HDF COMES CLEAN: A Conversation with Jason Armstrong and Hiri David Feign




Back in 2016, Hiri David Feign cock-rocked into the bator world as an electronic music producer with his four albums COCKOLOGY, CREAM OF CONNER, RISE, and COCKOLOGY: REMIXED UP. Those works were steeped in suggestively explicit themes of penis-centric sexuality, a subject David knows intimately—he’s also Co-founder and Creative Director of BateWorld, The BateShop, and The BatorBlog, where he’s Executive Editor {Hi!—Ed.}.

David’s newest album, SUNSHINE UNDERPANTS, mixes new themes into a mainstream collection that includes a diverse group of ideas: oblique takes on romance; humanity’s increasing integration with technology; political ambition; and the challenges of the human spirit. The musical styles in SUNSHINE UNDERPANTS are an eclectic group of evocative jumbles, including for the first time a majority of songs with vocals and lyrics from HDF. Much of the vocal work is multi-tracked into what he’s previously dubbed a Walls-on-Walls-of-Sound Sound. SUNSHINE UNDERPANTS also includes two standard cover tunes—the Nat King Cole classic L-O-V-E and the Streisand ditty On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever).

Having spoken to David when RISE premiered two years ago, I was eager to see—and hear—how his work has evolved and what messages he wanted to communicate to his listeners.


David, I love that the creative juices are flowing all over your music (sexual pun intended). What is your muse? What inspires you as an artist? Or, more to the point, what drives your artistry and musicality?

Thanks, Jason. You’re welcome to share your creative fluids with me anytime lol.

Well, I just love playing with GarageBand as a creative instrument. I never tire of it, and really enjoy the results. I don’t draw like I used to anymore, so music and video are my only real creative outlets now. My favorite down time spent creatively is just to start with only a vague conception of tone, tempo, and theme, and build a track that surprises me, then work out those themes for a whole album.

According to the back cover of the CD, you’ve divided SUNSHINE UNDERPANTS into three parts, SUNNYSIDE, NIGHTGLOW, and Bonus Tracks. What’s that about?

I wanted to go for an LP feeling, with two different sides plus some remixes. For me the experience of listening to a vinyl LP offered a chance for reflection while turning the disc over, giving you a moment of silence and an opportunity to think about what you’d just experienced before plunging into the next side. I really miss that in the digital realm. Also, I think, especially when you have the kind of big sound that’s in a lot of this music, you also need a breather. So I wanted to add a few brief moments of silence between “sides” to give my audience some breathing room.

I didn’t know how to label that, though. Frankly, I was concerned that if I labeled them Side 1 and Side 2, someone might actually think they needed to turn the CD over. So I decided I’d give it a romantic tone, maybe a change of scenery. One side is sunlight, one is reflection. One side is active, one is passive. It’s the yin/yang thing.

Were there any artists or musicians that influenced the subject matter of the album?

SUNSHINE UNDERPANTS originally began as an idea to return to my “roots” in music—the New Wave movement of the late Seventies. Not in musical style, but in attitude, a determination to be authentic and emotionally stripped down. To not worry about my vocal performance or creating lyrical alchemy. Just to be real, human, vulnerable, whatever the final result.

David Byrne, Elvis Costello, Patti Smith, those lyricists from my youth still appeal to me. There was usually a little bit of humor in their lyrics, along with the sneering condescension and/or nerdity, and I wanted to revisit that within myself. I think there’s a lot of humor on this album. I haven’t been able to get that in my purely instrumental stuff before.

Subject matter-wise, when I was putting all this together, I had in the back of my mind this great weird LP from 1968, The Mason Williams Phonograph Record. It’s an incredibly eccentric and varied album—some really strange lyrical tracks mixed in with lushly arranged instrumentals. The most famous song being Classical Gas, which won several Grammy awards. But some of his titles on that album probably influenced my thinking—Sunflower and The Prince’s Panties (nobody gets eaten by their panties on my record).

