I used to go and see so much music—there are some great clubs in LA like Spaceland and The Garage. Sometimes Interverdoora had really good stuff. But in the past few years I haven’t gone that much.Labels
I just hate labels. I really can’t stand them. I like a mix of different kinds of music. One thing I can proudly say about LA is it has, to me, one of the best music and record stores in the world, called Amoeba. It’s just huge and it’s not a chain. You can get anything from anywhere there—from mix-tape stuff to techno to alt to so-called avant garde to classical stuff to jazz. I spend more time there than I should, but don’t buy as much as I used to because I think there’s a difference between listening to and enjoying stuff and gathering and fetishising it. Lyrics
‘We don’t need another hero’ was a lyric I used, but other than that, no I haven’t. But I’ve thought of it in the past.
Music as a commodity
It’s really hard to say, within the unfortunately globalised market economies, what is and what isn’t a commodity. What does that mean—that something non-circulated is pure and something circulated becomes somehow tainted on a certain level? In the general discourse, the word ‘commodity’ has a pejorative sense. But, speaking more anthropologically, it’s just how things circulate. Patti Smith
She was a tremendous influence on me when I was just beginning to write. I had done some poetry readings and she had introduced the first one. I thought she was tremendously influential. Her early work was important. I haven’t really followed her work since then. Not that she hasn’t remained important, but I’m not really interested in what she’s doing now. To me her historical work had more to do with watching a figure play with notions of sexuality and gender. And to really challenge the traditional poetry scene dominated by academics from Columbia. And then it was appropriated by a more conventional music world. I remember being so used to seeing Patti at St Marks Place, then I’d gone to teach at Berkeley about a year later and I started hearing her music come out of dorm rooms. And she was on the cover of the New York Times magazine. Rage Against The Machine
Working with them was terrific. Unfortunately they don’t exist anymore, though Audioslave, formed by three former members with Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, seems to be doing pretty well here. They live quite close to me in Los Angles. I know the music scene in Glasgow is really terrific. That’s one of the really exciting things, now that I’ll be spending more time there for the show. Pop Videos
Well, I worked with Rage Against The Machine on one of their videos, but I haven’t directed one. Not that I haven’t thought about it. And I’ve seen videos which are enactments of work I’ve done, but I feel fine about that. Music of Youth
Oh, gee. I’d say it would be Al Green and Aretha Franklin—I’m from Newark, New Jersey, which is a total black city, so that’s sort of what I grew up with. And also Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound was incredibly huge. Disco, rock, jungle etc
Oh, I was never disco. This was really pre-disco. But Phil Spector, The Ronettes all that stuff. I love rock, I’ve always loved rock. But rock has changed, so I love all the threads that it’s split into. I think that in America disco came to signify gay. So it’s interesting how threads of disco became what could be called in Britain—a term that could never be used here at the time—jungle. Or became house, or techno. It’s so interesting to see the ties between British and American house and techno and even black urban house stuff from America and German music like Kraftwerk. I just see it as a broader field which is why I was so flummoxed when you asked me in the beginning to name styles. Things have melded together and computers have changed so much and allowed a development of a certain niche type of production. Marketing changes everything and MTV changed everything. So you had the fall of the hair bands and the rise of alt rock and then the fall of alt rock and the rise of rap. But now I think people are working in different ways simultaneously. When and where
I listen to music at home a lot. I think radio in Britain is terrific. I like radio when I’m driving.
Barbara Kruger was interviewed by Cedar Lewisohn