Q&A: Sasha Grey on Auto-Tune, Her Band aTelecine, and Her Favorite Sexytime Music
Sasha Grey is one of the most famous porn stars of our generation, and perhaps the first to achieve true crossover success, with starring roles in Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience and HBO's Entourage. You probably know her by name, face, and maybe even vagina (no judgments), but did you know that she's also a music nerd? Be still our hearts.
With a minimal/electronic project called aTelecine and an ever-growing music collection, Grey shows an impressive range for someone so young-and especially for someone involved in the adult industry. She's currently promoting her brand-new photo book, Neü Sex, which documents her recent life in self portraits: From post-coital stupors to silly faces snapped in mirrors, the book is an intimate look at what it's like to be Sasha Grey, as well as what it's like to be her husband, filmmaker Ian Cinnamon, who helped create many of the photos.
This past Monday at the Standard Hotel's Living Room, in a strictly enforced 20-minute time slot squashed between seven other journalists eager to discuss the book, we took advantage of Neü Sex's release to talk with Grey about rock-and-roll, aTelecine, and the pervasive abuse of Auto-Tune. Cinnamon hung out nearby, as he often does.
aTelecine. One of these people is a porn star.
What's going on with your band aTelecine? Am I pronouncing that right?
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Oh, my bad. What does that mean?
Telecine is the transfer of film. It's part of film processing. We decided to put an "a" in front of it because there was a Christian band called Telecine, and I didn't want to fight over names.
Are you doing music actively right now? Any plans to perform in the near future?
Oh God, we really want to. We've had some very nice offers in the past to play at some really cool festivals and open for some really cool bands. But I'm focusing on acting right now, so it's kind of difficult to get the band together and come up with an idea of how we would want to present ourselves live. A lot of our work has been done through tape loops, just like kind of splicing mediums, so it's something we wouldn't want to turn into this boring show with tape recorders and laptops.
But we are actively making music in the studio. We're actually working on our next album called The Falcon in the Pod, and it should be out at the end of April. And we'll release another album at the end of May, and another at the end of June. So it's kind of a series.
At some point in the next few months, we'll hopefully have digital downloads. We've only released our music on vinyl and cassette at this point, and our label asked us if we wanted to do downloads 'cause a lot of people requested it. So we said, 'Why don't we remix the tracks, so the people that have the vinyl still have something unique, and the people that are buying the downloads have something different?'
It's hard to get people to purchase music as a physical object these days, no?
Being part of aTelecine has always been a true passion project in that it's the one thing I do that goes out to the public that isn't about getting a return in terms of money. So, that's another reason that has worked into why we haven't played live. It's like, once we start playing live, money gets involved, and there's other people that want to get paid. I don't want it to become a project where we have to please other people, necessarily. I want it to remain what it is. We've been able to do that, at this point. Maybe some point in the future when I have more time, I won't mind that so much. But right now, it's nice to just be able to make music and put it out there, and not have to worry about if you're making a dollar.
That's cool that you have something just for yourself. How did the band come together?
There's four of us now, including myself. It began with myself and Pablo St. Francis, and recently we've added Anthony Djuan and Ian C, and we all contribute in some fashion. It's difficult because we don't all live near each other, but we somehow make it work. It started out in 2006, Pablo and I just began recording music for fun. At some point, we were like, "Why don't we just put this on MySpace?" when MySpace was still the bee's knees. And we put out a few demos. We didn't put my name on it, we just put the band name, and people really responded. We had a few labels that courted us, and then we put my name on the band page and people kinda went nuts. They either loved it or hated it. And we released our first EP with Pendu Sound, A Vigilant Car Park, in 2009.
Do you think there's crossover between the people who are fans of your porn or your acting, and people who like your music?
You know it's interesting, because early in my career I had a lot of fans who weren't even fans of my adult films. They just found me on the Internet and they liked the same music I liked, or they liked the same movies I liked. So there's a different kind of relationship with my fans-those fans of course were attracted to aTelecine. And some of my fans who strictly liked the adult stuff: there's always gonna be fans who support pretty much anything you do, just because they like you, and then there's gonna be fans who are like, "Oh, I'll try it, but I don't know if I'm gonna love it or not." So yeah, there is. That's the case with anybody who puts their work out for the public.
