Talk Thursday to Me – Kevin Titzer

Today we talk with artist Kevin Titzer about his musical influences, what it’s like to curate an art show based on bands like They Might Be Giants and the bridge between music and art.

Postcard Editor: You’ve always been an artist who makes strides towards bridging the art and music world, whether that be working with Mock Orange on music videos and other promotional materials, or curating art shows that are themed around a specific musical artist.  What are you listening to these days that is inspiring you?

Kevin Titzer: I’m always drawn to narrative oriented songs generally. I’ve been listening to Sea Of Bees a lot lately. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone I have not stopped listening to since it came out. She writes the best little short stories. I never listened to The Knife very much, but Karin Dreijer Anderssons side project Fever Ray has really caught my attention. Also the videos she has put out for it are some of the best I’ve seen in a very long time.  M. Ward -Transister Radio is always in rotation in the studio. Whenever I’m spinning my tires in the studio, I can put on any of his records and get back into the right frame of mind.  I just discovered The Tallest Man On Earth. He makes me want to check out more music from Sweden. He’s one of my current favorites.

PE: Very cool, as I mentioned I know you’ve worked with Mock Orange in the past, and their new album came out this week – anything in the works between you and them for that?  Also, are you working with any other bands on videos or cover art, etc…?

KT: No, I have nothing in the works with Mock Orange. I really like working with bands in general. It forces me to stretch different creative muscles. At the moment I’ve decided to focus more on my own work. In the past I’ve spread myself out too thin doing that work and my art suffered because of it. So currently I’ve been editing video promos for my stuff and there’s a book project in the works.

PE: Regarding the musically themed art shows that you curate, how do you select the groups that you arrange the shows around? The first one was a They Might Be Giants show, and you have a Pixies themed one coming up.  Have there been other ones that you’ve also done?

KT: I’ve picked bands that I like and have very visual lyrics. Both TMBG and the Pixies also have lot’s of characters in their songs. It also helps if they are a bit open ended and not too linear. I want to give the artists plenty of room to stretch out with their interpretation.

From the beginning I intended this to be an ongoing series of shows with different band themes. They take time to put together and I also have my own art to make . The seed of the shows goes back to the early 90’s music magazine Raygun. At the back of most of the issues were a couple of pages of artwork by musicians interpreting a song from another band. I always looked forward to those pages and always found them interesting. There’s lot’s of bands I’d like to do, Eels, Will Oldam, White Stripes, Sparklehorse, Andrew Bird. I’m trying something new with this upcoming show. I’m looking into having a charity element to it. It’s still being worked out, but I hope it all comes together. I’d love to have a great show with amazing artwork that also actually helps people in a small way.

Regarding the theme of the second show, I actually believe the Pixies are a much under rated band for their influence on visual art. This is kind of my small gesture to acknowledge that. You always hear that old Velvet Underground analogy with them, but I don’t think you could’ve walked into any university art department in the 90’s and not heard the Pixies music playing somewhere. They still inform the work I make today and I don’t think I’m alone.

Beyond everything else, I put these shows together because I’m a fan and it’s fun. Simple as that. For a very long time the Pixies were my white whale. I had an opportunity to see them play during their Trompe Le Monde tour. I guess that would be about 1991. They were playing at Bogarts in Cincinnati. I don’t remember what was going on at the time, but I told my friend, ” No thanks, I’m too busy, I’ll catch them on their next tour.” Famous last words. So l was so happy when they got back together, but I kept missing them out on the road for any number of reasons. I’m out of town, I find out too late, they aren’t coming through the area. It’s been seven years of that. I started thinking I still was never going to see this band, until this past April. They played in Quebec City and I was there with a smile you’d have to smack off my face. It only took me twenty years.

PE: What is the general reaction from the musical groups when you reach out to them about getting permission to do one of these shows based on their work?

KT: So far very positive. As I said this is only the second show, but both bands did not have a problem with it. TMBG just said, Hey as long as your not trading on our name or using any of our music we have no problem with the show. I don’t know if they ever saw any of the art online. The Pixies management have been very encouraging. I think at the end of the day the bands realize there are good intentions behind the shows.  

PE: What about the artists? Do you find that you have a lot of participants who feel strongly about that particular group, or just artists who like the challenge of creating a visual piece based on a lyric or song title?

KT: There have not been any passive fans with the artists. If their not into the band, they usually don’t do the show. I’d say more people turned down the TMBG show. When I started pitching the Pixies, artists went nuts. I learned a lot from doing the first show and it’s made the process much smoother this go around. I made the mistake of have everyone do a different song for the TMBG show.  I ended up having people fighting over songs. “No, I want to paint Particle Man!” So this time it’s wide open. If everyone want’s to do Where Is My Mind, fine by me.

