But the voyage was over. They would soon reach the harbour.
No, of course there weren't any harbours for the spirit, no rest. The slaves were chained, the captains, prisoners of the ship... and she, if she did not die before, would toil on across the black waves - to nowhere - the ship itself, the ship of the whole earth, was rotting under their feet, at last it would open up in space like a burst basket.
It might surprise you to learn that Brooke Candy—whose near-naked, booty-shakin’ video clip for “Das Me” went viral in October 2012—isn’t out to shock. In fact, the 24-year-old American rapper, whose singles include “I Wanna Fuck Right Now” and “Pussy Make The Rules,” has plans to record melodic pop music.
“I’m working towards world domination,” she says without a trace of irony. “My music right now is very polarizing. There are people that will listen to my music before they go out, but it’s not melodic shit that everyone can listen to, and I want to make that…What’s important is my message, not my music, you know? My music takes a backseat to my message.”
That message is one of furious feminism and gay pride. An outcast at school, Candy was kicked out after coming out. She lived in her car for a year and a half, working as a stripper and at an “illegal weed clinic.” She began freestyle rapping at clubs. Not long after someone uploaded a video of her debut performance to YouTube, she stole the show as a pink-haired Mad Max-esque entity in the video for Grimes’s hit single “Genesis.” Since then she’s become the most-watched new figure in the music industry.
Candy is determined to make it to the top. She oozes confidence and conviction, barely drawing breath while outlining her agenda. “It was hard for me, growing up,” she says. “I wish that there had been someone who was weird and successful and cool and gay and all these things that I would have looked up to. I’m trying to be something that would appeal to the 13-year-old me. I stand for people who don’t fit in. I want them to understand that they can fall and they can fail and they can live out of their car and they can feel like nothing and have their family hate them and feel like shit and still come out of that shining and fucking winning—because I did it. If I can do it, anyone can do it.”
Flesh-loving photography iconoclast Richard Kern: “Coco Young is like a younger, female, New York-based Wolfgang Tillmans. I’ve shot her twice and felt I got just a glimpse of her personality. I get the same feeling from her photos — they’re little hints about her mysterious and exotic life and the people and things around her.”
“Monkey mind” is a Buddhist term that describes the constant chatter in our brains: restlessness, capriciousness, confusion and whatever awful will.i.am songs get stuck in your head intermittently. Many people use yoga or meditation to clear their minds of this, but doe-eyed beauty Coco Young uses photography.
“With photography, I let go completely,” she gushes over Skype from a deserted auditorium in Columbia University, where she’s currently completing a degree in art history and English literature. “I feel like I’m on drugs or something. I get this crazy adrenaline rush. My brain shuts down. I’m almost automatic when I do it.”
Currently signed to Wilhelmina Models, the 24-year-old is best known for playing muse to art-world photographers Ryan McGinley and Richard Kern and classical painter John Currin. But she’s more interested in photography than modelling.
“I grew up in Marseille, and when I was about 15 years old, this old neighbour organised this workshop for photography. She was asking women to photograph their journey from home to work. She gave me a disposable camera and I started shooting my city and my friends, and that’s how I started. After the project was over, I just kept shooting.”
A couple of years later, Young dropped out of high school, moved to New York to be with her then boyfriend and started interning at McGinley’s photo agency, before meeting him on the street.
“I thought he was asking me about assisting him, but then his agent reached out to me and was like, ‘Oh, Ryan wants to shoot you for this thing.’ It was like, ‘Ummm... Okaaaay...’ It was good, though. You still learn by watching. As a model, you learn from the photographer. Luckily, I wasn’t super famous — I’m not that googlable. I mean, hopefully in a few years time, when you look me up, it’ll all be photography-related. I’m not too worried though. I feel like I’m reaching a place of zen with it all. I mean, the poet WH Auden wrote most of his work when he was 20, and it’s like, ‘Are you kidding me? Fuck!’ I can’t compete with that! At the end of the day, you’ve just got to be yourself and things will work out.”
For Oyster’s ‘Peace’ issue, I imagined myself penning something super-zen on the shores of Lake Como, wearing a white linen suit or a kaftan, or whatever. Instead, my interview with Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich of Atoms for Peace, regarding their new album, Amok, was preceded by a debauched night of tequila, rum and burglary. A less conventional path to enlightenment, for sure, but as Yorke points out, it’s best if you just go with the flow.
