I may have worked out why I’ve never liked being in front of the camera (for music videos, promo shots, happy snaps, anything) – and the answer may be science.
There are artists I enjoy watching, and there are artists I enjoy listening to. There’s little overlap between the two.
The artists I enjoy watching most are usually female, and/or providing some larger-than-life visual spectacle. Yet for some reason, most of the artists I enjoy listening to are predominantly male (out of 22 artists on my phone at the time of writing, only 9 feature female voices).
The artists I enjoy listening to inspire me to create my own music – and, in synesthesiac fashion, as the musical ideas form in my mind, so too do their visuals. But from time to time, my own face needs to be included in the presentation of what I’ve made – and when it comes to that, well, then I have a problem.
I don’t enjoy looking at myself, because I don’t look like what I’m attracted to.
Firstly, I’m not a woman.
The female performer possesses the ability to be at turns sensual, sexual, powerful, vulnerable, charming, challenging, sweet, raw, refined, theatrical; she can have me at turns aroused, enthralled, confronted, in awe; and she can be all of these things within a single presentation, and without ever being categorised as “camp”. It’s hard for me to think of a male performer I could say the same about (other than Prince, who is such an anomaly that he’s almost unhelpful).
Secondly, I like others’ shows better.
The things I offer in a live show are not my favourite things to see in someone else’s live show. I can get on a stage and play confidently enough to an audience, numbering from dozens to thousands. However, I’m not a purveyor of extravaganza; I don’t possess a larger-than-life personality, or the resources, dramatic or dramaturgical, to envelop and overwhelm an audience.*
Why not? I think, in short: I’ve never been convinced by me – at least, not enough to shoot for the peaks of captivation.
Is it because I’m too familiar with the very ordinary, often embarrassing, behind-the-scenes, day-to-day behind what I offer? It’s not like I’ve never seen behind the mask of other artists; and I’ll alternately cheer them on or forgive them, in all kinds of ways, when it’s their turn. Yet for some reason, I’m not, and have never been, that good of an audience to me.
So: what to do with this?
Maybe I need to bust out of the “Ray Mann” character – to invent a character (or characters) as a means to creating things that explore all the aspects of art performance that inspire me to create in the first place…
It may be time.
And in the meantime: here’s David Bowie talking about this very thing (via Blank on Blank).