July 5, 2022

Torquil Campbell and the Art of Joyful Quote Tweeting

Torquil Campbell and the Art of Joyful Quote Tweeting

This week on a very special episode of Friendless, your host James Avramenko is joined by Stars co-front singer and co-host of the Soft Revolution podcast, the one and only Torquil Campbell.

They discuss hashtags as marketing tools, generic individualism, quote tweeting positivity, and of course throughout the whole interview you get to listen to James desperately try to sound cool and collected in front of one of my artistic idols.

Check out the latest Stars album From Capelton Hill on Bandcamp or on their Website

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Transcript
James Avramenko:

Hey there sweetpeas. Welcome back to Friendless the show that tries to teach you how to be a better friend, by losing every friend you have. I'm your host, as always, James Avramenko back once more to ask what it means to be a good friend. And whether or not I've been one. After a slight break a little breather, I am back with a fresh batch of interviews, starting with one of my biggest guests ever. He is the Co-frontman of stars. He's the co host of one of my favourite podcasts, Soft Revolution. And to top all that off, he's also an incredibly charming and super friendly guy, the one the only Torquil mother fucking Campbell, is on Friendless this week. This is hopefully a new direction that I'm taking the show in. And it's a bit of an experiment. I just really was feeling like I wanted to do a little more with the show, I was feeling a little stagnant with just the same repetitive friend questions. So I wanted to open it up a little bit. And I wanted to start shining the spotlight on artists and other types of accounts who inspire me, or just creating work that I want to help amplify or just kind of get to know better. And so Torq is the first in a series that I'm really, really excited about, and hopefully will become a bit more of the norm of the show. Obviously, I'm still gonna be doing the whole unfriending thing, but hopefully this will be intermixed throughout. So without further ado, please enjoy my interview with one of my artistic heroes. This is the guy who I have been in awe of since I was 17 years old, I still remember exactly where I was when my friend Danny put on set yourself on fire for the first time and changed my entire world. So this interview was an incredible honour. And I think you're really going to enjoy it. And hopefully it is a sign of more things to come. But without further ado, lean back, get comfy, turn up the volume and dread my interview with Torq Campbell, here on Friendless. So this week on friendlies, I have a guest that needs no introduction, but I could rattle off all kinds of of his accomplishments. He's the Co-lead of Stars. He is the lead of Memphis. He's a playwright. He's an actor. He's a podcast host of the Soft Revolution. He's also if you google him wrong. He may be the 13th Duke of Argyll. I'm not sure about that.

Torquil Campbell:

Yes, I am. Yeah, it is okay. Yes, it's me. Yes.

James Avramenko:

The one and only Torquil Campbell. How, how the fuck are you, man?

Torquil Campbell:

I'm good. I just got over the dreaded 19. Yes. Which, you know, was interesting. I don't know if you've had it. But I do thank God for those vaccines, because you do feel like the first day you're like, oh, boy, this is gonna be absolutely fucking horrible. And then it's sort of just peters out. Like you can feel you can feel your body kicking into gear against it. And it just sort of it just dilutes into nothingness. So I was very lucky. So yes, I'm, I'm, I'm okay. We came home from tour, I got sick. And now I'm fine. And tour was, you know, fascinating. Like, yeah, in the darkest days of lockdown. And in the times when everybody thought nothing would be the same or maybe even hoped nothing would be the same. I really didn't know whether we would ever be able to do what we just did again. And we did so that's awesome. And I feel triumphant about that. And, and I remember all and it was nice to just like de romanticise it as well. And remember that there's a whole bunch of things about it that are, you know, not that pleasant, but a bunch of things that are, yeah, yeah. So it was great.

James Avramenko:

Isn't that one of the fun things too about like about art in general. And that's something that I really noticed through the lockdown. And then coming back to it is like, you really get those rosy tinted, like, all I want to do is be doing a play, and I just want to act and I want to, and then you get on stage and you're like, Oh, this is kind of bullshit in a way. Yeah.

Torquil Campbell:

I think that's the nature of life, isn't it? It's, and that's a beautiful thing. Like, you know, they always say that. When When, when a person gives birth, they don't remember giving birth. You know, like, my wife is like, I have no memory of actually giving birth. And apparently that's because the pain is so bad is that if you did remember it, you'd never have another kid right? Which would be anti biological for the brain to hold on to that memory. You just hold on to the bow. I had a beautiful child and smells so good. And I'm holding it close. And I think that's any creative act requires a lot of boredom, and a lot of pain and a lot of doubt and a lot of misery. But the result is beauty. And that's the thing you that's the thing your memory holds on I want to make to fool you into doing it all again.

James Avramenko:

You forget the month leading up you only remember opening night, right?

Torquil Campbell:

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

James Avramenko:

You know, speaking on sort of speaking on the lockdown stuff. You actually, were the first musician that I saw doing, like kind of at home work. You had that you were you were, I got to I got to witness the Facebook that didn't work the the like live show that didn't work. And then you get to you move to zoom.

