About a year and a half ago I had lunch with Harmony Korine in a Japanese restaurant on University Place, near the apartment of his friend David Blaine, one of the great magicians of our epoch. It was supposed to go in a trendy New York magazine but for one reason or another that didn’t happen. I decided to take it out of the box and dust it off.
GO: So you’re living in Nashville right?
HK: Yeah, yeah.
GO: How’s that?
HK: It’s good, it’s good. I sort of moved back… It’s pretty close to where I grew up.
GO: I thought you grew up in Connecticut for some reason.
HK: I had a house in Connecticut when I’d left NY. That burnt down but I had only spent like 6 months there.
GO: You don’t have any accent.
HK: Yeah, cause my parents were from New York, but they moved to… I was born in a commune and they moved to Tennessee out to the hills. I was pretty young. I was a baby.
GO: I went to the hills of Tennessee once, this magazine sent me to look for Bigfoot in Tennessee.
HK: [laughs] Did you find anything?
GO: I went to this really interesting town where the Ku Klux Klan was founded. At the barbershop.
GO: Yeah, Pulaski. The guy from the local newspaper took me around to all these people that had contact with aliens and Bigfoot. It was really a funny piece.
HK: [laughs] What was it for?
GO: It was in Oui magazine which was like a b-cup Playboy at the time.
HK: Yeah I remember Pulaski, that’s where all the Klan rallies were when I was going to like Junior High School so that’d be in the eighties. They would always have Klan rallies there and people would go and march against them.
GO: It was like a ruined kind of area, cause you would go through towns that were completely deserted, like a whole town is just sitting there.
GO: I guess cause the tobacco industry had fallen off or something.
HK: But I wonder why they were saying there was Bigfoot? There was supposedly some huge, someone found like some prehistoric pig or something there not too long ago. That’s what they said, like some massive dinosaur pig.
GO: Oh I remember the giant pig, but then I think it turned out to be just a normal very fat pig.
HK: Yeah, that kind of thing happens every once in a while.
GO: I don’t know what the cause of Bigfoot sightings is. I was talking to this one woman who had had many encounters, and then it turned out that she was on a hundred milligrams of Valium a day or something like that.
HK: Yeah, a lot of people there are on Valium [laughs]. I knew a guy that would do like a 180 milligrams of Valium a day. He worked at a pet store in Nashville. I had spoken to him one day and he had gotten off and like detoxed it. I asked him what it was like and he said for like 3 months it felt like someone had poured gasoline on his hands and lit it on fire. But he was really mellow. He was always trying to sell you dogs… I haven’t seen him in a while.
GO: So what do you do with yourself in Nashville?
HK: Um, I don’t know…I have a wife and a baby, and a studio that I go to and write or mess around, paint, think…just kind of like mow the yard, play basketball in the park by my house. Just pretty routine…you know, drive around listening to the radio…
GO: I recall Nashville as being a pleasant city.
HK: Yeah, it’s nice. For me it’s good because it’s pretty easy to get around, the pace of life is a bit slower and people are friendly. I like that no one really makes a fuss about anything really, you know, doesn’t really care much about who you are [laughs].
GO: There’s still like a lively music thing going on there right?
HK: Yeah, they have a saying that’s like the guy that delivers your pizza or sells you weed could be one of the five best guitar players in the world. And actually there’s something true to that. But yeah it’s an industry town, but it’s music so it’s nice.
GO: You ever have any contact with that?
HK: The music part of it? You know growing up you would be like friends with a kids whose parents are songwriters; that’s really common or you’d know singers or whatnot. I mean my parents didn’t really have anything to do with it. But yeah, you know it’s like kind of everywhere and I like country music.
GO: I like that they still have songwriters and they’ve kind of preserved the classical mode of doing it.
HK: Yeah, it works on a system there. There’s even the way they record, I forget what it’s called, there’s a musical code that the musicians use. It’s like a real…system. I don’t know, I think the music industry is a mess. Even though country music is really popular, I don’t think people really buy albums anymore.
