Photo credit: David Morrison
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Zack Fox is a visual artist, comedian, actor, social media figure, creative director, and writer. We wanted to talk to him on Microphone Check, first because we think his role in hip-hop culture as it plays out on the internet today is kind of an old school behind the scenes thing that happens in public now.
If you put his comedy and the ways he sets out to provoke people aside, he reminds us of somebody like Fab 5 Freddy, who bridged worlds and felt comfortable mixing quote unquote high and low aesthetics.
Also, Frannie sometimes produces Zack’s monthly show on Red Bull Radio and she's seen him, firsthand, gently and respectfully extract insights and revelations from musicians he believes to be the real deal.
This is Zack being serious for once, and we think you’ll get a lot out of hearing this side of him.
ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD: What up, Zack?
ZACK FOX: I'm chilling, man. How are you?
ALI: I'm doing good. Should I say your full name, Zack Fox, or is Zack OK?
ZACK FOX: Yeah, Zack is cool.
ALI: I don't know.
FRANNIE KELLEY: You mean all the time?
FRANNIE: Zack Fox, do you want a soda?
ZACK FOX: That'd be cool, if it was one thing, but it's fine.
FRANNIE: Ali Shaheed Muhammad, do you want a soda. What?
ALI: Some people do that. I'm like, "Ali's cool, man."
FRANNIE: So thank you for coming here and sitting with us.
ZACK FOX: Of course.
FRANNIE: We understand that you're not a rapper.
ZACK FOX: Yes.
FRANNIE: But —
ZACK FOX: Yet.
FRANNIE: Right. But to our mind, you play an important role in sort of hip-hop culture, especially on the Internet today. Do you agree with that?
ZACK FOX: If you'd asked me a year ago, I would've been like, "No." Cause I didn't realize it at that point. But yeah, 100% now. It's definitely become hand-in-hand, I think, with what my demographic is, and what my fans kind of look for in the humor and look for in my content is always music-related, hip-hop-related specifically.
FRANNIE: How would you describe your role?
ZACK FOX: I don't know. I guess sort of like an organic — I wouldn't want to say — I don't like any sort of influencer language or overseer or gatekeeper-type language. I think every relationship that I've formed with hip-hop artists has been completely organic and gone from me doing artwork for people like Awful Records to branching out to other genres as far as Thundercat and Flying Lotus go, and really just trying to help and put my foot in wherever and creatively direct for people. That's really where it is now.
FRANNIE: Is there a way you kind of stand between the artist and some type of audience?
ZACK FOX: As sort of like a membrane to —
FRANNIE: Yeah. Exactly, actually.
ZACK FOX: I would hope not. I mean, I would be flattered if someone said, "I got a Zack Fox co-sign," and if that was cool to them, that's cool to me of course too. But I definitely would never want to be seen as, like, this is something that is a milestone for a rapper. Because I see artists from every end of the spectrum as far as notoriety goes and see something that I like and try to branch out with them or reach out and help. So I wouldn't really see it as a membrane, cause if Wiz hit me up tomorrow, I'd be like, "Yes. Let's work together."
FRANNIE: Right. OK, well then maybe how would you characterize, you use the word demographic, or maybe your audience? How do you think about who they are and what they get from what you make?
ZACK FOX: I think that specifically my fans understand, like, this really weird intersection of a comedian that does visual art and also sort of works in this weird sort of advertising role or marketing role for certain people creatively. It's a weird niche. I don't think that it's been necessarily defined yet, and I think that that's going to continue to go through metamorphosis as Internet culture grows. Because there's so many people like that and so many people who choose to focus on one route of it.
I choose to keep it amorphous because that's more fun. And I think that my fans specifically just kind of understand that and see that it could go any direction.
FRANNIE: To me, it seems like there's a kind of obvious — or not obvious — but there's precedent for what you do. But that those people that serve that function had different titles in some way. Does that make any sense to you?
ZACK FOX: As far as titles go?
FRANNIE: Well, I'm asking Ali about like, in the late '80s or early '90s, people that kind of lay some groundwork for certain artists' aesthetic to be received.
ALI: Well, you asked that, and the only person that immediately came to my mind was Fab 5 Freddy.
FRANNIE: OK. Yeah.
