Elizabeth Sharp (Ill Ease) Interview by
Elizabeth Sharp (of the band Ill Ease) is one of the most original and unique artists ever. Her music defies description. What at first might be perceived as either sloppiness or bizarre errors...are not. Ill Ease tunes sound the way they do because they are supposed to sound that way. Rhythms seem to trip and stumble over one another...musical passages blur and blend in peculiar, hypnotic ways...and the unmistakably odd vocals provide lyrical content that is not only insightful...but often totally hilarious.
This e-mail interview took place not long after the release of the album The Exorcist (on Beggars Banquet). Like Ms. Sharp's previous releases, The Exorcist is a truly mind-expanding experience.
This is one of five e-mail interviews that were conducted simultaneously in August 2004. Compare Ms. Sharp's answers with responses provided by four other fantastic artists to the exact same questions:
Butterfly Boucher * Claudia Malibu * Matt Duss (Fey Ray) * Troy Gregory
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Name: Elizabeth Sharp
Birthplace: Saint Louis, Missouri
Outside occupation(s): ?
Web site: www.illease.com
How do you make decisions?
The I-Ching. I throw three pennies six times and I do whatever it says. Really. I totally believe in it.
If you could change something, what would it be?
Where to start...? The president. The two party system. The tyranny of capitalism and plastic consumerism under which we live.
Do you prefer buying things new or used? Explain.
Most things: used. Used audio equipment. Used vinyl. Used car. Because I think most things were just made better 20 or 30 years ago, before the onslaught of the plastic empire. Obviously that is not the case for everything, but even things that materially aren't necessarily better, spiritually, I think they have the potential to inherit more soul.
What draws you to a person and what makes you want to stay away?
I'm drawn to people who are passionate about what they're devoting their lives to. Ego is what makes me want to stay away. People who are basically motivated by building their personal empires.
What is the world about?
I guess we'll never really know what the world is really about because we can only know it through our little human minds which are unfortunately cluttered with personal and cultural prejudices. I think our current human reality is about the self-preservation of a desperate society but I don't think that's what the world necessarily has to be about. I mean, right now I think the world is basically about the battle to build empires, to convince people to overindulge in materialism and become rich and fat, and to kill or conquer anyone who doesn't agree with us and doesn't want to pump our gas or eat our Ho-hos.
Do you think that your friends have good common sense? Explain.
Some do and some don't. It's not really a criteria I have for my friends. I mean, I think you have to have a certain amount of common sense or living in the world can be a pretty painful process on a daily basis. But I'd rather be friends with someone who's obsessed with how the world could be than who is obsessed with how the world is.
Is cooking soothing and relaxing or is it an irritating waste of time? Explain.
Usually I think it's relaxing. But at the same time, I fairly regularly think of a friend's grandmother who was sort of dealing with making peace with her own mortality and said one thing she was looking forward to about dying was never having to decide what to have for lunch ever again.
Is consciousness best altered or unaltered? Explain.
Well I'm personally a fan of altered consciousness but if you're in a state of altered consciousness all the time, things can get pretty out of hand and eventually you're going to have to deal with it. Unaltered consciousness becomes totally boring to me--I can only take so much of it before I start to get totally anxious and panicky. But I think most people are like that even if they don't admit it to themselves. Like, I think that watching TV as much as most Americans do is really about going into a state of altered consciousness. I personally prefer more fun ways of altering my consciousness though.
What makes things important?
Well I guess there's the sort of "big news", "this is really important" barrage of stuff we get from the media. And I guess in some ways you could say that the more people's lives are affected by something, the more important it is. But of course there's a lot of things that are only realized to be really important in retrospect, years or decades after they happen. I think that because we live in a democratic, capitalist society, it's generally assumed that the more people who are involved in something or who buy something, the more important it is. Usually, though, I think this turns out to be total and complete crap. Like I think with music and movies, if something is popular and sells a lot, it's considered important. But of course I think that's total crap cause a lot of things are actually more important. What makes something important to me is how long it keeps my attention. Like if there's a person or an album that I'm into for a long time or I keep coming back to for!
For whatever reason, or especially if I don't really know
why, then they/it are important to me.
Are people becoming more intelligent or less intelligent? Explain.
Well, I think people are generally becoming better at controlling things and I think intelligence nowadays usually means how good you are at manipulating and controlling other things or people (like through science or technology or, you know, people skills). But I personally think that real intelligence doesn't have much to do with being able to control something. I think it's the source of a lot of unhappiness because people get really upset when they can't control things. And that ain't so smart.
What are you certain of?
Life and death. Well, death I'm taking a little bit at face value, but I've seen its face and I haven't had much reason to doubt it since.
Do you know the difference between wrong and right? Explain.
Maybe. But I try not to let it get in the way of what I do and say.
What would you do with a baby if you did not want it?
Give it up for adoption. My mom and some of my close friends are adopted and they're all in favor of it.
Is communication important? Why or why not?
Yeah, totally. Because without it we'd just be apes with opposable thumbs and some other caveman vestiges, like our love of fire, and arson. But that doesn't include mass communication like the swollen hype-machine that we all live in the belly of. I think the world would be a much better place without any of that of crap.
How can you tell if something is close or far away?
See, smell, touch, and love or hate.
If you injured or killed an animal or a person while driving and you knew with absolute certainty that no one would ever know that you did it, would you stop or just keep going? Explain.
I'd stop and try to make peace with it and give it a proper burial. I don't think that consciousness ends when the body stops existing. It may not be an individual's consciousness anymore, but it still exists. Of course I have no way of knowing if that's true or not until I'm dead. It's a leap of faith and it's the jump I'd rather take than waking up every day to the anxiety and dread I'd have about death otherwise.
That actually happened to me one time. Four or five years ago Ill Ease was on tour in California. We'd played in Seattle the night before and were supposed to be in San Francisco the next night. So we were driving overnight and I think I took a turn starting at around 3 in the morning. I think we were on Highway 1 and after a few hours, everyone was asleep and the sun was rising, and all of a sudden I saw a bird right before it smacked into the windshield. Well, when I hit it, I didn't even really know what it was but I remembered afterwards that I was looking at some birds kind of in a nose dive towards the median. And then I heard a thud and... Anyway, later I realized it was a group of this bird called a turkey vulture and they were probably zoning in on an animal in the median. I was totally freaked out by it for a while because it was the first thing I'd ever killed like that and I felt totally evil.
The other day I was thinking about how totally evil it is that we're in this war in Iraq and all these 19 and 20 year old kids are going to live the rest of their lives knowing they killed at least a certain number of people. Mainstream media of course pretty much usually only reports the number of Americans dead and that's supposed to be the only real tragedy.
How are plants and animals different?
I think that all animals probably have some type of awareness of themselves. I don't think they necessarily all have the type of self-consciousness that humans do though. I don't think plants do.
Would you rather be remembered or forgotten? Explain.
Well, I don't know, it probably doesn't really matter what I want because everyone will be forgotten eventually. Think of like some czar of Russia or emperor of China who in their day were the be all and end all but after generations and generations of distortion and collective amnesia, all I can say is 'some czar or emperor'. I mean, I hope I can be remembered by some people for a lifetime or so but eventually even like your great-grandmother just becomes part of history and I think history is more about current interpretation than actual fact.
How do you explain things?
Not very well.
Do you know what you are doing? Explain.
I suppose so, in some ways, but I usually try not to think about it. I prefer doing to knowing. And I prefer things like chance and coincidence and happy accidents to things like certainty.
I think that most people who really think they know what they're doing all the time are boring jerk-offs. Not always, but usually.
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