Kevin Barnes, the front man behind Of Montreal, is one of the most dedicated and inspiring people I've ever met. He mentioned in passing that his first 600 songs were atrocious. Six hundred? This guy's paid some serious dues en route to the band's seventh album, Satanic Panic in the Attic, on which he more or less recorded everything himself. And not just guitar, bass, and drums either--there's layers and layers of instruments and interesting sounds. But rather than trying to describe these sounds, I'll just plug the Thraser Rocket Science DVD and say: watch the Arizona section. Life is fun.
Do you believe in Satan?
Sure. Well, it's hard to say. I vacillate between believing in good and evil. It's kind of silly to think about this actual creature that sits there and tries to corrupt human brains.
What's a poppet?
A poppet is this term of endearment that I heard when we were in England. I was at a convenient store, and this woman was like, "Cheers, poppet!"
I was like, "Poppet? Weird ... I'm going to use that in a song." I just try to have fun with lyrics, do some stream-of-consciousness type stuff. It can be so boring when people use generic rhyme schemes or just think about girls when they write. I avoid love songs unless they're really genuine. I try to go beyond that.
Like "butterflies melting on the wall"? Are you on drugs?
A lot of things seem like they could be psychedelic visions or somehow inspired by a drug experience. "Spike the Senses" seems like it could have some overt drug connotation, but I really don't even know where it came from. I wasn't doing heroin or anything. I guess a lot of people get to that state eventually through doing drugs, like, if you smoke a lot of dope and don't get brain dead, you can actually have ideas and think of stuff like that. But I try to get there naturally, because whenever I do drugs, it seems to just dull me. It dulls my brain, and I can't think; I just sort of stare. I think the most important thing about existence is to just be productive and creative.
Do you watch TV?
Not really. I find TV really frustrating. It's a strange drug. So many people just sit in front of it for hours and become zombies. They go to bed, wake up, and go to work. That kind of existence is horrifying. It's just so wrong, and so many people fall into that trap. And it's scary the way it's set up; it's all about manipulation, a neverending cycle of creating these consumers, these insanely insecure people, who need television to tell them what to do and think, to feel sane. It takes the human out of the human's brain. You can't smell, you can't look strange, you can't have pimples, you can't have yellow teeth ... you have to be this perfect plastic human. But I think most people are smart enough not to fall for it.
I basically have just been making music every waking moment. That's my greatest joy, sitting there with the headphones on--it's just wonderful. But I like to play basketball a lot, and I really want to get back into skating. I've been thinking about it, but I'm kind of insecure, because I'll suck so bad, and I'll be too old to suck.
You'll get over it. What's a good skate memory?
Trying to do Japan airs off our launch ramp. Except my friend kept breaking his arm, and his morn made us destroy it. That was great, though. We used to spend hours and hours on it before I got into music.
How did you get into music?
Through skateboarding and friends, of course.