Torquil Campbell:

Thanks, Mark. I mean, you know, that's what you get for putting your faith in Mark Zuckerberg, I guess? Yeah, I mean, I, I, I immediately panicked. That's generally my reaction to most things is panic. And I have been doing this all my life, I come from a family of people who made their living in we're in performance. And I've been performing since I was eight years old. And honestly, man, it's so crazy to me that I never once in 40 years heard anybody discussed the possibility that an airborne pathogen could bring the entire live performance industry to its knees. It never occurred to any of us for some reason. It's like, we thought of all kinds of things. But no one thought like, Hey, we should have a plan, just in case there's a virus that goes around. And so when it happened, I really did feel this massive sense of a fear that I didn't know what to do, you know, I had bills to pay. within 24 hours, everyone in my family lost their job, my sister lost her job, my brother lost his job, I lost my job, my wife lost her job. And I was looking around at this desolation and I had to make a living, I had to do something. So I just started to hustle. And I started to try and figure out a whole bunch of stuff that I'd never had to think about before. And and I'll always be grateful in a way for that, because I learned so fucking much about, about technology, about sending signals out through the internet about sound about recording about all kinds of stuff that I had kind of left to other people always do. Sure. And I was alone, right? I was, I couldn't rely on anybody else. So I just had to, like, get the YouTube videos out and start figuring it out for myself. And, and, yeah, that's kind of my reaction to things is to work, you know, is, it's like a way of wrestling some little bit of control back and I look back on those times is very panicky. You know, like the Facebook Live show, that was such a disaster and like, had a fight with my wife life

James Avramenko:

It was beautiful. I, I was loving it. I was

Torquil Campbell:

my wife wasn't such a big fan. But But But yeah, it was it was cool to, you know, like, I give myself a pat on the back and all the musicians out there for doing that. Because it really was just kind of like, okay, here's two pieces of tin foil and a couple of plates make something happen. So yeah, it was cool. It was

James Avramenko:

and it was, it was really interesting, you know, you know, I was working in theatre at the time, and I was trying to adapt, we were doing these, like monthly shows with a couple different theatres in I was living in Saskatoon at the time, and we were doing little like community theatre stuff. And we were originally doing them in person, then obviously couldn't do that. And we had to put them on, you know, zoom in on live. Yeah. And, you know, it was an interesting experience from both sides, right, as an audience and as a creator. Did you find for you, did you find? How do I put it? Did you find any satisfaction in that type of performance? Or did you find that it was just something to sort of span the time, but before you could get back to what actually gave you validation and fulfilment?

Torquil Campbell:

I'll be honest with you, it was profoundly unsatisfying. And I yeah, I think this was the big sort of revelation that no one's quite reckoned with yet about online performance is yes, it is better than absolutely nothing. But it is not the thing. It is not the thing itself. It's a completely other thing. It's a vacuum and, and I will never forget that first moment of like, Okay, here goes the concert. And that feed came on, you know, I start playing and I look into this camera. And you know, you're on Zoom. And so people are sending encouraging messages, and you can see their faces and stuff, but it only accentuated the separation in a strange way. It didn't I guess it didn't actually give you any feeling of connection other than you were connected in your separateness. And, and I think that that's, that's true of not just performance, but of all the efforts all of us made in the early days of the pandemic to try and stay in touch with each other those horrible social gatherings you know, you try and have Have our trivia nights with your friends, whatever it was everybody tried their best, right? We were all lonely. We were scared. We wanted to show each other our faces and let each other know we were there. And it came from a beautiful place. But I think it was ultimately profoundly unsatisfying in ways that none of us could have had have anticipated. And I think that's what's, that's what I find so interesting about the project that you're doing is, is we have this digital notion of friendship now that like, we call people, friends who we've never actually met, and that's a beautiful, that is a cool thing. That is a, that is a good thing. But I think maybe we need a different word for it than friends. Right? It's like,

James Avramenko:

that's a question. I'm always asking myself. Yeah. It's like, it's like, you're not my friend. I still I still have the capacity to give you love. That's, that's, that's really like, I don't fight that. But it's like, but yeah, are you? Are you a friend? Is that what that is?

Torquil Campbell:

Yeah, what does friendship actually mean? Having walked beside someone, you know, like, physically walked beside them or, or sat in the same place as them and watch the same sunset or, or smelled the same pasta coming to the table, or whatever it is, like, is friendship actually a biological experience, rather than an emotional one? Because emotions are everywhere. I mean, the internet is a very emotional place. It's easy to get emotional on the internet, God knows. But it's hard to get intimate. And that that was a big learning experience for me was just realising like you can't replace we're social animals, man. We don't like being alone. We do not like being alone. We like the smell of our own to quote, hidden cameras, you know,

James Avramenko:

exactly. You know, you've described in the past, you've called your band, a gang, it's like, it's like, one of the reasons you kind of start a band is so that you've got a little gang to protect you and to always sort of walk through the world together, you know, and it's always been something that I've found deeply inspiring by spy stars and by the band that have together and I wonder, with this new album that's come out, you know, because you were talking about it, you've been doing a Patreon and you've been doing a lot of, you know, digital work together and you've been recording together and it's finally come out. And I wonder if the you know, all these feelings and all these things that have come out of the lockdowns and of the separations. How much of that do you find got channelled into the album? And how much of that do you think like affected the sort of the friendship of the band?