So that LP deserves some credit for inspiring me. It’s so dada. The cover image is Mason Williams standing in front of his print called “Bus,” a single-page, life-sized image of a bus that folds up into a book. This guy worked with both Glenn Campbell and Rob Reiner, but his wit and artistry are really unique. He was the head writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. He wrote Pat Paulson’s political speeches. I love artists who are all over the place. But I digress…

There seems to be less overt emphasis on penis on this album. Was that intentional?

While there is less emphasis on penis per se, the lead track and the album title are euphemisms for masturbation, as well as a general notion of wearing happiness as an undergarment.

So what do you see as the overall theme of SUNSHINE UNDERPANTS?

I guess that for me the most important theme on the album is how technology has become omnipresent in our social fabric, specifically our increasing path into exclusively digital interactions, branching away from genuine human relationships.

We live in a time when we’re quickly morphing into a race of hybrid human/tech sentients. Already our reliance on smart phones, gaming, tech-based entertainment, communication, news, and education are changing the human brain. Pretty soon, it may be normal for people to have elaborate corporate-designed exoskeletons (possibly even necessary, given climate change), probably linked directly from their brain to some tech extension.

While the Earth as we know it is likely to change radically over the next two hundred years, if humans actually do survive the effects of global climate change, we’ll have VR and other currently undiscovered technologies to potentially live out our entire lives within a virtual environment, dictated by corporate design, away from “undesigned” influence. I wanted to shine a light on that.

What do you think of shows like Black Mirror that are all about those scary ideas about the near future?

I love that series. I couldn’t get into the first episode for about a year, but once I was ready, all the episodes have impressed me—in the sense that they terrified me and creeped me out beyond all reason lol.

In the year it’s taken me to complete this project, these sci-fi subjects have become very mainstream. I was getting really tired of finding the only sci-fi on Amazon, and Netflix was stuff about alien invasions or a disparate group of twenty-somethings trapped in space with a frightening thingamadoohicky eating them one by one. Finally, some intelligent, original stuff is rising to the surface. I’m really impressed with how different Arrival is from most of what’s out there. It totally ends up being not at all what you expected. I haven’t seen Altered Carbon yet, but it looks like it’s right up my alley, especially with all the dick in it.


There are some gifs circulating on Tumblr, and the guy has definitely got a great big semi, swingin’ around. It’s awesome. These are the cultural changes I celebrate!

Let’s go through the tracks on SUNSHINE UNDERPANTS now.

OK. Let’s do this thing.

First track: SUNSHINE IN MY UNDERPANTS—The lyrics are cheeky, bold and filled with wit. This is a song to make you shake your ass!

Ha. Thanks.

It seems very joyful to me. I see the use of humor to break down barriers, to make people welcomed into your world, a world of sexuality and happiness. What personal barriers have you had to tear down in your life to write a song like this?

There’s an enthusiasm to the narrative that I hope that all men bring to their masturbation and their overall lives. To be excited by your personal freedoms, sexually and socially. Overall I think this album is attempting to express these kinds of healthy energies.

But the song is really an indictment of the hypocrisy I’ve experienced with some men in the pursuit of happiness. To really be free we have to be honest men of integrity, and I think most gay and bi men have experienced their share of hypocrites.

I wrote SUNSHINE IN MY UNDERPANTS after having an encounter on a dating app with a guy who claimed to be a closeted Baptist minister, with a wife and kids. He wanted to be tied up and gang-raped by strangers. I mean, who doesn’t lol… But when I asked him about what he was preaching to his congregation about sex, he just had no answer. It was infuriating.

So, it’s an indictment of this attitude in the religious community that they can keep getting their orgasms with people who are honest with themselves, to use our energy and freedom and then turn around and threaten and harass us politically through their churches and politics. I’ve lost interest in giving religious hypocrites a place to energize themselves and I’m ready to call them out.

That’s our energy, the power that we’ve paid for in our lived experience as open LGBTQI people. We created that positive outlook when we mindfully determined to make our place in the world free from bigotry and shame. That energy is not to be used lightly. If you want to contribute honestly, that’s just fine. We want everyone to enjoy their lives openly and join the party, but not for people trying to gain from what they’re otherwise tearing down.

