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“I Gotta Have That Kink”: Mark Will on “The Kinkster”

Overall, the reaction has been positive. Most people are able to see the humor in it. But I've been surprised by the prudishness of certain self-described progressives who have objected to the song and the imagery we have used to promote it on social media.

This is the second in a series of interviews with Mark Will of the band [ai]. In our previous conversation, we discussed “Dystopian Theme Song,” the first single from the album Carmina Formosa. Today our topic is [ai]'s follow-up release, “The Kinkster.”

The Kinkster

The song is obviously written in the first person, but is “The Kinkster” a true self-portrait of Mark Will?

“The Kinkster,” “The Goat,” “The Horndog,” and “The Dirty Old Man” are all personae that I adopt in order to perform the song. Etymologically, a persona is a mask, so it would be a mistake to equate me with the roles I assume. My own predilections are not necessarily reflected in the lyrics. That said, however, I do admit to being a bit of a kinkster myself. The listener may therefore speculate as to what degree the masks I wear are, as Pirandello would say, naked.

“The Kinkster” is a fun tune, but it is also quite provocative and maybe even a bit transgressive. How has it been received so far?

Overall, the reaction has been positive. Most people are able to see the humor in it. But I've been surprised by the prudishness of certain self-described progressives who have objected to the song and the imagery we have used to promote it on social media. One prominent leftist author followed us on Twitter and liked and retweeted our links to “Dystopian Theme Song,” but then after seeing tweets related to “The Kinkster” on our timeline he publicly chastised us and blocked us. I thought: “Oh, so you approve when we sing about politics, but sex is taboo?” I mean, he doesn't have to like our song, but his overreaction to something he happened to see in our feed was ridiculous and pathetic. This guy writes critically about the Orwellian aspects of contemporary society, and he doesn't even realize that he himself behaved like a scandalized member of the Junior Anti-Sex League.

Have you had any other complaints?

Indeed we have. Some people were offended by an ad for the song which featured Hokusai's “Dream of the Fisherman's Wife.” Not only did these people fail to appreciate the aesthetic charms of the Japanese ukiyo-e tradition, but they even suggested we were exploiting the female body. Now I'm not completely insensitive to their concerns, but let's have some perspective. Aren't there more important things to feel outraged by? The US war machine is currently bombing, droning, and/or occupying seven countries, and these people are troubled by a picture of a woman receiving cunnilingus from an octopus? They also apparently cannot see the connection between sexual repression and military aggression.

I didn't realize there was such a connection.

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Well, I believe there is, and I also think that those who are more sexually indulgent are less likely to participate in violence. I have long been interested in the theories of sex therapist Dr. Susan Block, who argues very convincingly that the reason our simian relatives the bonobos are so much better at conflict resolution than we humans are is because they are basically hedonists who have lots of sex. Unlike other apes, who can be quite aggressive amongst themselves, the oversexed bonobos never kill one another. They make love, not war. Dr. Block urges us all to follow “The Bonobo Way” of peace through pleasure. I am a strong supporter of her #GoBonobos campaign online, and “The Kinkster” definitely reflects some of her ideas.

What were some of the other influences on “The Kinkster”?

It's a very traditional song, actually. Bluesmen like Muddy Waters and Elmore James often sang songs full of sexual bravado with a bit of humor. Early rockers like Little Richard did too. That's what rock 'n' roll was: fun and sexy music. The tradition continues in funk and soul with James Brown's “Sex Machine,” Rick James' “Super Freak,” and Marvin Gaye's “Let's Get It On” and “Sexual Healing.” And go back and listen carefully to Stones songs like “Bitch” and “Star Star.” Jagger's lyrics for the latter tune are extremely raunchy and explicit. Listen also to Prince's “Erotic City,” “Dirty Mind,” “Jack U Off,” and so on. The Purple One was a total kinkster. But because these iconic artists are accepted by the mainstream now, people forget how vilified they were by the puritanical media when those songs first came out. ZZ Top should also be mentioned. Their lyrics are loaded with sexual innuendoes. More recently, there have been some very clever bawdy songs by hip hop artists too. Ludacris' “What's Your Fantasy,” for example, is absolutely brilliant in its wordplay. Other favorites of mine are featured in the “Sexyfreakyfunkykinky” playlist on our YouTube channel.

Those are the musical influences, but I'm guessing there were some literary influences as well.

Of course. I'm first and foremost a writer. I just happen to write songs sometimes. When I wrote “The Kinkster,” I imagined Henry Miller saying: “I'm the Kinkster . . . the Goat . . . the Horndog . . . the Dirty Old Man!” The chorus with its lines “There is no limit to imagination / I'm into every type of stimulation” was partially inspired by my reading of Sade and Mishima. There are probably echoes of Joyce in the lyrics too. He was an utter pervert, as we know from his private correspondence. His letters to his wife are full of hilarious dirty talk and astonishing role-play fantasies. D.H. Lawrence wasn't much of a kinkster, but his writings on sacred sexuality have definitely informed my views. And Greek and Roman erotic poetry are always an inspiration to me.

What about the sound of the track? I hear the influence of 60's British rock.

That's probably present on a subconscious level, but it wasn't the original intention. For the rhythm section, I had in mind a Talking Heads sound built around the funky bass line. When I did the vocals, I tried to invoke Prince and Little Richard. I think this worked particularly well when I overdubbed the falsetto background vocals. Oren always adds something unexpected with his solos and he is off the chain on this track. People have told me they hear a surf rock influence, which was certainly not intentional, but neither is it impossible. I always loved the B-52's song “Strobe Light,” which is very sexy and kinky in its own way.

Thanks for your responses. In our next interview, we will discuss the third single from Carmina Formosa, “Now I Know You.”

I look forward to it. We'll talk again soon.

Nick Danese