The Liminalist # 247: Beyond the Masks (with Vincent Cafiso)

Conversation with Vincent Cafiso of Joy Zipper on the creative drain and pressures of success within the music industry, and moving beyond the masks.

Part One: Italian Stallions (0 – 33 mins)

Putting things to rest, learning guitar at 13, art as higher calling, Seen & Not Seen & identity creation, early depression, finding a band, wild on stage, the Italian Stallions, MTS, Jane’s Addiction, “Out of the Sun,” aspiring to be cult leader, playing the Garage in London, My Bloody Valentine, enter hallucinogens, shoe gazer rock, My Favorite Sex, John Sykes & VH1, playing CBGBs, no security in a band, delivering pizza, early recording, enter Tabitha, a double voice.

Part Two: Turned on Power (33 mins – 1 hr 6 mins)

The origins of Joy Zipper, Matty Skylab, getting signed in London with Eye Q, music for therapy, early songs, the importance of numbers, 8 & infinity, outsider art, Vinyl, making it big in England, a Lynchian element, acid & rootlessness, first doing LSD, Alan Watts & Castaneda, a religious bent, success at thirty, Brick Lane, early performances as Joy Zipper, using anger for courage, The Swans, fighting success, Bobby Bluebell, too much death in the songs.

Part Three: Dodging the Bullet (1 hr 6 mins – 1hr 42 mins)

Music course at Leeds college, denial of death, second album American Whip, David Holmes (DJ), 13 Amp, Tony Doogan, Kevin Shields, the move to Glasgow, getting bought out by Universal, Lucien Grainge, Amy Winehouse, dodging the bullet, being branded as a cash cow, invented narratives in the media, a New York Times article, going analog, Mark Kramer, difference between analog and digital, celluloid vs. digital film, something about analog.

Part Four: Onset of Paranoid Awareness (1 hr 42 mins – 2 hr 10 mins)

The Stereo and God, Fischerspooner, success as heroin, the pressure to perform, recording in Toe Rag, Hackney, The Heartlight Set, trying on optimism, an underachiever, being dropped by Universal, organized crime and the music industry, indebted to the industry, becoming paranoid, listening to Art Bell, 2007, a heavy fall, song placements, David Icke, Matrix 1.0, the people in power, Dave McGowan & Laurel Canyon, Jan Irvin, pushing the 60s, Leonard Cohen in Cuba.

Part Five: Aging Out/Settling In (2 hr 10 mins – 2 hr 29 mins)

Deconstructing Cohen, questioning cultural influences, creating replicas, giving up autonomy to the culture, creativity colonized, aging out of the industry, breaking the contract, getting infected, “All the Saints,” Jonathan Richman, finding community, aspiring to enter the canon, the lack that drives, seeking the wholesome, enlightenment finally.

Part Six: When Love Comes Back (2 hr 29 mins – end)

The difficulties of going back, the buried treasure, the trauma, the essential Vincent, finding the people, mask-wearing in videos, wanting to be seen but unseen, Sebastian’s test, the light side of fame, connecting to humanity, a lost love feeling, the quest for coolness, coming in from the cold, love without risk, being on retreat, losing the false self, the final pop.

Joy Zipper YouTube channel

Songs: “Pirates” by Entertainment for the Braindead; “Out of the Sun,” “33,” “The Power of Alan Watts,” “Warped & Shock” and “Chasing Time,” by Joy Zipper. “Changes” by Short Hand.

26 thoughts on “The Liminalist # 247: Beyond the Masks (with Vincent Cafiso)”

  1. On the very last point, about how the famous rock star, ironically, feels detached from the adoring audience, I think of the (purported) motivations that Roger Waters of Pink Floyd had in writing “The Wall.”

    So the story goes, Waters and the band were playing at a concert in Montreal in the late 1970s. A crazed fan came up on stage and Waters spat on him. After the concert, Waters claimed that the incident had affected him deeply, and this was the start of the path to write “The Wall,” which is about a famous rock star, already detached and isolated, going further down the path, building a wall to shut himself off from the rest of the world — only to tear it down, symbolically, at the end of the album. Waters continued this MO in the last Pink Floyd album, “The Final Cut,” and with his solo albums in the 1980s

    On the other hand, the irony is Waters now is still famous, so would “The Wall” have been a psy op, of a sort?

