The Unicorns are dead

Blast from the past: 2004? I knew these guys wouldn't last.....

The Unicorns

By Alexander Laurence

The Unicorns are a Canadian indie rock band, who have received a lot of hype recently. People at Noise Pop were lining up around the block to see them at Great American Music Hall. The Unicorns began in the late 1990s, when high-school friends Nick Diamonds and Alden Ginger began making some noise in Montreal. They brought out a self-released CD in early 2003. Jamie Thompson soon became their permanent drummer. Their second album, Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?, has just come out with a ton of positive buzz in the indie world. So much that the band makes fun of their own sudden underground fame. The Unicorns have played with The Microphones, Daniel Johnston, The Walkmen, and Cat Power, to name a few. I got to speak to them at their first show in California. Most of this interview was done during Noise Pop in San Francisco. The Unicorns are not into giving us straight answers. They remain a mystery, preferring to let their music speak for itself.
AL:How long have you guys played together?
Nick: As a threesome not long at all. The band existed before but it wasn't the same. It was more of a vanity project. We would just have a good time.
Jaime: We sounded different. It is now more a pop group. The thinking in this band right now is more from a pop angle. We want to write songs that people are going to like.
AL: How did you meet?
Nick: I was a nose model in Vancouver. Work was slow. The last commercial I did was for Dristan. Alden also worked on the sets as a caterer. Donuts were his specialty. He was working at the donut table. In Canada we drive great distances for good donuts. That day I was in a bad mood. I asked Alden for a certain donut. He didn't have it and we had an argument. I ended up eating one that I didn't care for and I liked it. I apologized.
AL: Were you guys going out by this time?
Nick: No. We are not homosexual. It's possible. My doctor me I wasn't.
AL: How old are you?
Nick: I am eighteen. I am a virgin too.
Jaime: The thing about Nick is that he is totally heterosexual, but he's totally afraid of girls. He won't touch them.
AL: So you apologized?
Nick: Yeah. Alden invited me over to his house to listen to some records. It was like a party. We are going to listen to music and smoke some pot. There was one girl there but I didn't see her very much. He plays me this record by the Strawberry Peach Band that blows my mind. It was amazing. I had never heard anything like it. I was used to stuff on the radio. Alden told me that he had a band that sounds like them. So I went to go see them and I was inspired and revolted. I thought that they have something but what they don't have I can make happen.
AL: How did you make it happen?
Nick: These guys didn't know what a manager or a publicist was. They had never done an interview. I am from Hollywood North: Vancouver. My nickname in the band is "Hollywood North." And the story continues….
AL: Is that it?
Jaime: Part two is this interview.
Nick: Part three is we play the show. Part four is you write the interview, and part five is that we read it and get mad at you. Part six is we send mailbombs to you, and part seven, you die.
AL: Great. Do any of you guys come from a musical background?
Alden: My dad plays acoustic guitar, very badly.
AL: Did your families have a bunch of old records around?
Jaime: Yeah. My family is from Ireland. My father to my grandfather's father, and even further, are all fiddlers.
AL: Were there ever any other members in The Unicorns?
Nick: There were two others before me. They were really bad, so they asked them to leave.
AL: Do you still live in Toronto?
Jaime: We live in Palm Beach, Florida. We feel comfortable in a community that is exclusively successful.
Nick: We commute between there and Orlando. We live here as Aliens. We have a house there.
AL: What is the problem with Toronto?
Jaime: I have a problem with poor people. First of all, I don't like to be around them. I don't like to be around lazy people. We had to get a house in Palm Beach because we wanted to around people like us: people who appreciate the finer things in life.
