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Oneohtrix Point Never interview

If you stand in the right place at the right angle in the postindustrial city of Troy, New York, you'll see a huge, shiny form sitting on top of a hill. The building—the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, or EMPAC—was designed by Davis Brody Bond, an architecture firm responsible for the 9/11 Memorial and a redesign of the National Monument, at a cost of $200 million. From downtown, it appears to hover over Troy's half-deserted storefronts and old brick row houses like some kind of inquisitive spaceship.
“Could you be more allegorical?” Dan Lopatin asks, surveying the skyline of church steeples and smokestacks from a picture window in one of EMPAC’s break rooms, noting that we literally look downon the city as we talk—a stark metaphor for the contrast between progress and regress, rich and poor, the collegial, futuristic atmosphere of EMPAC and the day-to-day struggles of Troy. (To answer his question: Probably not.)
Lopatin is here—along with the video artist Nate Boyce and composer/engineer Paul Corley—to rehearse for a tour supporting his new album as Oneohtrix Point NeverR Plus Seven. (EMPAC, which is on the campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has invited him for a weeklong residency, punctuated by a performance.) Rehearsals are happening in the main auditorium, a rounded chamber paneled with western red cedar that sits inside the building’s glass frame like a giant wooden egg. It seats 1,200 people, and in Corley’s offhand opinion is one of the best rooms for electronic music in North America. (Corley, who has worked on immaculately detailed albums for artists like Tim Hecker and Ben Frost, might know.)
“When we first got in,” Lopatin says, “I clapped”—a way for him to test whether or not a short, staccato sound would get muddied by the natural reverberations of the room. “Nothing,” he says excitedly, karate chopping the air.
The Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center in Troy, New York. Photos by Mike Powell.
For someone completing a residency at an experimental-media center on the campus of an engineering school, Lopatin’s attitude is rigorously informal. Communicating with Corley from the stage, he talks in terms like “smear,” “limp,” and “Steelers bass,” as in, “Sorry Paul, but I’m going to put a little more Steelers bass in there at the end”—a mnemonic referring to the black-and-yellow cables he uses for his bass channels. Corley—a placid, squinting man with a swoop of reddish-blonde hair—somehow not only knows what Lopatin means when he says these things, but how to translate them into a language computers can understand. Even when Lopatin drifts into heady, quasi-academic territory, he fires his ideas off with the enthusiasm of a teenager gearing up for a bitchin’ party. At one point, he describes his goal of reconciling the “abstruse” world of sound art with “something you have on while you’re taking a shower, or whatever,” tapping rapidly on a glass tabletop with his index finger, saying, “I just want those things to function together in this awesome dialectical wheel that just goes, and it’s fucking crazy.”
Days start slow. Lopatin, Boyce and Corley spend the mornings handling separate business, convening at EMPAC in the early afternoon and working in the hall until after midnight. They drive downhill to Uncle Sam’s Good Natural Products for juice and burritos—where Boyce tells me about the exhilarating benefits of sublingual B vitamins—then drive back uphill again. When someone needs coffee, they get coffee.
Because the music at hand is pre-recorded, rehearsals aren’t about getting the performance right, at least not in the way that a bass player might need to rehearse nailing a transition with a drummer. Instead, the time is spent shaping and streamlining, editing out parts that carry well on record but sound cluttered in the hall, foregrounding central ideas and backgrounding ones that seem less gripping in the context of a live performance. Corley sits near the back of the hall, offering comments on balance, occasionally fixing technical problems with the quiet, feigned exasperation of someone secretly happy to be the one who knows how to get things working again. R Plus Seven—a glossy, alien, and surprisingly playful album that sounds nothing like its predecessor, 2011’s Replica—isn’t out yet and, in this windowless room, it's already transforming, sometimes to the point of being unrecognizable.
The egg-like EMPAC auditorium. Photos by Mike Powell.
The goal is to give the sound a balance between directness and abstraction. Describing his experience on the festival circuit, Lopatin says, “I feel like I better understand the tropes and guises of EDM now,” a comment rooted more in fascination than cynicism: He wants to figure out how much of someone’s attention he can capture while still making music that is essentially brainy. During rehearsals at EMPAC, a tough, skeletal R Plus Seven track called “Zebra” morphs into something approaching real-live house music. Booming drums fill the hall. It is the first time I have ever considered the possibility of anyone dancing to Oneohtrix Point Never. Lopatin falls into a brief trance, but soon pulls back and stops the track. He and Corley agree: Things have gotten too literal. “Now it’s just playing with you, like a song” Lopatin says, pacing across the stage. "I hate that.”
Part of his reason for collaborating with a video manipulator like Boyce is to push shows into the realm of spectacle while keeping the content above the level of what he calls “rhythm visualized,” referring to a lowest-common-denominator scenario where what you see is basically just a bunch of colored lights flashing to the beat. Boyce’s bank of digital objects and environments are abstract, but flirt with familiar forms: a sandy, desert-like void, a cow skull made of pinkish steel, some kind of alien kitchenware passing through a spongy membrane. Watching them stretch, spin, pulse, and swell on the 60-foot screen at EMPAC is like witnessing the live birth of digital babies, an experience by turns uncanny and classically sublime.
Like Lopatin’s music, though, Boyce’s projections aren’t afraid to be funny. During “Russian Mind”—an older track recomposed by Lopatin and beefed up by Corley—he experiments with two high-speed slideshows against a backdrop of gray-black storm clouds. One is of Czech glassware; another is of “irregular polygons named after New England towns.” The result looks like someone rushing through a boardroom presentation during the final seconds before the apocalypse. Everyone grins. Soon, they go downhill for pizza and a beer.
Watching the digital objects
stretch, spin, pulse, and swell
on EMPAC’s 60-foot screen
is like witnessing the live
birth of digital babies.