ALI: So it's interesting, because I think someone, in using him as an example, is a — well, he was around at the birthplace of hip-hop, right? And the things that he was into from an art perspective, how they all collided at that moment in time. So he was a fan, but he was a fan while something new was unfolding. And I guess having an impression and an opinion while all these things are happening kind of became this person that people looked up to.
And that which he spoke about that he loved and even bridging together, you know, punk, the punk world of music, the hip-hop genre, the art world, even the dance culture, and his take on it definitely catapulted and pushed the genre even more forward. So I don't know too many people like that, at least from my personal relationship with music. But I know that he was definitely —
FRANNIE: What about the Captain?
ALI: Sean? Oh god. So Frannie's asking me about Tribe Called Quest A&R. His name is Sean Carasov. Went by the name of Captain a.k.a. Captain Pissy. And that's obviously because he used to drink a lot. And Sean was a road manager of the Beastie Boys who evolved and became a very credible A&R person. So are you asking from that perspective?
FRANNIE: Yeah. Yeah.
ALI: That's a good question. He's no longer here. So you ask that, it makes me want to ask him a whole bunch of other questions now that I never really got into because my relationship with Sean was: he's our A&R person. He was interested. He had his ear to the streets, and he never really got in the way of us making music.
But he had a relationship with the music in and of itself that was for us, like, not larger than life, but it was — it had a relevance to what was going on at the time.
FRANNIE: Yeah. I mean, I think that part of trying to think about what's really making the music that people listen to, you have to talk to a whole bunch of people who not only don't get thanked actually in the liner notes or whatever, but just like don't even touch any part of it directly and kind of influence the way that people — the way that they're approaching things like crisis or absurd things or things that are fucked up or just — that kind of give this way to see the world, kind of.
And that's where I see you impacting a lot of people that you're never going to meet.
ZACK FOX: Right. Yeah.
FRANNIE: So yeah. And I just think it's kind of a — you're not the first to do it. I'm sorry.
ZACK FOX: Yeah, no. Absolutely not. Yeah.
FRANNIE: But I think it's a proud lineage.
ZACK FOX: I've definitely thought about Fab 5 before in that role and just, like you said, the role he played with punk, meeting hip-hop in such a cataclysmic way. That's really important. So yeah, in the Internet age, there're so many people like that. I still don't know if anyone has really gotten the word for it, whatever that amalgam is of a person who just is a fan and wants to work creatively in those roles.
But it's fun. Yeah. I love it.
FRANNIE: Do you think an eventual goal is A&R, just without the title?
ZACK FOX: You know, I've had this discussion before with people, because I guess earlier this year a lot of artists were breaking, and I was really there talking about it a lot via Twitter and Instagram and stuff. And the way that people find out about artists these days is so different from the way it used to be —
FRANNIE: Meaning that it's a lot of word of mouth?
ZACK FOX: I think it's so much more word of mouth that I don't really understand what the A&R's role is these days, because the guys who have the know-how and the guys who have the star power to reach whatever goal they're trying to reach in hip-hop, they're doing it themselves these days. My friends did it themselves. My favorite artist this year, SahBabii, did it himself from a family-owned business and didn't really need anything until it gets to a certain point where it's a discussion about distribution and reaching a higher plateau. And then you can talk to people like Warner Bros. and Atlantic.
But even Metro was talking about Atlantic-specific artist group just this past week and how it's kind of like, you don't need that anymore.
FRANNIE: Did you ever, though? Need it?
ALI: I think that's subjective. This time period is way different than 20, 30 years ago, so most people — I think yes, to answer your question. Because for an example, you can take maybe $2,000 and really buy a fully equipped-sounding recording device that comes with things that make it quality produced-, professionally produced-sounding.
And 20, 30 years ago, technology was not there, so you kind of — unless you had a trust fund, some rich friends who really didn't care about giving you $200,000 to go record. That didn't happen often. So yeah, I think kind of, just because of the structure of the way that music was packaged.
FRANNIE: OK. Got it. Do you spend a lot of time just listening?
ZACK FOX: Yeah. Like, all of my days. Pretty much.
FRANNIE: Is it stuff that people send you? Is it stuff that you go looking for?
ZACK FOX: I really rarely listen to links that people send me, just cause — I keep my DMs open typically on Twitter just in case something does really pique my interest, but a lot of times I'm not sifting through that. I have my own methodology of the way that I dig through SoundCloud and dig through —
FRANNIE: What's your methodology?
