This is totally an interview I did with Geologist from Animal Collective for The Quietus. Part 2 tomorrow.
Things I Have Learned: Geologist on Living in the Arizona Desert
Brian Weitz, AKA Geologist from Animal Collective, gives insight into his time living and working among old hippies and minorities in a research institute.
I learnt a lot while I was in the desert.
I was in Arizona twice. I was at the Biosphere II Centre in Oracle, Arizona, which was about 25 minutes north of Tucson, in the South West of the United States. The first time was for five or six months as an undergraduate doing basic Earth Science studies, and then I was there for a full year as a graduate doing a continuation of Life Earth Studies and Earth Science, Climate Change and Environmental Policy, Geology, Oceanography, that kind of stuff, along with a degree in Environmental Public Policy.
You get a different sense of neighbourhood living in such a remote place.
The Biosphere was this weird secluded thing, there wasn’t much around so you’re kind-of in the middle of the desert. Well that’s how it felt anyway. People lived in very close quarters with other people, which you do in a city like New York as well, but I seemed to make closer friends in Arizona, living on top of one another, whereas in New York, or basically anywhere else I’ve lived in a city, I’ve felt like I couldn’t stand living on top of people. It pushed me towards complete anti-social behaviour, as it does now living in Washington DC. Because we were all there for the same reason and we were all committed and passionate about the same thing, the sense of neighbourhood and community was the strongest in my life. But at the same time we started noticing how the idea of neighbourhood fits in to society. The South West has these cities where an urban sprawl stretches outwards, and with the advent of mass-producing air conditioners and things like stretches of highways in the 40s or 50s, development happened for pointless reasons. Especially in a place like the South West where basic things like water are in such limited supply. So it got me thinking that, despite living out in the middle of nowhere, but also taking advantage of the development of strip malls and supermarkets on the highway that led out to where I lived, that the ideal way that large groups of human beings should live is in the city for the most part.
You get used to travelling massive distances for the smallest things.
It was never a big deal for me to be like, this band I like is playing in Phoenix tonight so I’m gonna drive two hours there and two hours back. Or if I want to go downtown and buy some records today, or I need a new pair of pants or something, you drive 45 minutes in one direction. You spend hours in the car. I come from an environmental background and I’m passionate about this kind of stuff, but being part of that world where development pushes means you just have to stop thinking about the fact that you’re going to spend three hours in the car to go and get a sandwich or something.
Phoenix and Tucson aren’t like other cities.
Baltimore [where Animal Collective formed] felt like there was a centralised town compared to places like Phoenix and Tucson, and then within ten minutes you could be beyond the suburbs already, in the countryside. To me, I like that sort of planning a bit more. A lot of the cities on the East coast aren’t like that, and even Baltimore isn’t like that in most directions, it was like that in the very specific direction that we lived, which was directly North of the city. With Tucson and Phoenix, there almost is no downtown; it’s like Los Angeles. All the South West towns are sprawl, sprawl, sprawl. I really hate it.
Native American reservations have a lot of problems that go unnoticed.
Navajo and Apache reservations in America are pretty bad places. They’re all turning to gaming to increase revenue, but the amount of revenue they get from the state in taxes is very low There’s a lot of alcoholism and they police themselves. I spent a lot of time around the reservations and driving through them. I got a speeding ticket, which everyone said I wouldn’t even have to bother paying because once you’re out of the reservation they have no jurisdiction… I paid it anyway.
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