Jack Antonoff Says Understanding His Health Rituals Is Proof 'Somebody Really Knows Me': 'Not a Germaphobe'

The musician has previously shared that his OCD and his younger sister dying of cancer have affected the way he views cleanliness and health

<p>Taylor Hill/FilmMagic</p> Jack Antonoff in New York City in April 2024

Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

Jack Antonoff in New York City in April 2024
  • Jack Antonoff explains how getting close to him involves understand his rituals

  • He told NPR's Wild Card that they're very specific but that he's "not a germaphobe"

  • The Bleachers musician also ties his cleanliness worries into the death of his younger sister

Where his health is concerned, Jack Antonoff has some unique rituals — and he says those who understand and accept them truly know him.

While appearing on NPR’s new podcast, Wild Card, on Thursday, May 30, host Rachel Martin asked Antonoff, 40, “What is proof that somebody really knows you?” and the Grammy-winning producer had a surprising response.

“Proof that somebody really knows me is if they understand my rituals around feeling clean,” he said, adding, “And it's not basic.”

The Bleachers frontman — whose inner circle consists of stars like close friend Taylor Swift and his wife, Margaret Qualley — elaborated on the rituals further, telling Martin, “My only concern with cleanliness is around my face. You can f---ing put … smear anything on my body.”

Related: Jack Antonoff Says a Bad Mushroom Trip After His Sister Died Stopped Him from Doing Drugs: 'I Completely Lost My Mind'

He also revealed that he has not touched his “eyes, nose, mouth or ears with my hands — unwashed — in probably 20 years.”

“So it's very specific … I'm very scientific. I'm not a germaphobe,” he continued. “I just … that's how you get sick. That’s how germs spread, usually … You know, you look around, you're at a bus stop, a restaurant, anywhere you are, and people are just touching their nose, touching their eyes. And it's like, this is how it's all happening.”

“It's not like, ‘He's a germaphobe!’” he added. “It's very specific, my definition of what is and isn't clean.”

Antonoff previously told Spin that these cleanliness rituals are a symptom of his obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). He also told the magazine that germs aren’t what he’s actually worried about, dying is.

Related: Jack Antonoff Says His Home State of New Jersey Is 'Extremely Misunderstood': 'It's Like Europe'

In the 2015 interview, the musician partially attributed this worry to his younger sister, Sarah, dying of cancer at 13, and said it was worsened by a bout of “crazy pneumonia” that landed him in the ICU.

"Like is [germs] what I’m really worried about? No, I think what I’m really worried about are ideas of mortality,” he told Spin at the time. “That’s how I manifest. That’s how I think about it.”

“I try to keep it in check but you know, OCD is a funny thing,” he added.

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<p>VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images</p> Jack Antonoff performs with Bleachers in Indio in April 2024

VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

Jack Antonoff performs with Bleachers in Indio in April 2024

Speaking about his sister on Wild Card, Antonoff told Martin he was 18 when his sister died, but “she was sick since I was 5, so it was a big part of my life,” he said.

The producer also said that grief has shaped his life “entirely,” adding that “it's just part of how I see things.”

Specifically, Antonoff said, “I think that things are really fleeting. The thing about sick people — people who are unsure how long they'll get to live, especially kids in that position – I mean the lack of cynicism, the obsession with creation, joy, love, family, you know?”

“When you might not have a lot of time on Earth, you don't define yourself by the things you hate,” he added.

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