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Pomp and performance art

Understanding Fischerspooner -- to the letter


At first, determining what to expect from New York synth-pop sensationalists Fischerspooner seems as easy as A, B, C ... and D.

"We do an A, B, C and a D show," says Athens-bred Casey Spooner by phone from a Manhattan cafe, the din of children and chiming clocks in the background. "An 'A' show is when there are 20 dancers and it's a huge location with a huge installation -- more the art-world type of event. The show on the road is a mix between a 'B' and a 'C.' [But] that doesn't mean it's any less affecting. We were signed off a 'D' show, which is the tiniest basic performance -- just me and two dancers. I think the smallest shows can be as effective, if not more, than the behemoth shows. There will still be plenty of us singing, dancing and taking our clothes off."

In the wake of Chicago's Oscar triumphs, there's never been a better time for Spooner (group choreographer) and his partner, Fischer (the musical half), to deliver what the former describes as the "illusion of excitement." But the story of Fischerspooner holds more in common with the premise of Chicago than a cast that prances about scantily clad. In the shadow of Fischerspooner's success lies an exploitive cult of personality.

Pegged as media firebrands but trapped by their floundering debut full-length, #1 -- its release botched by the U.K.'s Ministry of Sound before Capitol stepped -- Fischerspooner watched as electroclash, the personality-driven pop genre in which the group became enshrined, nearly electro-crashed as far too many people tried to electro-cash in. In a January 2002 interview, Spooner extolled, "I'm living the best novel -- art fags make fake pop band and are suddenly at helm of movement. The made-for-TV movie is going to be genius."

It's a sentiment Spooner still identifies with. But it's tempered by the realization that while #1 languished, a glut of electro-synth-tech-pop releases championed artifice over art, setting Fischerspooner up for potentially damaging comparisons once the outfit was promoted to a wider audience.

"It's so hard [when you] find something you feel collectively connected to, then you find it and you feel you're lumped in with anybody and everybody," laments Spooner. "You have to put your personal issues aside and just let it be that tag on the record rack. I'm just thankful to be in the paper at all. I worked for years in experimental theater, and I couldn't even get a listing in a listing section. Now I don't care whether a mention is good or bad. I just want the picture to be good."

Now, more than three years after its first performance (and almost that long since releasing the majority of #1 on German label International DeeJay Gigolo), Fischerspooner's show is finally on the road. Previously accustomed to the exposure and experience gained from 10-night stints in art galleries, or an occasional high-profile one-off like the upcoming Venetian Biennial, Spooner has steeled himself for physical and mental repercussions on tour. After all, part of what makes the Fischerspooner experience is all the hyperaware, hypercritical attention that precedes and accompanies it.

"First of all, you have to prepare yourself completely for people to be disappointed in a way," Spooner says. "There's no way I could live up to the ridiculous expectations. That's the way it was built and how it's been able to generate this mythic quality. But still, I've been looking forward to the day I share my little European/New York secret. What I like about it is [that] people's reactions are so extremely polarized. Nobody will just say we're OK because we sound like Sheryl Crow sort of. There's no confusion. It's clear. Either you're into it or you're not. You go to witness a show because you see someone have an experience, and you live all the emotions of that experience voyeuristically. So I plan to play it to the max."

And all that jazz.

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