PE: Do you have an online gallery of these shows somewhere that people can check out?

KT: Unfortunately no. “Snowball in Hell” the They Might Be Giants show was the first show I ever curated. I had my hands full just figuring things out as I went, that I did not think to document the show as a whole for later. There are a few pieces posted here and there on the web, but for the most part that show has been scattered to the wind. Live and learn. There is a review of the show here: 

http://www.seattleweekly.com/2005-08-10/arts/a-snowball-in-hell/ and the gallery listing here: http://www.garde-rail.com/exhibits/tmbg.html . “Dig for Fire” the Pixies show won’t happen until Sept. , so I’ll keep you posted.

PE: You recently moved to Quebec – why do you hate America?  Just kidding, no seriously, you just moved to Quebec, which as most people know Montreal is kind of the epicenter of the Canadian explosion of indie rock lately – with the Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Stars, No Joy, etc… – have you been going out and catching any shows? Any Quebec bands that you’re particularly digging?

KT: I recently saw Karkwa and they were amazing. They have kind of a Radiohead feel. Although not as studio precessed or staticy. They very much have their own sound. Very rhythmic, and like all of these bands, they sing in French. La Patere Rose  is a trio. Two guys and a female singer. Again, hard to explain. Lot’s of piano with DJ nob twiddling and fun drumming.  Les Cowboys Fringants was the first Quebec band I ever got into. They mix traditional Quebec music with a more modern take. Their at times political and all about Quebec pride. Other songs are kind of slice of life. Fred Fortin is great. Part singer songwriter that can also slide into a indie sound. He was also involved with another great band called Galaxie. Daniel Belanger is often cited as the best Quebecois songwriter of the last 20 years. I’ve loved everything I’ve listen to.  Les Trois Accords are a very up beat band. Dance around while your vacuuming kind of music. I’ve been told the lyrics have lot’s of word play and are very funny, but unfortunately I still don’t speak French. Although, They make the best videos even if you don’t understand what their saying. It seems like music lovers in the states are investigating Montreal a little more right now since Arcade Fire won the Grammy. Which is great because there’s so much music up here that normally does not make it down. The language is always going to be a big hurdle for the Quebec bands, but there seems to be a shift going on with them also and Karkwa is leading the way. Here’s a good CBC podcast interview with them in English:  http://radio3.cbc.ca/#/podcasts/CBC-Radio-3-Breakfast-Club/Breakfast-Club-37—Karkwa

PE: Wait – you’ve had those Edith Piaf records all these years and still haven’t learned French? Sacre bleu!

KT: Yes I know, I’m a total slacker.

PE: You are renowned, not only for your artwork, but also for your love of pie. Which of the following is your favorite song about pie. “Cherry Pie” by Warrant, “American Pie” by Don McLean, “Flaming Pie” by Paul McCartney or some other pie song?

KT: I bet you thought I wouldn’t have an answer for this. Well the jokes on you buddy. I have two.  Country Pie by Bob Dylan and Rhubarb Pie  by John Fogerty.

PE: Well, consider me served a big old piece of humble pie then.  We always end the interviews the same way here – name three things that are totally rocking your world right now.  Could be anything at all.


KT: 1. Kellam Clark  – There’s a great interview with him on Motherboard : http://motherboard.tv/2011/5/10/labspace-kellam-clark-and-his-junkyard-wonder-factory


2. Letterboxing – I’ve been looking into the history of the pastime and the modern day version. It’s really got my gears turning. 

3. SPRING!!!!! – It’s May and the last of the snow just melted up here. I literally just experienced the longest Winter of my life. 

Kevin Titzer is an American artist living abroad, the curator of art shows interpreting the songs of the likes of They Might Be Giants and The Pixies and a lover of pie.  You can get a sneak peek of his upcoming solo show “Ghost of a Chance” here, and experience it or the Pixies themed “Dig For Fire” shows in the flesh here:

Kevin Titzer
‘Ghost Of A Chance’
May 21st – June 11th, 2001

Reception with the artist:
Sat, May 21st 6-8PM in our project room

Thinkspace / 6009 Washington Blvd. in Culver City, CA / www.thinkspacegallery.com

Dig For Fire : art inspired by the Pixies
Sept.9th – Oct 8th
C.A.V.E Gallery
1108 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice CA
http://www.cavegallery.net

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