  2. Holy mortality. Talk about hearing your life flash in front of you. Trippy.

    One other thing I want to mention is that Vincent and I always had an impenetrable bubble around us. Our good friend and photographer nicknamed us the Castevet’s (Rosemary’ Baby) I think that also had something to do with us holding onto our “selves”. We were always a bit reluctant to walk through that door and because of the bubble, dark situations and people backed away. I think there was also some divinity involved.

    Love it. Thank you Jasun.

    • strange “homage” – the Castavets’ bubble was breached internally by the husband’s deal with the devil…. 😮

      • Strange indeed. To be compared to an elderly, devil worshipping couple doesn’t make much sense but there was a definite sense of protection we felt from our version of it.

        • My mistake, I was thinking of the Woodhouses, who you would have more superficially resembled. Confused because of the odd Cassavetes/Castavets overlap.

          Angelic interventions/invisible helpers – not the stuff of Hollywood precisely because of that protective bubble: there are no mannequins in heaven.

  3. This is a whole other world I must have slept through. Being completely controlled by others didn’t allow any exploration into the worlds of thinking or being.
    Being raised on classical music then marrying a child of the thirties who introduced me to The Platters etc. propelled me further into a continued sense of always missing out and never understanding what exactly I missed out on.
    Interesting now to consider the internal path of the musician.
    Thank you

  4. Really great show and fantastic music!
    Thanks. I will confess that I watched the latest Joy Zipper video last night before listening to this episode and thought the mask was commentary on the current social activities. I mean people are wearing them while driving around here! Now I know. Sorry.

  5. Interesting to see Swans mentioned. I’ve been revisiting their 90s material recently. My brother played me the Great Annihilator, knowing that it was a good crossover on the Venn diagram of our respective musical tastes. Can’t say how it compares with previous incarnations, but the last lineup of Swans did the most astonishing live concerts I’ve ever witnessed..

    Digging Joy Zipper. MBV was another shared appreciation of my brother and I. Also a devastatingly loud experience live, although still softer than Swans somehow. Unsurprisingly, I’ve had tinnitus for years.

  6. Question for Joy Zipper: In the Out of the Sun video at around 3:05,is that meant to be the same hand signal as Q people are aligning with for signifying anti-pizzagate?

  7. I really enjoyed the episode and I’m glad that you put it out there. I don’t usually post on forums but really wanted dive into the nostalgia.

    I initially read the synopsis of the show prior to listening and my initial thoughts were that I was going to listen to an ego talk about a pop culture that I grew up in, full of hedonistic wannabe 60’s throwbacks. I’m pretty sure that this feeling came from my own journey through that culture and hating so many tryhards and hangers-on, that was my insecurity to deal with I was a douche in my own way. But… As soon as the interview began I felt that the Rockstar ego that I had anticipated did not arrive or was even to be seen in the distance. I am sure that the show was a trip down memory lane for many of us GenXers. I should have known better that Jasun wouldn’t bring such a type on to the Liminalist.

    As a musician myself, playing in similar style bands throughout the past 30 years, maybe slightly more proggie but definitely spacey, with very little success and drive to entertain that success, I add, I still resonated with Vinnie and his journey. Although I had not spent much time within the industry machine I did have a friendship with an A&R Scout for BMG (RCA) during the early 90s, she signed Olive in 1995/6. I was well chuffed with her as it was a tough ride working as A&R. Lots of entry to free gigs and a desk full of 4track demos to listen to but very little reward other than being able to live the city life and feel that you are in some way a VIP. I used to like the 10 second test, we’d listen to 10 seconds of a demo and if it didn’t interest you then it would be bottom of the pile and no recommendations to the promoters at Camden Monarch or a chance of a showcase.

    My close friend and current Bandmate, Richard, went to UCL with Som from My Vitriol, they were fairly good friends but Rich also saw the rise to fame of a certain Chris Martin, who’s little known band Starfish playing in Camden venues and was to become Coldplay. Starfish indeed!!!

    Interesting to hear that Joy Zipper had some cross over with Galaxy 500 one of my all time favourites that became Luna and then Dean and Britta – another Hubby and Wife team.
    Analogue – We came from a unique generation, we have experienced the transition from analogue to digital and it feels like a part of our souls were stolen, I wonder how a generation felt when the Radio replaced the sing song round the hearth of a Pub. I see it amongst many people of my generation they are buying record players and listening to vinyl buying up old 4 tracks and reel to reel recording devices, to try and capture that feeling. Can it really be done?