Illustration: STANLEY DONWOOD
Zac Bayly: Hello Thom! How are you today?
Thom Yorke: Alright, thanks. I didn’t sleep so well last night, though.
Yorke: I don’t know…. I even took sleeping pills and everything.
And they didn’t work?
Yorke: No. You were up late as well, yeah?
Yeah. Dazed and Confused had a Christmas party last night for staff and contributors, and I was there when I got the email asking me to do this interview.
Yorke: Oh, unlucky! [Laughs]
So I had to leave very quickly, around midnight.…
Yorke: How was the Dazed party?
It was really fun, but I’m quite hungover today. And two hours after I got home, my housemate woke me up and said, “Did you notice anything when you got home before?” And I said, “No, why?” We’d been burgled and all our stuff was gone!
Yorke: No! Oh, I’m sorry…
No, no; don’t worry. It happens. What have you been up to today?
Yorke: Well, like I said, I couldn’t sleep last night, and then I lost my phone this morning and had to tear my hotel to bits trying to find it. That wasn’t a good start.
No, that’s not a good start. Are you generally a clean, organised person?
Yorke: No. Well, organisation seems to result in no creativity at all, so… I finally have a studio at home. I’ve never really had one before and it just goes through these phases of… I get back from tour and plug everything back in and make it all work and shit and, musically, when I do that, it’s like nothing happens. It’s only when I start unplugging things and the chaos returns that work starts. Our house is total chaos — absolute fucking mayhem. I remember when you first get a little bit of money you start thinking, “Wouldn’t be nice to have a house?” And then you get these house brochures and you get the minimalist pictures of minimalist rooms with nothing in them — there’s a table with a single apple on it and you think, “Who the fuck lives like that?” … So, did you manage to listen to the record at all yet?
Someone emailed the album to me about 15 minutes ago.
Yorke: That’s ridiculous.
But I am very aware of your Radiohead work. I think I listened to ‘There, There’ about ten times a day when I was a teenager.
Yorke: Fucking hell, that’s weird. [Nigel Godrich enters the room] This poor guy hasn’t heard shit! He’s been burgled and he’s left the Dazed and Confused party and now he’s hungover and had to come and do this. [Godrich laughs] Don’t worry about it — it’s probably worked out OK, because we’ve been answering the same questions all day. I was just saying actually how funny it was with the Japanese interviews — it’s really weird when you have one interpreter for different journalists, because it’s the same guy asking the same questions! I quite like it, weirdly, because you have time to meditate between questions. It’s a mental withdrawal… I had to take a video of them; it’s fucking incredible.
Have you heard about the last time Yayoi Kusama did an interview in person? I think it was for the New York Times. The journalist sat down and said something like, “It’s really funny that you seem so serious in real life, because your art is really happy and pop-y!” So, the translator explains what she had said and Yayoi Kusama leans over and whispers a couple of words in the translator’s ear, who then says, “This interview is done.”
Yorke: Ooh yeah, I’d be with her. That’s like, “Really? You don’t get it, do you!” You know, when I was at art college I was into the outsider art concept, and I’m at college going, “Well you’re not teaching me anything useful and it does feel like a mental home.”
Being at university?
Yorke: Yeah. So, I got into the outsider art thing because I felt like that was nearer to music in some ways. It gets really depressing with art college sometimes, the way they quantify so much of what the creative process is. In Switzerland, in Lausanne, there’s this this doctor that I can’t remember the name of, only because I’m really tired … It was this whole concept about art therapy and art done within institutions. It was to do with this idea that if you express yourself, it’s a way of retaining your sanity. Yayoi said this classic thing; she said, “If I did not have this, I would have killed myself long ago.” I’m absolutely the same and I think most creative people are. If you don’t have a channel to express things, when things go wrong you just go under. Some people are just like that, and she’s like that. But I always got a sense at art college that somehow that idea went awry, a little bit, in the cerebral analysis of what was going on. You would lose this sort of joy or relief caused by self-expression. I actually used to go out with an art therapist for ages. I used to work in a mental home with her.
Yorke: Yeah, that’s how I met her. It was very interesting going to art college and then being with her, where there was the idea of art as self-expression — not as an end product, but as a day-to-day method of release, you know what I mean?
Nigel Godrich: Yayoi was obviously really aware of it, because she checked herself into [the psychiactric hospital] where she lived.
