On Friday, February 25th I emailed Phil Elverum a few questions. On Monday March 6th, he emailed me back the answers.
How are you? How is life?
I am almost 33. Life is pretty good.
How is P.W. Elverum and Son going? Is it growing/evolving? Are you achieving your goals and what new things are you learning? I’m interested because there are a lot of people/artists/musician/lawyers/bankers/politicians/everybody still learning how to work for themselves, start their own thing, and utilize the internet. So how is it going for you?
It's P.W. Elverum & Sun. It means me and the sun. I have no son.
It's going great. Maybe slightly growing, but it's still just me. To grow more I think I'd need to hire someone. I am busy all the time. So probably I'm doing as much as I possibly could as one person.
I didn't have any goals. Just wanted to explore this weird business realm. It's super interesting and I have found deep satisfaction in figuring some things out, and it's nice to know that it's possible to do my thing on whatever small scale I want and have it work.
What is the state of Phil Elverum, PWE&Sun, Mt. Eerie, and all other projects you’re working on? Do you find yourself moving in thematically or artistically (I hate using that word but it gets the point across) in a definitive direction?
You don't like the word "artistically"? It's an OK word if you ask me.
I'm just doing a bunch of experimenting in the recording studio. Mount Eerie is my art project. Phil Elverum is just a dude who goes to the grocery store. P.W. Elverum & Sun is the company that manufactures my merchandise and sells it, but Mount Eerie is the project that is experimenting in the studio, going into new themes and zones, yes, but I don't know what they are yet.
On www.pwelverumandsun.com/store is the following description of the Dawn LP: “’Dawn’ is an archival core sample from an intensely creative period, the winter of 2002/2003 spent alone in a cabin in arctic Norway, wrestling with ghosts, gathering wood, acting out the myths…” That sounds intense. How accurate is that description? Any other revealing/educational/powerful experiences?
It's pretty accurate. I didn't actually physically wrestle THAT many ghosts, but a couple.
I can't really narrow down experiences that have been revealing, etc.. It all goes into the mix, even the daily mundane. The Norway winter was just a particularly crazy and picturesque time.
[these photo's are from pwelverumandsun.com]
Do you foresee any future periods of such creativity? Are you itching to travel more or tour (geographically or otherwise?) or are you in a different state of mind right now?
I have been taking time off from touring, focusing on setting up a new studio and doing new recording ideas. It is hard to have too many interests. I want to do everything. I want to be wintering in the arctic, I want to go on tour everywhere, I want to stay home and read for 40 years, it's hard to choose.
I read an interview with The Believer magazine [http://www.believermag.com/issues/200907/?read=interview_elverum] where you said: “I had an epic session with War and Peace during an intense time alone in a cabin in Norway. My grandparents sent it to me as a Christmas present and I read it almost without stopping.” What is your best memory of reading War and Peace? Favorite part? Worst memory? Most memorable experience reading it? Lasting impressions or lessons learned from it?
I actually re-read it in 2009, a different translation. It's still good. My favorite parts are when Prince Andrei is shot on the battlefield and he's looking at the empty sky and having this epiphany. Also I remember a part where the Rostov family is on a night time winter sleigh ride to some kind of ball, and just the description of the cold night air and the speed... It's good. Again, impossible to sum up. Everyone should just read the whole thing.
Are you happy with your the your book Dawn? Do you plan on writing more? Do you plan on doing more books and writing?
I'm OK with Dawn. It's a super weird thing, but I knew that going into it. I would love to do more books but these days I don't have a regular writing routine. Maybe in the future.
What are the top few books you want to read that you haven’t gotten to yet? Who are authors that you have learned a lot from or enjoyed most…for someone interested in reading a new book/author?
Right now I'm really into this new T.C. Boyle book "When The Killing's Done". His writing is like candy. Also Jim Harrison. Also Gary Snyder. Also this new book/DVD that's Jim Harrison and Gary Snyder called "The Etiquette of Freedom".
Snyder is someone who I've probably gotten the most inspiration and ideas from. An amazing thinker. He is my hero actually.
I also always want to read more Norse sagas. I'm always in the mood for that. Brutes yelling poems at each other.
Lately I've been pushing myself to read more contemporary fiction in McSweeney's and stuff, just to find new things.
And also deeper non fictional brain truths like Daniel Dennett.
Do you have any essays or writing samples or poetry or words that you would like to share with a complete stranger interviewing you over email? A Phil Elverum original work?
What music or sounds are you enjoying presently…what do you listen to when you put the headphones on or turn on the record player or indulge in whatever sound you prefer?
the same stuff over and over:
Popol Vuh, Burzum, Gurdjieff, Jay-Z, Loren Mazzacane Connors, Kanye, Xasthur, Nick Krgovich, Enya, Bernard Herrmann, Smog, David Lynch, Menace Ruine, etc.
Are you working on anything now that you’re excited about and want to talk about? What kinds of sounds are you experimenting with or perfecting or working on? What projects did I not ask you about that you are excited to share or are ready to be released into the world of people who buy/steal/experience your work? Any friends that are doing good things that people should know about and you would like to share?
For my own stuff I'm working on some new things that aren't quite ready to be talked about yet.
It's weird and difficult and mysterious still.
But I'm releasing 2 records on my label that I'm really excited about. "California Lite" by Key Losers is the new project by Katy Davidson who was in Dear Nora and Lloyd & Michael and writes the most amazing songs. I recorded the record and was so into it I offered to release and luckily she said yes. It's going to be a really fancy beautiful LP in May. I'm pretty excited.
Also a 7" of one song by Nicholas Krgovich who I've been collaborating with on Mt. Eerie stuff for a couple years. It's just this perfect pop/r&b slammer that I felt needed to be focused on in the world, so we're making a cool 7", also in May. We're all going on tour in California then.
This is the final question, the freeform question…Anything you want to share? Thoughts? Concerns? Motives? Objections? Rants? Complains? What did I miss, what passionate thing would you have mentioned or like to have answered that I didn’t even know to ask?
Your question were pretty good. I feel sufficiently probed.
I am still in a weird private incubation zone with my new work so I don't have much to say about it yet. Otherwise I'd be going on and on about it.