Nick: It's funny that we are doing this interview now. There are a lot of things that have happened in the past four months that haven't come out yet. Nobody really knows the next step for us. You can sit here like Clark Kent and ask us questions. No one is asking us about the Coke commercial or the movie soundtrack that we have done, because that hasn't come out yet. We have agreed to do these things and we are living like kings. It's weird because we have received a lot of money.
AL: People mostly know you from your CDs.
Nick: We put this CD out on a little vanity label that is secretly owned by EMI. We are trying to get some advance buzz playing some shows and sending out these promo copies.
Jaime: There are a bunch of shallow people out there who just want to listen to a band because they are cool. So if that is what you want, we will give it to you. We will put our record on an indie label.
AL: To some people, bands are like fashion.
Nick: A lot of indie rock is predicated on that fact that it is good because it is indie. People turn their backs on things that are not perceived as being indie.
AL: Alien8 Recordings is known for bands like Merzbow and a bunch of noisy experimental bands.
Jaime: The guys from EMI thought it would be a good idea to buy this small indie label and release our record. It's a good angle. We are trying to get the name out there.
Nick: It's the same thing with The Rapture and The Walkmen: they are both on these small labels that are owned by a larger company. It is supposed to appease the bullshit indie rock kids and slowly attract the masses. We are building a ground swell.
AL: It's like there is Coke. Now there is Sprite Remix, which is supposed to be the new thing. It's all advertising.
Nick: Advertising convinces people that it is cool. Our record is like Sprite Remix: it's called Alien8. It has underground creditability.
AL: Who writes the songs in the band?
Jaime: It's mostly Mark Lawson. He is a production team like The Neptunes. We are like the Milli Vanilli part of the band. We are easy on the eyes.
AL: Do you read any book that you care to mention?
Jaime: I read Rolling Stone. That is one of my favorite books.
Nick: Playboy is a good book too.
AL: Really? Alden. Any books you care to mention?
Alden: Anything by Dave Eggers or Kilgore Trout.
Nick: I like The Hipster Handbook. What haircut do I have according to The Hipster Handbook?
AL: It is sort of a mix between the Emo Combover and the Casablanca.
Nick: Ugh. Emo Combover?
AL: Have you seen any good films recently?
Jaime: Crossroads, Glitter, and In America. I cried on the plane. Nick had to go to the bathroom.
AL: How many shows have you played?
Jaime: We had played almost every day for the past six months. It's hard to keep track.
AL: Are there any bands that you played with that you like?
Alden: The Stills.
Nick: The Stills opened for us in Cleveland and Baltimore. They are neat. They are like a ska band, but it's hidden.
Jaime: They have a ska sensibility and turn it into something like eighties music. They have the heart of ska. They are from New York.
AL: I will have to check it out.
Jaime: There is a band from Chicago called The Countdown.
AL: What expectations should people have who come see you live?
Alden: The less expectations the better.
Jaime: Just come to the show. Expect to get drunk.
AL: People should be wasted by the time you get on stage?
Jaime: Doing Acid helps.
AL: So part of the band's philosophy is that everyone should do drugs?
Jaime: No. We are against people doing drugs. But if people are taking drugs it will seem like a better show. It's a catch-22.
AL: That's not really a catch-22. It would be a catch-22 if….
Jaime: Listen! It's a catch-22! Case closed! I'm out of here. (He walks out of room.)
AL: Who does your website?
Alden: We have worked with different people. We started with one person and then moved on to different people. We have two official websites. We are behind both of them. One is the sober one and one is the not so sober one.
AL: Do you love recording or playing live?
Alden: I love both. It's all good.
AL: What are you doing the rest of 2004?
Alden: We will playing shows the rest of the year. We will be at South by Southwest.
Nick: Your tape player is not recording!
AL: Yes it is. See that red light?
Nick: It's open.
AL: Oh, that part is broken. It still works. Any advice for young fans who want to start bands?
Nick: Give it up!

