Tommy Genesis Interview

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Tommy Genesis is in good company here in the mag because of her attitude. Bold but precise in her artmaking, Tommy wants to fuck up barriers and is all for hucking and putting yourself out there, and that means being willing to fail. When we spoke after her performance at Death Match NYC, she made sure to point out the vitality of art and to push its potential as worth exploring for anyone, saying, “You have something you want to make, you never know what it could open up.” We talked about some of her experiences making music and why she sees a necessity in willing grit and gumption through the cringes of the creative process. —Cameron Cuchulainn

At Death Match, were there any other bands that you were psyched to see live?
I saw the GZA play. I was meeting people and it was cute. It was cool to see all the girls who were there. That was cool for me.

So you’ve got a new album—are there any other parts of your art in it that people are going to experience along with the music?
Yes, I direct and edit all my own videos and I’m working on a film for the album. I’m really involved in making everything. I write everything. I’m super involved in the production of it. Music, for me, kind of happened naturally. I didn’t really go looking for it. I was always playing in punk bands and doing weird experimental stuff, and then it slowly just turned into something that was making money for me, so I did it but then I totally fell in love with doing it. So with this album, the first half of it is really fast—you could almost put it on in a club—and then the second half of it is sort of more just like emo. Ha! I don’t know—I’m excited to put it out. It’s always weird putting art out. It’s something really vulnerable about making it, and then gearing up to just put it out and have people react to it. But it’s a part of being an artist and the process. It’s fucking scary, but you’ve got to do it ‘cause otherwise nothing comes out.


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Because you’ve said in the past that you have OCD to make stuff, how does that affect your day when you’re just like kicking it with your friends? Are you able to hold onto stuff for a little while, or if an idea comes do you just have to reel off into the inferno?
I’m honestly so annoying. I’m a freak. I have people who help me, but even with covers and the art direction, I’m so insane—I’m the type of person to pull it into Photoshop myself and do it. It’s just annoying because I can’t relinquish control. It’s something I’ve been working on, but at the same time, I feel like if it’s your art and you’re the artist and it’s truly coming from a genuine place where you’re the one creating it—and it’s not like you’re just doing someone else’s song—it really is a part of you. I think that no one is used to having an artist that wants to do everything, but I almost feel like we need more artists who want to do everything.

A lot of the time skating has to do with euphoria. So what does the presence of euphoria feel like when you see it come up with music?
Definitely live. The crazy thing with playing live shows is you’re not always going to have a good show. You try to, of course, but you’re only human. Sometimes, for me, I’ll have the best fucking show and I’ll be so high on adrenaline, and I’ll feel indestructible type of energy. I’ll just be going insane, and it’s like a full-on punk show. And other times for whatever reason—which I’m learning how to fix, but I’m still growing—I’ll have shows where if I miss that feeling and I have a bad show, I feel like that’s the same as if you’re not landing shit and you’re having a bad day. I know that’s not related to skating very much but…

Nah, I think it’s all there.
It’s all related. It’s a weird thing where it takes guts to do it, but you know you can do it, so you just got to jump into it. But sometimes you jump into it and you fail. But you just gotta be okay with that.

When you’re looking at something being an idea, like a vision, where does it feel like the idea goes from a possibility to being its own thing?
Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s just trial and error. I notice that when I do videos I’ll be, like, Okay for this scene I want this, and I’ll shoot it and sometimes it won’t come out the way I want, and sometimes it will be good anyways, or sometimes I won’t use that footage. It’s the same way with songs, like, Oh I have an idea for a song. You make the song and the song could be trash. Other times you’ll go to the studio with no ideas and freestyle. That’s how I made “Tommy.” I didn’t have an idea to make a song like that. I was tired and I wanted to go home. Charlie was like “Just wait 20 minutes. I promise you if you still wanna go home, you can go.” I was, like, “Fine.” We were at Interscope Studios, just hanging out. Then he made the beat and I was annoyed. He said, “Just get in the booth and record.” I said, “Okay, fine, but it’s just a reference.” He’s, like, “Okay!” We act like brother and sister; we just yell at each other. I get in the booth, and I was annoyed, so all I did was freestyle. And that freestyle is the take we used as the final take. So it’s this thing where it’s half a mental game, but it’s also like you just gotta get in there and do it. Because once you do it you don’t know if you just made your next single or if it’s trash. Who cares? Try again. So I just think you never know. That’s why you should always just try.


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