Yves Tumor is a contemporary rock star who released their fourth studio album—Heaven to a Tortured Mind—this April, as the consummate shit storm taking planet earth (well, by storm) got thick and nasty. Save yourselves the visual and keep reading. Of course, as we’d hoped and expected when we set about to create this cover some many moons ago, the album’s reception was glorious in the press and media, as the genreless new school electronic arrangements—fronted by that mysterious, considered, and sexy American—got slightly more... glamorous? The kids all pinched and elbowed for their ticket to a Tortured touchdown somewhere / anywhere in the context of what was intended to amount to an eight month tour... hoping, as it were, this slow down would be length-wise equivalent to an Italian summer holiday or the recovery turnaround from a lightly fractured tibia. It wasn’t, as we’re well aware, but that’s of no matter.
Michèle Lamy is a fashion star, a prankster, and something of a cultural catalyst. As a main ingredient in the empire of Owenscorp (and the partner of Rick), Lamy has not only paid her dues in the bull rings of Parisian high fashion, but also in the City of Angels, plus she’s personally and passionately worn more leather than
is advisable by any heart doctor. Like anyone of her stature who continues to attract attention—Lamy charismatically concedes to the pulse, the power, the purpose, the prismatic potentiality, of the next generation.
So, here we are. Michéle Lamy is gonna chat with Yves Tumor via video, from Paris to LA, about what’s going on out there, how the album couldn’t have been better timed despite all the show cancellations and postponements, and how it’s never the wrong moment to ask: what are we fighting for?
Michèle Lamy: I am very curious. So now you are in LA, but if I you google you, you are in Toronto, you are in Berlin, you are in LA—we love to have you in LA. So you are in confinement? Fires? What else is happening? Are you suffering?
Yves Tumor: Nah, I’ve been coming in and out of extreme suffering and extreme joy—it seems like it comes and goes like ten times throughout the day. But, I think, overall I’ve been actually on a nice plateau of confidence and positivity. I think at the beginning of the whole quarantine I was pretty confused and pretty shaken, but I’m doing good now—I feel a lot better. I’m in good spirits.
ML: So you had your album coming out in April—that was in the middle of the beginning of the confinement. But you created it before, so was it a great time for you to show it to the world—the way that you were thinking about your new music? How you felt to produce at that time?
YT: It was super serendipitous. It felt like the stars had aligned in my favor because we had worked on that album for about a year and a half, and I think a lot of people were really in a bad place in April. I mean, people are still in a bad place, but I think March / April was when a lot of people—their lives were, just to put it frankly, they were fucked up—and I think my album actually did give some people a sense of... I don’t know what it did for each person, but I think it came out exactly when it should’ve come out.
ML: Yeah, at the right time because everybody was in need [taking notice of YT’s oversized sleeves that wrap their hands]... Are you wearing boxing wraps on your hands!? Where are mine!? What are you fighting for!? I thought about wearing mine! It’s great to see that we thought about that at the same time—it’s genius—I thought about it but yours are a lot better.
YT: Thank you!
ML: Are you thinking of new music or are you just hiding? You could not play this new album live? When do you think you are going to do it?
YT: I think I’ll be able to play live, according to my booking agents and my manager—they are speculating next year in the Fall.
ML: What!? Next year Fall?
YT: Yeah, next Fall. I think the whole idea of large gatherings of people in small spaces is something that a lot of people don’t want to think about right now. And it’s gotten to a point where I think if you’re not completely committing to just not doing shows, even if you’re just considering touring right now, it’s considered a social faux pas.
ML: So, are you surprised by the people that are so attracted to you? Or were you expecting a different kind of person to be? I mean, how do you think your fans or your main people are coming to you?
YT: Oh, no, I’m not surprised. I work my ass off, and I put my 100% into everything I do—whether it’s visuals or music or anything, even if it’s not regarding the music, I just put my all into it. I don’t want any- one to come across my work and to not have any kind of reaction—I’d rather they completely fall in love and are just, like, freaking out over my music and my art, or just completely hate it and spit at it. I really want strong reactions no matter what it is. So, to answer your question, no I’m not surprised! I try to entice people and I try to play with people’s emotions in a positive way, you know? In fact, I love playing with people’s emotions, but not in a manipulative way.
ML: Do you think when you started, and you created a personality, you were saying as much with your image as you were with your music? And you are certainly somebody that we need to see on stage to understand the whole thing, but I was wondering if you were an image when you started—to say, I want to be bigger than this one, or not bigger, but, you know, the new version of something.
YT: No, no. I didn’t, like, foresee or premeditate anything image-wise. I just have always been myself and I’ve done it very organically, and as of recently, my music has turned a bit more glam rock.