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The Cribs interview

Intimate Interview with THE CRIBS
By alexander laurence

Ryan Jarman: guitar/vocals
Gary Jarman: bass/vocals
Ross Jarman: drums

The Cribs are three brothers from Wakefield. It’s a suburb outside Leeds.
They have been playing since they were teenagers. They have done a few albums.
The New Fellas (2005) is their most recent. They were ready to go ahead and do
another. The Cribs are busy guys. They have been on the road constantly the
past few years. They had a single in the charts. I got to talk to Ryan Jarman for
a few minutes during their show in Los Angeles in November 2005. Look for
more from this band.

AL: I don’t have to ask you how you met because you are all brothers. How do
you all write songs in the band?

Ryan: I don’t know. It’s weird. We have only started writing songs for the
new album. It will be our third album. It’s been so long. I have forgotten what
it is like being in the studio and not on the road. We don’t think about
writing too much. We go to our rehearsal space in Wakefield. It’s in this really
old building. They are going to knock it down to make yuppie flats. Nobody
wants a yuppie flat in Wakefield anyway.

AL: Are you going to get a real estate deal there for having been there

Ryan: Yeah. And then sell it for an over-inflated price a year later. We just
finished making it nice. We fixed it up. We just put in a ping-pong table. We
have a Double Dragon, the arcade game, in there. Some guy was selling it down
the road. When I was a kid I always wanted one. We were able to buy it for a
hundred pounds with our advance. Being in a band, and buying that machine, we
have been able to satisfy one childhood dream.

AL: What is the studio like? Do you have a lot of gear?

Ryan: We have a lot of stuff. It’s like a youth club down at our place. We
don’t do anything strenuous or anything where we run around.

AL: Do you want to move to London?

Ryan: Everyone asks us: “When are you going to move to London?” I don’t like
big cities. I like going back to small towns. People in small towns tend to
be weird and more interesting. It’s good to go back to. You know that you
don’t want to live there, but it is okay to end up back there.

AL: There are more fashionable things to do in London. If you live in the
suburbs you end up working more and not being distracted.

Ryan: Yeah. If you are in a band, the record company always expects you to be
at certain parties and gigs. If you lived in London you would have to hang
out with a bunch of these people. I can’t be bothered with these people. That’s
not what I want to do. I would just rather go home and sleep. It’s just us
three and we hang out all the time.

AL: You go to the NME awards?

Ryan: Yeah. We will go to that party. It was fun. We went to the Q Magazine
after party and stuff. It was just like hanging out with lawyers. It was all
about getting pissed and slapping each other on the back. I don’t know why we
bothered going there for a round. It was the opposite of what we usually enjoy

AL: You played in California in June 2005. Then you came back for one more
show at the end of the year. Did you plan a bigger tour?

Ryan: Yeah. The second time around we just did New York and Los Angeles. We
were supposed to do a larger tour. But for financial reasons we wanted to share
a bus with another band. Nobody was happy with sharing a bus with another
band and a crew. It just turned out that we couldn’t do the whole tour and it was
canceled. I would like to do a proper tour of America, and not just a few
dates. We played CMJ and SXSW. WE have played east coast and west coast with
Kaiser Chiefs. And we would play some extra shows on our own when we could. It was
a long tour but not long by American standards. It was only like three weeks.

AL: What do you think about some of those articles in the NME about The Cribs
being part of “the new grunge?”

Ryan: It is just one of those things. It is just a label. We don’t get
involved in it too much because “grunge” was a stupid word anyway. Every band that
was called grunge was probably embarrassed by the name. I am not sure what the
fuck it means. It was just some fashion term. People used to wear ripped
clothes. There was also a focus on being a band from Leeds. We were the first band
signed. Then there was the Kaiser Chiefs. Then there was this New York-shire
term. That was Leeds and Sheffield and everything in Yorkshire. Whenever there
is this new tagline, you have a bunch of shitty bands that get signed. I
never really liked Leeds. In Leeds at the time there were all these bands dreaming
about getting a deal. They are really bitchy. They were going “Who are these
guys from Wakefield, and how did they get a deal?” We paved the way for all
these bands in that area to get signed. We got them exposure. It’s sort of
irritating. We were known way before we had a deal because we had played so many
live shows.

AL: You had a website back then?

