WesCeleb: Mickey Capper ’13
He’ll never admit it, but Mickey Capper ’13 might be the most modest person at Wesleyan. Since he was president of WestCo freshman year, the Bay Area native has been a key force behind the Wesleyan music scene, booking high-profile shows, serving on the WESU board, and eventually running Sound Co-Op. Then he ran off to India for a semester, where he shaved his head, grew a beard, and immersed himself in Buddhism for 10 weeks. After a triumphant return to Wes, Mickey and I reconnected when he invited me to a “peripheparty” (a gathering of acquaintances you don’t know well but think are cool) that remains one of the best parties I’ve attended at Wes.
Mickey takes no credit for his awesomeness and claims he still has no idea why he’s a celeb. Nonetheless, I dropped by Fountain Ave. to chat about booking shows, climbing mountains in Tibet, and composing mix CDs for Michael Roth.
The Argus: What makes you a WesCeleb?
Mickey Capper ’13: I’m confused as to why we’re doing this interview. I don’t feel like I’m a WesCeleb.
MC: …I don’t think I do anything that people get excited about. Except on the ACB maybe.
A: You’ve been described as one of the friendliest people at Wesleyan.
MC: That’s nice. I feel like friendliness is good.
A: According to Facebook, the fact that your name is Mickey has defined a very large part of your identity. How’d you get the name?
MC: My parents had a dog named Mickey. It was a female dog who was very important to them when they were recently married, and while my mom was pregnant with me, the dog died. They always liked the name Mickey. Did I say the dog’s name was Mickey?
A: Yeah. How has that name defined your identity?
MC: I generally feel like a fairly youthful person, even though lately I’ve been more business-y with stuff. I feel kind of like a kid. Mickey just feels like such a kid’s name. Even though I’ve been a kid for the majority of time that I’ve been named Mickey.
A: You’re really involved with the music scene on campus. How’d you get involved with booking shows?
MC: I got involved in booking shows when I was WestCo president freshman year. We had Zonker Harris Day coming up and I kind of just took on the task of finding an artist and ended up emailing a lot of agents and learning how that goes. When you first start booking shows, you think every artist is a cuddly friend who would be happy to play at a place like Wesleyan for free. And then you learn that there are booking agents who don’t give a shit about how many cookies you’re gonna bake them and are just trying to get a number out of you.
But we ended up booking Dan Deacon for that, which was really exciting and fun even though there were difficulties with getting the schedules right. The amount of stress and work I put in felt so worthwhile. From there I just kept doing it through my sophomore year, and I was on Concert Committee.
A: Favorite show that you’ve booked?
MC: The My Brightest Diamond show. People weren’t too familiar with her at the time. She wasn’t like a hot new relevant Pitchfork artist at the time. She’s not cool in the same way that catching somebody who just got Best New Music was. But I was also working on a Dr. Dog concert at the same time—I knew that would sell out—and we figured out a way to make it kind of a joint deal.
She [sang to her baby from stage] and it was heartwarming for everybody. People walked out of that show thinking it was something really special and different from what they had experienced before.
A: When you were on Concert Committee, there was a controversy over an Odd Future proposal. Do you want to clear the air once and for all?
MC: Odd Future was a tough situation. We got an email at the end of winter break saying urgently, “We need 4,000 dollars”—way more than what we spend on an average show—“for this band Odd Future who’s going to blow up.” At the time, I was the only person on the committee who had heard of them. I think it was just me and Donovan [Arthen ’11] on the committee at the time. This was before the “Yonkers” video had come out. Before the Jimmy Fallon performance was even scheduled. I would’ve had to advocate for emergency funding for this band who maybe would blow up and was also super controversial on another end. It felt like it needed a full discussion before we could fund it. Within a week, their end of the offer had already expired.
A: How’d people react?
MC: A lot of people were upset about it on the ACB. I remember somebody saying “Mickey Capper is the worst thing to happen to Wesleyan’s music scene ever.” That kind of stung. I felt like I had spent a lot of time working toward helping things.
A: You’re almost like an invisible CEO of the Wesleyan music scene in a way.
MC: [laughs] No, I’m not.
A: I mean, you do so much work behind the scenes but don’t really get the glory.
MC: You do feel cool when you’re emailing booking agents, but it gets competitive and political. I got tired of the political stuff. I love live music. I love people dancing together. I love the experience that that creates. And I’m happy to do shit for it. But I’d much rather help things work rather than be what it’s all about.