Yorke: That’s kind of why I was thinking about it. The piece I saw on telly was like, “And she still insists on going and getting treatment,” and I was like, “Well of course she bloody does!” I wouldn’t say its true for Damien Hirst, but for loads of artists it’s like, “I need this. I have to have this. I don’t have a choice about this.”
I think those are the people who are really great at their work, or at least the happiest ones — when they are more passionate about the process of actually doing it rather than just the achievement of having done it.
Yorke: Yeah, you know, that’s the thing for me. But I think actually with us, for example, what I’ve found is that it used to be that I didn’t enjoy the process of being in the studio. I didn’t enjoy it. It was really hard and I’d feel the pressure of it. I mean, it’s gone through phases, but the best times to be in the studio have been really listening to the end product, when you’re really excited about it. But when we did the Atoms thing here, we had no idea what this was, you know? It was like, “We are just going to sit in this room and we are going to jam. We don’t know where this is going.” And then things happened and it all fell together. It was like, “Fuck me — if you can’t enjoy that bit of the process then there is no point in doing it.” And I guess art is the same thing. Art is about the process. It is about the active. It is about Picasso smoking a blunt and going into his studio in the morning and going, “This is my life. This is my job. I do this everyday and if I didn’t I don’t know what else there would be.”
Yeah. I feel like generally people in the world would be much happier and saner if they were more focused on doing things rather than being things, you know? And this is something I’ve only learned thanks to advice from a dear friend recently. I think a lot of people want to be successful, but not everyone wants to do whatever they want to be successful at everyday.
Yorke: That’s quite a zen way of looking at things. Yeah — you’ve got to be within the moment with whatever you’re working on, not hanging onto something that’s not there. I mean I’m not a big zen person. I’ve only got one zen book. I only started reading it because I was trying to meditate and I was struggling with it, but what I found really interesting in this zen book was how it explains quite a lot about creativity and how it’s impossible to be creative if you are not open to the moment that you are in. You have an idea in your head of what it should be, but if you are not prepared for that idea to change as you do it, you will never get there. You’ll drive yourself crazy!
Yeah. I’ve been reading some great interviews with David Lynch where he explains how different things came into being as he was creating films — there were all these happy accidents that he turned into great moments.
Yorke: Totally. You have to be open to the experience of trying to get there, and for it to all go wrong. The end product is the dialogue between what you want and what’s going to actually happen. You know what I mean? The worst times for me creatively is if I’ve gone into a studio expecting it to be one thing, and… and the amount of times I’ve thought, “I can’t dictate how it will turn out!” And I instinctively know that, but you’ve got that strong image of what you want it to be, and you cant negotiate that. You go into this weird panic, because you can’t let go enough to just let it be something else.
Godrich: It’s so crazy, because that’s the bit I love is the not knowing, and sort of just sitting there and seeing what happens. You can’t define what you want it to be, so you just set up some sort of situation and allow it to happen. You must never make the mistake of thinking that you created it.
Yorke: That’s it. But then your ego gets in the way! I mean, the whole point of practicing zen or trying to get into meditation is to remove the ego, to remove the sense of self, so … Say today, people have been asking me how I’ve written lyrics and blah, blah, blah and… well, I just tried not to write them. I tried to totally remove ‘me’ from it, which is impossible to explain because everybody thinks you are just talking shit.
Godrich: They’re saying, “What was the concept behind this? What were you trying to say with that?”
Yorke: I’m trying to just be in the moment and go with it.
Godrich: I think that’s a creative rule, in a way.
Yorke: It depends on what medium you are using. I look at what Stanley Donwood does [Yorke holds up an Amok record, which features Donwood’s art on the cover], the artwork he creates, and it would be fucking tricky to do that.
Godrich: He’s committing himself to it right away. He’s cutting linoleum strips and piecing them together as he’s going. I mean, it’s like, if you could make an analogy of putting something down without going back on it, it would be him. It would be different if you were drawing it digitally, because you could chop and change it more easily.
Yorke: [Thom holds up an Amok record, which features Donwood’s art on the cover] He was making it as we were recording it. Stanley has always done the artwork. I went to Art College with him.
Godrich: This particular artwork is, like, 17 feet long, isn’t it?
Yorke: Yeah. He had an exhibition where they had to build a bent wall to fit it into the room! It took him a long time to make.
