TNB A&C:  Please explain what just happened.

MH:  What JUST happened? Well, I just sent an email to Margaret Leng Tan. It said…

Hi Margaret,

Hope Spain went well. Welcome home.

I’ve come up with a perfect unusual creature for you… the Barking Spider! And actually I’ve begun composing it. The Barking Spider (selenocosmia crassipes) is a tarantula found in Australia, which has the added bonus of making hissing or bark-like sounds. They can reach a leg-span of 8 inches, and the female can live up to 30 years. Here’s a picture: http://www.thedailylink.com/australiantarantulas/species/crassipes.html

The piece I am writing will use three toy pianos and, of course, will be a tarantella… though a very slow and ominous tarantella. And then we can overdub Oscar doing his thing, which I will probably pitch shift to make sound a bit more spider-like. Sound good?

What are the ranges of your toy pianos? Any that go particularly lower or higher than another?

Looking forward!



In case it’s not clear from the email, I’m going to have Margaret as a guest performer on my next album, “Songs For Unusual Creatures.” She lives with five dogs, and asked if one of them, Oscar, could be included in the recording.

What is your earliest memory?

I have a couple early memories, and I’m not sure which one comes first, but for the sake of consistency with my career, I’ll go with this one: I remember watching a couple of guys remove the molding from the top of a door frame. It my memory, I see the men prying off one layer of wood after another, as if there were ten layers (?). I recalled this story to my mother a few years ago, and she immediately knew what I was referring to. Apparently when we moved into our house in Virginia Beach (when I was two), the movers couldn’t quite fit the piano through the doorway, which led to the stairs, which led to the room above the garage. They had to remove some of the molding in the door frame so that the piano could squeeze by.


If you weren’t a musician, what other profession would you choose?

I’m fairly certain that my brain (for better or for worse) is wired to be creative.  My guess is that I would be doing something in visual art or graphic design.  I’m always trying to find excuses to include my own designs into the packaging of my projects (also for better or worse).


Please describe the current contents of your refrigerator.

I’m embarrassed to say that my refrigerator is rather barren at the moment. It’s in condiment mode. But let me see… apricot preserves, tahini, Boccalone mustard (from my brother-in-law’s shop), Dijon mustard (that I just brought back from France), Gold’s prepared horseradish, half a can of cat food, an unopened jar of pickled okra (which I pickled before I left for France.. should be ready by now), English muffins, some stuffed olives, and a couple D size batteries (I heard batteries keep longer when refrigerated).


What verb best describes you?

Verb? Do you mean adjective? I suppose a verb could also be descriptive. Hmmm, I am constantly thinking of new ideas! I’m always thinking. I can’t stop thinking. Sometimes I wish I could stop thinking.


What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?

I would tell myself not to get my hopes up for Star Wars episodes I, II, and III.


What are the steps you take to regain your composure?

It generally starts with Maker’s on the rocks. And then I try my hardest to push aside whatever just made me lose my composure. I definitely think it’s important to learn from your mistakes, but I also think it’s equally as important to not get caught up in them.


Define “success.”

Success is the ability to pay your rent, doing what you want to do.


From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?

Honestly, it’s probably all the encouragement from friends and fans. If absolutely nobody cared about what I do, I probably wouldn’t do it. Not to say that people need to pay attention to me. But it certainly helps keep me going. When someone tells me about how their child likes to dance to my music, it makes me very happy.

What change do you want to be in the world?

Well, certainly the mitigation of global warming would be nice. I’m also quite afraid of weapons of mass destruction, mostly thanks to the media. Why did they make us watch that stupid movie The Day After anyway?


Are you pro- or anti-emoticon? Please explain.

I like emoticon’s when they are used in moderation, and aren’t too complicated. I’m down with the occasional ; ) or lol, though beyond that I’m sort of lost. When One Ring Zero was in Taiwan, we found some flip-flops with the letters Orz on them. We bought every pair we could find. Turns out that the Orz is an emoticon in parts of Asia for hunched over (on your knees with your head down) with exhaustion. The capitol O is the head, the lower case r is the body, and the lower case z is the legs. Crazy.


How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon?

I like pork. Therefore I am only one degree from Kevin Bacon.


What makes you feel most guilty?

Letting other people down.


Please list three things you never leave home without.

Glasses, phone, keys.

What is the worst piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

Gunther Schuller came to VCU (where I went to college) and told the entire student body to basically quit music. That is next to impossible to make a career out of music. That lazy-eyed wank.


What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?

Quit music. It’s next to impossible to make a career out of it.


What do you consider the harshest kind of betrayal?

Wow, maybe murdering your best friend?? Yikes. Well, you did say harshest.


Of all the game shows that have graced our TV screens throughout history, which one would you want to be a contestant on and why?

