Alix Olson the Protagonist

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Alix Olson the Protagonist

In my mind, the “real world” that we are demanded to attend to, return to, belong to is dry and harsh and unappealing. The ways that our vibrant full-ness of being—and that certainly includes political rage—is slowly drained out of people in our society is something I have tried to battle my whole adult life. As annoying as it is, I sort of watch in awe when my child demands something he needs—bananas, my attention, whatever. It reminds me that desiring recognition for your own being and for other beings—is natural—that demanding justice is human.

That is why I continue to spend much of my life imagining new possibilities for worldliness, for being with one another.

Can you tell me a bit about your academic career, what is your disertation on? Has your years on the road, being in the thick of things informed your academic research/interests?

My dissertation touches upon some of these themes. I’m exploring the ways that maturity has operated discursively as a way of measuring, judging and dismissing many modes of political thought and action. For example, the political and economic project of neo-liberalism values rationality, individualism, efficiency and so on—all sort of metrics of a “mature” or advanced society. How do these ideas contour our understanding of political action and interaction—including art?

The title "Protagonist" for me speaks to the idea that we love worshiping the individual in the U.S.—the victor, victim, hero, savior, entrepreneur, whatever. But we don’t actually encourage independent thinking or political action or individualism or disobedience. We like protagonists who stay safely within the bounds set forth by capitalist anti-woman culture.

So, in one way or another—all of the poems on the album speak to that critique. Just in ways that reflect the way my political thinking has changed a little over time. The age of the poems on the album is wide. The oldest poem was written in 2007 (Bobcats) when I was on the road—I never had a chance to record it because I was touring so much at that point. There were many poems that sort of got lost during that period of time. So Bobcats is very bittersweet for me and sort of one of the book ends of the album in that way.

That’s a bobcat mask on the cover of the album. The newest piece is “everybody’s waiting” and that was written over the months leading up to recording—just some recent observations (without all of my characteristic judgment) about how so many of us are acting and re-acting politically. It sort of reflects where I sit in this moment of my political journey—not stymied exactly but certainly more bubbling with questions than proclamations. I’m very proud of the album because it’s honest—at least as honest as something can be that is packaged as presentation.

I'm happy to see your buddies from the old days (Melissa Ferrick and Pamela Means) backing you up again. There is a lot of water under these bridges. Can you tell me how working with them has changed, enhanced, deepened your work?
I loved working with Melissa and Pamela. I asked Melissa to produce the album because I think she has a real gift for creating tunes you want to sink into and I was curious how that might translate into backing up spoken word.

Beyond (in my opinion) being a guitar genius, Pamela has been in my life for twenty years—at various times a friend, a co-traveler, a lover, now as one of my kid’s most reliable and loving adults. That kind of consistency has always been very important to me. Friendships like that remind you of your core even when layers change colors and styles. She also is just this ironic, calm, super witty spirit. I hear that spirit in Dear Diary. Melissa and Pamela wrote all of the music for "Protagonist".

I basically performed my work for them and gave them license to play around with sounds for the record. Spoken word is funny that way. The music you record with the poems can entirely change the way the piece is interpreted. So in my view, "Protagonist" is one particular interpretation of this particular set of poems that was captured by the three of us at this particular time.

 

"Protagonist" is available through
iTunes & CDbaby