May 2nd, 2013 | Interviews

dorianwood-painted_0180Dorian Wood conjures creaky ghost-filled houses on his latest album, Rattle, Rattle, a doomsday-themed epic featuring no less than one hundred musicians, haunted horns, doomed pianos, carnal forces, villains, tortured spirits, and flesh. One upbeat tune, “La Cara Infinita,” a duet with Eddika Organista (El Haru Kuroi), is about women’s bodies rising to form a giant hand in the sky that brings on the end of the world. It’s his song for the ladies. The music video takes a cue from Pasolini’s Salò, making an artistic statement with a little sexual deviance by oppressing the men for a change. We attended the video shoot without knowing what would take place. Then all these naked people appeared in the room.

All the women had tattoos. Someone helped Margaret Cho climb the piano. I recognized her by the tattoos of past presidents on her knees. She just happened to be around that day and has her own thoughts to share about the way flesh is perceived. As she arranged herself, I saw an angle of Margaret Cho’s vagina that some girls never even see of themselves. Dorian Wood stood between two naked guys. “Is it OK if I grab you?” he asked one.

When the marching drum beat of “La Cara Infinita” began, Wood’s demeanor changed from soft and sweet to ferocious. Eddika Organista stared cold, straight ahead, the whole time. The naked women posed like fierce tattooed guardian angels. Meanwhile the fellas got tossed around and manhandled by the oppressor, Dorian Wood.