GO: On way, it’s sort of good I think. Because I think eventually it gives control back to the musicians.
HK: Yeah, I think there’s something good and there’s something bad about it. I mean it’s good because it’s free. But also when everything is free, it’s hard to say what the value of anything is as well.
GO: But the record companies were basically just these banks, loaning money to people, getting them in debt and keeping them out of touch with their finances. I had a job for a while with a record company, and one day I was sitting with the guy who was running the company and somebody came in and said that one of the artists had just had a baby, and he said, “Oh send flowers”. The assistant said, “Well how much should I spend?” He said “Spend like $500, they’re paying for it. “
HK: What?! Are you serious?
GO: Yeah “It’s recoupable.” And the radio promotion guys buy $1000 bottles of wine at lunch.
HK: Yeah, that’s crazy. I guess the movie studios function the same way.
GO: Yeah, so what are you working on?
HK: Well, I just did this movie Trash Humpers. Then, I wrote this script that I want to try to film in the fall but I don’t know if I’ll have it ready in time. It’s kind of like a comedy—or at least my version of a comedy. Anyway, I’m just kind of trying to figure out the casting and all that stuff now. Then I have an art show with Rita Ackermann at the Swiss Institute in November.
GO: You’ve been collaborating on paintings?
HK: Yeah, paintings and… I mean I’ve always done artwork but I just kind of never really pursued it so much. I have kind of an archive of things: Photographs, paintings, drawings, and stuff like that. When I moved back down to Nashville, I kind of started to like… it had been enough time that I felt comfortable that I could go through it and look at things and see what was there. So now I’m really slowly starting to show some things.
GO: Aren’t all your movies comedies?
HK: Yeah, I mean, I find them way more funny than I do tragic. I mean, I always think that they’re always more comedic than probably anything.
GO: Some of them have really tragic and dark elements, but it always seems to be kind of at a distance a little bit.
HK: Yeah, it’s hard to say, because for me I think certain things are funny that obviously other people don’t. I always think I’m wrong about the reactions from audiences. I always think something is going to play a certain way and it’s usually much different than the way it’s conceived. Which is kind of interesting because I kind of like that too. But I’m always thinking like this movie will play in the shopping malls, or that it’ll be like the most commercial thing… I never really thought of myself as an independent filmmaker, whatever that is. I always thought I was trying to make films more commercial or more mainstream. I wanted to be a commercial director, but I guess I just didn’t understand the public’s taste. Even with Trash Humpers I thought maybe it would be the type of film that Miley Cyrus or something would like, you know, or like the Jonas Brothers. I could imagine them watching it and getting behind it, but then you show it to other people and they say that’s not the case. So it’s hard for me to gauge.
GO: When I worked on Downtown 81 we would screen a cut of it, and from audience to audience people would laugh at completely different places…never the same pattern. It’s very hard to predict.
HK: Yeah, you never know. I’ve never really done test screening so usually when I’m close I’ll show it to some friends. More like pacing issues and things, but I’ve never really done test screening so pretty much when a movie premieres is the first time I’ve seen it with a real audience.
Hold on… my wife. [Conversation between Harmony and Rachel Korine]
HK: She plays the female Trash Humper, the old lady.
HK: Yeah, that’s her.
GO: She’s got the posture right.
HK: Yeah, she’s got good posture.
GO: Can I have a pickle?
HK: Yeah, try one.
GO: I love these. Oh, which movie was the most out of sync with what… the reaction was most out of sync with what you expected?
