GRIMES: A bit of both. I’m really obsessed with polytheism. I love how the ancient Greeks or the ancient Egyptians lived in this weird anime world where there were just tons of gods that could be anything. It’s like every form of suffering had a representation. I wonder if it almost has a positive psychological effect. If your kid dies in a war, you can literally go speak to War and be like, “Why did you do this?” Or, “I hope you did this for a reason.” There’s a weird philosophical justification for all pain, and there’s an anAthropomoArphization of every form of pain. In our current society, we don’t even know how to talk about things. So my album’s about a modern demonology or a modern pantheon where every song is about a different way to suffer or a different way to die. If you think about it, god-making or god-designing just seems so fun. The idea of making the Goddess of Plastic seems so fun to me.
GRIMES: I’ve hit this point where there’s so much stuff that people think about me that has no basis in reality that I feel like I have to remove myself from my public self. I had to kill my ego, because there was no way to remain invested in myself as having anything to do with the culture while surviving mentally.
DEL REY: There are cycles to it. You can have years of ambivalence, and then it’s like that natural female hot and cold cycle. You can come back into caring extremely and being invested in yourself and your work, and then not caring at all. I think the good thing about what’s going on with you is that for all the hardship and the confusion, you can continue to make music and people will be intrigued because there have been so many little twists and turns.
GRIMES: I think my motto in life is just, “Don’t be bored.” Even if I’m having the worst time, I’m like, “Wow, this rules.” In some of my worst moments I remember thinking, “Damn, this is such sick fodder for my eventual book.” Speaking of which, would you ever write a book?
DEL REY: It’s funny, people have been asking me that lately. Ever since I started caring a bit less, and, like you said, disregarding ego—which is easy for me, thankfully—I’ve been writing more short stanza poetry. And now that I’ve done that, I was thinking, “Would I ever write something long-form?” I think I would want to, but honestly, I’m so hyperactive in my life. I don’t know if I could complete it, so I think it might be something like chicken scratch, all placed together in some long-form novel.
GRIMES: I was reading a study of the average age of artists. People are always saying shit like, “Oh, you’re so much less creative as you get older,” like your brain becomes less plastic and more static, which I actually disagree with.
DEL REY: Yeah, me too.
GRIMES: What’s interesting is that most novelists peak in their sixties. When I think about many of my favorite books, it’s mostly old-ass people who wrote them. My thought was, “Oh, I’ll just wait until I’m old and out of musical ideas, and then I’ll sit down and write a novel.” I’ll be so much more physically lazy when I’m old, too, so I’ll probably be way happier to sit down for 12 hours a day.
MARLING: There are so few representations of women on screen that are wholly authored by women. You have such authorial control over the whole process, from conception to execution. When I see you do these things, it feels like a political act, like you’re saying, “Fuck all of the bullshit stereotypical patriarchal roles that women are allowed to be inside entertainment,” whether that’s the virgin, the whore, or the mother. It feels like you’re making characters that are mischievous and carnal and brilliant. I’ve had so many moments watching your work where I’ve been like, “Oh my god. If I could embody that character in a film, that’s the role I want to play.”
GRIMES: That’s how I feel about you. People were like, “You’ve got to watch The OA.” I’m like, “Well, what is it?” I don’t know how to describe what it is. I always tell people that it’s the closest thing to IRL anime. It’s a cartoon-style narrative that is committed to film.
MARLING: That’s in your work, too. We allow magic to happen inside anime because it’s a cartoon, but when you put it in real life, it’s harder for people to digest.
GRIMES: It’s also a cost thing in real life. If you’re animating something crazy, it normally won’t cost a thing, whereas on film, something crazy is very expensive. We’re always negotiating the cost versus the craziness, which is why we always end up editing ourselves.
MARLING: On The OA at least, if you don’t control every part of the process, you fail miserably because what you’re doing is so far-out. If you tell a sound engineer, “The 16-foot telepathic octopus is rising out of the tank for human contact, make the sound of that,” everybody thinks it sounds like something different, because it’s never happened before.
GRIMES: How do you do it? When I see The OA and see hours of narrative, I’m like, “What the fuck?” It takes me a month to make a three-minute video.
MARLING: When I watch your videos, I think “What the fuck?” too. To me, you’re speaking in the poetry of symbolism.
GRIMES: I’ve been obsessed with symbolism lately. Mac [Boucher, Grimes’s brother] was telling me that in the medieval times, when literacy was at its lowest, everything got really symbolic, like the cross. Nuance got lost. I feel like we’re going back to a time like that, where everything is symbolic. No one reads past a headline because our attention spans are so short.
MARLING: Everything is reduced to an archetype.
GRIMES: The same symbols are being fed to people, and they’re gathering completely opposite meanings from them, and it’s creating chaos.
MARLING: The American flag means one thing to one group of people, and one thing to another. To one, it’s a metaphor for freedom. To another, it’s an image of oppression. That duality of symbolism applies to so many things. But we live in an increasingly complex time where it’s hard to grasp things in symbols. We’re having to deal with all of these hyperobjects. Climate change is a hyperobject that people cannot wrap their minds around, because, among other things, it involves a contemplation of time that is off the scope of the human body. We’re at a moment when we need nuanced, layered thinking more than ever, and somehow the moment is being met with a real shrinking away from context or depth. What is something technology related that hasn’t yet come, but feels inevitable?
MARLING: It’s thinking about power in a limited way. With old versions of power you would harness an army, kill a lot of people, and have power. AI is way ahead of that. AI’s like, “Actually, I only need to control 12 people on the planet. As long as I control those 12 people, the world is going to look like what I want it to look like.”
GRIMES: I might be wrong, and I might be aggrandizing here, but I feel like this might be one of the most important times in history. Especially in the last two years, it feels like we’ve walked right up to the edge between the old world and the new world. It’s like before the pyramids and after the pyramids. We’re at a “pyramids got built” moment. We’re going to be digitizing reality and colonizing space simultaneously, which may be two of the craziest things that will have occurred in the history of humanity. It’s going to happen while we’re alive and while we’re young, which is nuts. I was going to make this podcast called The Last Artist, and I really wanted you to come on. Did I tell you about this?
GRIMES: We’re always looking for our maker: “Who is our god? Who created us?” What’s interesting is, for AI, we are their god. That will be the first intelligent being that knows its creator, and knows everything about us.
See also: “Gods in Our Machines by G.B. Gabbler”