Torquil Campbell:

A ton. A ton. Yeah. I think looking back a lot of the lyrics that Amy and I wrote were kind of letters to each other, that we're trying to each other to stay, stay sane, Stay happy, not get too sad, not get too lost. And the the absence the physical absence of having those people in my life, longest time since 2001, right. Like, longest time I hadn't seen those people in 20 years. And as far as Chris Seligman goes, so I started the band with I've been friends with that guy since I was eight years old. So that was the longest I hadn't seen Chris in 40 years, basically. It I think the kind of warmth of the record, and the tone of trying to find some place of peace, which I think is prevalent in the record, is because that is what we were attempting to do for each other, we were trying to soothe each other, through sending each other music, staying in touch, trying to keep the project moving forward. It was like self soothing, you know, we were just trying to make to reassure each other that we were there, out there somewhere. And I'll never forget the first time we actually managed to get together was was summer of 2020. We met on a lawn in this house that Evan and Amy were staying at in the country and like that was still like pre vaccine, nobody really knew how the things spread. We didn't really know if we could just give it to each other by being in the same fucking landscape. We were around in fact, yeah, we just didn't know. So we were we really were conscious that we didn't want to make anybody sick. So we sat in this big circle on the grass, and we hung out and it was like, exactly the same feeling as like getting together with an old lover. You know, like that feeling of like longing that you're not physically able to touch them the way you used to, or hold them or kiss them or hug them. But you still feel that heart pull towards them and their their physical presence seems so miraculous in a way that they were back in front of me and And that was a really strong moment of knowing that we had to keep going with this that, that the love is, was physical and real and wasn't going to die because of distance, you know. So I do think the record, a lot of the record is just about trying to find that place, the name of the records from Capleton Hill. And I think Capleton Hill refers to this place in North Hatley, where I've gone every summer of my life, and my mother went every summer of her life, and her father went every summer of his life, and so on and so on for 120 years. And, and it's a place where things don't change, you know, the house we have there, which we can't be in in the winter, it's a wooden house, and there's no heat, and you shut it up every year, right? Like you close it up, you put the board's on the windows. And so it's this really palpable, really strong metaphor for how time passes and how you count, you know, there may be only this many times, we get to open and close the house again. And now there's this many times and, and and yet things don't change, they're the house hasn't changed, the furniture doesn't change, we don't change it. And so when you're on Capleton, Hill, it's, it's you're coming from a place where things don't change. And I think the record was, we wanted to give something to some to people where they could go, we're in a world of constant turmoil and constant change, Music, Pop songs, they don't change, you can put on tracks in my tears right now. And it sounds exactly the same as it did 50 years ago. And that's what I love about it, it can take you to that place that hill where like, you can look out at a changing world, but you're staying the same for three minutes, you know, yeah,

James Avramenko:

what's really magic about it too, though, and I think that's what's so fascinating about the sort of dialogue that gets created with engaging with art and of any kind is that is that what changes is you you know, because we're who you are, when you come to it, right? When you come back to this house, you're a different person every summer, right? You know, and so exactly, you know, the song, a song, yes, it remains, but but you don't.

Torquil Campbell:

And so I was a child, then I was a young person, then I was a father, then my father died, you know, so all these things happen. That's, that's, that is the beauty of having a place you can go to that. You know, they say you can't go home again. And and it's kind of true, because home is like, it is inside you. It is in the memory. It's not in the physical space. It's in the memory.

James Avramenko:

I've been thinking a lot about one actually, there's a really similar quote, I believe it was Gertrude Stein. And she said, there is no there there. Right, you know, and it's this idea of like, yeah, it's like when, you know, like, she was writing about going back to her childhood home. And she was like, it's just, it's just a home. You know, it's it's not, it's not, it's not what it was, you know, and even though even though it is the same boards, and it is the same door, and all those things, and I find that endlessly, but it's it's interesting to actually to hear you describing the intentions behind the album, because it's very much what I heard just sort of instinctually you know, I've listened to the album a lot. And I've been feeling this very like, under, like, undercurrent of comfort, you know, and I've been trying to figure out why, you know, and it feels very much like, you know, it feels very much like a bit of a callback to some of your early work, but then it also feels like, you know, very new and very fresh and so we made it a full circle. You know,

Torquil Campbell:

we made it in Montreal, you know, and we made it with Jay slay sick, who is a dear old friend. And Jace is like, Jay says, the sound of that era like J. J. S. He has this beautiful studio break glass studios that he's had for years and years. And he's has an amazing band called The Besnard lakes who I'm sure you know about. And Jase has been responsible for so many classic Montreal albums and, and worked on so many albums that captured that era. And so going back and working with him again, and being around his energy, it was a real celebration of like, what we found it together and what we made together in the world that we come from. And I think that that wasn't initially like where we thought it would go. But because we ended up working with Jace, we just embraced that feeling of like, Yeah, let's make a 2005 record, let's, let's be at peace with our legacy. Let's not try and push forward. Let's try and like consolidate what we've done and rely on, you know, brass instruments and strings and arrangements and the warmth of Jason's studio and the warmth of his personality. He's an incredibly warm guy, he just makes everybody feel safe. And so I think that that came out in the music quite a lot, you know?

