Just ordered some coffee. This happens a lot. It’s 8:42 a.m., and I’m in Stockholm at a nice spot called “Coffice.” And it looks like the kind of place where they’re going to be ok with me sitting here writing. There’s this “no-laptops” trend, which seems to be going wide in the coffee houses in Europe and the U.S. Probably a good thing. It is a vibe-killer to walk into a joint and be confronted with a sea of Macbooks. It’s like a sweatshop or something.
What is your earliest memory?
An orange plastic record player sitting in a windowsill. I would have to get up on a couch to get at the thing. The “portable” kind that had an opaque hard plastic lid with this sort of textured look to it. I had to consult my mom on this, and she confirmed it would have been in an apartment they had in 1972-74, which would have made me 3 or 4.
If you weren’t a writer, musician, and film composer, what other profession would you choose?
I loved bartending. I really did. Had a couple bartending jobs. Don’t know how I’d feel about it now as a non-drinker, but I liked the community, small-village sensibility such a job imposes even on a huge metropolis like New York. Made it manageable, the same people, everyday – hey what’s up how you doing oh shit that’s too bad, he/ she left you, it’s gonna be ok here have a drink. Also the sense that you could just walk away from your shift and not have a wasp’s nest of shit pinging relentlessly around your brain. If there’s anything I dislike about “freelancing” (aside from the financial manic depression, super highs/ super lows), it’s this inability to be able to just leave it. Your “art,” your doubts, adjustments you need to make, ways you could improve something … you’re always working the problem – that’s always there, fucking with your sleep and your ability to be present with friends and family. You can’t turn it off.
Describe a typical work day.
There’s an idealized work day which I will describe with the understanding that this only actually happens maybe 20% of the time:
Wake up like 6 with my son, get him rolling, start working about 8 or 8:30 and go straight through till 4-4:30, no need for a break, then be done with it. Monday-Saturday with one weekday off to kick it with my boy or my wife, go to a museum or do the life maintenance crap one needs to do. I’m useless at night, and that’s kind of the max hours I’m comfortable with.
Doesn’t that sound good? But in reality I am grabbing work time where I can. Like this very half hour, I left my hotel for a meeting early cos I knew I could squeeze this in. And I know I said I was useless at night, but this is how I’ve written my last 1.5 novels. It’s not sustainable, working at night, but I can do it if I have to. Apparently.
Is there a time you wish you’d lied?
No there is not. There are innumerable occasions in which I wish I had told the truth a whole lot earlier, to myself or whomever else my “truth” would affect. All relationship stuff, which includes work cos I internalize work as a romantic/ emotional thing.
What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?
I’d give me a big long hug. I wouldn’t let me go though I would squirm and whimper and try to get away. I’d say “shhh,” and once 13 yr old me gave in and had a good cry then it’d be time for the tough love:
I’d backhand myself, say something along the lines of “Punk, get that fucking smirk off your face. You are a lucky little bastard because this dark path you’re stumbling down is going to lead you somewhere beautiful. Entirely by the grace of God and not because you’re smarter than anybody else. And all those bridges you’re burning and continuing to burn, you won’t need them anyway. Again totally the universe’s doing. You can take no credit. But the bottom line is, though the odds against it are staggering, you are going to be absolutely fine. You will not die young though some of your friends will – and in fact you will flourish. It’s not about ‘deserve.’ Consider yourself extremely fortunate.”
And I do consider myself blessed. At 41. But you can’t talk to these fucking kids.
If you could have only one album to get you through a breakup, what would it be?
Arvo Part’s “Summa” could get me though anything.
What are three websites—other than your email—that you check on a daily basis?
Boringly, Twitter, and if something was up I would head over to Al Jazeera’s spot for details. Then Ubu Web. David Lynch’s site is the only non-porno website I’ve ever paid money to be a “member” of and it’s worth it. I go there pretty consistently but not every day.
From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?
I would have to say my mother’s extreme gonzo work ethic, which is basically work ‘til you’re dead and die working. Not saying it’s a positive thing at all times, but that would be the biggest motivator if I’m honest.
Name three books that have impacted your life.
Three?? That’s so difficult but ok:
– Laughter in the Dark by Nabakov.
– High Rise by J. G. Ballard. Best opening sentence ever ever ever.
– The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Still the scariest book on earth. Reading it is like going insane. It’s an evil book
If you could relive one moment over and over again, what would it be?
That sounds like a nightmare; is it meant to sound like a nightmare? What a horrible thought. But ok, I was hit by a car once crossing the street. Caused all kinds of damage. It might be interesting to live that moment over and over again.