ML: Is it because of your name?
YT: It’s a bit more...
ML: Bowie, haha!
YT: Yeah my last name is Bowie as well and I’ll probably start using my real name [Sean Bowie] when I’m like fifty years old.
ML: Haha! You know, when I was researching your music, I imagined you to be like a fabulous swan that is going to lay an egg, and you are going to change the way in which pop is happening.
YT: This is true.
ML: I don’t know why—it’s because you have all these things with different types of music coming together, but especially when you think of “Kerosene”, I have a feeling you are going to be changing. Does that get to your mind, or you don’t think about it—it’s just in my head? You are going to be like one of those poets.
YT: Are you talking about my development as an artist?
ML: Yeah, in your music.
YT: Yeah, I’m not intentionally trying to change my sound as a strategy, it’s not something that I’m doing forcefully. As soon as I’m done with the record, and I have that sound embodied in that physical form, I just don’t want to ever revisit it.
ML: To me—I think it’s subconscious—I feel like with you there is some kind of stream, or you have different influences, and it’s coming from your heart, but I have the feeling that you are very soon to create a genre of music that didn’t exist before. What I call a new thing, before be- ing the poet of our century, and then I think that is where you are getting to.
YT: [a big smile] Yeah, I don’t want to spoil anything, but maybe.
ML: Maybe!? So you are okay if I say so? [laughing]
YT: Maybe, maybe, maybe. Like I said, it’s all very organic, very natural.
ML: You have four albums, right now?
YT: Yeah! I have some in the works as well. I have another EP and a whole album basically not finished, but ready to start finishing. I’ve been very busy during the quarantine.
ML: So, during the quarantine you have been creating a lot of things?
YT: Yeah, actually less music. I’ve been doing things like furniture design and reupholstery.
ML: Ah! Well tell me about what you are doing with your furniture design.
YT: Well, I just had so much time the first couple months of quarantine, I just started. And I’m not touring anymore, so I just got really into my other hobbies, which include architecture and interior architecture, and urban architecture, but I’m not that good at math, so I wanted to scale everything down. I just decided to just start constructing chairs and couches and stools, but I think I’m going to begin welding as opposed to actual construction.
ML: Well that’s the thing—if you can weld you can build something. I’m so interested to see what you are doing. And it’s just so interesting to see LA—with all of the urban creatives, with all the architects coming from all over the world, building houses and being creative. Anyways, I’m so curious to see what you do.
YT: I started with a stool, just like a sitting stool and I started to apprentice with some friends who do welding,
so for my first project I’m dismantling a bed frame, like a giant bed frame, and I’m going to turn it into a small couch. It’s more like I’m deconstructing stuff and turning it into something else, as opposed to creating something from scratch.
ML: Yeah, that’s fantastic, but you are also designing cloth- ing no? You are creating music and I didn’t know you were doing furniture and you are certainly doing clothes too?
YT: I’ve never designed for anyone really. I’ve made clothes for myself, I never sell it, I wear it myself outside but that’s it.
ML: That’s what important.
YT: Yeah, I’ve been trying to keep busy, like I said. I’ve been doing music the least actually. I just started recording like two weeks ago again.
[On the subject of mystery and artistry]
YT: For me, mystery and subtlety, when it comes to artistry, it’s super important for me. Just personally, I am not purposefully trying to be mysterious. I am just an extremely private person. I appreciate my privacy, and the little privacy that I have left, I am really holding on to it. But when it comes to other artists, I honestly just love when artists just keep their mouth shut and stay out of the limelight, and they don’t say too much, they don’t do too much, they don’t Tweet too much, they don’t post too much. They just do their music, and that’s it. But, at the same time, I am very envious, and almost jealous, of people that can constantly post what they are doing and how they feel, and just share with their fans, and have this deep strong connection with their fans, and it’s so personal. But I could just never do that. I feel like I’ve been taken advantage of in those situations, so it has lead me to fall back a bit, when it comes to being so vulnerable online.
ML: Yes, but you can’t force it or it looks silly.
YT: Michèle, what do you think about mystery and artistry?
ML: We always love to know, but to be surprised at the same time. I think, right now, for you, the main thing for you—it’s onstage. So whatever image you do, it’s a mystery tease of whatever you are. It’s just setting us up to wait and see what happens.
[On the subject of mystery and self-mythologizing]
YT: Honestly, I might have played into it. There are a couple of rumors and folklore that surround my name and I’ve played into it a little bit. I’ve played into it a lot actually. But, I think, most of my fans and, not even fans, spectators you could say, they have taken the little bits that I’ve put out there and they’ve created their own idea that they have about me. And I don’t think it’s just me, I think that’s what people just do. I think that’s just how brains work. When there’s not enough information given, the brain will just fill in the void.
