Honus Honus (a.k.a. Ryan Kattner) is idly tootling on a strange instrument shaped like a deranged glowworm when I video chat him to discuss his new solo record, Use Your Delusion. He’s fresh off of a bachelor party he threw for band mate Cyrus Ghahremani and… you know what? I’m just going to let him tell you about that before we get into the whole “going solo” thing…
Note: the following has been edited to exclude certain events not fit for public consumption.
Cyrus is a very metal dude and also an outside-of-the-box kind of guy, so I figured none of us would be into a strip club kind of bachelor party. So instead I concocted a horrific scenario that unfolded over the course of a day and a night. All I told him was, ‘Clear your Saturday; we’ll bring you back alive Sunday.’ And that’s pretty much how it went.
We made breakfast for him at nine o’clock in the morning and gave him a mushroom cap to begin the day. And then he was escorted in a car to an undisclosed location. On the way, we stopped at a street corner and picked up two drag queens — two very sensual, but also clearly masculine Latino men. Both probably about six feet tall. They got in the backseat with him and then they blindfolded him and they talked about their friend, Miss Pebbles, who wasn’t at the pickup. She wasn’t around, but she would meet up with us later. She’s a total animal!
So, blindfolded, he was driven to the warehouse district of Los Angeles, brought into a warehouse building, into an elevator, into a room where we were blasting Rammstein. The only thing in the room was a chair, floodlights on the chair and a video camera and a tripod. So we zip-tied him to the chair, his shoes and his socks were removed, and his feet were placed in a big metal basin — like what you put a keg in.
For about forty minutes, the Drag Queens took turns doing performances for him, basically tormenting him. One of them, unbeknownst to us when we booked them, had kind of an S&M vibe, so he/she kept whipping Cyrus with his/her horsewhip and dumping ice on his feet into the ice bucket we had set up. FYI, Cyrus hates having his feet touched and at the end of their performance when they got too cold from all the ice, well…let’s just say that $300 warmed ’em up with a stream of impromptu Drag Queen fluid. We had to use Lysol cleaning wipes on his feet after everything was over.
And then it was time for Miss Pebbles. So I had to go meet Miss Pebbles outside and coordinate bringing her up, because she’s a total animal. Totally nude performer. So I left and got Miss Pebbles — and Miss Pebbles’ handler — and we came in.
So we took off Cyrus’ blindfold so he can meet Miss Pebbles — who was a goat. We crushed graham crackers on his toes and put lettuce on his lap and then let Pebbles go to town, licking his toes and eating the lettuce. It was really funny and endearingly cute. Then Pebbles decided after about five minutes to squat at his feet and urinate all over his feet for about a minute — and then Pebbles also pooped on his feet. He was still tied to a chair.
Then we went on to phase four: we took him to lunch at Panda Express and then took him to a sensory deprivation float tank where he had an hour to just float in darkness and think about all this crazy, weird stuff he’d already experienced. And we gave him more mushrooms and drove two and a half hours out of the city into the desert, on the kind of road where you can hear the rocks scraping on the side of the car.
We arrived at a camp that we had set up and we let him out and gave him a cape with his face on it — the King of Cy Town. And what is befitting of a king? A feast! And what kind of feast is befitting of a king like Cyrus? The same goat that he met earlier in the day. So he ate Pebbles. Pebbles roasting on a spit.
Then we all took enhancements to get on the same page as our king. He assigned us lordships and he took Pebbles’ jaw… I’ll just make a long story short: we burned an effigy with his face on it — a child effigy of himself. He ate Pebbles’ heart on a mountaintop and then the night got crazy…
Let’s let this all sink in… This is a party Honus threw for someone he likes. “Moral of the story, don’t have me plan your bachelor party,” Honus says, laughing in his dark Los Angeles apartment (the aforementioned child effigy lurked in the corners pre-party, scaring Honus witless when he forgot it was there). “Basically, I turned a Man Man song into his bachelor party.”
Honus met Ghahremani (a.k.a. King Cyrus King) through his friend, comedian Jon Daly almost four years ago. Ghahremani was working as an engineer for Daly’s Rafflecast podcast, and linked up with Honus after the trio played a show together.
“I was coming off of three years of touring [Man Man’s 2013 record] On Oni Pond and I was burned out, but he wanted to see if we could work on some stuff together,” Honus says. The two challenged themselves to write thirty one-minute songs under the band name Booger Bubble, which became an as-yet unreleased children’s album. Honus counts a chirpy track titled “Sherman the Worm-Man” as the best song he’s ever written.
