With his 'Like Drawing Blood' album in the shops now, we thought sample magpie Gotye would be an interesting fellow to talk to about his literary influences and habits.
Is his vast palette of music influences reflected in his reading habits? We sat him down in our book bunker and quizzed the Australian based Belgian.
What's your favourite book and why?
'The Name Of The Rose', Umberto Eco. It brings together so many strands of culture and history, but never at the expense of an engaging "whodunnit" read. The whole concept of forbidden books and secret knowledge is so exciting, especially when juxtaposed with the amazing proliferation of, and access to, information that the internet has ushered in over the last decade.
I was very enamoured of all of E. Annie Proulx's books for a long time.
Are there particular authors you're a fan of?
I was very enamoured of all of E. Annie Proulx's books for a long time. After I read her novel 'Ace In The Hole', I was so hooked I tracked down all of her previous short story collections and novels. Her book 'Accordion Crimes' is one of my favourites. It charts the growth of the United States between the late 19th century and present day, specifically examining the input that masses of immigrants from different parts of the world made to the nation. It does this through the central character of an accordion, built by an ambitious Italian music enthusiast who sets off for America with dreams of the promised land. The instrument is variously lost, stolen, sold or passed on between random people from different cultural backgrounds over the course of the novel and in this way the book charts the rise of the American nation, and also developments in music over the last century.
Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
Not nearly as much as the music I listen to or my experiences and observations in life. But the books that I've read have provided a few ideas, and a lot of lingering images that have inspired song concepts at various times.
What are you reading at the moment?
'Safe Area Gorazde', a graphic novel by Joe Sacco. I've started seeking out contemporary and progressive graphic novels amongst the masses of manga and super-hero books available. This one is a first-hand account of Joe Sacco's experience as a journalist in Bosnia after the civil war that ravaged that country in the mid Nineties. It's a difficult read, because the experiences recounted and depicted are often so brutal it's hard to appreciate the work on an artistic or narrative level. When you feel sick with knowledge art can seem so frivolous.
What was the first text you remember reading as a child?
'The Berenstain Bears'. Or was it the 'Hungry Little Caterpillar'? Or maybe 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books...hmmm, they were all pretty good. Still regular before-bed reads. ;)
What's your take on libraries? Some people have said they were a lifeline for them as kids.
Well I worked in a library for three years before I gave music a full-time shot, and I almost felt overwhelmed by the cultural knowledge and material contained within such institutions. It was generally positive though. I was never at a loss for something interesting to read, listen to or watch while I worked there. As a youngster I definitely enjoyed library time at school also. My library bag was always chock-full of books on a Wednesday afternoon for the week's reading.
How do you think literature acquires timelessness?
Well it might seem obvious, but how about if it deals with universal emotions or experiences that transcend historical or cultural specificity. But then again, some of it becomes considered "timeless" because it manages to remain in people's minds and reading lists for an extensive period, usually through a peculiar combination of inherent quality, status bestowed by the book world's canonisation of certain texts, and publishing interests' regeneration of enthusiasm for the work through promotion and distribution many years after the initial release.
Do you read book reviews? How do you find find new books?
No, I don't read book reviews with any regularity. Generally I read blurbs on books or (horror!) get excited by the book's cover. Suggestions and recommendations from friends are a huge influence on what I end up reading.
I don't read heaps of science fiction, but this novel has a very interesting premise.
Would you ever re-read the same book?
Sure! If I have the time, and the interest. I've re-read a couple of Annie Proulx's books. And 'War And Peace' at least three dozen times of course.
Is there a character in a book that you've ever most identified with?
Maybe the adventuring young lads in Victor Kelleher's young adult novels. 'Forbidden Paths of Thual' and 'To The Dark Tower' were a couple. I identified with their companionship with animals and the desire for knowledge that drove them on their particular journeys. But it was really just dreaming about adventure in faraway lands that most enthralled.
Are there certain qualities that you look for which will draw you to abook?
A nice typeface. The rest is a bit of froth really.
Do you read one book at a time or more than one?
I try to read one at a time. I had a period where I tried to read one fiction, then one non-fiction consistently. Sometimes they ended up overlapping because the non-fiction was maybe too dry and I started something lighter for a change. But generally I like to focus on one text.
At home do you have a library or do you read a book and pass it on?
I have a collection that represents my childhood accumulation of comic books, magazines, hardbound strip books, and numerous novels for teenagers and young adults. After that I've only really collected the graphic novels I'm interested in, or hard cover non-fiction books (coffee table stuff!) whereas the novels that I've enjoyed reading I have either passed on or returned to the library ;)
Any books you'd recommend?
Anything I've mentioned in this interview so far. And then 'Blood Music' by Greg Bear. I don't read heaps of science fiction, but this novel has a very
interesting premise which is perhaps very relevant to our present global warming and potentially biological warfare-threatened world. I won't reveal any more, you'll just have to track it down to see what happens'
Gotye's 'Like Drawing Blood' album is out now on Lucky Number. The single 'Learnalilgivinanlovin' is released on September 8th to coincide with his UK tour -
8th - Thekla, Bristol
9th - Scala, London
11th - Academy 3, Manchester
13th - King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow
14th - Cockpit, Leeds
15th - Komedia, Brighton