Earlier this month, David Yow appeared at WORD in Greenpoint to show some of the art from his latest project. The book in question is titled Copycat, and it’s a collection of, for lack of a better phrase, cat pun drawings: Catatonic, Cat Burglar, etc. (A selection of them can be seen on the site of publisher Akashic Books.) After the slideshow had ended, Yow and Jason Diamond sat down for a Q & A that encompassed Yow’s music and art, his current acting work, and a history of cats.
The Jesus Lizard book came out last year, now this book is out–ten, fifteen years ago, would you have thought that there would be all of these books with your work on people’s bookshelves?
In the start of the book, you mentioned your father–that you said that you wanted to be a fighter pilot or an artist, and he chose fighter pilot, right?
Did you grow up with a lot of artwork in your house?
We had art on the walls. It was pretty middle-of-the-road. Whatever Eddy Arnold had in his house, we had in ours. But my father did some paintings. I drove to Albuquerque last week and saw some cloud formations that blew my mind: there was a straight line, with the shadows from the sun going through it. And my father had done this painting that was kind of a seascape when I was a kid and we lived in north Africa. The ocean was on the bottom third of the painting, and in the blue sky was a straight line that separated the sky from the white area. I remember asking him, “Well, what’s that?” And he said, “It’s a cloud.” He was a pilot; he knows clouds a lot better than we do. But I had never seen a cloud with a straight edge until last week. So they have them in Albuquerque and north Africa.
The only two places with straight clouds. You’d also mentioned that your first cat was named Me Yow, and you have the illustration in there… Have you had cats your entire life?
We got Me Yow when we lived in Tripoli. I was probably four, and my sister was probably six. My dad didn’t like cats. We found these stray cats, and brought this kitten home and insisted that we keep her. And my dad said, “Well, I don’t like cats, but if we’re gonna have a cat, we’re gonna name it Me Yow.” So we named it Me Yow. She lived with us for quite some time. She lived with us in north Africa, and she lived with us when we moved to Durham, North Carolina, and then to Virginia, and to England, and to Texas. She died in Texas. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life was to dig her grave. David and Tom can tell you, in Central Texas, there’s the caliche rock that exists two or three inches below the surface of everybody’s lawn. It’s just this solid rock. So I had to dig through that to bury our cat Me Yow, and that was a motherfucker.
Did you have cats when you were touring?
Yeah, I’ve pretty much always had cats. There was one point when the Jesus Lizard guys all lived together, and our landlord wouldn’t allow us to have a cat. So we had a life-size cardboard cutout of a cat that we named “Toody,” being….two-dimensional.
Outside of that, I think I’ve pretty much always had cats. David and I had cats when we were roommates. Hugh, Spacemonkey, and Orson. Tweedle-Do. David. There was one we got when David Sims and I were roommates, and we got this cat, and he was great. But we couldn’t figure out what to name him. Our friend Becky goes, “Um….David?” So we had a cat named David.
Are people surprised to find out that you’re such a cat guy?
Have people had strange reactions to the work?
For the most part, it’s been positive and encouraging. I did an interview with this woman last week for a website called Cat Wisdom 101. She said some really nice things; I mean, she was weird. But she said that she reviews 100 cat books a year, and she said that she’d never seen one like mine.
That’s a good thing.
I think so.
The cat community has been responsive to your illustrations.
Well, it only just came out yesterday. We’ll know soon.
When I started looking at the illustrations, I thought of those pictures of kittens with big eyes…
The sad kittens.
(Someone from the audience–possibly Johanna from Akashic–says, “Keene.” -ed.)
Do you have any influences as an illustrator?
Well, yes. I was an art major in school, so, Rauschenberg and Hockney and all those people.
I’ve also heard you’re a good cook.
I’m a really good cook.
Is there a chance that there’s going to be a cookbook in the future?
Probably not. When we did the Jesus Lizard book, putting it together and assembling it was a huge pain in the ass. A cookbook? I don’t think so.
I’d buy it. I don’t know if anyone else would…
(There are murmurs of “Yes” and “I’d buy one” from the crowd. -ed.)
Okay. I mean, there is that recipe in the Jesus Lizard book for bread pudding.
You could go from there.
I am on a cooking show. There’s a kids’ cooking show called Pancake Mountain that was originally started in DC by this guy named Scott Stuckey and his friend JR. I think Ian MacKaye had his hand in it. It’s really cool. It’s sort of a kids’ show, but sort of not a kids’ show. They recently moved to Los Angeles, and they asked me to be involved, so there are three episodes of the show called “Cooking With Yow.” We did some really good food, like….peanut butter on celery and coconut macaroons. There’s another episode that’s coming out that’s a no-bake Oreo pie. They aren’t what you’d really call recipes, but….
It’s a start. I don’t want to ask too many music questions, but: Scratch Acid did the reunion shows, and Jesus Lizard toured. You put out a solo album last year. Do you have any more plans for music in the future?
Very little. I don’t have much interest in doing music these days. There’s an old friend of mine from DC, Richmond, named Pen Rollings, who has a bunch of bands: Ladyfingers, Honor Role, Breadwinner, and stuff. He’s doing a thing now called Bowl Ethereal, and he wants me to sing on that. All of the songs are one minute long; it’s really chuggy. (Yow makes a noisy stop-and-start sound. -ed.) I’m going to sing on that. I think, from here on out, there will be the occasional collaboration, but as far as full-time music, I don’t know…
So it’s just illustrating, and…
No, I’m an actor.
I saw that on Twitter! What are you doing right now?
I just auditioned for Better Call Saul, which is a spin-off of Breaking Bad. I’m been acting seriously for about six years, or more, and I just recently got an agent. They’re based in Albuquerque, and last week, they said, “Can you come to Albuquerque tomorrow to audition for Better Call Saul?” You guys watched Breaking Bad, right? It’s as good as TV gets. And this is still by Vince Gilligan. Unfortunately, though, the casting director liked me, but I couldn’t do it–they were going to be shooting tomorrow, and I have to do this thing in Chicago with a cat. Too many people have done too many things for that event, that I couldn’t cancel. But that was only for the fifth episode, so hopefully I’ll get to be on Better Call Saul.
Go to davidyow.org if you want to check that stuff out.
And you’re also on Twitter. I didn’t know that until yesterday.
I don’t get Twitter. I don’t know that the fuck…
It’s bullshit. But I saw that you were on it.
Image courtesy of WORD.