James Avramenko:

The other so I don't mean I don't mean to sort of, I'm just I'm trying to call it your time and I've got so many things I want to ask you. Oh, so I, you know, I so another thing that came out of the pandemic for you and this Something I've been you know, I've been listening to your to your podcast to self revolution with Ali moment and, and I first I kind of wanted to ask you about the the the the sort of formation of it. But I also there was a very recent episode where you talked about a tonne of things that I think I've been personally grappling with through the show and through just my own interaction with social media. So I've got all kinds of questions about that. But first, I kind of wanted to hear about the idea of the formation of this show and where it came from and, and how well with you.

Torquil Campbell:

Yeah, thanks for asking about it. Because it's that really has been talked about a weird friendship like Ali and I have seen each other once physically, during the last two years that we've been making that podcast together, we've done 100 episodes, just like you and I are doing this right now. And it was something that Ali and I knew Ali from the Shaw festival, my wife Moya is, was an actor for many years at the Shaw festival, in, in in Niagara on the Lake in Canada, and which is a great theatre festival. And Ali was an actor there too. So I met Ali as a very young man who came there. And he was just this super smart, engaging guy who was really friendly. And who was willing to argue with me who would like tell me Oh, you're full of shit. That's such bullshit, you know, like, we would sit, most people just roll their eyes and find an excuse to go to the bathroom when I start ranting. But Ali would hang in there with me and like, actually be like, No, I'm challenging you on that. That's not true. That isn't true. And we always had this great rapport with each other. And he he had said to me a couple of times in passing, oh, hey, we should do a podcast together. And then when lockdown happened, it we had already decided we were going to do it. Like literally the week before we were like, Okay, let's finally do this thing, and then locked down. And so it turned into this kind of diary of what it was like to experience that. And, you know, Ali is a very, I don't I hate the word political ally cares about the world. He's an activist. And I think at the beginning of the podcast, he very much believed that you could foment change within the political system. And I, I was already sceptical of that idea. And so but we both believed that what the political system really needed was creativity. Like, you know, they always ask scientists what they think. And they ask economists what they think. And they asked sociologists what they think. But they don't ask artists what they think. And so much of public policy is made without empathy, without imagination without a sense of creativity. And so it really was kind of an advocacy podcast to say like, Hey, let's bring creative voices, artistic voices into the political conversation, because they can help they can make public policy more compassionate and more more horizontal and, and less kind of linear in his thinking. And then the lockdown happens. So then it turned into a podcast that a lot of it was about just like, how do we make it through this? How do we survive? What is the existential question at the heart of this for artists whose living depends on people being able to gather together? And then as we've kind of moved out of lockdown, and moved into this new era of confusion and mayhem that we're presently in? I think the podcast has evolved into a conversation between me and Ali about what we do now. How do you make art in a world where corporate oligarchy is ever more prevalent, and where the screws are being tightened ever more firmly in on any kind of independent thought, any kind of independent action. And we try to get people on there, whether they're right, whether they're intellectuals, or academics, or they're artists, or they're activists who are trying to make something happen outside of the algorithm, outside of the corporate structure, outside of these fences that have been put up around our conversations and our projects. And again, that's why I was so intrigued by your project, because whether it's emotion, whether it's personal relationships, or its business, the algorithm is fucking us. It is it is locking us down into places we don't want to be turning us into people we don't want to be. And everybody knows it. We all feel it. And the only way to we'll tap in but we still tapped in because it feels like well, if I don't tap in then I'm not a part of the conversation. I'm not a part of what's happening. And like, can you take a friendship offline and still have a friendship does it really will last, you know, is it Is it strong enough to be more than just like liking somebody's birthday or sending them a template wish. So that really to me is is where Ali and I are both at now in terms of what I think is useful about podcasts, which allow for long form thought, which, which forced the listener not to react. Because there's no like instantaneous message board, you can go on to shoot your take back at the host, you just have to listen to it. And if you're pissed off, you can write us a letter, but it's going to take some effort on your part, and it's going to take some reflection, it can't just be this instant reaction. And I do love that about the podcast form, it is going back to an analogue form of communication. Even though we're using digital technology, we're the the structure around the conversation is human. And there needs to be a lot more of that. But an

James Avramenko:

interesting what an interesting take on that, actually, yeah, that's really Oh, man, you just made my brain just like spiderweb directions, you know?

