Frazer Harrison, Getty Images With the July 16 release of Philip Anselmo's first…
- Posted on Nov 17th 2009 4:00PM by Benjy Eisen
Despite Williams' insistence of operating beyond boundaries, he seems like the natural "unspoken spokesperson" for the Afro-Punk movement, which was sparked by a 2003 film of the same name. Thus, Williams is currently anchoring the 2009 edition of the Afro-Punk Tour, appropriately sub-titled 'The Niggy Tardust Experience.' While the rest of the roster varies from night to night, other participants include Living Colour, CX Kidtronic, Earl Greyhound and American Fangs.
Spinner caught up with Williams moments after he walked offstage following a recent Afro-Punk gig. The costumed and masked musician was eager to drop some bombs on us, such as the role he's playing in an upcoming film, anecdotes from his time with Rubin and Reznor and an unexpected accident that he may or may not have had at a gig.
How would you describe the Afro-Punk movement?
To me, Afro-Punk is a non-expressed idea. It's more rebellious than hip-hop. In hip-hop, most rappers, their goal is to never lose their cool. In punk, as in Afro-Punk, the goal is to definitely lose your cool.
We'd probably only identify the genre as Afro-Punk because that's what the tour is called.
Right. My goal -- in my personal life and [with] the stage or the written word -- has been to defy boundaries. For instance, whatever the current definition is of what it means to be male, I feel like I probably have more of that within me because I know within me I have female. Whatever it means to be American, I know that I'm not just that. I'm more than that -- I'm human. Whatever it means to be black, whatever that ruling definition is, I know that in my life -- because I see race as something that's created by people but nothing real -- I think of myself as more than that. I don't accept limitations from myself or from my music, so I pull from everything that I love. And I love music.
Let's talk for a second about your character Niggy Tardust. Obviously it pulls from David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust. Can you just talk about Niggy as a character?
Niggy Tardust is a representation of the generation that is to come, which is a generation of hybrids of people that belong and identify with more than one reality. People that identify with being black and white, Asian and Latino, male and female -- it's the androgyny of identity. That sense of self that is unified with all. Niggy Tardust symbolizes the neo-indigenous.
The Stardust character was androgynous and Bowie himself transcended gender. You're transcending gender, ethnicity...
...race. All of those things. Exactly.
How has working with Trent Reznor in the past influenced what you are doing today as an artist? How is his influence still felt?
I got to feel that when I was working with him because the last song that I did for the album was a song called 'Trigger.' I did it without him and then brought it to him. While I was working on that song, I realized how much I had learned from him in the process just because the way that I had programmed that song and approached it. I learned a great deal about writing for the pop format from Trent. I felt it then and everything new that I'm writing, I feel it completely.
Before I worked with Trent, for my first album I worked with Rick Rubin. I feel so lucky -- I have had the most amazing mentors ever. It must show because I met Brian Eno two weeks ago and the first thing he said was, "Oh my god, my daughter's not going to believe this. Can I call her and will you talk to my daughter?"
But I don't even feel like he's listening to me because of me -- I feel like he's listening to me because I'm produced by Rick or by Trent.
Or because his daughter likes it.
Or because his daughter likes it, right! Either way, I learned a great deal from Trent. You know, Trent is a classically-trained pianist. He was a child prodigy on the piano as a kid and it really shows in his approach to songwriting. For him to make such abstract, dark, beautiful music and for it to still be powerful, it's amazing. That's what I wanted.
When I worked with Rick Rubin, the first thing he did -- because I had already been published as a poet -- he gave me the Beatles' 'White Album' and he said, "Saul, you're a great writer. This is songwriting. Learn the difference." That's what Rick Rubin said to me, but he kind of left me alone to discover on my own. It was like, 'When you have 20 songs, we'll go to the studio.' But with Trent, we worked together every day. I would bring ideas and he would bring ideas and we'd create ideas and both add stuff. But I would think we were done. I would be like, "OK, we did it" and he would say, "No -- now the next section of the song."
"Now we build the bridge"
Exactly. It was awesome because I was used to loops and tracks and what you use in hip-hop.
You're as well-known for your role in the film 'Slam' as you are as a musician. Do you have any plans to go back to working with film as a medium?
Yes, certainly. One of the main things that I am working on is a film where I play the role of Miles Davis. The film is simply based on the love affair between Miles Davis and Juliette Greco when he was in Paris recording the soundtrack to the famous film 'Ascenseur Pour L Echaufaud.' Juliette Greco is a famous French actress and singer and their love affair lasted a lifetime. So, I'm living in Paris now and one of my reasons for being there is research.
What's been the most memorable part of the Afro-Punk tour so far?
I s--- my pants in Atlanta. As soon as I opened my mouth on stage, I pushed too hard and the rest of the show was a hot mess. This is what happened: Imagine that's in my head, as certain as it is, the entire show. I get to the hotel and there's nothing there. But I was certain! The entire show! I wouldn't even turn around! I was so certain ...