I do want to be clear though, that this song is NOT an indictment of people who wish to keep their identities private online or engage in private acts that don’t affect others. That’s perfectly understandable. I’m talking about people who spread shame but don’t practice what they preach, who are openly hostile to the actions that they privately embrace and participate in during their “me-time.”

With the track APOLLO, the obvious question is whether the Greek god of music, poetry, art, and oracles himself was an inspiration?

Definitely. For all of those reasons. It seemed a good way of including those ideas into the album’s themes—the many meanings of sunshine as a metaphor.

The Apollo referred to here is named after the god, but the character described is someone I knew who had a profound impact on me. I think throughout this album, sunshine is a pseudonym for light or life, and for me, this man was a real source of both, for a very brief period.

He was not just the first guy I’d dated, he was the first guy I’d had sex with more than once. Our fling was glorious for about a month. I knew it would be short-lived, for one thing, he had a partner, but he said they had an open relationship. I learned so much from him, not just sexually, but about the Black experience in America. He was the first Black man I’d ever had such conversations with, having grown up in a very white suburb.

And his name really was Apollo?

Well, that’s a bit of fictionalizing there. His name was Greg. But he had a godlike quality to me, in my starry-eyed youthful lust for him. But other things are true. Like the part about getting blown on the carpet.

I’d known him for a few weeks. One cold San Francisco morning the doorbell rang at about 5 am. I looked through the door window, and he smiled and mouthed “Hi.” As soon as I’d turned the knob, his tongue was down my throat, and we were on our way to the floor. His ice-cold hands went down my pajama pants, there was a finger in my ass, and suddenly his lips were around my dick. I came in his mouth a short while later. Neither of us had said anything. It was awesome!

Fortunately, my roommate was staying at his girlfriend’s place.


It was so great. I mean, it was a thrill ride with him. I never knew when he’d show up. The sex was really hot.

But his knowledge, wit, and intelligence were intoxicating for me. I can’t remember, I think he was like 35 or so, and I was just 21. He opened my eyes, he opened my body, he set a path for me that I’ve only become more passionate about as time goes on, so I thought it appropriate to give him credit for the light he brought to me. He was the first person to mention W. E. B. DuBois to me, fresh from the white midwestern suburbs. His influence is still felt on me to this day.

Aficionados of the musical theater songbook will know that the song ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER was written in 1965 for the show of the same name by Lerner and Lane. To me it’s a song of hope—hope that self-awareness is within our reach. Tell me what compelled you to cover this tune.

Going through a time when I really needed those words. Frankly, the last few years have had some difficult periods. I had three loved ones pass within a nine-month period, and it’s taken me some time to get over that. Those words have been inspiring to me for so long, and I’ve wanted to cover that song for decades, so this seemed like the right opportunity. There’s a lot of starting over in this album. It’s dedicated to my friend Jim, who I’d known since we were 16. He had a brave but terrible end, and it’s traumatizing. I wanted to focus on a path forward and let myself grieve by forging ahead with life, in a way that I haven’t had the ability to pursue for a long time. I’ve constantly been working on music over the years, but this is the first time all the pieces are in place to do it myself.

It was a challenge, though, to try to take a “naive” vocal approach to a song that is so clearly dominated by the personalities of its three main stars—Streisand and Montand from the movie, and the cast from Broadway. I love all of them. I love that movie, the Broadway cast album with Barbara Harris is a hoot. But I’m not that kind of singer. I wanted it to be intimate and human, faults and all, instead of big and robust. I wanted to bring an egalitarian approach to it. Those words should be available for everyone to sing, and, of course, we can. So I did.

SKYCLAD is the perfect follow-up to ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER, in that it evokes the heavens. But with the song, I couldn’t help but feel unnerved by some of the seemingly discordant harmonies. It’s as if to say that the heavens are a beacon of happiness, but also treacherous to tread for us mere mortals. Your thoughts?

Skyclad is a term associated with neopaganism, describing ritual nudity. My use of the term is meant as a more general statement about Nudism as a spiritual state. The song to me evokes flying above the clouds, free of constraint, care, or worry, but it also has this kind of military beat to it that I feel gives it a tone of revolutionary resolve. To be clad only in the sky, to stand vulnerable but with the all the forces of the universe behind you, within you and without you. It takes bravery and conviction, but it’s liberating. It’s liberation of the human spirit.

