FEATURE: Animal Collective Interview with Aziz Ansari

Animal Collective Interview with Aziz Ansari

Aziz Ansari
Photographer Jason Nocito
January 07, 2010

For their guest-edited issue of The FADER, Animal Collective requested to be interviewed by actor, comedian and music fan Aziz Ansari, which
he did over several weeks in a series of emails and IMs. The resulting mayhem follows.

Okay, so FADER gave me your email addresses and said that we should just email back and forth with hopes that this will create an interesting interview that doesn’t read like most normal run-of-the-mill interviews. Thanks for asking me to do this, I’m a big fan and excited. Many of my emails are just sending my friends music or dumb things I find on the internet, so I will start with one of each, let me know what you think and send me back something if you can.

The Ultimate Warrior on the Arsenio Hall Show:

JJ - Ecstasy:

Random questions:
What is your favorite TV show right now? Mine is Breaking Bad.
Where are you guys right now? I’m in NY for the week, dicking around.
Look forward to your responses,

We actually have a little YouTube/email club with some of our friends too. I was psyched on the Ultimate Warrior clip. Makes it seem like steroids could be psychedelic? The era of the Ultimate Warrior was pretty much the last point at which I liked wrestling, but I was still into it for sure and he was one of my faves. I also liked the Legion of Doom tag team. I turned 11 in 1990 and I went to Summerslam around that time. My younger brother had a good friend whose dad worked for the WWF in the Philadelphia area so he could get us into events. He got me backstage once and I met Hacksaw Jim Dugan and Jake the Snake, who sadly didn’t bring Damien with him.
I’m guessing since you sent the Ultimate Warrior clip that you’re around my age? I’m 30. Recently I’ve been kind of nostalgic for the dance music they played in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Like at middle school dances and the first boy/girl birthday parties. That was just before I moved from Philly to Baltimore so it’s a very marked time period in my memory. It was also around the time I stopped watching wrestling and moved to MTV. Yo! MTV Raps was on when I got home from school. It was weird around that time because it had the hard stuff but also the new jack swing and the hip-house stuff. Dave and I DJ sometimes and we’ve been throwing that kind of stuff in there. Here is one I was into this summer:

Also, been having fun playing around with this today: You can use the search function to cue whatever videos you want.
My favorite show right now is Project Runway. It’s a good couples show. Noah and his wife have been into it for a while but I didn’t know that until I got into it. My lady watched it for a while when I was on tour and watching one episode when I got home hooked me in.
I am in DC doing last minute planning for my wedding this weekend. Should be a sweet Halloween.
Take care,

Hey Aziz
This could be cool or really chaotic right? It would be sweet if there was some way to print it out as is, you know? I guess one of the many let downs of printed press these days is there is no way to print YouTube clips. In some roundabout way YouTube is a new form of mixtape. I feel like we are probably a part of the last generation of people who made mixtapes for each other as a way of expression you know? I guess people still make playlists or mix CDs for each other though. It doesn’t really feel the same. Our friends send crazy YouTube shit to each other all the time too. I feel like if you start trading them enough with people then it starts to become sort of the same sort of expression (as mixtapes were in the past). It’s also a killer way to discover stuff.
That Ultimate Warrior clip was amazing. It reminded me of this Crispin Glover appearance on Letterman which perhaps you have seen.
I don’t get around to watching much TV. But our friend Danny got me really into Xavier Renegade Angel and I got it on iTunes.
I’m in Brooklyn right now. Brian is getting married on Halloween in Baltimore so I’m getting my costume together and just hanging around. I’m gonna come back here next week and start recording a Kria Brekkan record.
Keep it going if you please.

This is great. Hopefully people that read this will investigate the YouTube links we post so they can see what we are talking about. This round, let’s each send a photo that they could possibly print to go in the article. How about dopest baby photo you have? Here’s a gem from the baby Aziz collection, a nice portrait I did one snowy winter.


