The always-enigmatic Josh Tillman (AKA: Father John Misty) has a new album coming out. So it seemed like a good time to revisit this classic 2013 interview with the goofball and pop star. Please enjoy.
What are you up to today?
I’m making some tea right now. That’s one of the perks of the solo-tour life is having a lot of personal space. It’s actually my first-ever tour on a bus, so I’m just kind of lazing about right now.
Before you used to tour in jets, right?
But now you’ve downgraded to bus level? Yeah, the jets… Actually, have you ever seen that Iron Maiden airplane? The lead guitarist of Iron Maiden is licensed to fly commercial jets, like 747s. One time, I was on a layover in Reykjavik, and I saw it land. It’s got Eddie emblazoned across the whole side of the thing. Incredible. If you’re traveling by jet, your music is dead. It’s dead, banal and popular.
Iron Maiden’s got a beer, too, and I know you’ve got that perfume out…
Nobody is buying that perfume. I gotta put a sex tape on the internet or something. I mean, there’s only a couple hundred bottles of it. With the perfume, though, it’s funny: I will very trepidatiously admit it’s satirical in some respect. But it’s actually, like, a really good perfume. It’s made with these incredible, rare oils, and it’s all natural. But I think people enjoy it more as a satirical commodity than a real commodity. But I regret nothing. I still think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
Do you feel like you put yourself out there and got rejected?
Um, no, certainly not based on the sales. I’m being a little hyperbolic when I say it’s not moving at all. It’s paid for itself; it’s all good. It’s not a money hole or anything. But I will say that, with the perfume, some of the glibness around it I thought was a little unsavory or something. In my mind, it was this really simple thing: I have this friend who makes these small-batch perfumes, and my sense of humor is very subtle. I was just thinking, like, “This is hysterical, but people will also see the merit in this.” I thought there would be a little wink to it.
But I think people ended up interpreting it like a gag or something—this big, gross, tacky gag. Like, [puts on obnoxious voice] “It smells like weed!” I would rather kill myself than put out a weed perfume. No exaggeration. I would rather kill myself than put out a weed-scented perfume. This is the way people think, in these blunt terms. Like, what I should have done was put out a men’s boutique beard maintenance shaving kit with tobacco and scented oils. That’s just not me, though. That’s a little too earnest or something.
Do you really not have friends?
Well, yeah, I think so. Yeah, I have some friends. But not many. I’m 32. When you’re in your 20s, you have friends as a means of survival. You don’t even have to try to have friends. You have a job or you drink at this certain bar and you’re surrounded by this network of other people and it’s good and it’s comforting and et cetera. But there’s just more and more that I wanna do and experience in seclusion than with other people. I can’t explain it. It’s not so much about people; it’s more about me. I haven’t made a conscious decision about that or anything, but I find that the things I want to accomplish require me cultivating some kind of internal silence. If you played “I’m Writing a Novel” for Neil Young, what do you think he’d say? You know, I’ve actually played that song in front of him before—in a really intimate setting. This was years ago, right when I started writing these songs. Half of the set was J. Tillman material and half of the set was the new Father John Misty material. I was opening for his wife in San Francisco at this tiny club that holds maybe 150 people. Neil Young was playing guitar and watching the set from the side of the stage. I have no idea what he thought, but I imagine he must have some objectivity on the fact that he’s considered an inspiration or a prominent figure in the songwriter archetype.