“Cyrus kept pushing me to make a solo record,” Honus says. And despite having more than a few reservations about the endeavor, he finally gave in. Man Man was taking a break after fifteen solid years of writing and touring, and he needed somewhere to pour his frenetic energy — aside from insane bachelor parties. “If I stop making stuff than my brain explodes,” Honus says. “I’m not fortunate enough to have a family or anything like that. So making music is my family. I have no aversion to any of that stuff, I’m just a fucked dude.”
And thus, Use Your Delusion was born: thirteen tracks of trademarked weirdness that fans of Man Man and super group Mister Heavenly (featuring Honus, Islands’ Nick Diamonds and Modest Mouse’s Joe Plummer) have come to expect. “The album title is pretty heavy-handed,” Honus says. “You have to be delusional to try to do anything creative in this world and then accept anyone to appreciate it. Or even just to keep doing it.”
A Philly native, Honus shifts his sound slightly on Use Your Delusion to jibe with his new home: Los Angeles. Delusion’s world is a neon phantasmagoria, replete with the kind of shady characters you might finding flitting through a Francesca Lia Block novel — or going on some kind of highly stylized killing spree, ala Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive or Neon Demon.
Opening track “Vampires in the Valley,” for example, tells the tale of a Mexican actor who desperately wants to appear in an English-speaking vampire movie. “I pictured it as I was writing it as some sort of time-lapse opening of the cityscape at dawn where you see the clouds and the sun rising behind these smoggy skyscrapers and you see a bug on yellow, drought-ridden grass — and then the bug crawls across a severed ear,” Honus says.
The Brillo-throated musician in some ways sees himself as a failed screenwriter — one who realizes his cinematic dreams through music. He has a few screenplays tucked away as well — and by day works as a music supervisor for Fox’s The Exorcist and production studio Super Deluxe. His ultimate dream is to build an acting reel featuring only death scenes — from cop show shootouts to Game of Thrones bloodbaths. That influence comes through very strongly on Delusion — from Honus’ favorite track, “Santa Monica,” which recalls the aforementioned Drive, to “Curious Magic,” which is his ode to 1985 teen classic Weird Science and its titular Oingo Boingo song.
Throughout it all, though, runs an undercurrent of sadness and disappointment. “All of my songs are breakup songs,” admits Honus. “I like singing about two types of characters: I like singing about weirdos and I like singing about women.”
The bouncy track “Oh No,” for example, may sound like something you’d blast from a crackly beach radio while tripping out and falling in love, but, then… there’s the lyrics: “You got to shake this feeling/That your heart is on a semi-permanent vacation.”
Honus has always been skilled as turning bummer songs into sing-alongs. On Oni Ponds’ “Hold onto Your Heart” is a fan favorite — crowds sing along while clutching their own tickers — but I mean, should you really hold onto your heart? “It’s not really a good thing,” Honus agrees. “It’s basically saying to close yourself off and not share with anyone anymore.”
“My projects are basically my fill-ins for relationships at this point,” he adds. “It’s what I do to kind of stave off any thoughts about things that would drag me down otherwise. I have to just keep making stuff.”
And make stuff he does: whether it’s a series of graphic novels, his column for The Talkhouse (where I work), a new screenplay, a short film, a specially commissioned custom Mariachi costume for upcoming solo shows — or a truly batshit bachelor party (seriously, guys, I didn’t even tell you the whole story). Even still, the multi-talented musician doesn’t feel like he’s doing enough. Perhaps because he’s an insomniac who only sleeps three hours per night? He also, apparently, never dreams — and only got his first real bed a year or so ago.
“Sometimes I get on these weird YouTube holes to put me to sleep and then I’ll wake up the next morning and I’ll have this moment of, ‘What the fuck is the matter with me? How did I fall asleep to this?’” he says. “Like, last night I fell asleep to this Jon Benet Ramsey big reveal. I fell asleep to that? That’s what put me to sleep?”
Worryingly lullabies aside, Honus’ mania has resulted in a truly stunning new record featuring the likes of Joe Plummer, actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Shannon Shaw (of Shannon and the Clams) and Jon Daly — as well as Man Man superfan Yuumi Suzui, who will be serving as the band’s skeleton-suited hypewoman on tour. It also helped him raise ample money to release the record on his own — an endeavor of which he was initially skeptical. “I wouldn’t call myself a pessimist,” he says. “I’m a realist in that I don’t think the world owes me anything.”
“My friend Mark Henkel, who tour-managed Man Man and even this band, he said, ‘The thing that scares me most about you is your maniacal fortitude,’” he adds.
Oh yeah, Mark? Guess you haven’t heard about that bachelor party yet…