A Graveside Dialogue: Mattie Lea of Killer Kin and Mickey Blurr
How does the presence of death affect you as an artist?
LEA: It definitely motivates and inspires me, thinking about how short someone's life can be. It can be such a dark thing. We have no knowledge of what happens after this world. I personally like to keep things dark. I've always liked the color black, and I've always liked darkness and the presence of death. It's always there, it's constantly looming. Sometimes, you don't emphasize it, and other times, it actually hits you like a ton of bricks on your way to your job when you pass that cemetery. You think, 'fuck, I could die today, and the things that I love are going to kill me.' Maybe not today, but someday. We realize our mortality, which is just weird. It can be such a point of strength but, at the same time, a point of weakness, the unknown.
BLURR: I think conceptually it’s something people think about at least once a day. I feel like, for me, the motivating factor in even bothering to create art sort of finds its roots in the fact that one of my first memories is a very serious death in the family. I feel that pushed me in a direction... I don’t know, it’s weird, because I think about this subject all the time, and the more I sit with it, the more I fail to definitively say anything at all. But I feel like the first three big things in my life that made me want to create art in some sense, funny enough, aren't music. The first 'real art' I related to when I was very young, like 9, was the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and the next real big thing I can think of is 'Ozymandias', the poem by Percy Shelley.
Taking me back to ninth grade, dude, yes!
Yeah! And I guess Macbeth’s soliloquy? You know, ‘out brief candle’? And I think, with that presence... I don’t know, everything I find I relate to, whether I like it or not, has been motivated and pushed by, if not death, then impermanence, and that we are always hurdling forward, that the passage of time has no mercy, if that makes sense.
LEA: That makes absolute sense to me. I mean, I found over the years too, especially now, there’s always a desire - circling back to impermanence - there’s always a desire for permanence, but there’s really no such thing at the end of the day. Besides, all you know at the end of the day is death, you know things are going to end. Going all the way back, the unknown is the only thing that’s really known.
BLURR: Even the monuments we leave behind... one day the sun’s going to explode. [laughs]
LEA: Yes! Everything will come to an end. The fact that we exist, you know, that genetically we're the one who swam up the stream and made it, and now you’ve made it twenty plus years of existence... I commend that. It’s wild that none of us have to exist, none of us asked to be born. At some point you gotta start enjoying your existence, you know? Because there are pleasures that come with life, and everybody must face death swooping in at some point, so you’ve gotta accept that there’s a beginning and an end.
BLURR: I think because of that, and because of my tendency to - I mean, I struggle with - there’s an ‘I want to believe but I can’t’ kind of thing, so sitting with that makes me realize how precious all of this is, and how precious every individual life should be, and it makes me feel it's incumbent upon the world to be organized in such a way that fosters the full development of every person to the best of their potential and our general capacity as a species to create and to be. It makes me feel... I vacillate on the 'art thing.’ Sometimes, I feel as a musician I have a social responsibility to put out something that isn’t just “cool” for the sake of itself. Like I should say something that’s going to help. But, obviously, art isn’t going to change the world. I don’t believe that art can change the world, I believe changes in the world change art and people who are artists create based on their relationship to this world. So, example - a very wealthy guy is going to make music that reflects the worldview of a very wealthy guy, even if he plays ‘poor,’ he’s not going to authentically understand what that means. So, yeah, I vacillate, because then I listen to a lot of the old avant-garde who tried to eschew the post-war idea that there’s a social responsibility in music. I don't know, I sit in contradiction with that.
LEA: As human beings, people subscribe to the notion that everything is linear. Not just time, but death and art, all things are linear. ‘I need to do it this way, there’s an expiration date, things need to be done in a certain order.’ I think time, death, art, music – none of it is linear, and people need to deprogram themselves, because it’s not that way and it doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t need to be done from point A to point B, but we’re taught to see it like that. That’s why it’s all so heavy, there’s this emphasis - ‘You need to do it this way! You need to get it done! You’re running out of time! You need to finish this project, and you’re gonna die, and you’re not gonna make a difference!’, and blah blah blah. I say it to Chloe [Rose of Killer Kin] a lot, too. 'Ten years ago I was doing this. Ten years ago I was listening to the Gun Club getting fucked up and burning myself with cigarettes.' And, like, I’m not that person anymore, I’m not doing those things, but that wasn’t even that long ago. But we look at the number ten because it's a one and a zero. We put so much emphasis on it, we gave it a name, ‘it’s a decade!’ It seems like a really long time, but it’s not. Look at art, and music, and such. Just over the past 100 years. Look how fast... the 60s were essentially the 50s until, like, the Beatles and all that. I mean, that’s half-true, but you know what I mean. At some point the 60s were defined, and then it’s the 70s, and this needs to be defined, too. All those “ten years of this!” - that’s no time at all.
BLURR: Even so much of the defining of historical eras is so inaccurate because so much of what we understand of the past 100 years is concerned with the pop culture canon of the time and not the historical events. So you'll think of the 60s as ‘groovy,’ ‘flower power,’ and ‘Street Fighting Man,’ but then the context is left out that they [The Rolling Stones] wrote it about the ’68 revolt [in France], because it’s inconvenient to acknowledge there was a burgeoning revolution in Western Europe. So let’s not think about that, let’s think about rock n’ roll, baby. But rock n’ roll was born of its time, you have to contextualize everything. Defining eras is in itself a political act.
LEA: Yeah, without a doubt. And like you said, music doesn’t change the world, the world changes music. If music was gonna change anything in the year 2023, it’d be made illegal. It would! Yeah.
Anyway. Everyone’s an anomaly and everyone’s life has value and we should take it seriously, because we don’t know at the end of the day, it’s a gamble. All of life is a gamble. There’s a lot of ways that I look at things - I don’t understand reality, I guess. It is what you make of it. Death is what you make of it.
OWEN BIGLER: So, just imagine, Whoever Weed - John Weed. “I love my last name, I hope people in 200 years don’t pose with it as a joke because it’s Weed.”
All photos by Owen Bigler