And on a Lighter Note

You may have heard his collaborations with Björk or Morrissey, but it's with his new full-length album, The Crying Light , that Antony Hegarty finally comes into his own.



After this un-Pietà-like crack, I officially love Hegarty and our conversation breaks wide open, budding with tangents: late-period Picasso, Hegarty's recent discovery of how brussels sprouts grow ("on tall, spiky stems!"), the time a homeless woman laughed at him for wearing clogs in a Manhattan blizzard, his pubescent struggles to acquire import LPs after his family transplanted itself to a San Jose, Calif., suburb….

"Subculture was harder to find then," he says, "but that's what made it subculture. With the Internet, the playing field's been leveled. There's equal access to Beyoncé and Rozz Williams [Christian Death's tragic frontman, who killed himself in 1998]." While Hegarty and I commune as erstwhile morbid '80s kids, the phone line dies; when we reconnect, he says, "Where were we? Oh yes, graveyards!"

He tends to speak in psalm-like sentences, lyrical and strangely fluid. He calls Torment and Toreros , a 1983 album by Marc Almond's solo project, Marc and the Mambas, "my first evidence of radical vulnerability as an invincible punk gesture -- Marc wore his heart so heavily on his sleeve, with teeth gleaming."

"Are you always this articulate?" I ask. "Would it kill you to throw in an 'um' now and then?" He laughs, confessing, "I hesitate if I haven't had the right combination of teas and coffees. I'm catatonic then."

Nearly out of time, I pepper him with final questions: Will he make a good old person? Is it true he started off as a lousy singer? "My second-grade teacher once told me, 'If only your [singing] prowess matched your enthusiasm,'È‚f;" he says. "I didn't know what 'prowess' was. She also told me that my handwriting was erratic, but I liked that. 'Erratic' sounded arty."

I'm not surprised, I say. As a graphology nerd, I know how easily the identity conflicts of a transgender kid could manifest as unpredictable handwriting. Hegarty seems to find this out-of-nowhere analysis eerie, even fated. "I've never mentioned handwriting before in an interview," he says. "Ever." With this new, admittedly slim, bond between us, I feel comfortable enough to ask one last dopey, Barbara Walters question: "What's your favorite flower?"

"The peony," he says. "It's just so voluptuously beautiful and luscious and not persnickety and -- "

"What flower would you call persnickety?" I goad him. "Something tight-assed like a marigold?"

He laughs, unmistakably merry. "Roses can be persnickety," he says. Then, true to his own nature, he turns reflective: "But that's more about what we've done to them, of course. It's hardly their fault."

Tags: Music