[Interview] Daniel Pujol Opens Up About His Work and Identity
Nashville’s PUJOL is nothing short of a force. Mixing meditations on media theory with lessons about how to be ethical in an increasingly confusing world, PUJOL manages to produce songs that are stunningly prescient and political. Having released records with both Jack White’s Third Man Records as well as Conor Oberst’s Saddle Creek imprint, the band has garnered attention from those who listen carefully to the manifestations of rock music in a time when that genre has seemingly lost its cultural currency. Led by frontman Daniel Pujol (who now has his sights set on exploring a writing career alongside a relentless touring schedule), the band is currently working on their follow up to last year’s Kisses, a mish-mash of spoken word poetry and good old fashined rock and roll. Daniel spoke with Bullet to discuss the intentions of his work, where his writing career is heading, and what’s next for the band.
Your latest EP, Kisses, includes a good deal of spoken word poetry alongside traditional rock songs. Does the form or delivery of your material change your objective as an artist at all?
I think it definitely allowed the side-by-side existence of the writing and the music to form together, but also allowed me to pursue them separately and together. The form of that record might have been the beginning of me pursuing them as an artist equally in terms of them being forms of expression -- side-by-side or them being able to reinforce each other.
You recently posted another spoken word piece called “Stinky Toy,” which seems consistent with a lot of the work you’ve previously done regarding identity and how that operates in our digital age. If there’s an argument of the poem, what is it?
The short, armchair argument: I have a band called PUJOL. I put out poems under the name PUJOL. Maybe I do something like that because in this our digital age, I wonder: What extent is our identity, our birth name, our social security number and the name that we’re given at birth, a publicly tradeable cultural commodity now?
Also, when did the separation occur between Daniel Pujol, the publicly traded commodity and Daniel Pujol, the sentient being that’s locked inside of this body and has to spend a lifetime on earth? I could argue that there’s a distinction, if you choose to recognize it, between those two things because I don’t personally feel that attached to Daniel Pujol. It’s just something that I throw out to the public. I’ve never felt that attached to it. It’s just an easy way to get ahold of me. I feel like if I didn’t think that way, there’d be a lot of life traps I would’ve fallen into.
Just like everyone else, I have emotional ties. You could call it ego or you could call it desire to behave in consistent way with Daniel Pujol. But, at the end of the day, I know that’s just some hack commodity that exists and floats on the internet and it exists to generate click revenue for a bunch of mega-corporations that are currently trying to pass things like trade agreements that supercede the nation-state system. I’m interested in exercising the distinction between Daniel Pujol, the hack online commodity, and me as a sentient being. I believe that where we’re headed as a human civilization is into a new place the same way that the Treaty of Westphalia helped created the nation-state system.
You could argue that multinational corporations as well as international terrorism, non-governmental organizations, and the internet worldwide communications mechanism, that we’re headed into a new territory, the old ways that were accepted as real -- the premise that we once thought was reality -- is starting to be questioned and acted aggressively upon by both dubious as well as non-dubious parties. We have a completely self-updating and infinitely survivable record of our existence that can be curated. Who wouldn’t be tempted to remain consistent with themselves, with their online hack commodities?
I’m a human. I’m a sentient being locked into a physical body. I’m not Daniel Pujol first. I don’t have allegiance to consistency or continuity. That thing we were once able to take for granted as something natural or historical is now a way for people to make money off our own psychology and I don’t want to limit myself to that being my existence.
That metaphor of a toy pops up a lot in your work. You used it to discuss the concept behind your last full-length LP, KLUDGE. I’m wondering if you could talk a little more about that metaphor and why it’s so salient to you.
I think there’s a difference between a tool and a toy. If you were going to juxtapose those two things, you could say that a toy is a passively used tool by infantilized people that are totally fine with accepting the premise of being a man or woman-baby until they die of cancer or hopefully old age in their sleep.
I just feel like I’ve been encouraged to be a selfish man-child by society since I turned seventeen. And I don’t want to be.
It would be so much easier for you to shit the bed and find someone to clean it up because you were expressing yourself. What kind of self-expression do we want? Do we want to do the human kind, which is connected to all of human civilization that makes communication, ideas, and imagination better and more possible? Or do we want to do the mammalian kind? It’s the kind that horses do when cops ride them down the street.
You mentioned that you’re currently working on a book. I’m curious how that will work out conceptually. Can you talk a bit about how the book is going and how it will wind up?
How can I describe it without giving away too much? I think it’s going to be something of a companion piece to the next album. It’s going to be a bit of an exercise of some of the stuff that we talked about earlier. To a certain extent, I think it’s going to be a defense of democracy -- maybe on a spiritual level. I think it’s going to deal a little bit about radical disassociation with one’s own birth name or birth-given identity or what they are recognized as to the social proximity.
I think it might be white blasted through a black prism, through a dark prism. It’s going shoot a little beam through a death wind -- without it being a death ray.
Will you be playing new material with the band over the summer while you work on the book and new music?
I don’t think I’m going to be playing any new material. I have some new equipment that I’m trying to incorporate. The show [in Atlanta on July 3] is going to be a bit of a prototype for some new-format type stuff. This new album is going to have some new guitar stuff that I’m going to try to experiment with. And maybe the use of this SP-303 sampler. That is, if I can wrap my head around mashing the buttons.