WRITTEN BY: WIL WILLIAMS, JOSH RUBINO, AND JOHN WESTOVER
PRODUCED BY: WIL WILLIAMS
It’s a very NSFW one, pals! And also, it’s got VALENCE S1E11 spoilers, so make sure you listen to that first! In this episode, I talk to Josh Rubino (Liam) and John Westover (Nico) about conveying “fuck energy.” But also, we talk about modern art, control issues, and how people convey their trauma.
Check out Cornelia Parker’s “Mass (Colder Darker Matter),” the art piece discussed in this episode, here:
- The Phoenix Art Museum: https://phxart.org/arts/mass-colder-darker-matter-monton-materia-mas-oscura-mas-fria/
- A video on another Cornelia Parker piece, just “Cold Dark Matter”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrTvMxPl3xA&t=35s
WIL: Okay, pals. I’m gonna give a warning right up top. This one is very not safe for work. If you have kids, please put–put them away. Because you saw the title . . . today, we’re talking about FUCK ENERGY!!!
WIL: But first, some housekeeping. Over the weekend of July 18th, 2020, me, Anne, and Katie took eight plus hours every day to sit down and really edit the season 2 scripts of VALENCE. All, like, 350 pages of it. We finished our edits, and this weekend, we’re sending new contracts–and the season 2 scripts–to the cast.
WIL: And while we’re talking about contracts, I want to be transparent about a change that we’re making to VALENCE‘s second season. Hug House has not renewed our contract with Julia Schifini, our sound designer for season 1. We love Julia’s work and really value everything she gave to this world that we’ve created. For season 2 forward, I’ll be taking over as our editor and sound designer. I just wanted a bit more control over how the podcast sounds.
WIL: We’ll keep you posted about the progress of season 2 as we go. But for now, let’s focus on the discussion at hand. If you haven’t listened to episode 11 of VALENCE, um, do that. [laugh] But if you’ve read this episode description, you probably already know what’s up here. I sat down with Josh and John, Liam and Nico, to talk about conveying, um, fuck energy in audio.
WIL: So, what is fuck energy? Is that . . . something I need to . . . okay, so, fuck energy is like a really specific, forward, overtly sexual posturing. Okay. Let’s just–let’s get something out of the way. I have some atoning to do.
[Transition to interview convo: RUM TUM TUGGER]
WIL: Hi! Um, today we’re going to be talking about fuck energy.
WIL: Uh, to preface, I should probably, uh, come clean about this phrase. Do y’all know the first instance, uh, that Hug House used the phrase “fuck energy”?
JOSH: I believe it was 1793.
WIL: You’re right!
JOHN: That’s the one.
WIL: Yup. Uh, no, fuck energy, the first time, uh, the first time we used it, it was me. And it was not about anything in VALENCE. It was about, um, Rum Tum Tugger.
JOSH: That makes sense.
JOHN: I remember this.
JOSH: That absolutely checks out.
JOHN: Oh, I hate it.
JOHN: I hate it.
JOSH: [singing] The Rum Tum Tugger is a son of a bitch.
JOHN: It’s all garbage. It’s all garbage. It’s about cats, Wil.
WIL: It’s about cats.
JOHN: It’s about cats.
WIL: Uh, yeah, I-fuck energy is one of those phrases that, like, uh, I said it, and immediately thought “oh no” ’cause I knew that it would never leave my brain again. And it’s such a concise and direct way of saying exactly what I mean, um. However, also, I do hate it. And I especially hate its origins. Um, but I think I just need to, y’know, I think I need to take the blame for this one.
[Transition back to narration]
WIL: I’m sorry I’ve done this. And I’m also sorry for the time I was in Disney World and I was very tired and I called Launchpad McQuack “Launchpad McFuck” and then wouldn’t stop laughing. I’m sorry.
WIL: So, when we cast Nico and Liam, fuck energy was something we had to keep in mind. First, we wanted to make sure that the actors were comfortable with conveying and receiving fuck energy from another actor, in like, a very explicitly not straight way.
[Transition to interview convo: CASTING MY MOM]
WIL: So, when we were casting VALENCE, um, John, I think that you knew–you knew going in to it that there was going to be an expectation of fuck energy.
JOHN: Yeah, there was definitely going to be some horniness that needed – that was – the role required some horniness.
WIL: It really did. Like, it’s Nico. Yeah, and then, Joshy, I don’t know if you know this, um, when we did callbacks – so, I know that you got the email for-for callbacks for Liam.