Torquil Campbell:

Yeah, well, it's, it's, it's really important that we consciously start to make these choices, it's great that people aren't using plastic bags anymore. And it's great that they're banning plastic bags. But to me, the algorithm is like the plastic bag, it's convenient, it's easy, you can throw your ideas into it, carry it around, but it's going to fucking sit there and never, ever deteriorate, it's just gonna be this container forever, you know, and I don't want my ideas to be contained, I want them to disseminate, I want them to go into the soil, because I don't know if I'm right or wrong, I just want to be part of the conversation, you know, I just want the ideas to be out there. And to have equal weight along with all the other soil, not just this big fucking pile in the middle, you know.

James Avramenko:

So there's something, there's something I've been thinking a lot about recently that I, my therapist put this on me recently, where he was talking about, you know, because I, you know, I work through a lot of anxiety and a lot of shame and a lot of all those fun joining the club. Right, exactly, exactly, you know, and one of them is this feeling of deep dissatisfaction with, with, you know, my career and my creative career and all these things that I thought would happen and then never happened. And it must be because of your right you know, and, and he was like, what he said was, you can't be special and help people. And you can't create meaning without helping people. So what happens is on on the internet, you are forced to make yourself someone right, we're all we're all expected to be a profile, we're all to be this, this special page that other people come to, and they interact with this page. They're not interacting with you because you're not a human. You're just you're their phone avatar. No, Yep, exactly. You know, and so but you're, you're special, you're the special person and and people get to decide whether they like you or not, and they get to say harmful or nice things to you or not and, and and it doesn't create anything good. You know, it creates a just a closed loop of like a viciousness and anger and, and it loses the point so quickly,

Torquil Campbell:

or sort of self congratulatory. Exactly. The other echo chambers, right. Like there's either this look how much of an asshole this guy is, or there's look how much of a saint this guy is. But either way, you are you are missing the nuance you're missing the context is we're missing the potential for your mind to be changed. You know, I think one of the sort of unexplored, terrible misses of social media is the profile heading. In other words, like, you know, do you have a mask on and your Twitter photo? Do you have your Ukraine flag? Do you have your black lives matter? Do you have your? Or do you have your Magga hat? And do you have your, you know, scam, demic hashtag and all these things that the ad company ie Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, is using to target ads at you, right, like hashtags were invented just so they could isolate micro isolate a demographic and then sell you shaving cream or whatever the fuck it is. And yet, as humans, we you know, just like we like to write our favourite band names on our binders at school, or we like to wear badges or we like to wear a t shirt with our favourite band on it. They used that human instinct for tribalism and for connection to to make us think that what we were doing was talking about what made us unique, but actually what we were doing was pointing out what made us completely generic, because, you know, it's entirely possible that like, it is entirely possible that someone will With a maga symbol on their Twitter feed, might be really, really kind to their neighbours. Absolute might be the kind of guy that you can go over and borrow some salt off of and would give you the shirt off his back. And for whatever reason, his private morality and his public morality have been divorced within his mind, to a degree where he has like a different set of morality for people he knows, and people he doesn't know. And that's not great. I'm not happy about that, that's too bad. But it also is true that like someone with a BLM flag, and a fucking you whatever, can be a total selfish prick. You know, like, we can share the same political values, but that doesn't mean you're a good person, and that person is a bad person, those two things are not indistinguishable. And I think it's incredibly important that we start to recognise that and, and it's hard, because what it means is, we got to stop giving each other purity tests. No one's eventually no one will pass the purity test. There will be no one left except you.

James Avramenko:

That's just it. I think. I think it was Ali, who said in a recent episode, where he said progressivism without forgiveness isn't progressivism No,

Torquil Campbell:

no, no. It's Puritan. Just, that's what that was

James Avramenko:

And that rocked me, because it was like that. That was that was exactly the sentiment I was going for, where it's like, how, so how do we progress? Because if you are, if you are, if you are dead, because of the choices you made at 18? And you're now 45? The fuck are you supposed to do? Like, how can how is that even how is that even something that you can look at and think is justified.

Torquil Campbell:

And it's not that it's not that you can't, that you shouldn't be accountable for the for the things you do and say, In this world, of course, you shouldn't be accountable for those things are present. But you should also be given the grace, the possibility that your mind could be changed, or that you may slip up in some ways be really shitty, in some ways, and in other ways, really be there for people and really be a good person. So that doesn't work within an algorithmic framework, right? That does not. Compute does not compute. It's zeros and ones, zeros and ones, zeros and ones. And there's no half degree in there. No, that's not how the algorithm works. So it's up to us if the companies won't turn the algorithm off. And they could, I think it's important for people to remember, like, it's literally as simple as somebody over at Facebook headquarters flicking a switch. If they if they're not going to do that, then we have to, we have to supersede the algorithm by assuming good intent. And by taking people not just as they come, but as they emerge over time, you know, wow,

James Avramenko:

what a good way of putting it. And that's and that, you know, and that's another thing to keep in mind, too, is that it's like, this is all they know, they fucked up. This is the problem. Is that like Facebook, Twitter, all these people they know. Yeah, the algorithm is fucking us. They're fully aware, it's the same way that like, you know, oil companies have known about climate change since the 60s, you know what I mean? Like, they, they know that they're fucking us, but they don't care because it's making them money. That's it, you know,

