Tim Mislock Talks Broadway, Relationships, We Eat Pizza in Bed
I'm not a gooey-gushy kind of girl. On social media, I try to keep it light, nothing too sentimental, too love-y dove-y. So, I was hesitant to post this interview--one in which I sit down to talk about love with my husband, Tim Mislock, for Valentine's Day.
Our relationship isn't that kind of relationship, and it never has been. Of course we have gross nicknames for each other, but we don't dare use them in public. We don't canoodle outside of our own home, and overall, we're pretty independent of one another. But we both feel a lot of love, and to me, Valentine's Day isn't about relationships, it's about love distilled.
I met Tim in 2010 when he was touring with siren-singer and songwriter Holly Miranda. From there, he went on to tour with The Antlers until he joined Broadway's Hedwig and The Angry Inch. Now he is looking for a home to release his first ambient guitar record, Now is the Last Best Time, and, like the rest of us, he's just trying to figure it out.
Here photographer Lindsay Brown captures Tim and me at home, while he shows me a little bit about the instrument he loves most, and I show him how to eat pizza in bed.
You were on Broadway for 18 months, and now you’re working to pay the bills and biding your time until potentially going on the Hedwig tour—what has that been like for you?
It’s been mostly good. I’ve found that being somewhat busy allows me to be musically productive. If I have 5 days of part-time work, and it means I only have 2 days to work on music, then I’ll be more productive on those 2 days than if I had a whole week.
Have you been sad in this interim?
Yeah…there have been things that I’ve been sad about.
Part of being a musician means that your happiness is defined by how busy you are professionally playing music.
Why is it so important to play music for an audience vs. just playing for yourself?
Playing for an audience is a way of communicating with people. Granted, it ends up being a very 1-sided conversation. But you’re still communicating.
Is that the only reason you play music?
No, I play music for many reasons. Sometimes you get to be the most extroverted version of yourself. In a live band setting, where there’s 3, 4, 10 people making music together, you can lose yourself in creating and performing the music. You’re kind of a vessel at that point for what that show will be. Part of the goal with every show is to get lost, and to get out of your head and out of your body.
But I don’t know that you did that very much with Hedwig?
Well, Hedwig is a performance, so it’s different from indie shows. But there were moments in many Hedwig shows in which I was able to get that transcendence.
Usually "Exquisite Corps" or "Angry Inch," where we got to be loud. Justin [Craig] and I would have these John Lennon-Harry Nilsson screaming matches, and it was all about who could be louder in that moment.
What is a John Lennon-Harry Nilsson screaming match?
There’s a story that when Lennon was producing a Nilsson record, they were basically egging each other on in backing vocal tracks, screaming, and Nilsson said there was blood on the microphone--that he’d shredded his vocal chords and that his voice was never the same after that.
Screaming with Justin was not to that extent, but you know, it was a moment of release in a show that was meant to be 96 minutes long every night. There’s less wiggle room on Broadway. In The Antlers, if we were bored of a song, we wouldn’t play it. On Broadway, there’s no “I’m tired of this song, I’m not gonna play it.”
So what do you do to conjure that intensity?
Sometimes it’s just removing yourself from the equation. Even though it’s my 675th time playing this song, to 85% of the audience, it’s their first time hearing it, or hearing it live. So if you can remove yourself, and focus on the artistry and the performance, then you’re able to find joy and newness in it.
How much of your ego comes into play when you’re performing? Honestly.
Well, the aspect of getting on stage and asking people to look at you is a self-indulgent act. But for Hedwig, the context of the show is so relevant and the message of the show is so universal that it felt important, and that was enough to not focus on myself.
What's your take on music streaming today?
I like Pandora Radio or Spotify playlists, where you can hear the artists you like, as well as several other artists you never knew about. But since Napster [I laugh here, because no one has said “Napster” to me since 1999], there have been more platforms for people to share music files with one another, and for free. I don’t agree with that.
If people want to hear music, they should be able to hear it, but I think there needs to be a platform in place in which the money goes to the right people, i.e., the people who created those songs, not the people who distribute those songs. And presently, those who distribute the songs are getting a lot more money than those who actually wrote the song.