WIL: And part of it was essentially, like, hey. This role will require some fuck energy. And, um, one of the, one of the potential Liams, um, backed out-
WIL: because of this, which I actually think is, like, totally valid. He just, kinda, wasn’t comfortable with it. And I think that that’s, uh, legit. Um–
JOSH: Yeah, I’m–
JOSH: I-I believe my response was, “I’m in CARAVAN.”
WIL: Yeah. [laugh] Uh, can you-can you explain CARAVAN and your role on it? Without spoilers for listeners who haven’t checked it out yet? But who absolutely should because it rules?
JOSH: It is very great. Um, I, uh, so CARAVAN is a great audio drama by Tau Zaman. Um, and it is about a main character who is named Samir and he accidentally falls into Hell. And he has to, sort of, traverse it with the help of these, um, demon hunting cowboys, and you–it’s just sort of this great journey story — it’s, like, a road trip/western/monster-fucking awesome time, and I really love that I get to be a part of it, uh, and I also get to play the Devil, um, which means that this show will always have a special place in my heart. So, go listen to CARAVAN as well.
WIL: It’s so, it’s so good. So, like, you had–you had plenty of experience, uh, with fuck energy in audio. Uh–
WIL: I-I think, honestly, that, out of the three of us, I am probably the most bashful with it. Uh, which is difficult ’cause I am the one who does the writing of it.
JOSH: I-I have this picture in my head of you writing, like, cutesy intimates or just, like, fuck energy scenes. And you handle the keyboard in the same way that I handle, like, chicken cutlet when I’m making chicken cutlet. It’s just “oh, ew, ew, ewie, I just have to get this done, ew!”
WIL: Yeah, pretty much.
JOHN: I, yeah, I’m gonna wield–
WIL: I will say, actually, we should talk about the fact that you and I are, like, long-term friends, John, because, does that make it weirder for me? YES.
JOHN: Does it really?
WIL: Does it make it weirder for you?
JOHN: Wait, does it-it makes it weird for you, um, to write something with fuck energy knowing that I’m gonna be saying it?
WIL: So, it’s an interesting process for me. When I am writing it, uh, my brain doesn’t connect . . . like, any actor as their character.
WIL: Like, I am just writing the characters. Um, it is only after that I come to the realization, and then I’m like, stressed. [laugh] But I think, this is also the case for, like, really hyper emotional scenes, y’know, where, like, I just write it and then I realize, oh, somebody has to out-loud this. Y’know?
JOHN: So it’s-it’s not really about the sex-
WIL: Well, it is-it is.
WIL: [laugh] It’s just, there’s, like, there’s-
JOHN: There’s just a layer of it that is, like, uh, just about the fact that somebody else has to say something else that you wrote.
WIL: Right, but the fact that I’ve known you for, like, ever. Does play into that. And I think it’s especially because, like the way that our friendship is, is like, you’re my . . . mom/sibling.
JOHN: Yeah, we both, we both call each other names that, uh, would-would line up in that.
WIL: Yes. Exactly.
JOHN: For sure.
WIL: So there’s a layer of, like, of like, oh, that is my mom. Oh, ok. Ok. Ok. This is a-this is a- this is-this is a situation.
[Transition back to: narration]
WIL: So, yeah, didn’t think that one out. Hey, pals, if you’re writing something with fuck energy and you cast one of your oldest friends, don’t forget that like, they will have to do the reading of it. Maybe this is just a me issue–as I pointed out in the conversation, I’m definitely the most bashful of the three of us. And that made the rest of the conversation take an interesting turn.
WIL: I was expecting to get some tips for new actors about being comfortable with fuck energy from Josh and John, but they essentially just are comfortable with it. What started out as a conversation about fuck energy became a conversation about control, sublimation, empathy, recognition, and modern art as we kept talking.
[transition to interview recording of THE ACTUAL CONVO]
WIL: I think that Liam’s–Liam has, like, such a specific brand of control issues. Um, which I mean, obviously ties back into all of his bullshit. But, instead of being control issues where it’s, like, uh, I think most people think about that in terms of, like, I want more control, I will take control of things. Liam’s control issues are like, uh, I have control over nothing, uh, guess I’ll spiral! [laugh] Like–
JOSH: Yeah. [laugh]
WIL: Guess I’ll-guess I’ll lean in!
JOSH: He–his control on, on the controls, is really . . . I just know when to trigger a swan dive. Like, that’s–
JOSH: That is his big red button. [laugh]
JOHN: Or what he thinks will be a swan dive.
JOHN: At the very least.