HK: Well Gummo was, because I didn’t know what to expect. With Kids, even though people got really upset, there had been this kind of, in some ways mainstream reaction. There was like an instant reaction to Kids, where people felt something… it was maybe easier in some ways because of the story. With Gummo, it wasn’t really my first movie, it was the first thing I’d ever directed and I felt like even if some people saw it as a provocation, or even if some people got upset with me I felt that they would still find merit in the movie… That they would still see that there was something beautiful about it. And that even people who would come after me would do it in a way that wasn’t so vicious. I thought that movie had real mainstream potential [laughs]. Anyway we took it out, I first showed it and I just remember people coming up to me. I think the first screening was at Telluride. Within like 10 minutes after I’d introduced it, I was out in the parking lot just having a conversation with someone and then all of the sudden I saw like one or two people walk out, and then like five people after that, and then literally within 15 minutes I’d say a quarter of the audience walked out and then people started screaming at me and telling me how disgusting I was. I guess that was it. I guess I wasn’t ready at that point you know; being a kid I hadn’t fortified myself. You think that you’re going to make a movie and that it’s going to come out and it’s going to change the way people think or that the birds are going to start to sing differently, or the sky will be a different color. Yeah, that was the first time I was like “Well, maybe I’m a little bit bad at gauging the public’s reaction.” [laughs]
GO: Well, I really like Gummo, and I made my wife watch it and she had a problem.
HK: Yeah, was this recently or a long time ago?
GO: It wasn’t long ago. I saw it when it came out, and then I went and bought it the other day. So I put it on and she was like “I can’t watch this”.
GO: And I said, “Do you think that’s because you’re from Butler, Pennsylvania?”
GO: Cause if somebody had never been to Middle America and I was going to give them one movie to show them what working class people live like, it would be Gummo.
GO: I think that’s what offends people. Even though it’s exaggerated and silly and playful, there’s this underlying realism of the American aesthetic that’s shocking to people, because they’re not used to seeing it on the big screen.
HK: Yeah, especially at that time. Also, because the narrative was disjointed which is a big thing. Which has become a big issue for people because it’s almost like the content was difficult enough, but then when you start to deconstruct the actual story… I realize that people thought it was like an assault or that it was like there was no sense to it or something.
GO: Then with Julian, that has the Dogme thing on the beginning of it. What interested you in that?
HK: I guess it was in the earliest stages of Dogme. I think when I first heard of it, I Lars Von Trier was just working on The Idiots and The Celebration hadn’t come out yet. And so I was speaking to Thomas Vinterberg on the phone and he told me about this thing that they were doing, Dogme 95 and “The Vow of Chastity”. I was excited by it, I liked the idea of making a film, kind of like according to a set of rules. I liked what rules were and I liked the spirit of the manifesto. At that point …no one really knew what it was, so it was exciting for me and I said yeah. When I conceived of that movie anyway, it was in a way that was pretty close to what the rules were saying. So, I felt like in some ways it was like going to church or something, there was a redemptive process, a kind of purging in making that movie. So I agreed to do it and that’s how it happened really.
GO: I think it’s an interesting process, not specifically those rules but just self-imposed rules in art. I think a lot of painters actually kind of give themselves rules or restraints…not permanently but things will temporarily restrict their approach to certain rules and I think it kind of frees up your thinking in a way.
HK: Yeah, yeah it was nice. You could pretty much do what you wanted, but you would have to go about it technically in a different way. It would force you to think in a new way. Like music, you weren’t laying music in during the post production, if you wanted music you had to make the decision to play the music in the scene live.
GO: In the beginning with the ice-skater, that music is like off the TV right? So that’s allowable.
HK: Yeah right, exactly. And then you couldn’t bring any props in. The props had to exist in the location at the time of shooting so you had to find places where you knew they exist. It kind of became a strange game.
GO: Which rule gave you the most trouble?
HK: I wrote something that was basically my confessions, how I sinned against the brotherhood. And so in the confessions I talked about the times that I cheated, and they were basically things like obviously Chloe’s character is not really pregnant.
GO: I didn’t even think of that one.
HK: Yeah, I should go back and read that. It was pretty specific. I’m trying to think what else… I can’t even really remember but…
GO: Didn’t a lot of Dogme rules come out of Cassavetes?