I feel like the kinds of people who enjoy electronic/ambient/minimalist music are sort of shy and nerdy and might not be that into hardcore porn, but maybe I'm wrong?
Oh, you'd be surprised. Sometimes they actually like what some people like to call "the more extreme" side of adult films.
Maybe for some of them, you were the gateway to that?
[monster voice] Yes! Corruption!
courtesy VICE Books
I read that you like post-punk, doom-metal, old hip-hop. How did you first get into all this good music, much of which was made before you were born?
The neighborhood I grew up in was culturally very diverse. I think it started out with every member of my family liking different kinds of music. My dad liked blues and classic rock, but obviously for him it was just rock-and-roll when he was growing up. My sister loved East Coast hip-hop, my brother loved funk and West Coast hip-hop. And my best friend's dad was definitely the huge funk influence on my brother and me, because we were neighbors with our best friend growing up. So that, just kind of growing up, was huge for me, and very early on I was just exposed to different music.
And, I think, discovering other artists, like OutKast. OutKast got me into Kate Bush. OutKast got me into John Coltrane. So I would read about bands I liked, or the artists I liked, and I would see who'd influenced them and go and discover their work. So I think it's a continuous cycle, really.
Are you into any music that's come out recently?
Florence and the Machine, for sure. When Flea and Thom Yorke got together and did the Atoms for Peace project, I loved that. The last Gorillaz album, I loved.
I also feel like I'm aging myself. I don't constantly go out and try to figure out who the new band is. Like my mom would say when I was a teenager, "I have no idea what this is and I don't really care." It's not that I don't care, it's just, there's so much music to hear and God, you don't know which direction to go. But I also have friends who are music journalists, so when something's really good, it'll come my way.
It's funny to say you're "aging yourself." You're only 23!
I guess it's the idea of like, not actively seeking the latest artists. I don't go and pick up a magazine anymore and try to figure out who this new emerging artist is. Obviously, people like, a Justin Bieber, or a Kanye West, they're everywhere, you can't help but run into them. But you also have artists from every genre of music who it takes a lot of work to find out who they are.
Is there anything on your musical radar right now that you find really annoying?
Auto-Tune! I mean, it's everywhere.
Have you heard that viral song by teenager Rebecca Black?
Well, it abuses Auto-Tune. Continue.
It's literally everywhere. Pop music, rock music, have all kind of fused together and nobody has any soul anymore. You can listen to someone like Neil Young, who has so much soul and passion when he sings, and you can just feel it. It goes into your bones. Auto-Tune does not do that for me. I'd just rather listen to hardcore house music at that point. Which I would not!
Oy, I can't stand anything too ravey.
[Sasha makes "uunst uunst" sound.]
Yeah. Like that. So, what's your favorite music for sexytimes?
[giggles] Um. [Husband Ian pipes in "Merzbow!"] [laughing] Did you say Merzbow? Haha. Um, Danzig is always good. It's got that hard hitting rhythm and it's just-Danzig is always just sexy. I think Tricky is also always good. It's like a go-to, you can't go wrong with that.
Speaking of sexy, I feel like a lot of bands now in indie rock are sort of aggressively boring and not wild or sexual.
I gotta be honest, I don't really follow a lot of indie rock because I don't think it's indie ROCK anymore. It's just commercial rock and roll. I think indie rock has become a sound. You know? It's not the idea of real independent rock-and-roll, people getting together and making really cool music. But who knows, I could be sticking my foot in my mouth, and I could be totally wrong, and there could be some real hardcore indie-rock people out there who make great music. But just on a general level of what you see, and what you hear about indie rock, it's just become a sound. And it is safe. It's very safe. Everybody fuckin' whines.
It's kind of like what in my opinion, what happened to punk-rock models, or alt models. Some of these women did it because they wanted to and there was something behind that. And then it just became an image, where I'm gonna dye my hair black, and I'm gonna dye my hair yellow, and I'm gonna tattoo myself up. And there's very few people that actually have that punk-rock ethos. It's just an image for them. So I think that's kind of what's happening in the indie rock world. At least what I've seen.
Do you think you'll ever do porn again?
Who knows? Never say never.
Neu Sex, released on Tuesday by VICE Books, is now available for $30 on Amazon.com and in select stores across the U.S. For more info, visit neusex.viceland.com.
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