WIL: Yeah. Yeah.
JOHN: Um. I’m not sure all–how this all relates to dicking, but I’m sure it does.
WIL: I feel like, it’s all, I feel like it’s all connected. And actually, like, I have–I have a question for you two, and I’m very curious about your answer–
JOHN: Well, this sounds like a spicy one too.
WIL: Uh, mmm, hmm.
JOHN: Love it.
WIL: Uh, do you think that the relationship is, like–are you pro-their relationship?
JOSH: I mean, I’ll–I’ll preface that statement with, or this statement that I enjoy terrible romcoms to–
JOSH: –a, an, like, a huge extent. Um, and so I am constantly rooting for relationships that, in actuality, should not work.
JOSH: So I like them together. Um. But, in–in real life, I do not think either of them should be dating anyone! Uh–
WIL: Yeah, I will say, um, so there are, like, a lot of things in writing VALENCE that I worry about getting huge backlash on. Um, like, a lot-a lot. Their relationship is one of the worst ones. Um, John, what do you think about it?
JOHN: Um, that’s interesting. Because I feel like their relationship cannot be removed from the context in which it comes.
JOHN: Like, um, and-and-and so, I think they work. Um, does it always look pretty? No. But, that-that’s also true of relationships. Like, you can work well as a team and still have internal conflicts. Um, y’know, obviously, like, to a certain threshold. Right? Like, not–in no way would I ever say, like, oh, it’s ok if terrible, terrible things happen in a relationship. Um, and that makes the relationship good. That’s not what I mean. Um, but I–I think that they . . . recognize — I-I would guess — Wil, I’m gonna ask you this question!
JOHN: Does Nico have an internal voice at all, like Liam?
WIL: Uh, his internal voice is so dramatically different, but he absolutely does. Uh, Nico is constantly operating on, like, fifteen wavelengths.
WIL: Um, so he has . . . uh, I was–I was gonna end the sentence differently, but I think the way I actually need to end it is ADHD. He has ADHD [laugh] is what I mean. Um, but, like, so he has one wavelength where, uh, it is like, robotic assessment.
WIL: Um, and that is constantly going. He has another wavelength that is very much like Liam’s, but it is, uh, the word I wanna use here is “underwater”.
WIL: And then he has–
JOHN: [cough] ’cause fuck that guy.
WIL: Yeah! Pretty much! Um, I think that that’s actually really, like, a survival tactic for him, is, like–
WIL: –if he tunes in to that at any time, like, he gets so self-destructive so fast.
WIL: And he–it’s not that he doesn’t want to do that–it’s that he doesn’t have the time.
WIL: Um, and then there’s–
JOHN: Oh dear
WIL: Yeah. Then there is another wavelength which is, uh, his, like, presentation. Wavelength. That is the thoughts that go–that–they’re the thoughts that are pushing the second wavelength underwater. Um, the ones that are, y’know, the-the-the Liam level? Is being murdered by the presentation wavelength that is, like, “cool kid” thoughts. And–
WIL: . . . yes.
WIL: Like, does that make sense? Where it’s, like, Nico-Nico processing how he wants to present himself in a situation to appear the way that he does?
WIL: Um, yeah. Uh, Nico has inner voices like Liam does, in, uh, with, like, seventeen exclamation points. Around that statement.
JOHN: Right. Um, yeah, I ask, just, I mean, they clearly see each other. Right?
JOHN: They’re clearly seeing things they can’t necessarily bring into words. Um. And, and I think that that’s why I like them? I think they’re–I think their relationship is honest. Um, and, like, that’s maybe not a great reason to endorse a relationship, but again–
WIL: I think–I-I
JOHN: –to bring it back to, like, the context in which they exist, like, I think that it is a good reason to endorse their relationship.
WIL: And also I think that we’re all, like, big kids enough to say, like, fiction is not the same as reality.
WIL: Yeah. Um–
JOHN: Josh, if I ever come home to you, as I often do–
JOHN: –and I tell you I wanna blow something up, please take me to the hospital.
WIL: There is–like, ninety percent of their flirting in season-in season one really is, like, “Let’s blow something up,” literally. Let’s very literally blow something up.
JOHN: Yeah. Why do you think you did that? Like, what–what–do you think there was anything that drove, like, that–the inclusion of destruction with their flirting? Is that anything?