HK: Uh, I don’t know. In speaking to them before and after I don’t remember them mentioning his name. It was almost more of a religious conceit. The earliest conversations were about some kind of, this idea of forcing some kind of truth and poetry. The rules were like a guideline to force some kind of greater truth. But yeah, stylistically it just ended up that films a lot of them—maybe you could say because they were handheld and the way the rhythm, the editing was very musical—that they could resemble Cassavetes…
GO: Well I guess it’s also like Aristotle’s unities. So like after that, do you have sort of have rules that you follow?
HK: You mean now?
GO: Of your own? Yeah.
HK: No, not really. When I was younger I would always think to myself that there were certain things I would never do, and then I always do them now… Now I just don’t really see any kind of limits.
HK: Just things like lighting certain ways and using certain cameras. You know I thought I would never light a room like that. In that way that when you’re young you kind of put yourself in a box. Now it’s like, it’s fun for me … I enjoy going against my initial thoughts, or rules or whatever. Maybe it’s good to break your own rules on occasion, if you even have any anymore?
GO: One of the Dogme rules is about post production and altering the texture or treating the image. I guess you must have been using like Super 8 or something to get those really wild colors?
HK: Oh yeah that was something that arguably was a big rule breaker. The whole film was shot on video but then blown up to Super 8, and then from Super 8 to 35mm because I wanted to make a movie that resembled color Xeroxes. Actually, there was a certain point in my life where I was considering making a film of Xeroxes, like a Xeroxed movie. You would edit the movie 24 frames per second, you would make a color Xerox of each frame so it would be 24 color Xeroxes per second then you would go back with a stop motion camera and go frame by frame and re-photograph the Xeroxes. But we actually did the math and it was like something insane, I forgot how many millions of pieces of paper of Xeroxes it would have to be. It would have taken a couple of years to pull off. So the video to Super 8 to 35mm was kind of me trying to replicate that. I wanted like these swirls of color and a kind of dancing grain. You can make the argument that it wasn’t in the spirit of the dogma because you weren’t really supposed to pay much attention to aesthetics.
GO: So, I think I read somewhere that you’ve been making TV commercials, what have you done?
HK: I’ve done a couple, I’ve done a chocolate ad, I just did a rum ad, I did a series of insurance ads, and uh, what else? I’ve done a handful of them, I like doing them.
GO: Yeah, that’s kind of my secret life, my TV commercial life.
HK: Oh really?
GO: I’ve done a ton, yeah.
GO: I’ve directed some. I directed one with Vincent Gallo and Lisa Marie Presley for Iceberg Jeans and Iceberg Fragrance.
HK: Oh yeah? How did that turn out?
GO: I think it’s beautiful, it looks like a Godard movie, very saturated color…
HK: Oh yeah, when did you do it?
GO: That was probably in like ’97 maybe?
HK: Hm, oh.
GO: Now I mostly work with other directors, I work a lot with Jean-Baptiste Mondino. Like this year we did Dior with Charlize Theron and Armani with Megan Fox, Dolce & Gabbana with Scarlet Johansen and Matthew McConaughey.
HK: Oh yeah? Are you writing the ads?
HK: Do you work for an advertising company?
GO: I’ve been hired by advertising companies but usually I just work with the directors.
HK: Oh, I see what you’re saying. So they’ll come to a director and then they’ll say oh we’re interested in you writing on something, writing a treatment or something, and then the director will come to you and get you to help them.
GO: Yeah. It’s like making a 30 second movie. I really like doing it.
HK: Yeah, what I most enjoy is the pace, the speed, because they’re done so quickly. Obviously the movies are the main thing, this is something totally separate. But the ads are done very quickly and technically I always find it’s a good time to try things out… to use certain cameras or to work with certain people that you can end up working with on a movie.
GO: My proudest moment was the Calvin Klein Jeans campaign that was banned… People were calling it the child pornography campaign. It looked like casting for a porno movie. I worked with Steven Meisel…
HK: In like the 90’s?