Oh, I like this question so much better than the last one. I would have loved to have been on Wheel Of Fortune back when you had to spend your earnings on a showcase of crappy furniture and stuff. I mean, first you get to spin a big dumb wheel, and then you get to fill in the blanks for sub-clever phrases, and then you spend your money on shit prizes in front of the world! I would have taken up all the airtime buying as many of the smallest things available. “Okay, Jack, I’ll take the pewter elephant statue for $13. And then I’ll take the 8′ putting green with electronic ball return for $7.”


What do you want to know?

I would like to know what is on the other side of the end of the world.


What would you like your Last Words to be?

I’m so happy right now.


Please explain what will happen.

I don’t know. I don’t want to know. And I don’t want to be aware of it.

TAGS: , , , , , , ,

MICHAEL HEARST is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, writer, and producer. He is a founding member of the band One Ring Zero, which has released seven albums, including the acclaimed literary collaboration As Smart As We Are, featuring lyrics by Paul Auster, Margaret Atwood, Dave Eggers, and Neil Gaiman, among others. His most recent works include the solo albums Songs For Ice Cream Trucks and the forthcoming Songs For Unusual Creatures, the website Songs For Newsworthy News, and the soundtrack for the movie The Good Mother. As a writer, Michael's work has appeared in such journals as McSweeney's, The Lifted Brow, and Post Road. He hosts a podcast series with Rick Moody called 18:59 and is a producer for the website Cassette From My Ex. Hearst has performed and given lectures and workshops at universities, museums, and cultural centers around the world. He has toured with The Magnetic Fields, and performed with The Kronos Quartet at Carnegie Hall. Hearst has appeared on such shows as NPR's Fresh Air, A+E's Breakfast With The Arts, and NBC's The Today Show.

13 responses to “21 Questions with Michael Hearst”

  1. […] Creatures: The Robot Show, a short film about LEMURbots, creativity, and the wonderful music of Michael Hearst, among others. Directed by Kimberly M. […]

  2. LitPark says:

    Love the story of the molding and the piano!

    Are you writing a song about the Mexican neotenic mole salamander? http://images.huffingtonpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/3158/slide_3158_44678_large.jpg Because, if you are, we’re buying your album.


  3. Michael, thank you so much for being our first featured artist!

    Just think! If you had taken Gunther Schuller’s advice and quit music, you would have let so many people down, (albeit unknowingly), and then there’d be this permanent cloud of guilt hanging around you wherever you went, but you’d never know why. So I think it’s best for all concerned that you didn’t take Gunther’s advice.


    Can’t wait to hear what you and Oscar do with the Barking Spider song…

  4. Gloria says:

    I love pickled okra. Now I really, really, really want some pickled okra.

  5. I enjoyed that.
    Funny enough, I have a friend participating to that Cassette from my Ex mad book experience (and the link is not correct, by the way. It should be: http://www.cassettefrommyex.com/ ).

  6. Megan DiLullo says:

    Michael, you are hilarious. I’m so glad that you are a musician and haven’t been forced to choose another career path.

    Those spider look scary. I can’t wait to hear the song. I hope the song isn’t scary, but even if it is, I’ll listen.

    Thank you so much for being a featured artist and a pork lover!

  7. Zara Potts says:

    Welcome to TNB, Michael -I look forward to reading more from you soon.
    By the way – nail polish is also best kept in the fridge. But I’m definitely going to try the battery tip out, thanks!

  8. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    Seriously, please tell me you have fun every day doing what you do. I live with a musician, and it seems music isn’t quite as torturous for him as writing is for me. I could be wrong. For the record, THE DAY AFTER freaked me out, too, and I only recently did I process it.

  9. Zoe Brock says:

    There is no way in hell I am clicking that link.

    As an arachnophobic Australian I know what to expect at the other end…. and what the prolonged after effects would be.

    With that in mind I want to thank you for NOT including the picture in the body of your interview, and welcome you to TNB!! Wooo hooo!!!

  10. Rob Bloom says:

    Hey Michael,

    I 2nd Kimberly’s comment: thanks for being our first featured artist. More than that, thanks for bringing back memories of “Wheel of Fortune.” I think contestants could also get the balance of their winnings put on a Sears gift card or something. If that ain’t livin’ it up, I don’t know what is.

    Welcome Michael!

  11. Thanks guys! Really great to be part of TNB. Love all the comments! I’m actually reading them from 37,000 feet above Iowa (thanks to Virgin wifi). It’s making my trip back to NY (and my inexplicable fear of flying) a bit more pleasurable. yours, Michael

  12. Michael! Welcome! Met you at the Dime Stories event, and good to see you here. I’ve been waiting to see what you’d post, and you didn’t disappoint. Love your definition of success; seems simple but achievable, and yet so fulfilling when one actually accomplishes it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *