How long did it take you to put Subjects together? When did you start writing it?
I probably started writing it in the beginning of last year. I started writing music and we went to Europe and that was where I got a lot of inspiration for the lyrics and the theme for the album. I wrote a lot of it on airplanes and just all over. It took me a good year to put it all together.
What was it about Europe that you found inspiring?
It was just weird. It was the first time I had ever been out of the country. Flying from Denver to Iceland and just seeing all the colors, fading of the sunsets, it was almost like a fairy tale that you read when you’re a kid. When we got to Iceland, it was our first stop. It just reminded me of Oz. We walk down Reykjavik, the main street, and when we get to the end there’s just this big church. After I saw that I had decided to go for an Oz theme.
I mean, it works really well.
I know! I figured I could use some themes from the books. I’m a huge fan of L. Frank Baum and I wanted to use some themes from the book to convey a story about corruptions and manipulations. I think I did a pretty good job with it.
Where did the name come from? Where did you get Chesty Vulva from?
Yeah (laughs) people get a little confused from the name. I feel like some people are a little hesitant when they see the name. The name came around back in 2005. I was doing a lot of charity work raising money for breast cancer awareness and MS. They were saying how much they liked my music and that I should start a project. So I was home after that just listening to music and a Morrissey song came on, of all people, and I’m listening to this song and I swear there is this part in the song where he says “chesty vulva”. So I was addicted to this song because I swear he’s singing it about someone named Chesty Vulva. I was singing it over at a friend’s place and he turns to me and says, “What the fuck did you just sing to me?” So I told him what I thought he was saying and my friend goes, “Dude, that’s not what he’s singing!”
After that we just laughed and thought it was a great name for a music project. For 1, it’s unique. 2, it’s attention getting. And it’s hilarious. I wanted to appall Morrissey.
I think that should be everyone’s goal in life, one way or another.
It’s my way of throwing meat at him.
Just out of curiosity, which Morrissey song was it?
It was “Our Frank”.
Are you afraid you’re going to lose people over the name?
I mean, I don’t really care. I’m not going for Guns ‘N’ Roses status. (laughs) I’m just an artist who makes music on the side and thought it was time to release something. I did a Residents cover and that ended taking off like a wild fire. It got me attention and the fan base and the connections to actually put this album together. So the day we got back from Europe, The Residents had announced that they were doing the I Am A Resident project. The Residents had invited all of their fans to cover a song of theirs and submit them. I submitted under a few different names and, Lo and Behold, they liked my stuff. They asked me to submit all of my covers and a band photo and I ended up on the album with one song on the bonus track and I’m also on three of the songs for the main project. There’s a lot of Vulva on that I Am A Resident project. I’m so thankful for it and its super weird to look on my discography online and see that.
Did you ever think you’d have an opportunity to work with The Residents?
No, I remember when I put the cover out and people loved it I…um…what was I saying? I’m stoned. (both of us laughing) No, sorry. I remember talking with my friends and saying wouldn’t it be cool to be a Resident and actually work with them? To be involved in any way? And within a year I was on the album. Oddly enough it came out the same day as my album. It was perfect.
What’s your favorite Residents album, at the moment?
My favorite Residents album at the moment is probably Animal Lover. Something about the stories that go along with the songs are really touching. It strikes a nerve. I’m a huge Residents fan.
What other kinds of art have you been working on apart from music?
About five years ago I was working as a head engineer in a hotel. I had been doing it for about ten years, but I started making pop art. I was making stencils and spray painting them onto canvases and people ate that shit up! They started asking, “Can you do this for me? Can you do that for me?” so I quit my job, took everything from my last paycheck and bought a bunch of art supplies. So I buy everything, I work on all kinds of paintings, I put them up on Facebook and somebody from Santa Fe, New Mexico, said they thought my work would look fantastic in their establishment. They asked me to be the featured artist in their gallery, so I said sure. It was a little place called Dr. Field Goods, it’s a very popular eatery down there. They booked me for a month and I sold so many paintings. They decided to keep me there for a total of eight months. I hold their record for most paintings sold and most money earned. It was pretty exciting. I took all that money and invested it in music equipment. That’s about when that Residents song came out.
It’s funny. It’s like a process of small steps that lead down a path. And it all started when you quit your job.
Absolutely! It always starts when you quit your job. When you quit playing the games. Start thinking positive. Take a risk. I don’t ever expect to make money from Chesty Vulva. What I want is for people to hear it and say, “Oh, I can do that” and just get off the couch and do something. John Waters said, “Art is like hitch-hiking. All you need is one person to say ‘get in’ and you’re on your way.”
Nicholas Panagakos is a writer based out of Cambridge, MA. He has published one book of poems and illustrations titled Laughter You See and plays in bands regularly. Soon to open a home for adult orphans. Buy him a drink.
Anti-Cop. Anti-ICE. Pro-Union.