Interview: Mr. Gavin’s Meat Farm

Mr. Gavin is the proprietor of Mr. Gavin’s Meat Farm, a musical project that’s just released its first EP, Episode IV via a pay-what-you-want Bandcamp site.  Mr. Gavin’s EP has some really great stuff, including the song from the first video released from it, “The Guerrilla Girls Meet Bob Burns”.  He recently took some time to talk with Kittysneezes about his music, upcoming projects (including two future EPs — one of songs based on each of the Hellraiser movies, and one about his own anxiety issues), and Peter Gabriel videos that happened to scare each of us as young children.

Part the First

KS: At this moment in time, what is your favorite song?

MG: Either Nick Cave’s “Stranger Than Kindness” or “Up In Annie’s Room” by The Sea Nymphs.

KS: What’s your favorite band that you don’t think a lot of people would have heard of?

MG: There is a group that I always feel like I need to tell people about, they are called Cardiacs. It’s hard to explain just how amazing they are, it is music that sounds exactly the way the brain works. It zips around and explodes and creates goodness in the world. Their album, On Land and in the Sea is probably one of the best albums ever recorded.

KS: What, if anything, is on any particular wall (your choice) in your domicile?

MG: Well, the room of the meat farm that I sleep in has a Rush poster (Neil Peart has been a musical savior of mine since I was about 11 years old), a Doctor Who poster, a poster of the cover of Surfer Rosa by Pixies, and a picture of a young Ronald Reagan yelling at a monkey (from back when he was in the movies).

KS: What’s the strangest thing you own?

MG: I own a metal rod that once spent a year in my leg (for purely medicinal reasons, I assure you). As a side note, my great grandfather on my father’s side claimed that he found a piece of Hitler’s toilet in germany during WWII, and my grandmother on my mother’s side owns a pair of salt and pepper shakers that are in the shape of an Al Jolson-style minstrel show blackface performer.

KS: Of the things you’ve done, what’s your all-time favorite (however you want to interpret that, be it artistic works, actions, whatever)?

MG: I did a series of 1 Day Albums over the period of about 2 years. Every few months or so, I would pile a bunch of my friends into my dorm room at Berklee College of Music and we would write and record an album in a 24 hour period. Some tunes turned out (in my opinion) brilliant, and others not so much. That turned into a great way to mine ideas out of my head that I didn’t know I had. When you put yourself into an extremely tight deadline like that, and are forced to be creative, you fall into this kind of trance where every idea you have becomes something that you can finish. My song “Whistle While You Walk Over Me” on Episode IV started life as a tune on one of these one day albums. Those albums were recorded under the name The Anti Inflammatory Action Force, and are still online if you care to go listen to them.

KS: Who’s your favorite visual artist (excluding yourself)?

MG: Basil Gogos or Mary Blair.

KS: What are the five most recent films you’ve seen?

MG: Possession from 1981 with Sam Neil. An excellent horror film, hunt this movie down. The original German version of Funny Games. Then Hellraiser 9, 8, and 7 (I almost didn’t survive those films, only my love of meat saved me then).

KS: What’re your top three movies?

MG: True Stories (directed by David Byrne), Duck Soup (the Marx Brothers film), and Ed Wood (the Tim Burton film). David Lynch’s Blue Velvet is also pretty high up there.

KS: Do you own any original artwork, and if so, whose?

MG: I do! I own the original version of the cover of my EP Episode IV as done by Kristilyn from Zombie Romance. I also own a series of drawing by a man named Griffin from Shaded Areas illustration. I also have a few paintings of my own.

KS: What is your favorite game?

MG: Super Mario Brothers. Playing that game is like meditating for me. I have a barn on the meat farm reserved for my private Mario time. No one is allowed in there, and there is always lemonade on hand.

Also, a favorite for all the farmhands and I to play is a little game called “Squeeze the Piglet”, it would take too long to explain the rules…

KS: If you could say one thing to David Byrne, what would it be?

MG: Thank you for all the inspiration, you taught me how to sing and write lyrics. Also, please release a deluxe edition of True Stories on DVD, as well as the Between The Teeth concert film!

KS: What are your five most favorite books in the world?

MG: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, The Real Frank Zappa Book by Frank Zappa, Groucho and Me by Groucho Marx, The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave, and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

KS: What is the most boring thing you’ve ever experienced?

MG: Either the weekend I spent locked in a darkened room because my neighbors wanted to have me think about my life choices, or a SAT prep class I took one saturday in 2006.

