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  • 6:25:53 pm
  • Monday
  • 24 June 2024

Edie Sedgwick lives!

Justin Moyer (of SuperSystem, formerly El Guapo) resurrects Andy Warhol’s affluent sidekick to sing songs about celebrities.

Last month, I caught Edie Sedgwick at Brooklyn’s Northsix. No, not the real Edie Sedgwick (1943–71), but a reasonable facsimile in the person of Justin Moyer. Justin has manifested this reincarnated personality to sing songs about celebrities, each tune bearing the name of its subject, i.e. Martin Sheen, Sigourney Weaver, Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc.

Post-show, it was clear Justin was a little disheartened by the crowd’s wintery reception—as was I. The show was extremely entertaining and I, of course, was prepared for the spectacle, having read his song lyrics and watched his music videos prior to attending. For the interview, we met downstairs in the ice-cold Northsix basement:

How does it feel to perform solo after working with SuperSystem (El Guapo) for so long?

It can be really exhilarating and exciting because I’ve been in bands for so long where it was always “I want this! Don’t do that!” and there was a lot of—not that, in the long run, it didn’t work out—but there can be a lot of tension in a band, you know. Whatever. Everyone saw that Metallica video...


So, it’s really nice to do something on your own and it can be really great but like, when something’s wrong, it’s all your fault. If you didn’t book a show, it’s your fault. If you’re not fun or interesting on stage, it’s your fault. If you can’t think of clever things to respond with when someone heckles you, it’s just you up there. It’s not anybody else. No one else is responsible.

What about El Guapo? What’s your relationship with them right now?

Well, El Guapo is now called SuperSystem and we’ve switched labels. We’re on Touch and Go. And I’m in the band and the band is active. We have a tour of Europe planned.

So, on-stage, do you claim to be the “real” Edie Sedgwick? Like a reincarnation?

There’s a whole schtick about it. If you go to my website—which is—it describes that more philosophical thing... It’s like, Edie Sedgwick is supposed to be reincarnated and she reflects—she’s the mirror of our culture and all this pseudo-Warholian shit.

Yea, “In the beginning of the third millennium” or whatever?

Right! Ha. A lot of it is just building on ideas—like the Makeup for instance. Just this idea that your band has an ?ism, it has a schtick. And it’s show business. That always really excited me. I don’t think I ever owned a makeup record, in fact, I don’t own a makeup record but I would always go see them. I was always like, “What are these guys going to do next? What do they have? What’s up with them?” And I’d read interviews with them and think, “Wow, this is really well thought-out” and I always wanted to be like—I get sick of just making clever songs. I didn’t want to do that anymore. I wanted everything to have a reason, to be related to a greater something. So this is what I did.

The iPod is the medium is the message right? Would you ever considering performing with a live band or is it about the plasticity—the consumerism?

Well... I don’t work well with other people.

And yet, you’re in a pretty successful band?

Oh, am I? Are we successful? I never can tell. But I don’t know... It’s like, I’m pretty cranky. I’m pretty moody. I get insulted easily. I have a chip on my shoulder half the time. I don’t bring a lot to the table in a band situation so I’m sort of reluctant, even though I know it would improve things and make it easier musically. You know, tonight the iPod broke in the middle of a song that was just about to get good. It was a song I was really excited about—but it broke. A drummer—unless he has a heart attack or something—won’t break. But I just can’t envision getting a drummer. Edie Sedgwick used to be a duo but, after a while, I just wanted to work by myself. I wanted to try things alone.

Why Edie Sedgewick? Why not Nico? Did that cross your mind at all?

I don’t really have much to say about that. To me, she’s sort of too well known. She’s not a generalized symbol. She’s already a musician so what am I going to do, sing Nico songs? What could I do that’s clever about Nico? Edie Sedgwick wasn’t a musician. That’s part of what’s great about her: she’s a more malleable icon. What was she famous for? Nothing. Who was she? Nobody. She died when she was probably about my age. I read a book about her and thought, you know, maybe people will be into this stupid idea.

So, a little on contemporary issues: Today, Condoleezza Rice was confirmed as the new Secretary of State. John Kerry and some other Democrats tried to give her some trouble but it was sort of inevitable. How do you feel about that?

