"It's a complete mystery to me why people would be interested in any of the music that I make," says Bobby Conn
. The 39-year old glam rocker has a reputation for being dishonest, having concocted stories for journalists about chopped-off appendages, jail time and, perhaps most famously, being the Anti-Christ. But according to Conn, there shouldn't be any doubt about the authenticity of his words. "The stories I tell are 100 percent true, in a way," he says wryly, taking a sip of mint tea. "It's an inner truth. I kinda feel like I'm misinterpreted as being sarcastic all the time. Actually, I'm just trying to be sincere in the moment."
It's hard to fully believe Conn, speaking from his perch upon a tiny toddler's chair in the basement of the Humboldt Park home he shares with his wife (violinist Monica BouBou) and two children. But he does seem remarkably candid on this cold December night.
Even the brightly colored American flag sweater he wears appears to be no joke, something that might surprise fans of his politically-charged 2004 album, The Homeland. "I've always been happy with America," states the diminutive artist proudly. "I'm just not happy with some of the decisions that the people in charge make."
Conn's new album, King For A Day, is filled with different messages about his homeland. "I think it's political, but just in a contemporary culture kind of way," says Conn of the album, which features contributions from members of The Detholz!, Mahjongg, Conn's touring band the Glass Gypsies and more. "Two of the songs are about Tom Cruise, and I don't know if there's a more political statement than Tom Cruise. He kind of symbolizes a lot of what's going on in this country right now and how people are responding to it."
Conn and his cronies are planning on creating at least one video for every track on the album, though Cruise probably won't be making an appearance on any of them. Judging from the two that are done so far for the title track, though, there will be plenty of other interesting stuff. While the first version is a more literal interpretation of the song's theme of temporary royalty status, the "party" version (now available on MySpace) is more abstract. A makeup-wearing Conn plays guitar and sings in the midst of a beer-fueled romp featuring topless, toe-sucking groupies and more than one unfortunate crotch shot. Conn calls it "one of the most important films made this year." Bassist Alex Perkolup, who for most of the interview has been sitting silently in an absurd, striped hair hat (when not painting the words "The Tea Party" on the wall in gray paint), agrees. "It'll be one of those things where they realize it when he's gone, too."
When Conn is gone, it seems that everyone will know about it. "I intend to have a really big funeral," he declares. "I'm gonna be drawn by a donkey cart in an open casket. I want there to be a guy playing the national anthem on a little float, you know, Hendrix-style. I want it to be a big party, and I want it out in the country, too. I want to be buried under a big oak tree on the crest of a hill; the donkey cart will wind up the hill…they'll be like throwing rose blossoms in front of the cart, and there will be a tomb where I'll be interred. It's gonna be great."
It'll also make for one hell of a story when it actually happens. And although Conn seems to have turned over a new leaf, all the obit-writers out there would be wise to wait a week before dedicating any space. You know, just to be sure.
What I'm listening to: A lot of Power 92. That's the radio station that I think people are having the most fun on. There's like eight people in the booth always, and they're just kinda hanging out. You don't hear that on commercial radio and you rarely hear that on indie radio.
I get live at: I like the Red-I Lounge, the place above the panang curry place in Chinatown. I love doing stuff across the street at the Reversible Eye Gallery…they have these crazy shows all the time, and most of the time I'm here on my bed reading a magazine. I just don't have the time. That's why I'm going to build a club right here in my basement, where we'll serve tea. Hot mint tea and hot jams.
Coming soon to a stage near you: Dec. 23 at the Empty Bottle.
Fresh from the Woodshop: King For A Day will be out in February on Thrill Jockey.