But just to be clear, this song is not named after the band Skyclad. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

We’ll be talking about the THESE POSSIBLE FUTURES later when we cover the video (premiering March 2, 2018) but above you alluded to the ways in which technology is impacting our connections as social creatures. As a leader of BateWorld, I’m curious if you’ve noticed a change in the way men are relating to each other. Is the site an end point, or a conduit for real-time connections, or both? And does it matter?

I’ll always be proud of the fact that BateWorld is the one place online that I’ve found where there’s little hostility toward each other. Bators are by nature very accepting and supportive, and men dedicated to getting off with each other become focused on the bonds of brotherhood. I think that has to make a difference in our lives overall.

From what I’ve read in comments, forums and the like, it does seem like it’s still difficult for our members to meet in person. The anonymity of the online experience really shields a lot, and I understand that people are still going to act differently to each other in real life.

I can’t say though what the reasons are that keep people from hooking up more in real life. I do know of at least two couples who’ve met on BateWorld and gotten married, so I suspect that there must be a lot happening that people don’t necessarily share. I certainly don’t blog about it when I meet members offline.

But what I’ve learned about men’s sexuality since BateWorld started is enormous. Not just from what I’ve observed on the site, but overall, through Tumblr and elsewhere. Men love their dicks, and many, many, many men of all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, and preferences are sharing themselves for the pleasure of others online. I never ever would have expected that. It’s a wonderful new thing that was never possible before online social media, and I for one am glad to know that there are others out there just like me.

I was actually thinking just yesterday how different things are since I found other bators. I’d have to use nudist sites and work up to what I was looking for. With BateWorld we can let it all hang out and be all the better for it. Becoming a member of this community has been liberating beyond any words I can express. I’ve met more decent, intelligent guys through BateWorld and Healthy Friction than I ever managed through other means, especially bars.

I hear you.

Let’s talk about FANTASTALICITY (ADVENTURE STARTS HERE). The song opens with a seriously sexy groove and a hypnotic spoken word intro. I must share that when I open up BateWorld.com, your site, I think to myself, “Adventure starts here.” It is almost like a prayer that I incant.

Though much is debated about the hypothetical effects of future technology on our lives, I will be the first in line to try Virtual Reality when it becomes ubiquitous. Do you feel the same?

Oh, I am so on board that train, I’ve got my bags packed already.

I’m absolutely mesmerized by the possibility for VR. There was a VR version of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody online for awhile that just blew me away. I want to make videos like that, completely immersive. Not just music videos, but explicit videos as well. I’m learning to model in 3D right now, and I hope there will be some video results eventually.

We are absolutely in transition as a culture right now. Once real holographic VR hits, I can’t imagine how that’s going to change us. The ability to have basically any kind of life or experience you want to have… Humans have never experienced that before. Residential VR is a term I use in the spoken word part—imagine how that’ll work. You can live any kind of life, have sex with any character you desire, just kind of hanging in a bag. Very much like in The Matrix. We’ll work from “home” hanging in these bags, do all our shopping, make all of our human connections that way. Digital technology will replace reality, and reality will be whatever we can buy.

I don’t know, though. There’s a total class issue that’s involved that I just don’t know how it will play out. I mean, will only the wealthy live in the splendor of VR, or is it natural that like every other technology, it will be available to the middle-class masses? I expect within twenty years we’ll know the answers to that. There’s definitely going to be the residual influence on poor and struggling people in all nations, as always, who will continue to live on the heaps of tech garbage we throw away.

But as to your point about logging on to BateWorld, I’m so glad to hear you say that. We’re so wrapped up in the details it’s hard to know what the user experience is like, and that’s just what I want. I want every time you log in to be filled with excitement and opportunity for what you’re going to experience, who you’re going to meet, all the surprises and pleasures that add up to time online being a highlight of a man’s day.

As for the tag line “Adventure Starts Here,” I’ve used that expression before in our Traveling Bators ad on the home page.