    What the digital age has given to us is convenience and accessibility we may have missed much talent that would otherwise not had a voice otherwise. It was quite interesting to hear that the equipment that was bought for Vinny 15 years ago he still has and uses, there really was a barrier to entry back then but now with excellent DAWs and simple interfaces there is much more room for the bedroom artist. Maybe a fair trade off and you can still get some unique lo-fi sounds resonating like they used to sound if you are creative. What I do know is that I am going to dust off my Tascam 414 and get those old bedroom tunes remixed.

    Loving the tune, 2 Dreams I Had – Joy Zipper totally passed me by but they are hear now, liking it. I have a good feeling about how music is being delivered, found and created. In amongst so much homogenisation it is like there are Gems shining in so much porridge. I feel encouraged and inspired!

    • Good to hear from you Simon.
      I actually bought a used tascam 464 (since broken) and tried to capture some of the magic of my first album by buying an 8trk adat and Mackie board. I used it for a while but I couldn’t go back.
      You lose something working on a computer but at the same time with plugins etc. we’re able to do so much more. The one downside with working on a computer is that I find myself constantly staring at the screen while I record. I’m not listening as much. And perfection takes away a lot of the character.

      I also watched a band I knew gain success, although not as much as Coldplay. 3 members of the band The National backed Joy Zipper live for our first album. It’s strange and a little painful to watch someone you know personally succeed at the same thing you’re doing. They even won a Grammy a few years ago. Thankfully that sort of thing has lost most of its power over the years. I think I realize by now that no amount of money or fame can bring true happiness.
      Although it sucks to be poor and unloved haha.

      Well I’m glad you liked the episode and good luck to you

    • @Simon: Seems like the optimal result of this podcast, to inspire frustrated creatives to uncouple their mojo from Mammon and so let the cool cats out of the bag.

      and yes, you shoulda known better 😉

  8. Yeah I know the National, but prefer Tindersticks I must say. I listened to American Whip today, definitely like the vibe.

    Keep up the musicianship and rest assured I’ll support you as you release new material independently. When I am happy with the stuff I am producing on my own I’ll let you know.

    here is some of the music I write with my band.

  9. Yes t triggered me to write some sentences to Jason , not here but analogue I was throne into by default, never thought it was unusual or nostalgic, reverbiall (own word) and it was an enormous sophisticated Watkins copycat with layers! A few years later I was asking the producer if I could delete the vocals and work the backing track as I was discovering lost melodies from the singer rather than direct ones which can be summarised as the essence of a voice . music could perhaps be categorised or sectioned as mating calls for reproduction; intensified or maybe this happens naturally .
    “Stretched out ” is a phrase that emerged from the writings which means there are “hidden gems” you already have produced whether on tape , digital or inside the orbiting ether. I remember listening to the singer I was working with for 2 years and I first listened to her demo tape..and I asked” Was this recorded in Spring? “. It had anger, melancholy , feeling controlled, shut down, walking on a shattered path, close to sexual experience rather than hearing a “call”, a summoning rather than an empty cave with a cryptic sign with the answer under the stone for guidance . We mention analogue but what about Vintage instruments with the digital. I used a 1970 les Paul Recording with an inbuilt distortion and it kind of works with a digital set up- I have never used a studio myself, always need a producer.Some force prevents me from working like this .. there is something about tape and it cannot be manipulated , a steady permanence. To record without using a lap top . The future will be a way where they both meet and melodies may be like crypto currency where algorithms become harder to find as the melodies have been discovered and unearthed .

    • “I asked” Was this recorded in Spring? “”

      Now, we are talking!

      I liked the podcast. Might also work well to have both partners interweaving storylines.

    • This is good lawnspeak
      Gives me that weird feeling you get when you’re doing something and it’s creative but you’re not sure what’s going on something else is moving and working thru you a hidden hand
      Not in control I got it a lot more when younger not as much now
      Too much noise

  10. My bloody Valentine are IMO one of the definitive “artists who’s sound was ripped off by others who made far more money off it” – the Loveless album has a huge influence on American Alt-rock, nu/rap metal etc – it seemed to me one of the saddest examples of tons of other people making more profit/fame on something the original artist not near as much acclaim for


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