We spoke with Philip Radiotes about the properties of stardust, meditating on shattered glass, attempting to sing for the voiceless, why bad luck doesn’t scare him and how he would describe a sphere.
These are people who are voiceless, forgotten. Imagine gathering their energy, their opinion, their ideals, their direction.
I think it could mean any of those. “Third World American” aims to speak in the voice of a marginalized people, regardless of country. There are people in any city, state or country that are not afforded the higher principles with which their governing bodies are said to stand for. These are people who are voiceless, forgotten. Imagine gathering their energy, their opinion, their ideals, their direction.
New York City is no different, and it would be injudicious to see otherwise. Though benefiting from a wealth of ethnicities and cultures, we still see actual wealth confined to fewer and fewer. I’m heartened by the city’s (slow) efforts to decrease incarceration levels, as well as social efforts like universal pre-K, but to me, the city is still pledged to the “me above all” capitalist ethos that freezes many of its inhabitants out of voice or ability.
What does shattered glass remind you of?
There’s this “shattered glass” preset on one of my keyboards which, if triggered in tandem with another percussion element, could add a unique voice. In the context of “Third World American”, though, one may think of a broken-windows policy or a jagged reflection based on shattered ideals. Oddly, I feel comfortable in bad luck scenarios, like the whole seven years of bad luck for breaking a mirror. I was born under a bad sign on a Friday the 13th. I walk under ladders and step into black cat’s paths. That power of that sort of energy doesn’t scare me. My soul went down to the crossroads, but I haven’t yet found a buyer.
What do you think of the nature of ritual or tradition? Do you practice any daily actions that may only have personal context or meaning?
Day-to-day ritual is something of a double-edged sword, in my opinion. In some ways, they can lead you down the trail to the same result, which is good for some but not those seeking out a different path. I always do some makeshift form of yoga stretches when I wake up, without fail. The body needs to exhume the ghosts of sleep. I meditate but with no regularity. This year, I’ve been doing new moon rituals, setting an intention for each cycle.
Is there an innate dignity to work? Why or why not?
Absolutely. I don’t really have a solid work ethic, but I admire those who do. Going back to the idea of “Third World American”, there are people who think “This is my country and I shouldn’t have to share it and why shouldn’t I be ahead or have to lose my job to someone who I think doesn’t belong?” But I really think the people for whom the American Dream is at most in reach are those who have no thought but to devote themselves to making ends meet and providing for their families. These are people who find joy and pleasure in what others cast aside. Oftentimes, you find that ethic in those who have the least, who have the odds stacked against them. There’s another song on my new record about these folks, which was really exciting to write.
We are on the edge of some kind of oblivion, but I’m not sure which. I think it depends on the true depth of the collective human heart.
What is comforting to you that may not be comforting to anyone else? How so?
I’m not sure, but maybe very late nights all alone. Or as mentioned before, traditionally bad-luck things.
Please describe a major area of your life that needs improvement.
I’d like to have more discipline and do not really adhere to a normal structure of time, hence the late nights. I’d like to be more grounded to set checkpoints and goals in my work when it’s feasible. I am too susceptible to whims, but at the same time will get lost in focus. Both can take up large chunks of time.
How would you explain a sphere without saying the word “shape” or “round”? What geometrical shape do you most relate to?
An orbit, something planetary and celestial. That’s actually a shape I relate to a lot, the movement and orbits of individuals, cultures, planets, you name it. Where geometric meets geographic, and where we can track distance with experience.
Do you think we’re constantly teetering on the edge of oblivion as much as mass media would have us believe?
I think mass media spends a great amount of energy trying to convince us we aren’t teetering on the edge of oblivion. They and their advertisers are so invested in propping up the status quo that they will normalize the most absurd behaviors, downplaying the fact that we are in very abnormal times. We are on the edge of some kind of oblivion, but I’m not sure which. I think it depends on the true depth of the collective human heart.
Please grab the nearest book in your proximity, read the first line you see and describe how it relates to your own “inner life.” Could any decent connection be made to your psychology?
The nearest book is in Swedish, which I don’t know but I picked up because it has the coolest ’50s art deco-y murder mystery cover. I guess that sums me up pretty well.
Finally, please tell me about stardust.
Cosmic particles aside, “Stardust” by Hoagy Carmichael is an otherworldly piece of music. “Sometimes I wonder why I spend the lonely night dreaming of a song.” Just about everyone has done a version of it, but it retains an interstellar magic to me. Hoagy was one of those true hearts with a tight connection to divine auditory guidance, and “Stardust” is a prime example. I love his collaborations with Johnny Mercer, Johnny being one of my favorite lyricists.
Curated by: Morgan Enos
Conducted by: Email
Published: May 16, 2018
Total questions: 10
Word count: 984
Reading time: Four minutes
absurdity, auditory, Brooklyn, celestial, checkpoint, collective, connection, context, culture, cycle, direction, exhume, feasibility, geography, geometry, glass, goal, guidance, heart, Hoagy Carmichael, ideal, incarceration, individual, injudiciousness, intention, interstellar, jagged, Johnny Mercer, magic, mirror, New York City, oblivion, otherworldly, Phil and the Osophers, Philip Radiotes, planetary, reflection, ritual, shatter, sleep, sphere, susceptibility, Swedish, trigger
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.
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