Rehearsals inside of the EMPAC auditorium. Photo by Mike Powell.
Though all of Lopatin’s albums as Oneohtrix Point Never could be classified as spacey electronic music, his style has evolved at a near-constant rate since releasing Betrayed in the Octagon in 2007. His early recordings—collected in the box set Rifts—are dim, insular pieces of music characterized by handmade cassette loops, percolating keyboard arpeggios played on an old Roland Juno-60 he inherited from his dad, and washes of ambience that sound like third-hand field recordings of weather on other planets.
Returnal, which he released in 2010, had a bigger, cleaner, and more conventionally epic sound. In retrospect, Lopatin knows that album attracted a larger audience to his music but he also feels like it didn’t really represent who he wanted to be as a musician: It was too serious, too emotionally one-note—too obvious. The foggy, loop-based follow-up Replica sounded like a deliberate reaction: Toy-like and repetitive instead of open-ended, made over the course of a few feverish days using micro-samples from old commercials, an album conceived of almost as a game instead of some oceanic chunk of personal expression. “Musty” is the word he uses for it, and he means it as a compliment.
R Plus Seven is another left turn in a series of them. He describes the demos he made for it as “pop songs” with “IDM drums” that he later had to “excavate”—a word he uses repeatedly to suggest that the album is an almost purposefully deconstructed version of itself, left out like a puzzle for the listener to piece back together.
But as a suburban kid who grew up in a punk/noise scene that prides itself in putting amateurs onstage, Lopatin is quick to mention that his music is still mostly the product of intuition. “It’s not like I actually understand the properties of sound,” he says. “I’m not a scientist.” (At dinner one night, the trio wax nostalgic about their first forays into digital art—a conversation that consists mostly of laughter and the acronyms for audio-editing software, and one that I do not understand at all.) “Informally formal,” Lopatin calls the approach. At the end of a long jag about extramusical installations and the digital piles of material he, Corley, and Boyce generated for R Plus Seven under the influence of writing constraints borrowed from both the French math-and-literature group Oulipo and the American Language poets, he slaps the table and smiles. “It’s like, you know how they had Back to the Future and then there was Back to the Future: The Ride?”
We are sitting in the auditorium during a day rehearsal. The mood is calm, focused, sober. Outside of the hall, students are having lunch in EMPAC’s cafeteria. None of them seem to realize that anything is going on inside the egg. At one point, a kid with a shaved head and a backpack wanders in. He doesn’t say who he is or what he’s doing. He doesn’t ask anyone any questions. He just stands there, staring at the screen at the back of the stage while Boyce shuffles through unused material, trying to find something to accompany R Plus Seven’s opening track, “Boring Angel”.
“I’ve got these hair steamers,” Boyce mutters, “Russian hair steamers.” He brings up an image of what looks like an armless person with wheels for feet and fog where its face should be. “Corley, can you kill the house lights?”
Dense organ arpeggios start ricocheting around the room. Panels of strobe lights on either side of the stage flash in staccato. Boyce phases the light from pale red to hot, white blue. Coming from the columns of speakers, the sound is huge, penetrating, almost churchlike. Suddenly, the room is a foreign place.
The kid with the backpack stands frozen in the doorway, his eyes wide, his mouth flat. In the swarm of lights and sound the Russian hair steamer starts to look like some kind of prehistoric obelisk, perfect in a way that objects of our imperfect human devotion usually are. The arpeggios splinter into distortion, and the man with the backpack turns to open the door, but doesn’t. His hand falls and he turns around again, his eyes fixed on the screen.

Repo Man Forum: punk, consumerism, identity, and L.A.

