Unleash Your Inner Artiste

Photo: Illustration by Peter Arkle

Start a Rock Band
Hire a hot drummer. “If you don’t, everyone can feel it. Your music drags. When Matt Sweeney and I started Chavez in 1992, we couldn’t find a drummer who was good enough. Finally, we found James Lo, who’s a genius. We kissed his ass relentlessly; when we went on tour and there was only one bed in the hotel room, James got it.” Hire an egoless bass player. “A band is not a democracy. It’s more socialist, and if there are too many people on the socialist committee, nothing gets done. You need peasants to oppress, and we totally oppressed our bass player, Scott Marshall. He played exactly what we told him to play. But he didn’t care. He got to come on tour with us and meet girls.”
Clay Tarver, guitarist in the mid-nineties band Chavez, whose albums are being rereleased on Matador in June.

Launch a Literary Journal
Take an aggressive point of view. “Our first issue was partly about intellectual bullies. We were tired of the way McSweeney’s, for example, bullies you into their whimsical world. So we bullied them back.” Bring out the booze. “If you’re in New York and throw a good party, you’ll attract a lot of media people. After The New York Times Magazine did a profile on us, our subscriber base quadrupled.” Defer dreams of wealth. “If you get enough people working enough hours, all for nothing, you can break even.”
Keith Gessen, co-founder of the journal n+1.

Make a Movie
Know someone. “Some of the best scripts out there wind up in garbage cans. But I was friends with Robert Downey Jr., and he brought in Sting’s wife, Trudie Styler, as producer. I didn’t want stars for it; I just wanted kids from the neighborhood. But I ended up with Robert, Dianne Wiest, and Chazz Palminteri, and you’d better embrace shit like that when it comes. Connections help. Respect your actors. To me, most of their preparation is mumbo-jumbo voodoo. I was like, ‘Why do you have to spin around five times and make yourself cry? All I want you to do is open the door.’ But you’ve got to respect the art. Robert and I would get into arguments about it, and in the end, he was always right.”
Dito Montiel, winner of the Best Dramatic Film Directing award at Sundance this year for A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.

Publish a Novel
Write about the suburbs. “Many of the chick-lit readers who liked The Devil Wears Prada have moved out of the city. I was lucky to come along at the right time with a book about a woman in a suburban McMansion who gets in a fight with everybody after an endangered rattlesnake dies in her backyard.” Buy a software program that helps you create a plot. “I used Dramatica Pro. My husband made fun of me for using it. He called it ‘Plot-o-Matic.’ But it really helped.”
Debra Galant, author of the novel Rattled, just released from St. Martin’s Press.

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Interviews by Russell Scott Smith

Unleash Your Inner Artiste