Tag Archives: Brain


Neil Gaiman, Man of Many Letters

I chatted with Neil Gaiman at the vaguely corporate, incredibly messy furnished apartment he rented in Cambridge, MA, for a few months during (then-fiance, now-wife) Amanda Palmer‘s run as the Emcee in American Repertory Theater’s production of “Cabaret.”

Q: I was surprised to learn that you’ve written some songs.

A: Yeah, every now and again. I’m not a songwriter but the best one, I think, is one Amanda did for a while called “I Google You.” The idea was, torch songs are all about being in a bar at 3am smoking a cigarette and talking to the barman about the girl that left you. Nobody’s in a bar now at 3am and talking to the barman about the girl that left them. They’re at home typing her name into Google and trying to figure out if she’s dating. So I wrote a song about that and Amanda did it. [He jumps up and goes to the computer to google "I Google You" and we watch a video of Amanda singing it. He wrote the words. She wrote the music.]

Q: What else is new and different?

A: Personal happiness is one of the things that now counts, certainly for Amanda, and it’s shifted for me, as well. The biggest problem for me is I actually got everything I set out to achieve. I guess from my point of view that’s why I’m pushing myself to do new things. Why spend time working on a giant piece of strange theater which nobody’s waiting for? I love the idea because it’s something that I haven’t done before.


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Jon Brion is the World’s Laziest Workaholic


Jon Brion, the prolific musician, composer, and producer — Kanye West, Elliott Smith, and lot of people (and film scores) in between — sat down to talk at Greenblatt’s deli in Los Angeles over a late-night breakfast of coffee and pastrami.


Q: I feel like technology is my friend and my enemy. You?

A: Yeah, I’m extraordinarily selective about it. People’s love of having options killed the quality of any given individual thing. And purpose-built things are harder to find. So I very cautiously have tried to select technology for things that we couldn’t do before, not necessarily things that are just easier or faster to do with technology. Emotionally I probably look like a bit of a Luddite, but I’m not. I’d still like to think in whatever I’m my own version of a modernist.


Q: I think you straddle the two pretty well.

A: Let me put it this way. I own lots of computers. I don’t use any of them.


Q: But that’s a version of choice too. Right?

A: I mean, I know there are things sonically that are better about digital. Nobody talks about this. But there are. But the problem is if you go completely that way, it does lack something. So it’s the combo.


Q: So the trick is to know your options and to know your vision well enough, where you want to end up and how to get there. And be master of your toolkit.

A: Right. Yeah, very much so. You know it’s funny, I was writing down something in one of my journals last year about what I thought about creativity, trying to think of a couple of good models in terms of creative stuff. Like, what are some really good examples of work. And I thought, you know, one good thing is a hammer. That is a really good example for what we’re lacking at the moment, which is something that does one job incredibly well. It hasn’t changed at all. It hasn’t needed to. For the job of driving a nail, it’s absolutely great. So on the other end you’ve got a camera which in truth is the thing that’s sadly lacking at the moment. Everybody feels they’re a great modernist just because they’re using a computer. But then they’ll make a lot of mindless choices that tend to homogenize things. I thought the other good model for work is the same one that’s been driving poets crazy for years, which is a tree. I never understood when I was a kid all these artists I liked going on about their greatest inspiration. Nature. It’s like, God I’m going to throw up. These fucking awful, boring fucks. I don’t understand it.


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