Casey Spooner

Interview by
Gert Jonkers
Photography by
Ryan McGinley


If you haven’t heard Fischerspooner’s electro pop yet, you should. It’s great. The New York based duo, Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner, front a massive group of dancers, actors, choreographers and musicians. They don’t have a manager, but they do have a gallery — just an example of how they see things. Casey lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Gert: Casey?
Casey: Yeah, good morning. Are you in Amsterdam?
Well, clear this up for me: so Amsterdam is in Holland, right?
And you people speak what?
Right. And then…
the country is called The Netherlands.
Oh, I see, that’s where I get confused. I was like: okay is it Holland or The Netherlands?
Holland is just a part of The Netherlands. It’s sort of the part where the main cities are, like Amsterdam and Rotterdam and The Hague.
Right. Now why is The Hague called The Hague? It’s a city, but it’s called The Hague? I don’t get it.
It’s an abbreviation. It’s something like ‘The hague of the lords’.
And what does ‘hague’ translate into, then?
The bushes.
Oh really? Whoa! I thought The Netherlands was also a term for several countries. The whole northern Europe thing is a bit vague to me. Where’s Lars von Trier from?
Right. Have you seen his television series The Kingdom? That was a dream come true! I love this combination of his darkness integrated in a television series. It’s so fucking freaky.
Apparently he’s terrible to work with. Do you remember how Bjork hated him after Dancer in the Dark?
No. You know what’s weird, I dreamed about Bjork last night. Not that I’m a fan…
Did she wear some sort of funny couture dress?
No, I think she had her leg behind her head. She was doing some kind of yoga pose. She wanted to talk to me, and I was like, yeah, hang on a second, I’ll be right with you.
Good! Well, listen, it’s great to have you in Butt. We’re huge fans.
Good, ‘cause I was thrilled too when you called me. It’s good to be in a magazine about interesting homosexuals. Which it is, isn’t it?
That’s so nice. Have you ever seen that magazine After Dark? You should see it, it’s an old magazine from the ‘70s, done in New York. Some of the photography was incredible. Lots of like hot ballet dancers, stories about interesting people. It could be from a story on Nureyev to anything.
Did you read that as a kid?
God, no! I would never have been able to get hold of that. I’m from the south, from Georgia and South Carolina. No way you could find that there.
Could you get any proper magazines there, like Interview?
Definitely. I always loved their covers when they were painted. They were my favourite. And I read the Robb Report, a luxury goods classified ads, where you could buy Rolls Royces and Maseratis. That’s where I would shop for my luxury car. And what else did I read? Vogue was actually good for culture. Always interesting things. That was the only place where I could find any culture stuff.
That must have colored your taste in culture.
It must have, obviously. If you’re an artist and you can’t squeeze it into 400 words at the front of Vogue, then fuck it. Exactly.
Did you read music mags? Were you drooling over popstars as a kid?
I can’t remember. I don’t think so.
Like, I used to take a picture of Bryan Ferry to the hair salon when I was a kid.
No! That’s amazing.
Especially if you know what I looked like. I was this Dutch 11-year-old blond country boy and he’s this totally stylish dark, romantic, thirtysomething man.
Someone gave me Roxy Music’s Avalon in high school, actually, a much younger kid. I can’t believe he gave it to me when I think back on it. I didn’t like that album. I liked Chaka Khan, I liked Newcleus.
You were not a Smiths fan?
Naaaah, I was not into The Smiths. I’ve always had bad taste in music, I was never very cool. And I was in such a weird southern, conservative world. There was not much freaky. I was hanging out with all the friends from the country club. I liked ABC for a while.
I loved ABC!
And I went on a trip to Paris when I was sixteen and they had these music video jukeboxes in the cafes, so you could play a song and watch the music video which I really wish they still did because it’s such fun. You could just watch the same music video over and over again, and my favourite was C’est comme ça by Les Rita Mitsouko, that was my ultimate! That video by Mondino was great.
But you didn’t listen to, say, Jason Donovan or Andy Gibb because they looked good?
No. I wish I could say so. I was pretty repressed.
Were you a sad teenager?
I was a bit of a tortured teen, yeah. I wasn’t like an uninhibited superfreak. Not until I went to college, and then I had a blast! I’m still living out my teen fantasies now. I didn’t get them in earlier.
But you went to college and flipped immediately?
Immediately! I went to college in August and by September I was totally having fun and getting in trouble. Fucking up my hair.
How old were you?
I was 18.
