“Well I’m asking you questions, or you’re asking me questions—but we both know the answers because putatively we’re the same person. But maybe we’re not. I mean, we’re supposed to be the same person. It was a bit confusing honestly, what Ross asked me to do.”
This is an interview with myself I was asked to conduct by Ross Simonini for The Believer Magazine.
I was asked to do this either in late December 2018, or early 2019.
I may or may not have done this chronologically over the course of the last year.
I may or may not have not done this all at once: for example, I may be writing this in its entirety on a depressing December afternoon, the sun having gone down before five, while my wife Cristine (in organic pajamas) is on the floor, wrestling a foam roller in an attempt to minimize pain caused by a herniated disc.
BRAD PHILLIPS: Brad, what has been going on with you lately?
BRAD PHILLIPS: Honestly, I have mostly been dealing with rattled nerves. My first book of short stories, Essays & Fictions (Tyrant Books, New York & Rome, available through their site or on Amazon) is coming out at the end of the month, and I have been feeling pretty nervous about it.
BP: What are you nervous about?
BP: I am nervous people will think it sucks. Or, I am nervous I will think it sucks, since many of the stories are now quite old. I do not want this to cause me further anxiety and depression, which is mostly what the book deals with.
BP: I am sorry to hear that.
BP: You should buy it, but through Tyrant. Amazon takes such a huge cut, but you know, you sort of have to deal with Amazon, they’re inescapable.
BP: So what happened with the book?
BP: I want to avoid discussing the book. I realized that in my last answer I looked totally shameless, naming the publisher, telling people to buy it. I even included links and I think this is for print. I feel ashamed.
BP: Do you often feel ashamed?
BP: Come on. You know I do. But, I am surprised that on reading it again, I think the book is pretty great. Maybe even brilliant.
BP: Jesus, Brad.
BP: How is the end of winter treating you?
BP: I have never liked that expression: “How’s ____ treating you.” Like, I do not have a personal relationship with the seasons. I can say my mom’s been treating me great, but the weather, how can something with no awareness of your existence really treat you one way or another?
I read this book last week called The Bestseller Code and realized there’s a ton of shit I never knew about that gets books on bestseller lists that I’m definitely gonna try to use if I get a second book deal. Apparently people really respond to a lot of contractions in writing. Another big thing for people is they’re 75% more likely to buy a book if the title starts with “The”. The Pelican Brief, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo etc. I wish I’d known this stuff before.
BP: How’s the response to the book been, did what you worry about happen?
BP: No. It’s been really well received. And while I’m interested in very different things now, I still feel happy with it. Maybe brilliant was hyperbolic… groundbreaking might be more appropriate. I mean, reviews have essentially said that, just not literally. I know that might sound bombastic but despite being almost always depressed, I’ve never had low self-esteem.
BP: Anything else?
BP: Well you know how much we’ve—I’ve been working out with weights. I’m starting to see some real gains, especially in my pecs.
BP: I feel like this is getting complicated. Do you? Do we believe in doppelgängers?
BP: I don’t. It is getting confusing though. Do you know anything about a delusional identification disorder called clonal pluralization of the self?
BP: I don’t think so. I know I’ve got a tab open to the Wikipedia page about it though.
BP: It’s a disorder where people perceive multiple copies of themselves, identical both physically and psychologically, but physically separate and distinct. I feel like this is starting to manifest in this interview.
BP: How do you mean?
BP: Well I’m asking you questions, or you’re asking me questions—but we both know the answers because putatively we’re the same person. But maybe we’re not. I mean, we’re supposed to be the same person. It was a bit confusing honestly, what Ross asked me to do.
BP: I feel like I need to smoke a joint and think about this.
BP: See, I stopped smoking weed a while ago. But you still blow mad spliffs. That makes me separate and distinct from you. Do you have any birthmarks?
BP: I’m taking a break from this.
BP: I understand.
BP: Okay, maybe this is getting a bit esoteric and hard to follow. I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately. Let’s try to get back to a more traditional style interview.
BP: What are your five favorite films?
BP: This is tough. I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately. It’s impossible to rank them so these aren’t in any particular order, and in a month from now they’ll probably have changed.
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre
- Body Heat
- The Conversation
- The House of Games
- Cocoon 2 (one of the few films where the sequel is superior to the original)
BP: This is tough for me too. I can’t hierarchize them either, so here’s where I’m at today, May 16, 2019.
- The Conversation
- F/X2 (one of the few films where the sequel is superior to the original)
- Body Heat
- The House of Games
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Honorable mentions would go to The Long Goodbye, The Last Picture Show, and Inherent Vice.
BP: I didn’t know I had the option to add a bunch of others under the pretext of ‘honorable mentions’, so: The Parallax View, F/X2, Flirting with Disaster.
BP: I love Flirting with Disaster.
BP: I know. And by the way, I didn’t ask for your list.
BP: Summer’s started, which I always find difficult emotionally. What are your plans for the summer?
BP: I’m supposed to start working on a novel. I did end up getting a deal for another book.
BP: Do you want to tell me what it’s about?
BP: Not really. I can talk about the stuff I’ve been reading and watching as research. I’ve been learning a lot about delusional identity disorders, the theory of the multiverse, eternal inflation, 5-MeO-DMT, precognition, retrocausation and remote viewing.
BP: Did you know that Josef Mengele died in 1979 in Bolivia? It’s amazing to me to think that he was hidden away in South America watching Soul Train and news about Andy Warhol.