ML: You are happy with the image that they think of you? But you change that image a lot.
YT: I am not necessarily happy or sad with it. I just let them think whatever they want. I am going to keep doing my art, and invading people’s space how I’ve always done it. I really have no control over it, so I just let them say and do whatever they want. You know what I mean?
ML: Yes, you do yourself and you do your own thing, and then people imagine something else sometimes. You wake up to read how they are seeing you this way or that way. It’s what they create of you. But at the same time, because you are very cultivating in your look and everything, you are somewhat secretive and very mysterious—that is what is so interesting with you. And you are just talking now about how you want to be who you are, and this artist with a lot of different things—not just music, and this is so modern, this
is so now. Because you are very now. You are not sticking with one thing and you can express yourself with a lot of different stuff. That is what amazes me about you. Being this young person that is all the versions of everything that is going on now.
YT: I really appreciate that, that means a lot coming from you. Truly.
[On the topic of heroes and anti-heroes]
YT: I don’t think I play into that. Antihero—that term has always been a bit confusing to me. I don’t think I am a hero. I don’t know. I don’t think about heroes when it comes to what I am doing, being someone’s hero. I just really like to inspire people, if anything. I love to influence people positively or inspire them to want to do whatever they want to do, and dress how they wanna dress, and make the kind of music without anyone saying that they are allowed to. I like to inspire that attitude, but I don’t want to be anyone’s hero, because I am not perfect, and I am not flawless. I think heroes, in the historical sense, are these people that are on a pedestal and you have to look up to them and they can do no wrong. I am neither of those things.
ML: You are not perfect. But we like that also you have a soft side.
YT: Yes, the human side. I guess you are right.
[On the subject of vulnerability]
ML: You know, at this time we have to stop, in a way, our own rhythm. I mean, it’s the perfect example—our recent civilization that thought that it was so strong, and then we got attacked by a little virus, and that led us to thinking we are so small compared to what nature can do. So, I think that is what shows the vulnerability in us, universally. I think we touched what I would say is the other side. Right now, it’s something we talk about, because it’s changed our lives, and of course, it’s not the virus that made us see everything as much our own civilization has. We saw how we could be so ignorant about what to do in this situation, which is how to keep going with- out art, believing everything for what it is, knowing that we are eight billion in the world but nature is stronger than us.
YT: I mean, I don’t think there could be a stronger sign that we are actually very small. I think it all boils down to capitalism. That is kind of what it sounds you are referring to.
YT: I think, if anything, it’s shown us how much this insanely toxic, violent rat race that we are all in, competing and working our asses off for a question mark, you know, for what? I think a lot of people—including myself—it put us into this headframe of what are we actually doing this shit for? Like, why are we working so hard every day, why are we going to this job, doing this. I guess everyone has their own privilege and their own reason for what they need to work on, and why they don’t need to work, but I think overall it definitely slapped a lot of people in the face. Or a lot of people don’t give a fuck and are still doing whatever they were doing in January. But for a lot of people it’s been a big wake up call, globally. I think a super powerful one too, one that no one was ready for.
ML: Yes, we thought we were so much stronger, and then this thing showed you how weak we are. How it could be difficult to live without thinking about what we have done wrong, in a way. And how we can fix it, because I am very optimistic that we are going to find a way, and I think an artist, like you Sean, could use this, and express yourself and show the importance of that in order to move on—that is the way to express what could be happening to almost anybody.
YT: I agree.
[On the subject of the Black Lives Matter movement in combination with the experience of the pandemic]
ML: You know, everywhere in the world is sort of the same, but the situation in the States is very different. It’s very different and it’s been absolutely incredible to see what has been happening. Some- thing that is different in Europe—people that are here and were here moved from Africa. They have their roots, they know where they are coming from, and they’ve been here for generations, they sent money to their great-aunt or whatever cousin they have. And they know if they are from Congo or Mali, they are close. In the States, because of the historical, horrific system of slavery, people came from anywhere, and lost their roots. So, we are in front of something that is very difficult to turn around, but we have to protest and we have to change the government. I still have an American passport and I still think of myself as an American, but what we need to work on is psychologically, everybody thinking that, you know, we cannot change these things. We can. And we never really address these things when speaking about politics or politicians—you have to create and respect a culture that is already found. That is what America is, and it stems from the blues, for instance, and why is there still this racism? I don’t understand, but that creates the States, so everything has to be explained to be understood. I think through music, somebody like Yves Tumor, is bringing a lot to this, trying to explain this, but at the same time, it was James Baldwin who was trying to say that and it’s been generations and it has always come back. There have been too few steps taken.
