Antony , the ethereal voice of Antony and the Johnsons, sings like a Wim Wenders angel and—when necessary—can swear like a sailor. He was the prime mover of the celebrated Blacklips Performance Cult, who made the Pyramid a place of rare beauty and wonder in the early ’90s with their sexed-up, punked-out shows based on old Godzilla movies and Victor Hugo novels. Now he’s a rock star.
1 Did you just open your mouth one day and this diva voice came out, or is it something you’ve worked and worked on? It’s pretty intuitive. It isn’t a static thing—it just sort of morphs.
2 Who are your heroes? I love Kazuo Ohno, the dancer. I also really like Liz Fraser [Cocteau Twins]. And lots of American singers, especially Otis Redding and Nina Simone. The only art books I have are by Peter Hujar.
3 Downtown New York’s artistic and musical legacy is very much a part of your work. Is that something you strive to re-create? I came to New York in 1990. Kabuki Starshine at 21 was pretty fucking mythical. Page was pure magic. Johanna Constantine—10 years ahead of the curve with her antlers and blood—influenced me profoundly. But queens were dropping like flies in the ’80s and I certainly missed out, not getting to hang out with Klaus Nomi, Hibiscus, Ethyl Eichelberger, Jack Smith . . . . I’ve always looked on a certain marginal strain of NYC culture as my family, but I’ve never tried to re-create a scene. I’m more interested in the present.
4 You’ve spent the last few years in some heady company. What were the highlights? Lou Reed has been my greatest advocate and friend. I opened for Coil in Italy last spring, and Jhonn was so sweet. Being supported by other artists has been a lifeline for me.
5 What’s your favorite song you didn’t write? “A Dream” by Donny Hathaway. It just kills me.
See Antony and the Johnsons at Joe’s Pub January 9. Their new record, I Am a Bird Now (Secretly Canadian), is out February 1.