The title STAR CHILD evokes the heavens, a theme I see recur in your work. One might assume that the song is Apollonian in nature: a meditation on higher powers and dreams. But, there is a guitar riff that invokes for me the dark, wet underneath, the Dionysian world of wine, primal men, and music. Seeming opposites that blend together in the song. When you wrote this, did you anticipate the listener mellowing out or rather connecting to their messy fantasies, or perhaps both?

I’m so proud that a term like “the dark, wet underneath” originated in these pages. Yes to all of that!

As with my other song titles, there’s usually duel meanings happening. With STAR CHILD, firstly, it’s that we’re all a child of the sun, which is, in turn, one of many stars that are children of our Universe. It’s literally our origin—we’re made by light.

But our progress as humans also means procreating in the broadest sense of the term, to leave behind life, creating a child with the stars. It doesn’t have to be another human—as an artist, my “procreation” is through things like this album, that will be there long after I’m gone. That’s why I did it, to leave a legacy behind, whether people care or not. This is how I’m using the one life that I have.

The idea of ourselves as creators WITH our creator is essential to understanding our power and path, as a culture, as a society, or as a connected, living planet. I’m constantly trying to stress in my work a distance from our primal instincts, to reflect on our true place in a much larger system, to imagine that we are actually all just mostly space punctuated by atoms. Without this perspective, we as a race keep driving ourselves into the ditch. When are we gonna wake up?

This song is a reminder to remember our origins, to celebrate our time here by contributing to human existence now, while we can, in anticipation of the trillions of years when we won’t be here anymore. I should mention that that’s all been said before by Kubrick and Clark in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I just wanted to remind folks.

L-O-V-E was originally recorded by Nat King Cole in 1965 (coincidentally the same year the other cover on your album debuted).

Nat’s version might be considered to be part of the swing/soul/jazz genres. What I love is your take on it as you fuse your own sensibilities to the song to make it your own unique sound. What is your take on fusion in music generally?

Fascinating question.

Hmmm. Regarding my work, I would say that there’s a jazz element to my style, and some tracks are overtly jazz stylistically. I feel real pride in those artists and pioneers who brought jazz into our lives, but they were and are the real deal. Most of the pioneers had to live with mind-boggling racism among all the other difficulties of surviving as an artist. I’ve struggled too, but I’ll never face what they faced. I’m just evoking something in my own way, putting other artists’ work into a potpourri of my own perspective after the fact.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think I have something to add, just putting myself in the proper place here. Again, I was looking to do something egalitarian, that expressed my own personal outlook, which I guess is kind of Industrial Standard. I love those standard songs, Cole Porter, etc., but we don’t live in that world anymore. Our overall culture is now filled with disharmony, chaos, aggression, absurdity. I think this album overall reflects that. There’s a lot of disharmony in it, and that’s intentional.

To me, SUNSHINE UNDERPANTS is very Art Brüt, a term that Claude Dubuffet coined, which means Outsider Art. I’m definitely an outsider in the music realm, and intentionally. My creative decisions are those of a visual artist, without any technical understanding of the music itself, beyond the program used to create with. For me, it’s absolutely like a collage. Instead of visual images from magazines and newspapers, I’m placing sometimes random audio concepts into a mixer and letting it go.

I do want to say that Nat King Cole is probably my favorite and most admired “standard” entertainer, both for his talent and his life experience, and that track is untouchable on every level. The arrangement by Ralph Carmichael, the production by Lee Gillette, it’s so gorgeous. Such a great horn solo too. The last tracks that Cole recorded are on that album. It’s a masterpiece of that kind of Style.

But again, the song itself should be egalitarian, and I wanted to do something unique. Not having a key change was also a real challenge. That’s one of the drawbacks of GarageBand. Key changes are difficult.

With your track WANT ONE, I’m curious: Which comes first for you, the lyrics or the melody—or is it a question of which came first, the chicken or the egg?

On that song, the lyrics came first. I was talking funny to my dogs about a treat, and I loved the way the two words “Want One” work together. The idea kinda blossomed into a song about consumerism and greed. For me, lyrics and melody are usually worked out at the same time, in my head, but then creating the backing tracks for it can be a challenge. This is probably the simplest and most straightforward song on the album.