Here is one of the classic baby Brian photos. Aside from the sweet static electricity that is happening, I’m bringing it out because this is from around when the Phillies won the 1980 World Series. My dad was at the final game and my mom stayed home with me. Notice the red white and blue streamers. I have no explanation for the pink balloons or the magenta cookie monster pajamas though. Tonight is game one of the 2009 World Series and we’re hoping for a Phillies win down here. I actually wasn’t into baseball so much until recently, but I’m a dedicated Philly sports fan. I still can’t watch a full game in the summer, but if the Phillies are playing for something in the fall I can get pumped. This is where Dave is gonna send a YouTube link to that Andy Samberg jam about the dudes who like sports.
Take care,

I’m in Maryland right now. I’ve been staying with my mother and recently I have been helping her build a new building on her property. It’s been really sweet. It’s a big timber-frame building, which is sort of a special thing to get to do. Last week I was putting in the floor on the second floor. The past few days I have been working on the roof. It’s been pretty much perfect. I work mostly alone outside. Rain or shine. I watch the leaves changing color from 20 feet up in the air. Sweet view of the birds. Listening to jams. A lot of classic stuff like Neil Young and Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell and, as I was telling Brian the other day, the most perfect soundtrack for what I’m doing these days is the hired hand soundtrack by Bruce Langhorn:

Good solitary time. I’m into it. Though I have been trying to get out as much as I can too. Two nights ago I went to see Eric Copeland, Kria Brekkan, Jason Urick and DJ Dog Dick (all old friends of ours) play a show at a warehouse space in Baltimore. Super fun. I don't go out a lot here but there are some really good people and a really strong community of musicians and artists. It always feels good to be in it.
Other than working and going out I have been going through all of my stuff in preparation for moving into a new house in New York State later this winter. I finally gave up my apartment in NYC. I love New York but I think I prefer living in the country, for now at least. Maybe it’s just a matter of space. It’s amazing to me how much stuff I end up with that I don’t know even know why I have. I seem to have a habit of keeping knick-knacks that I pick up over the years in old shoeboxes. But then I open up the shoes boxes and I can’t figure out what 2/3rds of the stuff is or why I should keep it. So I’ve just been going through clothes, records, books, boxes of whatever and figuring out what I really want to keep and the rest gets sold or goes to Goodwill.
Here is the only baby photo of mine that I have easy access to right now. Just me chilling with my dad in the first apartment my family lived in. If I can find a picture that a little more fun I’ll send it later.


In terms of TV shows...I don’t watch a lot of TV either. The most recent TV I have been into (and by recent, I’m talking the last year)... The first couple seasons of The Wire. I’m not normally a cop drama kind of dude, but that show just sucks you in. I agree with Dave, Xavier is pretty amazing. I guess it’s old now, but I watched all the Mighty Boosh seasons this year and got really into them. Seems like a bunch of stuff from England that I really like. Brian and Dave turned me onto it, but Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place is awesome. Parts of Snuff Box are really good, though overall I’m not super into that one. Other than that I’m into watching NBA games and this year I’ve been more into football than I have been for a really long time.
More later.

That Ultimate Warrior video was sweet but kind of scary too. Brian I liked the ‘90s jam you sent and I should say I’m with Brian as far as being nostalgic for those types of productions. This is the song that kind of stands out as really capturing the feeling of the time, and it’s become sort of a benchmark production for me:

The productions were so chunky and thick back then and I really like that. There was a kind of ubiquitous rhythm sample back then too, with the shakers in it that I really like. I don’t know what it is but that PM Dawn (best name) jam uses it.
I remember Yo! MTV Raps and The Jukebox and BET but the radio was really the thing back then. I remember listening to the more esoteric mixes they would have later in the night when me and my brother or Josh or some other group of people would play ping-pong and whatnot after school.
I’m at my mom’s place today so I’ll look for some baby pictures. I’m pretty sure I can find something embarrassing. Hope you dudes are good...

