TO ENTERTAIN AND DIE IN L.A. Fischerspooner

Casey Spooner prefers
to keep it simple these days. Oh, and cool it with the electro-clash stuff
already.

 

BY GIL MACIAS

 

 

Fischerspooner doesn’t need massive stages, expensive
special effects or pyrotechnics to put on a good show. They use good
old-fashioned lights, smoke, and mirrors, but most of all-imagination. With
wild, outlandish costumes, a handful of dancers, and some playful choreography,
their show is pure eye and ear candy. Its performance arts meets electro-glam-rock
on stage, with killer beats to boot. The group, lead by the charismatic Casey
Spooner, are currently touring in support their new album, Entertainment. The band made a stop at the Avalon in Los Angeles recently and dazzled
the senses of their audience. The 75 minute set ended so swiftly, fans still
clamored for more when it was over. We were able to catch up with Casey Spooner
before the show and talk about their new album, all of the grueling, hard work
put into their tour, the impact of the recession, and of course-where he got
those crazy outfits.

 

***

 

BLURT: While you
toured Odyssey in 2005, you performed
with a live band, with very little costume changes and only 2 dancers. With
this new tour, you’re going back to your earlier days and doing a show with no
band, just all dancers, choreography, moving sets and crazy costumes. What made
you decide to axe the band?

 

SPOONER: When we originally started to design the show, the
idea was to combine the elements of the first era with the Odyssey era. In the show, you’ll see projections from rehearsal and
there’s a band behind us. There’s a bass player, keyboardist, backing
vocalists, a drummer, there were all those things. We had rehearsed the show
that way, but because of the economy, we were unable to do that large of a
cast. It was really not an easy choice because I do love having a live element.
I love live drums, they’re really nice, it gives a lot of energy for us on
stage, that’s exciting, but it was tough to do what we wanted to do theatrically
and musically and for it to function in this recession. We’re really struggling
with the recession right now. Also, you’re really limited on what stages you
can use. There’s a lot of movement, set pieces and it would be hard for us to
do that and have a full band onstage. I think it’s sort of ok, because the band
is in the video. I like that there’s this sort of strange, virtual rehearsal
going on in the background.

 

 

 So, I imagine tour preparation is a little
easier this time since you don’t have to carry the band’s equipment or do a
full soundcheck
.

 

 It’s still so much
work, are you kidding? No, it’s never easy. It still takes hours to set up.
Instead of having a band, we travel with our own floor. It has all of its marks
on it. We travel with a huge lighting rig, rolling mirrors, a giant control
desk, tons of wardrobe cases, props and racks. So it’s never easy.

 

 

 Who comes up with all your wild costume
designs?

 

 I have people that I
work with. I’ll go to them. I wanted to make some wardrobe pieces that avoided
any kind of historical reference. So we made these really simple, sort of sauna
suit pieces. They’re kind of genderless, with no history, no details, just
super simple. Almost pieces we would rehearse in. Then from there, I worked with
this guy Nicola Formichetti, who’s the creative director for Dazed and Confused magazine. I just
emailed him and said I wanted to work with a stylist and that I really liked
what he was doing. He did a lot of stuff with me where he basically just gave
me references. He made suggestions for people that he thought were good. I
would sort of explain the core concept to him and he’d give me a list of people
and I’d approach them. He’s the one who introduced me to Romain Kremer, who
made the outfit that’s on the album cover. He introduced me to Nasir Mazhar,
who made the hat for the cover. In the album package, I’m wearing this
beautiful Alexander McQueen piece that he sent. So there are different people
like that and then I’m always kind of looking around and checking for things
that can be integrated in with things already being produced. Raf Simons gave
us a beautiful Jil Sanders suit that I wear at the top of the show. The other
big piece is this Gareth Pugh jacket that he made for me. I don’t change as
much as I’d like too, the show is so dense, I don’t have that much time.
Sometimes all I can do is throw on a pair of gloves.

 

 

 So we’re right across the street from Capitol
Records, you’re former home.

 

 Can you believe it? I
know. [Spooner turns and opens the mini-blinds
that reveal the Capital Records building
] It’s so symbolic.

 

 

 Why was your relationship with them so short?

 

 We signed with them
in 2002, and our contract was dissolved in 2007. So it was about 5 years.

 

 

 Is there a reason why you didn’t stay with
them? And what do you prefer, a large corporate label or your own label?