Where was this.
Athens, Georgia. That was fun. All I did was drink and party and go out to clubs. Hang out with rockers.
What did you study?
Were you good?
I think I was. I think I could have been pretty good. I enjoyed it, but it was too solitary for me. I couldn’t be alone that much. And my professors always thought — like when I explained why I made the painting — they felt like the reason I made the painting was better than the painting itself. So they pushed me from painting into performance. They honestly said: Your paintings are good, but when you stand up and talk about your paintings, it’s more entertaining. I went to the University of Georgia for a year and I burned out on partying and getting in trouble. And I went to Chicago to kind of dry out, get back to work. In Chicago, there was a performance department in the art institute and that’s where I went. The way it’s structured there, you don’t really get a grade. You pass or fail. It’s not like A, B, C, D. You would stand up with your work in front of the class and you’d do critiques, present your work and answer questions. And I ruled! I ruled at public speaking.
That’s the performer in you.
I think I got it from my dad, actually. He’s a southern lawyer, and he’s a big entertainer. Always very extraverted, very social. When I was a kid I remember my mom always being pissed off ‘cause he would decide on a Friday night to have 30 people over, throwing these big parties. He stands up in the court room in front of everybody and sort of, you know, entertains.
So you didn’t really have some kind of hang-up with stars and celebrities when you were a kid?
Kind of. My first boyfriend was a celebrity. Michael Stipe. He was the first person I ever dated, so I got it out of the system early.
That was when he was this big enigma for his audience? Did you have to be terribly confidential about your affair?
A little bit. He got away with his behaviour by being elusive and eccentric, I guess. I can understand now why he was that way, it’s not really about whether you want to speak publicly about your sexuality and who you sleep with, it’s more that you want some amount of privacy in a way.
How old were you?
How did you meet?
In a bar in Georgia.
Was it love at first sight?
No, more like nervous breakdown at first sight. I had a total freakout ‘cause he tried to pick me up.
You recognized him?
I did, you know, but I wasn’t really a fan and didn’t really know his music so I didn’t really care. I guess there was someting thrilling about the fact that he was famous. But it wasn’t my style, obviously, that earnest, sort of poetic, indie rock wasn’t my direction.
That’s what broke you up?
No. He toured around a lot and he was sleeping around on me. That was really difficult. He was 28 and I was 18, and he wanted to have his cake and eat it too. And I was not happy about that. I was completely emotional, I can’t imagine dealing with me when I was 18. I was insane. So dramatic! Hugely dramatic.
Ever seen him again?
You know, I’m actually concerned. I used to hear from him at least once a year, and I haven’t heard from him over the past year. I have the weird feeling that I’ve mentioned his name in the press, and now he’s probably pissed off with me. He’s a good guy, though. People give him hell, but he was a good lay. He could fuck the chrome off a bumper. He definitely fucked the shit out of me. That was fun.
Did it spark your interest in being famous?
You know, I always wondered about that. I always thought it was ironic that I gained the most recognition from pretending to be a popstar. But I think that was always in me. It was good to have that experience with Michael, ‘cause I got a window to what it was like, and, in a way, it turned me off to the idea of fame. Now, it’s not necessarily a dream come true. Being famous is a lot of work. It fucks up everyone’s perception of you, and it gets into every part of your life. It’s a job that becomes you. First, I wasn’t into becoming popular. After painting, I did experimental theatre and it wasn’t at all about getting famous. It was about making stuff, but then I got sick of being a nobody.
More then sick of being poor?
Yeah. I wanted more of an audience. Not feeling like you’re talking to the same 15 people all the time.
So you chose music. Well, I shouldn’t say that since Fischerspooner is more than just music.
Yeah, the music was just an accident. We started to make a song, and it sort of took off from there. And, of course, at a certain point, it was no longer an accident. My ultimate goal was to make a record and have it released on a really good, really hip label with an art gallery at the same time. That was the goal. We surpassed my expectation. It was supposed to be for a very defined period of time, we started in ‘98 and I thought we would be done in a year, maybe two. So it was supposed to be finished in 2000.
But it’s getting serious now, isn’t it?
It’s getting very serious, yeah.
Do you enjoy that?
