An American in Paris
A Visit with the Fischerspooner Frontman
- Interview: Eva Kelley
- Photography: Christian Werner
WhatsApp tells me that Casey Spooner was “last seen” at 5:11 AM. It's fashion week in Paris, which means there are abundant opportunities to go MIA. Chances are slim that he is an early riser, and so, as I stir the foam of my second café crème at Le Progrès in Le Marais, I wonder where Spooner might have gone last night. I remember reading that he went through a bad break-up while recording his recently released album, titled Sir, and realize that a torn heart heals best with healthy doses of excess at any age. But as Spooner will, rightfully, correct me later: “What’s a number? Who came up with a number? Numbers are nothing.”
An hour later, my phone buzzes. “I'm so sorry. This never happens. My Alarm didn't go off. Wanna come to my apartment? More private.”
Spooner is a co-founding member of the band Fischerspooner, along with Warren Fischer, whose sound was christened “electroclash” in the early aughts and flooded dance floors with hits like “Emerge.” With nine years between Sir and the group’s third album Entertainment, an interval that was filled with other performative projects, Fischerspooner now returns with 13 new songs.
In his second-floor walk-up, I find Spooner wrapped in a lamb fur coat, seated snugly in a dark blue LC2 Corbusier armchair he found on the street. He is still recovering from last night. In the presence of a one-hundred-year-old Turtle Shell plant in bloom, Spooner opens up to me about his political sentiments, relationship models, and the horrors of touring, and is only interrupted once by a FaceTime video call from actress Rose McGowan.
You live in Paris now. Why did you decide to move?
I came the first of December. I didn't know I was moving. I came for two days, because a friend of mine, the choreographer Alex Ekman, had a premiere at the Palais Garnier. It was just one of those things. We had a crazy night at the opera house. There was no security, so I was running around in an evening gown with no underwear and a fur coat that I borrowed, drinking champagne. The opera got upset. I woke up the next day very hungover, with a new romance, and I didn't feel like being in New York. I skipped my return flight and my friend was like, "How are you going to get home?” And I was like: "I don't know. It's a feeling. I can't leave."
Why did you want to stay away from New York?
I can't stand being around American politics right now. Just the constant shock, where every day, every week, it’s some other insane, ridiculous stunt and erosion of civil rights. You feel sick and crazy. This is way more intense for women. To finally see a woman of power get to this position and then that is chosen over a woman. Any man is better than a woman?
Would you say that your album has a liberating agenda for the queer community?
I started with a very specific agenda, writing narratives about homosexual relationships. Every gay man lives a very complex and dynamic emotional life because you don’t grow up according to heteronormative expectations.
The album deals with a lot of your personal romantic history. There is a song about your relationship in the 1980s with R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe. There are live sex recordings mixed onto a track. But you also went through a break-up during the process. How did that emotional energy change the process of making the album?
When I started the record, I was in such an amazing place. I couldn't have been happier. I don't begrudge that 14-year relationship. It still hasn't ended. At one point we had a second boyfriend for six months. I would travel and be away a lot, and so it wasn't realistic to not have sex for months.
In “Have Fun Tonight,” a song about an open relationship, are we listening in on a real conversation?
We struggled with that for years because we loved each other and we were really terrified of our health. And then there was the emotional risk. But we had elevated trust. We could share all of our desires. It was incredible to have that. To be able to be completely honest about all your fantasies, that's a real relationship.
Yes, the model of what counts as a “happy” relationship has not progressed very much at all.
People really want to diminish short-term sexual, physical relationships. People want to moralize that as somehow not romantic or not important—not part of human behavior. That is part of the story of the album. You can have these different kinds of connections and relationships.
Do you think you’re having a midlife crisis?
I don't know. I'm going through a lot of change that I didn't instigate. A midlife crisis, I believe, is based off of a false American dream. A wife, two kids, a car, a house. I was not living the classic American dream. I was living my dream. It’s not like I came to a point in my life where I felt the need to buy a red Ferrari and date Christie Brinkley. I was already in the Ferrari, and I was already dating Christie Brinkley.
Since Sir explores sexual freedom and pushing normative boundaries, are drugs a part of this narrative as well?
I was kind of raised anti-drug. I begged to even go to the orthodontist. My family is so down to earth, farm, country people, very southern. You don't take drugs. My grandmother was embarrassed to drink a beer. I've always had a very conservative drug morality around me. But I also never had the money or the time to really indulge in a drug culture. It was such a fight to be a working artist in New York City, that I always felt like I had to keep my shit together. Every day. I had to work, I had to show up, I had to be focused. Only recently have I allowed myself to kind of ... [phone rings] Oh hang on, it's Rose.
What’s going on?
Rose McGowan: Well hi!
Casey: I'm doing an interview. Are you on TV?
Rose: I am. Should I give them a testimonial to your awesomeness?
Casey: Yes, please.
Rose: This is Rose McGowan and I'm here to testify that Casey Spooner is of the most awesome human variety and a wonderful human being. He emits light and great energy. I saw him perform for the first time 17 years ago when he flew over me like a bird. It was magical and I've never forgotten it. That's all.
Casey: Thanks, Rose. Text me what time and where tonight! [hangs up]
I feel like every dream I ever had is coming true at once. I struggled for so long. I always did the right thing, and somehow, nothing worked. Business wouldn't work or the creative would be clunky. I don't know what's fucking going on all of a sudden! I'm meeting all these people. It’s like I was lost, forgotten, and dusty on the back of the shelf, and now I got spruced up and put back on the front. I mean, Die Antwoord's chasing me off the dance floor, Rose is putting me on a TV show, and everybody's sending me outfits. Something about being here in Paris kind of put me in place.
“I hate encores”
With there being nine years between this album and the last Fischerspooner release, what would you say is the biggest change in terms of promotion?
When we released Entertainment it was 2009 and we were right in the financial collapse. The label folded the month of release, so I got fucked. I had a tour booked through, 70 shows, I performed the most I ever have in my life, I came home and I had negative 100 dollars. And I was exhausted.
What’s your least favorite part of performing?
I hate encores. I think it's such a stupid ritual. “Come back!” It’s like, you know they're going to come back, so why are we even pretending. It's just stupid. When the show's over, show's over. I treat it more like theater.
What have you learned since that last tour?
I don't need any help with creative. I kind of learned that lesson. You’re told that when you negotiate these contracts with people, you have total creative control. But whoever controls the budget has control.
So, what's your advice?
Kids, when you negotiate a contract, you say: “Give me all your money and get out of my way." That's my contract.
Eva Kelley is a writer and the coordinating editor at 032c magazine in Berlin.
- Interview: Eva Kelley
- Photography: Christian Werner