Hey guys,
Hope you had a good wedding/Halloween.
Noah, meet my good friend Mark Morrison:

Josh, a stay in the country sounds like a good idea. I wish you the best of luck building that home. If only one of us could put you in touch with the Ultimate Warrior, I’m sure his strength and energy would be a great asset to any construction project, or let’s face it, any project in general.
I spent Halloween in LA. I dressed as Marty Mcfly from Back to the Future. I was at a party talking to a girl who couldn’t figure out my costume and I said, "Haven’t you seen Back to the Future?" She said, "I’ve never seen Back to the Future." I said, "Guess what? I hate you," and walked away (Not really, but I should have).
Brian, being from South Carolina, I went through a stint as a kid when I was pretty into wrestling. I actually spent some time watching some old clips on YouTube on a very productive afternoon and remembered one of the best/lamest wrestlers. It was this dude named Glacier that was in WCW. The character is what I can only guess is a sad attempt to rip off the Sub Zero character from Mortal Kombat? Check out this photo:
I think they want us to wrap up soon, so I’ll hit you all with a barrage of questions:
- Tell me about your favorite piece of furniture in your house.
- What's the last great meal you had?
- What jams really brought the folks out to the dance floor at the wedding this weekend?
- Who is the most random person who’s said he or she was a big animal
Collective fan?
Take care,

Halloween was awesome. The wedding was awesome. I had a bunch of friends down crashing at the Mom’s. Spent Saturday getting costumes together. I attached a photo.


At the end of the night we came back to my place and watched this movie:

Most of us were pretty bent at that point. One of the best visual movies I’ve seen in a while. Hard to follow, but worth it. Almost every scene in the whole movie is another amazing set or some crazy art department creation.
Dancing: a lot of people got really into dancing. There were a lot of jams that got people really amped, but when the DJs played “Poison” by Bell Biv Devoe. Almost everyone on the dance floor was singing along. It seemed like every couple I looked at was miming the lyrics to each other. When we were in high school, there was this kind of open mic talent show thing that happened a couple times a year. One year, Brian, Dave, Guy Blakeslee (of Entrance), Brendan Fowler and our friend Dave Shpritz covered “Poison.” Dave did the Devoe rap in the middle. Mind blowing. I wish there was a video of it somewhere.
Furniture: I’d have to go with my piano. It’s been around since I was a baby. When I was really young I would play under it. I really liked to be down there when my dad was playing and feel the resonance of the strings. I try to play a little every day. It’s a really good place to go clear my mind.
Meal: this summer I got into baking sourdough. I mostly just make bread and bagels, but in June, my girlfriend at the time was visiting and we made pizzas with sourdough. It’s kind of the perfect crust. You can get it thin and crispy but it will stay chewy. We made two pies. One was chipotle peppers and pineapple. A friend of ours got into jalapeno and pineapple pizza a few years back. Me and Dave both got really into it too. It's such a good combination. I stumbled across the chipotle variation by accident really. Emily made the other with sliced anise and a fennel seed sauce. I don't know if it's the last great meal I had, but it's definitely one of my favorites. I wasn't so into cooking until the past couple of years, but I think it's really satisfying to learn how to make really good food.
Thanks Aziz.

That looks like the most awesome wedding ever. And the costumes? Wow. Makes my Marty Mcfly costume look like a real piece of shit. Just so I save face, I attached a Halloween photo from last year where I really did it up. I used CGI/hologram technology to go as myself in the late stages of Benjamin Button disease dressed as a jack-o-lantern.


I do know Snuff Box. I’ve seen that girlfriend clip and the guitar lesson thing is great too. I think you guys mentioned Dark Place earlier too right? I love that stuff too.
Tim and Eric crash course, you’ll love this:

Cinco shower

Petite feet

Dancing: a few weeks go, Paul Scheer from Human Giant got married, and I gotta say, I’m pretty sure “Poison” by Bell Bev Devoe fucking rocked it at that wedding too. Any wedding DJs reading this, if you don’t have BBD in the crate, you’re failing at your job.