I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m really qualified to comment. A lot of what my act is about is not being qualified to comment on politics. Like, I’ll sing a song about politics but I’d like to think they’re not like, “I hate Bush,” you know? I don’t hate George Bush. I don’t agree with him about a lot of things. I don’t hate anyone. I don’t think that the way politics work in this country is productive. I almost agree with Jon Stewart with what he said on Crossfire. It’s just like this partisan theater and I don’t see any reason to engage in it.

I’m an artist. I don’t even have a real job. I used to be a social worker. I was in the community working with people who have HIV. I felt like I had a real role in society. But when you’re a fucking artist, you’re paid to put on makeup and jump around for a while. How do you participate? Maybe you make a clever comment or something but you’re not really involved. If you want to make a difference, stop being an artist. Go to a law school and become a lawyer, figure out how to become Secretary of State yourself.

Ok, well, last October, CIA official, Charles Duelfer, stated that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and, this month, the US officially called off the search. How does that make you feel and how do you feel about the war in general?

Man, you’re talking to the wrong guy. I know I’m supposed to say I’m against the war and I’m against everything but... At first, I was confused about the war because the people who I don’t agree with but lead my country told me that it was necessary. I was like, “I’m against war but if, in the long run it’s going to save all these people, I don’t know.” So I’ve oscillated between not caring and being confused. As these things came to light—like I guess most Americans were—I was like, “this sucks.” What am I going to say? “Fool me once, shame on you,” you know? I don’t know if I’m old enough yet to be able to say “Fool me twice, shame on me,” although I lived through the first Persian Gulf war—

What are your memories of that?

I was a freshman in high school and I remember the day they invaded there was a protest outside my school—a suburban high school. I remember I went to protest and the principal came out and he said, “Alright, you’re all having this protest...” I was scared. I was really scared. I was a goodie-two-shoes. I am a goodie-two-shoes. I didn’t want to get suspended or anything. I just knew I was against the war. So the principal came out and said, “Anyone who goes back to class now won’t get in trouble, your voice has been heard.” And I was like “alright” and I went back to class. And that was probably the main political action of my life. And it’s pathetic.

Getting back to Edie for a little bit, what’s your tour schedule like?

It’s crazy. El Guapo does a tour in March and there’s this little window where I can go on tour for myself, which I really need to do because my record comes out late March. And then El Guapo goes on tour again. So I could potentially be on tour, if everything falls together, for like three months or more. Which to me, I don’t understand why people are like, “that’s a lot” because, when you’re a musician, that’s what you do. You play shows. To me, everyday I’m not playing a show is a day wasted. If I’m not writing a song or working on band stuff, it’s like, I’m basically sitting around the house. I’m a musician so, it’s like, if I’m not a musician forty hours a week, then I’m a fucking bum. I want to do shit. I’m not fucking around.

When you say writing do you just mean music or are you also—

No. I wrote a novel. I write some weird haikus and I’m trying to write another novel.

What was your novel called? What was it about?

It’s about Meryl Streep and her relationship with John Cazale, the actor. He was in the Godfather movies as Fredo. And I finished it—it was really exciting to finish it—and I can’t get it published. It might be no good. It might be shitty, I don’t know. But I really don’t care. I’m just excited. So that’s another thing I’m working on.

Any last words on Edie Sedgwick?

Well yea. This is sort of the end of every interview where you’re asked if you have anything else to say and it’s like, I would say this: The reason I do this is in response to some of the questions that you’re asking—about politics and the role of artists in politics. I can’t write songs about politics but I can’t write like, Andrew WK about party girls and getting wasted either. I can only try to come up with a fusion of the two that makes people think about their lives. I don’t know—that’s all I would say. And I hope no one thinks I’m a fascist.

You can catch Edie in Brooklyn when he returns to the Northsix on March 5th. For more information, see Photographs by Stewart Smith.

Stewart Smith
Thursday, 10 February 2005

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2024-06-24 18:25:53
Saudi Arabia, congress, Bright Eyes, Metric, Barsuk Records, New York, Iraq, Maura Davis, Conor Oberst, Maura Davis, End report.