VINCENT HAYCOCK: When was the first time you fell in love? And looking back, do you think it was true love or just a crush?
FLORENCE WELCH: I fell in love with a boy in a band when I was 17. He was my friend’s oldest brother, and my best friend fell in love with his other brother. They are still together after 11 years. I’m no longer with the boy in the band. He’s not in a band anymore, either.
I think I was in love with him. I was certainly obsessed with him. I still think we had one of the best kisses of my life, although youth and alcohol may have played a big part in that. We kissed at a house party on a kitchen sideboard. It doesn’t sound romantic, but I was in heaven.
Who was your first kiss?
VH: As I get older, I’ve been losing these memories. I honestly can’t remember very well, but I do remember kissing a girl named Jessica in grade school. Afterwards, my friend read her diary, and then told her that I had read it, so she slapped me in front of all our classmates. It was terrifying.
FW: Do you think that having a family has affected the way you work? Does it make you think more romantically about the world? Now that you have this stability, does it encourage you to be more adventurous in your work? You’ve found the light in your life, so are you free to explore the dark in your art?
VH: I think it has made me much more serious about my work. Your emotions shift when you have a family. Instead of spending time falling in love or being heartbroken, or on Tinder, or whatever you do now, you can invest that energy and passion into your work. It’s also an amazing source of inspiration, love, and support. I think it has made me look at the world in a very different way, more optimistically, but it hasn’t stopped any passion for the dark side.
FW: I always wonder how having a family will affect the way I write songs. . .
VH: What’s your favorite dance move Ryan Heffington has come up with so far, and what does it mean?
FW: I love the hands-to-mouth to mouth-to-hands one. It pops up a lot in St. Jude. It’s like the things you want to say to someone but can’t, so you place it into their mouths—like a sacrament. You are drawn to biblical references almost as much as I am. Is this a new thing, or has it always been part of your work?
VH: I’ve always been fascinated by the iconography and stories that come along with the Bible, Dante’s Inferno, Homer’s Odyssey, etc. There is so much amazing story- telling and poetry written in those books, really beautiful themes and characters, metaphors and lessons. They’re the greatest pieces of fiction ever written.
FW: What was the first work you ever produced?
VH: I made some surf videos in the ’90s. Me and my friends filmed each other surfing and fucking around: skateboarding through shopping malls, lighting garbage cans on fire, etc. That’s what you did in California during that time, and honestly, that energy, the mid-’90s punk vibe, was what led me to want to be creative. It inspired me to make something more than a living. The first thing I think I started and finished, with an actual end product, was an issue for Juxtapose Art Magazine. I art-directed a couple of issues back then. I was super young and really into the SF music and art scene, so for me at that time it was a huge deal. I was really proud. Do you need to live in a constant state of chaos to be creative?
FW: I FUCKING HOPE NOT. I wonder what creativity is going to come out of this broken foot. The making of the album was actually a pretty calm and methodical process; Marcus saw to that. He made sure I had a schedule, a lunchtime, and I wasn’t allowed to use him as an agony aunt, because I came to him a pretty broken mess: heartbroken, hungover. I’m so grateful to him for giving me that structure, because the year before was pretty chaotic. I wrote a lot, but most of the songs are about wanting to be released from some kind of chaos, so its a self-perpetuating cycle.
I know we’ve talked a lot about Sam Shepard. One of his stories was the inspiration for the “Lover to Lover” video. What other authors inspire you, and where else do you find inspiration? Is it in things you see, or in conversations?
VH: William Burroughs has always been a huge inspiration for me—and T.S. Eliot and many others—but Sam’s is such a common man’s poetry. It really hits home for me, since I grew up in California in the dusty valleys of Salinas and beautiful shores of Big Sur. His words remind me of my childhood, teen- age years, and I still find tons of meaning in his stories today. One of my absolute favorite stories is by Jorge Luis Borges, titled “El Muerto.” I’ve been working on making it into a film.
FW: Dog Days was written after I saw an art installation by the artist Ugo Rondinone. Who is your favorite artist?
VH: I love a lot of Californian artists—Ed Ruscha and Raymond Pettibon, for example—but my true loves are Francis Bacon and the photographer William Gedney.
What does Odyssey mean to you?
FW: I guess I felt like I needed to understand what I had been though to make this record. As so much of it was internal, I wanted to represent it visually in order to claim it, to understand and re-appropriate it. Otherwise it all just goes to waste. That’s where you come in. It’s a big undertaking working with an artist for a whole album. We’ve kind of kidnapped each other in a creative sense. What on earth made you agree to this?
VH: I’ve always believed in you and your music, and I trust you. You’re the first artist I’ve worked with that I would cast if I weren’t doing a music video for you. It’s so rare to be able to have this type of freedom and collaboration. I feel lucky to be a part of this, and I hope it never ends. Keep writing songs. Maybe the album could have, like, 40 B-sides. What’s your favorite part of our Odyssey so far?
FW: I don’t know. Maybe standing on that mountain in Scotland? It looked the way I imagine the gates of heaven would—from the underworld of what king, of what man. We’d made it to heaven. The Odyssey was real. We’ve been all over the world with this. What would be your dream location? As you know, I’m up for anything.
VH: The “door to hell.” It’s a natural gas opening near Turkmenistan. It’s a huge, mile-wide, fiery pit that suddenly opened up in the earth’s crust and revealed a fiery pit below.
FW: I think we should go there. For sure.