It was the most awesome wedding ever, but I guess I’m biased. It’s good to finally relax, but I’m sad it's over. It was really sweet to have so many people we love all in one place for a few days. The AC crew came through big time with the costumes, as did many of our other friends. Dave as Raggedy Andy (if that’s what it was) ruled. My parents went as Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy for a Halloween party sometime in the early ‘80s. I remember them dressing up. Josh as the Fall Guy also ruled and got a lot of compliments, though he should have titled his costume "Must Be Treeman.” [Our manager] Brian DeRan must have lost serious pounds in sweat in the yeti costume. Best group costume award went to the Biospherians.
“Poison” was actually the only song my wife requested during the wedding. She had a feeling people needed a jammer to get things to another level so she went and asked the DJ to play it. He already had it cued up on the turntable as the next song. As Josh mentioned, some of us covered it at a high school talent show, so we have a special place for it in our hearts. I think just Dave and Guy and I did that cover though. Didn’t guy do the rap? Wait, there are two raps—I think he did one and Dave did the other. One did the "Yo slick, blow" rap, and the other did the "Me and the crew used to do her" rap. I can’t remember which was which.
I feel you on the Back to the Future interaction. I sometimes can be a bit ageist, but I try really hard to get over it. A few years back I had a friend who was 28 and dating a 20-year-old and they came to my house for dinner. It was one of the first times I was hanging with him and I wanted us to get along. But then something came up about Ghostbusters and he said he’d never seen it, and without even thinking I said, "Get out of my house."
Favorite piece of furniture: record shelves that my father-in-law built. (Can you tell how much I’m into using the post-wedding lingo?) I wish I had a comfortable piece of furniture that was my favorite in the house but I’m super attached to any chairs, couches or tables right now. We just got my family piano moved to our house a few weeks ago and that could eventually be my favorite item too. It’s been in the family for over 50 years but I haven’t had access to it since the mid ’90s. I like family heirlooms.
Wedding jams: I think “Thriller” was another big hit—obviously. It was definitely the one I was most looking forward to and I said if I only dance to one song all night, it has to be “Thriller.” But me and my wife were at the bar getting more champagne and got sucked into conversations with guests and just as we pulled ourselves away and rushed out to the dancefloor, the song ended.
Last great meal: We cook a lot of awesome meals in my house, and we love cooking so they're pretty much all our favorite, but for the last truly great meal, I have to go with an eight-course meal we ate in San Sebastian, Spain, while we were on tour there last summer. It actually got to a point where we were getting worried about performing because it is hard to play on a full stomach of rich food. We started telling the waiters not to bring us anymore food but they insisted since it was a set menu. I actually think when they went back to the kitchen for the dessert Dave or Noah just snuck out of the restaurant.
Random AC fan: there have been a lot. My brother showed me a review of Merriweather on That was pretty random. The dude wasn’t a fan though.
Last thing I should tell you to track down is Forbidden Transmissions. They are internet compilations of weird media stuff. Scott Colburn has a lot of them on his computer and burned us some DVDs that we watched during the recording of Strawberry Jam. From the stuff you’ve sent us, I think you’ll enjoy it. You can find a lot of the individual stuff on YouTube or Ebaum’s World, but it's really funny to watch them all together in these half-hour shows.
Take care,

Speaking of random covers from you guys (“Poison”)— I have a cover you did (or an mp3 labeled as you guys) of Nirvana’s “On a Plain” at Other Music. So good. Real quick—favorite Nirvana song of the moment? I’m always partial to “Drain You.”