Godrich: What actually happened was he was like, “How close are you to finishing the album? Because I’ve got three feet to go!” [Everyone laughs] And we were like, “It’s going to be done in a couple of days,” and he was like, “Oh fuck!”
Yorke: And then we were another six months late! Poor chap.
I’ve been thinking about that whole idea of relying on your instincts and just trying to go with the flow lately. You forget that your brain is actually really complex. It’s designed to make things as easy as possible — it’s processing a lot of information rapidly so you get to that instinctual response; so you don’t have to waste too much time over thinking things.
Yorke: Yeah, exactly. It’s making decisions based on all these past experiences and… You know, there’s that classic cliché thing about scientific breakthroughs essentially being creative. Your mind has to jump between one thing and another, and there is no way that is going to happen if you are just working on one level. You have to go with your instincts.
Godrich: What’s it called? Divine intervention.
Yorke: And, you know, that’s the thing with me: when I was trying to write the words it was a subconscious thing. It couldn’t be forced, and I didn’t realise that for a while. If you think too much, you start to think, “Why would I choose this bassline for this song, because it only goes [sings a really simplified bassline]?” Well, you run with it because how it fits and falls into the song makes you feel a certain way, you know?
Yorke: And this is the weird thing: so many people say dance music is not emotional, but it’s like, “Are you fucking kidding me?” Like, there are dance tunes that make me well up, and it’s like, “This is nothing! Why am I responding like this?” It’s just a weird, unexplainable subconscious response. I’m not going to use the word ‘trance’ — not ‘trance’ in the music genre sense of the word, anyway — but that music can send you off into this place, man. The repetition is just going on and on and on and on, but at some point the old alpha waves in your mind are like, “Whoooaaa…” You don’t have to be on anything; you just open up to something. It’s the same with films or art — you just get opened up to something. I mean, you would think all that was completely gone from popular culture right now, but… I’m going to stop myself. I’m sounding like an old man.
Godrich: But that’s another thing that you would say about afrobeat: it’s like a repetitive thing, but that repetition makes you tune out. Any repetitious tune can make you feel something.
I think that’s the idea behind prayer. Like, repeating the same prayer over and over again — the Hail Mary on rosary beads, for example — tunes you out, and you end up meditating without trying to meditate.
Yorke: Yeah. “Music is prayer!”
Godrich: “This is our prayer!”
Yorke: Now we’re starting to sound like dicks…
We’ve gone too far down that road.
Yorke: Yeah, good Lord!
I’m just going to include that bit of the conversation [everyone laughs]. The title of this article is going to be ‘Music is our prayer!’
Godrich: “This album is like our prayer!”
Yorke: I just did a TV interview, and… dear oh dear. The repetition of questions… Everybody asked, “So, what’s your favourite supergroup?” And we were like, “Get fucked…”
Yorke: I just did a TV interview, and… dear oh dear. The repetition of questions… Everybody asked, “So, what’s your favourite supergroup?” And we were like, “Get fucked…”
I’m just going to cross that question out…
Yorke: [Laughs] It’s like, “Come up with a couple of your own questions, you know?” This interview is over…
I never know what to ask people, so I end up just talking about ‘stuff’. My favourite question that I’ve ever asked someone is, “Have you ever shot a gun?” But it’s not always appropriate…
Yorke: Ask us that question!
Who’s shot a gun?
Godrich: Ummm… Yes, I have, I think. I was in the cadets for like, five minutes, and I shot a .22 rifle, and then I shot clay pigeons once in Ireland, which was fun.
Yorke: Well, that’s better than me. We used to have an air rifle and I was fascinated by the idea that if I shot someone in the arse they would go blind.
Godrich: Is that true?
That can’t be true…
Yorke: I don’t know! Someone told me that once.
Blind in which eye?
I thought it was like an innuendo for the eye of the penis or something.
Yorke: I do remember — my grandfather was a farmer and he used to shoot a lot of pheasants and we’d go around the house and they’d all be hung upside-down in the garage when we parked, which creates an interesting smell and then — this is probably why I’m vegetarian now — I’d always be the fucking one who got the lead shot in my teeth at dinner.
ZB: Ahhh… That would scare me.
Yorke: Yeah. Every Christmas — joy! … Wow — you’ve got the best interview, that’s for sure.
Godrich: Yeah, really well done. Yay!
Yorke: I hope everything works out with your flat…
This story was published in Oyster's PEACE issue, which is on sale now.