Sex, Lies, and Audiotape
R&B lothario Har Mar Superstar and Yeah Yeah Yeahs squealer Karen O. have settled into their mid-20s with all the quiet anonymity of P. Diddy leading Operation North Korean Freedom. She appeared on Top of the Pops this year with Kelly Clarkson and Marilyn Manson; he frolicked on the cover of Mixmag with half-naked Ibiza dancers. They toured Australia together this summer, and this Saturday they headline separate venues in the Twin Cities, Har Mar's hometown. What we wanted to know is: Do these alternative sex symbols have anything in common besides exhibitionist tendencies? So we placed a conference call between Har Mar at his brand-new Hollywood crib and Karen at a tour stop in Orlando, Florida, to find out.
Har Mar Superstar: What's going on, dude?
Karen O: I'm a little bit wasted. I only have two questions that I prepared in advance. First, can you tell me the process that you undergo to write a song?
Har Mar: Most of the time I start out with an idea for a beat, made with my friend Eric Olson--he's from Minneapolis but he lives out here in L.A. We're like a production team.
Karen: What's his sexuality? Is he hetero, bi, or gay?
Har Mar: Eric? He's a hetero man. So what we do is type out a beat on the MPC, and then add a bass line. Then I drive around listening to the beat for a week or so until I come up with a vocal idea. Normally, all the songs are about sex, so I just sort of try to get into a lot of sexy situations. Then I drive away from them, and I write all the stuff down.
Karen: Okay, so when you say sexy situations that you drive away from--you're lying, right?
Har Mar: About half the time I'm totally lying.
Karen: You mean like sexy situations in your room watching--
Har Mar: --Sex in the City. That kind of thing.
Karen: Well, that leads me to my next question. I'm sure you get asked this all the time. What is the process that you undergo to eat a banana?
Har Mar: I always get this question. It's fucking so old. But what I do is kind of rub it around whatever's nearest. It could be something on me, or somebody else, or just a table or something, to make sure it's not some kind of booby trap. Because everybody likes to laugh at me every once in a while. So I just make sure it's a real banana. And then I peel it, from top to bottom. Sometimes I don't peel it. Sometimes I'll just eat the whole thing.
Karen: You're not the only one who eats it that way. I know that you felt kind of isolated eating bananas that way, getting a little bit down on yourself for a while. But apes and monkeys eat bananas with the peels on. It doesn't even occur to them to peel it.
Har Mar: Exactly. What's the point? So Karen, you're in Orlando. Did you try to go to Disney World or anything?
Karen: No, we went to see A Perfect Circle at the Hard Rock Cafe Live, which is actually in Universal Studios. We're in this backstage area. [Bassist] Twiggy [Ramirez] is onstage right now. [Guitarist] James Iha is in complete shadow: They don't want to give him any spotlight because he's Asian.
Har Mar: It's that and because he made that solo record that nobody really liked much.
Karen: Thing is, it's all white people here tonight.
Har Mar: Does that make you a little bit intimidated, because you have some Asian blood?
Karen: No, no, no. I don't know how I do it, kicking someone in the balls or knocking the wind out of them. But I know that I could take a few punches.
Har Mar: You could also just get wasted and not think about it. [mutual laughter] So you're coming out here soon to record with me. Are you fucking excited?
Karen: Actually, if you want to know the truth, I'm electronically mailing with Beck, and I told him that I was going to be out there recording with you, and he didn't write me back after that.
Har Mar: I saw him three days ago at a festival and he asked me to record with him, so maybe I'm totally cock-blocking you.
Karen: Well, it wasn't too long ago that we were on the dance floor, and there was this girl that you were interested in, and she had a few guys hanging on her, and I told you that you had some competition, and your reply was, "I'm winning." So I don't doubt that you could totally cock-block my ass.
Har Mar: No, let's do all that shit together.
Karen: One big happy family. [laughs] Sean Tillmann and Beck Hansen.
Har Mar: [singing] One of these kids is not like the other.
Karen: Wait, who's that?
Har Mar: I would think it would be me.
Karen: Oh, come on, dude, why? Because you get more attention that way?
Har Mar: No, because I'm frumpy.
Karen: Because you like to define yourself by how you differ from other people as opposed to how you fit in with other people?
Har Mar: Yeah, I'd say that. I went to art school, man. You went to art school, too, right?
Karen: Actually, that brings me to my next question. In high school, did you specialize in anything in particular?
Har Mar: Yeah, you're about to rip me up. Theater.
Karen: [laughs uncontrollably]
Har Mar: Anyone reading this knows I was a drama geek.
Karen: It doesn't make it any less funny. Here's a question: Who would you consider to be the paradigm of a Har Mar Superstar fan?
Har Mar: It's not one particular age group or type of person. It's normally people who like to party and kind of get wild and go out and get wasted and dance. Good-times party people who like to show me off to their friends. There are people who seek me out on their own, and then they bring back a whole slew of people the next time. And then I become their little joke or their good-times party record, which I'm into.
Karen: Okay, I'm going to interrupt you. What is the ratio of male-to-female fans that you have?
Har Mar: It's been pretty even. I tend to meet more of the girl fans. Dudes like the confidence, and the girls like to get wild. The girls come first and the dudes just like to follow them there. Which is how it should work.
Karen: Why do you think that is?
Har Mar: Because dudes just want to lay the girls, and the girls just want to party.
Karen: But how does that relate to you?
Har Mar: I don't know. Probably just because I'm really easy. Most girls know that if I come to the show that I'll probably end up making out with most of them.
Karen: Do you think you're a good kisser?
Har Mar: I think I'm an awesome kisser. Do you think I'm a good kisser?
Karen: I don't know. I've never kissed you.
Har Mar: I know, but do you think I would be a good kisser?
Karen: I'd assume you were well versed in the art of kissing.
Har Mar: You have a lot of girl fans who idolize you, but in a way that they kind of take your style and make it their own. How does that make you feel?
Karen: There was this show recently in Hamburg, Germany, where it was like 120 degrees inside the club, because it was the middle of summer and there was no air conditioning. It was torrid heat, right? And I was just like, fuck it. I'm going to make this show as aerobic as possible, because it was like a sauna.
What happened was I kind of leaned back over the monitors. And this girl grabbed my hair and fucking stuck her tongue down my fucking throat. I was pretty helpless because I was in an awkward body position. I've never felt so violated onstage before. And the thing is, the rest of the show I was, like, giving her winks and shit to pretend I was all cool with it.
Har Mar: Yeah, you kind of have to.
Karen: Like, "Remember that time you stuck your tongue down my throat?" But really, I was in a world of pain.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.