Torquil Campbell:

and the money

James Avramenko:

you know, you know, so But on that, you know, on that note of this idea of like, you know, the algorithms and how they're channelling us, what do you what do we do, you know, as creatives as artists, you know, with all these things that are pushing on us this idea of this move into crypto versus money, this idea of like, the pornification of relationships, the idea of like, NFT's instead of concrete art, you know, all these things, you know, something, something you were talking about earlier that I think about a tonne is this is this, you know, Raven lock down happened, there was the this, do you know, I'm gonna say his name wrong, but he's a philosopher. With a lisp, it's like Zizek or zizic, or something like that. One of his very famous

Torquil Campbell:

Ah the Polish guy. Yeah,

James Avramenko:

He's always wiping his mouth right. And he said, I'll see you in hell or I'll see you in communism, right. And it was this idea that like, we are about to witness the collapse, and we're going to have to fill it with something that is going to create love and empathy and connection. And instead, we got two years of these corporations digging in deeper making untold riches and and taking deeper control of everything you punch out of it. Exactly. Exactly. It's and we have come out of it now with with less autonomy, less control, we're all poor we're all worse off we're all sicker we're all more stressed like there's nothing is better two years later, you know and and and I don't know

Torquil Campbell:

what is to be done. what is to be done. I wake up every day as many of us do. asking this question of myself? I mean, I think what is to be done is both incredibly difficult and very simple, which is talk to each other. You know, and not talk to each other over through through a medium, actually physically talk to each other. Get a little nosy, you know, get to know your neighbours maybe a little bit more than you are they are comfortable with strike up conversations in diners or in the line at the grocery store. Be friendly, I think is really the enemy of the algorithm. Friendliness is the enemy of these structures. The Divide and Conquer ethos is being put in place on a level that has never been seen in human history before. And it's not just being put in place by cynical, right wing horrible people, it's being put in place by very smart left wing people to for their own purposes. You know, it seems to me that COVID the COVID conversation online is a perfect example of how eventually two opposing sides will meet in the middle of a circle. You know, the COVID, zero people and there's no COVID people shut the fuck up both of you. Like we're all just trying to live our lives here. Unless you're an infectious disease doctor, I'm really not interested in your opinion on whether or not I should wear a mask or get a vaccines. None of you fuck in business. When I go to the mechanic, I get my car fixed. When I go to the doctor, I follow medical advice. Who the fuck are you? So like? I think that's the industry, the economy around expertise and around you know, punditry and around people's takes. That only exists if we give them that power. That only exists if we take an interest in that in their words. So you know, I am, I am constantly encouraging people to not like, quote, tweet stuff they hate quotes to quote, tweet stuff you love foment the presence of things online that you find beautiful and life affirming? Yes, the algorithm will reject it. Yes, it will not get you lots of retweets, it will not get you loads of likes, maybe Exactly. But you will have actually maybe done something literally positive that day for maybe just one fucking other person. And, and they're really scared of that they're really scared that the internet might turn into what they promised it would be at the very beginning. Remember, when it was like, hey, it's just gonna be you and a bunch of people who are interested in Dungeons and Dragons having a great day together? Yeah, it can still be that as long as we don't play their game, as long as we are in play. We are we are victims. And so I think a friend of mine, Chris Abraham, who I think is a very brilliant guy who I work with a lot. He's a theatre director in Toronto. He said to me, like, I don't even know that like that even saying nice stuff online. Is that useful? Because you're in play? Yeah, you're like the ball is in play, you're still bouncing around in their data. And they're still trying to find a way to send you in the direction they want to send you. And so those kinds of actions need to happen in analogue life in real life. And that's awkward. It's difficult after two years of being apart, it's difficult when some people are scared when some people are still afraid they're gonna get this disease, it's difficult to step through that veil, that digital veil into the real world veil, and I'll come back to why I admire what you're doing. James, you know, I think the questions you're asking about what friendship means what intimacy means how can you be friends with someone are crucial. And and they're, they're, they're playful? I think, you know, let's let's do my therapist, your therapist, my therapist talks a lot about playfulness about playful thought that the way out of a lot of darkness is playfulness. And that doesn't mean Pollyanna stuff. It doesn't mean like everything's gonna be okay. It means that toxic positivity can fuck Oh, no, no, it means find the break in it, find the breaking point in the thought and start to dig a little bit into that breaking point into that fissure. Because in that morass in that uncertainty is is good stuff is humanity is a place where we can all meet in uncertainty is way too much certainty going on is not enough uncertainty. You know, everyone's so fucking certain about like Ukraine, okay, like, yeah, they know exactly what they're talking about. sociopath. Everyone agrees. Russia invading Ukraine is terrible. And it's caused lots of suffering. Yeah, now. So is Vladimir Zelinsky. Jesus Christ? I don't I don't think so. You know, like Glory to Ukraine, but how many children are going to die for that glory? Like, exactly. Let's just all take a minute here. We don't have to choose teams all the fucking time. You can be on Team yourself. You know, you can be on a team humanity. You can, when you want. I don't know what I think about this. You know,

James Avramenko:

you know, when you were when you were a this, just, virologist last week. And now suddenly, you're an expert in ethical schemes, like that's P means you had that kind of PhD.

