We spoke with Robert Poss about how to caramelize an onion, the value of repeating mistakes, feeling comforted by the alphabet and the minerals he would wear.
I have always thought the process was somewhat mysterious and incomprehensible. I rely on inspiration and spur-of-the moment leaps of faith.
We asked Robert to write a letter to himself 10 years ago.
You really should learn video editing.
And do not sell those guitars now, even though you need the money.
If you wait five years, they will quintuple in value.
Can you compare your own process of making music to any physical, constructive act such as eating an apple or building a house? If so, what, specifically? Do you see composition as “work”?
I very purposefully put that important and valuable item in a special place so I won’t lose it. But I subsequently forget which special place I put it in. But as I’m looking for the item in all the usual places and all the former designated “special” places, I discover some long-lost coveted and valuable object that I forgot that I had, probably something I had put in a special place so I wouldn’t lose it. And then I stub my toe.
My form of composition is usually to improvise into structure. I have always thought the process was somewhat mysterious and incomprehensible. I rely on inspiration and spur-of-the moment leaps of faith and mental images of what a sound or song should be like. I often codify my mistakes and repeat them.
Please describe all the houses you have lived in.
I have lived in a small three-bedroom house in which I shared a bedroom with my brother. I have lived in a larger suburban house that had a basement that my band practiced in. I have lived in dorms and apartments and houses in college. I have lived in a studio apartment on what was then called by Time magazine the most dangerous block in America — or maybe I’m remembering it wrong — next to a (drug) shooting gallery called The Toilet. I have lived on the same block as the New York chapter of the Hell’s Angels. I currently live in an apartment building whose owner jumped off the roof in the crash of 1929, or so the legend goes.
Fried onions are so different from raw onions, especially if they are blackened. I think caramelization is a great metaphor for the creative process.
Are you interested in physical or chemical changes that ordinary objects can go through to become more lustrous or appetizing? What do those processes remind you of?
Fried onions are so different from raw onions, especially if they are blackened. I think caramelization is a great metaphor for the creative process. It’s somewhat alchemical.
Please describe the last compliment you received that actually had a layer of insult you didn’t recognize at first.
Someone once said that listening to my band was like rolling around naked in pink fiberglass Owens Corning insulation. I took that as a compliment. It was not meant to be a compliment. Someone also said they put on one of my songs and their dog immediately went and urinated in a corner. I am still pondering that one.
Where do snakes fit into the animal kingdom, in an emotional or archetypal sense?
We used to have a small pet snake for a time when I was a child. I prefer furry mammals. I don’t believe in original sin. I do not often think about snakes.
Do any letters of the alphabet make you uncomfortable?
I am generally comforted by the letters of the alphabet. But some foreign accents (the kind that augment letters) other than the umlaut and characters make me feel uneducated.
I have an excellent collection of shoulder chips and disgruntles, but in those I go for quality over quantity.
Do you ever feel uncomfortable around unpredictable people? What’s your relationship with mental or emotional illness — or just the concept of madness?
I have grown to dislike the fetishization of madness, since unlike the romanticized version of it in which it is thought to be free, creative state, the real thing is often quite sad and disturbing.
What does jewelry signify to you? Do you feel anything from precious metals?
I have no interest in jewelry. I like pretty minerals and gemstones, I suppose. I prefer silver or nickel to gold. I like the look of Filtertrons and Supertrons. I would like to wear them as cufflinks if they could be made small enough.
Please tell me about stalagmites.
They really bugged William Holden, at least in the film.
What is the object you own the greatest quantity of? Is it something no one can technically own, like light or air?
I own more guitars and guitar pedals that anyone but an obsessive should own. I also have an excellent collection of shoulder chips and disgruntles, but in those I go for quality over quantity.
Curated by: Morgan Enos
Conducted by: Email
Published: July 20, 2018
Total questions: 10
Word count: 745
Reading time: Three minutes
air, alphabet, apartment, appetizing, Band of Susans, caramelization, character, college, composition, corner, cufflinks, disgruntle, dorm, faith, fetish, fiberglass, gold, Hell’s Angels, image, improvisation, inspiration, insulation, jewelry, kingdom, light, lustrous, mammal, mistake, mystery, nickel, onions, process, quality, quantity, quintuple, remembering, Robert Poss, silver, snake, stalagmite, umlaut, uneducated, value, William Holden
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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