Keith: Repo Man is a punk movie: It’s set in the middle of the L.A. punk scene of the 1980s, and it features punk music and characters who profess to be, and dress the part of, punks. But it’s also about the punk ethos, and it questions whether there really is a punk ethos by showing character after character falling short of it, just as they violate the Repo Code that Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) lays out. Repo Man is deeply concerned with selling out—and in this film, everyone sells out. Often cheaply and easily. The disgust Otto (Emilio Estevez) expresses at the thought of working as a repo man disappears when he’s handed a stack of bills for his efforts. His appearance gets a little more conservative with each subsequent scene. He’s still punk enough, at least in his mind, to get turned off when the Circle Jerks show up to do an easy-on-the-ears version of “When The Shit Hits The Fan,” but not self-conscious enough to recognize they’re both working for The Man now.
Then again, who isn’t? In one early scene, Otto wanders through a group of L.A. punks. Though they’re in what appears to be the heart of the punk scene, they just look like a bunch of knuckleheads acting aggressively without any cause. One wears a Sid Vicious T-shirt, a perfect example of how, to paraphrase the Clash, rebellion gets turned into money. (Director Alex Cox went on to co-write and direct the Vicious biopic Sid And Nancy.) Otto’s friends turn to crime driven by greed: They have the look, but they’re closer to the “punk” criminals who terrorize city streets in cheap movies and beat ’em up videogamesthan those drawn to the scene out of a love for its music or professed politics. Does punk mean anything to them? When Otto loses his girlfriend and wanders the streets in dejection, he recites the words to Black Flag’s “TV Party” as mindlessly as his friend spouts the 7-Up jingle in an earlier scene. The movie doesn’t necessarily answer the question, but continually questioning what punk means makes it feel pretty punk to me.
Tasha: There’s so much amused contempt in Otto’s voice when Duke—the leader of those criminal friends—tries to blame his life of “doing crimes” on society, and Otto calls him on it: “That’s bullshit. You’re a white suburban punk, just like me.” Just being from the same scene, Otto is pointing out, didn’t lead them in the same direction. But Otto sold out harder, whereas with Duke and his friends, their posturing, their increasingly extreme dress throughout the film, and their apparent delight in mayhem makes me think you’re selling them short when you say they’re motivated by greed, Keith. I think they’re more motivated by their own ideals of punk as something outside, and therefore above, society. When Duke falls back on dine-and-ditch sushi as a criminal strike against The Man, it suggests that he really is too suburban to be the hardcore punk he wants to be, but he does have an image he’s trying to live up to, even if it is cartoony and as shallow as Otto’s convictions.
Nathan: Within the context of Repo Man and elsewhere, punk is a sensibility, an attitude, a musical genre, a scene, and a subculture, but it’s also fundamentally a tribe that gives the film’s directionless protagonist an initial sense of identity. In some ways, though, the repo men are more punk than Otto’s old friends will ever be. They’re outlaws who break into cars, take too much speed, inhabit a shadowy underworld unknown to straight society, and as Bud boasts in one of his big speeches, rush into the kind of tense conflicts civilians spend their lives avoiding. Yet at the same time, they’re outlaws for The Man, capitalism-enforcers who make money by making life harder for the desperate, poor, and strapped. Beneath their swagger, they’re cogs in a giant capitalist machine.
Keith: One of the most striking features of Repo Man is the way it uses generic packaging for its consumer items. In the opening scene, Otto stocks items in a grocery store filled with blue-and-white cans and boxes labeled only “yellow cling sliced peaches” and “corn flakes.” Later, Otto eats from a can labeled “food.” That one was made for the film, but most of the packages, including the cans labeled “beer,” came straight from the California supermarket chain Ralphs. (A couple of years later, Public Image Ltd revived the gag for the 1986 LP known, in various formats, as AlbumCassette, and Compact Disc.) It makes me laugh every time, but the joke serves another purpose: By stripping consumer objects down to their essence, Repo Man foregrounds how much of our surroundings is product. It’s possible to have warm feelings about, say, the Snuggle Bear, but a bottle reading simply “fabric softener” is another story. It made me think about how much the film is about packaging and selling happiness, whether it’s the cars consumers are losing because they couldn’t make the payments, the televangelist who takes Otto’s parents for their money, or the Scientology-inspired tomeDioretix. Cox is at heart a smash-the-system type, so it’s no coincidence that the televangelists at least are in league with the government agents trying to reclaim the Chevy Malibu. It’s all part of the same system of control.
Tasha: Alex Cox has often said he used those products because he got them free, but it’s still so easy to read a larger message into how they’re foregrounded throughout the film. It reads as rebellious compared to modern films’ product placement and brand saturation. None of the characters are trying to create an image by using a specific product, or associating what they eat or drink or use with a lifestyle they want. Did anyone else get a sense that everyone using the same unlabeled products tends to highlight the lack of class distinction or identity distinction between, for instance, Otto and the repo men he’s looking to for a new identity?
Noel: It doesn’t just level out the class distinctions, Tasha; it also obliterates much of the sense of ownership that comes with purchasing a specific brand. And given that this is a movie about people who ride around and take back other people’s cars, ownership is a major driver ofRepo Man’s plot and theme. The characters differentiate themselves by what they wear, drive, and listen to, but the beer and corn flakes? Those are practically communal. “Let’s go get sushi and not pay” is one of the movie’s funniest and most-quoted lines, but without getting too pretentious about it, it’s also a joke about people choosing to help themselves to something a little fancier than generic peaches.
