Pioneering electronic musician Laurie Anderson has produced a treasure trove of work throughout her 55-year career. Last week, we took readers through "Five Laurie Anderson Songs That Aren’t “O Superman," but that barely scratched the surface of her seven major label albums, two full-length films, and the numerous experimental instruments she's invented—just to name a few of her projects.

On Friday, Anderson brings her Let X = X tour to the Keller Auditorium to revisit material from across her career with a reinvigorated perspective, spirit, and sound—thanks, in part, to her backing band, the New York jazz ensemble Sexmob. 

Just mere days before embarking on her West Coast tour, Anderson polished her violin and tested her equipment while we chatted about revisiting old work, releasing rage, and worshiping Yoko Ono.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

PORTLAND MERCURY: Why did you name this tour after your song “Let X=X?”

LAURIE ANDERSON: I like formulas. And, I like that song. I wanted to play some old songs because I'm in the middle of writing a lot of new stuff. I thought, how do you write a song anyway? I couldn't remember that well. I thought that maybe if I play my old songs, it'll come back to me. 

How does it feel playing these songs decades after you wrote them? Do you find yourself relating to the lyrics in a different way?

Some of them sound like they were written yesterday. They don’t seem like '80s stuff—you know, the way a synth sound might sound so '80s that you just can't bear to listen to it? These are still as weird today as they were when I wrote them. And, some of them are written for horns. Sexmob has a great horn section. It’s really fun to bring back the horn sound in them.

One lyric from “Let X=X” has always stuck with me: “You know, I could write a book / And this book would be thick enough to stun an ox.” Have you ever considered writing a book about your life?

I'm doing one now. I'm not sure that it's about my life. It's about somebody's life, but not my life anymore. When I look back, I ask myself, did I really do that? I'm 76. I have a lot to look back on.

What has that process been like? Have you been revisiting old writing?

I've kept journals since I was 12. I read a couple of them, and then I went: Nope! Do I want to revisit every sad lost love affair and all of my childhood tears? No, not really. You don't have to remember everything—you only remember certain things. Like, the day your grandmother died—you don't remember what happened the rest of that week. You don't need to. We just need to remember the things that really hit us in a certain way.

It's been about five years since you’ve released an album. Are you currently working on new music?

I just finished an album called Amelia. It is coming out in August. It's about Amelia Earhart's last flight. It's with a big orchestra. I just finished mixing it in France because it's a wonderful place to mix things that have a lot of complicated elements in them.

Why did you choose Amelia Earhart?

She was very badass. She decided, if I complete my flight around the world, I'm going to set up a situation so that girls can participate in shop class. There's still a stigma about women in technology—except in coding. How many women do you see doing other tech stuff? Or, for that matter, how many women are in government? I just thought that we’d be so much more advanced by now.

Things are going backward, like abortion rights. What time is it? I thought we did that in the '70s! We did do it; I was there. I remember our sense of achievement. We never thought it would start going backward like this. We never imagined that. The world is full of stuff that you can’t imagine. But, here we are.

I’ve enjoyed seeing footage of the Yoko Ono scream on your current tour—where you ask the audience to release their rage and scream for 10 seconds (inspired by Ono’s response when asked about the 2016 election). What's your favorite way to release your rage?

I love to think of how to make things better in different ways. I'm not a screamer myself. I'm not even somebody who picks fights or has arguments. But right now, I do feel a huge amount of rage at a number of things that just seem so deeply unfair. 

Another strategy is thinking of what to do, like trying to figure out how to form some different types of groups that could function as communities. I've been talking to Brian Eno a lot about this. He's doing that in London—putting together groups of artists, writers, activists, scientists, thinkers, people who are getting together to figure out how to get through this era where everything seems to be upside down. 

I'm sort of a natural pessimist. I have to keep that under control. A lot of my friends say, here are some happy things that happened today. And I'm like, [sarcastically] okay, tell me, yes.

Did the idea for the Yoko Ono scream blossom out of admiration for how she deals with her rage?

Yeah, totally. She’s my hero. She's just wonderful. And everyone does have something to scream about. I'm not saying it's easy to make art; it's not. But, it's sometimes difficult to stand up for things when you're gonna get clobbered for your beliefs. Yoko is my model in terms of that. She's given me a way to get through difficult things myself—just to think of her and how she was vilified and how she just wasn't having it. I love her.

I have noticed that you are often asked about your relationship with Lou Reed or asked to speak about Lou’s career itself. How do you feel about being asked about him so often? 

Well, I mean, I love him, so it’s always good to talk about him. Recently, I've been able to work on AI versions of Lou’s writing. I'm not under the impression that I'm contacting my dead husband on an Ouija board or something.

In your interview with The Guardian, about the Lou Reed chatbot, I noticed that it became the center of the article. Does the topic of Lou ever feel overpowering to your own work?

Oh, no. I mean, we lived together for 21 years. You get to understand what the other person needs, likes, and wants. You have to come to some kind of balance. You know, it's like with any partner, it's give and take. He was also very, very generous. So, I tried to be the same.

You and Lou collaborated on quite a few songs together. Did you enjoy working together?

Oh, I loved it. Yeah. We had very, very different ideas about what was going to work and what was not going to work. So it was a lot of fun. 

I saw that you are covering the Lou Reed and Metallica song "Junior Dad" on this tour. What made you choose that one?

In the show, Lou sings that song as a ghost. It’s a really beautiful, powerful song. It’s too bad that Metallica doesn’t perform it.

Have you ever considered playing it with Metallica?

Oh yeah, I could make a lot of noise on my violin. They have great grooves. I love bands that can come up with a sound that is so powerful.

One last question—I have noticed numerous references to ice skating in your work—such as the opening lines to "Let X=X" and your Duets on Ice performances. Do you ice skate?

I grew up next to a lake, and I skated to school. It was the icy midwest—it was like the ice ages. I love to ice skate because it’s like flying. It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s also like slipping, you’re a little bit out of control, and you let yourself be out of control.

PDX Jazz presents Laurie Anderson at Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay, Fri, March 29, 8 pm, $54.75 - $95, tickets here, all ages