The more you get to know about Sean Tillman, the more it seems like the guy never stops living the American Dream. That is, of course, if your version of the American Dream includes becoming a spokesman for a vodka company. And winning an onscreen dance-off with Ben Stiller. And making out with Kate Moss. And touring Australia with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Add to it that he just released his fourth album under his Har Mar Superstar moniker last month, celebrating the release of Dark Touches' first single by inviting his personal friend Eva Mendes to star in the music video—dude's got a grasp on the American Dream, indeed.
In addition to his new release, Tillman played a role in Drew Barrymore's Whip It, which premiered in theaters last month, and is in the process of developing Stitch N' Bitch, a new show for HBO he's been working on with Ellen Page (Juno) and Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development). Not bad for a guy who spent his formative teen years in Owatonna. Tillman recently spoke to us via email, discussing Dark Touches, his acting roles, and his competitive dodgeball team, the Juggalos.
Are you originally from Marshall or Owatonna?
I was born in Marshall and lived there until I was nine. Then, we moved to Owatonna. I stayed there until I was 15 and went to the what is now the Perpich Center for Arts Education. After that I stayed in St. Paul until I was 24. Then I moved London for a year, and I've been in L.A. for the last six years. At some point I lived in Chicago for a about a year. Can't remember when.
Do you still have any family or friends there? When did you head back there last?
My parents are still in Owatonna, so I end up back there a lot. There are a lot of good people there that I like to visit. Just go to the bar at the bowling alley and everyone's there. Convenience.
What was the inspiration behind performing again recently with Calvin Krime at the Uptown recently? Ever thought about taking Sean Na Na or CK on the road again?
The people at the Uptown Bar contacted me about doing a Har Mar show before closing the doors. I was all excited to help out and get a chance to rock the place one last time. After I thought I about it a bit I realized that I never really did many Har Mar shows there. Calvin Krime would play, and during that era I watched countless bands through the window just dying to turn 21 so I could go in. I got a wild notion to get Jon and Jason to play a few songs, they agreed, and we rocked the encore. It was super fun. I would like to play more with those guys. No official plans. It was just nice to dust off the bass and scream. As far as touring goes, I'm always threatening to do more Sean Na Na shows. If we got a good tour offered I'd put the band together. It's kind of brutal on the road these days though, so no promises.
What sort of impact did Michael Jackson's death have on you?
I was really surprised. Michael Jackson's death was so sudden. I came out of a movie and heard the news. It didn't seem real. I don't think I actually cried. I was more relieved for the guy. He was under such constant scrutiny that it must have been hellish. I feel like he finally got a little bit of peace. I love his music and his life story is legendary. Anyway, I hope his dad goes soon. Motherfucker.
Do you think that songs like "Dope, Man" or "Turn it Around" would exist had Jackson not?
Obviously M.J. was a huge influence on me. Thriller was the first album I learned every word to. I was in kindergarten and would come home and listen to it every day, dancing next to the record player with these giant white headphones on. I think that really shaped my point of view and love for R&B. Simply put, most of my songs wouldn't exist without Motown in general.
When did you guys have the idea to include [Eric Wareheim] in the video?
Eric and I have been trying to get together and make a video for a while now. He was super busy working on Tim and Eric while we were shooting this, but he was all about dropping by and getting slimed. It all came together nicely.
What's the continuation of the DUI theme about in your music?
I think I only reference Dialing Under the Influence once on Dark Touches. I guess it's something I'm prone to doing. Drunk dialing is a blessing and a curse.
"Game Night" has this strange hardcore-synth sound that reminds me a bit of Lords of Acid. How much do you listen to artists like that—or maybe Peaches—who are almost over the top with the openness of their sexuality? Does that sort of music influence you at all or is it the opposite—are you influencing someone like Peaches?
I've never really listened to Lords of Acid. P.O.S handed me a disc of beats and I really liked that one. It's just brutal and awesome. I love that bass sound. It's so gritty and huge. The song kind of wrote itself from there. As far as influencing people, I can't really answer that. I am friends with Peaches, and I think her shows are amazing. In that respect, I totally look up to her. We're peers though, so it's more of a mutual admiration. We've both been at it for a LONG time.
Forget old man Timberlake—think that you're bringing sexy back with Dark Touches bringing?
I love Timberlake. I think he's awesome. I think Dark Touches is my best album yet, so I'm really excited. I think this one's only 75% about sex. It's mostly about jubilation... which normally ends up with sex I guess. I don't know. I can't help it. People want to love me.
[This article was first published by City Pages.]