After his detainment on the night of May 31, the traffic barrel formerly known as The Barrel Monster spent nearly two months disassembled in the Raleigh Police Department's evidence room. On July 21, his maker, Joseph Carnevale, was sentenced to 50 hours of community service for charges of larceny and damage to property, despite public support for Carnevale's creation and a string of national headlines hailing him as a daring, new outsider artist. The Barrel, as he now demands to be called, agreed to speak to the Independent Weekly in his first public interview since his arrest.
INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: You agreed to do this interview under the condition that we not call you The Barrel Monster. Why?
THE BARREL: Well, it's not my goddamn name, for starters. I am a barrel, plain and simple. Call me The Barrel. You don't need to know my real name. I had an angry moment that night, and someone caught it on film and put it on the Internet, which is basically like giving yourself herpes. I found myself on Time magazine's Web site with Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Iz the Wiz. You reporters need a hobby, seriously.
Several news reports indicate that you were hitching a ride on Hillsborough Street, but that's not a very appropriate face for asking a favor of a late-night driver. It looks like you're pointing at people.
Of course I'm pointing at people. Seriously, who's going to give me a ride? I'm pretty tall and fairly wide. You might even say I'm barrel-chested, if you're into bad puns. I was standing on the street, pointing at people, for whatever reason you or they might imagine. I'm not sure why reporters decided I was hitching a ride, but I think that whenever you show someone in power that you're angry, they tend to interpret that as a plea for their help. "Oh, look at the fat, poor, plastic monster. He needs a ride." I've got two feet, and I'm not afraid to use them, man. I don't need a ride in your Navigator or your police cruiser.
But Joseph Carnevale—who, with all due respect, made you—has said you were hitching.
He's just pissed because I didn't call him to pick me up. And who are you going to believe, anyway? A friendly barrel who just wants to do his job but got a little too angry one night, or a dude who car surfs for fun? Sometimes, I'm glad I fell far from the tree, if you know what I mean.
Touché. What were you doing out so late on Hillsborough Street, anyway, especially with most of the students at home for the summer?
Well, until my incarceration and subsequent mutilation by the Raleigh Police Department, I lived with Joseph in an apartment complex over toward Cary off of Melbourne Road. Earlier that night, I'd been out with friends, and we stopped by The Jackpot for a few beers. I couldn't stay long because, between the cleaning chemicals and cigarette stains, that place smells about like an asphalt crew working on an August afternoon. I love The Jackpot, but seriously, man, I can only handle so much smoke. I'm made of polyethylene, after all, and I need to maintain my shape. Workers have to lift me, and I have to be able to support a flag at all times. I have to watch my figure.
I've noticed. You mentioned that you were "pointing at people, for whatever reason you or they might imagine." What reason do you imagine? Are you angry? And, if so, why? Do you care about the arts in the Triangle?
C'mon, man, do you ask The Beatles that? How can I answer that if you have the nerve to ask it? But I will say that you're the Independent Weekly. You, of all these people, should understand how frustrating it can be to care about culture here. And I'm not just talking about Raleigh. People in Durham and Chapel Hill seem to think there is no art in Raleigh, and those towns are full of the same smug moneybags who just want to be left alone and can't stand something like me, drunk after midnight on the side of the road, having a big time. Arrest them, not me. That's what I say.
Are you going to help Joseph with his 50 hours of community service?
I am community service.
Thanks for speaking to us, and congratulations on your Special Citation.
Very cute, punmaster.
Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Grayson Currin and David Fellerath.