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Kimya Dawson – The Collapse Board Interview

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Kimya Dawson and Aesop Rock

In that same post you mention you’ve been dipping your toes back into multiple 12 step programs and dabbling with mindfulness meditation; how did you come across the mindfulness meditation and did you find it helpful?

I went to a retreat. I have a good friend and fellow musician called Pablo Das who is on the Thunder Thighs album who teaches Buddhist meditation and mindfulness. I went to a retreat he was leading and it was very helpful. I’ve always had books on my periphery or in my collection on Buddhism and I’d read them a little. I’m not a diehard, I don’t meditate every day but I do try to stay in the moment. It’s easy to slip out of that. It’s been helpful for me to have those ideas in my mind even though I’m not a full-on practitioner of those practices. When I’m doing some things I really look at where I’m at and what is in my immediate surroundings and what I am responding to. Am I staying present? It helps me be not as quite reactionary. I tend to be very … I can have something that can trigger me to freak out but then I realise that I’m responding to shit that happened 20 years ago and I feel like what is happening now can go the way of that. I’m not even reacting to something that’s actually happening. I try to stay in what’s going on and to allow myself to find some quiet and to be really forgiving to myself — that was one of the biggest things from the retreat that was most helpful to me. We did a self-forgiveness meditation and I was like ‘whoa!’.

As you’re going through processes of healing and therapy and you look at all the people that have wronged you, you work through all that stuff but then there was this whole piece on when did you really stop loving yourself the way little kids love themselves? Why did that happen? Can you sit still and honestly apologize to yourself? Even when you do things now that disappoint you, like you let yourself down, are you able to truly forgive yourself now? That’s pretty huge! I’m constantly looking at what I have to fix or I’m looking at parts of me but never looking at, I’m OK. Sorry I was so hard on you all those years!

I find the best way to look at things is to treat yourself like you would your most cherished best friend. You wouldn’t be so hard on your best friend if they were going through stuff. It’s important to view yourself as a friend and give yourself that care. Did having Panda help reconnect with the child-like love?

Not at first [laughs]. I’ve just been on a long, long road of healing a lot of stuff inside of me and I don’t feel like it’s necessarily a road that has an end. She hopped in, in the middle of that journey. At first it was hard. Now that she is five she’s at an age where my memories of me started. A lot of her joy and all that stuff, watching her brain start to piece together reading and spelling and her excitement about things; wanting to have adventures, learning to ride a bike — this is all stuff now I remember more than being a toddler. I see myself a lot more in her now and it’s really exciting!

What does your new album Thunder Thighs mean to you?

I feel like this is the record where I’m coming to terms with the fact that I need to get to a point where I am not depressed anymore. I want to feel better. I want to be happy. I want to be healthy. I want to be healed. It’s a getting to a point in life where I feel like it’s a constant journey because whenever we get over one thing there’s going to be something else. You don’t reach a point where all of a sudden, “Oh I’m 100% happy! Things are perfect!” Shit’s just going to keep happening, you just have to keep developing new skills to help deal with that stuff. Thunder Thighs is coming to that realization that I don’t have all of the answers but I’ve been developing the tools for how to deal with stuff when it comes along. I felt like with Remember That I Love You that I had it all figured out to a certain extent but, since having Panda it’s like I have no fucking clue! [Laughs]. I do know that I’m becoming stronger so when shit does happen it doesn’t devastate me and it doesn’t sweep me up and that I don’t get caught in these depressions that feel like they’re impossible to get out of. I feel like I’m stronger at the core and knowing that I don’t have to do it all myself and that there is strength in community and that we’re all having the experience of trying to figure it out and to take care of ourselves, accepting support and offering support; accepting the fact that there is no happy ending necessarily.

I try to tell people when I get these emails that are like, “Oh god I’m going through this shit and I don’t know how to handle it” from people that are super sensitive, you know what? I’m a super sensitive person too and I understand it feels really, really intense to you now. How I look at things is that well, this may be a really shitty time in my life or it’s really an amazing time in my life but instead of judging things as good and bad, I judge them by how rich an experience is. It’s like, wow I have the chance to feel something really, really intense right now. Just being more accepting of all of the feelings, the spectrum of feelings, and understanding that they don’t go away; I’m always going to have all of them — I just appreciate the fact that I can feel.

What song means the most to you on Thunder Thighs?

Wow! They all mean a lot to me in different ways. The first one ‘All I Can Do’ is really important to me because I wrote it when I was pregnant and the recording of it that is on the album was a month before Panda was born. I recorded it on my four-track that I did all of my first three albums on and that I did the Moldy Peaches album on. I was lying in bed pregnant with my old four-track machine recording the song in bed. That’s really special.

I love that it still has that hissing sound on it, I love that you left that in. Why did you choose the title Thunder Thighs?

I think just having the song ‘Walk Like Thunder’ and that ‘thunder thighs’ is something that is used as a derogatory term and being like well, this is just me, this is my body; I feel strong or I’m trying to be strong and I am going to be in this body I have and be as powerful as I can. Thinking of the phrase “Walk like thunder” or thinking of the term ‘thunder thighs’ being such an insult and just trying to be like fuck that! I’m big but I’m trying to be strong. It’s just not letting that shit be such a downer. It’s like whatever.

That’s the feeling I got when I first saw it and heard the record.

Yeah, I just feel like … especially with women that do music stuff, there’s parts of that world and that business that is so focused on appearance. With videos and YouTube it’s like everyone knows what everyone looks like, it’s such a big deal. People are constantly talking about what people look like. Especially after Juno, I’d see people posting online, “Oh that’s what Kimya Dawson looks like! I expected her to look more like Ellen Page!” [laughs]. It’s like here I am with my big ass and my ol’ big legs! It’s like take it or leave it. This is who I am and this is what I do. Nobody should feel like because people are looking at them that they have to hide themselves or change themselves. I don’t think people should just totally eat junk food and sit on their ass all day, people should try to be healthy. There’s like healthy big people and unhealthy tiny people too. People should try to take care of themselves but, you know what? Everyone is at a different place. It’s not up to anyone to judge anybody else. I post stuff about my cycles on the internet, I’ll be like “I have my period!” There’s so many things that I can be shameless about and so I felt like the next step for me was just being … from the earlier days like with Moldy Peaches, I’ve written songs where I’ve admitted to not being skinny [laughs] but at the same time … I originally had this photo for the cover of Thunder Thighs but it was too small — it was taken on someone’s phone so we couldn’t use it — it was a picture of me coming down a waterslide with my ass in the air in my swimsuit. I’ve posted that on the internet! It’s like here it is, I don’t feel like I have to keep that shit secret. For however many years I wore baggy clothes — as a teenager I’d wear a baggy shirt over my swimsuit — it’s like what’s the point?

(continues overleaf)

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