GO: Yeah, Bill Clinton was president and he got really upset and he said I wouldn’t want my daughter seeing these. That was right before Monica Lewinsky.
HK: Oh yeah, I remember.
GO: He told the justice department to investigate us
HK: Are you serious?
HK: Yeah, those caused a huge stir.
GO: Yeah, then, Calvin Klein said okay I’ll take them off the air but we had already spent the media budget already so it was perfect.
HK: Yeah, I remember they were like teenagers in l non-descript rooms.
GO: Yeah, I think people were offended by like the carpeting and the paneling more than anything else. It was obscene paneling and obscene carpeting.
HK: Yeah, it reminded me of that book that Larry Clark did, 1992.
GO: Oh, Larry was definitely an inspiration for that campaign. Did you ever make music videos?
HK: Not really, I mean I have done, I did one for Sonic Youth and I did one for my friend Bonnie Prince Billy… I did one for Cat Power. When I was really young I did one that no one’s ever seen but for Daniel Johnson. It was just images of a kid in my grandma’s kitchen in Queens having seizures convulsing and her sticking wooden spoons in his mouth. He was this guy that I had grown up with who would have seizures on command, like if you said something to him like he would start to seize up.
GO: You mean like a certain word or something?
HK: Yeah, or like if you take your hand by his ear and smack it really loud he would drop to the ground and have seizures. So all the neighborhood kids would always do that to him. It was something cruel about it but it was also really hilarious. He actually didn’t seem to mind. I think he died not too long ago, someone I think did that to him and he smashed his head. I’d heard he’d been sent to jail for a couple of years and when he got out someone from the neighborhood had made him seize up and spaz out. But anyway, I guess I was 19 or something when I made it and it was just footage of him, he was wearing a protective hat and goggles just kind of on my grandma’s shag carpet just flipping around like a fish.
GO: Did you ever see that movie The Flicker?
HK: No, what’s that?
GO: It was made by this artist Tony Conrad, and it’s basically the kind of just cut up film… he took black frames and white frames and created this rhythm that apparently causes like 1 out of 50 people to have a seizure.
HK: Oh really? Wow.
GO: And that was the whole concept behind it, that was like real underground film days.
HK: Like he was trying to do it?
GO: Well, I don’t know if that was his intention or they just found that out afterward.
HK: Man, that would be crazy if that was his intention… Yeah, I’d like to see that.
GO: That sort of relates to this other thing, you know Brion Gysin? Burroughs’ partner? He invented this thing called the Dream Machine. Which is like the lamp with the…
HK: Oh yeah, I know that.
GO: And that’s the same concept, except it’s not to send you in an epileptic state but into this kind of psychic state.
HK: Did you ever try one of those?
GO: No, I’d like to. I’d like to try that and I always wanted to try an Orgone Box too but…
HK: Yeah, the Orgone box seems crazy. Didn’t Burroughs have one on his farm in Kansas? Yeah, didn’t he have one? They swore by them right?
GO: I believe he had some kind of tool inside that was made out of a metal. So, I was wondering, did Michael Jackson ever see Mister Lonely?
HK: You know that’s a good question, I would say no—I’ve wondered the same thing. I didn’t hear about it if he did. It would kind of surprise me because, it seems like the kind of thing he would have seen. But I never got any response, not that I actually tried to show it to him, I wouldn’t even know how.
GO: No, but you would think maybe out of curiosity he would have heard about it.
HK: I did this book of photographs a long time ago that Macaulay Culkin was in called The Bad Son, and a friend of mine who worked at Printed Matter said that Michael Jackson had gone in and bought like 5 or 6 copies of the book.
GO: Did you ever consider trying to get the rights to his music?
HK: Maybe for like 5 minutes, but it seemed like something that would have taken forever and…
GO: …Cost more than the rest of the movie.