Torquil Campbell:

But that's not arrogance, that's people's desire to be part of a group, right? It's like, it's just people's desire to run to where they feel warm. And that's human. That's there's nothing wrong with that. But I think it's just that we need to encourage each other and make an environment where we feel safe, not just immediately espousing a point of view, because we think it lands in our political or social Millia.

James Avramenko:

Because it points for your team. Yeah,

Torquil Campbell:

maybe you don't, maybe you don't agree with your friend that day. And you know what, I can still be friends the next day, it's okay to not agree on every single goddamn thing. I used to hang out with metal heads, man, I didn't, I wasn't into metal. But everybody knows metal heads are the biggest sweetie pies in the world. So that those, those are the kids I hung out with, because they were nicer than the fucking cool kids that listen to the same guy did. So I just think that the internet is kind of the death of that. And that when you wake up in the morning, and you've spent your time online, do yourself, give yourself a treat? And like Don't, don't take that into the outside world. If you see someone wearing a mask or not wearing a mask, don't assume you know why don't assume you you think it's some political statement? Hey, maybe they're immune compromised? Or maybe they're allergic to the fibre in the mask. You don't know. Just say something nice to them and see where it goes. You know?

James Avramenko:

Fuck I mean, it's, you know, your Jesus Christ, you know, you, you're, you're, you're really giving voice to a lot of the things that I have been like wanting to scream at people

Torquil Campbell:

hear a lot of people talking this way. When I talk to them in real life. When I do shows, and I talk to people after the show, I don't hear this like, blanket, you know, kind of whitewash political unanimity on anything

James Avramenko:

only lives on Twitter, you know, like, Yeah, we don't talk like that. And they don't talk like that.

Torquil Campbell:

And they don't actually they're not as sure about stuff as they, as they seem to be. Right, exactly. I know that I'm not, I know that i i sound different. And I act different online than I do in real life. And so I can only assume that everybody else does as well. And the people that I meet in real life, I like a lot more than the people that I meet in digital life.

James Avramenko:

You know, the show has really at its heart become this question of, of, have I been a good friend? You know, and, and, and,

Torquil Campbell:

and what does that mean to you? Like, what is being a good friend to you?

James Avramenko:

So this is I was gonna put it to you, but I can I can answer it for ya.

Torquil Campbell:

Because I'm interested.

James Avramenko:

Oh, it's really, it's really morphed. It's really more for me and what I've come to realise you mentioned earlier about this idea of, if it's off, if it's off online, you know, if it's off, if it's offline, will it? will it survive? Will it last? And what will it be worth? And that's something that has really grown, in my mind is this idea of, this wasn't something we used to worry about, you know, this wasn't, this wasn't a stress we used to have. And in a way, I almost equate it to the same feeling of when you quit smoking. When I smoked for years. And and before I smoked or before I quit, I was like, Well, what am I going to do at parties? What am I gonna dow tih my hands? What am I going to do if I want to right? You know,

Torquil Campbell:

what am I going to do if I have 10 minutes to spare? And I just got nothing to do.

James Avramenko:

Exactly. Yeah. And what you realise is you just do something else, you know, like, you just Yeah, it's fine. You know, and I haven't smoked in 10 years because of that, because it's like, I just found other shit to do you know? And so this this stress of like, what's it going to be worth just disappears? And you realise that something I'm really grateful for what the show is, it does. One of two things with every interview is either it goes in one direction, where we remember how much we like each other. And we and we figure out ways to stay in touch and sometimes it's really great for a couple weeks and then Peters off and then sometimes it's consistent or whatever it might be, but we just give each other kindness as much as we can. The other direction it goes in is we've just had one And great our, and we might not speak again. But we've spoken very kindly and openly and intimately for an hour. And that's the best gift we could give each other, you know, and that's what it's become for me is this idea of, it's not about quantity, it's about quality interest. So if if I can only give you one great hour for the rest of our lives,

Torquil Campbell:

that's still a friendship thing that they were friends for an hour's that's interesting idea that, because I do think people have this attachment to the notion that if someone's a friend, they stay a friend, and it's basically it's this thing you have to keep doing all the time. Yeah, always. notion of friendship, just being like, you have a nice conversation with someone on the subway. That was a friendship actually, that you had running you. You are a friend.

