All week this week I’m running an enormous interview I conducted in May and October of 2003 with Jason Webley, who is playing his last show of the season at Town Hall in Seattle on November 1st. See you there!
MW: Oh, we’re looking for your favorite trash can, I think.
JW: Yeah, something went wrong in my brain and I started walking us in a direction that’s not where I thought we were walking
MW: Now you were talking about [inaudible] – one of the things I like about Capitol Hill is finding old fruit trees, like this one [near one edge of the SU campus]. [inaudible] They’re a part of the geography of the city [from] before the city was [built up].
JW: The trees. [inaudible] this winter about different trees in my life, my relationship to different trees. . . . [inaudible] Your response to that last one. . . . [inaudible] The year before, you had written this huge like review and all, like it was creatively inspiring in some way. This year I got a comment like “that was really freaky” or, um, “That was genuinely scary.”
MW: Oh, yeah, for the show. Well, there were a couple of things that happened, like um, the year before, [inaudible] I couldn’t be there [referring to the show in October 2000, the first ‘death’ show], and all this like, crazy shit happened. So, the next year, I was like, I am going to document the hell out of this one.
MW: So I had the camera and I was taking pictures the whole time and in my mind I’m thinking about what am I gonna do with these and I wanted to capture the experience of it. Then, when I was done with it, I was very happy to have written about it and happy that I had all the pictures, but at the same time, . . . [Inaudible. Something like, “When it was over, I realized that at the end, I couldn’t remember what song you sang or many of the details of being in the park at the waterfront when the towers were burned – I was too busy taking pictures of the fires. Embers from the burning tower-things. . .”] were landing on me, and I’m worrying about the camera; and so then, afterwards, I was like, that’s fucked up. I mean, that’s a valid way to respond to this art event that a friend has made, right? But it doesn’t do justice to it.
MW: [about the 2002 show, the tree cocoon show] Now that show was harder to categorize and summarize. I mean there was some really extreme performance stuff there, I mean really extreme. I mean, being carried on that beam – I mean, Jesus Christ! The extremity of – well, you just heard what I said, right?
JW: [thoughtfully] Mm-hmm.
MW: The extremity of those things in the context of performance made it difficult to react to it the way you normally do with art. And in that sense, I think the show was pretty successful. [Inaudible. Probably “But that can make it hard to talk about, to. . .”] communicate what had just happened.
JW: No no no, that’s good, it’s nice to hear that now. But like, it was an interesting show, um. I, um.
MW: You didn’t sustain any permanent damage, did you? [Inaudible]
JW: I mean, my own concerns were different than that. I had – some things didn’t go quite as planned, like, internally, and we . . . And that was great, that was what it was. But um, I um, it’s interesting how to do a thing like that and to see what’s he response and to have most of the response that comes back to be a little bit angry, like, “jesus it was cold,” and like “arrrrmnaaarr” [grumbly growly noise]. I actually felt kinda good about that at least.
People weren’t really supposed to know what was going on or tie it down to something or certainly not know when it’s over, obviously. That was a big thing.
[Inaudible. Probably “Leading up to it, I was thinking about the May. . .”] Day concert last spring. Like, what would happen if. . . Why does this have to end?
a) I actually do need to finish this ’cause I need to clean out the boat – I need to be cleared out of there by eleven o’clock or I get charged like $600 or something.
So that was in my head. But there was this like [inaudible] so how do I end it? Like, this thing that just has this energy – like this this energy and it doesn’t like necessarily have like that kind of “bwoop” climax, like “it’s over” ending.
And so what happens, then, if you just hold that, if you bring the energy to something that happens that isn’t an immediate thing that “OK, ta-da, it’s over,” it’s continuing. What if the “death” isn’t about me getting stuck in a thing and whisked away but like being there right in front of. . .
MW: Mmmh. [inaudible] Artaud.