KS: If you could name a child anything in the world, what would it be?

MG: Dr. Dreamboat Fuckstick.

KS: What is your favorite meal?

MG: Dim Sum. A chinese brunch that will make your mouth love you for the rest of time. The greatest dim sum items are Pork Buns. Let that sink in for a bit… It’s like a jelly donut, but with delicious pork in it.

KS: What is reality?

MG: Either a large metal slab that one must ram their brains against, or a saltine cracker that we are allowed to spread our various jams and jellies.

Part the Second

KS: Why meat?

MG: I find meat both funny and horrifying. Raw meat is kind of goofy looking in a way I have never been quite able to explain properly, it just makes me laugh. But at the same time it is quite horrifying because it was once alive and moving, it is a physical manifestation of death. Things that I love have always both made me laugh, and frightened me a little. Kind of like the Tim and Eric aesthetic, you are laughing, but you are intensely uncomfortable at the same time.

KS: How is your Residents’ Birthday Present EP coming?

MG: Slowly but surely. The idea to do it came at a time when I was very fertile with ideas of things to do. I have a few arrangements charted out, one of which is a pretty cool (in my opinion) version of a few of the themes from the Not Available album. I initially wanted to do this EP as Residents tunes arranged for piano, violin, acoustic guitar and voice. To take these songs that have these big electric and layered sounds, and strip them down to something that could be performed on someone’s front porch, but I am also being slowly seduced by a giant rock band banging away on a version of “Die In Terror”. The other challenge is choosing which tunes to go with, they just have so many great songs. It may end up being a bit of a belated birthday present, but it’s the thought that counts… right?

KS: Where’d you get the idea to do the Hellraiser EP?

MG: The first Hellraiser is a film that I have loved for a few years now, I also read the original novella that Clive Barker wrote (The Hellbound Heart) over the summer. When I saw that all 9 Hellraiser films were on Netflix instant watch, I wanted to gather all my finest farm hands and watch them all. I knew that they were supposed to get pretty bad as the films went on, and I figured the best way to endure this cinematic torment would be to document it. I initially thought about doing a video series, but ultimately decided that I wanted to write an EP.

KS: How will you handle the songs for the sub-par later entries in the Hellraiser series?

MG: I’m still trying to figure that out, I’m also still treating the wounds from how bad the last few were, especially 8 and 9. Ouchies.

KS: How is the anxiety EP coming?

MG: Very nicely. I’m calling it How To Be Uncomfortable, and it has been very refreshing to write. It is only a very recent thing for me that I have been writing really personal songs, “Hayward” from Episode IV started this trend with me. That song came from a massive anxiety attack I had while on a gig in New York. A fair amount of the ideas for these songs came from the period of last may till about 2 weeks ago. It’s going to be a nice slice of what was happening to me during that time funneled through how I’m feeling now. That being said, it’s also mildly poisonous to work on. When I spend too much time a week working on this EP, it actually tends to be a downer (not very surprisingly). It’s kind of turning into that friend that you can only hang out with for a little bit before their perpetual sadness and complaining drag you down.

KS: How do you handle anxiety, particularly in cases where you’re in the public eye like that New York gig?

MG: Well, luckily for me the worst of that particular anxiety attack passed before I was onstage. It happened on the way from the subway to the club (a grimy little place somewhere in Brooklyn). I got to a point where I just froze on the street, I couldn’t move. I had this inexplicable rush of feelings such as: I was going to die, that I was in the wrong place, that nothing was right, and above all I had to get out of New York. The dose of Ativan that I was on at the time didn’t prevent the attack, which was also scary. So I had to take more, it just kind of strung me out that night. For those of you who have never had an anxiety attack, I can only describe them as the exact opposite of an orgasm.

KS: Do you think there’s a connection between creativity and things like depression or anxiety?  

MG: Oh yes. I believe that most art comes from a place of dissatisfaction or discontent. When a lump of land looks desolate and useless, one must build their own meat farm on it to decorate it.

KS: If you could work with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

MG: Either Frank Black, the On Land and In The Sea lineup of Cardiacs, or a team of Les Claypool and the singing Resident. Of course, Brian Eno would produce all of these projects. They all have a standing invitation to The Meat Farm.

KS: What’s the most surprising thing in your record collection?

MG: I just flipped through my iTunes and physical album collection, and I found that I have The Best of Maynard Ferguson. I have no idea how that came to be in my possession.

KS: You’re in a couple other different bands as well as working on the Meat Farm — what would you say the main difference is in sound between them?