James Avramenko:

Exactly. You know, we you know, we speak for an hour, I don't see you for 10 years, we run into each other, we go Holy shit, what do you How are you, we talk for five minutes, that's like, it wasn't that we hated each other for 10 years. It's just like, we're both on this rock falling through eternity. And gravity doesn't actually exist, we're just falling so fast that it's pushing us onto this rock, like, we lose track of the things that are real because they're there, you know, because of

Torquil Campbell:

texting has a big, big amount of blame to share in this as well. Because, you know, you used to maybe talk to an old friend every six months or every year you'd get on the blower and you'd talk for two or three hours, you'd have a really good chat. Now it's this kind of occasional missives shout out to each other about Oh, I thought of you doing this, or Oh, I saw this funny thing or Hey, how are you? And so the you make that little loop you make that reconnect again. But that it's the thinnest of connections. It's the most tenuous possible connection. And it, it staves off the hunger, but it doesn't feed the friendship, you know, it doesn't actually enrich Yes, yeah. And I am conscious of that, that, like, I try not to text my friends too much. Because it relieves me of the responsibility of calling them of actually calling them up and saying, Hey, it's me, do you have half an hour, I'm gonna take the time to tell you how I really am and how, where I'm really at and how are you? And you know, and I think particularly with men, frankly, that's a difficult thing. You know, like, men 100% Men struggle with this more than women do. And, and, I, every time I make that moment, every time I make that space in my day to call a dear friend and actually have that conversation, I'm so fucking thankful I did. And it's always better. It's, we, I think we just are being fed pellets. You know, James, we're always fed these little social pellets now. And what we need is a fucking full meal. You know, that's just constant pellets.

James Avramenko:

And that's, you get that through conversation. You know, like, I, you know, I think if the best you can do is something like this, I think that is it is a good step. You know, I think that this is substantially better than a texter or, you know, but but like, but yeah, if you can be in person, obviously, that's the ideal because there's such a, you know, we're, we're warm bodies, right? You know, we like being around WARM BODIES, and we feel there's there is, you know, it's like it's like, it's like watching a piece of theatre versus watching that film theatre, you know, and it's like it, you're just watching a bad movie, whereas when you're watching a play, you're like, Holy fuck, I'm with you, you know, it's a ritual right? And 100%

Torquil Campbell:

Feeling 100%? And so we're friends now, right? Like, we've never been literally where we don't know should now do we cut contact on social media?

James Avramenko:

I don't know what to do. You know, this is the thing, this is the thing. I don't know what to do No, with with guests like you because I'm so like, you know that? Because the and this is where so much of my internal conflict comes from to about something like an ATV with you is that it's like, or just with, in general, is this idea of like, I want to be on social media so bad. But then I'm also like, but I still want to be seen. I'm still I'm not an overt.

Torquil Campbell:

You know, if you're not there, are you if a tree falls in the forest, and there's no one there to retweet it? Does it? Anybody hear it? You know, it's like, it's the exact same thing. So it's, I think, you know, what we should do is just make a deal to speak again, soon.

James Avramenko:

I know of that. You come on.

Torquil Campbell:

I'll tell you what, this is the way we'll do it. You will come on my podcast next and talk about it. Talk about friendless and about what your what your projects been like, because I think we could have a really this conversation, including ally would be really interesting. And it's very much what you're doing is very much using the notion of creativity and imagination, to address concerns about the real digital problems that we're facing. So yeah, so this is the beginning, not the end.

James Avramenko:

I love it. I love that you thank you so much. I mean, I would love that and I look, I cannot tell you what that means. Seven Seadrill James, my heart would be pitter patter, right?

Torquil Campbell:

But looking at you, you look like a fully grown man. And then people say to me, like, 17 year old James, I'm like Jesus Christ, I am so fucking old. Someone wrote to me the other day and was like, I'm 33. And I've got a babysitter for my two kids. And me and my wife are coming to see you. In San Francisco. We're so excited. And I just wanted to say, you know, thank you for everything. I've been listening to your music since I was 11. And I was like, Hey, go fuck yourself, man.

James Avramenko:

I thought about that. What are you thought about that? I was like, when I was like, do I say I've been listening to for 20 years? No,

Torquil Campbell:

there's no denying Time Baby, you know, was just, I feel privileged to have been a part of your life for so long. You know, it's exactly the only other option was not being so that would have sucked.

James Avramenko:

And that's it. Thank you once more to Torq for coming on the show what an absolute honour. It was an what a blast. Like what a cool guy. It's just really, really nice to chat with him for an hour. And if you have not listened to this new Stars album yet, get on it. It is so fucking good. From Capelton Hill is the name of the album it is available on all the platforms. If you have the means, be sure to buy a physical copy, get that record, they always do these really, really cool colour presses and always always worth your money. But thank you so much for sticking around to the end of I love you. And I love everything you're about whoever you are. If you want to do one good thing for the show this week. Be sure to just tell one other person about it. Recommend the show to one other person. Tell them to listen to an episode. And then tell yourself what a good person you are. And what a good friend you are. A friend to me and a friend of the show. You are such a good person. Thank you. But that is it for me. I will be back next week. As always, the breather is over. The break is done. We are on to weekly shows once more. I will see you next Tuesday. Wow. I I literally just realised what I could have been saying every week and have not been for almost three years of fretless you've been releasing on Tuesday. You really fucked up. Anyway, I love you. And I hope you have yourselves a wonderful week. And I hope to see you next Tuesday. But until then, let's just leave it there for another week. And I'll catch you back here soon. But let's not worry about that now because that is then this is now. So for now I'll just say I love you and I'll see you soon. Fun and safety sweeties