The first question in the interview was the following:
'So the first thing I wanted to ask you was if you’ve ever been in a fight.'
Fair enough...I mean, it's nice to start out with something unexpected, something that, the interviewer thinks, might nicely break the ice and usefully unsettle the interviewee.
However, the answer was far more interesting than -- I assume -- the questioner expected:
WILL SHEFF: Oh. I was in a knife fight just a couple months ago, believe it or not. I was at a party—kind of a hipster party in Austin. It was New Year’s Eve. And there were lots and lots of people there. I dropped Scott [Brackett, Okkervil’s trumpet and keyboard player] off and I drove back to the party for no good reason. I was really drunk, walking around, and I turned a corner and saw two gentlemen having a fight. One of them pulled a hunting knife out of his jacket. It was like a ten-inch-long hunting knife, and he swung it at the other guy’s throat! And the other guy turned his head at the last minute and he got cut on the back of his neck. But if he hadn’t turned his head he would have gotten his throat cut.
The guy who got the back of his neck cut shouts, “He’s got a knife! He’s got a knife!” So I see this guy swinging this hunting knife around and in a blind, drunken impulse I grab the guy’s hand—the guy with the knife—and I was going to try and pull the knife out of his hand. But the instant I grabbed his hand, I looked down at this knife and I realized that this is a real, very sharp, very metallic knife—and it could very well stab me in the gut or something like that. And so I thought, All right, well, I really have to pull this knife out of this guy’s hand or else something bad’s going to happen. He was holding it really, really tight and for just a second, he loosened up his hand. I saw that as my window, so I pulled as hard as I could to get the knife out of his hand—I actually cut my hand in the process of it. I pulled so hard, and it was such a crowded party, that in the process of pulling the knife out of his hand I stabbed somebody in the leg.
BLVR: Oh my god.
WS: So I stabbed this guy in the leg and he goes [abruptly] “Ow!” And I said, “Hold on a second—I’ll be right back.” And I ran and hid the knife somewhere the knife’s owner wouldn’t find it. But where, in the morning, the person who had been assaulted could find the knife and use it as evidence.
BLVR: That was very responsible of you.
WS: When I got back, the guy who had pulled the knife was long gone. The guy who I stabbed was still there. And he was just sort of drinking a beer. And I said, “Man, I’m really, really sorry I stabbed you in the leg, but a guy pulled this knife…” And the guy said, “Oh, no, no, it’s OK. I’m fine.” And his girlfriend said, “No no no, you’re not fine—you have blood all over your hand.” He had his hand over the wound, and when he lifted it, his hand was slick with blood. There was blood all over his hand.
As it turns out, he was on ecstasy, so he didn’t really care that he had been stabbed in the leg. So I said, “Well, go to the bathroom, look at the wound, and see if you have to go to the hospital, I’ll pay for it or whatever.” So he goes to the bathroom and the news quickly spreads that this guy’s been stabbed in the leg. No one realizes that the other guy actually was assaulted and there was a fight. They just heard there was somebody who pulled a knife and stabbed somebody in the leg.
BLVR: It was you.
WS: Yeah. So I go to the bathroom to check on this guy and there are all these girls in the bathroom and they’re all like [girl voice], “We’re taking care of it! We’re taking care of it! Go away!” And then the host of the party comes out and goes: “Everybody out. Somebody pulled a knife. Everybody out of here.” He’s called the police. I say, “I don’t want to leave. I’m the person who actually inflicted the wound and I feel I should pay for it if he has to go to hospital.” And he says: “You’re the one with the knife?! What kind of sick fuck brings a knife to a party? What the fuck is wrong with you? Get out of here!” And I was like, “But it wasn’t my knife!” And he said, “I don’t want to hear it. Just get the fuck out of my house.” And then the police showed up, so I was like—I’m not sticking around. So I left.
It turns out that the guy who pulled the knife now has criminal charges pressed against him. And the guy who I stabbed was not that gravely injured.
So that was the last fight I got in and it involved a large hunting knife on New Year’s Eve.
BLVR: And for the rest of your musical career, every song will be based on that.
WS: Well, the funny thing is, it’s become this thing in Austin that people talk about—and nobody really knows the story. People think that I brought the knife to the party. And one person said to Travis, our drummer, “Hey, I heard your boy was trying to get fresh with some girl in the bathroom at a party and she wasn’t having it, so he stabbed her in the leg with a knife.” So in a sense I have been typed, now, as a kind of knife-wielding psychopath.
Read the rest at The Believer if you like. But I think the remainder is rather a let-down after this.
Texas is a lot more interesting than I thought.