Tao Lin, Novelist, Poet, and Indie Icon, Talks about File Sharing, Lady Gaga, Living Perpetually between Headphones and Feeling Neutral about Stuff.
At age 27, Tao Lin is already a prolific writer with half a dozen books under his belt. His most recent novel, Richard Yates just came out, but he also is collaborating with Carles of the blog Hipster Runoff to form the band Jesus Christ (the indie band). Their only song so far "Is This Really What You Want" is already saturating the Internet. I listened to the song a few times, and then I played it for my girlfriend.
"What's fucked up is that I really like this," she said. "I know what you mean," I said. The song has the words of Tao Lin (which feel like they were cut and pasted from a gmail chat between two young, therapeutically educated people breaking up) over electronic beats, and the whole thing screams PBR and skinny jeans. But I like it - does that make me a hipster?
I emailed Tao Lin some questions about music and he emailed me back. Then, I emailed him again. Then, he emailed me back. This continued for many weeks until I felt the interview was over. While we were doing this, I was living in Los Angeles and he was living in New York City. As I write this interview, I am listening to Son Lux's "At War With Walls and Mazes", again - as I always do now when writing something related to Tao.
What music are you currently listening to?
"Less Than Nothing" by I Hate Myself.
Do you listen to music while you write and, if so, is it different from the music you listen to when you're not writing?
I listen to music almost any time I'm not sleeping, "hanging out" with specific people, or showering. I listen to music maybe 99% of the time I'm working on writing (the other 1% I've lost my earphones temporarily or something). I don't have specific music for when I'm writing. I'm usually listening to the same playlist or "artist" before I arrive at the computer as when I'm walking somewhere after leaving the computer.
You listen to music 99 percent of the time? That's impressive. Where
do you find all this music? Do you have friends that introduce you to
things or do you find it online (blogs, music sites, etc.) or in
magazines? Do you have a primary source for new music? Or do you often
repeat the same stuff you've been listening to over and over again?
I think I see what bands are on the same label as bands I already like
and then listen to them also and usually like them. Or I see what bands the
people in bands I like are also involved in. I download songs "randomly"
off music blogs sometimes. Probably 40-60% of the music I listen to is
the same music I've listened to the past 7-10 years, since high
school or college.
Why do you think you keep coming back to the same music you've
listened to since college 40-60 percent of the time?
I'm not sure. Maybe because I'm not focused on finding new bands. In
high school and college I had Napster and downloaded a lot of new
things every day, and listened to like 30-50 new bands every week or
something, so maybe I was just able to find more music that I liked,
whereas now I maybe listen to 3-6 new bands a week.
What are those bands and what events or feelings do they evoke in you now?
The bands I listened to in high school and college that I still listen to are
The Blacktop Cadence, Neva Dinova, Rilo Kiley, Strung Out, Good Riddance,
The Weakerthans. And maybe 10-30 others to lesser degrees. Because
I've listened to them continuously for years I don't think they evoke
specific events/feelings anymore. Bands that I don't listen to
continuously usually will evoke the event/feeling of the previous time
that I listened to them a lot though.
Do you find that music can help set a mood for a scene you're about to write? Are you ever listening to a song while writing and think, "wait, I can't write to this, I have to change it." Or does none of that matter?
I don't think music affects what words I choose to type in what order, within what punctuation, at this point, because I'm rereading and editing each sentence, at this point, in my published books, probably 100-150 times each, on average, and listening to probably 20-60 different songs in that time. I think I can write to any music or any noise, unless it's a special noise that causes me to not be able to think, like some alternating combination of sirens, screaming, and, like, Disney music.
Do you use it to set a mood for other things (examples: cleaning, sex/masturbation, feeling depressed, waking up, understanding god or the lack thereof, etc.).