 

 Well, it’s great
having the resources. Capitol was really super supportive, but the music
industry was in a state of collapse. [Points
at Capitol Records
] This is no longer the label, these are condos now.
There is no Capitol Records in that building-it’s all private residences.
That’s what happened in 2007. Basically, every single person we worked with for
5 years were all fired. The building was sold, and turned into condos. Capital
Records exists in name, they merged with Virgin. We kind of had this unusual
experience where we have built our career as the music industry has been in a
state of decline. So we sort of rose in this new era of the internet and
digital downloads. We’ve had every experience you can possibly have in this
sort of peculiar moment where we’ve done everything ourselves all the way to
being on one of the most iconic and important American records labels that
basically dissolved beneath us.

 

 

 Tell me about your writing process. How do you
come up with your lyrics and melodies?

 

 It’s always
different. It’s always a totally unique process. I kind of overwrote on Odyssey
I wrote so much it was hard for me to manage and hard for me to find the
ideas sometimes because they were in a book that was so thick. I knew that when
I was going into Entertainment, I
wanted to find a way to write in such a way that it was easier for me to manage
and edit. So for the first year I mostly wrote only titles. I just kept a list
of titles and when I would get to the music, I would look through the titles
and say, “Oh that sounds like ‘Danse en France.'” Then I’d take it and
write the core lyrics. But it’s like anything. It comes to you in a dream, or
while you’ve had a good cup of coffee, you’re having an epiphany on an
airplane-it’s very elusive. It really is like a cloud. The moment any of those
things pass through your head, I have to immediately write it down, because if
you don’t, it’s lost.

 

 

 Back in the day, bands only ever had to face
criticism from a few publications like newspapers, Rolling Stone or Spin.
Nowadays, with the internet, everyone is a critic. The second you put a song
online, everyone chimes in. Does strong criticism from fans or critics ever get
to you or affect your creative output?

 

 I think that for the
most part I believe in our audience more than I believe in media and critics.
We have a very dedicated and loyal following. For me, it’s a blessing because I
think for the most part, everyone is super, super positive online. And yea, of
course there are people that are critical, but that’s the nature of making
something and putting it in the world. You can’t expect everyone to like what
you do. I’ve always felt what we’re trying to do is very unusual and some
people can understand it and some people can’t. If someone doesn’t like it, it
doesn’t mean they don’t like me, it just means they don’t understand the idea.
If anything, it’s a challenge for me to make my idea more clear.

 

 

 Do you get tired of people calling you guys an
electro-clash band?

 

 The only thing that
really gets a bit annoying is the whole electro-clash thing. I’m very proud of
that moment and I think it was a very exciting, great, unusual, and amazing
moment that happened in music history. It was this incredible crazy moment at
the turn of the millennium with the dawn of synth software and all this access
to computers for the first time at a reasonable cost. There was this moment
where image, sounds and all these elements kind of collided and defined this
era. Everyone just kind of got burnt out on the sound, which we did too. After
we worked on and performed our first album [#1]
throughout ‘98, then ‘99, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003-by the time we got to 2003, I hated
myself. [Laughs] I didn’t want to
hear it, I was sick of it. I wanted to kill it too. I feel like sometimes
there’s this perception that’s residual from it, that doesn’t actually apply to
everything that we do. So, I would kind of like people to step away and come
back to us with fresh ears and fresh eyes and not always be associated with
just this one moment in our career.

 

 

 You’re a fashion chameleon and your looks tend
to change way more drastically than your music. While your albums have
progressed and evolved musically, do you ever plan to release something
completely different from anything you’ve ever done before?

 

 Yea, I think that
Warren [Fischer] is really the person who drives the sound. He’s the one who’s
always trying to walk this line where it’s uniquely us. It feels like it needs
to stay within a certain realm to still be what Fischerspooner is, which is
always about our relationship to pop entertainment. I think after these 3
records, we’ve kind of done a spectrum. #1 was super-indy, super-digital, super-flat. Odyssey was much bigger and more expansive, more instrumental, warmer and more
emotional. Entertainment is somehow a
combination of those two. It’s got the electronic texture and the programming
but it has the instrumentation and guitars. We already started writing some
stuff that didn’t make it onto this record that is a whole separate concept,
which might come out sooner rather than later. It still has Warren’s signature drama-he’s such a drama
queen-it’s a bit more dancey. I think it’s always going to have this weird
hybrid between rock, pop, and dance.

 

 

 Do you have any music videos in the works?

