We spoke with Felix Skinner about modern culture’s insecurity of identity, the inherent corruption in mass incarceration, playing guitar in a dark suburban garage, flipping off the American flag as a teenager and his transcendent love for his cat.
I don’t think the flames engulfing Rome are new. We just feel the heat more these days because the flames have spread to our wing of the rotting manor.
With the recent upheaval on our planet, I sense a real surge in culture and entertainment toward nostalgic TV shows, frivolous party music and a yearning for the past. Sometimes it seems like a product of fear more than fun to want to have a beach party as Rome burns. How do you view escapism? Is it a symptom of a larger problem or can it help us in some way?
I think the nostalgia you’re talking about is more about identity and security than escapism. It appears to largely exist in order to exploit the insecurity of identity everyone experiences in the 2018technohellscape. Our Instagrams, Twitters, etc. command us to tell the world (i.e., ourselves) that we are this thing and that this thing is unique and better than others but still in the in-group of The Cool and Correct.
By buying into the idea that we are ’90s Kids, Punks, Fans of the Book & Not The Remake, Record Collectors, etc. we can feel connected yet superior at the same time. I don’t think this is new in any way, nor do I think the flames engulfing Rome are new. We just feel the heat more these days because the flames have spread to our wing of the rotting manor and wake us up every day yelling at us through our screens.
In light of all of this, escapism is healthy and necessary, but we probably shouldn’t escape the sick system by feeding it. That is, we shouldn’t confuse escapism with putting on a hat that says “I like this! I’m in this market! Feed me something fun!” I’ve heard hiking and naps are good, but I’ve never tried them.
Speaking of living in the past, can you describe an object in your house that you’ve owned the longest? What keeps it around in your life?
For some reason, I own a single fork from the cutlery set I remember using growing up. It currently props open a window in my apartment. That is its new purpose and it does it very well.
I think the first time we played music together was when we were young teenagers. We were in a dark suburban garage and we were both playing guitar. I don’t remember the music but I do remember afterwards filming ourselves flipping off the American flag waving on our friend’s porch. Bush-era hijinks. It was a pure moment. Really, our relationship since then has been an endless string of pure moments. When things get dark, I clutch these moments like pearls. You’re going to make me cry.
Modernity has too many horrors for all of us to be dealing with all of them all of the time, so we need to allow ourselves to be indifferent to some things sometimes.
It seems like we’d have to dismantle the architecture of our world to the foundation to rebuild indifference into genuine love. Is this a possibility to you?
Not with the brains we’ve got. I guess you could set up some sort of eugenics system focused on exterminating all the sociopaths and pumping entheogens into everyone’s water supply, but that’s not the revolution I’m here for. That’s not to say things can’t be improved immensely by using dismantling as a tool where necessary, but a focus on indifference versus love isn’t a practical approach. Modernity has too many horrors for all of us to be dealing with all of them all of the time, so we need to allow ourselves to be indifferent to some things sometimes.
Maybe the solution lies with beasts and their influences. Can you describe the subtle psychological messages between yourself and your cat with a graph, image or metaphor?
When the power of the love that I have for my cat overcomes the love of power, I will know that the molly water is flowing and that your twisted social engineering plan has worked. If you don’t want to wait for that feeling of all-consuming love and transcendent interconnection, just look at this picture of my cat.
Some forest fires are started on purpose as controlled burns. They’re actually meant to minimize the amount of potential flammable material in the wilderness. Can this be related to anything else?
Sure, I can think of lots of things, but mass incarceration is the thing that comes to mind strongest for me. Unfortunately, I think that many of the architects of the carceral state genuinely think that by destroying the lives of millions, they are doing preventing some greater damage to society. In their delusion — fueled in no small part by the All-American blend of power, profit, and prejudice — they’ve burned through the communities of the most vulnerable in society, leaving a path of unconscionable destruction in their wake.
Meanwhile, those in power are pouring kerosene all over the country and flicking matches at it for sport. Weren’t we just talking about dismantling things and rebuilding them with more intelligence and compassion? The criminal justice system would be a good place to start.
Can you describe your very first memory of breaking or shattering something? If not, what was the last object you destroyed — intentionally or not?
Oh boy, this question started to make me think about my childhood. Fortunately, I was able to reverse out of that one just before any real memories were exhumed. Hmm, I probably broke a glass or a plate lately but that’s boring. I’ll tell you who I saw doing an excellent job of smashing things — Jimmie Durham. He had a retrospective at the Hammer Museum last year, and among many stellar pieces, he had a video piece called Smashing in which he used a large rock to shatter objects brought to him by the public. I won’t try to explain it, but it’s tremendous.
Which is the most evocative color in the visible spectrum?
I hate it with an unreasonable intensity, but strong bright red. Like, Slipknot red. You can’t be indifferent about that color. For my teenage years, I lived in a room painted with all bright red walls and ceiling. I read somewhere that it was supposed to be calming because it would take you back to the warm red glow of the womb. I only felt varying intensities of anxiety.
Lastly, we love lists and manuals at North of the Internet. Can you make a list of technical terms or data in regard to anything you specialize in?
Specialization is for insects, so here you go:
I compound eye
Umm… molting. Swarming. Stinger? They say God had an inordinate fondness for beetles. They also say you have an inordinate fondness for The Beatles, so I’m anticipating a heated debate at the Pearly Gates. I’ll be watching from the nosebleeds, cheering you on.
Curated by: Morgan Enos
Conducted by: Email
Published: January 22, 2018
Total questions: 9
Word count: 1147
Reading time: Five minutes
America, apartment, beasts, Beatles, beetles, cats, criminal, cutlery, destruction, entheogenic, Felix Skinner, flames, Heaven, hijinks, hiking, incarceration, insects, justice, love, manor, matches, modernity, molting, naps, nosebleeds, nostalgia, pearls, Pearly Gates, power, prejudice, profit, revolution, Rome, rotting, Slipknot, sociopaths, stinger, swarming, Twitter, video, water, window, womb, Wreck and Reference
About the curator
Morgan Enos is a songwriter and journalist originally from California. His curatorial work for North of the Internet aims to strike a deeper place in his conversation subjects — the dreamy subtext to the linear everyday. Morgan also frequently writes power pop records as Other Houses about joy, outer space, frustration, chess and spiritual light. He resides in New York, where he continues to creatively fire on all cylinders.
Related conversations W