Sunday, April 19, 2009
Let's just get it out of the way—yes, he's really getting peed on by Jesus in his new CD’s album art.
Does Charles McVey have your attention now?
Good, because he'd like to use that sacrilegious imagery to lure you into his new music and its exploration of religion. McVey's "Animal" is a piano-based pop record filled with pretty songs about ugly topics, ranging from existential despair to masturbation.
If you can get beyond the shock value, you're in for a thoughtful meditation on faith and desire. McVey joined us to discuss "Animal" and, you know, getting peed on by Jesus. (WARNING: Graphic images that many will find offensive and/or sacrilegious are posted below. )
lawrence.com: The Jesus on the cover is played by a porn star...
McVey: The cover, initially, wasn't going to be as racy as it is. My drummer Eric was supposed to be on the cover, but he recently got a tattoo that wouldn't have worked with my Jesus idea. My last album, "Modern Living," had a homoerotic cover and I wanted to be consistent, but I didn't want to ask any of my friends to take their shirt off. I ran across Scott Campbell, who is an adult film star that lives in Kansas City, and I emailed him. He checked out my music, said he liked it, and was down. Four days later, there I was—porn star in a cheese cloth.
Charles S. McVey joins us to discuss his new album,"Animal," and getting peed on by Jesus. (CAUTION: This interview may contain backwards messages.)
And the bodily fluids…?
We should just talk about what it is—in the album art, you can run across a picture of me dressed like a priest and Scott in his Jesus outfit. We're in front of an altar meant for receiving communion, and he's urinating on me while I'm looking up at him with affection. That photograph was not originally part of the plan. Eric and I kind of brainstormed, "If we have a porn star doing this, what else will he do?" It was inspired by a Clive Barker story where a priest gets baptized in urine. So it actually came from a gay horror writer's mind, not mine. I thought it was so over the top that I said I couldn't do it. I initially cheesed out on it. Then, the day of the shoot, I thought, "You know, this is stupid of me to be afraid." If I'm afraid of something I think is a good idea, I tend to force myself to do it. We popped the idea on Scott, and he said, "Alright." Really, anything we executed in that photo shoot was nothing compared to what he does on a regular basis. Contrary to what the lyrics off of "Animal" might lead you to believe, that was the first golden shower I've ever received. I sincerely did if for the art.
Is it confrontational for the sake of being confrontational?
It wasn't the point to just be confrontational. I feel like it complements the record. The picture itself is hidden under the tray of the CD case, which was in part a nod to the fun '90s artwork of Tool. "Animal" is about asking questions, exploring ideas, and maybe not finding what you expect. And the photo is part of that—if you're curious in nature, you'll find it.
Growing up queer in a small town can be a difficult experience. As a budding gay youth in Hays, Kansas, during the '90s, it was difficult to find people I could relate to, let alone role models. That is, until I ran across a CD that would change the way ...
Are you hoping for some negative feedback?
Sure, I guess so. I plan on sending the record to Focus on the Family. They were such an inspiration. I listened to a lot of Christian radio for this album.
Did growing up in Kansas, the bleeding red heart of conservative America, influence you as an artist?
Of course it did. Because of this record, everybody asks me what my childhood was like in regards to religion. I hadn't even pondered that my disillusionment started in childhood. I thought it wasn't until puberty, because that's when I really started to question things. But as a child, there were disagreements between my parents as to how I was supposed to be raised and what church I was supposed to be brought up in. They were from different religions. I thought it was the stupidest thing as a child. My very vague concept of God at the time was that God was good and everybody would get along. Of course, that's not really the case, is it?
Do you see no good that can come from organized religion?
I think a lot of good can come from people who are in organized religions, but that has to do with the individual. I think religion can be inspiring, but the idea of morality derived from religion is just silly. "Thou shalt not kill" is just a good idea and shouldn't have to come from God. My problem with religion is that people are taking irrational beliefs and acting on them. We have 21st century technology with 14th century values. People kill each other on a daily basis because of religious differences. All they know is that you're a Jew or you're a Muslim or you're a Christian, and that's worthy of death. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.
Do you think that's just human nature, and religion is just an excuse to act on those impulses?
No. I have more faith in human nature than that. I feel like human beings have really great potential and that we've held ourselves back with religion. Those ideas and morals were meant to control us. Some people don't even want evolution discussed in schools.