“I don’t have any kind of days off or anything,” Alison Mosshart said from Florida, where she’d just flown in after a brief pit stop at home in Nashville in the midst of touring with Jamie Hince for their band The Kills. So visiting the exhibition she’s currently part of in Berlin has been pretty much out of the question, though that hasn’t stopped her presence from being felt at the show: A group of her photos from life on the road, including some of Mosshart herself, are on display alongside other instant analog film mementoes by the likes of Maripol and Jack White (Mosshart’s bandmate in the Dead Weather), in a show organized by the Impossible Project. (Photography, rather than painting, has been Mosshart’s extracurricular of choice lately: “Too many flights, too much paint, too much paper, too much weight,” she explained.) Between all that, and before leaving for Paris the next day for yet another tour, she squeezed in time to share her culture diet, here.
First thing you read in the morning: I make coffee and I work the second I get out of bed, starting with reading my emails. I wake up while I’m working, and the second I’m awake and finish that, then I go do the things I want to do.
Books on your bedside table right now: I just finished that book Geek Love [by Katherine Dunn], which I’d never read, and I felt like the last person on earth that hadn’t read it. It blew my mind, it’s brilliant. And I just started The Devil in the White City last night, so I’m only about 25 pages in, but so far it’s really fucking good.
The TV shows keeping you up at night: I’m a little bit late but I’m watching “Narcos,” season two. I loved “Vice Principals,” I’m so sad that’s over. And I watch “Parts Unknown” religiously. I have a TV in my room in Nashville but I think I’ve turned it on maybe three times in four years; I just end up watching stuff in hotel rooms on my computer if I have a night off. But generally I don’t really have the time to watch anything, so I’m always a little bit late.
Last movie you saw in theaters: Ghostbusters. I loved it, I thought it was really funny and super entertaining, and I love that they did a women’s version of it.
Last thing you saw at the theater: That’s a great question. It would have been so long ago that I can’t even remember.
Last concert you saw live, other than your own: LCD Soundsystem. They played after us at a festival somewhere, maybe St. Louis or something. It was incredible. I’m so glad they’re touring again, they’re killing it. And then starting tomorrow, this band called Georgia will be supporting us. It’s two girls and really different and wild and cool and I love it a lot.
Last museum exhibition that you loved: Danny Lyon at the Whitney. It was beautiful.
Last piece of art you bought, or ogled: Maybe a Christian Marclay photograph. Actually, the last art I bought was a Mike Kelley photograph. It’s got a lowrider car with an RV hooked to the back of it, parked in front of a decimated Detroit train station downtown. I love it so much.
Alison Mosshart’s New Photo Series Captures Life on the Road
“The artist Mike Kelly turned me on to stuffed animals when he did the record sleeve for Sonic Youth’s ‘Dirty’. He allowed me to see them differently, as signifiers of time, happiness, failure, neglect, trash – the inevitable end of naivety. Nothing is forever, certainly youth, and certainly our ability to attach magical thinking to inanimate objects, is tested by reality eventually. Things are just things, or so we’d like to forget or never discover. The man who gave me that bear eventually disappeared, then- so did the bear’s ‘personality’. What it meant then, is not what it means now. The mind is our lens through which we see and conceive, and we are always changing our minds.”
“Well… the front end of this [car] doesn’t exist anymore. I’ve got a love for wrecks, crushed steal and big machines that once cruised gracefully through the streets, only to eventually become sedentary duds of twisted junk. It’s glory days are over, but it is no less beautiful to me. And since I don’t know the story, I get to imagine one. I can think anything in the whole wide world I want as I walk by.”
“Hair in front of the face, and the view of the back of someone’s head, has always been interesting to me. Faceless and out of tune. To me it speaks of coming and going with no here, or, being present but not totally there. Hiding in plain sight and leaving without a look. There’s something heavy and disparate about it. Unattached. Over before it starts. These are totally uncommitted self portraits.”