Brian’s wedding was indeed a good time. There was a photo booth there and I forgot about it halfway through the wedding and now I’m bummed I didn’t get any pictures taken. I think my favorite Halloween costumes are those that are pieced together randomly with different elements or garments. I’ve had many a NYC Halloween costume like that and Josh’s was sort of like that this year. I remember once I let my friend Tim draw this really elaborate design on my face with a sharpie cause I was leaving my job for a party and didn’t have anything else to wear. I found a blonde wig in the garbage and that pretty much was my costume. Only later did I realize it wasn’t really such a good idea to let someone draw all over my face with a sharpie. Took awhile to get off.
We are working on this movie with our friend Danny and for one of the "scenes" I had to wear a costume that involved me putting Vaseline and glitter on most of my upper body. What a bad idea. I must have spent three hours in the shower scraping all that shit off. I think I almost cried cause I thought it never would come off. There is probably something that easily removes it, but I don’t know what it is. So keep that in mind if you are ever thinking of putting Vaseline and glitter all over yourself.
I'm with Brian on the eight-course meal in San Sebastian. The food was so good that i decided to eat meat for the first time since 2005. Unfortunately the pork was the worst part of the meal but at least now I have reaffirmed that I'm not missing out on much. I think I had French toast for dessert twice on that tour, in San Sebastian and in
Japan at the Fuji rock festival. It's kind of hard to beat the food in Japan though. I feel as though I can keep eating it and never get full and it's all so good. I always get this rubbery spicy octopus there that is amazing.
I’m gonna go with the couch that’s in my apartment as my favorite piece of furniture. It’s super big and I always pass out on it watching movies and I read on it a lot.
“Poison” definitely made me psyched. I wish those DJs had more late
‘80s/’90s jams though. I requested Heavy D and was denied. I think Guy did the first rap and I did the second when we covered “Poison” by the way. Here’s one more jam of that era from my way.

For me the most random person that has gotten into our music is my young cousin Sydney. She is in grade school in Maryland. I guess I really just never imagined that people in my family would ever genuinely get into what we are doing, he he. It makes me really psyched though.
As far as Nirvana songs go there are so many. I’m always blown away by “Hairspray Queen” because it just makes me think, What the fuck? And it
could also be some weird dance song. The singing/screaming on it is also pretty mind blowing.

Dude— I can’t believe you brought up being covered in glitter. We are filming a bunch of scenes for Parks and Recreation today where we are in a fictional strip club called the Glitter Factory. At one point, my character is really depressed and accidentally gets hit with a “glitter bomb” and I’m covered in glitter! They luckily got this really big glitter that basically seems like shiny confetti so I should be okay. The club we are filming at is a real club called Bare Elegance. according to the Bare Elegance-wrapped SUV parked outside, it’s rated #1 in Zagats. There’s also a fantastic billboard for it outside where it says, “Your Choice,” and one side you see a man vacuuming his couch while his wife is reading a magazine. The other side is a woman’s crotch. Yeah, not my favorite place to film.

Here’s some AC trivia for you. What’s the other Nirvana song we covered aside from "On a Plain"?
For my fave I’m gonna go with "Scentless Apprentice". That jam just gets me pumped. The long version of it on With the Lights Out is really amazing too. Dave Grohl’s beat on that jam just rips. I’ve been teaching myself to play drums and I like to work on that one sometimes.

Do any of you guys watch Lost? There was once an awesome scene where the main character Jack is supposed to be on a bad bender and he's riding around LA blasting “Scentless Apprentice.” It really cracked me up for some reason.

Never seen Lost. Have a feeling it'll be one of those series I watch on DVD one day down the line. It’s rare I watch TV series when they're on. I just wait for a million friends to tell me to get it on Netflix. The same thing happened to me with The Wire.

