The Hazlitt Offensive: Sean Michaels

By Hazlitt

Our new, trademark-pending, Hazlitt questionnaire.

Sean Michaels is a Scotland-born, Ottawa-raised, and Montreal-based writer. He’s the founder of Said the Gramophone, a daily sampler of “really good songs,” and one of the very first mp3 blogs. His work has appeared in the Guardian and McSweeney’s. His debut novel is Us Conductors, inspired by the inventor of the theremin, and his romance with perhaps the best theremin players in the world.

1. What are three words you associate with your first relationship?
Poise, jersey, quarrel.

2. What’s the worst thing you ever did for money?
I wrote a simpering lie.

3. What is your least favourite song?
As a music critic I’m always trying to stay open-minded with horrible music: to be searching for a way in, a breadcrumb trail for whatever pleasures are hiding in those fetid chords. My friend Carl kinda wrote a book about this. So anyway I try not to admit that I cringe at songs by Rihanna, Led Zeppelin and Imagine Dragons. And I reserve my real hatred for music that seems morally, not aesthetically, reprehensible. Like Kanye West’s “Runaway.”

4. What is your favourite song?
That’s like asking the code for a long-lost combination lock. But it might be Cat Power’s “Metal Heart.”

5. What’d you have for breakfast this morning?
Diamonds, noon shadows, and coffee.

6. How do you feel about Joni Mitchell?
Blue is better than almost every record I hear. At her best, Joni has a voice like water: frozen, flowing, or steam.

7. How did you learn what sex was?
I remember an absolutely bewildering illustration in a children’s book about reproduction. My main thought was: “I must be understanding this wrong.”

8. Where do you imagine all our lost T-shirts go?
Do you lose T-shirts? I don’t think I lose T-shirts. I lose bets, sunglasses and important papers. I lose patience.

9. Who do you consider the funniest person in the world—that we would know?
I’m a dumb sucker for Englishmen like John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson and Ricky Gervais. But the person today who seems most gifted at turning a sentence, any sentence, into a clock-melting LOL is the comedian Tig Notaro.

10.What’s the worst insult you’ve ever said?
There are times when I’ve been very harsh with the weather.

11.What’s the worst thing you’ve ever been called?
I’ve been called hapless, tin-eared, lazy and racist by loamheads in website comment-boxes. A friend once said my writing was overwrought. A member of a prominent Canadian indie band tweeted that I was a Tory. All these things. None of them. When a lover called me cruel.

12.What’s a deal breaker for someone you’re in a relationship or in love with?
Not liking each other any more?

13.What’s something you do every night before bed?
I count all of that day’s accomplishments and all of that day’s failures, and I put these numbers in a chart. Then I count all of the day’s kindnesses and all of its spites and I put those numbers in a chart. Then I add the numbers of fuckups, letdowns, bike rides, retweets, thunderclaps, two-cheek bises, three-cheek bises, theremin sonatas, emails from millionaires, business lunches, podcasts, funerals, metaphors and similes. There are now 18 numbers in the chart. I can use these to make a graph—a graph with 18 points. And then I use this graph as a kind of connect-the-dots challenge, where the challenge is to piece together an image of one of the great artists of all time. Usually it ends up looking like Sam Cooke, on stage at the Harlem Square Club, singing his heart out.