Matt: The generic packaging looks particularly striking when viewed alongside this summer’s crop of blockbusters and their grossly excessive product placement, from Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson playing sidekicks to Google in The Internship to Superman fighting for truth, justice, and IHOP’s Rooty Tooty Fresh ’N Fruity Breakfast in Man Of Steel. In that context, “food,” “drink,” and the rest feel like a sharp jab at the future of brand integration, which had just begun to pick up steam in the wake of E.T. and his unquenchable thirst for Reese’s Pieces. As Tasha notes, the decision to use generic packaging was born of economic necessity, but it also functions as a defiant rebuke to the early days of product placement—a very punk gesture, indeed.
Nathan: Product placement is all about creating favorable distinctions between products that are pretty much the same. But the emphasis on making everything generic in Repo Man makes all products seem equally shitty and flawed, just as the film reveals pretty much all belief systems and subcultures to be shitty and flawed, so there’s a furtive philosophical component to this running gag as well.
Tasha: A good half of Repo Man is devoted to aimless, Richard Linklater-esque conversations that feel like woozy middle-of-the-night philosophizing, even when the scenes take place in broad daylight. And they’re all about self-identification—particularly, where the repo men are concerned, about the meaning of macho. All the guys have their own personal versions of manliness, from Bud with his “dress like a detective” advice and his “Repo Code” (a silly reworking of Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws Of Robotics) to Lite (Sy Richardson), who fearlessly responds to gunfire by whipping out his own gun and acting like a bulletproof hero in a gritty blaxploitation movie. Everyone has lectures and lessons for Otto, and he sucks these lessons up like a sponge. “This is intense!” he gasps early on to Bud, who tells him the life of a repo man is always intense—and the movie ends by calling back to it. He also sneers that he’s seen men stabbed, he’s confronted people with guns, and it “doesn’t mean shit,” and that he hates “ordinary fucking people,” whom he considers himself above. That’s what Otto wants, and why he’s so quick to sell out to the repo crew even after telling them off: They self-identify as a bunch of elite outlaws who live a manly life of adventure, and he wants in.
One of the funniest things about Repo Man, though, is the way their reality doesn’t live up to their posturing. They’re all a bunch of poor, badly dressed schlubs making a living by sneaking around and boosting people’s unpaid cars, then boasting about it to make themselves feel important. But the film is still, on a petty level, a voyage of macho self-discovery for Otto. He starts the film cuckolded and embarrassed, as his girlfriend orders him to fetch beer, then gets naked with another guy as soon as he leaves the room; he ends it by telling his latest girlfriend to fuck off when she whines about their relationship. It’s a small, petty victory, but he’s at least learned the 1980s scrub version of self-respect and outlaw identity.
Noel: “Ordinary fuckin’ people, I hate ’em.” Tasha, you’ve just cited the one line from Repo Man that I quote more than any other—usually as a half-joking punctuation to some rant about an annoying encounter I had in a checkout line, or in traffic. That line is central to Repo Man’s pull, because it gets at why Otto’s drawn into this world. There’s an inherent appeal to secret knowledge, especially when delivered by a dude brimming with quiet self-confidence. Otto wants into that club, because he wants to know what its members know. But he also doesn’t want to be lumped in with the idiots Bud loathes, those dweebs with unexamined lives. Tasha, you say it’s funny how Otto’s idols are pathetic; for me, it’s even funnier that Otto never fully wins them over. They accept him into the fold and tell him what they know, but I’m not so sure they wouldn’t have done the same for Kevin or Duke or Archie. They’re self-mythologizing; they crave an audience more than a legacy.
Nathan: A lot of Otto’s search for identity is endemic to being a teenager, and consequently being a blank slate for other people to imprint. It’s telling that Emilio Estevez’s next big role was as a jock inThe Breakfast Club, which explores the concept of adolescent tribes from a much different, more mainstream, less angry perspective. In his youth, Estevez was a beautiful blank: Give him an earring and a sneer and he’s a punk; put him in wrestling garb and he’s a jock. Repo Man has such a presence in the culture that it felt like a career-defining role for Estevez, but it’s wasn’t, maybe because he’s so consistently, deliberately overshadowed by everything around him, especially Stanton and Tracey Walter, who plays Miller. Ultimately, Otto is just seeking a surrogate family, because his own family are zonked-out sheep who ceded their free will, agency, and money to a televangelist and the TV. 
One of the film’s key moments in exploring identity comes when Miller says John Wayne was a “fag”—or at least a transvestite, based on his own personal interaction with the man—and the other repo men are enraged. For all their macho swagger, they’re so insecure that they see an attack on his heterosexuality as an attack on their own fragile masculinity. They’re playing at being badasses, but in the end, they’re all pretenders.
Noel: Scott’s essay yesterday talked about Repo Man’s depiction of Los Angeles as a vast underclass wasteland. That drew me to the movie the first time I saw it, as a Nashville teen who’d never been to L.A. but enjoyed seeing it savaged, since it made me feel like I wasn’t missing anything. I’ve actually still never been to Los Angeles, though I went to San Diego for the first time last year and was impressed by how much of that stretch of Southern California looks like a movie: gorgeous scenery broken up by the kind of seedy motels where fugitive gun molls stay, and divided by deep ravines that look perfect for hiding bodies. This pivots some off the “punk” discussion, but part of what made the Los Angeles wing of American hardcore so potent was that it was a rejection of the “sun, sand, surf” image of L.A. that the 1960s rockers sold, and that the 1970s soft-rockers also traded on. In the punk scene, Los Angeles was dangerously empty, an arena for decadence and violence. Repo Manplays up that generational divide, suggesting that the beach-party L.A. had long since been vacated, left to the ravaging hordes.
