Q: You guys took 20 years off from recording albums.
A: There was no new record in 20 years, you’re right.
Q: So, why make another record? Why now?
A: Well, it was kind of now or never. You know, it’s like the song “What We Do.” We were talking about Devo and we were talking about Western culture in general. I mean, you can’t help it, if that’s what you do, you want to do it. And really, it was our last chance to get back on the horse.
Q: That urgency, I’m assuming, is connected to the years going by and the encroaching sense of mortality.
A: That’s exactly right.
Q: Does it make you feel desperate and fearful or motivated and inspired?
Q: Sorry to be blunt.
A: Well, desperate and fearful didn’t really figure into the creative process. That may just be life in general. I’m plenty inspired. Like I said, I don’t feel any less creative than I ever was. I’m not less excited about the world than I ever was.
Q: Does it feel as gratifying at this stage?
A: It’s a little bit like a Larry David “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” I watch that show with a grimace.
Q: It’s like watching a train wreck, I know. Awful, but you can’t look away.
Q: How have your artistic goals changed?
A: Well, you know, it’s like you’ve heard some of Lady Gaga’s pronouncements. When you’re a young artist, you have some big idea and you think you’re going to change the world and you think you’re reinventing the wheel and you think there’s nothing like it and you’re going to triumph. It’s pretty grandiose, you know. And then you realize later you were just another act and that you are lucky that anybody even still wants to talk to you or that you did something good enough, well enough, that it stuck, you know? So yeah, you get beat up and humbled. But when you’re new, you have to be preposterous. Nobody else cares if you make it. The fact that they’re all laughing at you or hoping you fail…nobody helps you. People are mean. What can you say? They’re mean and they’re frightened. They only like you when you prevail.
Q: Do you feel that people look at you and think about you and treat you differently because you’re not a young man?
Q: Can you talk about that?
A: Yeah, that really became much more apparent to me when I was first directing TV commercials, which started around 1995, ’96. And I really knew what I was doing and I got some great work. And then once in a while, we’d go to an agency for a meeting after a phone conference and the creatives are like 24 and then they see me and by the end of the meeting they’re like, completely like, “Oh no, maybe we shouldn’t have hired this guy, he’s not one of us,” simply because of my age. They liked everything I wrote, they liked my 12-page treatment, they liked what I said on the phone. And then the reality of who I am and what my age is freaked them out.
Q: How do you deal with that?
A: There’s not much you can do, you know? I mean, because they’re in that stage of their lives that I was talking about where they think they’re really hot and they’re reinventing everything and nobody knows anything but them. And it doesn’t even matter if you hang out all night with them after a shoot and match them drink for drink. It doesn’t matter.
Q: Is there any truth to the notion that you or older people in general are less qualified or less engaged or don’t have their finger on the pulse? Is there any basis for the way we fetishize youth?
A: You know what? That’s self-fulfilling nonsense. I can tell you this: it’s got nothing to do with age. There are people that are out of it when they’re 25 and there are people out of it at 60. But there are cool people at every age, and it really has nothing to do with age. Age is actually not the cause, it is merely a meaningless marker on a calendar. Believe me, there are people that are not on the ball at 25 and never will be.
Q: And yet it’s such an entrenched feature of our culture, most pointedly I think in entertainment.
A: Well, once again, it’s all mean and superficial and everybody likes to trivialize everything because they cannot deal with reality. They can’t deal with truthful things. They have to have labels, they have to have easy ways out. So if they can use age as a reason to dismiss something, that’s just a great one-liner and they don’t have to deal with anything.