MG: Well, I am in 4 other bands. Bent Knee is a kind of pseudo-operatic rock band that makes loud noises and soft noises. Ben Levin Group is band that tells excellent stories sometimes through 40 minute instrumentals, and sometimes through songs with lyrics. Justice Cow is a folky-freaky fun time, and the other band is one that my little brother is putting together. He is still looking for folks.

KS: How did the video for “The Guerrilla Girls Meet Bob Burns” come about?  Who came up with the storyline for the video?

MG: Well, I have a friend named Dan Whitebread, and he makes films (Look up Alien Discovers A Poorly Designed Vertically Destined Flotation Device, it’s hilarious), I love his work. When I started thinking about what I wanted for my Meat Farm videos, I immediately knew I wanted Dan to direct them. I told him that any song he wanted to do from Episode IV was fine with me. He initially pitched a video for “Hayward”, I loved his idea but it needed too much of a budget and locations that we just didn’t have access to. He then sent me the story for “The Guerilla Girls Meet Bob Burns”, I also loved that one, so we filmed it. I think Dan has wonderful ideas and instincts with the camera, so I wanted him to write and film whatever video he wanted. The way I see it, I oversaw everything that went into the song musically. It is the song that I want it to be, because I deal in music. I wanted Dan to have complete control of the video aspect, I trust him to make amazing videos.

KS: Do you enjoy working on videos?  Any plans for future music videos?

MG: I love it. I have been apart of 4 music videos so far (2 for Bent Knee, 1 for Ben Levin Group, and 1 for Justice Cow). Working on the “Guerilla Girls” video was a blast, a lot of that filming was just Dan and I filming things that we thought would be cool in a grocery store, Boston Public Library, and in the streets. I also remember Dan and I being a bit nervous about being in public places like that wearing a space helmet and carrying a little case, we filmed most of it 2 or 3 days after the Dark Knight Rises shootings in Aurora. We were kind of afraid of being suspected of being up to bad things. Dan and I are slowly getting the gears going on working on his idea for “Hayward”. If we get to do it the way he pitched it, it could be an excellent video.

KS: Do you think music videos are still as good a promotional tool?

MG: Yes. As a child, Peter Gabriel’s videos for “Shock The Monkey” and “I Don’t Remember” as well as David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” always amazed me. The great power of music videos is being able to convey either an image that the song provokes, or the image of your band in a situation where you as the artist (hopefully) have total control over the way the image is shaped (be it by directing it yourself, or choosing the director). When you watch The Residents’ “One Minute Movies” (specifically the video for “Simple Song”) you get the perfect image of that band, a surreal, frightening, and slightly funny group. When you watch “R.E.S.” or “Tarred and Feathered” by Cardiacs you are given a beautiful vision of what that band is in person. But then again in videos like “Shock The Monkey” you get this very abstract series of images that kind of make a story, but it works so well with the song that it makes a perfect experience (I could talk for hours about that video).

KS: You made me just watch the “Shock The Monkey” video all the way through for the first time.  When I was little, the initial shots of the broken-faced statues freaked me the hell out and even now, 32-year-old-me had a weird sense of dread at seeing Peter Gabriel in a suit sitting down at a desk….

MG: Yeah, it’s one of those great videos where it makes very little linear sense, but the string of images make sense together. Also, I want one of those lamps that the mystical make up wearing version of Peter has.

Also, another side note. I had a VHS copy of Peter Gabriel’s CV that I got when I was a tiny kid (my love of Peter Gabriel runs deep, all the way back to my infancy). It was a collection of most of his music videos from 1980-1990. As a kid the “Shock The Monkey” video didn’t scare me nearly half as bad as the bit in the video for “Sledgehammer” when the face made of fruits and vegetables appears.

KS: Do you have anything else you’d like to add?

MG: I have a few things:

I am afraid of holding babies, as I fear I may drop them.

I think that The Big Bubble is a good album.

I used to be a huge KISS fan when I was in the second grade.

My second word as a child was Bob Saget.

I have still not seen The Godfather.

This morning I drank my coffee out of a cup that has images of penguins in various sexual positions. It belongs to my room mate, his parents bought this cup in the 70’s.

I once met Joe Estevez, he said that he liked my hat.

We all live in a Yolo Submarine.

The man who invented the hammer made all the rocks in the world very sad, until scientists started studying them and rubbing their bellies and then all the rocks were happy and the sun came out and I cried because it was no longer Christmas, but all my curtains are clean so it ended well I suppose.

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