Keith: It’s also notable for the amount of diversity onscreen.  There’ssome ethnic diversity to the punks in Repo Man, but even more on the soundtrack and in the broader cast. This was the look and sound of a different city—the musical landscape of 1970s L.A. was dominated by white folkies and country rockers—one that wasn’t necessarily riding high in the Reagan era, and was okay letting the world know they weren’t so happy about it.
Nathan: For me, much of what makes Repo Man a quintessential Los Angeles movie is its emphasis on cars, highways, and urban sprawl. But this isn’t the breezy, sun-and-fun car culture of the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean. It’s a grubby realm of sweaty men in beat-up cars. It’s another look at the downside of life in sunny but dispiriting Southern California.
Tasha: When this topic was introduced, my first thought was “Wait, it takes place in Los Angeles?” Apart from the map of L.A. on the wall at Repo HQ, I would have guessed Detroit, or even Flint, Michigan. Going back and looking for city signifiers, I didn’t see many—there are distant glimpses of the city lights in a few scenes, but most of the film takes place amid anonymous warehouses, run-down or boarded-up storefronts, and grubby houses. It makes me wonder whether avoiding any of the usual California signifiers, or any early establishing shots, was a budgetary move on Cox’s part, or he was deliberately creating a gray, impoverished landscape as anonymous—and as relatable—as his ultra-generic beer cans and chip bags.
Tasha: One thing we haven’t touched on is Alex Cox’s use of color inRepo Man. It’s a dingy movie much of the time, taking place in a world full of gray and brown buildings and plenty of black and gray tarmac. But so many of the shots still have at least one point of bright, vibrant color. The one that most caught my eye involves Otto and Duke talking in front of a warehouse in the rain, with Otto for some reason wearing a bright purple coolie hat. Often, the bright spots are the cherry-red tail lights of a car, or the gleam of its paint job. There’s almost always something to attract the eyes.
Matt: Noel’s comments about his most quoted Repo Man line—“Ordinary fuckin’ people, I hate ’em”—got me thinking about how many other cult films share that exact sentiment. Many of the greatest cult movies are about outsiders who can’t or won’t conform to society’s norms, including Freaks, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Pink Flamingos, Fight Club, The Warriors, Harold And Maude, Clerks, Office Space, and Donnie Darko, to name just a few of the most immediate, obvious examples. It’s not something I’d ever considered before, but it makes perfect sense that the movies rescued from obscurity by the pop-culture fringes would specifically extol the virtues of a life lived on society’s fringes. Cult movies like Repo Man validate the attitudes of their cults, insisting that ordinary fuckin’ people do suck, and that weirdoes of all shapes and sizes are beautiful. As Nathan notes, the punk-rock scene and later the repo-man life provide Otto with a tribe, a place where he belongs. Repo Man’s cult provided its fans with the exact same thing.
Nathan: Totally. Passionately and publicly embracing cult films are a way for fans to simultaneously join a tribe of like-minded souls and assert their individuality, just like becoming a Deadhead or a Juggalo. Cult-movie lovers are as much of a tribe as punk-rockers, and there’s considerable overlap between the two demographics. 
Rewatching Repo Man, I experienced a sort of double nostalgia for the film’s 1980s Los Angeles and the cinematic era it represents, but also for my own adolescence, when movies like Repo Men were cultural touchstones every alienated, artistically inclined teenager was expected to consume as part of his or her ongoing pop-culture education. This alternate canon of weird cult movies helped define who I was and how I saw the world, even if I was ultimately just trading in one form of conformity for another: Instead of seeing all the big hits and Oscar-anointed middlebrow fare considered important by the culture at large, I was seeing all the movies every cinephile was expected to see, and Repo Man was high on that list. Like many of my peers, I defined myself by seeking out movies about how ordinary people fucking sucked, as opposed to Ordinary People. 
Noel: Alex Cox has made some interesting movies since Repo Man, but none as confident or entertaining. I’m not sure whether Cox just became too overconfident in his ability to throw a bunch of crazy ideas together and turn them into a movie, or whether he ran out of ideas that were crazy enough. Whatever the reason, it’s a damned shame, because I don’t think anyone who fell in love with Repo Man in the 1980s expected that Cox would go on to be a non-factor in the indie-film revolution that followed. In a better world, he’d have been right there with Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch, and the Coen brothers, knocking out one weird classic after another.
Scott: The issue of the aliens and the contents of the trunk is one of the lingering mysteries of Repo Man for me. There’s something here about government secrets, of a nuclear and Area 51 kind, and Cox himself has talked about the film as being concerned with nuclear disaster, which would bring it closer to Kiss Me Deadly, a noir that suggests the apocalypse as Pandora’s Box. But the connections between Otto’s part of the story and the nuclear scientist’s part of the story are enigmatic, perhaps deliberately. It seems to be the license of self-styled cult movies like Repo Man to allow their eccentricities to linger, and I guess I’ll have to be comfortable resigning myself to the fact that I can’t put all the pieces together. 
Tasha: As the film’s resident philosopher-wacko says at one point, in talking about coincidental connections, “No explanation. No point in lookin’ for one, either. It’s all part of a cosmic unconsciousness.” This bit of don’t-ask-don’t-tell theater is reminiscent of the “Movies don’t make sense!” opening to Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber: It’s a direct warning that viewers shouldn’t expect all the pieces to come together neatly. It’s unclear how the alien corpses got into in J. Frank Parnell’s trunk, or what he’s planning on doing with them. All we know is that this kind of thing happens to repo men all the time, because that’s the intense kind of life they lead.
Our Movie Of The Week discussion began yesterday with the keynote essay on Repo Man’s ideas, and continues tomorrow with Noel Murray on the lure and lessons of Repo Man’s soundtrack.

