Ep. #134: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy is the long-held moniker of the esteemed and uncompromising songwriter, singer, actor, producer, and musician Will Oldham who hails from Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past twenty years, he has been remarkably prolific and displayed an astonishing dedication to the quality of his craft, which is ostensibly folk, rock, or country music of the highest level. He has been something of a shape-shifter, working under different names like Palace Brothers, Palace Music, Palace Contribution, Bonny Billy, and his own given name, Will Oldham. He has also collaborated with different backing bands and hundreds of other artists and worked with many record labels outside of his core partnership with Drag City. Oldham also has a fluid relationship with his own work, often re-interpreting, re-recording, and, in a sense, re-releasing his own songs in different forms. In 2011, he put out a record called Wolfroy Goes to Town and his new album, Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues, which is out now via Drag City, recalls songs from those Wolfroy sessions. Here, Will and I discuss The Family Circus footprints, talking to people in Slint, how Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues may represent an alternate reality than Wolfroy Goes to Town but the records actually aren’t really all that connected, the DC comics parallel universes, the Justice League of America and the Justice Association of America, different versions of the Flash aren’t really related to one another, I don’t understand the DC universe, people might be misremembering Wolfroy Goes to Town, how people remake movies years apart and can have vastly different audiences,Yasujirō Ozu, Douglas Sirk, definitive versions of things, creative fulfillment versus expectations met, Yusuf Islam reinterpreting his older songs for newer material, Bob Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings,” Pixies and Rolling Stones, when the Ramones would cover songs on their albums, factors that impact a recording, how Will prepped Emmett Kelly and Paul Oldham ahead of working on Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues, white elephants and gorillas, “Fuck Birds in the Bushes” bumper stickers, taking stock of one’s own work via their own work, R. Kelly and David Allan Coe, Ian Fleming’s James Bond books, The Man Who Would Be King by John Huston and its influence on the song “So Far and Here We Are,” confidence and confusion, why we need to issue challenges from time to time, most awkward radio interview ever, how and why to promote music, the pros and cons of self-awareness, human RAM, Robin Williams, early teens triggers, going to acting day camp as a kid, Louisville punk bands like Malignant Growth and Languid and Flaccid, seeing Hüsker Dü and going to Maurice and Slint band practices, taking pictures, making a living acting and not needing college, the weirdness around agents and auditions compared to Louisville’s creative, unmediated music community, touring with Samhain and Squirrel Bait and seeing Dinosaur, then seeing Sonic Youth and the Necros, Lydia Lunch, Jim Thirlwell Foetus, CBGBs, bullshit intolerance, Old Joy, Pioneer, indirect parental support for kids in bands in Louisville, Matewan, encountering Steve Albini, the Slint doc Breadcrumb Trail and Britt Walford’s awesome parents, what the hell is up with Silver Jews leader David Berman, Berman’s stressful, strained relationship with his conservative lobbyist father, an extensive forthcoming article about Richard Berman in Mother Jones, calling David Berman, perhaps we’ll hear or read something new from Berman some time soon, how Berman brought Will to Drag City, sending demos to Interscope Records, Harpo and Chico Marx, an Italian woman and two Dutch guys aren’t into the Frogs’ It’s Only Right and Natural, laughing a lot with Slint, working with people like Dawn McCarthy, David Ferguson, Matt Sweeney, playing a show at a state prison and getting closer and closer to meeting Don Everly, twin Mexican wives, maybe performing “Omaha” before Don, Bill Withers didn’t maybe care so much, Manual Cinema in Chicago, complicated websites, the songs “We Are Unhappy” and “New Black Rich (Tusks),” and then it’s time to be clear.

Related links: royalstablemusic.com dragcity.com vishkhanna.com

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