ZACK FOX: I mean, I honestly at this point feel like all my devices have this weird, predictory method that they know I'm going to be looking for the weirdest, most outlandish shit, so it kind of seems to come to me. But whether it's, like, just lurking hard through someone's likes or late night on Twitter, a lot of the people that I follow on Twitter have kind of formed this net where we're really — it's a concerted effort to try and find these kids that are coming out.
And being able to see Matt OX metamorphose over the years, and now he's huge, and being able to see people like Trippie Redd, you just have to be constantly listening, I think. And that's probably the best part about it. When there was nothing to gain from being in this role, that's what I was doing. So that's how I know it's what I'll always be doing.
FRANNIE: How do you know if something is good or something you want to champion?
ZACK FOX: These days it's — that is a loaded question, cause good has become even more torn apart and abstracted than a few years ago.
ZACK FOX: And I think that that's just going to keep changing exponentially, cause we're in such — we're already in the age of post-Internet art, and we're already in the age of post-art. The other day I found this kid Kill Whitey who makes songs about autofellatio and, like, just really wild shit. But that doesn't take away from the part that, man, this guy might actually be a really smart artist and know that this is going to stick. And it is.
ALI: Do you have a definition of longevity in the now sense of the way things are?
ZACK FOX: I used to think that — a few years ago, especially thinking about people that I consider to have reached that nirvana element of longevity, people like Gucci, a few years ago, I was like, "Yeah, it's so clear cut." Don't worry about — Gucci has a very clear philosophy that he doesn't worry about when people take his style or in any way interpolate what he's doing, because you can't copy someone's source code. It's just impossible. You can imitate it all day, and if you made a song and I was like, "Oh, I can do that a little bit better," and I get a number one hit off of it, it still is me imitating you.
And longevity today I don't think too many people have gotten that element of it. I think there's still a lot of inner turmoil. And specifically in the range of SoundCloud rappers and any one who's in that atmosphere around it, there's a lot of inner turmoil about who's inventing what, who's coining what, who's doing what, and finding someone who's really going to be able to rise out of that and last as long as Gucci, I don't know.
I think Migos are probably the last artist to come out of Atlanta, and Future and Thug of course, but those are the last people that I deified in my mind about how good they are at coming up with music and their ideas. They, in my mind, reached that sort of god-like level that I put my original favorite hip-hop artists like Ghostface and DOOM and all those people. Like, I had them up here, and I was like, OK, this is who it is for 2013, '14, '15, but who is next? It's a hard question. Cause I don't see it a lot.
ZACK FOX: Not after Thug have I really seen it, like, a lot a lot.
FRANNIE: Well, sometimes you can only see it in retrospect too.
ZACK FOX: That's true. But to that point, when I heard "Danny Glover," I was like, "Dude, this guy is going to last a long time," because he had such a clear goal. And you know, you asked him, "Who's your favorite rapper?" He just said, "My favorite rapper's Lil Wayne and I literally just want to be Lil Wayne." And he kind of embodied that so much that he became so much of himself that you can't really reverse-engineer any Wayne-ness out of it now.
I can't think of someone off the top of my head from the past couple years that has shined that well or that bright so early on.
FRANNIE: I don't know. Maybe Uzi Vert. Yeah.
ZACK FOX: It's anyone's opinion, I think. I love his music. I do. But I guess I just put the two on a different plateau.
FRANNIE: Yeah, I think there's sort of — there's the plateau, and then there's the who's going to make moves enough to kind of elevate into this pedestal where you kind of can't get knocked off, even if you fall off. And I always think about how much industry money does it take to actually hit that level, where you kind of have to keep them in the conversation even though they're not your favorite?
ZACK FOX: Yeah. Yeah.
ALI: That's a good way of looking at it. I don't know if it necessarily is — if the industry money does factor into it more than the commitment of the artist, especially I think finding their own identity. Because like you said, if you're kind of borrowing other people's sort of style to make your own identity, especially in this age where there is a lot more music available now from an independent perspective, at some point, you have to kick in, I think, to prolong it.
And I'm just curious in terms of when you're looking for stuff, and does that even factor into — or is it just like, I'm feeling this artist for the way they are right now?
ZACK FOX: I think in the way that I have accomplished anything with artists has always been keeping it present. Because, like Frannie said, a lot of times that longevity is something you can't see until you're already waist deep in it and you're like, "Oh, this dude is a star."
