© Linda Fox blesses us in corona-times with Dance Like Nobody’s Watching–his first release with Shameless/Limitless and Street Pulse, premiering today, May 8.
Smoothed-out bedroom-popper, often-ironic, with shimmering psychedelia, © Linda Fox bursts “fully-formed from the cosmic wilds” with “a soundtrack for both singular experiences and quotidian surreality,” featuring dizzying lyricism and groovy beats.
We had a chat with him about the eerie newfound meaning of his album title–Dance Like Nobody’s Watching, turbulent dreams, his own solipsistic interpretation of simulation theory, puka shells, how he developed the character “© Linda Fox”, and how he’s spent his time in quarantine.
Ultimately, © Linda Fox–the character, the musician, the man, the lyrical-master–is a sincere delight, apt to fall into gorgeous, layered stories, crafting an interview experience that gives increased density to an already layered and complex album. Give Dance Like Nobody’s Watching a listen here and read on for the interview.
The release of Dance Like Nobody’s Watching comes at a pretty interesting time. Most of us are alone in our apartments and can do nothing BUT dance like nobody’s watching.
Do you think the album has a different meaning, being released now, than it might have had in “normal” times?
I was just thinking about that actually. There’s a lyric on this new album, in a song called “Exhale Pure Light,” where I say, “Hey you, get back inside. This ain’t no place for undistracted acts of love. That’s suicide.” When I originally sang that lyric, I was imagining it in the voice of some fictional cop in a dystopian future world. But now I feel like that’s actually something I’d say in my head to the people I see hanging out in parks in big groups, acting like everything’s normal. Within these new global circumstances I’ve become my own worst Future_Cop nightmare.
But when I first named the album Dance Like Nobody’s Watching, I was thinking about how that quaint old mantra of personal liberation relates to our current society of heavy surveillance and algorithmic monitoring. And while we’re now radically isolated in the physical realm (what I call the Flesh Connection), we’re being observed more than ever on the information super highway. So dance for the sinister force that watches you, show it how your body still moves when you want it to, sweats when you ask it to, and disappears when you need it to.
What would you say is the central thesis of the album?
This album is part of a new self-improvement system I’m developing that is all borne out of a solipsistic interpretation of simulation theory (the theory that our perceivable reality is all simulated by a Higher Intelligence of some kind, most likely Artificial). This new system of mine uses simulation theory to prove that, in actual fact, Nobody’s Watching at all, because Nobody is Real except you (the client). Thus, clients of my new system will be able to achieve their Maximum Potential by tapping into the Unlimited Confidence that emerges when they (the clients) realize that they are the only conscious beings in all of existence. It can come as a great relief.
Look at Jeff Bezos for example. He knows that he is the only conscious being in this reality, and that all others are just simulated bits of code. That’s how he’s able to make billions off this current global crisis. Reminds me of another lyric from a song called “I Tripped Out of FLUX” that goes, “We step into The Zone, get rich off the unknown. Now nothing is unknown, because the world has become The Zone.”
Your “Teenagers Kissing” music video is really beautiful – is this area in Vancouver particularly important for you? How did the video come about? Follow up: where the hell did you find a puka necklace in 2020?
I just knew that “Teenagers Kissing” needed fireworks for the video, so with zero budget I decided this was the best way to poach the resources from the city. My really good friend and long-time collaborator Dave Ehrenreich is always up for a dare-devil video shoot, so when I asked him if he wanted to take his fanciest camera out on a shaky kayak between a bunch of drunk yachters he didn’t hesitate for a second. So I strapped on the regulation puka shells (maritime law) took three hits of ecstasy and ventured out into the Mighty Waters of the Pacific Ocean.
This area is actually super important to me, yes! Vancouver is a city that controls its public spaces very strictly. Other cities I’ve lived in, like Montreal or Berlin, leave some public spaces to be reinvented by the communities that use them. Vancouver doesn’t do that. But what is great in Vancouver is that there are almost no regulations on the water, so while most of the city is super regulated, having a kayak is a nice way to catch that sweet sweet swee-eet taste of freedom while still being sort of in the city. That being said, there is a really nice moment in that video when a Police Boat shines a big light on me (free lighting) and asks me to move away from the Designated Fireworks Boundary. One thing about me: I respect boundaries.
Do you have any sense of how you merged your PNW-influences with your Berlin ones? Can you feel both sides on this album—an extension of your story ?
I had a dream last night that I swam out to some really big barnacle covered rocks with huge waves crashing all around me, and the tide was coming up so the tops of the rocks were getting smaller. I was terrified of the vast depths of water on the far side of the rocks away from land, dark and bottomless with huge shadows drifting beneath the surface, but the side toward land was much more turbulent with frothy waves crashing in all directions. I was scared and exhilarated, the feeling of the sublime that I get from being in close proximity to the immensity of the open ocean.
Then, in my dream, I had to swim back to shore urgently because all of a sudden there was a buffet table being set up and people were laughing and talking and preparing for a workshop of some kind. It was a career building seminar perched on a rocky cliff overlooking those crashing waves. When I got there, I tried to explain to people the feeling of being out there but I just couldn’t fit the experience into the appropriate words for the attendees of the seminar. So at last I dove off the cliff back into the water. I was in the air for long enough to look back and see that some of the people were watching me fall with expressions of pure excitement while many others had returned to the buffet table to continue networking.