"Yo, I'm Making These Choices": A Conversation with Oneohtrix Point Never

"Yo, I'm Making These Choices": A Conversation with Oneohtrix Point Never

A healthy number of people will hear Oneohtrix Point Never for the first time when they grab Warp's latest release, R Plus 7. They will listen, feeling awestruck when awe is induced and relieved when the music allows it. I was drinking beer with a friend the other night and she asked if she should put on the new Oneohtrix Point Never album, if it was any good. I said, "Sure, it's good. It's probably great." Greatness was Dan Lopatin's intent it seems, or at least grandiosity, spectacle, and psychological subsumption. You'll find the same intent driving Apocalypse Now and Der Ring des Nibelungen and Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark. To be frank, I used to jam Betrayed In The Octagon while getting roasted as a butterball freshman year, but then Games came along, and I very loudly said, "Snooze." Figured his stuff was no longer for me, at least until the rad/radical Replica came along. By the time I hopped back aboard his chromium monorail, he was gaining strong command of a vision which was irresistable to many, running pop culture through the same "new aesthetic" rigors as many concurrently rising internet artists. Apparently, his retro-pop work with Joel Ford sprouted from the same consumer culture infatuation that inspired his Youtube channel. R Plus 7 sees Lopatin shedding his more overt futurism while still crafting a distinct and unrelenting album experience with no small amount of artistic flexing. What follows is the man's own take the hows and whys of the R Plus 7 ride.
Ad Hoc: Warp is home to some of the boldest, most unique statements in elecronic music. How did you end up on the label for R Plus 7?
Dan Lopatin: Well, I’ve been working with them for a while. They look over my publishing account, my back catalog. So it was just kind of hooking up at the right time. I know those guys really well, and we go back a bunch of years now at this point. I think we were both looking for the right record and the right opportunity to hook up. Pretty natural.
Ad Hoc: Was there a conceptual underpinning for R Plus 7 in the same way that there was for Replica?
DL: I think it’s more open. I usually try to deploy some kind of procedural stuff to generate work for a record, to cull from. But that wasn’t really central to this at all. I think the record is pretty ambivialent in terms of concept or anything like that. I just wanted to keep it as open as possible.
Ad  Hoc: What do you mean by open?
DL: It’s not an open experience when you listen to the record necessarily; it’s guided. I was thinking about the Terminator game for Sega CD in which there's an "on rails" experience, You can destroy stuff in the frame, but you’re not walking around-- you’re on this virtual, guided thing. So this record was more like that than it was like an open-ended drone record. But I think what I mean is that open is-- everything else is really non-specific or non-purposeful. You can take it for what you want. This is not something I usually do. But there could easily be five different aesthetic prerogatives to the record that I don’t really care about. I don’t really have any desire or reason to explain much about it other than technical things that may have helped create it. There are things I’ve been doing and I have this experience, and I know that this kind of piece is allegorical to something else. But if anybody really catches my little buried things to begin with… if they do then, why do they want a walk-through?
Ad Hoc: Church organ is massively prevalent on this album. It's this big, monolithic sound, but it's also tied to religious ceremony and Western classical music. Is this all loaded into your utilization of it?
DL: I would like to say that it’s loaded. What appeals to me about it is that it’s loaded. I also like it texturally, when I’m writing, since I was just kind of writing from the head, which is not necessarily a thing that I’ve been doing a lot. When I was writing I would just sit down at the keyboard and play instead of just piecing and cobbling things together. I was kind of just writing, seeing if I could come up with a song. The pipe organ was the first thing that would come on when I turned everything on. Then, after a while, I felt comfortable writing for the organ. Then the instrument itself was very simple-- very specific counter-point ideas, little things that I wouldn’t necesarilly play if I was writing on a Wurlitzer or a piano even. So it was having a certain weird influence on me.
Ad Hoc: How great is your sense of how people experience your music? To what extent do you try to dictate it?
DL: This record is deeply manipulative-- maybe moreso than records before it. I have an idea in my brain of how I want the ride to go. It’s not like a super vertical drone record or whatever, where there's this post-modern sense of authorless experience. I’m not deeply interested in that. What I wanted to do a lot of the time, on the macro level, is [make] choices like that: authorless vs. authored or whatever. And then I try not to take a side and I try to see what can happen if I can design an experience and draw a tension between the kinds of experiences. So there are overt moments when you break away from the frame, moments when it’s guided.