What's something you've learned in your musical career?
That when you do so many shows, you’re going to mess up. You’re gonna break a string, your amplifier is going to break, your voice is going to crack, and the show will keep going.
What's something you're proud of, musically?
I'm proud to be able to perform my own music with confidence, especially the songs I’m playing now, which are so personal (about my family and Alzheimer’s disease). The fact that I can be strong and convincing in that role--playing ambient music for people who don’t know what ambient music is--is really important to me.
What did you love most about touring with The Antlers?
Being able to perform songs that were so emotionally important to me, for people all over the world. I got to be with some of my closest guy friends who are great musicians, who forced me to be a better musician. But being on stage with someone who can sing like that [Peter Silberman] was a really unique experience that’s just transcendent.
How did Broadway change the game for you as a musician?
It finally made me see that musical training doesn’t matter as much as I thought it did. Since I learned to play guitar (20 years ago), I had a chip on my shoulder about how I was self-taught. I know enough about chords to talk about them, but I don’t really speak the same language as guys who studied music in school.
Shouldn’t you be proud that you're self-taught?
Yeah, I guess? It's just so much harder when someone asks, “What note are you singing here?” and I don’t know what I’m singing. There are so many more steps to figuring it out.
So if you’re insecure about it, what’s stopping you from learning to read music?
I guess that punk rock idea that you shouldn’t have to read music to be able to play music.
So you’re being defiant?
Yeah, if everyone who played music knew how to read music, it would be really boring.
What’s your biggest dream as a musician?
To be a musician for the rest of my life.
What are your Top 3 favorite albums of all time?
Probably Godspseed You Black Emperor/F-Sharp, A-Sharp, Infinity because that was one of the first instrumental records I heard that was multimedia. It changed the way I thought about music. George Harrison/All Things Must Pass. So much beautiful guitar stuff on that record. And one of my favorite records of all time: Okkervil River/Black Sheep Boy. It’s just so good.
Well, since this interview is essentially about love, let’s keep on...
When was the first time you wanted to make out with me?
Zebulon. The night I asked you out, when you came to see my solo show.
[Zebulon was a venue and bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which has since been made into a swanky restaurant.]
Is that also that night you wanted to get me in the sack?
Yeah, I guess when you’re 24 or 25, making out and getting laid are the same thing. You don’t think, “Oh, I hope we get to make out tonight.”
When did you know that you loved me?
When I went to Australia.
[A Holly Miranda tour, when we’d been casually dating for about 4 months. Tim brought his laptop so that we could Skype. I was against it, but after I saw his big goofy face on the screen, things were different.]
When did you know you wanted to marry me?
After we started dating exclusively and you came to San Francisco on The Antlers tour.
Really? Because I feel like it was a long time before you knew you wanted to marry me.
I mean, that was when I started thinking seriously about being with you forever.
Yeah, but did you have a moment when you thought, “I want to marry this girl.”
Yeah, I did have that moment. It was when I f@cked up and you called me on some bullshit and got angry. We talked it through and I realized that just because I’d messed up, things weren’t going to end. Every relationship before that, if I got in a huge fight, it was either over or things were never the same. In this case, we got in a fight, it resolved, and it was better afterwards. That’s when I knew things were different--that it wasn’t a fight, it was two people challenging each other to be better. You weren’t asking me to be someone for you, you were asking me to be someone for me, and that was the difference.
What has surprised you most about marriage?
We did a lot of the heavy lifting before we got married, so by the time we signed the marriage license, there was very little difference in our relationship. I think it helped that we’d been living together for several years. For me, dating in general always felt like the relationship was hanging in the balance. Getting married meant that we were past that middle place. And that’s really comforting.
There haven't been many surprises, to me, because from the beginning we set a precedent of what was acceptable and unacceptable in this relationship, and determined what we expected from one another.
If we misunderstood one another or asked complicated questions of the other person, we both knew that we wanted a certain response—just brutal honesty. Some people don’t want to hear brutal honesty, or they’re incapable of hearing it, so it asks a lot of their confidence to hear critiques of themselves.
