IN the new year, cult-favorite band Fischerspooner will release Sir, its first album in 10 years. Casey Spooner, the 47-year-old lead singer of the electroclash outfit, is an ongoing force of creative change, using his subversive lyrics and audacious stage performances to challenge social convention.
Tell us about the new record. What inspired you to write it?
I knew very clearly that I wanted to make a record about contemporary homosexuality. At the time, I was in a long-term, open relationship, living this dream come true non-heteronormative life. But through the course of working on the record, my life went through so many crazy, dramatic changes that I could never have anticipated, and they ended up having a huge impact. My relationship unravelled, I lost my home, we had a lot of difficulty releasing the album, trouble with my family and death. So, the record became much more emotional. It’s about fame and pain, adventure and aging, romance and lust — it has a lot going on.
When did Michael Stipe get involved with the project?
I had written eleven songs and called him in to work on the twelfth. Within a couple of hours, he had come up with an amazing idea and completely shifted my perception of how to create musically. After a few months, he started really working on the record with me, dismantling and restructuring everything, and he had a lot of ideas about how he wanted me to sing — less this kind of cool, lower register character that I always played, and way more wild.
What was it like working so closely with another person on Fischerspooner, besides Warren?
Michael really made the songwriting more of a priority than the production. I never set out to be a singer, so it wasn’t something I defined myself by. That gave me a lot of freedom because I felt like I had nothing to lose. But when Michael came in, he really pushed me to develop my voice, and it was a very liberating and encouraging process that really helped me become a better singer. He just created a place where I could take risks and be vulnerable vocally for the first time.
You’ve called this record “your queerest yet.” What does that mean?
While we were working on one of the songs, Warren and I were talking and he wanted me to change the pronouns in the lyrics to make it more universal. I would’ve – and have – done that in the past, but this time, I said no. It occurred to me that when you make something universal, nobody is ever going to assume it’s a queer relationship — they’re always going to assume it’s straight. So, it was kind of a breakthrough for me that the concept ‘universal’ is actually very heteronormative. But it’s almost hard for me to think of making a record any other way. I’m just writing about my experience, singing about one night stands, and different kinds of connections that aren’t boy meets girl and they live happily ever after. More like, boy meets boy, they get married, they get a third boyfriend and have fun.
Did you have any hesitation about making such a personal record?
The thing is, a lot of people don’t want make a so-called gay record, because they feel that it ghetto-izes them, and that’s something I’ve wrestled with. But the reality is, I’ve learned a lot from straight people, so why can’t straight people learn from me? Why can’t they relate to my stories? We’re also living in a post-Trump universe, and I feel like it’s so much more important for us to have aggressively homosexual characters and content in the mainstream right now. There are so many people that are feeling really vulnerable and they need support so they don’t feel not alone, because it feels like the government is working against them. That’s probably the most important part about this record – it’s hopefully going to help other people feel comfortable about themselves in a culture that’s saying it’s okay to be a white supremacist, and to kill people who aren’t straight, white males.
Casey Spooner (pictured and above) describes his new Fischerspooner record as “his queerest yet.”
Do you think notions of gender and sexuality have changed in the industry?
What’s happening right now that’s so amazing, is that nothing has to be so clear. Some men are a little bit femme and some women are a little bit butch, some are neither, and they don’t have to go all out one way or the other. There’s a place for everyone, like a garden. There are all different kinds of plants that procreate in different ways and serve different purposes – sexuality functions in the same way.
What was the hardest part of making the album?
The actual recording process was great after Michael got involved. In the beginning, I was feeling a little lost and alone, but when we started working together, everything was fun. But outside of the studio, my whole life was collapsing, and I was clinging to this record as my only outlet. For me, the music was the easy part – it was the living that was hard. I mean, there were days when we were supposed to be recording, but I couldn’t even sing, because I was literally just weeping take after take. After my breakup, I went into my summer of not Eat, Pray, Love but live, tan, fuck.
You were in a really vulnerable space.
For sure. And Michael loved it! Every time we’d take a break, I’d come back to the studio, and he’d ask what happened. My experiences were just going right into the songs.
Is that something you’ve always done?
I always wrote from a similar place, but the editing process was different. And Warren wasn’t allowed to cut any of the vocals. In the past, he would have heavily edited things and pruned the lyrics he connected to. So, everything was a combination of our two perspectives. But these lyrics are from a really personal place, and it’s a more direct line of communication between me and the audience.
What do you want people to take away from Sir?
I want gay men and queer people to feel safe and emotionally connected to each other. Gay men, specifically – there are so many crazy, fucked up things, even as a white gay man, who has the most privilege in the queer realm. Still, gay men are wrestling so much with sex addiction and intimacy, drugs, and body dysmorphia. Those are the things that I’m really trying to talk about and deal with, so I can help people heal.
How do you think you’ve evolved as an artist?
I’m kind of terrified to say it, but I don’t know if I have. My ex-boyfriend actually just sent me a picture of myself from ‘97 – I’m 27-years-old, at a crazy performance in Williamsburg, dressed as a tiger wearing a jockstrap. It’s like, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Literally 20 years later, I’m still in a jockstrap, acting a fool.