I forgot to answer the most random fan question. I’m gonna go with my cousin as well. I’m not super close with my father’s side of the family, the Dibb side. It has been really difficult to be close with them since they all live in California and I live on the east coast. After my father died I tried to reconnect some, but it remains tough. A little over a year ago, my cousin Kevin emailed me to ask if I could get him into a show that AC was playing in Belgium. He was there on a high-school year abroad. I was really surprised and psyched to hear from him. I didn’t really know him at all. Last time that I had really hung out with him, he was a baby and I was like 13. Since then we have kept in touch. It’s made me really happy to be reconnected with a Dibb, and I guess it’s thanks to our music.

Aziz, my friend Eric writes for Tim and Eric, and I was watching a bunch of jams he gave me all during the last tour and they were sweet. I haven’t dressed up for Halloween in a while like 10 years or so now I would say. One time Josh and I and some other friends went as boxes and we just cut two armholes in the sides of cardboard boxes and went out. I thought it kind of ruled, but there were people who wouldn’t give us candy because they said we didn’t have proper costumes. A car drove by us late in the night and threw eggs at us but the boxes just absorbed the impact and they all bounced off. I was pretty psyched on that.
I’m not really at a point where I’ve got sweet pieces of furniture but I hope I’m there soon. Everything kind of feels disposable at this point. I got a wheelie chair for the studio I work in and it looks kind of like a Star Trek chair and that’s pretty nice. I mean it’s very functional and does what i need it to so I guess that’s my favorite thing. I wish I had one of those Posturepedic beds, those rip.
The meal that Brian mentioned was amazing.I remember dude who brought us there was so mellow about the whole thing, like no big deal, but I just kept thinking holy shit this place is insane. He ordered a white wine right near the beginning and when I drank I was sure there was about 9 different steps of flavor. But I still have to go with Pizza Boli’s in Baltimore because that’s my favorite. I like pizza a lot, I should say, and I’ve attached an old picture that provides a little insight into that. But Boli’s is the best and I’m wondering now how many Boli’s pizzas I’ve had to date. I’d say several hundred at this point.

We’re about to move, and the lady whose place we’re moving into said she had Strawberry Jam, I think, and that was pretty surprising for me. She said she heard it on the radio here and went and got it because she was psyched on the track she heard. I’d guess she’s in her mid-50s.

Allright. Cage match. Your baby Benjamin Button vs. My baby Krishna.
Or maybe we could tag team against the Ultimate Warrior.
Let's get the CGI department on this!
Gotta say, I'm curious what you think of Hottdogs on VBS: Carl Bennett (dude with the big beard), who is one of the guys who acts and writes for that show, is a super old Baltimore bro.

I actually really like vacuuming and cleaning my house. It’s a good mind cleanser and a good way to work on music in my head. Are you filming that show in LA? I really like LA a lot and always think about moving there. We actually met you at the Sasquatch festival in Washington but we didn’t get to see you perform cause we left that night. Do you find
it weird or different at all performing at that kind of thing cause we usually find it pretty difficult?

Yeah we film in LA. I remember meeting you guys at Sasquatch. That festival was fun for me. I was bummed you guys had to perform in the day and couldn’t do the usual lighting stuff.
I think our chain is set to end today at midnight (EST). Hope you guys have enjoyed our chat, we should put the whole thing online if it’s all too long for the magazine. –Aziz

Another question... Who wins in a fight? Pizza Boli’s or sourdough crust with anise and fennel seed?
Definitely enjoyed the chat. One of the most enjoyable interviews ever actually. Thanks dude.
Take care,

I need to investigate that B-more pizza before I answer. Is either type of dough under the protection of Marlo Stanfield?

Well, I think Boli's wins in the brawl. I mean... I grew up eating that stuff and my memories of eating 2/3rds of a 12" pie in one sitting are nothing but joy. But you have to give points for making food with love.
Yeah, it was a sweet interview. Having not met you at Sasquatch, I hope to meet you another time.

Boli’s, no contest. Sorry, people who can actually cook. Thanks for talking to us Aziz and I hope you and yours are well.

FEATURE: Animal Collective Interview with Aziz Ansari