A: Who are your favorite on-campus musical acts?
MC: Definitely a favorite is Treasure Island. Their music is just so fun and really creative. I love everybody in that band with all my heart personally. I also love every [non-WesCeleb] Will Feinstein [’13] project because I feel like he’s some sort of postmodern college genius. From the top-40 band to Static Stamina to Chants—I think Chants was the most brilliant. I called it “Static Stamina, but not so highbrow.” They know how to start a ruckus in a way that is really intuitive and awesome. I think that community of people will keep churning stuff out that will be entertaining at minimum, world-changing at most.
A: So tell me about your WESU shows.
MC: I’ve had two radio shows. The first one was called CDRs and Sharpies. It was about making mix CDs for different popular figures. Because I wanted to play whatever music I wanted, but to reign it in with some boundaries. And I liked making mix CDs for, like, girls and stuff, so I figured it’d be fun to make one for Christopher Nolan or Michael Roth or Alvin Lucier.
A: What was on Michael Roth’s mix?
MC: Probably, like, Wesleyan bands and stuff. I’d probably put a different soundtrack on Michael Roth’s playlist today because I’m frustrated with the way he dealt with the need-blind thing. It’d be all punk shit.
A: Can I, uh, put that in The Argus?
MC: Yeah. I feel like they weren’t forthright before they made the decision. I’m not that upset that they changed the need-blind policy, but I really think that they had a responsibility to talk about it in an honest way. I think they just tried to sneak it by intentionally.
A: What was on the mix you made for Alvin Lucier?
MC: I just did radio silence for 40 seconds. And was terrified the whole time because we’re never supposed to have radio silence. I tried doing “I Am Sitting in a Radio Studio.” And then the equipment all started shaking in the studio. I was afraid I was going to break something.
A: How’d you get so involved with the radio station?
MC: The environment at the station is really cool. I think there’re a lot of people at Wesleyan who think they know music really, really well, and there are a lot of really humble people at the radio station who know music way better than the people who scan Pitchfork everyday. Talking to them, I realized I hardly know music at all.
A: How’d you decide to be a religion major?
MC: I really like thinking in an ultimate kind of way. Like, why are we here? What does it mean to exist? How do we understand ourselves in the community? I think that as a religion major you have to work to get inside the way people understand the world and how that makes them understand each other. I really enjoy those kinds of questions.
A: You went on a Buddhism program in Bodh Gaya, India last year. What was the best part?
MC: After all this meditation stuff that we were doing, we were set loose to work on an independent project. I was working on the Tibetan Ritual Bell. It’s the symbol for the wisdom of the ultimate emptiness of existence and it’s paired with this other symbol for compassion. I went to the town where all of them were made. I imagined a bunch of Tibetan families spending time hammering away. And it turned out Tibetan families are bosses of bell-making operations.
A: How did your experience change you?
MC: I think a lot more about Buddhist philosophy now. It always seemed like a fuzzy New Age-y thing for parents, because I’m from the Bay Area and that’s what all the soccer moms are into.
A: What’s the weirdest thing you did in India?
MC: I rode through the Himalayas on a night bus with a Russian woman named Sveta, who I had met a week earlier in order to go to a sacred Tibetan town so we could climb to the top of a mountain to listen to this reincarnated Tibetan teacher’s Dharma talk for an hour.
A: How’s living on Fountain?
MC: Living here is great. But there’s a lot of desperation [on Fountain] at the end of the night. It’s all the people who are willing to be out doing nothing at 2:30—to be that DTF that they’re still out trying to find somebody that late at the end of the night. I’ve been there, so I’m not trying to hate or anything. But it’s kind of this sad party that happens.
A: Where do you think you’ll be this time next year? You can’t say Brooklyn.
MC: Maybe Minneapolis. I’ve been thinking about trying to work on this radio show called On Being, which is NPR’s “religion, spirituality, and meaning show.” Which might be more a little more New Age-y than I want to be involved in. But it’s a really cool show.
A: Would you hang out with Prince in Minneapolis?
MC: I think he lives in L.A. now. But if I were to ever run into Prince in Minneapolis, I’d probably throw myself to the ground in front of him. I think that’s what he expects of humans. But I doubt he ever interacts with the common folk.