JW: I don’t like to think about Artaud very much. . . . [inaudible]. . . Artaud contradicts himself all over the place. And so I think it’s really funny when things become Artaudian.
Like, just because he’s so. . .
MW: But he’s a visionary!
JW: He’s a visionary! He’s really amazing – he’s not – I think that we do him a crime in sort of just looking at him as being a theater theorist, because he was a lot more than that. And like in a lot of ways that’s the one way in which I don’t find him very useful.
. . . [inaudible] . . .
. . . The things that I intend and then the things you see. It’s always beautiful to hear these things back, to hear what are the images and what are they because it’s often related but far removed. . .
And I can’t really even talk about what’s the process. . . Like, the cocooning thing, I wasn’t even aware of until seeing the photos of it.
And it’s interesting what people will expect and what they see. Like, by the time this comes out, that other show will have happened, and you’ll know. . . It’s very interesting, now, this strange place where we’re sitting right now, in time.
JW: [inaudible]. . . Working on right now. I’ve got this real rockin’ kind of Bruce Springsteen-y kinda song that I was working on in the bus. The first lines are “he’s got feathers in his pocket”. Let’s see, do I have any? Ah, there we go. This makes me wanna go someplace. I wanna go to a place where there might be more feathers.
MW: [inaudible, showing Jason a down feather from the November 2002 show]
JW: Is that from the tree?
MW: Yeah. I caught it, put it in my wallet.
JW: Ever seen a feather falling?
MW: Have I ever seen a feather falling?
MW: Like this?
JW: Yeah, but not that you’ve dropped.
. . . Or within my show. But, yeah, have you ever been walking and seen a feather fall before you?
MW: Yeah. I’m trying to remember the context of it. I think it was a hawk, if I recall.
JW: Feathers are special. As far as the elemental symbology in my music and my work. I often very reluctantly, very reluctantly in the case of the feathers, submitted to some symbols that were being shown to me. [laughs]
[jocularly] It’s not all tomatoes and carrots sometimes. [laughs]
MW: That’s interesting – they “were being shown” to you. . .
JW: Look at that! I love this tree. [on SU campus]
MW: [politely] Oh wow. Say, did you see, uh, the movie [The Two Towers]?
JW: Yeah, they really ruined those trees, didn’t they?
MW: I didn’t know how they were gonna do it. I was afraid they would be like in uh The Wizard of Oz, remember those trees?
MW: It wasn’t as bad as I was afraid it would be but there were definitely points where I was going, “Oh, man.” [inaudible] too obvious.
JW: Not just that, but why didn’t they make them shaped like trees? Like they were too swift moving. Like they really missed a wonderful opportunity to, you know. . .
JW: Yeah, yeah. Becomes untraceable though. Might be. [inaudible] . . . Do a show on this campus next October. I think this is the school. I think I’m doing a show here next October. [Well, it wasn’t there, I think – M.]
I like doing stuff like that. When they pay you and you don’t have to set up the show. . .
JW: Pay attention when you find feathers. Well, that’s a start I guess. Yeah. People are usually rather picky about the rocks they put on their walkways.
MW: So your helpers at the show when they were kind of – trying to chase everybody out of the park –
JW: How were they doing that? Chase everybody out of the park?
MW: Doing it quietly.
JW: How were they doing that?
MW: Well, they were just trying to sort of like kinda like get the person who was in the tree down but they didn’t want to say her name loudly, so they were like, frustrated, trying to get her attention. They were worried about her freezing, you know, and like. . .
JW: The cops.
MW: Yeah, and there were cops, and there were a bunch of things. But uh, so she was up there shaking feathers and they couldn’t get her to stop. So I thought that was interesting that you had said that you had felt that in some way the use of feathers was something that was out of your control, and within the context of the show, it was completely.
JW: Well, I had lost all control of that show. There was a number of things. At the point when I’m – when I was tied to the tree, where my will was not all being manifest. . .
MW: You were kinda not saying anything. [inaudible]
Part Four on Thursday!