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The Life and Times of William Callahan

Photographer Chris Taylor, got unrivalled access to Smog's anti-hero Bill Callahan.
February 6, 2013, 3:15pm

Bill Callahan’s celebrity is the kind that doesn’t attract a lot of casual fans. Those who like the singer-songwriter’s music—released since as Smog since his first recordings in 1990, or, more recently, under his own Christian name—really, really like it. Everyone seems to have a story about when they started listening to Smog, and these stories all contain some or all of the following: feelings of severe alienation, purposeless travel, romantic failure, boredom, and drinking to excess. Fun!

For me, it was somewhere around the time that I moved away from home. I decided that “Cold Blooded Old Times”—a song off of 1999’s Knock Knock that, so characteristic to Callahan’s work, couples these really bleak lyrics with deceptively palatable music (“how could I stand/ and laugh with the man/ who redefined your body?”)—would be the song I would choose, given some desert island situation, if I could only listen to one song forever.

Chris Taylor’s introduction to Callahan relies on some of these same tropes: he left Spain, bought a Smog CD, returned to his hometown of Victoria, BC, broke up with his girlfriend, turned 30, “all of these clichés like my life was some horrible indie movie,” he tells me over Skype. “But for some reason I started listening to a lot of Bill Callahan. I got on the computer late one night and started sending emails.”

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