That set a precedent that our relationship was built on confidence. We started dating around the time I joined The Antlers, so all my career stuff that’s happened since then is all about me having confidence in myself; the strength in our relationship is about each one of us having confidence in ourselves, and being accountable to one another and ourselves for the choices we make.
What’s the most difficult thing you’ve discovered about marriage, in our meek one-and-a-half years of legal binding?
Where does money come from? How do you afford to have a kid? I'm kidding, sort of. I think it’s just about learning long-term what someone else needs to feel secure in themselves.
If I may--I think one of the biggest challenges is realizing that you'll forever need to evolve with your partner's expectations.
Yeah, and to evolve as your partner evolves.
I guess that’s what I mean. There’s no “Oh great, we’re married, so now we can both relax.” That’s not a thing. I think some people think, “Oh, well now you’re married so you don’t have to keep trying in this or that part of your life,” when that's not at all true.
I don’t base my self worth on what you think of me, but it also makes me really angry when people say, “Yeah, well you’re married and your husband loves you regardless.” Sure, I’m thankful for that, but that doesn’t mean we stop trying to impress each other, or that I’m going to go out and eat 7 cheesecakes and stop taking care of myself. When you decide to share your life with someone, there’s no mystery—at all. I’m not going to take my clothes off and you be like, “What?!” So in a way, I feel like there can be more pressure to create this idea of surprise and mystery, not just sexually, but on a regular basis.
You can’t be too comfortable for too long, even though that sounds like the anti-marriage. I think it’s important to always be checking in. If I'm not, then I might lose that opportunity to evolve with you.
Sorry, I digressed.
What’s the most awesome thing about being married?
We have a lot of fun.
Didn’t you have fun before me?
Yeah, of course I did. And you had fun before me. But it’s different fun.
Why, because it’s like a toy that you have to play with for the rest of your life?
No, there’s a difference between active fun and relaxed fun. And we’re able to have both. But I don’t think I had relaxed fun before. I had to create fun, and we don’t have to do that. It just naturally happens.
What are you leaving me in your will? Just kidding.
What do you love most about life right now, even though professionally it’s not where you want to be?
Even though you’re anxious about the future?
Yeah, I think it’s normal to always be nervous about new things. If I knew what was going to happen, it would be boring. I mean, no one ever really knows what’s going to happen. You can choose to be overcome by it, or you can choose to be excited by it.
What advice would you give single men looking to be in a relationship today?
Be a kind person.
What does that mean to you?
Listening, asking real questions, none of that trivial bullshit. Ask someone about who they are. If you want a relationship, it’s about human interaction. It’s not about the sex. It’s about the conversation the two of you will have for 70 years. The other stuff is good. It’s bonus. And hopefully all the bonus stuff is as good as your conversation. Have a real conversation. And be kind because you don’t know what anyone else is going through. And if you’re just starting to date someone, you have no clue what their relationship history is, or what the last person they dated said to them or did to them.
What advice would you give to single women who want to be in a relationship?
Have patience. When we met, I was not Prince Charming. I was 25, was super insecure, and I wasn’t at all what you had in mind for your future husband. And over the course of me figuring out who I was, I became something more than that. I think some of my single girlfriends have this expectation that, from the first date, that person will come as the whole package, and that they'll be that person forever. And no one will ever be that. If they are, then they’ll change, and you'll be upset when they've turned into someone else.
So, if you’re going on dates with nice dudes, and they’re a little different than who you expected to be on a date with, that’s not a bad thing. You’re forcing yourself to experience something new, which is also the only way you’re going to grow.
What do you love most about New York?
New York is the smallest town I’ve ever lived in. I’ve walked down subway stairs as people I haven’t seen in nine years are walking up them, and we stop and we reconnect. I’ve stood In front of subway doors and seen someone from high school is standing on the other side. I just love all the tiny moments that have to align for those instances to happen.
What do you love most about yourself?
I second that.
Happy Valentine's Day, Bourbon & Glossers. x