Saul Williams Does France

Saul Williams Does France

The poet-actor-rockstar dishes on parenting as an ex-pat, race and record contracts

Miles Marshall Lewis

by Miles Marshall Lewis, April 05, 2012

Saul Williams Does France

Poet, performer, and pioneer Saul Williams

Fader afterwards, [Fader founders] Jon Cohen and Rob Stone are friends of mine too. And that was also a cool experience for me.

But it also has a lot to do with the kind of album I’ve made. When I moved here, I had all my demos for the album already done. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I knew that it was a dance album, that it was a pop album. So I believed that it belonged to the infrastructure that already existed, and it was a matter of how to best do that. When the opportunity came to move here, I also thought, “Wow, I bet you if I did through there…” I started imagining what I could work out, and I was able to work that out exactly.

EBONY: Erykah Badu talks about being an analog girl in a digital world—

SW: That’s great. I forgot about that. Because I have this phrase on my album: something, “analog spacegirl, digital Pompeii,” something.

EBONY: How do you balance your roots-shaman style with cyberspace social networking? I know you’re @saulwilliams on Twitter, you’re on Facebook, there’s your Tumblr, MartyrLoserKing. Do you feel you have to unplug periodically?

SW: To me, the Internet is kind of like a club or a party at the mall a lot of times. You can make a library of it, but it needs to be a conscious decision. And I really feel like I have no business interacting with… I don’t hang out at the mall. [laughter] There was a point where I did; I don’t do that anymore. And so like the only reason why I really would want to go out and be seen is if I had something interesting to share. And so that’s pretty much how I interact. Which means I’m not anti. I have accounts at different social interaction networks and I like those accounts. I speak when I feel like I have something to share. And I don’t mean simply something to sell. ’Cause to me that gets on my nerves too, when it’s just, “Yo, buy this!” No, but when I have something to share, then I’m really appreciative of the fact that those networks are set up, because it makes sharing easier.

EBONY: What’s your social life like in Paris? How do you find the French socially different?

SW: Regardless of what your job is, the workday really stops at a certain time, like six or seven, and then it’s like, “Okay, put that sh*t away.” It’s time to have a drink, to eat, to sit around and talk and [it’s] like, “You need this just as much as you need to work.” It’s really impressed upon you here, like, “Dude, what are you doing? It’s Saturday. No, come to this museum with me.” It’s impressed upon you a bit more, like, take advantage of the other half of your existence.

EBONY: Like France’s five weeks of vacation.

SW: Regardless of what you do. Yeah, it’s crazy. Even with school. There’s something like 185 days in the school year in America, and there’s 135 days in the school year here? Which means that [Saul’s teenage daughter] Saturn has so many days off and half days and all of this stuff. She’s in school right now.

My social life is different in those regards. But on the other hand, I’m still pretty much a… You know, Italo Calvino has that book, Hermit in Paris? I’m indoors a lot. I spent the first year here in the studio doing this album. So I was indoors then, and now I’m doing a lot of writing. Either way, I’m indoors quite a bit.

EBONY: Explain a little more about what brought you here in 2009.

SW: The thing that brought me here was that I was going through a divorce. So I wasn’t just moving in L.A., I was having to find a new place which was gonna be the beginning of my new life. So it was a bit deeper than that. When that opportunity arose—the dude was like, “Yo, you should take my place” and it was the same price as what I was looking for in L.A.—it felt like a miracle. It was like, “Oh my god… Yo, that would make me feel better.”

And why? Primarily, I had been in L.A. for 10 years. And I like L.A., you know, I don’t have any of the bad stuff to say that people wanna say. Like, I’m from New York, I like New York and I like L.A., and I embrace the contradiction. But 10 years is a long time, and I’ve realized that for someone like myself whose life seemed to be fixated somewhere between love and ambition, that I was also finding myself interacting… Actually, I still can’t even call it.

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