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An interview with Anna Nasty of Neonates and Olivia Neutron-John / by Katie Alice Greer

Anna Nasty has more presence, both meta and physical, than almost any single other person I've ever met. I've yet to test this theory, but I bet you could feel them walk into a room from miles away if they wanted you to know. Anna's solo project Olivia Neutron-John recently finished a first-time tour of the east coast, and while I've been jamming the ON-J cassette debut since summer, its live show grew both my fandom, fascination, and the all-encompassing ON-J mystery by multitudes.

You can't say this about all music, but I think you could somehow hear Olivia Neutron-John with your eyes only. It is devastatingly visceral, thrilling, and monotonously brain melting. On tape, ON-J sounds like maybe you fell asleep and had a dream that you fell asleep. To my ears it has something to do with what I imagine would be the horrifying spawn-mash of the worst kids' breakfast cereal commercials and the musical guest on the most demented episode of Pee Wee's Playhouse, had the playhouse been some kind of play-S&M dungeon or something. I haven't really asked Anna much about this yet. They were very kind to answer these questions via email while still in transit, without any sort of permanent computer connection. Without further ado, here is Anna Nasty on pop music, self-documentation, roller-skating, and the inevitable irrelevance of “The Nice Guy.”

First I would like you to tell me who you are, where you live, what kind of work you’re doing on a daily basis (what you get paid for and what you don’t) and I dunno whatever else you think provides a good Anna introduction. Astrological sign? You’re a Scorpio right?

My name is ANNA NASTY. I haven’t officially lived anywhere since May but the last place I was living is Phoenix, Arizona. I worked at a guitar shop there called Haymaker (now closed) doing repair and at a record store called Eastside (which is now Double Nickels Collective). Since then I have been traveling/touring with my band NEONATES and my solo project OLIVIA NEUTRON-JOHN and doing odd jobs like cooking vegan/gluten-free meals at a teenage hippie summer camp in upstate New York or working 12am-8am on Black Friday at a mall in southern California. Yes I am a Scorpio.  

I definitely want to talk to you about pop music because I know that is a love you and I first bonded over. A lot of people seem to talk about liking pop music in a less than sincere way, like, “oh haha yeah Miley she’s great lol” but I actually love a lot of pop music! Particularly when divorced from its shitty corporatized reality, like just on an escapist level or something. I don’t really like Miley Cyrus’ stuff so maybe I just wouldn’t believe a person who would say that anyway. But can you tell me about your relationship with pop music? Do you think it influences your work at all?

I have always actively listened to pop music. My mom would make a new mix every week for the car (but always with the same sad Filipin@ pop ballad), turn the bass all the way up and cruise hard. 

Imagine us speeding and singing the lyric “Why are you crying?” in Tagalog.

But I think roller-skating is what made me really love it. It’s fucked, the last rink I was on was frequently playing that song I hate, MOVES LIKE JAGGER or whatever it’s called every half hour. I don’t think I could listen to it outside of Skateland, but something about taking a corner to that chorus and watching my skates crossover actually made me love that song. They played SUPERBASS by NICKI MINAJ every half hour too, so it evened out. Anyway, roller-skating gives me the rush that I think people get from playing sports they really like. I feel really lucky to have gotten into skating in the late 90s. Seriously an incredible bunch of music to skate to.  I don’t think pop directly influences what my music sounds like because I don’t have a desire to play music on any technical or conventional level; but I’m sure there’s a lot of subconscious influence. 

I just read this bummer thing about Katy Perry doing a pretty racist and distasteful performance on some award show. It seems like there is always some disappointing news like this to hear from the pop world. How do you deal with loving something that might be so problematic? Do you live in this paradox or is it just too much to deal with sometimes? Like I am wondering if you’ve ever had an experience where you’re like ugh this is so fucked but on some irrational pleasure level I just LOVE this song

It’s important to be critical of pop or –whatever- else around you, and actively try to dismantle the effects it has on us. There’s no way to not live in it, and that makes existing frustrating as hell sometimes. That’s not to say I’m any better. I was obsessed with “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus for about a week but it’s out of my system now. It's also important to confront or be critical of more immediate situations in your own life. People are quick to call out pop culture but will let other things (racism, sexism, transphobia) in their own lives go unquestioned.

Can you tell me about this flyer? You posted it to the web a few weeks ago, but I saw it reblogged again last night, at that point on tumblr it had been reblogged, liked or commented upon over 450 times. I think this is indicative of not only an appreciation for your very particular hand in visual arts (I personally am a huge fan) but also perhaps a solidarity a lot of people feel with this image. Can you talk about what was going on? You made this flyer, right?

Yes I made the flyer. A lot of people in town weren't aware that I had made it. It came off like a really shitty thing someone made about me. It definitely made people uncomfortable. It was also pre-social media for me so it was never online in the first place / there wouldn't be anyway of knowing who made it. There were even a few people that assumed a guy made it "because the design was so nice", hahahaha (*emoticon of a smiley face with a gun to its head*)

Anyway, I don't know if exact details or backstory would be any good at this point so as briefly as I can put it: it was a situation that was dealt with very poorly. I was told to leave a show that I wasn't causing trouble at because someone spread a rumor that I was going to "ruin it". I was dragged out of the show by my ankles through the kitchen. I have a linoleum burn scar on my shoulder from this. Once we were outside it was like yelling at a wall. I knew it wasn't worth talking with this guy but I also wasn't going to back down. But it always feels like this, where I'm choking on the rush of frustrations and words that don't quite say what I need them to. It's thoroughly embarrassing to recall actually, just standing there crying out of anger, crying because my body can't hold in all the rage I feel, unable to articulate myself. Tears that look like weakness.

"…it sees 
the violence
embedded in silence

This eye
is not for weeping
its vision
must be unblurred

though tears are on my face
its intent is clarity
it must forget nothing"

-excerpt from From the Prison House by Adrienne Rich

I don't even remember what I said to him but it was certainly better than his lecture on how the punk brotherhood works. I made this flyer the next day and hung them up on his street and the record stores in town. 

Confronting Real Life Bro Culture has mostly been like this: I am quick to be restrained & I almost always stand alone. People assume that I'm tough enough or that I can handle it on my own but that's just not how it works. 

You could say "fuck scenes" but honestly, that's so lazy, so fuck you too. We are all involved in scenes. It's about what you actively do, not about what you say. These things happen because not enough people are outwardly/explicitly against them! I don't give a damn if the next day you come up to me and tell me how fucked up something I experienced was. Here and now please. I am tired of standing alone. 

And it isn't only about speaking up when something bad is going down. It's also about recognizing the actions around you that perpetuate or let a bro culture exist///thrive. I watched someone who I should have never considered a friend (he, and many other dudes, honestly, would barely talk to me unless I was dating somebody they considered important in the scene) film the WANTED incident. I also recall him in a different situation standing aside and laughing while I was in a physical altercation (someone called me a 'mixed race piece of shit') … and people wonder why I hesitated to bow down to every move this guy made or even think he was okay at all. Everyone thought I was just being judgmental or too hard on him ("come on, he's a nice guy…"), but he was the kind of person that made me feel like I stood alone. I just don't need nice guys in my life, ya know?

Answering this question is honestly just sad. I think to myself, how, or why, could or do these things happen? Doesn't anyone have my back? Doesn't anyone think the way I do? But the last way I'd feel is shocked. This is the current state of things; this is why I push back.

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