Ryan: No. I didn’t know anything about computers back then. We just did it by
pressing a lot of vinyl. We played a lot of live shows and handed out
records. Didn’t know that the Internet would make such a big difference.

AL: I know you are all brothers. But does the one brother feel left out
because he is not a twin?

Ryan: Probably not because Ross has a girlfriend. He doesn’t need us. I have
been hanging out with Gary all the time. The funny thing is I don’t think that
he likes hanging out with me anymore. I don’t know how the whole twin thing
works anymore. We all get on really well. But when we go to hotels Gary and me
get put together as one entity. We never intended it.

AL: We all this song “Hey Scenesters!” over here. How do you choose the
subject matter for the lyrics?

Ryan: Either my twin brother or I write the lyrics. We don’t sit down and
think about these things. The main hook line was written when we were practicing.
We are from a small town. Last year we started to go to other places like
London. A lot of these shows were like being in the playground. There were all
these fashionable people. They would look down their noses at people and they
thought they were cool. We were just shouting at people like that for a laugh.
It’s all about having a main idea and a hook for the song.

AL: You sing all the songs you write the lyrics for?

Ryan: Yeah. Whoever gets to the microphone first. Much of the time we sing

AL: What do you think of the shows in America this year?

Ryan: I really liked it. I was really excited about the Kaiser Chiefs shows
because it was like a party in the crowd. Our own shows went pretty well too.
We were told that American crowds are quieter but we had fun. It’s fun to go to
different places. It’s great to go to New York to California. In New York it
is fucking freezing and in California right nice weather. It’s cool.
Unfortunately we have to leave tomorrow. We have to fuck off. We have played like 300
shows in the past year. I usually have one day off a month.

AL: Do you ever get to see other bands?

Ryan: It’s rare. You only get to see bands that you are on tour with. There
is nothing going on in Wakefield. There is nothing going on in Wakefield. You
have to go to Leeds if you want to see bands. We play Leeds all the time. I see
bands there quite often. But we started putting on gigs in Wakefield. They
started out just like rehearsal. But every time we put on shows the cops come
because people are drinking. We stopped doing it. It is a lost cause.

AL: Do you have any other hobbies?

Ryan: I do a lot of writing. I write lyrics but I am always writing. I like
to read books too.

AL: Are there any writers you like?

Ryan: It’s all clichéd but I read the Beat Generation writers, like Kerouac.
I like this guy named Italo Calvino who is this surrealist type of writer. I
really like If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler. That is my favorite.

AL: How do you record the albums?

Ryan: We do it all live. You can’t think about it too long. You have to enjoy
it. It’s like if you think of a word too long it loses its meaning. Producers
have to be open to our ideas. You always have to have control of your record.
We trust Edwyn Collins who did the New Fellas record. Bernard Butler did the
latest single. It was a brand new song. I like both those people. It’s hard to
let anyone mess around.

AL: I heard Bernard Butler was really into production and Pro Tools.

Ryan: That is what I heard too. He lots to do a lot of layers. He likes to
have loads of guitar tracks. It’s cool. It’s the first record that was played
on daytime radio, which is proper mainstream shit. I just heard that today.
It’s a song called “Your Gonna Lose Us.” It’s not on the album. The radio played
the wrong version. They played the one with all the swearing. They got us in

AL: Are you going to take some time off and do an album?

Ryan: We are going to England and play a few shows before Christmas. We were
going to take off loads of time. But it turns out that we are going to Japan
in January 2006. Then we are going to Australia and Germany for a little while.
After that there will be another tour of England. I don’t know when the fuck
we are going to have some time off.

AL: When did The New Fellas come out in England?

Ryan: It was around June 2005. We want to get on with the new album. Before
we basically did two albums in a year. We don’t want to take too long doing the
new album. We have loads of ideas at the minute. I want to get on with it.

AL: What are your shows going to be like in Early 2006? Are you going to play
new songs?