HK: Yeah, and that’s even if it would have worked.
GO: When he first does the dance stuff, it’s actually really nice silent I think.
HK: Yeah, I thought so too. That was like when they were trying to figure out music in there I just played it silently and thought it was more interesting without music.
GO: You never met Michael Jackson or anything?
GO: Did you ever meet Madonna?
HK: Oh yeah, one time but it was a long time ago.
GO: I wonder if she saw that film?
HK: I don’t know.
GO: She would probably think she didn’t have a big enough part.
HK: That’s a good question, I used that “Like a Prayer” song in Gummo and she gave it to me for one dollar.
GO: That’s nice. I was doing something with her years ago and she actually said “Do you want to meet Michael Jackson?” They were working in the same studio complex in Hollywood so I shook Michael Jackson’s hand and…
HK: Oh really? The magician knew him really well, the magician, David Blaine.
GO: Really? I’d like to know more about that. I saw This Is It, have you seen that?
GO: I was blown away by it. I didn’t really want to see it, you know? And then when I saw it I was so impressed by him and his command of everything.
HK: Yeah, that’s what my wife said. He was great, he was the world’s greatest eccentric.
GO: But when he died you kind of assumed he was really fucked up and that he was trying to get out of doing the tour, and all those stories but he was so amazing in this film. He was so in control artistically and musically.
HK: That’s what I heard, yeah. He was incredible. I guess that’s just a really fucked up way to go to sleep. To be put into a coma on a daily basis is going to take it’s toll. I heard that the recovery time from a drug induced coma is a few days, and he was doing it every single day. It’s a pretty intense lifestyle choice.
GO: Did you ever pretend to be somebody when you were a kid?
HK: To pretend to be um…
GO: Mister Lonely resonated with me a lot because my brother, when he was about 6 or 7 he became Pinky Lee. You probably don’t know who Pinky Lee is…
GO: He was like a child’s entertainer. You had to call my brother Pinky, he wouldn’t answer to his regular name. Then later he became Curly, from The Stooges.
HK: You mean he actually became…like he?
GO: He shaved his head and he would wear what Curly would wear and just talked in that chuckle.
HK: Are you serious? [laughs] How old was he?
GO: Yeah, when he became Curly he was probably 8 or 9.
HK: Wow, that’s amazing for a kid that young.
GO: He really kind of lived it. Then he also went through a period where he was like a priest, he would have mass in his room and stuff.
HK: Did he ever outgrow it or did he just keep doing it?
GO: Yeah, yeah. The last phase actually was when he was a freshman in High School, maybe I was a senior and he was a freshman. He became Richard Kimble from The Fugitive. We would be going to school on the bus and he would get off the bus two stops early. Later I would say, “What happened?”. He said “Someone recognized me.”
HK: [laughs] What happened to him? What did he end up doing?
GO: He actually developed really bad epilepsy, and now he’s kind of normal but sort of damaged from all the…
HK: From all the fits?
GO: I think more from the drugs he takes to prevent them, they’re really unpleasant so it’s like damned if you do, damned if you don’t…
HK: Yeah, what’s worse? And you’re not allowed to drive either.
GO: Yeah, he’s not allowed to drive.
HK: He lives in New York?
GO: No, he lives in Florida, near my mother.
HK: Horrible. All of Florida. I never spent much time there. My grandma used to live there, like Orlando or something. When I was a kid I used to go visit. I heard real estate is pretty good there now, cause they built all those places and nobody’s there. You can buy some house on the water for like not very much money. Florida has a lot of empty homes. Did you see that movie Cocaine Cowboys?
GO: The documentary one? Yeah. There’s actually a fictional movie, Cocaine Cowboys. It came out in the 80’s. It was made by this guy Tom Sullivan, who was actually a cocaine dealer. But that Cocaine Cowboys documentary was pretty wild.
HK: Did you ever hear that Johnny Cash song that he sings with David Allan Coe called “Cocaine Carolina”?