I do, in a way. I feel like it’s such a challenge. And I’m learing so many things I never thought I’d have to deal with. Dealing with money, contracts and all different kinds of people and negotiating and organizing and delegating and how to develop something creatively with a group of people. I have this thing where I try to keep everybody happy, and it sometimes drives me out of my mind, ‘cause I’m so busy trying to keep everybody happy. And, in the end, I have to look out for my own interest too, and then it turns into an ugly situation. I’m learning how to manage my needs and everybody else’s. I’ve sort of accepted the fact that I can’t keep all these people okay all the time. I roll with it. Isn’t it weird that I just figured that out yesterday on the toilet? I was just sitting there and I was dreading a choreographer coming because I was like: Oh my god, I have to explain this and give them criticism and I don’t know how they’ll react and blahblahblahblah. And then I thought: who cares.
And did they care?
No, they were fine. Right now I can’t even explain how many different divisions I have to manage. Well, Warren does a lot too. I manage more the choreographers and the performers on a day-to-day basis, and he manages the music productions and the film-related stuff with his wife.
Who does the contracts?
We manage that mutually. And we have a really great lawyer, who’s really cool. He’s totally amazing. He really understands. I’ve just learned through him that a lot of what we do is: we kind of ask for what we want. Nothing that we’ve done is a standard agreement. That’s a bit unusual. We don’t have a standard record contract by any means. We had to rewrite the book.

BUTT - X2-b

That’s great. And I just read you even got 2 million pounds out of that contract you just signed in the UK.
I can neither confirm nor deny that number ‘cause, contractually, I’m not allowed to speak about the terms of the deal. But anyway, it’s a very artist-friendly deal, yes.
Tell me something about the Ministry of Sound with whom you signed. I know that it’s a dance label from the UK, and I can’t help picturing a bunch of raving lads on 10 pills each, in black bomber jackets with that Ministry of Sound turntable logo on the back.
Well, we turned them down the first time. They didn’t seem to have the right image. We met with all kinds of labels, major labels, indie labels. We had already worked with Gigolo in Munich who released our first record. I learned a lot about labels. Just crazy meetings. You can’t believe what those people tell you. Like, we had this one meeting with this guy at MCA, and at the first meeting he told us to basically rerecord the album. We thought: What the fuck, why are we even talking to you? The record is done, we’re just trying to get the motherfucker out. We were talking to BMG also, the biggest worldwide media conglomerate. That was interesting. I went to Miami to a gathering of their A&R people, which was supposed to be, like, their sales pitch. Like, look at this international network you get to use, all these people will support you. It was looking at corporate music in the face. It didn’t really dawn on me what I was doing until the doors of the convention hall opened, and there were, like, 150 people from around the world wearing laminates and saying “Hi I’m the A&R guy from South America” and “I’m from Brazil” and “I’m from Mexico” and “I’m the mid-level upper management assistent to blahblahblah”. First, I thought I was gonna whip the system. I thought I’m gonna network myself to death. I’m gonna let every single one of those people know who I am, and push my fucking record. But after 3 people, I would just ask who their boss was until finally I got to the most powerful person at the conference. Because I can’t work this system from the bottom up. I learned it’s all about starting at the top. Anyway, that went nowhere. At Ministry we then met the owner and president, this guy James Polombo. I maybe shouldn’t even talk about him ‘cause he doesn’t like to be in the press. But honestly, he was the selling point for us, he was so interesting. He is the owner and the president so it’s not like you’re dealing with people who are just trying to not lose their job. Like, all those people in the record industry are neurotic and they’re just trying to not make a mistake. He doesn’t care ‘cause it’s his company. He was very cool. Usually, most people freaked out when we said what we wanted to do, which is this sort of hybrid between art and entertainment. They would say: Well, are you gonna be able to do the traditional music things? Like are you gonna do record signings for us in all the stores? Are you able to do a 30 city tour in a month, on a bus, unpaid? All these formulaic things. We wanted things that were not formulaic, and James was completely thrilled. We said: we might never tour, we may only perform in major art institutions, and we may never do anything you ever want. And he was like: Great, fine, we love it, keep doing what you’re doing, whatever.
But whereas some labels may have thought that you can be very difficult, it seems like you can be very cooperative too. Like when you asked the editor of NME whose cock you had to suck to get on the cover.
Yeah, the press is so easy. So easy! I’d do it, though, if I thought it would serve me. It served me well this far. How do you think we got here? Warren has single-handedly said that the best thing that ever happened to his career is the fact that I’m gay. He’s like, Jesus, it’s so easy for you guys. You just fuck a couple of people and, all of a sudden, you got some press. I’m good for that. But I’m doing it for the team, getting coverage with my oral skills.
Are they good, your oral skills?