But a lot of people don't want that. A lot of people don't see the point in it, and a lot of people are going so hard against that grain that they're building themselves as stars in that avenue. There's kids — Goth Money Records, I can think off the top of my head, from D.C., who were so — their philosophy seems so anti-capitalist and so anti-fame that they're glorified and they're deified in their own cult circle. So that's just as important.
FRANNIE: I feel like — I'm going to re-ask this question cause I maybe cut you off or something. But how do you think about who your audience is? And then how they might receive people that you introduce them to or remind them about?
ZACK FOX: I honestly don't think about it enough, because when I'm approached by people who appreciate something that I've done, whether it be art or writing or whatever, it always comes from a different place —
FRANNIE: And you're surprised.
ZACK FOX: — and I'm like, "That person likes it?" I'm like, "Really? OK." I'm always — I'll never stop being flattered that someone appreciates any side of the — whatever, the octagon or if it's a hectagon of what I do. Anyone who's like, "Yeah, that's cool." I'm like, "Tight." I don't really — followers and stuff to me is just a number. And I really just — at any moment I'm just fucking around in my own head, and I'm not really too calculated about the reception of certain things.
FRANNIE: OK. Do you think about it as a — and I apologize for — I don't want to put ideas into your head that would stress you out in any way, but do you think about the power that you have to kind of get people to see things from your point of view. I'm thinking about a lot of stuff that you do, social justice is not the right word, but in terms of getting people to see things from the correct angle.
ZACK FOX: Yeah, I don't think I really understood that power until late last year, early this year. I mean, the myriad of things going on, it's so hard for a lot of people that I see on and off the Internet to kind of find your way and pinpoint some way that you can actually help. And that in a way, is kind of, in my opinion, a really specific and psychological attack on youth today. You're given just all of this stuff. There's DACA and there's women's rights and there's immigration, which goes into DACA, and it just keeps building and building and building that we're getting trapped in this rehearsed cynicism, where people can't just sift through it and find one thing to help.
And that pretty lately has been a big goal of mine, specifically thinking of black women and women in general and trans women of color who have experienced sexual abuse, survived sexual abuse, thinking about in what way I can help them. Because in my opinion, they're some of the most important followers that I've amassed, whether they be writers or musicians, and figuring out creative ways, not just through — a lot of people can perform wanting to help, but trying to come up with ways to really help in that way, I think, at least.
FRANNIE: That's great. I think you're a really good writer also.
ZACK FOX: Appreciate it.
FRANNIE: And I don't think that people see it that much, because you're busy doing other things. But when you wrote about that whole shit with Diplo, I mean, first of all, that was like, you doing a thing, I thought, so women didn't have to deal with that motherfucker that day. But also your writing around the whole exchange put it in front of a different audience, just people who were busy that day or those days or whatever. Did you see that? Do you know what I'm talking about?
FRANNIE: Well, I guess you could just sort of relay what happened.
ZACK FOX: So I guess I was just kind of, I guess you could say, intrigued but mostly vexed by something that he tweeted.
FRANNIE: He had tweeted that he was opposed to the Muslim ban because Persian girls are so fine. Yeah.
ZACK FOX: Yeah. So in my head, I'm like, if this was a person who assigned themselves to be a comedian — and a lot of times I get in trouble for stuff that I say all the time, because I make a lot jokes — but if he had assigned himself that role, then maybe I would've been like, ah, but it still was a bad joke, even then. And kind of called him out for it. He saw it, and it just turned into this entire —
ALI: So he responded to your —
ZACK FOX: He responded.
ZACK FOX: And then once he responded and I kind of got to a point where I felt as though I was not dealing with the smartest individual, I just started trolling. And that kind of turned into dismantling a person with a lot more money than me, their day, which just became fun at that point, and then it turned into me getting suspended from Twitter for like 20 hours or so, something like that.
ALI: Oh, that thing.
ALI: I said, "Oh, that thing that they do."
FRANNIE: I mean, it was just kind of telling. It was a moment that, because it also happened, yeah, late last year, that was like, "Oh, this is how it's going to be."
ZACK FOX: Yeah.
FRANNIE: For I don't even know how long. The foreseeable future, I guess. But yeah, you do get a lot of shit, right?