YT: I think you’re really spot on. It’s definitely a different energy when it comes to racism and prejudice in Europe and in the States. Historically speaking, it’s just a very very different reaction. Like Europe has its own disgusting history of colonialism and racism and America has its equally—you know, America, UK, India, all over the world, but, I mean, I can only speak for here because I grew up here. But, regarding the Black Lives Matter, I think it’s super inspiring but also a little bit saddening how... how much traction it got this year when in reality these issues with the police killings and police brutality have been like plaguing American society for hundreds of years and it’s gotten even worse in recent years. Not worse, but I think that the world of social media has propelled these movements. I think without Instagram and Twitter the Black Lives Matter movement wouldn’t have gotten as much popularity I think. Not saying people aren’t concerned about Black lives and marginalized minorities being disproportionately ridiculed by police. And I’m not sure who’s just virtue signaling, and doing it for social reasons and who’s actually a legitimate ally, but any progress towards understanding the issues and actually figuring them out is a good sign. For me it feels good and it does make me happy, but at the same time it does make me a little bit sad that it took this long for people to actually take it seriously.
(On the importance of artistry helping to advance the Black Lives Matter movement]
YT: I don’t think a lot of people are willing to bear their heart and bear them- selves—I mean, I can speak for myself when I say that. I don’t think myself and a lot of people are really ready to put their lives on the line for what really matters, but it is a very confusing and just a very volatile time to be Black and be an artist and to have a voice and to use your voice. It’s just super confusing, very tough, and kind of painful at times. But, I just kind of take it step by step, day by day.
ML: You know, talking about artists, do you have a connection with Arthur Jafa [contemporary artist and winner of the Golden Lion at the 58th Venice Biennale]? Arthur Jafa was a DP and then became this incredible artist that showed the world, I think, in a certain way, he showed the world the way it is. And the world as it is in the States, the way he explains the races. He is perhaps showing some of the same things you are saying in your expression. Not exactly, but maybe it’s getting there. You should connect.
[On the subject of collaborators and selective collaboration]
YT: I used to not—I used to be quite fearful of working with other people, because it backfired on me a couple times. Like when I work on my art, I’m pretty militant sometimes and I’m just maybe a little bit too serious, I guess you could say, and I think sometimes I won’t experience the same kind of intensity from the collaborator and it just doesn’t work out. And as of lately I’ve tried to only collaborate with people that I know are going to be as intense and as focused as I am. But, it’s really beautiful sometimes because I never know what’s going to happen. Like, I’ve never worked with someone and been like “Oh, it’s going to sound like this or it’s going to look like this when it’s done.” The beauty of it is—what I’m finding out out now after letting my guard down, I guess you could say, is I’m finding out that the end result is never something I expected, which is exactly what I want when I’m creating. I never want to make something that I know it’s going to sound like this and what people are expecting. It gives me life when something is made that no one saw happening. You know what I mean?
ML: Of course! You know, the surprise. This is what I love too. That brings some life where you didn’t know it was going to go. Some flowers can come out of something.
YT: It’s super exciting when that happens. There’s no better feeling actually. But, I’m coming out of my shell, though, I’m starting to work with more people and just let the vibes go where they need to go and I’m trying not to control—I’m trying to not be such a control freak when it comes to creation. Because, that’s like the enemy of creation. The enemy of creation is control. You get what I’m saying.
ML: Do you remember that party that you were DJ’ing?
YT: Yeah of course, with the horses!
ML: Haha! Everybody remembers the horses...
YT: Yeah, those fucking horses!
ML: It was so long ago.
YT: I loved that party! What was the name of the artist? Christeene?
YT: Yeah they’re amazing. I didn’t know about them until that night.
ML: And now do you follow what Christeene’s doing?
YT: Yeah, I was living in Berlin at the time so I was very kind of—yeah, I followed them after that. I didn’t even know you remembered that party.
ML: Then I played at the opening for Christeene in Berlin—at Berghain! It’s closed now [due to Covid-19].
YT: Now it’s a museum. You opened up for Christeene?
ML: Yeah, I go way back with Christeene. Yeah, I opened up for Christeene. I’m very proud of it. Next time I’ll open up for you. I better do it! You better take me in!
YT: My next show in Paris you can open up!
ML: So you better rush to put one 0n!
YT: I’m coming, I’m coming!
In conversation with Michèle Lamy
Photographed by Driely S.
Styled by Jordan Boothe
Hair: Fitch Lunar
Makeup: Annie Tagge
Movement Director: Jade James
Issue 172 - Chaos and Calm