I don’t know. I’ll ask. Hang on. Hey Adam, how are my oral skills? (Adam says something in the background.) They’re fine, he says. They’re pretty good. (Adam says some more.) Oh, he says he’s teaching me. I’m getting better and better.
That’s good. What do you think of when I say ‘costumes’?
Costumes are good. They work.
You like wearing a lot of stuff?
I do.
What would you wear on a cruisy night out, then.
Ooh, I’m trying to think. I would probably just go for a T-shirt. I don’t really overdo it when I go for a drink. I would do a T-shirt or a tuxedo.
Is it fun, going to Passerby in a tuxedo?
Oh god! Are you kidding? Absolutely! I don’t go to Passerby anymore, though.
Is that over?
Well, Gavin Brown isn’t our gallery anymore, and his gallery is in the back of the bar. That was our first gallery. We ended our business relationships in September. Now we’re with Deitch Projects.
And? Happy?
Definitely. I’m so happy. We have a great team over there. They gave us an incredible rehearsing studio, like a 4000-foot garage. We’re working on a big show in May now. You know, a classic big pop entertainment show.
Like one of those New Kids on the Block/ Take That shows?
It is, and it isn’t, and that’s where the art is. We try our darndest and yet we fail. It’s about the attempt. It’s all about building the imperfect pop show. You really get to witness reality. Instead of a certain hermetically-sealed product, we allow ourselves to be spontaneous. It’s so thrilling to have this humongous production, and be totally slick, and totally incredible, and just everything collapses. It’s less theatre and more rock ‘n’ roll. That’s what makes it not a bad Broadway revue. I like the attitude of rock ‘n’ roll. I like the swagger, the posturing, the personas.
The first time I spoke to you, you said there was no way you could do any press since you first had to go to the gym for some months. What was that about?
About not having been going to the gym.
I hadn’t been working out.
Oh, but watch out. Don’t become too much of a Chelsea muscle queen.
Trust me, that is not an issue here. I just had extra girth that I needed to burn off. I haven’t had a gym membership in years, but I have one now at a gym called Chelsea Piers and it’s the ultimate Chelsea gym.
Whoa! Chelsea Piers! Can you get in without a goatee?
Sure. It’s all rockstars and moviestars. It’s the celebrity gym of Manhattan. It’s out on a pier and it has an olympic size swimmingpool. It’s incredible. It’s beautiful. I have this trainer who’s also training Lou Reed.
Who’s better with push-ups, you or Lou?
Well, I haven’t seen him there yet.
Please tell me about Peanuts, one of your bandmembers. He’s cute.
Oh, he’s really cute.
He’s got those bedroom eyes.
I tried really badly for years to get him to sleep with me, but I couldn’t. He was working me over just to get the part. Now he’s an old friend. It would be like, you know, sleeping with your lawyer.
Is he a dancer?
No, an actor. I make him take his clothes off on stage. And he helps me take my clothes off. He’s got a good ass, got a full buttock on him. (Adam says something.) I have a better ass than he does? Really? Whoa! (Adam says some more.) Oh, Adam says he has a better ass, but he’s more annoying. Well, but that’s his character, he’s supposed to be annoying, to some degree, and enticing.
It’s also the master-servant role. Peanuts is always the victim too. He’s usually battered and beaten, ‘cause I’m usually freaked out at him ‘cause he didn’t get my cape on time. It’s like hardcore Liberace.
You’ve been compared to a lot of cool artists. I read Sigfried & Roy, Gilbert & George, The KLF and maybe I can put The Plasmatics in here, and-
All the good entertainers. I haven’t heard Gary Cooper or Cary Grant yet, though.
What about your new film, Sweetness.
Yeah, what about it?
What is it?
A film.
Is it new?
Yeah, it premiers at our gallery on May 11th.
Is it something that could travel to film festivals?
Yeah, and art shows. Like the Emerge video. That’s been shown at the Barbican and also at the Pompidou, and it airs a little bit on music television in Germany. Sweetness will also be used as a video to the song. It’s more in the vein of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal. You know how he used to do these opuses based around a song. It’s our adaptation of what the song Sweetness is about.
So it’s a song too? Is it on the new album?
That’s a weird story. When our German label did the first record, they released the demo, not the final version of the album. By accident. So now we remastered the record, changed the sequencing and all the packaging, and the Emerge music video will be on it. We don’t know about Sweetness yet, though, ‘cause we’d like to keep that for the next album. We’re doing the old album first since distribution was so bad. Nobody could find it.