Ryan: It will mostly from the second album. When we released the first two
albums we played 200-300 shows a year for two years. We have played some of
those early songs so many times. Maybe now it will be cool to play an old one
because we haven’t play them in such a long time.

AL: What bands that you have played with have you liked?

Ryan: There is this guy from New York called Jeffrey Lewis. He used to be in
The Moldy Peaches. We took him on tour in England. It was just him and his
brother playing acoustic. We played some big halls. He was doing some songs
without a microphone. He would just stand onstage and shout. He is a genius
songwriter. He is one of those guys who don’t give a shit. His songs are really good.
He played with us at Mercury Lounge. We saw him play the other night.

AL: What is the best part of being in a band?

Ryan: I like it all. It’s all a good laugh. I don’t see it as being a job.
Especially in England right now, many people see it as being a job. With Indie
Music being so big in England at the minute it can be seen as a career move.
You can sign an Indie band for a million pounds. I can’t understand how that
can be done. I think that a lot of the bands are losing the attitude. We get to
go out to a different city every night and meet people and get pissed for
nothing. I am not worried about TV appearances. People have lost the plot.

AL: You were always doing music?

Ryan: Yeah. In Wakefield there is naught to do. I was maybe into video games.
When I was ten years old, some guy burgled our house. He took all our
computer games and all we had left were guitars. We had nothing to do.

AL: What does your parents think of the band?

Ryan: They come to shows when we are close to home. They are really into it.
Before that it was either go to college or work in a factory. They are
pleased. My mum plays piano and guitar. She could play songs by the Beatles. She
played them like they were nursery rhymes. I didn’t realized that these were songs
by the Beatles. I think she was in a band in the 1960s.

AL: Are you into collecting guitars and gear?

Ryan: I love my guitar. It has been broke so many times. It was nice when I
got it. It’s like a diseased guitar. People say that I should get some
expensive guitar. I have been offered some ghastly things. It makes me want to keep
my guitar because it is so disgusting.

Website: www.thecribs.com

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The Morning After Girls: US Tour

So for the last few months, our relatively new musical happening called the morning after girls have spent time at home in Australia as they ponder how to follow up their well received SXSW and CMJ trips last year....and to our delight, things are looking promising for a fantastic 2006.

Last week they shared the stage once again with THE DANDY WARHOLS in Sydney and Brisbane. At which time, BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB invited The Girls to support them on their entire US tour. Without even figuring out how they would get across the globe, the band said yes and the wheels for the morning after girls’ return to America were set in motion.

And in comes the UK....BEST BEFORE RECORDS have now come on board to release ‘Prelude: EPs 1 & 2’ in the UK, and now things appear to be heating up over there for The Girls as well. NME, MTV (UK), The Fly, XFM and Zane Lowe at BBC1 have discovered the EPs and are starting to let people know.

MTV2 (UK) have been airing the video for ‘Hi-Skies’ exclusively since December (4 months prior to the UK release). And just when plane tickets are being sorted out for The Girls to support BRMC in America, STELLASTARR* steps in and offers them the support slot on their UK tour...so they’re jumping off the BRMC tour to do Europe with stellastarr*....including and NME Brats Show with stellastarr* and THE BRAVERY.

After the UK, the morning after girls are headed back to America to rejoin BRMC in Houston and do the west coast dates up until SXSW. Then the band is flying up to Seattle to join BRMC on their last show. Why fly up there for just one show? ?It’s because KEXP has been flogging them to death up there and sales are strong, so The Morning After Girls are going to play Seattle to say thanks for all the support....they will also be performing a live session on KEXP the night after the gig.

Anyway, the morning after girls are currently #7 on Mediaguide’s specialty radio chart, and and have been steadily climbing up the CMJ charts for the last couple of months. Below are the tour dates. They’re a coming back. We hope you can come out to understand why you need to believe in this band....


