CASEY SPOONER /BY/ BEHIND THE BLINDS
EXCLUSIVE ITW by BERT VERMEIRE & PORTRAIT by RUBEN TOMAS
An interview with Casey Spooner, on the last day of summer.
Casey, I caught you just after a couple of days in the studio working on your new album. How’s it going?
Great! We are mixing the tracks, which is a very creative process for us. But it can be a bit tiring. We’re constantly trying to find the right sonic balance, playing with arrangements, layering, harmonies… All the elements that make a great song. It’s been intense. Almost like a marathon.
Our producer likes to work from sunset to sunrise… It’s good in a way because you're almost existing outside of reality. Just focusing on work, living in a bubble. Writing-wise it was interesting, quite emotional, more vulnerable. And for some reason my voice just sounds great at 3:00 in the morning. Turns out my golden hour is from 3:00 to 5:00 AM.
On this album we are really pushing my voice. It’s more naturalistic and more raw.
A lot of different inspirations, stories and research go into your albums. I guess it’s no different for this one.
Well I started working on the album before my breakup. And then all of this sadness happened. So there is a bit of a before and after story in there…
I also wanted to use elements that make us unique. The fact that I’m a mature gay man sets us a bit apart from the rest. In showbiz you’ve got a lot of white, blonde women that are supposedly representing a gay male or queer voice. I don’t relate to them; they just can’t tell my story. So that’s important to me. Telling the real story about being gay in an era of new technology and new emotions.
We are living in such a time of change, there are so many new narratives, new stories unfolding. Take Jennifer Egan’s book Black Box for example. Every paragraph has the same limitations as a tweet. An extract was printed in the New Yorker and it’s really incredible. An interesting use of this “condensed attention span”.
Of course all these new technologies also bring about new types of emotions. Things like YOLO or FOMO. Brand new 4 letter emotions. Great and awful at the same time. Isolation and loneliness, illusions of relationships that are mediated by new technology. But then of course there are also real connections that are happening.
Sometimes when I spend a lot of time online, looking at pictures of other people and their lives, it is so surprising to see them in real life all of the sudden. Then I get so excited to see this person that I’ve “investigated”. And sometimes you get along with them. Sometimes you don’t.
So different sorts of stories, interactions, love, lust,…
Before this album coming out you also bundled some of the research for it in a book. “EGOS - Character Studies, Online Marketing and Prelude To New Music” Excited about you first print work?
I’m waiting for the final print now, really looking forward to having it in my hands. We partnered with Nicolas Santos on the book. I trust his feel for aesthetics a lot, so that gave me the possibility to relax and focus on generating good content. While he was defining the form and final product.
It was such a relief because I am usually a bit of a control freak. But with Nicolas it was great. We did this crazy test; I gathered all the photos from all the photo shoots I have been doing over the last year and a half. So we got 500 images from 30 different photographers.
And so me, Nicolas and Karl Kolbitz – a graphic designer who also worked on the book – went through all photos in one sitting. In every stack we each had to choose one picture we definitely wanted to keep. And 9 times out of 10 we would all pick the same one. That gave me a very confident feeling and a lot of trust in them.
Of course it also helped that they are both insanely good looking guys. So whenever I would have a comment or voice some of my concerns, the more I talked to them and the longer I looked at them, the harder it was to put my foot down. Karl would just start in this charming German accent; “But Casey…” And all my concerns would just fly out of the window.
Did it ever get weird for you to be looking at all of these pictures of yourself?
Absolutely. It’s kind of degusting sometimes. And definitely exhausting. Usually when I develop a character for Fisherspooner there is one big main shoot. Here it was a lot more material. But at one point you can look at yourself very objectively and only see the image.
Of course at other times you see the imperfections and feel flawed. With this photo project I’m also really setting myself up for failure. I’m too old to become a super hunk model. I’m 45, what am I doing? Comparing myself to the most attractive people in the world. And I’m never going to look like that.
The idea feels a bit like going for perfection but also knowing that when I fail to succeed it’s actually the most interesting. I know I’m setting myself up for failure but I have to go for it.
Another interesting part of the research was doing some investigating into the darker underworld of gay culture. Clubs like Laboratory in Berlin or other sex clubs. How does something like that translate into music?
This summer was the first time that I was exploring that side of my sexuality. And that sort of spaces. I did it years and years ago, back in the 90’s. And then it was just a bunch of creepy guys. It also was the height of the aids crisis. So basically having public, promiscuous sex was seen as inviting death. So I have to confront and deal with a lot of anxiety in these sort of clubs. But I’m getting really good at it. It’s a very special way to relate to people.
The first time I went to a club like this was in June, in Madrid. I was going there with a friend and I didn’t tell him I’ve never been to a sex club. I was so nervous! I didn’t dare take all of my clothes off in the locker room, so I went in in my underwear. Later inside, no one was wearing anything. So I really felt like an idiot. It was strange to see everyone walking around so exposed. But after 5 minutes my body started to feel the same as clothing. It started to feel like another layer. The things I really liked about it is that I felt so free in my body.
I also was going in there, into all these worlds, with an artistic agenda. Which really coloured the way I was seeing these places. In Madrid for example, the ambient sound was really amazing. The music mixed with different sounds of action, groan, grunts, cries. All this sound echoing throughout this strange architectural wonderland was one of the most fascinating and sexy things.
At one point I was standing besides the door of I don’t know how many, doing what, and just the sound through the door was one of the most erotic things I’ve ever experienced. It’s something you can’t capture or create, just have to be part of that world. We did try to get that feel into the album though.
Everyone who follows you on social media saw it, there was no escaping it. Your slogan for this year was “BEST SUMMER EVER” Was it really the best summer ever?
It has been a very emotional time for me. I suffered a lot of loss this year. I felt like I had nothing anymore. “Best summer ever” was my attempt at healing myself. It sounds like such an easy, superficial thing to say. “Best summer ever.” But there is a secret subtext to it that is more about heartbreak and disaster.
Most people think that I’m just actually happy. But it’s more about me trying to be happy, trying to liberate myself. The idea that I don’t have restrictions, that I can go anywhere, be free... And indulge myself in everything that I need and desire, in order to save myself. And… It worked. It has really been a magical summer. And now it’s time to let it go, look to the future.
Happy to have been part of the best summer ever. You’re a good friend and a real inspiration.