I bought it.
That’s good. Most people know it through the internet. Basically, we’re the first wave of music that’s been a product of Napster. We profited from the exposure of free music on the internet. I love how the whole music industry is completely fucked. They’re all freaking out. I think, in the end, it’s gonna be a positive thing. Just because it allows people the exposure they usually wouldn’t have on a complete international scale.
That’s good. Tonight I’m going to the Peaches show.
Have you ever seen her before?
No, I don’t think she was ever in Amsterdam before. And now she’s in a tiny venue. It’s the small room of the Paradiso.
Really? I would imagine Amsterdam eating her up.
We’ll see. I’ll let you know. Since you like a bit of drama and staging, did you ever like Brett Anderson from Suede? I still hate the fact that I didn’t see their first show in Holland, back when they still had that first guitarist.
No, never liked them. But once again, I never had good taste in music. I always liked bad radio. I don’t even really buy that much, I just listen to whatever anyone else around is listening to. And when I do find something, I listen to it forever, until I hate it. I actually really liked that Kylie Minogue single. Until I played it to death. I liked Britney’s Slave single that the Neptunes produced. They’re amazing producers.
In the end, all good pop music is amazing, I’d say. Like ABC, in a way.
Yeah, although lyrically they were a bit too cartoonish. Like “tell me, tell me, how to be a millionaire…” Fuck off! And that take on Smokey Robinson. I hated that song. That was awful.
But that’s late ABC. They’d lost it by then.
You see, I was in the United States in the middle of nowhere, usually that was the problem. I didn’t get the first record or the second, I always got the shitty third. You know, I feel like I should tell you something more slutty and dirty, since it’s for Butt. I don’t know what to tell you?
Hmm, slutty…have you dated girls?
Yes, but not for any length of time. I once had a freaky experience, when I toured with this band for a while. I don’t know why, but I really got into pretending I was straight. I hooked up with this girl and it was really fun for a day, to pretend I was this really super-straight jock dude. Anyway, I was fucking her and — do you really want to hear this?
No, but who were you touring with?
Oh, I was the T-shirt guy. I sold the merchandise.
That’s a grungy job!
I enjoyed it. It was with The Chickasaw Mudpuppies, this kind of freakish countryfied rock group. I had a huge crush on the lead singer.
Did he know?
Oh my god, are you kidding? I begged him! But he was not into it.
Damn. Well, what else…are you versatile?
Yes. I’m versatile, I’m circumsized. and I got a great sense of humor.
Do you fancy bears?
I don’t know. I go pretty natural, I’m pro natural. I’m actually a bit disappointed that I’m circumsized, I think it’s wrong.
Americans are really embarassed about that, huh? We Europeans don’t mind that much.
Well, but if your dickhead has never had any contact with anything except when it’s hard, think of the amount of sensivity you’d have! Our perception has been altered. Are you circumsized?
No. So I see what you mean about sensitivity. It can be fun and sensitive to walk around for a day with the skin rolled up.
Really, you can do that?
Yeah, but it hurts for the first fifteen minutes.
Interesting. You see, it’s a problem.
It’s fun to roll it up and wear baggy pants and boxershorts.
You know what, I’ve been getting into boxershorts lately. I feel very straight. Straight-acting, straight-looking.
I really got into boxershorts only last year. I think walking around in just a pair of boxers looks better than a pair of briefs. Boxers are a bit like tennis skirts for men. It’s better for the silhouette
Yeah. But they can be a bit bulky in your pants sometimes, it’s a lot of fabric in there. Anyway, I’m pretty sure I’m late for another meeting somewhere. I gotta run.
Thanks so much.
No problem, just make me sound exciting and sexy. And this is the other thing I tell people of the press. You know how people get into these relationships where they get something out of the press, and they expect some sort of truth, and they get upset when they feel it sort of doesn’t represent them? Well, the way we approach the press in general is that it’s part of the project, ‘cause it’s all about creating this illusion of excitement. And so we encourage people in the press to — if you feel like you don’t have the right quote to make your article interesting — you can make it up. Basically, you have creative licence, ‘cause the whole idea of this project is we wanted to create something that was popular and exciting, and the fact that we basically pretended to be popular — and that made us popular — means that now you’re sort of part of the project. So you can say or write whatever you want. You can say I’m a slut, I’m a prude. You could say I’m an asshole or I’m not interesting. You can say anything that you think your readers might enjoy.

Originally published in BUTT 4