“I love helicopters. I view them the same way I view fireworks in the sky. Like dressing or decoration on the horizon. I spent a lot of time working in Hollywood last year, and they were always flying over, police helicopters looking for people on the run, stolen cars, etc. It costs thousands of taxpayers’ dollars just to get em off the ground, and you see 50 of them a day up there whizzing around like demented bats. They go up and they come down. After a few months, I started to think they were just there for my entertainment.”
“The skull over my brothers face was the start of a mini series of double exposures I made, where I was pretending to have x-ray vision. The photo fit the bill, because after working on these, I became convinced I do not have x-ray vision. Maybe I used to, but I lost it.”
“I’ve been taking photos of my hotel beds for many years. Like the traveling circus stage up/stage down, roll in/roll out – this is much the same. All these hundreds of beds I sleep in, a different one every night… nights of sleep and sleeplessness, bad dreams in foreign countries, sweet dreams in random cities, alone and sometimes not, who cares where and who cares what- when I wake up in the morning I take a photo of the bedsheets for posterity, because ‘I was here’… much like people take a snap of the Eiffel tower or the beach, an ugly statue or some pornographic looking basket of bread they’ve just been served. We are compelled to be part of our own lives, and part of that is acting on our desire to make sure we don’t forget what we’ll definitely forget. How often we are compelled to take photos of nothing to remind us of something – that no longer exists.”
Release you’re most eagerly anticipating: I want to see Nick Cave’s new movie [One More Time with Feeling]. I haven’t seen it yet but I’m really excited.
Last song you had on repeat: Probably Rihanna’s “Desperado.” It’s so great.
Go-to spots in Nashville and London: Well, both of those places are where I have homes, so I like to hang out at home because that’s the most rare thing for me to get to do. My favorite place to go in London is J Sheekey; even if I’m home for one day, I’ll go there and eat and drink with my girlfriends. And there’s lots of restaurants I really love in Nashville: Husk, Patterson House, Rolf and Daughters. I like the sports bars around town that you can smoke in. I love to go to those and write and sit there for hours and completely disappear in a corner. I’m not interested in sports whatsoever, but it’s a perfect place for me to go because no one’s looking for me there. I’m not going to run into anybody and I can actually get a ton of work done. And I can be out around human beings but I don’t have to really socialize. It’s perfect. Exactly my personality. [Laughs.]
Favorite vintage stores: It’s more like different cities that I like to thrift shop in, like Portland. There are great places in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver that I’m always looking for and can never remember the names of so I just go walking until I find them.
How you get your news: All different ways. I try to read the New York Times, but this election stuff just pisses me off so much and it’s putting me in a bad mood to see the news. So when that happens and it starts to own me, I stop. I’d rather just hear it from friends and my mom. I’m surrounded by enough people every day that are just completely up on the news that I don’t have to do research, too, at the moment. [Laughs.] I like watching CNN International. I’ll put that on in a hotel room because usually it’s the only channel in English and I’ll catch up on world affairs.
Thoughts on the election: It’s a shit show. I’ve already voted, I’m done, I did it, it felt great. So I don’t need to hear anymore about it or watch anything else. I’m out. I’ve got to get back to my life.
Candidate of choice: You can guess, but I’m in a really funny place right now. [Later, via text: “While we did that interview I was sat right next to a woman with a gigantic Trump sticker on her boob.”]
Favorite social media accounts to follow: Just my friends. I’m not really very up on all that stuff, I don’t know. I like doing stuff with my hands, and I try not to live inside my phone, which is really easy to do.
Last thing you do before you go to bed: Read. It’s like a sleeping pill for me. Sometimes I don’t have any time. I mean, if we’re touring or working, I’m not even going to be able to wind down and be calm until 4:00 in the morning, and it’s already so late that I just have to really, really focus on falling asleep so that I’m not a zombie the next day. But reading is the best thing to do for me.