GO: No, I don’t think so.
HK: It’s good, “Met her on an ocean liner called the Cocaine Carolina,
she didn’t want me for my money, she just want my body, honey.
Cocaine Carolina how did I get hooked on you?”
It’s good. David Allan Coe wrote it. Yeah, that would be good if someone just made a compilation of cocaine themed music. I mean there’s a lot of rap music, I guess that’s like that…
GO: I like the one, you know Dillinger’s “Cocaine Runnin Round My Brain?”
HK: Yeah, that’s a classic one!
GO: “A knife, a fork, a bottle, and cork. That’s the way you spell New York.”
HK: Yeah, that’s a good one. Good line.
GO: So what’s the script you’re writing?
HK: Well it’s based on this character like, well I can’t say too much, but it’s based on a guy that gets out of jail and is forced to do something very demeaning. I can tell you more later. There’s a person that I know, it’s very funny. It’s weird, I always feel you can jinx projects by talking about them. Do you know what I mean?
HK: It’s almost like a superstition or something, you know? Like you can almost get so excited about something and tell people about it and somehow in the act of doing that it gets destroyed.
GO: Also, word travels so fast that you could set some kind of reaction going by accident.
GO: So, did you get Samantha Morton because you knew her or through a casting person?
HK: Oh no, I had known her since she was… she was pretty young when I first met her. She was like 18 or 19 and I always thought she was a great actress.
GO: She’s like one of the greats of our time I think.
HK: She’s excellent. Yeah, as soon as I wrote it I called her up and talked to her about it. She’s a good one.
GO: I loved her role in The Libertine.
HK: I haven’t seen that one.
GO: That’s a really good movie.
HK: What is that again?
GO: That’s the Johnny Depp movie where he plays Lord Rochester, a British lord who’s a playwright during the Restoration. He wrote some really filthy poems and plays, and quite a genius.
HK: No, I never saw that one.
GO: I think it’s Johnny Depp’s best role.
HK: Really? What year was it? Was it recently?
GO: Yeah,2004. It’s really worth seeing. I’ve seen it on television about 12 times. John Malkovich is in it, he’s amazing. He plays King Charles. It’s one of his best roles. But Samatha Morton plays the mistress of Rochester who he coaches into being the greatest actress of her time. Which is true.
HK: I should see that. I remember hearing about it. I thought Johnny Depp was pretty good in that Michael Mann movie, Public Enemies. But yeah, he’s always good.
GO: It’s funny, I don’t do that many interviews but the Journal asked me to interview you and then Hobo magazine asked me to interview Mark Gonzales. So I interviewed Mark yesterday.
HK: Oh really? What was that like? How was that?
GO: It was really good. I didn’t know what we’d talk about, but then we wound up talking a lot about skateboarding and it was really interesting.
HK: Yeah, Mark’s the best.
GO: I never saw the zines you guys did together.
HK: You haven’t see those? Give me your address and I’ll send you-
GO: I actually ordered it. But I will get you to sign my copy of [undecipherable 53:03]
HK: Oh shit, you got that! That’s great, yeah, for sure.
GO: I’m really good friends of Christopher.
HK: Yeah, I love Christopher. I haven’t seen him in a while, I gotta say hi to him.
GO: He hasn’t been in New York that much.
HK: Where’s he been? Texas? At uh, Marfa?
GO: Yeah, he loves it there. He’s in town at the moment actually. Are you here for a long time?
HK: Until Monday. If you see him pass on my phone number because I’d love to say hi to him.
GO: Do you ever act in other people’s movies?
HK: Yeah, I’ve been in a couple. Nothing like too serious, I was in a couple of Gus’s movies. Little parts, cameos and stuff. I’m in Trash Humpers…
GO: What’s James Fox like?
HK: Oh he’s great, he’s a nice guy.
GO: Such a great actor.