Feb 5 - Gothic Theater - Englewood, CO
Feb 7 - Fine Line Music Café - Minneapolis, MN
Feb 8 - Metro - Chicago, IL
Feb 9 - Bogart’s - Cincinnati, OH
Feb 10 - Newport Music Hall - Columbus, OH
Feb 11 - Slippery Rock University - Slippery Rock, PA
Feb 13 - The Odeon - Cleveland, OH
Feb 14 - Mr. Smalls Theatre - Pittsburgh, PA
Feb 15 - Pearl Street - Northampton, MA
Feb 17 - Avalon - Boston, MA
Feb 18 - Webster Hall - New York, NY
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jt leroy is a girl

Shock waves roiled the literary world Monday when new evidence surfaced that finally could prove San Francisco author JT LeRoy is not who he says he is. Instead of a former male hooker from a hardscrabble background, he apparently is a 40-year-old woman with middle-class roots.

LeRoy, who has cultivated celebrity and publishing industry friendships with the likes of Courtney Love, Winona Ryder, Madonna, Dave Eggers and Michael Chabon, appears to have pulled off the greatest literary hoax in a generation.

Since 2000, LeRoy has been gaining fame for his fictional depictions of a 12-year-old boy lured into a life of truck-stop prostitution by his own mother. His first book, "Sarah," was shelved in bookstores under "fiction" but was marketed as semi-autobiographical. The author's life story was key to the success of the book.

As the story went, LeRoy was saved from the streets of San Francisco by a woman named Laura Albert and her husband, Geoffrey Knoop. The trio became a family, and, with the help of a therapist, LeRoy was able to channel his traumatic life experiences, including his infection with HIV, into writing that was raw and powerful.

Over the past five years, as LeRoy's readership grew, his shyness became part of the legend. On the rare occasions when he would appear in public, LeRoy wore a woman's blond wig and sunglasses. LeRoy's gender issues were well-known: He identified himself as gay and spoke in interviews of his desire for a sex-change operation.

But according to a story Monday in the New York Times by Warren St. John, "JT LeRoy" is actually a family project. The person who portrays LeRoy in public is Savannah Knoop, Geoffrey Knoop's half sister, who is in her mid-20s. The person who writes the work, St. John argued, is Laura Albert, originally from Brooklyn.

The theory that LeRoy is Albert's creation was first advanced by San Francisco author Stephen Beachy in an article written originally for -- but never published by -- the San Francisco Bay Guardian. That story ran in New York Magazine in October.

"I am thrilled that the New York Times has answered the biggest remaining mystery in the JT LeRoy saga, the identity of the actor who plays the part," Beachy told The Chronicle by e-mail Monday.

"There is no longer any doubt that 'JT LeRoy' is a fake identity created by Laura Albert and her husband, Geoffrey Knoop, maintained with the help of Geoffrey's sister, Savannah," Beachy said.

On Monday afternoon, a Chronicle reporter rang the bell of a dingy, cream-colored Victorian apartment house on Larkin Street that is the residence of Laura Albert and Geoffrey Knoop, according to an online directory. A woman answered but refused to open the door. Conducting a conversation from the landing of the top of the interior stairs, where she could not be seen, the woman, who did not identify herself, told the reporter that Albert and Knoop had moved to Mendocino.

"You should get them, because they must be brought down," the woman said.

The revelations about LeRoy may not seem earth-shattering to those outside the literary world. Well-known cultural figures, such as Andy Warhol, have often toyed with issues of gender and identity. And, like Warhol, LeRoy pulled into his orbit celebrities and influential people who gave him support and publicity.

"While I am not a fan of JT's work, Laura Albert's is fascinating," Beachy said. "The hoax was brilliant and complex, and her understanding of human nature is obviously intense."

Beachy added: "The hoax needed to be revealed in order for us to ask the really important questions -- about what we want to believe and why, what we project onto 'outsiders,' and the magical aura we grant celebrities."

Over the years, influential San Franciscans reportedly have helped LeRoy with his work, including novelist and publisher Dave Eggers, Chronicle Datebook editor David Wiegand, Michael Ray of Zoetrope magazine and authors Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman.