Afterwards, everyone ate pizza.
By Daiana Feuer


Did you consider that the new video could be banned when you decided what would happen in it?
Not really. This was actually a consequence of feedback that I got back from fellow musicians, and other people involved in the video. I ended up putting the disclaimer at the last minute in case someone unsuspecting would come across it and immediately push whatever red buttons they have to flag it down. The final video is very close to what I had in mind from the beginning.  It properly epitomized the intention and vision that I had for it.
How did naked people and rubbing that guy’s penis epitomize what you were trying to express?
“La Cara Infinita” tells this fictionalized tale of a group of women who escape captivity. We’re talking hundreds of women who, from wherever they’re captive, they run and are just enjoying their freedom and are filled with these vengeful intentions and they all rise up to the sky and form this giant face, “the infinite face.” It’s part of this mythology that encompasses my entire album, Rattle Rattle. It all focuses on the end of the world and one of the aspects that causes the end of the world is this giant face that forms in the sky and people don’t know how to react so they destroy each other. That’s a little chapter in that mythology. They’re all parallels to injustices that women and transgender people have experienced throughout history. “La Cara Infinita” was born from my high regard and respect for all women and also inspired by this piece that was heavily publicized and took place at MOCA. It was spearheaded by Marina Abramović and I was one of the participants. The performance piece involved approximately a hundred artists incorporating themselves into this dinner gala filled with trustees and celebrities. It was a five-thousand dollar plate type of event, at the cheapest. All of the performers were placed in specific areas, almost as endurance pieces. One of the performance formats involved the invitees sitting around a table and in the middle was a lazy susan, and there was a naked woman on it slowly moving as these people watched. The piece was interesting and powerful. Then they questioned Marina Abramović as to why there were only naked women and the director of MOCA blatantly expressed, even at the event itself, that male nudity makes businessmen very uncomfortable.
I was so horrified to hear that. So why are you having naked women? Because it makes them comfortable? It just totally ties in to my utter disgust for the way women are treated in media and have been portrayed for centuries. So many things are still socially acceptable. Anything that hints at femininity is seen as a form of weakness and submission. The song came from this fury. I took inspiration for the visual format from Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, which is this magnificent film that involved four heads of state that kidnap a group of men and women and torture them.
Oh yeah, and they make them eat poop.
It’s so awful. It’s a beautiful film but it’s a strong statement against fascism. I wanted to take their format and twist it around so that the powerless beings are men. It’s a man oppressing other men and these women are also naked but they’re not sexualized, they’re not objectified in any other way except for being these omnipotent beings in the space. They’re looking and witnessing and perhaps protecting the space from what it is. You see these two men placed in a submissive context. The only way to properly express that is to go to an extreme that isn’t purely suggestive. —No, this is actually happening. The two male actors really put themselves in that place. I’m incredibly honored and grateful that they did. Whoever gets involved, to portray these characters they have to be ok with it and ultimately understand why we need to portray it in this way.
Do you feel that you have to go to extremes in order to be heard clearly?
Yes. I do. Everything is streamlined, it’s all a series of bites, so how do you get someone’s attention? It’s not the sole basis of what I do but there is an element of it. I really want people to understand the things I do. I may not even know how extreme it is until I get people’s feedback because I’ve gone about it that way for so long.
Has this method developed over time as you’ve performed?
Yes, it’s developed over time. But it hasn’t been until probably the past five or six years that I’ve really been able to embrace myself physically, somehow overcoming and owning any hint of being self-conscious about how I look or come across. When anyone in any context makes a decision to do that, it is a very dramatic move. It’s a dramatic form of expression and it comes out dramatically. I’m more comfortable with public nudity for example. For somebody of my body type it is unconventional. All of a sudden I embrace it as a costume and I’m able to wear it comfortably and I sometimes forget that other people aren’t used to seeing that. I’m comfortable with who I am and perhaps I’m being a little irreverent about it. It ultimately has opened more doors for me in my imagination and who I get to work with and opportunities that arise. This self confidence that one finds in trying to overcome people’s expectations and ways of thinking that are less damaging to people’s sensibilities; when in fact you’re just being yourself and not going out of your way to hurt anybody.
Do you feel extreme in your daily life?
No! At all. I was just talking to my partner last night about the video and I was telling him that I consider myself very mild mannered in my daily life. I live an extremely boring life by many people’s standards. I never go out. I never go clubbing. I never go trolling. I never deal with anything that elevates me from my couch. I’m constantly working on projects, and it does keep me home a lot too. I’m very comfortable with home life. I really embrace my creativity as something that is a necessary thing in order for me to stay comfortable at home. I don’t mean that in a financial sense necessarily. If I didn’t do anything like that, I wouldn’t be a comfortable person. That all needs to come out.
Are you dreaming up new things to say or new ways to say them?
I think new ways to say them. Rattle Rattle is four years of accumulating a specific type of frustration from being a working class artist. You want to communicate things and assemble things and see things to fruition with extremely limited resources. Having that serve as your inspiration and your obstacle.
You become scrappy but then it would be much better if you didn’t have to be.
It would be. But then you wonder what would come out if everything was comfortably placed on your plate. I don’t like to see it that way either. It’s pointless. This is the life that I’ve been given and these are the tools I have to work with and I don’t know how else to go about it. I don’t know how to look at myself through the eyes of another person. Like, what if I were this person? What if I had all of this? I really live in the now, even creatively. I have ideas and concepts of what I want to express but I always let them come close to a more fleshed out format when I feel it’s appropriate to how I’m feeling at a certain moment. I will jot down an idea and lock it up in a box for a while.
Do your ideas live in a mythological world?
A lot of what I do is almost creating this fancified parallel to what’s going on, sociological and current events, what makes people the way they are. Not necessarily as a way to put up a mirror to people but more for my self-study. I don’t try to emulate them but I try to find this weird core that is not always pretty to the eyes and ear. I’m always fascinated by people. I will always need people as inspiration and collaborators and support. To be able to give that back to them is at the core of everything I do. I can only say that now. But I hope to always mean it. There’s nothing greater than humanity.
It’s better than living in a cave by yourself.
Exactly. And who knows what could come creatively from doing that. That’s an irrational fear of mine. That I could come to that sort of place. There’s so much about humans that I’m still exceedingly fascinated about.
Being one of them and all.
Being one of them! Contextualizing myself in many surroundings and different groups. I’ve been in L.A. for twenty years. I’ve led so many lives during that time, so many lifestyles, some that I would prefer to forget and others that I recall very fondly. I have the gift of being a gay man in L.A. I’ve done many gay things.
What’s a gay thing?
When two men love each other…  I’ve been exposed to many facets of human sexuality being a single gay man for a long time. I’m partnered now but for most of my life I was single. Throwing myself into the debaucherous, carefree lifestyle that many, many, many gay men throw themselves into. I got to live that. A lot of my creative peers don’t know that world. The LGBT pool has been a subculture for so long that you’re forced to subsist in pockets of neighborhoods. What you do in that is very primal. You have a situation where gay men specifically have and always been very sexual. Men in general are very sexual. When you put men who are thinking about sex all the time with other men who are also thinking about sex all the time, you’re getting this thing that builds up and is uncontainable.
Oh my gosh! I never thought about it that way before. A bunch of horny guys in a room together, of course, I get it. Animals!
I mean, you have phone apps that facilitate the meeting of strange men. It’s fascinating. I can see it from this perspective now because I’m married and I’m a total prude in many ways now. But back then, we’re talking fifteen years ago, I was going to bathhouses, I was going to bars. I’ve had relations with people up and down Silverlake, like, publically. I remember this one time right behind Circus Of Books. Having that perspective, having that lifestyle that is no longer who I am, it’s almost like I’ve lived and then reincarnated into this incredibly boring person who stays at home and watches Project Runway. I’m grateful to have that perspective but I also wonder that it desensitized me. On the surface, nudity, but within that, sexual expression in creativity and what that means. Why it’s necessary to show it to people. I specifically thought for this new video, I felt this urge to do it properly, not specifically to grab people’s attention as far as just the very act, but overall to portray the intention properly. The objectification of the female flesh is all of a sudden thrown in a perspective that people aren’t familiar with and can even be perceived as more obscene. It’s important for people to see that it’s no better or worse that what they see in hip hop videos. It is not sweet or pretty.
Some people are going to think your video is gross. Some people are not going to even give you a chance to say what you want to say.
I am anticipating that. Not everyone will immediately embrace or find the beauty in what I’ve done. Certainly western audiences are not used to seeing male genitalia in that regard. But I would be beating myself up for years if I didn’t do this properly. I even toyed with the idea of creating a censored version but then to me what that says is that there’s a shame in what I did. There’s a reason to cater to the desires of people who would find something shame in something that I don’t find offensive and didn’t intend to be offensive. It’s that admission that I’m not prepared to do. You have to approach this with an open mind. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, create a dialogue. Don’t dismiss it as something filthy and dirty. I’ve heard “satanic” before.
Well, there’s a darkness to it that some people don’t want to see in themselves.
There is certainly darkness to it. Which is interesting also because, you were there at the shoot, everyone was having a good time. We were all getting high. It was really great, but we also knew the inspiration ahead of time and the intention. People had a chance to get comfortable with that, and that’s how they were able to be a part of this project. I’m hoping that people at the other end give themselves the opportunity to see something beyond what they’ve been shown. The video is not about nudity; it’s about oppression. I’m hoping that comes across ultimately.
I think it comes across. Nobody looks like they’re having fun.
Yeah, nobody is smiling. Even Margaret Cho looks uncomfortable. I don’t know. I feel like I’ve done something the way I wanted to do it. We’ll see what comes next.

by Daiana Feuer