Jack Antonoff Doesn’t Want to Just Take Up Space
1. “Marthe” by Tom Waits
I never heard more desire in a song. There are lots of songs about love and regret, and there are lots of sad chords. And then every once in a while you hear something that’s so much greater than the sum of its parts. In high school, I had this girlfriend, and she would put on “Foreign Affairs” and we would kiss. This song is not on this album, but I fell in love with his voice and when this relationship ended I took Tom Waits with me.
2. Memories of John F. Kennedy
I have a lot of them around my house. Growing up we got this bust of JFK; I don’t know where my dad got it. Then I started collecting JFK busts and all those great JFK speech compilation records. There’s just such a heavy cultural background that goes with it that makes you think of so many hopeful, tragic, and bizarre elements of what it’s like to be an American. It has become a really interesting symbol for me, in its complication.
3. “The Ben Stiller Show”
It was an MTV sketch show starring Ben Stiller, Andy Dick, Bob Odenkirk and Janeane Garofalo that was incredibly ahead of its time. I see it as a kind of architecture for a lot of the weirder comedies that have become very popular over the past 10 years. And it’s just not culturally recognized the same way you can kick it into a conversation the same way you can “Kids in the Hall” or Upright Citizens Brigade or even “The State” – those things for which people have context.
4. Martin Ramirez
He was part of a field of foreign artists. There is a great book called “American Self-Taught” that highlights a lot of these things: Henry Darger, Bill Traylor, William Hawkins. All of these artists mean a lot to me because there is something really amazing about seeing work that no one has asked anyone to do. It just comes from the urge to do it. Martín Ramírez had real mental health problems; I don’t have much in common with him or his story, but when I look at his work, I really feel like I’m inside his brain.
5. Magic: The Gathering
A few years ago my manager and I were walking around this comic book store. When I was young, everyone bought Magic cards – it was a big deal, at least in my corner of Jewish New Jersey. We walked in and started talking to this guy behind the counter, who was talking about Magic in a very nice way. So we bought cards and started playing and we got obsessed with it. There is such an art to putting your deck together. It’s a crazy meditation on your life: you make these choices, and you put all these theories and roadmaps into them, but then you shuffle your deck and hope one of them plays out. It’s just a beautiful game that requires a lot of your intellect and soul. And I have only scratched the surface. But it’s fun to be a part of something that you could never go through. It’s kind of how I feel about music: the point is not to master this thing, the point is to be a part of it.
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