ZACK FOX: Not as much lately, but I've gotten shit in the past definitely.
FRANNIE: How do you sort of navigate criticism, when people say — when they're disturbed by something that you might do or say or just grossed out or just say they don't appreciate it?
ZACK FOX: It's hard these days, because you're treading a lot of really sensitive lines that are not only sensitive but inflamed right now, especially when it comes to things that are race-related, when it comes to things that are related to women. Having a voice that is most often perceived as comedic but sometimes on a serious note, if those things blend, then you can get a concoction for people to be angry. But most of the time, the vast majority of the people are like, "This is just a coded joke." But if it doesn't reach a few people, which that has happened in the past, and especially if they're women, sometimes it turns into an argument.
But nine times out of ten I'm just going to delete whatever I said. Cause if it pisses off three black women that much, then I'm like, "Good." I'm like, "Alright. Cool." And if it that turns into ten, 20, 30, then I'm just like, "I'm out." It's not worth a joke at the end of the day.
And those ideas, whatever they were or whatever they are, that might offend someone are probably better suited to take shape in another creative form that would be better received, whether I write it into a script that I'm developing or something that I would like to turn into a bigger project. It's just better off that way.
ALI: Speaking of your maybe taking a situation like that and turning it or using it creatively in a different application, when was it that you realized you knew your calling and how you were going to live your life basically?
ZACK FOX: Not until I would say a couple years ago, because I was in such — this maelstrom of trying to figure out what exactly it was I wanted to do, and left art school with an associate's degree and was like, "I don't want to do this anymore. This is making me not creative at all."
ALI: You meant the school aspect of it or —
ZACK FOX: Yeah, the school aspect.
ALI: Yeah, right.
ZACK FOX: And was just working in the service industry and trying to figure it out. And of course visual art has always been the main thread that I've reached people through, and that just sort of started to overtake everything. And then the music part of it just became Awful Records kind of surrounding me as a friend group in Atlanta when I didn't really have a lot of people. I didn't really have a network there.
And them kind of saying, "Hey, you're not just" — specifically Ethereal and Father, them saying, "You're not specifically just an artist. You've helped us. You've" — it kind of started taking shape a couple years ago. The role started to expand. And it's still taking shape, whatever it is. But social media and visual art and being a close friend to these musicians definitely is how it started.
FRANNIE: Is it important for people to be provoked?
ZACK FOX: Yeah, I think if we get to a place where people stop being shocked out of a sensibility that is long held, then what's the point? And not necessarily shocked for the sake of being edgy, but if you see something that makes you think about it in a different way and reexamine your own feelings about it, then I think that that's cool. And I think that we should keep provoking each other. I think that's the point of comedy, especially, and that can be the point of music sometimes. Doesn't always have to be. But I think provocation and irritating people sometimes is kind of what they need to want to fix something or want to look at it.
FRANNIE: A lot of times when I see comedy that — or just people saying — just people making fun of other people, to me, it's a way to reinforce a standard of behavior. It's a little bit of being like, "You can do better than this."
ZACK FOX: I could say it like this: the worst kind of racism that we face today isn't the provoking kind, and when you haven't seen the provocation, you're not really thinking about it. When you do see it, that's what shocks you to think, "Oh, shit. I need to fix this problem." But underneath everything that could be interpreted as provoked racism, which is name-calling or literally the first thing I could do to you if I don't like the color of your skin, which is more on the lines of prejudice than racism, most racism is completely systemic and underneath the water.
And it's coded, it's encrypted, and you're not going to be able to really see it unless you're challenging that idea. You're not seeing it until you say, "Tim Burton, you ain't got no black people in your movie." And then, you know, just recently we kind of figured out he has some strange racial opinions. But a lot of times it kind of takes that, "Oh, shit. I'm offended. But let me look further and figure it out."
FRANNIE: So if by calling people out and making people question what they're doing, how they're acting, is important, what is the goal for people's behavior? How would —
ZACK FOX: That's a really good question. Because when the Diplo thing happened, that's not the first time that that's happened. It's not the last time — to anyone. But coming from me, who's — I'm the most absurd person that most people could think to call someone out, just because I usually don't get involved in things like that. But looking at it and seeing it — and being on Twitter, you see it every day — there needs to be kind of a shift, I think, in what call-out culture is actually producing and what it's actually helping with.
Did Diplo get more educated that day about women's rights and about sexualizing women because of the color of their skin?
