5. Maggie Nelson “The art of cruelty”
It’s one of those books that I picked up six times and went through a few pages and was like, “This is really great,” but it seemed impenetrable to me at first. Then I had this weekend where the clouds parted, and I could just see it and walk through it. He talks about the ethics of being an artist in such a brilliant way, and therefore not orthodox or wagging his fingers. I think this is one of those books that you can review at different times in your life.
6. His own Signature STV series guitar
One part is inspired by Klaus Nomi’s tuxedo. And I wanted him to hit my breastbone in a special way. I’m a cis female, so the way he hits the breastbone and then has a bit of a cut, it makes room for my chest. But just one of them. There is only room for one! I love it. It’s the only electric I play, with very rare exceptions.
I saw pictures of it from the Met [in the exhibition “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll”], because I never had the chance to go see him in real life. Most of the time, I just like to put my head down and work quietly – and then every once in a while I look up and see something I’ve done, and it’s mysterious that it’s in the world.
7. Wim Wenders’s “Pina”
I love Pina Bausch’s work. I was really inspired by “The Rite of Spring”, where the virgin dances herself to death. There’s this particular movement of pulling your hand over your head and then when you pull it down your elbow goes into your stomach – kind of like you’re open and impaling yourself. It just moved me to tears. So when I worked with my friend Annie-B Parson to choreograph the Digital Witness tour, I was like, “Can we please incorporate this?” Another important thing: I was obsessed with the fall. This was another big part of Bausch’s work. How do you fall and look violent without hurting yourself? I would have a rehearsal room with Annie-B and I would just practice falling.
8. Vintage RCA 77-D microphone
It’s an old ribbon mic, and it sounds so good and warm. I know these are words that maybe don’t mean much – when people describe the sound as warm, it’s reductive. But it makes it sane and real. I don’t mean to say he has perfect loyalty. What I mean is when you sing into that microphone, what comes back to you is honest. My friend Cian Riordan, who mixed “Daddy’s Home”, directed me to this microphone.
9. “Hidden brain” Podcast
There was one recently on the idea of honor culture. You know, if someone insults someone’s masculinity and masculinity is tied to honor, you have to avenge that insult. Many of these “honor societies” result in more violence because face must be saved and there are fewer ways to assimilate conflicts. The premise of so many “hidden brains” is that we live by the stories we tell ourselves. And as a storyteller, that idea is very liberating for me, because if we live by the stories we tell ourselves, it means that when we get new information, we can take in that information and tell ourselves new stories.
10. Piazza della Signoria in Florence
The first time I was there was with my mother and my sisters. I remember walking through this square and having a wonderful time and a wonderful conversation, and being really impressed with the architecture and the history, and just that life was good. Another time a few years later I was on tour with David Byrne and we had our last gig in Florence, and I remember walking through with the band members and then having the best dinner ever. It’s one of those places where at crucial times in my life I’ve been there and only beautiful things happen to me.