THE VICE INTERVIEW:
The 'Salad Days' musician chats Ewan McGregor, the Skin-walker, and his fear of flying.
For someone halfway through a massive tour that included two sold-out nights at Brixton Academy and a headline slot at End of the Road festival, Mac DeMarco seems like a highly down-to-earth person when I call for a chat. Mind you, listening to literally anything from his blissed out, lo-fi back catalogue, I should have already known that would have been the case.
The Canadian singer-songwriter's new album, This Old Dog, came out recently, so I gave him a ring to ask some probing questions about time, space, and old email addresses.
VICE: Would you rather change one day from your past or see one day from your future?
Mac DeMarco: The future thing's too spooky, I think. What if you look and it's just a tombstone? I don't want to see that. I'll look at the past instead. When I was a kid I had a Game Boy—the original Game Boy—and I was playing Donkey Kong, and I couldn't beat this level, so I started tapping the screen on my grandmother's concrete steps, and I smashed the screen. And I was just like, "Fuck!" It'd be nice to go back and not break the Game Boy.
Dogs or babies?
Shit. I've been thinking about both of them a lot recently. Not that I want to have a kid, not that I want to get a dog. Maybe it's some kind of biological clock or something where it's like, "Have the kid." Maybe dogs, 'cause if I had a kid my life would fall apart. I'm not ready for that.
If you were a wrestler, what song would you come into the ring to?
We've been walking out on stage to this song, and I would do the same if I was a wrestler. It's the theme from The Godfather movies. And I would be an Italian-themed wrestler. I'd walk up kind of slow, maybe with a cane and a coat over my shoulders, and somebody would help me up and then I'd start wrestling, you know what I'm saying? I'd be called the Godfather.
How long do you think you'd last in space?
I don't know. Depends on how it's set up and what I was doing up there. Space food? Forget about it. I'm not interested in that. Open the airlock and just float into the sun. Or get out there without a suit on, like, implode or whatever happens, I don't know. My bandmates were talking about getting their bodies shot up into space 'cause you wouldn't biodegrade. So, knowing that, years from now, somebody would just see you floating around. That'd be kinda fucked up.
If you could live in any time, which one would you pick?
Oh, jeez, I don't know. Maybe the 1950s to the 2000s. I'm thinking, Oh, it'd be great to live in medieval times or samurai times, but you'd probably get fucking chopped with a sword or something—I don't want to do that. Then, before that, it's the Great Depression, the Industrial Revolution, everybody's covered in soot and shit. People dying of scurvy on a sailboat. Life's pretty good these days. I think I'm pretty lucky to be alive right now.
How many people have been in love with you?
Oh boy. I don't know. You would have to ask them, I guess. I've only really ever had one other girlfriend, other than the one I have now, where we ever said, "I love you." Maybe one other? Maybe two total? Hard to quantify, because a lot of people say it preemptively. But I think that when you're in it, you know it.
What film or TV show makes you cry?
I always cry when I watch Big Fish on the plane. I don't know why—maybe it's how cute Ewan McGregor is. There's a handful of Miyazaki movies that make me well up like a little baby. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away—oh my God, I just lose it.
Which conspiracy theory do you believe?
I'd like to believe in aliens, I think. I don't know if that's a conspiracy theory. I really buy into the Illuminati New World Order—some kind of global elite thing—in a kind of comical way, not as serious as, say, Alex Jones. He's just a bit of a lunatic. I like the secret evils, that kind of thing. You ever heard about the Skin-walker? People drive through the desert, and all of a sudden you see this alien-ish flesh man running toward you or something. Pretty sure my friend Cory said he saw him in the flesh once, so I'll take his word for it. I believe in the Skin-walker.
When in your life have you been truly overcome with fear?
Pretty much every time I'm on a plane. Yeah, fucking hate it. You start thinking, I'm just a flesh-sack in a fucking metal tube 30,000 feet above the ground. I've never had anything that crazy happen, but I just don't like being out of control like that—it's no fun.
What was your first email address?
It was firstname.lastname@example.org, as in the character from the Final Fantasy video games. My friend Peter Nielsen set it up. He was like, "What do you want your email to be? Let's get you an email." It was 1996 or '97 or something. And I was like, "Black Mage," and he was like, "Aw, it's taken! Dude, put a 69 at the end." I was like, "I don't know what that is, but OK, let's go."
What is the nicest thing you own?
I like my car. It's a piece of shit, but I like it. I used to have a Volvo 240 wagon. Actually, I still have it, but it got a flat tire, and I didn't want to get it registered in Los Angeles, so I just bought the exact same one. Now I've got two of this identical station wagon. And it's kinda cute.
What would be your last meal?
It would have to be something pretty spicy, I think. I like junk food. Maybe a really good spicy burrito. Nice salsa, too. Or maybe a really, really good bowl of Vietnamese pho, with a nice broth, the proper portions, really nice fresh beef. Or, I'm Italian, so maybe a real nice gnocchi or a nice lasagne or something like that.
Which memory from school stands out to you stronger than any other?
I remember I had a sort of girlfriend when I was in grade five or grade six, and I used to walk her home from school every day. And I carried her bag and stuff. Her house was like five blocks in the wrong direction from mine. But there was one day where everybody else had gone ahead a little bit—'cause you walk home with the whole crew—and she was tying a daffodil to my backpack or something. She spun around to give me a little kiss on the cheek, and I was like, "Holy shit." That was a really crazy feeling. I remember that moment clearly.