Thought For The Day
Thought For The Day
Hullo At Home With Slimboy Mome
Hullo Magazine had the rare honour recently of an invitation chez Momus. The international pop star, essayist, fop, man of letters, wit, dandy and media content creator received staff writer Cynthia Diamond De Witt just two days after moving into his new studio apartment on Orchard Street.
Hullo: First of all, thank you so much for having us, this is a rare honour.
Momus: Delighted. Always glad to receive members of the press... and ladies who lunch.
Hullo: First of all, this area. Just a block north of Canal Street, with its exotic clash of hebrew and chinese signage. You're right between Chinatown and the Lower East Side here. Is that something to do with your love of all things oriental and jewish?
Momus: Absolutely, Cynthia. Living here feels like being an extra in the movie Wong Kar Wai never shot in Warsaw.
Hullo: Of course this is all possible for you only because you have become, if I may say so, immensely wealthy thanks to your songs for Japanese songbird Kahimi Karie. Her new, Momus-penned and produced album 'Journey To The Centre Of Me' is released in Japan on April 24th. I hear a Cantonese cover version was recently made of 'I Am A Kitten'?
Momus: That's right. It's called 'Juang Ji'Hua Tang Gu Kitten Po'. And the revenue streams that vast market have opened up are really what permit me to live in Chinatown, in the style you see here.
Hullo: And what style! Now, some readers may be wondering why a man in your position chose a place so small, a twenty by ten studio apartment with a loft bed right in the middle of the room. Is this something to do with your fascination with oriental spaces?
Momus: Correct, Cynthia. Every time I go to Japan I marvel at how the people there live in such tiny spaces. Apartments in Tokyo are often just the size of one or two tatami mats. And, do you know, I think there is a spiritual energy that comes from that constriction. It forces you to consolidate your resources, be extremely focused and organised. And the sheer physical frustration makes you retreat into inner space, meditate, and levitate (high ceilings, no room on the floor).
Hullo: So it's all about Zen and Feng Shui?
Momus: You've hit the nail right on the head, Cynthia. Or, to quote an old Zen master, 'the nail that sticks out must be hammered in'. Would you like to see the loft deck?
Momus: Okay, just follow me up this ladder.
Hullo: Is it... is it really meant to sway and move like this?
Momus: Oh yes. That's also a Buddhist concept, you know. Everything is transitory, nothing can be relied on, so detachment is the only true path. What could be a better metaphor for this than a loose ladder?
Hullo: I think I'll stay down here, if you don't mind. But it looks charming.
Momus: You're very wise. This whole platform is falling to pieces. Perhaps we should go out onto the fire escape.
Hullo: Through this window?
Momus: Yes, just squeeze through. It's quite safe.
Hullo: This is such a beautiful street. These old ghetto tenements were originally built as solid middle class housing in the 1860s, weren't they?
Momus: Yes, but successive waves of immigrants passing through the Lower East Side, people from Ireland, Poland, Russia, China, were squeezing larger and larger families into these tiny rooms, and the rents went down. I took the tour of the Orchard Street Tenement Museum the other day and it was very informative. Do you know that something like 60% of the current US population consists of the descendents of immigrants who passed through Ellis Island and the Lower East Side?
Hullo: Extraordinary. My family came from South Africa, straight to the Hamptons.
Momus: The rents are yoyoing to this day. When I told the Chinese man who delivered my mattress that I paid $1200 for this tiny space, he just collapsed with laughter. He'd been telling me how much the area has changed over the last two years. I guess the Chinese came in and took over many of the businesses the Jews had been running, but now there's a new invasion of young media content creators, and we're in a sense taking 'expensive holidays in someone else's misery'.
Hullo: To misquote Johnny Rotten. (Note to editor: feature on him soon?) How do you get on with the neighbours?
Momus: I've just said hi to them on the stair. But you know, you can tell who's who if you listen carefully at the door. You'll either hear a harking of phlegm if it's an old Chinese man, or a modem negotiating a telephone line if it's a young media content creator. Actually, the sounds are very similar. They both go 'Wheeze chhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Ping! Chhhhhhhhhh Spit! Gabong Gabong Cough! chhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh'.
