is that?

Diamanda: If I talk about Ancient Greek mythology, you must recognize Artemis. I see her as she was seen then, as the goddess of the hunt, she had primary functions in the culture, and they did not have to do with breeding, they had to do with fighting, with fighting for something on a 24 hour basis, so not having time to provide a domestic function which, fair enough, can belong to other people. And I have no feeling against this at all. It’s just not my particular job.

part 4  

 Percy: So, it would seem here that many of the more over the top responses that I have read from you in interviews in the past concerning this area of inquiry would stem from an exasperation on your part due to people attempting to encapsulate your spiritual experience and beliefs into easily digestible assumptions that can be related to on a general level?

Diamanda: I figure if they come to me with that shit, it can only get worse, so I just figure they can take that home, and I will go do something else. Why should I argue with an idiot?

Percy: I don’t want to rehash the topic of how you came to your extreme vocal technique, the history of your evolution as an extreme artist. You have been over and over that in the past. But there are manifestations in your voice that often bring to mind two or three singers. Not that you sound like these people per se – your voice is too individualistic for that – but they seem to be points of reference, so to speak. These are Maria Callas, whom you have often been compared to, Billie Holiday, and Paul Robeson.

Diamanda: Ooooooh!!!

Percy: I’m serious! I hear Paul Robeson.

Diamanda: That is amazing! There is a reason for that. I hear people say, “You are doing Gloomy Sunday, you must be doing Billie Holiday”, and I say no, the influence is Paul Robeson.

Percy: Absolutely Robeson. The first time I heard your version of ‘Gloomy Sunday’, I commented to some friends that this was a point of reference for you, and they said “You’re an idiot”!

Diamanda: They can’t fucking hear, they’re tone deaf! You know what, there have only been two people in the world who understand it when I say Paul Robeson, one of them is Hal Willner, who played me Paul Robeson, and you. This is excluding the people that invented the Theramin, who were good friends of Paul Robeson. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing them. I performed in Moscow, and I did ‘Gloomy Sunday’, and it was incredible, because of his relationship with those people.

Percy: There was a basis for their hearing. They could make a certain attachment to his singing of that song, and it’s now coming through you, that sadly enough we are not able to make due to one of the artistic giants of our culture being all but forgotten.

Diamanda: He is one of the most unusual singers ever. When I hear the resonance in that man’s voice, Paul Robeson is my definition of a man. All these fucking guys talking about pussy and bitches, I don’t want to hear it.

 part 5  

 Percy: He was truly a renaissance man also: actor, singer, athlete, scholar, and with the added burden of being African-American.

Diamanda: I was talking with Stanley Crouch the other day, I had a very interesting conversation with him, although we have been at war for 20 years. He is a wonderful writer, and a hilarious and brilliant person, although he cannot give up certain attachments which are totally ludicrous.

Percy: He is pedantic, but you have to admire that he has a singular genius when it comes to the history and criticism of jazz

Diamanda: Isn’t it true? What’s so funny is, while we were talking, out of the blue after talking to him, I got a record from Wynton Marsalis! It was the last thing in the world I ever thought I’d get in the mail, because I am just completely anti-Wynton Marsalis.

Percy: He sent you a Wynton Marsalis record?

Diamanda: Wynton Marsalis sent me a Wynton record. Isn’t that amazing?

Percy: I find that totally amazing! What was his reason for doing this?

Diamanda: Because of the talk that I had with Stanley. I mean he’s worked with him (Marsalis) for many years, this is a very poor way of putting it, but Wynton’s career is very, very supported by Stanley Crouch. I’ve talked about it with Butch Morris and other friends of mine, and his attitude is “Well now, that’s Stanley’s new boy”. You know how he (Crouch) is, he did it with Cecil too, and he’s always sleeping with these guys, I can’t believe it! I said to him, “Stanley, you are really the most cantankerous, problematic person that I know”. But I love him.

Percy: There is always going to be the difficult issue of how we judge artists and their perceptions, and you will always fall in the category of being a difficult artist. Sort of like the dilemma that was the life of Ezra Pound.

D: I love Ezra Pound!

Percy: But he was often accused of anti-Semitism. The only way to approach an extreme artist is with grace, and a global understanding of their intent. There is an amazing story about Ginsberg’s meeting with Pound in which he affirmed to him that he knew there was no anti-Semitism present in his work, and that a lot of the verbiage was his ‘cosmic fuck up’ as it were, with no bearing on the true expression.

Diamanda: Oh my God, that’s beautiful!

Percy: I think that a lot of your work falls prey to people looking for a type of cursory sensationalism versus the true intent and motivation behind the work.

Diamanda: That is certainly true, or they are looking for some type of soap opera performance art. When I first began my work with Plague Mass, this person that used to be a friend of mine said “I don’t think that a lot of people at ACT-UP are going to understand your work because it’s not clear enough, we need to understand every word, because we are trying to support this.” I said “Stop! You think that by denying my liberty you are going to communicate? If you are going to steal from me, then I don’t give a fuck about the rest of the world”. Let’s be honest here, when I decide to be a Social Worker first, I’ll let you know.

 part 6  

 Percy: On the flip side of this issue, one thing that I see in your hardcore fans, it seems that many of them are somewhat lost souls that have a tendency to glom on to any image or personality that is strong.

Diamanda: They do.

Percy: It is not necessarily your issue, but how do you deal with this type of fawning adoration?

Diamanda: I would assume that this is what people do with everyone that they see on stage, don’t they?

Percy: It manifests itself to varying degrees. I mean you have people that are really into John Zorn, but they do their “fawning” in their bedrooms.

Diamanda: I sorry, I thought you were talking about sex. I somehow just could not imagine fucking to John Zorn!

Percy: No, no, that’s not what I meant! That would be dangerous, shit would be getting broken, things would be falling apart, and neighbors would be picketing in the street …

Diamanda: (Loud laughter) Guys would be pulling their pliers out and saying “Turn over Bitch!”

Percy: You see what I mean though. Your fans seem to be really intense about expressing their affection for you. What is your response to this?

Diamanda: Well, sometimes it’s funny. I was in Amsterdam a while ago, and we were all trying to get some sleep after a show, and suddenly there was a voice outside my door saying (creepy accent) “Diamanda, Diamanda”, and I thought “Oh no, I’m about to be pillaged”! In any case, it turned out to be the guy at the front desk of the hotel. He was saying to his boss, “You don’t know, maybe she gets tired of being all alone”. Completely inappropriate. Every time I need a little humility about this situation, I just think what it must be like to be Cher, but overall it’s a small price to pay for being able to do what you love.