Music by VICE

Fuck Music, Let’s Talk About Feelings: An Interview with Oneohtrix Point Never

On the eve of Oneohtrix Point Never's latest album release, 'Garden of Delete,' So Sad Today talks with Daniel Lopatin about depression, endless chilling, and the importance of honesty in performance.

by So Sad Today
Nov 12 2015, 2:00pm

All illustrations by Joel Benjamin

Garden of Delete, the new album from Oneohtrix Point Never, comes out tomorrow. For those of us who grapple with mental illness, scary minds, or just life itself, this album holds up a mirror to the experience of powerlessness in the face of one's own brain. Recognizable in OPN's sounds are both the beauty and horror of existence, when the trajectory of our own consciousness is really out of our hands.

In preparing to talk with Oneohtrix Point Never's Daniel Lopatin about feelings, wants, and existence, I imagined that the conversation would be easy and lacking social anxiety. Lopatin and I are internet friends and the convo would take place online. Yet I found that I was still nervous to talk to him, namely because he has more integrity than any other artist I know. Throughout our conversation, I feared that he would discover I am a loser and never text me again.

So Sad Today: Do you have depression?
Daniel Lopatin: Yeah, I have it. I don't deal with it therapeutically or medically, which is dumb I guess. You?

Lol. Yes, I have it. But I ask because one thing that resonates about your music, particularly this album, is that it contains a weave. Like, every song braids both the darkness and the light. No one track is ever just one. So in listening, I can't rest in a gentle moment and be like: OK, that horror is over, it's all going to be OK. And the same is true of anxiety and depression. Like, the moment you think you're going to be OK, things get sinister again.
Well I think that maybe the weave of many competing psychological horrors / seductions etc. is a way of me being honest with myself about stuff. I need my "art work" or "entertainment work" or whatever to have empathy for or connection to the way I experience the world as a person. I have a hard time making a linear-idea song, because that's not the way my thoughts work. Or a linear-texture song, because for me it's impossible to marginalize all the context around a specific texture (other textures).

Right, there is a definite humanity in your work beneath the electronic tools. In the song Sticky Drama , I feel like I can hear the presence of a human voice, maybe trying to be heard or maybe trying to hear itself, in a fucked up world.
Yeah, it's all very human.

Do you feel cool?
I did until I saw that you have like ten times the amount of Twitter followers that I do.

That's funny because I always assume whatever I have or do is wrong. If I have more followers than you, I assume I am shittier than you and have less integrity. Whereas I look at you and perceive you to have a protective moat comprised of black smoke, video game glitches, and wantless cosmic isolation (as opposed to my isolation, which feels want-y) that shields you from making such comparisons.
That you associate video game aesthetics and black smoke with my oeuvre is indicative of how lame my brand actually is... like I think I do all this cool shit but to the average celebrity I'm at best a magician or clown. Then again you just totally complimented me on seeming wantless, which I didn't notice because I was so busy feeling humiliated. Is that something you want for yourself, to be wantless? Like a chill object floating in space?

The important part is your sacred moat, which provides the mystique, distance, and fascination. The moat's composition is less pyrotechnics, and more your inherent shroud of mystery—like, the smoke is coming from inside you. It's aura, not David Blaine. I relate you to video games, because to me they are elusive—not what I loved as a child (pretending my bike was a horse, closet eating) so I exoticize and elevate them. On certain tracks on Delete I get a game vibe. The song Child of Rage is a childhood videogame machinegun hell, as synonymous with the horrific powerlessness of childhood. But then there's a peaceful valley at the end and it's all going to be all right even though it's totally not.
You're right. I just so badly want to be thought of as like... solid since I don't use reverb THAT much. Like so scared of being reverbcore. The future is definitely aridcore, with a small chance of downpourcore. Childhood is totally violent (in retrospect). Only the traumatic memories prevail.

Traumacore. Adolescent longingcore. And yeah, all I've ever wanted is to be chill and floating in space. Like, who wouldn't want that? Whenever I hear the word "spirituality" I still think "heroin." What about you? Would you want that or nah?
I'm down for indefinitely chilling as long as I'm not self-aware during it. That seems like it could be torture on some level but a lot of people pray for that so who knows. Maybe being "alive" offers us an embarrassment of feelings we cope with by dying. Bottom line is I just don't want to have to make any choices or judgment calls beyond my time on earth lol.

