Lawrence Rothman collaborates with Floria Sigismondi for The Book of Law
Lawrence Rothman collaborates with Floria Sigismondi for The Book of Law
WORDS BY: JACK SUNNUCKS | REPORTING BY: KAREN OLIVEROS
Tonight, at the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, musician Lawrence Rothman and legendary cult director Floria Sigismondi present The Book of Law, his debut album. Floria creative directed the record, which explores Lawrence’s nine “alters,” or alter egos, each of whom have a different name, appearance, and even sound. The party (for that’s what it is), will explore Lawrence’s alters through video projections, dance and a one-of-a-kind performance. We caught up with the duo to discuss working with nine personas on one record, the pleasure of collaboration, which of his alters are on social media, and multitudes we all contain within ourselves.
RSVP to The Book of Law release party here.
The Book of Law is available October 13th.
How did you two meet, and how did the collaboration start?
Floria: We met on a music video shoot. Lawrence brought up that he had these multiple “alters” and it was a great manic world to build. So, I became super super excited about it.
Lawrence: And since I have all of these sort of variations of myself, and different alters that I present in a live setting, each alter has their own songs. Floria was a great collaborator for that because she’s a filmmaker, and she can kind of take the idea of all these alters, and create a hyper reality around what the alters represent in a filmic way.
Tell me more about the alters. What are the sounds of each alter and what it was like translating that visually?
Lawrence: I’ve sort of separated my personality and my songwriting into nine different variations of myself, so the alters are all part of me and sort of like me wearing all personalities on my sleeve. I’m the vessel that’s holding together these nine different personalities.
I feel like it’s not uncommon for a lot of people I know, where you’ve got many versions of yourself. You present one version of yourself to maybe your family, or your friends another. Other circumstances where you’re different kinds of yourself. So I’m sort of taking that idea and made it a little bit more unsterilized through my art.
Floria: Through your music
Lawrence: Each one will represent, like a more masculine side of myself, another more feminine side of myself, another one more dangerous side of myself, or a little more crazy side of myself. Each one of them have a look to me, and they have a distinct feeling. I take the feeling I have when one of these alters emerges, and it comes with song and I dress it with the clothes that I wear.
Lawrence, is there a particular side, out of this nine sides that has been the most difficult for you? Floria, was one of them was the biggest challenge to bring to life visually?
Lawrence: Yeah, there’s some sides of myself and the alters and I’m sure that with anybody in general you’ve got like your sort of hard to deal with side. There are a few videos where they are a little bit harder to direct.
Floria: I have no idea what he’s talking about.
Sometimes the biggest challenges end up being the best moments in retrospect.
Lawrence: I think Floria’s made it her favorite to direct the Liz alter
Floria: Yeah, I like Liz, I also like the character in California Paranoia – Nantucket. Those two are my favorite, but I do really love Elizabeth, she’s so dramatic.
Could you walk us through the different elements of the live performance?
Floria: We wanted to bring to life, almost like walking in, if you were to walk into the music video and meet these characters. So in a corner, kind of bring in some of those characters in little vignettes. And then the modern dance element that would be played by the dancers.
Lawrence: Like vignettes, little themes, from the videos. We did a music video, ‘Wolfs Don’t Cry’ and all these dancers were different alters. We’re having those exact performers from the music video perform live.
Floria: The kind of interesting thing is your different selves, you know how they say we have nine selves, and there are different selves coming apart and being shadows or creating their own lives and then coming back together again being the complicated person–that we all are.
What should guests do to get the most out of the experience?
Lawrence: It would be great if people went to Floria’s or my website and watched all the videos, and got familiar with some of the characters, so that when they come they can see…a lot of the actors that are in the video are be going to be there dressed as the characters.
Floria: And we’ll have the music video projected as well. I guess the thing to mention is that all these characters are… him. You may miss that seeing all the hair and makeup and how transformative they are. But worth mentioning, they are the same person.
How does the project relate to what’s happening to the world, if it does at all?
Lawrence: In the way of just exploring one’s self, in today’s times individuality is way more wide open than it was ever in our lifetime. You know – you can be whatever gender pronoun you wanna use. You can be a complete individual and you can dress how you want. You can, through social media, present many versions of yourself regardless if it’s your true inner self or not.
Floria: Fantasy version.
