Daughn Gibson on Ohio preachers and homicidal Siamese twins.

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Our story begins in the quiet town of Nazareth. “It wasn’t quite in the anthracite region, but it was nearby,” said the man whose belly was a chamber and whose throat was a chimney. “Pennsylvania has a distinctive style of town – the houses are usually ‘half-a-double’ with gross mint-green sidings, kinda gritty and rough neighbourhoods. There are maybe four bars, a couple of pizzerias, a lot of heartbreak, and a lot of unemployment. But that’s it.”

 

In spite of the dour subject matter, Daughn Gibson seems an approachable character and exudes this unexpected gladness. I ask whether he was raised in a religious household, to which he rather dismissively shakes his head. “The Quakers came over, a few Methodists, and probably some Moravians; they founded these towns and just gave them biblical names willy-nilly. You’ll find Bethlehem and Emmaus in that part of Pennsylvania also, but it’s no Bible Belt. I was raised Catholic, more or less…”

 

“It can be pretty gloomy, but it’s not entirely unlike small towns over here. There are plenty of similarities.” He gestures to his skull. “It’s the same sort of face. When you consider the ancestral lineage emigrating from this island to that, it kinda figures.” Gibson discusses the tour as though it had transformed into a voyage of anthropological discovery. “I’m trying to connect dots and listen to dialects; to form analogies and tie them back to where I’m from, it’s an interesting process.”

 

His debut album, entitled All Hell, is a curious affair – its highly accomplished arrangements disguised beneath a sparse and foreboding aesthetic. The title-track opens with the following excerpt of dialogue:

 

One day his wife called him and said, ‘Sonny rush to the hospital quickly, the doctors have found that our baby has some kind of incurable disease, they don’t think that it’ll live.’ They got to the hospital, the little baby was screaming, grandma, grandma, get me my grandma, I want her to tell me about Jesus and I want her to pray for me.’”

 

It has always struck me as the disturbing crux of the record. Fortunately Gibson is kind enough to shed some light on this enigmatic scene. “I have a pretty substantial collection of preacher LPs at home, fire ‘n brimstone, Sam Kinison style.” He whispers with malice: “wake up… you’re on the way down.” He yells with delirium: “it’s all happening America, YOU’RE DOOMED!!”

 

Gibson exhales, as though exorcizing the spirit of Kinison, before resuming his explanation of the excerpt. “I picked out this record by Wayne Parks, a portly evangelist from Ohio. It’s very stark and the contents are just this man becoming completely unhinged while relating dark stories of damnation. The cover reminds me of a Swans record [*see Soundtracks For The Blind or The Great Annihilator] were it not for the goofy dude pointing at the camera.”

 

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Reluctant to forsake this dismal [but remarkably articulate] little baby, and with no conclusion to the story at hand, I draw a tenuous comparison to Kendrick Lamar’s good kid m.A.A.d city in the hope that this might provide some form of solace or closure. ‘Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst’ culminates in this poignant moment during which the grandma reaches out with restorative words: 

 

Come talk to me… why are you so angry? See you young men are dying of thirst. That means you need water. Holy water. You need to be baptized with the spirit of the Lord.”

 

Suppose this were in response to the little baby screaming?

 

“Oh man, I really appreciate the suggestion of a dialogue going on, cause I would love to speak with Kendrick any day, but I wonder if he was a little more serious about the inspiration for that then I was… I wouldn’t want to diminish his art by putting it on par with the Kinison of Ohio preachers.”

 

basketcaseWhile on the subject of zany collections the conversation turns to Gibson’s penchant for B-movies. “You go to the video store and there are all these hologram editions: the cover to Jack Frost has this friendly snowman but if you tilt the case… [in ghoulish voice] it’s growing teeth and oozing blood from the eyes!” “The thing about movies like Mutant Man or Lycanthrope is that until you see them in the right frame of mind they’re just one dumb pointless shit show after the next. But it’s not so much about the scare as it is the laugh, maybe a combination of both, the more obscene the better. Hanger is a good one, it revolves around an aborted fetus that comes back to life and mutilates everyone in its path. Along similar lines Basketcase I, II and III are about a Siamese twin blob that is surgically removed but returns to wreak its revenge, sheer classics each one.” You’d have thought the element of surprise would diminish with the return of the homicidal blob. “Not in the slightest, there is a huge demand for sequels. Audiences demand to know what happens to these creatures. If I were in the film business I’d be making sequels constantly.” 

