Josh Tillman AKA Father John Misty is an American singer/songwriter formerly of the indie rock bands Har Mar Superstar, Poor Moon, Low Hums, Saxon Shore, Fleet Foxes, Jeffertitti’s Nile, Pearly Gate Music, Siberian, The Lashes, Stately English, and who has toured extensively with Pacific Northwest artists Damien Jurado, Jesse Sykes, and David Baza – in other words, the guy gets around.
He has a nutty new video for his song “Total Entertainment Fever” off his album Pure Comedy Gold, which features beloved wowlebrity Macaulay Culkin dressed Kurt Cobain (in his classic white glasses and green cardigan).
The plot (such as it is) has George Washington (hopped up on Viagra) watching via Virtual Reality as Mac-as-Kurt is arrested by McDonald’s-themed fascists and flagellated. Then, at the orders of their hook-handed leader (played by Father John Misty), Culkin/Cobain is crucified. He is placed between Bill Clinton and Garfield‘s owner Jon Arbuckle. Which seems arbitrary. The video ends with a little girl visiting Washington’s charred body.
It all makes for a rather head-scratching 2:53 minutes, and I was slightly nervous about posting it. WOW is working with Courtney Love right now (Mendendez: Blood Brothers premieres June 10th on Lifetime).
We reached out to her via email to get her reaction to the video, so as not to offend her.
She wrote back:
I like misty – I saw it – it’s out . It’s weird and it’s fine . X c
thanks for asking !
Pitchfork interviews Father John Misty, excerpts below:
PITCHFORK: How do you prepare for a video like this?
MISTY: Well, Aladdin we shot in a warehouse in Brooklyn. This video was actually shot in Macaulay Culkin’s apartment. We built walls of the same specs and dimensions using the same plans as we used for the original construction. We sourced everything the same way. Macaulay Culkin lives in a really big apartment in Manhattan, so we built the set in there. We had a team of volunteer friends that helped us construct all the props really quickly. We had late night pizza party sessions.
Whose idea was it was to have Macaulay Culkin play Kurt Cobain?
That part was my original concept of the video—we’d have Macaulay Culkin as Kurt Cobain and be crucified by fascists. From there, once we knew they were actually down with this treatment, it became a brainstorming session. I remember Toby [Goodshank], for example, came up with the idea that Josh would have a mini Kuato character that lived inside of his stomach—the Total Recall guy. Josh himself actually requested that Jon Arbuckle be up there on the cross along with Kurt Cobain. I don’t know why.
Obviously, the video very quickly has a “celebrity controversy” headline of its own.
You mean because Macaulay Culkin gets crucified as Kurt Cobain? [laughs] Fair enough. I would love to welcome anyone to watch the video, and so would Mac.
Do you think this video is too absurd to be considered controversial?
The way I see it, a lot of propaganda seeped into our heads as kids that grew up in the ’90s. In a way, Nintendo and stuff—copyrighted things—became the things that we dreamed about in our subconscious at night. For example, I remember my first wet dream was actually that I won “Super Mario Bros.,” I met the Princess, and I had an orgasm in my dream. It’s almost like the video game cartoon imagery became visceral and fleshy and part of the actual mechanism that’s human and processes information and in a way is romantic.
I think if you have a spirit that’s an artist or romantic or something, you have to reconcile that your brain is flooded with copyrighted images from corporations that you feel sentimental about, and you’ve grafted fleshy characteristics onto them as an aid of comprehending the universe. For me, it’s sort of like my own artwork exists in this pixelated realm that’s covered with flesh.
If anything, I like to see these things almost through a medieval lens. Let’s say we’re 1,000 years in the future and we’re uncovering these images of Kurt Cobain or Garfield or George Washington. They’re all unrecognizable as relics of a lost civilization. Maybe we uncover an image from a dusty closet or underneath a rock in a desert and we wonder what it is. My goal is to have something kind of modern feel like it’s from Medieval times.
Why crucify Kurt Cobain?
He was someone who was incredibly special and sacred to all of us. Toby paid a sort of interesting tribute to him by doing a band called Nevermound. Basically, it was all Nirvana songs with everything sung in the past tense. He had already opened up this can of worms, and from there we had a photo shoot where we all dressed up like Kurt Cobain: me, Toby, and Mac, all as Kurt Cobain. I think Kurt Cobain became this rolodex of meat with which we decided we could make art from, so he became a rotation of guys we do art with. He became, I guess, like an avatar.
Read the whole interview here.