If Poppy, the platinum blonde singer-slash-YouTube-star-slash-enigma, has found her way into your consciousness over the past two years, it’s almost guaranteed that her partner-in-crime Titanic Sinclair was somewhere close by. The 31-year-old director-musician has been working in roles seen and unseen with her for years now, co-producing and co-writing Poppy’s catalogue of eerie, Lynchian music and videos, including, most recently, a three-part holiday gift guide series they created for W (you can see the first video below).
While Poppy’s almost always in front of the camera, save for her recurring characters like a mannequin and a basil plant, Sinclair prefers to stay behind-the-scenes—unsurprisingly so, given that he’s become quite the controversial figure since his pre-Poppy partner-in-crime, fellow singer and YouTube star Mars Argo, charged him in a since-settled lawsuit. Sinclair has become increasingly visible, though, over the past year, of which he estimates he’s spent about two-thirds with Poppy, including on a worldwide tour for her second studio album, which he cowrote. (Sinclair also happens to be the only person Poppy follows on Instagram.)
Still, aside from “Is Poppy even human?”, “Who is Titanic Sinclair?” remains one of the most common questions among those who have encountered the duo. (And plenty have: since she posted a video of herself eating cotton candy in 2014, Poppy’s YouTube channel has racked a total of nearly 400 million views.) Hear the answer from Sinclair himself, as he told W during a break on set with Poppy, a champagne saber, and a selfie drone.
His real name is Corey Mixter.
And he grew up in regular ole Saginaw, Michigan, which is about an hour and a half from Detroit. While he never lived in the latter, for a time he still lived a “total textbook stereotypical Detroit life” in friends’ lofts before moving on to Chicago, right before the recession. But “eventually,” he added, “as much as I wanted to move to New York, there was no avoiding going to L.A.”
He knows his artist name is ridiculous.
“The genesis was wanting to kind of compartmentalize that type of work,” he said of why he adopted the pseudonym, which suits what he was going for—a combo of easy to google, easy to pronounce, and “just easily definable as a character.” Of Titanic Sinclair, he explained: “I just thought it sounded ridiculous, you know? It’s fun. It’s silly. It’s just weird. And no one forgets it. I know that sounds very superficial, but in L.A. especially, you’re often in these very kind of superficial situations.” (Poppy and his friends usually call him either Titanic, TS, T, Ti, or Sinclair.)
He also knows that if you’ve heard of him, you probably hate him.
There’s one question in particular that drives Sinclair’s online persona: “How can I make this dude on the internet just immediately hateable?” he said with a laugh. Aside from being “just funny and silly,” “purposefully creating something people are not intended to not like” has also been his solution to stopping himself from thinking about how other people perceive him.
Since attracting hate online is already easy enough to come by, making yourself “hateable” on the internet of course takes things to another level. “I get a lot of hate on the internet,” he said casually. Even though that’s led to some safety scares back home in L.A., Sinclair insists that the harassment doesn’t bother him: “It’s like well, this is what I signed up for,” he said simply. “People ask if the personas that [Poppy and I] do on the internet feel insincere, but to me, making photos and videos and music is all just entertainment,” he continued. (Unsurprisingly, he says IRL encounters with those who only know him from the internet often result in them telling Sinclair that he’s nothing like they thought he’d be.)
He’s had a whirlwind year.
“I think this is the fifth New York trip this year where I’ve been here for less than a day,” Sinclair said of what life has been like in the wake of his and Poppy’s burgeoning success. Two years ago, they began building up a team of more than 20 people that Sinclair now describes as a “family,” at which point “everything kind of got pretty nuts.” Still, he insisted that 2018 is when their lives really “got crazy.” After ushering in the new year at a shinto shrine in Japan, Sinclair and Poppy jetted off to Park City, Utah for this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where they premiered their YouTube Red series “I’m Poppy,” which Sinclair wrote and directed. From there, they released Poppy’s second studio album, Am I a Girl?, and embarked on a worldwide tour, altogether spending what Sinclair estimates to be about two-thirds of the year together. “I live in Los Angeles, but this year it seems like home is on an airplane,” Sinclair concluded. (Though he’s also come to consider YouTube’s L.A. offices as his and Poppy’s “second home.”)
He started out making music videos.
