This old town is filled with sin
* The Gothamist interviews chris eigeman
Q: "How often do fans come up to you and start reciting some of your incredibly memorable lines (which I imagine you adlib right there on the spot, flaunting your mastery of the English language's wit, nuances, and vocabulary) e.g., 'Well I'm not using 'prig' pejoratively'; or 'And sometimes in Latin'?
A: "It happens occasionally, and it's always flattering, (unless it goes on too long, if you're going to quote the whole damn movie - the experience is going to go south). By far the best - there's a scene in Kicking And Screaming where a glass breaks on the floor, and instead of cleaning it up, I put a piece of paper on the shards that says 'broken glass', and twice now people have come up to where I'm eating and laid a napkin with "broken glass" written on it and just kept on walking. Pretty elegant.
But no. I can take no credit for making up any of the funny lines on the spot - they were all written well, and I just didn't fuck em up when I had to put them over.
Q: "In the majority of your work, you've played a New Yorker. Even when it wasn't clearly stated that you were playing a New Yorker, you still were obviously playing one. Since DeNiro, Pacino, et al. are getting mighty long in the tooth, have you begun formulating an official war plan for making yourself the living, acting, physical embodiment of New York City? Perhaps opening a restaurant or sponsoring a little league team?
A: "After a lot of thought I do think I have a war plan. In order to bring Times Square back to some of its former 1970's glory, to make it less "Family Friendly" and scruff it up a bit, I would like to sponsor up to five 3 Card Monte crews that would work the square. They were national treasures that have been unceremoniously tossed away. And if we are going to have to put up with this sea of shiny happy touristy faces on 42nd street, I would like to do whatever I can to take the occasional $20 out of their pockets.
Q: "Please share a personal (and hopefully interesting) NYC taxi story.
A: "I took a cabbie to taxi court once. Years ago, this guy didn't want to take me to Bklyn. Just refused. I explained that I would absolutely take him to Taxi Court because, see, I'm an actor and have pretty much nothing but free time. He still refused. So three weeks later we found ourselves sitting across from each other at a long table with a lawyer doing pro bono work as a Taxi Court Judge sitting at the head . I told my side - 'He just refused.' He told his side 'I had a flat tire, this guy (me) jumped in my cab and demanded to go to Bklyn, I explained I had a flat tire and this guy (still me) jumped into the front of my cab, started yelling and tried to push me out of the cab' (really - this was the best story he could come up with. And I have to say, it was amazing to sit there and watch this guy try and sell this thing). The Taxi Court Judge said 'I think you're lying' to the cabbie, fined him $200, and said we were all done. So now Furious Cabbie and I had to walk down a long hall and out to the reception room together. That walk was sort of the dark side of the whole Cabbie Court experience. He was really, really mad.
* Tiny Mix Tapes interviews sam beam of iron and wine
TMT: A lot of listeners have commented on the change in intimacy between the two recordings. Do you prefer one to the other?
Beam: No, I don't really prefer one to the other. I don't really write songs just to be recorded in a certain context. They have to exist, whether I record them at the house or record them in the studio or play them live, you know, or in the bathroom or whatever. I don't really write them with that particular sound in mind. I don't really have a preference. There's definitely a certain quality to the home recordings, a different kind of quality to the studio stuff.
TMT: I found that several of your songs really have this striking imagery. I'm especially thinking right now of "Cinders and Smoke.” Do you ever approach songs like this with merely an image and work from there?
Beam: Yeah. I mean, all of them are kind of different. They all start differently and progress differently. In that one, the melody worked out and it seemed like such a change from what I had been doing up until then. You know, the reggae beat and all that stuff, the rhythm. But I thought it would be interesting to make some kind of image of destruction and rebirth. And so the whole metaphor of the barn burning down came out of that.
TMT: Music critics are silly, I'm sure you know this. But I think we often make the mistake of assuming that songs are autobiographical. I freaked out the first time I heard the Wilco song "She's a Jar” because I thought, "oh no, Jeff Tweedy's beating up on his wife.” But would you say that your more narrative-driven songs are written from your personal perspective, or do you use a constructed persona for point of view?
Beam: It's both, really. Everybody uses a certain amount of autobiographical material just because you have to have something personal to relate to what you're writing about. But that doesn't necessarily mean I've done all those things or experienced all those things. Very seldom. My life is kind of boring. It's much more interesting to start with something personal and move more and more into fantasy or more and more into what I've been told. Or the opposite. You start with just pure fantasy and work it toward something more personal. I think I used to write a lot more confessional kinds of songs, but I think it's just more interesting to me not to do that.
TMT: Your lyrics are very poetic, I might have already mentioned. I read once that you enjoy reading poets like Galway Kinnell and Robert Frost. Your lyrics, I found, are very Frost-like, like the bird imagery in songs like "Upward Over the Mountain” and you also seem to share Kinnell's view of life as sweetened by impending death.
Beam: If you read a lot of modern stuff, it's a pretty common theme. I guess you have a lot of things to cherish, like family; lots of stuff like that sweetens the deal because it's a finite time so you try to enjoy it.
TMT: Do you tend to read poets whose aesthetic agrees with yours, or do you draw influence to form your own aesthetic?
Beam: Mostly the latter. I don't really get a whole lot into stuff that reminds me of myself. I'm kinda boring. [laughs] But I try to find stuff that I don't understand, something that's new. To me that's where the art of poetry lies.