HK: He had a pretty insane life, after the performance he disappeared I think for a little ways. I think they said he had a nervous breakdown and became a born again for a while. He’s terrific, actually one of my favorite people I’ve ever worked with.
GO: And he’s really good in your Mr. Lonely.
HK: And then it was also fun because he was with Anita, Anita Pallenberg.
GO: Really? That’s her?!
HK: Yeah, that was Anita Pallenberg. So to see them hanging out again was really…
GO: I guess I missed the credits. So is she in good shape? It’s funny the last time I saw her I looked in a limo and thought it was Lou Reed. It must have been the denim newboy cap.
HK: Oh really?
GO: I spent an evening with her and Marianne Faithfull years ago. And they hadn’t spoken in like 10 or 15 years, it was pretty funny. Battle of the titans.
HK: I think they’re friends still. Yeah, Anita’s a real original for sure. I’m not sure if she’s allowed to come into the States anymore.
GO: Yeah, she had that incident at her house.
HK: It’s a crazy life, great life though.
GO: So, I think I read some place that you got the idea for Trash Humpers by looking out your window or something…
HK: Oh no, what happened was that I always walk the dogs late at night and there are all these alleyways by my house. It’s where everybody puts the trash bins and there are all these overhead lampposts that have this kind of dramatic, almost theatrical lighting. They would shine down on these trash bins and the bins would look vaguely human to me. They started to take almost human form. They seem beaten up, abused and molested and you would see like ivy growing around them. It almost seemed like a war scene or something, kind of apocalyptic. I remember when I was a kid there growing up there was a group of elderly peeping toms that used to hang out. There was like a retirement home, a makeshift retirement home down the street from my house. It was really just like a basement I think, like a warehouse, if you were unemployed or didn’t like your dad or whatever, for like 20 bucks you could stick them in this place down the street, this person’s basement. I remember I would walk by the house sometimes and they would always be playing that Herman’s Hermits song over and over again. They made them wear clothes like a dress code, black turtleneck sweaters and white nursing shoes. I guess I would see them, they were kind of like the boogeymen of the neighborhood. I had this pretty next door neighbor, this girl a couple of years older than me and I would see them peeping into her windows, and kind of doing pretty horrible things. It had always kind of stuck with me. So I kind of made the film about them. I had grown up next to these two brothers. They were like my closest friends as a kid, both older than me. Their father had, remember those “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels, you remember those things? They were popular in the ‘80s, and they would say at the end of a page like “If you want to explore the barn, skip to page 46, If you want to feed the chickens go to page 12…”
HK: So their father was the guy that had written the first one or something. They used to do these things where they would steal parking lot curbs and put them in their back yard. They would line their back yard with parking lot curbs. We would go over to their house and they would buy tap shoes and I would watch them, they would take the laces out of their tap shoes and they would dance across the parking lot curbs. That’s how I got into tap dancing. They would call it curb dancing and their entire backyard was just these stolen parking lot curbs. Anyways, these two brothers and Iwould go and follow these old people around. Both brothers are in prison, one is on death row right now. But they were very big into this thing called curb dancing. Also, one of the brothers had taped an entire years worth of CNN on VHS cassette tapes. I never forget, I went to his house after he had been sent to prison and the mom was throwing away a bunch of stuff and asked if I wanted to keep the tap shoes. I saw a stack of VHS tapes and I said “What are those?,” and she said “Well this section is On Golden Pond.” He had something like 30 or 40 versions of On Golden Pond from different countries and an entire year’s worth of CNN from the ‘80s.
GO: That’s amazing.
HK: I know it’s crazy. I tried to talk her into not throwing them all away but I think she did.
GO: That’s a really interesting illness.
HK: Yeah, I don’t even really know where it came from. They just got into these things like that were very specific. It made a big impact on me. I used to look up to them. Also because I remember both kids had full beards by the time they were 12. I just thought they were great. But yeah, one of them is on death row and is supposed to been executed a few times. It’s pretty crazy. Should we go get some coffee?