Hullo: Ha ha ha, quite. Now I know you're friends with some very interesting people, like maverick film director Harmony Korine, best known to our readers perhaps for discovering the very lovely Chloe Sevigny. Did they come around for the housewarming?
Momus: No, they were away at the Oscars. Harmony looked a little confused by the whole thing.
Hullo: I also know for a fact that Winona Ryder has been spotted at your New York shows, wearing a blonde wig.
Momus: So I'm told, though I never met her. If she's reading, though, I'd say 'Get in touch, Winona, if you want to be the American Kahimi Karie.'
Hullo: Has John Malkovich been spotted here yet?
Momus: Surprisingly no, since he pops up everywhere else. But I haven't looked in the back of the filing cabinet recently.
Hullo: Now, tell me about these gorgeous chairs. They must be Panton originals from the 50s, handmade in Brasilia?
Momus: No, actually they're $50 each from Urban Outfitters.
Hullo: And that extraordinary T shirt you're wearing. Ferragamo? Bathing Ape?
Momus: It's from a hispanic discount store on Delancey. $2.99.
Hullo: One would never, ever have guessed.
Momus: I am constantly amazed at how cheap things are here. There's a splendour in cheapness which is a joy to behold. I went yesterday to buy a heater, after spending a night sleeping on the bare floor with no heat and no bedclothes, and entered this shabby looking electrical goods store on Canal Street. Inside it was vast. Beyond and above the shelves of goods was an ornate ceiling heavily decorated with ancient plaster moulding, all dark with the patina of time. An ancient Jewish lady instructed her minion to bring me the heater, which was $15. 'You have a beautiful store here,' I said, marvelling at the dreamlike, Kafkaesque atmosphere. 'This used to be a theater,' she
said proudly, 'see there, that was where they sold the programs.' 'So you remember the Garden Cafe and the Daily Forward?' I asked, having heard lore of the legendary gathering place for Jewish radicals of the early 20th Century, and their revolutionary newspaper. 'Of course... it was just over the road, you climbed the stairs, it was on the first floor. Now there's a Chinese restaurant there, and a Christian education center upstairs. But once you could see Lenin himself having tea.'
Hullo: Lenin himself. Extraordinary. The Daily Forward... I'm sure Senator McCarthy must have finished that off.
Momus: I'm not sure, I'll have to read up about it. I haven't found the local library yet. But you know, New York is a living encyclopedia. It's like those scenes in 'Beneath The Planet Of The Apes' where they discover the Statue Of Liberty in a cave, and realise they've stumbled on the former site of Manhattan. Further up Orchard the street level itself has changed, it's now several feet higher than it used to be. So those supertrendy clothes stores you see up there have basements which are where the original street used to be. If you walk up Eldridge Street, with the Chrysler Building framed at the end of the street like some sort of distant Art Deco compass needle, you can look down into the basements and see a whole underground street, with Chinese running up and down.
Hullo: Sorry to keep returning to the glitz, but I know David Bowie lives not far from here. Has he looked in yet?
Momus: David hasn't popped down, though of course I do have an open invitation to his place, Chimneytops on Lafayette Street. My press company, Girlie Action, actually looks right into his windows. You can see a zebra skin rug, two Kirchners and a Twombly. Of course, David is very preoccupied with Iman's pregnancy just now. He's cancelled a lot of his social life as a result.
Hullo: We must get a picture spread when the happy day arrives. Now, Momus, future plans?
Momus: Right now I'm just so delighted to be here. The shows at KnitActive are a ton of fun. The New York Times is running a feature on us next week. Our run has been extended at KnitActive through to the end of April, every Sunday at 8pm. In May the show will transfer to the Fez Club, up the road on Lafayette Street. Then, who knows, maybe Broadway. This might be the next Rent, or the next Cats. Move over Tim Curry, here comes Nick Currie!
Hullo: What's the next record going to be like? Will you be competing in the murk and gloom stakes with Matt Johnson, who has apparently also just moved to New York Chinatown?
Momus: Not at all. I'm walking on air. At this rate my next record is going to be filled with idiot glee. It's just going to repeat, over and over, 'Slimboy Mome is fucking in heaven, fucking in, fucking in, fucking in heaven.'
Hullo: I see. Well, thank you very much, Momus, and we wish you every success in your new home. Welcome to the Apple!
Momus: Thank you so much.