What I’m happy about is no matter how specific I get with it, people-- my friends, my family, whatever-- will point out certain things that stuck out to them, that hit them personally. A weird detail they noticed, a little varied thing. They rarely ever are consistent with each other. It seems that either I’m ultimately trapped to do one thing and still kind of with this ambiguous [project]. Or perhaps [the project is] totally mine and [the manipulation] is working. I work through these moments of power. As a listener, either where you’re in control or you’re sublimated [by the music] or whatever. But in general, I do put a lot of thought into it, because when you’re sitting there and you’re like, “Yo I’m making these choices”-- and you make choices every day, whether it’s like a record you make, or what you put in your body, or where we’re going to live or the air we breathe or anything. So you have to take some level of responsiblity over those choices. I don’t think art is really outside of that. If you’re doing it just for yourself, and you’re not sharing it with other people, then sure, but there’s this kind of rhetoric that artistic license means not giving a fuck about what people think. On one hand, I understand what that’s about, but I think a lot of people are lying to themselves, because I think they do practice that license so completely, it's delusional.
Ad Hoc: If you’re talking about the forms of art that are the most ubiquitous right now-- music and film-- so much of it boils down to how it is experienced, what people think about it. Success is often contingent on an artist's ability to communicate an intent, or perhaps control the conception of that intent. 
DL: That’s the reality-- within that I definitely don’t feel that I'll play to what people are going to think. I just want to create, feel like I’m responsible over my decisions, because they affect the people. At least at the end of the day if I’ve done something, even if everyone says, "Whatever you’re communicating isn’t working,” I can say, “Well I communicated it the way I intended to and I wished that it would have worked on me.” Then I can sleep at night. 
Ad Hoc: This guided, almost limited experience-- does that account for the very forward momentum on the record? There are a lot of fast-paced arpeggios, brisk tempos. It can be overwhelming.
DL: I wanted to extend things that I always do and always did. I wanted to make a record that was more about syncopation in a way, and really just create discrete experiences, like really naked. I was just exposed to so much European electronic music over the past couple of years, like whatever was happening on tour. And everything’s so maudlin and everything is the same. It bummed me out super hard, but then, like, who cares? What are you gonna do about it? You can be bummed out by this moment where everyone is making bang-it-all trap music or you can just focus on the things you want to do musically and be happy. This record, to me, is about joy. I wanted to make something that was rich and complex-- for me anyway. I wanted to characterize different states, and I wanted to make something personal. That’s pretty consistent. I really just wanted to make something that had a clarity, a sense of joy, and a sense of becoming, and not something that felt like smoke and mirrors-- like just drum machines and reverb. I had a kind of personal reaction to what I was hearing. I had a clear sense of wanting to making something clear, because it felt closer to home for me, closer to my personality. When I really think about what has been going on in my head, it's, "I’ve been on tour for a long time, interfacing with the world in this very specific way, and I’m seeing trends, and I tend to react to trends."
Ad Hoc: When you say "interfaced in a specific way," do you mean as a performer, or what?
DL: Yeah, sure. When I’m placed on these shows where I’ll be stuck between a DJ-- like a screwed trap dude, dubstep dude, slow trap dude-- and like some dance-y dude, or like really, really "fuck off’ highbrow shit. The easiest way to explain this is like: night after night of hearing the same shit, it sounds like people were just jacking Burial, all over the world. It boils down to that. A landscape lit with this sort of weird, godlike devotional towards Burial’s music that has created this legion of homogenized, pasteurized, smoke and mirrors music. It so bums me out. It's depressing and it's like a third generation version of it, where it's only one dimension of what makes Burial so interesting.
Ad Hoc: It's this generational thing, the sound of our times. In the '60s and '70s, everything was pretty upbeat, and in the '80s things we’re generally nihilistic. Now it's like dark minimal everything.
DL: Yeah, it's just really funny. It’s increasingly hard for me to understand what, if any, reason there is to be sad. That’s what I’m trying to address. I’m like, "Oh, what I have to do is work on a record to characterize what I think is a kind of difficult thing," which is: [as beings] we don’t just do one thing all the time. The ways we converse and the way we think [are more complex]-- If you listen to the rhythms of your conversations or your internal mood, it doesn’t just sound like a 17-second-long reverb with a kick drum on it. It’s a lot more interesting than that.