FRANNIE: Right. Cause what was the end —
ZACK FOX: What's the end goal? I guess —
FRANNIE: No, but his DM at the end, end of the conversation.
ZACK FOX: Oh, his DM was just kind of like, "I don't know who you are, but you're funny, and I didn't get you suspended." It had nothing to do with what the issue at hand was.
FRANNIE: He said like, "White people always lose on Twitter, and thank you for helping. This is my brand."
ZACK FOX: Yeah. He did say that. Wow. I forgot about that. That's fucked up. But yeah, you know, it's a call out, and it produced nothing.
And a lot of times I think we're all so angry, and then we're getting caught up in just taking a person down a peg or for whatever reason. And there needs to be more discourse than just people, like, waiting in the darkness for someone to say something wrong.
Yeah, call someone out, but if I could change anything about that specific conversation it would turn into, "Hey, let me honestly just educate you, and we're not angry at each other, but you can do better." And it doesn't need to be like: "Do better, bitch, or I'ma slap you." It needs to be honestly for all of us.
ALI: Do you think that that's a purpose best served in a public or sometimes better served behind —
ZACK FOX: If I made someone mad, genuinely, I would hope that they would just DM me. And I would hope that they would just say, "Hey, let's talk about this idea. Let's talk about how you feel about it and have just a talk." But that day was different because I could tell Diplo was not coming from that place, and as you said, he's still — he doesn't really give a shit. So that's where I was coming from.
FRANNIE: But sometimes when you do it in public, it educates people who are just watching. Like, what is good behavior? How can you tell if you're like, "That's fine. You're doing a good job. Go forth?"
ZACK FOX: I don't think there's a way to tell that, because there is no reward for just being the baseline decent. People that I, for all of my childhood, considered to be decent, good people turn out to be many other things, whether it be abusers or whatever. Bill Cosby. Perfect example. Does or did so much for the black community, but it's impossible to look at him in that light only, because he's a lot of things at this point. And people can be a lot of things.
I wish there was a way to say, "Hey, we're measuring how good you are lately and you're doing a great job." Cause it doesn't work like that, I think. When people display exemplary feats in what they're doing for their community and what they're doing, then yeah. But even then trust is thin.
FRANNIE: I know. I think the coolest thing ever would be if you could give people rewards for emotional intelligence or emotional maturity. Be like, "You crushed today psychologically."
ZACK FOX: Yeah.
FRANNIE: "You won that relationship."
ZACK FOX: But it's only when you drift the other way and when you don't display that and when you go — when you drink for two days straight and do some dumb shit, that's when people take notice, and that's when your behavior is noted. But I don't know if that's just humans in general, our nature.
FRANNIE: Cause I wanted to ask you about reading. Because I see you on Twitter — you put up what you're reading a lot, right? So similarly, how do you find what you want to read next?
ZACK FOX: I'm really basic about reading. It's either recommendations or Goodreads. I think Goodreads is still the best tool to find new books. Cause I'm like, "Yep. Alright." Cause if I wait too long, I have terrible, terrible indecisiveness.
FRANNIE: Oh, yeah. Me too. I know what you mean.
ZACK FOX: Even just trying to figure out what I want to watch on Netflix is —
FRANNIE: It's a whole —
ZACK FOX: — a whole crisis. So I try to spend the least amount of time trying to find what to read next. Cause I'll be reading about what I want to read for an entire day.
FRANNIE: Yeah. Are you a fast reader?
ZACK FOX: No, I'm pretty average reading speed.
FRANNIE: Do you keep books after you finish them?
ZACK FOX: A lot of times I just find them online or —
FRANNIE: OK, like PDFs.
ZACK FOX: Yeah, just get a PDF or get them on Kindle or whatever. I don't have a lot of physical books. I used to and then just gave them away.
ALI: Today an article I read about this artist named Jeanette Hayes, you familiar with her?
ZACK FOX: Jeanette Hayes. I don't think so.
ALI: And apparently MGMT had an artist named Maruo do their cover art, and someone on Twitter said that MGMT did not credit this artist named Jeanette Hayes who people seemed to have thought it was her art. But actually she, based off this article, has a history of plagiarizing specifically Japanese art. And she had a posting a few years ago saying, "If it's not the Internet, then I'm going to steal it." Basically. "It belongs to me."