BP: Wow, from chapter 3 in my new book, The True Story of John Lang and the Hollywood ESP Cult:
I was shocked years ago when I learned that war criminal par excellence, Doctor Joseph Mengele, was alive in my lifetime. One day shy of my fourteenth birthday, in 1979, Mengele died swimming while visiting friends in the Brazilian coastal resort town of Bertioga. Died peacefully. His underwater stroke no swimming technique, just the same mundane brain mishap that felled my grandmother.
The doctor had friends, most likely very old ones who’d made that initial journey overseas after the war. Mengele had seen the rise and fall of the beatniks and the hippies, both of whom would have repulsed him. Men with long hair. Altamont. Bra burnings. Marvin Gaye. He’d have seen the race riots and unrest of 1970s America. The dominance of bands like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. He’d have witnessed the Manson Family, JFK, Deepthroat, Patty Hearst, Watergate and Andy Warhol. Enjoyed the clever lyrics of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.”
Experienced that sad moment when The Velvet Underground made rock music pretentious.
Plus disco, and Vietnam.
BP: Okay. Let’s talk later. I need to speak to Cristine about all of this, it’s getting a bit uncanny.
BP: What’s Cristine’s last name?
BP: I can’t really talk about the last few questions, my therapist said it’s likely best we don’t discuss it. I really haven’t had a good night’s sleep since we last spoke. You mentioned before you were into working out—where did that come from? I know we’ve always been skinny.
BP: I’ve always been skinny. I’m six two and up until like sixteen months ago was around 150 pounds, which is just at the low healthy range for my height. Cristine got me into yoga (which I was reluctant to do for years because… Generation X). I got a lot more flexible and sometimes felt like I was getting high. My editor Jordan Castro is pretty shredded, and Giancarlo my publisher humiliated me in an arm wrestling match (he has some sort of genetic Umbrian body type that just crushes the average Anglo-Saxon). Anyway, I’ve been in therapy most of my life and it’s really hard to tell with therapy and medication if you’re making any real progress. I mean you hope to be less depressed, but if you are, how can you really know if it’s from therapy, or just because you’ve been having a few good weeks? But with working out, I go to the gym, I pump iron and after a few weeks, boom—I see the development of biceps and triceps, latissimus dorsi and anterior deltoids. Doctors always told me that exercise was the best thing I could do for my mental health, but I always ignored them cause it seemed like work. But now when I leave the gym I feel that real endorphin rush, and being able to witness real progress, it makes me feel like I have more control over myself. Definitely more control than like, getting into a conflict and seeing signs of improved “emotional regulation.”
BP: But is it also about vanity? I mean—do you want to be strong, or do you want to look good?
BP: I mean c’mon, we obviously want to look good. What’s your weight now?
BP: I’m like 163. What are you?
BP: Summer hasn’t been easy. For me it has a lot to do with like, seeing more flesh. I know that maybe that doesn’t sound great, but when you get sober, or at least, I mean I’ve heard it from more than a few friends, sex can sort of take over as the primary obsession.
BP: How long have you been sober for?
BP: Since March 1st, 2012. What about you?
BP: March 1st, 2012.
BP: Do you remember when we moved to Vancouver, and really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into?
BP: Yeah, clearly. I arrived on October 22nd, 2002. I can’t remember how long it went on for, but I remember that it was raining that day, and it ended up being the most consecutive days of rain in one hundred years. I think it might’ve rained all the way into late April.
BP: Remember you kicked a wall in the cabin, and inside there was like this hidden staircase that went to nowhere? That scared the shit out of me.
BP: I remember us kicking the wall yeah. I got a super deep cut on my ankle that didn’t heal until sometime after Christmas. It didn’t help that you kept picking at it.
BP: I think this is around the time we met Anniken.
BP: Yeah I think so. At that house-wrecking party, right?
BP: Yeah. She had a shaved head and said something like “Do you want to see my favorite cartoon from when I was a child?” Then she turned on the television and took off her sweater and we watched Golden Girls and we had sort of lazy sex.
BP: Golden Girls wasn’t a cartoon, but I don’t think we told her.
BP: No, you didn’t say anything. Norwegians are bizarre. It was the first time we’d ever had sex with a woman whose head was shaved. The bald head preoccupied us.
BP: I remember the episode though. “Dorothy’s Prized Pupil.” One of Dorothy’s students gets deported, and she feels responsible.
BP: I didn’t really think it was her fault.
BP: Neither of us did. Anniken laughed though and said that she loved the unicorn in the last scene.
BP: Do you think this is going okay? It’s veering into nostalgia, and I know we have a pretty paralyzing relationship with nostalgia. How’s your irritable bowel syndrome been lately?
BP: It’s been better since I found out about charcoal pills. I still think we shouldn’t have ordered the second helping of chocolate mousse at Le Select Bistro last night though.
BP: I’m gonna lay down. We’ve got all of season 1 of X-Files downloaded.
BP: Flip over that pillow that has the drool stain on it.
BP: Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing or seeing in 2020?
BP: I’d like to get back in touch with that neurologist at Mount Sinai.
BP: So now we’re on a first name basis with her?
BP: You don’t remember what happened?
BP: Not really. I’m already at Olive Garden. Tell me about Karen once we’ve ordered. They’ve been shooting me angry glances while we’ve been devouring the cheesy breadsticks.