"If the Times article is correct, then I was fooled by the JT LeRoy persona as much as anyone," Eggers told The Chronicle via e-mail Monday.

"I actually edited a story, 'Harold's End,' by LeRoy, and spent hours on the phone -- with someone -- going through a typical line-edit," Eggers said.

"I'm disappointed that I was misled. I'm still pretty confused by all this, but I do think, whatever the outcome, that the first two books are very well written," he added.

LeRoy's San Francisco publisher -- Ron Turner of Last Gasp -- remains unfazed by the New York Times piece.
"There's no change in our plans," said Turner, who will bring out LeRoy's next novel, "Labour," this spring.

"If it was a hoax, hey, it was a great hoax. They're still great books. I don't care who wrote them as long as they're really good reads," Turner said.

Author Armistead Maupin, whose novel "The Night Listener" was based on his experience with a literary pretender, has strong feelings on the subject.

"A lot of people argue that such frauds cause no harm and are a great joke played on the literary establishment," he said by telephone Monday.

"But in fact there's something very callous about using AIDS and an abusive childhood as a way of getting sympathy and support," Maupin said, adding, "I'm surprised that people were bamboozled as long as they were."

Lemony Snicket -- the San Francisco author also known as Daniel Handler -- was bemused by the fuss.
"From the moment I first heard of him, there was speculation about his identity," he said. "So it doesn't surprise me that there continues to be speculation about his identity."

Handler believes there is an artist -- never mind who -- behind the work. "LeRoy's work is very much of a piece -- it's consistent," he said.

"The only question is, did the person who wrote these things have as colorful a history as some people seem to believe?" Handler asked. "That's a question you could ask about Jack London."
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JT Leroy interview 2000

I did this interview with the so-called JT Leroy almost 15 years ago in 2000. I was unaware that I was talking to an imposter. "Laughing all the way to the bank" sort of rings true.

When I first moved to New York City in 1995, one of the upcoming writers I heard rumor of was Terminator. He was supposed to be this 15 year-old who was a prostitute living in San Francisco. There were rumors that he was an alias for Dennis Cooper. There were all sorts of bizarre stories. I knew that Terminator had many supporters and fans like writers Joel Rose and Bruce Benderson. Terminator was included in an anthology of memoirs, Close To The Bone. But the novel I heard about never materialized. Finally this past spring I got a galley of Sarah, which was finally coming out.

J. T. Leroy still lives in San Francisco. I talked to him on the phone recently.

AL: I first heard about your work through people like Joel Rose, Catherine Texier, and Bruce Benderson. It was one of the interesting things I heard about back in 1996. They were going to publish some of your stories, then their magazine folded. Your editor, Karen Rinaldi, moved to Bloomsbury. There was a bit in that anthology Close To The Bone, but years passed until the novel finally came out this year. Why was there such a long wait?
JTL: It's all really funny how it all happened. It was an amazing time. That first book that I was working on back then will be coming out next year. Sarah is really my second book. I stopped writing for two years. I wasn't happy with what I was doing. People like Mary Gaitskill really helped. She read my stuff and told me what I was doing wrong. She sent me a bunch of books to read, everyone from Nabokov to Flannery O'Conner, and taught me to notice what they did. I had to stop writing for two years and just absorb it and read. When I started writing again the first thing I wrote was this story called "Meteors." I sent it to Mary and she wrote me back saying that she thought it was genius. The next thing I wrote was Sarah. I thought that it was going to be one chapter in the book. I sent it to Karen and she told that I had a book here. When she left Crown Books, I thought that I lost my original book deal, but Karen had brought me with her to Bloomsbury.
AL: I remember that Bruce Benderson talked about you and was going to show me some of your early stories, but I never saw anything, until the anthology....
JTL: That Close To The Bone anthology came out when I was 17 years old. Yeah, that early work needs a lot of editing. People talked about how raw it was and it has a lot of emotion, and people liked it. I think now if that stuff had come out, people would have just talked about my age and my story. I felt that if the stories can't stand by themselves, I'd rather not have it come out.
AL: When did you actually start writing?
JTL: I started seeing a therapist when I was 13. He was teaching a class for people who wanted to do psychotherapy. He knew I didn't like social workers, so he asked me to write something, to explain how it was, something about my experiences with social workers. I couldn't pass this opportunity up. I wrote something and I felt something click. He told me the response. I was really hungry for that attention. I had only gotten attention that related to my body of how I looked. Soon my work was given to a friend of his who was an editor, named Eric. Eric gave me feedback. He was the first professional writer. Eric had studied with Sharon Olds.