And so I was just wondering as an artist, what are your thoughts on the use of the Internet in terms of it being a great resource and a place to become educated, a place to inspire, but then especially in music and art culture where so many other ideas are acquired and often duplicated in a very creative and savvy way, but then sometimes you just straight ripped someone.
ZACK FOX: You just jacked it. Yeah.
ALI: What are your thoughts on that?
ZACK FOX: I think we're at a place where we're thinking about that in such a much broader sense with things like cryptocurrency and blockchain, which are trying to create a space for the Internet that's so much more secure than what we have now and based on more trust. I think that we won't really fix the issue until we get to a place like that.
I think plagiarism will always exist. It's just in our genome to take shit. It's happened to me. It's happened to people that I know. And me specifically, I just kind of chalk it up to the same thing that my friend Ayesha tells me. Ayesha Siddiqi always says, "They can take from you, but they can't take the source code."
And being more picky about what I choose to share has definitely happened in this year specifically. I don't share everything that I have. I don't share everything that I've liked that I've done. I don't share everything that I hate that I've done. I've cut a lot of my content short, so I can focus on bigger ideas. Like, if it's plaguing me that someone takes this small idea, then take that and assimilate it into something bigger that will make me more proud at the end of the day and if you tried to steal something from this bigger idea, then you just look dumb.
That's kind of how I feel about it. Just nurture those things more. So when people do try to crack into that egg and take something from it, either other people notice so much that it just looks sloppy or you just really don't care at the end of the day. That's how I feel about it. You know, people are going to keep taking shit.
ALI: Absolutely. I think that's a great perspective in terms of finding the bigger part of that idea, which I think, as a musician, it's interesting, because especially with SoundCloud, there is just so much out there, and it's some people out there intentionally looking to rip you off. Just because there's so much information, you listen to a few things, you go to sleep, wake up thinking that was your idea.
ZACK FOX: Yeah.
ALI: But specifically for someone who may really be bothered and frustrated that that has happened to them, I like the idea of you going deeper into really showing who you are and why you're the source versus someone else who's inspired by you.
ZACK FOX: Yeah. I think that's an important note for everyone. Sorry.
FRANNIE: No! How did that play into writing any of the script for Kuso or this book that you got coming out?
ZACK FOX: The book idea is 100% that. I have always liked the idea of art that seems kind of an afterthought in your home. And coffee table books kind of take up some of that space. Coffee table books and house plants and art that you don't really care about.
And I have always been obsessed with the idea of marketing or advertising things as something they're not. And this will be — I guess I can say it on here, but I definitely want to push it as a children's book, but as an adult's children's book, and market it that way and brand it that way, but —
FRANNIE: How would you market it that way?
ZACK FOX: We'll talk about that after. But —
FRANNIE: I meant theoretically, but OK.
ZACK FOX: Yeah, I mean, just the way that you go about —
I'll use another example. One of my favorite noise bands, they're called Throbbing Gristle. They were active mostly in the '80s, I guess '90s some too. But one of their best albums, and the name of it specifically, I'm annoyed cause I can't think of it, but the cover of it is them in this meadow with daisies and wildflowers. And they all have on these corny sweaters and colorful pants. And it's marketed as this, like, jazz compilation album of them just, like, playing their jazz hits. But you put on the vinyl, and it sounds like just utter chaos and, like, war.
I've always been enamored with that and liked it a lot. So doing that for my fans, it's just like a little gift for them. And it'll kind of be a compilation of short stories that I've held onto, artwork that is both on the Internet and that I haven't shared yet, kind of just a small piece of me and everything that I've worked on. And kind of just see what happens with it.
FRANNIE: That's exciting.
ZACK FOX: Yeah, it's cool.
FRANNIE: Is there anything that you wanted to talk about —
ZACK FOX: Nope.
FRANNIE: — or get on the record about? Anything? We really appreciate you taking this time.
ZACK FOX: Yeah.
FRANNIE: And, you know, being serious with us.
ZACK FOX: For once, I get to be serious.
FRANNIE: I feel lucky and honored.
ZACK FOX: Thank you. It was a pleasure.
ALI: Thank you. Gave me an education too.
ZACK FOX: I need it. We all need it.
FRANNIE: Yeah. Thanks, guys.
ZACK FOX: Especially right now.
ALI: Yeah. Thank you.