How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon?
Ha! I am one (1) degree, that’s if meeting the dude a couple times counts (or is that zero degrees, or would zero degrees actually make you Kevin Bacon?). Once at the London Film Festival (I scored a film he was in, and we were getting our picture taken together for the Festival. And I actually THOUGHT “hey now I win that six-degrees game”) and another time on that Santa Monica shopping street, whatever it’s called, the “Promenade.” I was like “’Sup, Kevin??,” and he was like “Oh. Yeah. Hi.” No idea who I was of course, but it was courteous, which is pretty rare for Hollywood. And he actually stopped on the street as if we were gonna have a conversation. His hot wife Kyra kept right on walking cos she’s the CLOSER and nobody fucks with her! Anyways he seems like a totally decent guy and doesn’t have any obvious plastic surgery.
What makes you feel most guilty?
The slightest hint that I might be slacking or not working as hard as I possibly can — that’s the biggest possible crime. Otherwise I have the perpetual (almost always false) impression that everyone is angry with me for some reason, so I feel guilty for whatever it is they might be angry at me about.
How do you incorporate the work of other artists into your own?
Wow I don’t know how to answer that. It seems to me that most artists’ work is just a mashup of their influences and experiences, which is then squeezed through their unique prism until it becomes (hopefully) it’s own thing.
Please explain the motivation/inspiration behind The Nervous System.
I’m just following this character around because it seems like he’s trying to tell me something. At this point I need to keep following him or I will have been wasting my time.
What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?
I passed this advice along cos somebody gave it to me first, so I can’t lay claim to it, but regarding writing a book, the trick is to just write the fucking book. Finish it. Write the whole thing. It will be a messy sucky event, and then you can go back with a comb and make it better. But if you don’t write it first you’ll never do it.
List your favorite in the following categories: Comedian, Musician, Author, Actor
Lord! You are not playing around here. This is tough stuff. Ok, I’m going to cheat slightly:
Comedian: Chevy Chase Fletch era. Hate contemporary stand-up.
Musician: Prince/ Bowie
Author: Philip K. Dick/ Daphne Du Maurier
Actor: Klaus Kinski/ Gina Rowlands
If you had complete creative license and an unlimited budget, what would your next project be?
A film trilogy/ record trilogy/ symphonic piece/ permanent art installation that would unfold over a number of years and employ everybody I know and love and provide them with health care. Subject matter would be pretty broad, say: beauty and evil.
What do you want to know?
What I can do to not be afraid anymore so I can communicate this to my son.
What would you like your last words to be?
I don’t want to feel like I have to say anything. That’s kind of our moment to experience privately, you know? Don’t want to fuck it up by feeling compelled to say something profound. I just hope I’m relaxed and comfortable and that my family is completely taken care of.
Please explain what will happen.
Well I ran out of time earlier. Now I have shifted locales and am on a train. Accordingly I will use a different font. There are lakes and birch trees and shit out the window. I am in Sweden going south. The train will keep going for several hours. My wife is asleep beside me; she will wake up. Eventually we will get to her parent’s place in this super religious little town, and I will see my son Nils, which will be awesome. First time we left him anywhere overnight. Later this eve I will go jogging in the woods and listen to a “Radiolab” podcast called “Colors.” Or “Color.” Pretty soon (here on the train) I’ll probably have a candy bar and a mineral water.
NATHAN LARSON cut his teeth in the hardcore punk scene in Washington D.C. in the 1980s, playing in bands on the famed Dischord Record label such as the seminal SWIZ. In the ‘90s Larson was the lead guitarist for the influential prog-punk outfit Shudder to Think. Larson is a producer, performer, and writer of music and prose.
Larson has made the music for over thirty feature films. His substantial credits in this field include Boys Don’t Cry, Todd Solondz’s Storytelling, Palindromes, songs for Todd Haynes’ Velvet Goldmine, Joel Schumacher’s Tigerland, Prozac Nation, Lukas Moodyson’s Lilja 4-Ever, Stephen Frears’s Dirty Pretty Things, Choke, The Messenger, and The Woodsman, for which he was honored with the Gras Savoye Award for Best Music at Cannes 2005. Recent projects include Margin Call with Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons, Our Idiot Brother starring Paul Rudd, and horror film Silent House.
Musical projects of late include A Camp, which is a collaborative project with his wife Nina Persson of The Cardigans fame. As a producer he recently wrapped on the forthcoming sophomore solo outing from James Iha.
Larson lives New York City most of the time, and spends summers in Sweden with his wife and son, Nils, currently 1 1/2.