WIL: Yeah, uh, I–’cause I think that, like. So, I mean, part of it is the fact that Nico has to bring this side out of Liam. Um, and that Nico is, like, Nico is self-destructive in such a glamorized way. Very on purpose. Um, and Liam is so taken by that, because, I think that, on one end, y’know, it does put Liam in a situation where he doesn’t have to think. And he just does an action. And, I think he finds that very liberating. On the other hand, I think that the self-destruction manifesting as actual destruction, and that being glamorized is part of what makes the relationship so messy and so unhealthy at times. Um, they both–they both act without thinking in ways that are sometimes liberating, often destructive.
WIL: I think that all of that ties together. Um–
WIL: Yeah, go for it Joshy.
JOSH: Uh, I–I was just going to say–just, on a very, uh, on a basic level, Liam is incredibly repressed–
JOHN: Oh my god, yeah.
JOSH: And, like, I think Nico, uh, Nico obviously sees that — anyone can see that. Um–
WIL: Yeah. [laugh]
JOSH: And, and I just feel like, the act of just blowing something up is just unchecked, um, just, like, unchecked release, and I feel like that’s sort of . . . how he turns, y’know, building devastation into, like, a flirtatious thing. It’s just, here’s this thing you would never allow yourself to do. Let’s blow up this building.
WIL: Right. And, like, I think that, uh, one of the things that Liam and Nico recognize in each other immediately is, like, we both come from a place of really deep-seeded, bizarre trauma.
JOHN: We’ve walked somewhere familiar and it was fucked up.
WIL: Yeah, exactly! Um, and I think that, uh, I think that there’s something attractive about that, right? Like, trauma bonding is a thing. And I don’t think it’s what these two are doing. Um, I think that’s Liam more, because their trauma is similar, but it’s not something they experienced together, and it’s very separate, and they both experienced it in different ways. But there is something attractive about, um, being yourself entirely without the need for explanation. With someone. Um, that I don’t think either of them often get? Um, Liam has this in some ways with Flynn.
WIL: But there’s a separation there for sure. Like, it’s so familial, and then on top of that, um–
JOHN: It’s really a broken families thing.
WIL: Right. I think it’s also, like, huh. This is a shitty thing about Liam, um. But I guess it makes sense — Liam cares much more about not making Flynn worry, uh, than he would ever care about that for Nico. I don’t think that, uh, Liam ever–
JOHN: Oh . . .
WIL: –ever ever would care about Nico not worrying about him. I don’t think that is a concept that is even present in his mind, that Nico would ever worry about him. Even though Nico has consistently shown that he does that.
JOHN: Oh . . . oh . . .
JOHN: Oh, both their little hearts.
WIL: Both their little hearts! [laugh]
JOHN: Yeah, I mean, I think–I wonder if that’s, uh, that comes from them, y’know, both — like I said — like, the broken family thing, like, they–they both recognize in each other that, like, something about the way things were set up was kinda fuckin wrong. Right?
JOHN: And like, so, immediately suspicious of those sorts of links with other people. Immediately suspicious with deep bonds.
JOHN: And I think, like, them seeing that in each other, uh, helps them respect each other?
JOHN: On a certain level? And, and, like, that probably feeds into–into the attraction.
WIL: Yeah, and I guess, going back into the, like, imagery of actual destruction paralleling self-destruction, um, I think that part of why all those things are connected, and also part of why, y’know, uh, Nico’s like impulsive “let’s go wreck shit” — I think part of why that’s attractive to Liam is that, like, it’s the opposite process, right? Like, like Josh was saying, like, we have the repression, and Nico’s, while maybe not, like, the most, uh, fully realized, there’s a–an exhuming in it.
JOHN: [hushed, in Nico voice] Fucking excuse me???
WIL: Like, there is, um, there’s such a–it’s-it’s a display.
WIL: Of trauma. Versus, uh, shoving something down. It is, uh, like everything else with Nico, a presentation. And I think that that, like, that side of self-destruction is something that probably–it makes Liam feel like he can breathe more.
JOHN: And-and Liam doesn’t really do that for himself.
JOHN: He doesn’t–there’s not really–I mean, I guess, there is, like, drinking. And fuckin.
WIL: But he doesn’t really do that publicly.
JOHN: Sure, but what I’m saying is, like, he doesn’t have an outlet–
JOHN: –in that way, much the same way that Nico doesn’t have an outlet, uh, for emotional processing, maybe? I don’t know. [laugh]
WIL: Oh! Yeah. Um, I’m gonna be, uh, dreadfully pretentious for a moment. [laugh] Um, I am kind of fascinated and in love with concepts of, um, like, physical sublimation? Like, like, uh, there’s a piece of art where I looked at it, it was in the Phoenix art museum. I looked at it, and I was like, that’s Liam. Like, that’s just him. And I’m gonna try to find it for you. Uh, oh god, what was it called? [typing] But, this idea of, like, putting on display the act of the self exploding. If that makes–if that is anything.
