Anyone in Savannah who doesn’t know Skippy Spiral has the perfect chance to get acquainted with performer when he plays a special show at the Sentient Bean on Fri., July 26.
Spiral’s musical identity is as important as his visual identity—the lifelong musician and artist marries his love of clowning and music, creating something that needs to be seen to be truly heard, and heard to be truly seen.
The music Spiral makes draws heavily from new wave, synth punk and goth punk music, and it’s all wrapped in the clown aesthetic that he’s become known for. His story is unique, and he’s become a great example of the musical diversity that Savannah has to offer.
The show at the Sentient Bean will feature Spiral, Pittsburgh-based clown Icky Vicky, and Indiana trip hop artist UaZit. We chatted with Spiral ahead of his Sentient Bean show about what to expect at the show and more.
I was really intrigued by the fact that your interest in clowning came from your grandfather. Tell me about the impact he had on you.
Spiral: Yeah, he was a big influence. One of my earliest memories was seeing him perform at our birthday parties. He did magic tricks, and I’d see my grandfather leave and this clown magically appear. He’d leave, and then my grandfather would show up and be like, “Oh, I missed the clown!”
It was really rad and it really captured my imagination. And then getting older and 80s kid, I saw Killer Clowns From Outer Space and It. So there was the phobia that a lot of people have of clowns, but then it was [about] getting over it and embracing that, at the end of the day. I think that fear and imagination can kind of combine in different ways—they can be similar sensations sometimes. For creativity, I don’t mind freaking myself out [laughs].
Did that come before music, or were you getting into music at the same time?
Spiral: As far as my own style of music, I guess it came later. I really got into punk as a teenager, and was in some punk bands. There was the bright colored hair and patches and pins—looking back on it, it is almost its own form of clowning. You don’t give a shit, and you’re just who you are. You’re not taking life too seriously [as a clown], which is a lot like punk rock and the energy behind it.
I think it definitely helped seeing somebody be as uninhibited as my grandfather, and then years later going to see my first punk shows; seeing GWAR and the theatrics of music. I was like, “Okay, this can go together.” I didn’t really realize that I could combine the two, though, until a little while later, and that’s when I took off with this persona.
I hear a lot of kind of goth punk and synth punk in your music. It actually made me think of Suicide, the 70s/80s duo from New York.
Spiral: Oh yeah, I love Suicide! The Screamers were a big influence on me, too. They were kind of the west coast equivalent to Suicide.
Totally. Was all of that in your brain when you realized you could combine clowning and music?
Spiral: Yeah, I mean, I’ve always loved synth punk as long as I’ve been into it. It kind of seemed like the clowny step-cousin of punk, because it wasn’t new wave or punk. It had its own little kids table [laughs]. I think Devo is a great example of that, where it was very much synth punk. But also their aesthetic was bright colors, the plastic sort of toy thing.
Even the futuristic element of it!
Spiral: Exactly! The retrofuturism too, but also the puppet aesthetic.
Even bands like The Cramps had that sort of elevated aesthetic.
Spiral: Oh, absolutely. Oingo Boingo—you definitely hear me ripping off Danny Elfman on my album.
He’s maybe my favorite composer of all time, tied with [Mark] Mothersbaugh.
Spiral: Yeah, they’re both awesome! And they both had these really cool new wave bands that helped them hone in on what they’d end up doing later on with composition.
You know, it’s hard looking back in terms of the whole chick or the egg thing for me. It was kind of a culmination. I was a kid who loved to crack jokes; I’ve always loved to make people laugh. But there were two sides of me. There was also the really quiet kid who loved to draw and write.
I think a big factor in the last few years of me putting these two things together was just having my own project, complete creative control, and therefore my own identity in it.
What can people expect from the upcoming show?
Spiral: It’s going to be a lot of fun. I always love performing with other clowns! My friend Icky Vicky is coming down. It’s funny—I feel alone a lot of the time, and then I end up doing shows with other clowns and it’s like, “Oh, wow! I’m not alone anymore.”