How did you arrive to this character, © Linda Fox? How did you formulate him, what are his particular strengths and weaknesses — what does he sing about that maybe “you” wouldn’t?
When I was a young boy I went away to scouts camp one winter, and we camped out in snow caves in the woods. When I got home I got super sick and fell into a delirium, and I dreamed I was floating in an infinite VOID and was playing a game with an unknown opponent. There was a giant weightless cube, glowing neon green, and we were passing it back and forth. I got distracted and missed my return, and the cube floated past me, irretrievable in the VOID.
Upon realizing I’d lost the game I went crazy and ran around my house screaming and breaking things. After that incident I would sleepwalk and have nightmares just about every night. Eventually, my parents took me to a sleep therapist to help with it all, and her name was Linda Fox. She made me a personalized cassette of a guided meditation that cured me right away. It was amazing, but I actually didn’t really remember all of that until a few years ago when I was reading a book by Philip K Dick called The Divine Invasion. In it there’s a character named Linda Fox who is this sort of holographic singer songwriter from Earth whose music gets sent to Mars via satellite (where it’s printed to tape and distributed) to ease the spirits of the Martian colonists.
My first album that I made with this project was just called Linda Fox, no ©, and on that album I used a pitched vocal effect that I imagined as the voice of a combination of the sleep therapist Linda Fox and the holographic Linda Fox. That whole first album was me imagining what her songs would be like and really trying to channel this other character throughout. That’s why Linda is so interested in Sleep and Dreaming and Wellness. By the second album I was exploring different characters and other voices, so I added the copyright symbol to signify that these songs all belong to Linda Fox in some way, perhaps she wrote the bass lines for all of them, but that I’m not always speaking as Linda Fox.
With this new album, I use the original pitched vocal effect only on a few songs, but I think that using that alternate voice has been a way to say things that I wouldn’t in my normal voice. There’s a song on Dance Like Nobody’s Watching called “Dream on a Rascal’s Edge” that I sing as Linda and say, “We go to the dolphins, ask their forgiveness, business is in your head,” and to write those lyrics I had to step back into her world where dolphins as a species have become a competing global super power. Then in the chorus she sings, “We know it’s time, we know it’s time to be free,” and with this line I was thinking about the sleep therapist Linda Fox making a hypnosis tape for a client who is unable to break a cycle of fear and hatred, only this client was all of humanity.
This is your first release with S/L and Street Pulse as © Linda Fox. How did you start working with the label and how do you think you fit with the rest of the artists?
People might not realize this, but Kevin Halpin, CEO of Shameless/Limitless, comes from a rugged land of pickup trucks and cowboys that’s relatively close to where I’m from. I’m sure your readers will be aghast to learn that this gentle and articulate giant of Neukölln’s cultural underbelly has his roots in cattle wrangling and assless chaps, but I assure you it is indeed the truth. So when I was making my first trip out to Berlin some years back, I posted on the British Columbian Travellers Information Bulletin (BCTIB), to which Kevin is an avid subscriber, and from there the relationship took its natural course: from correspondent to friend, and from friend to business associate. Here’s hoping we can avoid that final and inevitable stage: from business associate to legal adversary. I tell ya, I wouldn’t want to face Mr. Halpin in court, because if he’s as handy with legal jargon as he is with the lasso then I’d be hog tied before I could blink (metaphorically speaking).
So to ease some of that impending legal tension between myself and Shameless/Limitless we decided to bring in a third party label, the wonderful Street Pulse owned and operated by Kari Jahnsen who’s known for her incredible patience and dispute settling clarity. The three of us have reached a perfectly harmonious balance based on friendship, artistic integrity, and a shared desire to get rich beyond our wildest dreams.
Do you have any Berlin-music recommendations for us? People we might have missed?
Well your super hip readers are probably already super hip to these names, but friends and respected artists alike that have albums out around now are Seb, Discovery Zone, Bad Hammer, Pictorial Candi – all deranged geniuses in their own ways.
How have you been spending your quarantine ? Any tips for musicians, wannabe-musicians, artists, spending so much time at home?
There’s a beach in Vancouver called Spanish Banks where the tide goes out about a kilometre at its lowest. I often check the tide charts and head out there with my dog when it’s all the way out, so there’s lots of space and nobody around and I can get my feet wet and sandy and watch eagles scoop up clams. I also set up a punching bag in the basement and I’m cultivating a deadly left hook.
Those things keep me sane in the Flesh Connection, but as an artist I’d say what’s been important for me is taking this time to return to making art without the pressures of getting it into world famous galleries and museums. For so long I’ve been only making work with the intention of one day seeing it in the Museum Of Modern Art (MOMA) or next to Stonehenge (S), but now that the world is shut down I can just return to a Pure Creative Process (PCP), one that is freed from the shackles of fame and notoriety. It’s like when I was a young lad and I used to draw different kinds of demons in my sketchbook in grade 7 without ever worrying if they would be put up on the walls of the Louvre Abu Dhabi (LAD). It’s a serious change in perspective that I don’t think will last for long, so I’m trying to cherish the Simple Moments of Unseen Creativity (SMUC).