Hall and Oates:The Self-Righteous Brothers

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It's a week later at the taping of Hall and Oates' new video, "Method of Modern Love." Tommy Mottola is standing outside Daryl Hall's dressing room looking a good deal like John Oates: shortish, dark, Italian. "I live vicariously through Daryl Hall," he is saying. Inside the dressing room, Hall, six foot two, blond, blue eyes, is idly staring at his reflection in the mirror. He looks great. He doesn't hear Tommy Mottola's remark, but, then, Hall doesn't have to. He already knows about it.

Daryl Hall is the star of Hall and Oates. The name, in fact, almost seems inaccurate. Oates is, technically speaking, an equal partner, but Hall writes most of the songs, performs most of the songs and dominates their videos and concerts. The two have a strange relationship: they are a cross between business partners and brothers. Hall doesn't seem to really like Oates, and Oates seems removed, even distant, from the entire Hall and Oates organization. But they're both professionals. They work well together, and they would never slag each other publicly. It would just be bad form.

Oates claims that the two of them have a "symbiotic relationship. He needs me, and I need him." Yet, in a professional sense, it is easy to see Hall without Oates and nearly impossible to see Oates without Hall. (In fact, Hall's next project will be a solo album.) There is a reason for this: Hall has terrific charisma. He's a natural. Oates can seem forced; Hall usually seems effortless. Offstage, Oates, who must have one of the least destructible egos in the entertainment industry, is easier to read. He has concrete passions: he races cars, he enjoys skiing. Hall, though, is inscrutable, his contrasts are sharper. There is a moment in the "Out of Touch" video that neatly synopsizes the difference between them. Hall is leaning against a pillar, arms crossed, his eyes staring off. As he stands there, Oates does a cartwheel in front of him. Hall doesn't move – it's as if he can't even look at Oates' foolishness. There's the same difference between them in concert. Oates often seems mannered, while Hall combines ease with intensity, showing glimpses of a darker side.

"I'm an elusive person," Hall says in his dressing room as a hair person arrives, fluffs and leaves. "Much more so than John. I like to scatter myself. I do try to take chances, break patterns. When you're scattered, you have to think. You're not operating under a set of rules, so you have to make your own rules. As Robert Fripp says, 'Danger is a point in time when you have to think your hardest.' I like to put myself in states of peril. I like the sense of aliveness that comes from being out on the point, way out in front."

Hall, nicknamed the Führer by his band, says all this with some animation. He refers to his lyrics as examples: "I can't go for being twice as nice/I can't go for just repeating the same old lines." He refers to the fact that he went into the studio to record Big Bam Boom with nothing planned. He was, he says, "daring myself. Because, if I have a religion, it's the religion of the self. I don't follow anybody. And that scares people, but I like the idea of scaring people. I wish I scared people more. I don't know if I scared anyone on this new album, but I'm better at scaring people in my personal life. I change quickly. I go from nice to not nice. I'm like a snake. Don't back me into a corner or I'll bite hard. Deadly hard."

Hall won't explain further. He offers no examples, just laughs, looks at the tape recorder and shakes his head no. This is not surprising. "I mean," Hall explains, "how would that look in print?" He's clever. He mixes philosophical allusions with practical sense, "meaningful" lyrics with pop songs. He wants to be heard.

But Hall does have belief, at least in himself. Two of his uncles were ministers, and his great-grandfather was a warlock. ("He cured cattle and all.") "I grew up around that seein'-the-light kind of thing," he says. "And now I'm a secular version of it. In my uncles' time, you were a minister. Two generations before that you were a warlock. Now you're me. It's just a current. I believe in the ability to change reality through will, and that is the definition of magic. I feel I have done that."

Not surprisingly, Hall claims to have come to this conclusion around the time of Voices, the first wildly successful Hall and Oates album. He had been very frustrated up until then; he had even seen a psychiatrist. ("He told me I needed to make more money," Hall says. "That's when I realized psychiatry was bullshit.") When Voices hit, Hall, who had been nurturing these theories for some time, became certain. There was validation, proof that he had the power. And it was power, not money, Hall had always craved. He identified as a child with King Arthur. "I used to walk around and whack people with my wooden sword," he says. "And now Arthur is seen as sort of the English Jesus. I identify with that. The image of him holding the last candle of civilization against the barbarian hordes. I feel I do that. I view everyone else but me as the barbarian hordes."

Hall laughs. First quietly, then rather hysterically, but this clearly isn't a joke. He's serious. "Tommy Mottola wouldn't wanna be me if he was me," he says finally. "It just looks good from the outside."

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