 

Gibson has even given acting a shot, collaborating with filmmaker Saam Farahmand on a side project entitled Another Hell. It is conceptually derived from the debut, but comes across as more of an embroidered trailer. “The project was completely Saam’s baby. He’d just point to shit, shouting commands like ‘pick up that old lady!’ or ‘run into those woods!’ His ideas were written down on napkins at the time of shooting. Everything was spontaneous, everything was accidental, and I remained largely hands off because I knew that he’s a great director. It’s like a really weird perfume commercial.”

 

 

It is apparent that Gibson revels in a good story, whether in the form of gratuitous gore or the incensed ramblings of Wayne Parks. But beyond these reference points, Gibson’s knack for narrative on his latest LP, entitled Me Moan, bears testament to a lifetime of encounters [of the less glamorous variety]. Working as a cashier at a roadside porn-store, nights would be whiled away keeping watch over surveillance cameras, with a simmering sense of dramatic anticipation, willing for something messed up to occur. “It’s not the search for danger so much as for a scene to paint or to remember, hoarding these sentences and instances. For the longest time I didn’t do it for any reason aside from a morbid curiosity in human nature. It’s to be expected that prurient tastes tend to come to the surface a little more at a jerk-off booth.” “Most of the time customers are freaked out that they’ve even come in there, or nervous and they’ll avoid eye-contact because they’re embarrassed, but others are more at ease to chitchat, you give them the coins and they go do their thing in the backroom. It’s that kind of clientele.”

 

I’m intrigued to know how much Gibson gleans from such interactions, or whether they constitute the kernel from which his narratives are extrapolated. “Usually I avoid becoming hyper judgmental based on an outward appearance, but there are times when the imagination inevitably veers off on a tangent. For instance, there’s a guy who used to come in, maybe sixty years of age, who dressed like a woman… but didn’t try hard. There’d be lipstick everywhere and he would wear this twenties flapper veil with his mother’s old dress just like the protagonist from Psycho. You know something is happening there…”

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Piecing together these speculative portrayals, it seems as though Gibson seeks out an element of relatability. One of his more compelling characters is the old man in ‘A Young Girl’s World’, “a vampiric presence sitting outside the bar – yearning and ignored, watching and crying.” “He’s someone to avoid, because there’s a misinterpretation of him as being a creep, or a loser, or a fuck up.” Bewildered by this source of inspiration, I hesitantly ask Gibson, “I’m guessing you’re not he yet?” “At that time I’d enrolled at Temple University in Philly, working on a history degree at the age of thirty-one. Surrounded by these beautiful young girls, it’s not hard to imagine the crushing feeling that you’re on the precipice of decline. I think we’ll soon discover that part exists in all of us when we hit the cold cave of age.”

 

“Everyone can relate to vulnerability, that shows they are human. Unfortunately we live in a society that maintains an outward appearance in which everything is fine, as though everyone were trying to sell a frickin’ resumé. I’m tired of that. Why can’t we make mistakes and be goofy and stupid and not be perfect?”

 

In the case of Daughn Gibson, hindsight has forged an idealistic outward appearance, insofar as journalists harp on about his formative truck-driving days, regurgitating clichés of the mystic drifter. His own perceptions of this phase are more proportionately weighted between the conceptual fetishization of the highway and its less invigorating aspects. “People look for a different scene, because life is finite and limiting. People dwell on going places in the same manner that they dwell on taking mushrooms, like it were some kind of special gift, or like you’re going to come out a wise man from having been to Alaska. I don’t think it’s that so much. It’s the constant movement that fucks you up… in a good way. The feeling of loneliness can be obnoxious, because it is a miserable job, but it should also be romantic, because it is as romantic as it’s made out to be.”

 

Having lamented the finite and limited, I’m loath to wrap up the interview leaving such a bitter taste. To inject a nugget of lightheartedness, I pose the singer with this dilemma: “suppose you were presented with an inverse little mermaid scenario, whereby you grow gils and fins and mingle with the attractive merpeople, but in return you had to sacrifice your voice. What would you do?” Gibson’s response is resounding. “YEAH! I would throw my voice out the window and give up any of my limbs if I could jump into the ocean and become a frickin’ fish!”

 

 

Interview by Era Trieman

Photography by Jacob Perlmutter