Rather than go to college, Sinclair got his training playing in a variety of bands in high school. “I did a little bit of everything, but definitely some really heavy stuff in high school—everyone was kind of in a competition in the Detroit area to see who could be the heaviest,” he recalled. From there, he wrote a couple of songs for the first album of “this dude who goes by Børns,” who was his first taste of the “superstar” type personality he discovered he was so drawn to. “I feel like my job is to just highlight and put a spin on artists, so it’s collaborative,” he added.
His move to L.A. took a huge leap of faith.
“I didn’t know anybody,” Sinclair recalled, describing his 25-year-old self as “totally blind” when he left the midwest behind for the west coast six years ago. That’s a bit of an exaggeration: he knew a few producers, but he did have to resort to “almost beg[ging] them for work,” which at first was mostly editing and after-effects. Though it wasn’t until he was 28 that he found the confidence to start calling himself a director (even though he’d been directing for 10 years at that point).
He met Poppy through the local music scene.
News of promising, up-and-coming artists spread quickly in the “very small” songwriter community in L.A. Sinclair found himself in, which is how he ended up hearing of, and eventually hanging out with, Poppy. “She showed me some songs, and I just immediately loved the music that she was making,” he recalled. “And I think above all, her work ethic has always impressed me the most—it’s unbelievable.”
From the very first music video they made together, Sinclair said, they “were on the same page,” and it wasn’t long before he considered their pairing to be the “perfect collaboration.” As for their approach to producing and writing songs and videos together, Sinclair described it as “fully collaborative”; they typically start off with song titles, which often stems from “cool phrases or something” they text each other.
He can barely keep track of all of the videos he and Poppy have made.
“We’ve done hundreds and hundreds and hundreds,” he said. “It’s weird because every once in a while we’ll stumble upon some of them that I don’t really remember some.” Though he’s definitely not going to forget the music video made for Poppy’s song “X,” which he shot on film and ended up giving him “complete creative satisfaction.”
He and Poppy have come to be associated with Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick.
Poppy’s all-time favorite artists, on the other hand, are Jeff Koons, Salvador Dalí, and Warhol. Thanks to her meta-commentary on fame, she’s also been directly compared to the latter; New York magazine’s profile of Poppy earlier this year ran under the headline “Like Warhol But for 2018,” though it also featured a quote from her and Sinclair’s manager comparing Poppy to one of Warhol’s most prominent muses. (“You wouldn’t break up Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick,” he said while insisting that they be interviewed together.)
While Poppy described the Warhol comparison as “very flattering,” it seems like she’d be just fine with the Sedgwick one, too: “I really love Andy Warhol’s superstars like Edie,” she said. “I think her story is very sad, but I think she was a very beautiful person.”
Yes, he’s very much inspired by David Lynch.
Given that essentially his entire oeuvre with Poppy is characterized by a disquieting atmosphere, paired with an eerie, ambient, and often Twin Peaks-like soundtrack, it doesn’t come as a shock that Sinclair name-checked the director when citing his artistic influences. “I mean, [Stanley] Kubrick’s always there. Lynch is always there. And I’ve always really loved Sofia Coppola’s aesthetic” he said, adding that he’s “always been really jealous” of her 2003 Oscar-winning film Lost in Translation. Above all, however, he looks up to the director Spike Jonze: “He started off with skateboarding videos and music videos and then worked his way into commercial work, and then doing amazing features.”
He’s now “almost completely off of” social media.
“It’s a perplexing time, I think, to have a dark sense of humor, so I’ve had to, you know, drop the act a little bit,” Sinclair said of the “hateable” persona he spawned, which he’s made an effort to mature a bit this year. “Now that we’re getting more known, I feel like there’s a responsibility that I never really thought of before, when I was just hiding behind a computer and saying dumb things specifically to get people riled up.” For a while, being mean to people on Twitter was one of his go-to ways to troll. (His followers, he clarified, were in on the joke, as evidenced by the number of “Titanic Sinclair was mean to me on Twitter” t-shirts he sold.) These days, though, he’s found it much simpler to barely check the app.
He’s currently working on a feature film.
It’s the first one he’s actively putting out there, though he’s not about to reveal anything about the plot just yet. But rest assured: “because the creative kind of waterfall is at, like, max right now,” there’s a good chance Poppy will be involved.