WIL: So, it’s-it’s fucking cool. And like, this isn’t gonna come through. Like, it’s–
JOHN: Good podcast material.
WIL: [laugh] Right. Um–
JOHN: We could put it in the show notes.
WIL: Huh? Oh, yeah, for sure. And I mean, like, even for you two, like, showing this here is not going to be the full effect–
WIL: –of actually seeing it. So, what it is, is it’s this perfect cube of pieces of an explosion hung on-on very thin, like, probably fishing line. And it’s an actual — it’s a fire of a church. Um, it is called Mass Colder Darker Matter. Um, and it’s beautiful. But it’s this sort of public — a public display of . . . a feeling that can’t be put into words. You know? And I think that that is — that is the kind of — that is the kind of self-destruction that is so appealing to Liam in ways that I don’t think he realizes. But-but showing — leaving an actual mark of, like, I existed here? And you have to reckon with the way that my existence specifically feels?
JOSH: Well, that–
WIL: Is that–
JOHN: God fucking dammit.
JOHN: I — yeah, I-I feel like Nico and Liam seeing each other, that they walked these paths that led to a point where they had to choose. One choice was, let themselves explode. And one of-one-the other choice was, hold yourself at critical mass.
JOHN: Nico started exploding. And so, like, he is, uh, therefore, like — “therefore”. Now I’m really doing armchair psychoanalysis. Um–
WIL: I literally just brought modern art into the conversation. I think you’re good. [laugh]
JOHN: Nico also, like, conversely, sees Liam as having chosen not to self-destruct.
JOHN: And-and so, like, they’re at different phases of the same potential process. Um, and maybe Nico is wanting to reverse the process or, like, is no longer comfortable with the process? Or there’s something in him that is searching for some sort of stability. After he explodes.
WIL: He’s fucking exhausted!
JOHN: Yeah! Yeah, well, the-the funny thing about exploding is at the end, it’s all fucking gone. Like–
JOHN: You don’t explode and then come back from it! You-you’re fuckin’ done. So, uh, yeah. I’m sure he’s totally exhausted.
WIL: Yeah, um, something that I think is a really common theme, um, in-in VALENCE, and again, even more so in season two, is people . . . people say that they have a certain philosophy and a certain feeling, and, uh, it’s not that they lack self-awareness. It’s that they are so fucking terrified of their self-awareness that they shove it down and just continue down a path. It’s so — I write a lot of characters like, um, like a Macbeth of emotional processing?
WIL: Yeah, and I think Nico’s very much–very much in the midst of that. Yeah, I think-I think that something that I-I am now realizing is, like, a way of thinking about VALENCE, is that it’s a story about how, like, these people are all living these horror stories of philosophy because they don’t think that there is any other option, and that there is no way to, at this point, correct their choice. Like, that-that they have already made the choice. They are, uh, stepped too far in blood, and etc. etc. that kind of thing. And there, uh, I think that the point of VALENCE is that that is never true.
JOHN: Not for real people.
JOHN: For characters, maybe, but not for real people.
WIL: Right. And — yeah.
JOHN: And even characters, like, obviously.
WIL: Right. Yeah.
JOHN: I just mean, [indistinct]
WIL: But especially–especially for Liam.
JOHN: Yeah. I’m sorry.
WIL: Joshy, what were you gonna say there? I’m sorry, I feel like — I feel like John and I have been–
JOHN: Yeah, I’m sorry!
JOSH: Oh, no, you two have been — have been just so incredibly thoughtful! Um, I’ve–I’ve been, like, I’ve been trying not to just, like [impressed noises], like, I’ve been trying to . . . not just listen to all of this really great stuff you’ve been saying [laugh] And that — and I don’t have too much to contribute because, like, I’m-I’m not going on after that!
JOHN: Well here, let me clear the — let me clear the playing field for you. Uh, I think Nico bottoms most of the time.
[laughter. Joshy nearly perishes. Nearly.]
JOSH: I wasn’t drinking anything! How did that happen??
WIL: Scoring Magic is a Hug House production. You can find more at hughouse.productions. This episode was written and edited by me, Wil Williams. In the next installment of Scoring Magic, me, Anne, and Katie do a retrospective. By the time it’s out, VALENCE will have completed its first season.