We spoke with Hod Hulphers about the sacredness of the everyday, repurposing broken items, which projects are worth finishing, the first time an adult lied to him and why his mind is like a refrigerator.
I probably sound like a hoarder and I may share some of those proclivities. But what I really am is an enthusiast, and I’m also probably in denial.
Among other subjects, your songs deal with the sacredness of the everyday — relishing your chores as if they’re free time. The older I get, the more important it is to me to keep my possessions in good condition. What personal property — expensive or not — do you really treasure?
That’s not a question I need to ruminate on! My most important possession is the collection of junk I buy to repurpose into other stuff or embellish past projects — lamp parts, fixtures and fasteners, various bases for furniture and art pieces. Not for Burning Man, by the way.
I recently bought a five gallon bucket of random nuts and bolts from a towing company. I can barely lift it and 50% of the shit is stripped out and ruined. It’s just a big beautiful bucket of bolts. I probably sound like a hoarder and I may share some of those proclivities. But what I really am is an enthusiast, and I’m also probably in denial. I actually use this stuff. There’s not much that I don’t see as replaceable. Please don’t rob me.
You’ve got a beautiful, sizable property in Santa Cruz, CA. I’m in New York where, until this prior summer, I’ve had almost zero personal space. What do you like to do with the land that’s afforded to you?
Well, there are some obligatory needs around the property, but I’ve turned those into a cathartic routine over the past few years. We’ve had lavish gardens and chickens and whatnot in the past, but I haven’t had time to keep up the infrastructure for that over the last two years. I recently built a small recording/practice studio on the foundation of an old gazebo. I try not to take for granted that I can just spend a couple grand and have a new space with no questions asked. I also keep it open for the filming of small movies – it’s got enough unique and transformable qualities to shoot a large spectrum of genres. But everything shot here invariably turns into dystopian sci-fi with unintentional homoerotic overtones. Don’t ask me to articulate.
My first grade teacher told me that my dad would go to jail if I didn’t go to school. That’s when I earned to distrust adults.
I like that your songs take risks. It seems like they’re unafraid to take some jarring twist and go completely out on a limb, with the hope of making the listener laugh or revealing something new. Do you agree with that? And if so, what are you trying to get across about yourself to the listener?
Yes, so I’ve been told and so I exploit. I think it’s more of a revealing of artifice, and cultivated distaste for trying to communicate with common or perfunctory emotional reflexes, And of course, there’s an intentional lack of editing. Am I often glib? Yes, I’m that too. Five years ago, I may not have talked about this so easily because I wanted to maintain a willfully naive stance on my own artifice. But now I would have to agree that it is part of my process. I think it was originally in defense of feeling obvious or derivative. My general belief is that absolutes are boring and limiting. The hardest part is not being obnoxious. That’s a pretty solid set-up for anyone who knows me.
Can you describe what you did this morning in a list format, with approximate times for each task?
I slept in, woke up and found the work pants that I had drying outside were soaking wet from the dew.
Worried that the lumber yard wouldn’t have the siding I needed, and they didn’t.
Got to work and used a snow shovel to scoop rat shit out of a wall I’m rebuilding.
Is this a satisfying list? It makes me sick to read it back.
I appreciate the Japanese worldview of wabi-sabi, which embraces the beauty in imperfection and unfinished things. But I’m torn between believing that and thinking it’s just a touching and nice excuse for being a half-assed person. Are you a perfectionist or someone who leaves hanging threads?
Oh man. Well, certain tasks demand finishing, of course. But with those that don’t — and songs are one of those — I defiantly like to keep things open ended. You can finish them and I try to give songs some discernible beginning, middle and end, but I think any realist in the songwriting world would agree that to capture a transformative idea in three and a half minutes is akin to creationism.
Like these songs were created with singular purpose, with a singular audience, sequestered from other songs, in a single emotional context and they have no use for evolution. That’s probably a good business model. Actually, a realist would probably say that this is exactly how you write a hit song, but I’m not in the business of doing that.
Do you have a memory of the first time you understood that somebody was telling you a lie?
Hard-hitting question. Sure, my dad took me to my first day of first grade and I was none too happy about the prospect. The principal took it upon herself to walk us around and try to assuage my grief. When I didn’t let up, she resorted to telling me that my dad would go to jail if i didn’t go to school. That’s when I earned to distrust adults. I graduated first grade with honors and that principal went to prison six months later for embezzling four grand from a school fundraiser. I didn’t learn about irony until much later, however.
I know most peoples’ brain capacity for storage isn’t finite like a fridge, but I think mine might be.
When I was very young, my father sat me down on our rural property and told me to listen for what I heard. It turned out there was actually an ocean of sounds that I hadn’t paid attention to before, since I was always lost in my own head! What ambience do you hear outside your house?
Although it appears that I live in the country, I actually live about a quarter mile from Highway 17, which, for those of you who don’t know, is what feeds Silicon Valley its coastal employees. It’s worse during commuting times of course, but basically, its the sound of “progress” squishing nature 24 hours a day around here. I mean, half the cars are Teslas, so I don’t understand where all the noise is coming from.
Deeply personal. I guess my fridge and I have some common quirks. We both like to keep things on ice until they’re ready to be thawed out and cooked until they’re just so. We both hide things deep on the bottom shelf so that they can’t be found and inevitably rot. And we both are only cleaned out when it’s absolutely necessary to put fresh stuff inside. I know most peoples’ brain capacity for storage isn’t finite like a fridge, but I think mine might be. It’s loud up here.
Finally, we love lists and technical vocabulary at North of the Internet. Can you make a written list for us of anything you want?
Curated by: Morgan Enos
Conducted by: Email
Published: November 21, 2017
Total questions: 9
Word count: 1310
Reading time: Five minutes
Beauty: Bucket of bolts
adult, audience, bicycle, bolts, bucket, business, cable, chicken, computer, copper, creationism, distrust, dynamite, dystopian, elbow, everyday, evolution, expansion, fiberglass, film, first grade, five gallon, fixture, foam, foundation, fraud, fridge, fundraiser, furniture, garden, gazebo, Highway 17, Hod and the Helpers, Hod Hulphers, homoerotic, lamp, mind, overtones, pain, principal, prison, realist, rob, sacred, school, sci-fi, shoe, song, spider, stomach, Tesla, XLR
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