Most of the original songs with lyrics were done the opposite way, though—creating tracks and then coming up with lyrics for them. Sometimes it’s a track that I had no intention of having lyrics with, but ideas start popping in my head, and it goes from there. I love that process.

MOONCLOUD seems to be like yang to the yin of SUNSHINE IN MY UNDERPANTS. To me, there is, for lack of a better word, a holy quality to this song. Was there a spiritual impulse behind this song’s creation?

It’s so great for me to have conversations because I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, but you’re right. MOONCLOUD is meant to evoke the times I sit outside at night, under the moon or stars. It’s about the closest I get to actual prayer or even meditation. So much perspective can be found during moments of trouble or even moments of joy, just by letting nature wash over you, giving yourself over to it and momentarily letting go of your ego. Those are the most contented moments in my life, and it’s so simple and cost-efficient lol.

WHAT ARE YOU WEARING TONIGHT? Evokes, quite frankly, the same unabashed energy I feel when I’m bating! There is an unapologetic and pure fun in this song, a driving beat that is bold and unceasing. What was going on in your mind when developing this song? Was your intent as prurient and salacious as what I took from it?

I would say no to that, ha, but these are the unexpected benefits of putting stuff out there. By all means, shake your love thing dude!

That track was actually made for another album I’m working on, but I felt this one needed a dancy, upbeat closing number (with the encore being track 12). I also couldn’t help but find some perverse amusement in answer to the question of the song title being the title of the album. What are you wearing tonight?—Sunshine underpants.

It was inspired by an artist I know who does these great events where he dresses everyone in these incredible costumes, though a lot of nudity remains. I just wanted it to be silly and fun and rock hard (I love the guitar lines in it), but there’s still a bit of a message there. I love fashion as an art, but as a nudist I have a certain perspective on the differences between a love of design and this commodity industry with a very short shelf life. Clothes for me represent the height of fickle consumerism and materialism, egotism and fawning after wealth. They shield us from really knowing one another, they define us in social and economic strata that we don’t necessarily deserve. Obviously in daily life we need clothes, and the messages that go with them are important to our sense of self, but I’m just saying that I think it goes too far with some people. We could all benefit by giving up our material distractions.

To me VIRTUAL VISTA sounds like the musical equivalent of a kid in a candy store, the candy store being the technical revolutions headed our way. But there is an element in the song, to me, of nervous anticipation. What do you think will be the yin and yang of the technical innovations that are only now in their nascent phase?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout the digital revolution, it’s that you can’t predict the future. As technology progresses, we’re constantly challenged by more and more awfulness from human beings. We’re really at a crisis point as a planet, and I can’t know how that will play out, beyond the estimates of how cataclysmic it might be. It’s not that we’re actually more awful, it’s just that some folks are learning what others have known all along, particularly people of color.

It’s so ironic that we’ve reached the greatest point in our technological evolution at just the moment when it may be too late to save ourselves from each other. Will that be the case? I don’t know. I suspect that technology will be what allows humans to continue living on a planet that’s hostile to life. But who will benefit from that? Only the rich? It’s a question that has to play itself out.

One thing I’m sure of, if we do survive, is that the future will be nothing like what we know today. Nothing. Look at pre-digital-media science fiction. Digital technology wasn’t even imagined. There were hints of it, but no concrete understanding of its flexibility to do so much. Digital technology can and will eventually do everything that our real world does. It will create living beings inside a mathematical formula. It will infer itself into every level of human discourse, consciousness, and interaction. It already has. What comes next? We don’t know, but I suspect it will be plasma-based technology that allows for real Holodeck-like experiences. Or, most likely, just plugged right into your brain.

And that’s where your video for THESE POSSIBLE FUTURES comes in. Next week, The BatorBlog will premiere David’s hilarious music video, and we’ll wrap up this conversation then.

Yes, tune in next week folks, for more exciting adventures! Thanks, Jason. Bate on, good sir!

And you as well, Noble Gentleman!




Meanwhile, check out my personal website HiriDavidFeign.com and SUNSHINE UNDERPANTS at the CDBaby store.

[email protected]—HDF

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