Hey, you, Junk Food Junkies! You've been asking yourself, how can I get more JFD into my life? I'm already subscribed on iTunes, you say, and I'm already pouring over your every tweet and Facebook jam, you claim, while rocking one of your many JFD t-shirts. Until now, your options were limited. But now, we have an exciting new development to announce: the arrival of the ultra-limited Parker Bowman action figure!

This Parker Bowman action figure was hand crafted in felted wool by friend of the show Xiangzi Li. It stands a stately 9" tall, and is ready to kick frog ass at a moment's notice. This ultra-limited, super-luxurious fine product is presented in an edition of 1, making it even rarer than the rarest Blood Lake videotapes.

How can I get my grubby paws on this work of art, you ask? Well, we've devised a clever way for you, the listener, to provide us with free slave labor in exchange for fame, glory, and a miniature Parker for your desk/mantle/altar. We are accepting submissions for a new Junk Food Dinner logo, and the lucky winner will receive their very own Parker in the mail. Here are the details:


1. Please send your logo submission to JFDPodcast@gmail.com with the subject "Logo Submission".
2. We will be accepting submissions until at least November 1st, so take your time, dudes.
3. Vector art would be sweet. Pixels are okay too but please try for at least 1024x1024 or larger.
4. Get creative and come up with something you feel captures the spirit of the show. There are no restrictions!
5. As an added bonus, one random entrant will receive an awesome THANKSKILLING POSTER in the mail! It's a sweet full-size double-sided one-sheet, too!
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DISCLAMER: We, the makers of the JFD Parker Bowman Action Figure™ cannot provide any warranty for this product; specifically, we cannot provide assurance this doll will not, when you are safely tucked in your bed, arise from its stasis and become not only sentient but murderous. Should this happen to you, do not attempt to chase him to the factory where he was created, nor should you let him follow you to military school.

RIP: Lindsay Cooper, member of Comus and Henry Cow collaborator

RIP: Lindsay Cooper, member of Comus and Henry Cow collaborator

RIP: Lindsay Cooper, member of Comus and Henry Cow collaborator
Lindsay Cooper, who was a composer, Henry Cow collaborator, and member of Comus, News From Babel, National Health, and more, died after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. From Henry Cow’s Chris Cutler (via Canterbury Sans Frontieres):
So sorry to pass on this unhappy news. Lindsay died this afternoon. She had contracted pneumonia and spent the last six days at home surrounded by a few old friends. She died very peacefully. The funeral will be next Wednesday 25 September at 4:30 PM at Golders Green crematorium.


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