 

 There are two already
shot. One of them is totally completed. There was this whole bureaucratic thing
about where it was going to launch online, who had the exclusive, how to set up
the marketing and the promotion and all that, but I think it’s finally
launching this week or next week. It’s for “We Are Electric.”

 

 

 How do you choose your singles?

 

 This one is really
hard because we’re not approaching it like a mainstream radio release. So if
you’re not really doing a single for radio and you’re just picking a song you
want to put energy into by making a video, and putting focus on a song to
represent the album, it was hard. I love “The Best Revenge,” I think it’s one
of the strongest songs, but everyone’s heard it because it came out on Kitsuné
[www.kitsune.fr] as a single, so that was a tough one because in a way we
aren’t treating it as a single, but it’s kind of like a soft single. There will
be a video for it and everyone is playing it. Then there’s “Money Can’t Dance,”
which everyone wants; “Supply and Demand,” which a lot of people are into. I
think “In a Modern World” is a really strong pop song. “We Are Electric” is a
solid single. And there was discussion of “Too The Moon.” So that’s 6 songs out
of 10 that we’re trying to figure out. In a weird way, we’re kind of doing all of
them. We did remixes for “The Best Revenge,” “We Are Electric” and “Supply and
Demand.” Tommie Sunshine is doing two remixes, one is “Door Train Home.” So
we’re trying to give focus to many of the songs and it’ll be more of a broader
spectrum.

 

 

 You now have 3 albums, which means sacrifices
need to be made and song selections for your tour setlist must be more
difficult than ever.

 

  It’s really tough. I
of course like all these new songs and I really love performing them. Also, I
think the way [Producer] Jeff Saltzman tracked my vocals, they’re much easier
for me to perform live. A lot of the first record is difficult because it was
sung super low. It’s more intimate and a little bit more restrained. It’s also
super-synthetic. So there’s really no way for me to sing it live and for it to
sound right because it needed that plastic quality that suited the style. So
slowly, there’s been this wrestling with how to manage the glossy, plastic
aspect and the more real kind of vocal that’s starting to happen more and more.
I of course like to do the more real vocal because it’s more natural. There are
7 songs off this record I wanted to do. You have to pull all the material up,
rehearse it, put all the pieces together, and then we try different
configurations and we see what works and what doesn’t. You have to play the
stuff people want to hear-which you’re absolutely, completely exhausted and
bored with, which I don’t conceal.

 

 

 Is there one song you’re sick of performing?

 

 “Emerge!” [Laughs] Oh my God. Well, I kind of have
a fresh approach to it now. I’m treating it like it’s a historical piece. We
haven’t changed the choreography; I’m not changing anything about it. Because
there was a time we tried different arrangements, integrated live music, tried
different breakdowns-sing it, don’t sing it-lip-sync, don’t lip-sync-all these
variations of it. Now, I’m pretty much leaving it like it’s a finished piece
and it will historically always be the same.

 

 

 Out of your 3 albums, do you have a personal
favorite?

 

 I like all of them
for different reasons. That’s like asking which of your children you like best.
#1 I think is, of course, incredible
because when we started it, we didn’t even know we were making a record. In
that record, I feel you hear us taking baby steps. It’s not a perfect record by
any means, but it is exciting because it sort of defines this historical
moment. Odyssey I think is much more
sophisticated. It’s so much richer, technically, it’s so well-made. It’s got so
much detail in it. I think it’s going to hold up in the long run. It’s sort of
built to last and stand the test of time and not be just completely disposable.
Entertainment really feels like a
return to form for us. I feel the image, the performance, the sound, just the
general atmosphere of the whole thing; everything’s clicking in a way.

 

 

 So when you’re offstage, what’s Casey Spooner
like beneath all of the glam and wild costumes?

 

SPOONER: Oh my God, I’m so boring-I really am. I’m very
laidback, I don’t dress up. It’s not the illusion of Fischerspooner. It’s like,
Fischerspooner is really my excuse to be as glamorous as I could possibly
imagine. In reality, I’m a pretty normal, down-to-earth guy. I wear jeans every
day. I wear the same jeans for 3 months. I don’t really like to shop, actually.
I only like to do things for the show. I like to work with people creatively.
So, it really isn’t about luxury and wealth and that kind of stuff. I like
making art and that’s really what my life is about and that’s what I do every
day. And I’m so thankful that that’s what I get to do-is be an artist.

 

 

[Go HERE to view the video for Fischerspooner’s “We Are Electric”]

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