Right, like some people strive to be one with their inner witness—the one who watches themselves. But for you, the witness might be the torturer and not the thing that sets you free? I guess I pretend you are wantless so as to feel worse about my want. How want-y are you, on a scale of 1-10, re: success, death, ego death, any other form of personal annihilation, your parents' approval, to be swept away into a sensual mystic with another human being, food, money, weed, hoes.
2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 0, 10, 10, 1, 4. I'm materialistic but in the name of distracting myself to death. Food is 10 and the only way to get it is money, so 10 for that as well. I really don't care if anyone thinks I'm special or not, I just want to be able to live my life without thinking about money all the time, or where I'm going to get it. I get into all of this as a cast member on VH1's Death & Hoes. Do you ever wonder if you're just a piece of software that aliens invented so they could research what it's like to have zero self-esteem?

No, and that's my problem. I blame myself for everything, never aliens.
What is usually going through your mind when you're chewing food?

How many calories are in this. What are your fav foods?
Russian foods... Can you remember the first poem you wrote and what was it like?

Yes. I was eight and it was about food. The want and fetishization of candy.

I read in this interview that when you fall out of love with a piece of music it's a "melancholic experience," so you are looking to make music that will "grow with you as you get older" rather than music geared to a "' get addicted to it and throw it away' mentality." I respect this and it's something I value in art: universality of feeling and timelessness of experience. It's like infatuation vs. love: an intoxicating, short-lived romp vs. love that lasts for a long time but is less flashy and possibly more work. Do you ever create a piece of music thinking it's going to be something long-lasting, the real deal, only to realize later it was an addictive throwaway. Have you ever been really hurt by music?
I'm hurt by music all the time. I'm hurt pretty much every time I turn on Vevo. I can love formal aspects of music without any kind of emotional commitment so it's not like bad songwriting or bad arrangement or production hurts me. It's the bullshit around music that hurts me. My friend Arthur (Autre Ne Veut), the whole conceit of his new record is that we're all dying to buy into the performance of honesty. We'll pay money to see an artist say something in earnest. That earnesty is somehow something "new" to be performed well and then exploited as a way to individuate "real" from "fake" is in my opinion a tedious and ugly thing happening in pop music. Pop music has always been about the fake. If I want fake real I'll watch Top Chef or some shit. There's other super problematized shit I could go into.

What about that 'performance of honesty' pisses you off most? Is it the feeling that a genre that should provide escape is being co-opted? Is it the emotional hustle—that the artists are being fake, but pretending to be real, and thus getting away with something?
No it's just that most celebrities' idea of honesty is so tedious. They're asking "why" a lot and then crying. It's essentially the Nancy Kerrigan incident but taken to the most boring levels possible.

What about when this happens in "alt" culture. What about when alt bro musicians pretend to be "sensitive" and "hurt" and "alone" in their music so they can have sex with seven people a night and not text them back.
They're boring, too but I'm more interested in their attempts to be "real" because there's a good chance I know them, which amplifies their dishonesty in comical ways. The actual problem is that fake has become unappealing, and that because everyone is their own "brand manager" there's no objective intervention—like it's one thing if I'm hearing about person from band X's struggle via let's say... a poet for instance. But straight from the horse's mouth is weirdly way too curated.

One could say So Sad Today is a performance of honesty, in that any attempt to reveal ourselves is in some way curated. If a performance artist takes a shit onstage, she chooses to take that shit. It may be a genuinely vulnerable and authentic act, but there is always something more vulnerable, often way more subtle—very not alt, like where she does her banking—that she would never reveal.
I think of So Sad Today as a hyperbolic, fabricated version of some "realness" known as Melissa Broder. Or some composite of the many Melissas through the ages. But there is also a very adolescent thing about the way you talk as So Sad Today... it's like Daria in that there's these very adult ideas injected into an otherwise teenage lexicon.

In a lot of ways I'm still 16. Like my mind is older but my heart or impulse control is maybe 14. There is that adult/adolescent juxtaposition in Garden of Delete . I get the vibe of a sensitive kid hiding in video games: the sadness and terror of childhood and teenhood where you have zero control over your life. We carry those emotions with us forever, but perhaps are able to push them under the surface more as adults. But I feel like Garden of Delete, particularly in the song "I Bite Through It ," is lifting up that surface.
Yeah. Sometimes I see myself in the mirror and I literally am like Oh wow I'm just a more grizzled version of this creature I vaguely remember from the past , and I still eat cereal 400 times a day out of uncertainty. The rest is hard to picture now. My hygiene has improved, and I'm 7 percent more self-assured.

Follow Daniel Lopatin and So Sad Today on Twitter.