I had a trick who had given me the books of Sharon Olds and Dennis Cooper. Sharon Olds was the first poetry that I really loved. So I wrote to her and she wrote back, and there was this correspondence. It was wonderful. It was like getting attention from pimps and tricks, but it was getting attention from something else. When I read Dennis' book, Try, I wanted to tell him how much his book meant to me. I contacted Dennis and he sent me a bunch of books. One of them was User by Bruce Benderson. I thought it was amazing and brilliant. I called him up. He was the one who passed it on to Joel Rose and Laurie Stone. Next thing I knew I had a book deal. It seemed unreal. I thought that the joke is on them. I'm taking the money and run.
AL: Prostitution is a strange world and it's varied, but not many people have access to such stories as told in this novel. What do you think of the world of prostitution in general?
JTL: It's a hierarchy. You got your high class call boys, who have their beeper boys. Many of them don't do drugs and are really healthy. Then there's the ones who hang out on Polk Street where your whole existence is about doing drugs. You don't have much time to reflect. I wasn't able to write anything then. I had to stop drugs and certain behaviors that kept me from feeling things. Writing was one way for me to survive. When I'm writing I'm the safest. When I'm not I'm doing negative things.
AL: What sort of bands do you like? Are there any CDs that you have liked recently?
JTL: Oh yeah. I listen to Django Reinhardt. Unfortunately I like a lot of pop, like Aimee Mann, Superdrag, and Silverchair. He's a real cool guy and he's my age. I think it would be cool if he sang "I'm A Boy." You know, The Who song? I like Sunny Day Real Estate. I talked to Jeremy, and he's Christian, but he doesn't know what he's talking about. I know the Bible backwards and upside down. He says that he takes the Bible literally. That would seem anti-gay and anti-abortion. The Bible says it's okay to beat your child. Besides that, I like his music. I want to get the new Sinead O'Conner and Supergrass. I don't like country music. Mother listened to Punk Rock. My all-time favorites are Jawbreaker and Jawbox.
AL: Seen any films lately?
JTL: I'll tell who my favorite actors are. Kevin Spacey. Because he's so goddamn sexy. And Edward Norton. Fight Club was so great. I know Chuck, who wrote the book. Helena Bonham Carter has a line in that movie: "I never was fucked that hard since grade school." She thought that it meant high school. When they told her what it meant, she freaked out. She also didn't want to say that other line about the abortion. They fought over that. Every film with Edward Norton is worth seeing. I like seeing feel good movies. I like that sweetness. You know that scene in Sarah where La Loup is going to cut his balls off? Where he ends up just cutting off his hair. That would be like caring about the main character and then they kill him for shock value. It's like "I was gypped."
AL: But he had to suffer, because La Loup cut off his hair, and he felt ugly.
JTL: Right. It was bad and horrible.
AL: So you are working on a screenplay, and the first novel will come out next year. What else are you doing?
JTL: I'm also working on a sequel to Sarah. I have been writing articles for the NY Press. John Strausbaugh has been great. He lets me interview just about anyone. I interviewed Suzanne Vega. We talked about books and I sent her a galley of Sarah. She loved it. Suzanne wrote a blurb and joined in the readings. It's great to do interviews and communicate with people. It's better than drugs and sex. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

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2006 was a great year for film and music

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Interviews and photos 2006

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