Lawrence: Yeah, a fantasy version. Or maybe it’s really your version. I feel a lot of people present all different versions of themselves, and maybe until the invention of social media there hasn’t been an outlet to really experiment and show your individuality. So with the project, and me just going, “Here are 9 different versions of myself,” I hope that it inspires other people to be like “You know what, I’ve got my many sides of myself and I’m not going to keep it under the rug, keep it quiet, I’m going to show my friends and the world–all of me.”
Floria: It’s about being multidimensional and being ok with it. You know, being ok with having different parts of yourself.
Lawrence: And celebrating individuality. ‘Cause I felt like for a long time it was shunned to stick out. And I feel like in the last 2 years, there’s a lot more celebration of individuality and I think that’s important, especially when the political climate that we live in the US at the moment is so abysmal with Trump and Republicans. The more you can be your complete self in today’s time, I think its therapeutic.
There definitely is a tension between being an individual, and feeling that needs to be a singular thing, when in reality, as you two are saying, it’s very multidimensional.
Lawrence: It’s not really promoted in the world – even in art and especially music. It’s sort of expected that if you’re a musician and you’re playing one style you stay in that style. You have to be very singular with how you present your sound but, well in the rap world they experiment all over the place. There’s many different sounds, styles and genres on one record.
Even in your regular 9-5 job, you have to be the same person everyday when you show up. It’s just not human nature. If people flip through photo albums of themselves through the years–you’re constantly morphing, constantly changing, new environments are affecting you. To stay exactly the same, its sort of almost…repressive. You know?
Floria: It’s kind of like getting to know somebody. You’re presented with this persona and at face value you take it for something. The more you dig deeper, the more complicated and colorful and incredible…the map of our world is so multi-layered.
Can you tell us more about the physical versus digital lives of the alters? Is there an alter that is less or more comfortable in the digital world?
Lawrence: Yeah, there is. There’s 2. Florian is basically the social media whore of the nine, very much wants to be seen and taking selfies. And Nantucket. And the rest kinda don’t really like it. The albino is kinda 50/50. But the rest of them like to hide, especially Liz. She does not like social media–she’s old fashioned.
What other projects do you two have planned?
Lawrence: We’ve been working on a film project with the alters for the past year. We hope it gets to have life soon.
What type of film is it?
Lawrence: We want to do a feature film. It’s about the nine alters and the story that connects them all. It’s like the Book of the Dead meets Enter the Void meets Adult Swim.
What is the meaning behind the album name/project name?
Lawrence: A lot of my friends that worked on the record call me “Law”. I didn’t tell them to. But I guess that’s my nickname. At first I really did not like, it but I got used to it. I wrote over a 150 songs, fully produced about 75 of them. The running joke between the producers and my label was “You created a book here, a book of music.”
It’s once we got to the editing process and picked my 12 tracks, it was unanimous all around that the record should be called The Book of Law because the creation of the record took 2 years, and the amount of material was an abundant amount. It’s also my life, I was very journalistics about the lyrics and very honest, very transparent lyrical content. My world is just an open diary.
You’ve enlisted a varied cast of collaborators on it – how do they relate to the different sounds/personas?
Lawrence: Basically, the idea was to combine different musicians from different genres and put them together playing a song they wouldn’t normally play. And each one of my alters would have their favorite style of music and musicians.
When I started the record the producer Justin Raisen, asked me what my dream list of any collaborators in the world would be, so I wrote them all down not thinking anything of it. He took that list and literally cold called, reached out and got all the different collaborators, neither one of us had the relationship with any of them.
I’m really blessed to have that, they’re all my personal favorite artists and so each one of them fits the different sides of my personalities and 9 different alters. I have a song called “Geek,” and we brought in Duff McKagan from Gun’s N’ Roses and Marissa Nadler, who’s a solo artist who I love. We brought those 2 together who are polar opposites as far as like music so it was interesting to have them track together. And we had Kim Gordon and Jim Buckner, who played with John Lennon and Bob Dylan, together on another song. We just kept mixing it up.
People influenced your sound and added to your charaters’ stories.
Lawrence: I’m still all over the place with who I am, so these nine personalities all love different types of music. When you look at my iPhone, at any given Spotify playlist its all over the place. From Kim Gordon, to reggae, to rap, to Thundercat, to classical music to Miley Cyrus. I hear it all and how it kinda connects. How people are borrowing from different genres. So i really wanted to emphasize that on my record to just like get people from all different genres playing together even on a genre they probably never even play on.
That sounds fun. Humans have a certain spectrum of emotion that we can experience and different genres sort of allow us to tap into those different zones.