I had the honor of catching up with New York artist, Garek, who has recently released a truly inspired music video for his most recent single, ‘Cavity.’ Garek talks unabashedly about the efforts that went into this stunning piece – a killer video rife with polished and nuanced visuals that could only be expected from such a unique presence in the music industry. (Check out my’s first interview with Garek last year here!) – Meagan Noelle
Meagan: Your latest music video is a masterpiece, when it comes down to independent artists such as yourself being able to express very intricate statements about – what seems to me – a battle of the persona. I personally feel that this is a highly relatable piece, and just want to congratulate you on putting it out for the world to see.
In addition to the lyrical content of the song, there are these visuals throughout the video that are clearly inspired and intentionally evocative. You mind us delving into your mind for a little? Let’s start with the opening scene – the figure behind you attempting some sort of control over your mind, give us some background on what inspired this setup?
Garek:The song itself is about physical manifestations of mental illness. I’ve had severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder since I was about 8-years-old, and this has manifested itself in many different ways, often morphing into bouts of depression/anxiety when the Gods of Mental Health thought I had it too easy. It was always curious to me how people’s perception of myself and my actual self differed so starkly. On the one hand people would say how well-adjusted, outgoing and friendly I was. I appeared so level-headed, but inside I was a mess.
I always said, “You think I’m so collected and stable because that’s what I want you to think.”
The truth was that I was at different stages of total internal collapse at any given moment. I’ve had a few breakdowns, but only one of them was very public. It was always really interesting to me that people with different physical ailments were visibly sick (change in skin color, weight loss, hair loss, etc.) but people with mental illness appeared absolutely normal. That’s what “Cavity” is about- if one could see the mental illness inside, what would it look like?
M: After the opening scene, the rest of the video feels as if we are exploring what is happening inside your mind. What do the “white” and the black-clad versions of you each signify?
G: Both were supposed to symbolize varying stages of bondage (non-sexual). The white spandex scene being a bit more free and therefore erratic and spastic in the movements. The red spandex was more constricted, so the emotions had to be conveyed more with facial expressions and posturing. It all goes back to they way in which I want people to perceive me. Sometimes, I feel like letting a bit of the madness free (white spandex) and sometimes I push it to the back so only those paying close attention (to facial expressions or body language) can really understand what’s going on.
I wish I had something more prolific to say, but the reality comes down to the budget. I’ve never had a budget to work with while creating any of my music/music videos, so it’s always been a case of polishing a turd until it sparkles. I wanted to take it a step further with these scenes and see if I could take everyday household objects (seran wrap and black duct tape) and present them in a way that suddenly turned them into something you might see in a high fashion editorial. That’s where the fun comes in for me, making couture pieces from anything you might find in a lesbian’s tool belt.
M: The figures that blend in the white background in the video – they seem at first to be pressing their faces into your personal space. They are later embraced by you and it seems your struggle is won by acknowledging their existence in relation to who you might be. Might this be how you approach the battles you have faced while developing your artistic persona?
G: Absolutely. The battle is never really won, but acknowledging your demons (and conversely your angels) brings an artist that much closer to a sense of personal understanding. I’ve learned that I can either try to fight these demons, or see what sort of lessons they’re trying to teach me. The worst thing I can do is pretend they’re not there. When I first started making music I was very concerned with the creation of an artistic “persona”, but the further I delved into the fantasy the move removed I became from my truths. I have no qualms with creating an artistic persona that’s completely different from your actual self, but it’s not for me. It eventually felt like a lot of unnecessary work to try and create a fiction and a history for someone I was trying to be when there was already a truth there- my own.
M: One contributor to the making of this music video was Miss Fame, a well known drag queen from the same city you grew as an artist in, New York. Her work on your makeup was both beautiful and haunting. We’re familiar with your background in art – was your look a collaborative effort?
G: I love working with Miss Fame because she’s one of the few artists I can sit in front of and, with complete faith and trust, say, “Go for it.” She understands my aesthetic- what I like and what I don’t –and I respect the shit out of her artistry, so I always have complete confidence in letting her do whatever she wants to with my face. We talk about different ideas or reference points sometimes before we start, but for the spandex scenes in ‘Cavity’ I showed her the outfits, told her the vision/movement and let her go from there. Needless to say, I was very pleased with the way the looks turned out. She’s a genius, and a sweetheart.
M: What I love about this song is that it seems very relateable in relation to how the ugly aspects of our personas seem foreign to what we wish ourselves to be on the outside. At least, that is what I personally got from the ending lyrics,
“You are not a guest are not a friend
Are not welcome in me
I implode under the skin I’m hiding all my ugly
You’d never guess that a rot could look so pretty
I’m the one to blame it wasn’t caught
No I begot this enemy.”
Is that what you intended – this sort of melodic medium through which someone can artistically have at a little self-introspection?
G: That’s what most of my songs end up being- melodic journal entries or poems. I do enjoy telling stories and creating different characters visually, but a lot of my actual song content is very autobiographical.
M: I feel as if your versatility knows no bounds – that brilliant “E.T.” cover was downright raw and melodic. Your music has taken me back to an industrial pop sound I thought I could not again enjoy in this day and age. What is next in store for you? (Music video for “My Animal,” please?!?)
G: Well, like I always say, no one was making the music I grew up listening to/loving, so I thought I might as well do it myself. I was so sick of all the shit on the radio that, instead of just whining about it, I decided to be proactive about it. Now I run into the “your music isn’t radio-friendly” or the “this isn’t what people are listening to today” roadblocks. But Fuck ‘Em. I’ve only ever made the kind of music I wanted, and I only make it for myself, not for anybody else.
As for what’s next, the music video for “My Animal” is already finished! It was directed by Mike Ruiz and co-stars a VERY familiar face. I can’t wait for everyone to see it. I’ll be playing a few Pride festivals this summer (Duluth, MI and Cleveland, OH are confirmed for sure- still talking to a few others), so it’ll be nice to get the Hell out of New York for a while. I’m also working on getting everything ready for the release of “Take The King Vol II”. Stay tuned!