David Bowie Transcript, 7.9.03: ‘I Am The Man Who Found Velvet Underground!’

David Bowie gets the White Stripes, the Raveonettes and the Dandy Warhols – but not Yeah Yeah Yeahs. And were it not for him, he says, Lou Reed and John Cale’s immortal band might never have made it.

Such revelations were divulged to yours truly when I interviewed rock’s greatest chameleon six years ago prior to the release of his Reality album. Here’s the very long, never-before-published transcript, with almost all the warts included.

(Go here for the accompanying David Bowie cover story I wrote for ICE magazine.)

KO: Hello, David?

DB: Hello.

KO: Good morning.

DB: Good morning. How are you?

KO: I’m doing well. How about yourself?

DB: Oh, not bad.

KO: How is it in New York today?

DB: Where are you?

KO: I’m in Santa Monica.

DB: Oh. You see, it’s terribly gray.

KO: Gray outside.

DB: Yeah.

KO: Is it as steamy as it’s been the last week or two?

DB: Yeah, still very warm.

KO: Well, thank you very much for spending some time with us this morning.

DB: Oh, it’s my pleasure.

KO: I’m not sure if you’re familiar with ICE, but we’re a CD news publication, so we tend to focus on the album as opposed to the artist.

DB: Seedy, as in s-e-e-d-y?

KO: (Laughing) No!

DB: (Laughing) Sorry, it’s early morning.

KO: But you’ll have to pardon me if a lot of the questions are dry … we tend to focus on the …

DB: No, that’s fine.

KO: So this is a rather quick turnaround for a new album, isn’t it?

DB: Well, I suppose by a lot of standards these days, yeah. I tend to write a lot. And I kind of got fed up with not being able to release as many albums as I wanted to. And I got really quite selfish about it. So when I set up the new distribution with Columbia for ISO, my label, one of the specific things I asked for was sort of freedom to release when I wanted to release. And that didn’t pose a problem … it’s great for me, because it means I can just go in and record, as opposed to waiting for the usual corporate sell-off period that they usually inflict. ‘Cause these days, the tendency is now two years between albums.

KO: Right.

DB: It’s fine when you’re 20, I guess, but not when you’re 56! I’m not waiting around that long to put out my next album. One every two years? Shit, you’ve gotta be kidding me (laughing).

KO: (Laughing) And because you’re writing continuously, too …

DB: Well, yeah. I mean … I had a good run in the early ’80s. I was able to do that for a bit. But that was (laughing) because I was changing labels just about every weekend. So I put out two or three in a succession, kind of annually. It was the way I was able to work in the ’70s and through to the ’80s, because the industry was not an industry in quite the same way then. It was really much easier to have a fast turnaround. I remember in the ’70s I was putting out – what with doing other artists, as well – about three a year sometimes, which is an extraordinary amount of material. I don’t think I’d be up to that these days … one a year, for me, is very comfortable.

KO: And do you feel all your albums are connected, that there’s an underlying theme connecting them?

DB: Strangely no, not really. But that’s about location, I think, more than anything else. Whatever I’m writing and recording is so colored by where I am at the time that I think that, in and of itself, gives it its own sensibility. Heathen was written in the mountains, and kind of feels like that, I think. And this one wasn’t. This one was written down here, at home, in downtown New York. And it feels much more like that, I guess. Although I must stress that it’s not my ‘New York Album.’ It was written here, so it has some of that energy to it, so it’s probably a lot more kind of higher-energy than Heathen. Are we speaking at a disadvantage … have you actually heard it?

KO: No, unfortunately I haven’t yet …

DB: Oh geez. (laughing)

KO: (Laughing) … so you do have me at a bit of a disadvantage, but …

DB: Oh, fuck, it makes it so hard …

KO: … I know, I’m sorry …

DB: OK, so I’ll keep on, then …

KO: (Laughing)

DB: Oh, it’s really – well, let me tell ya, it’s probably my best album since Scary Monsters, in that case.

KO: That I have heard (laughing).

DB: (Laughing)

KO: I have heard confirmed reports about that.

DB: Um … I’m sorry, but that’s kind of a cliché. I had to throw that in, ‘cause it seems every album I put out in the ’90s, at the time of release, is the best album I’ve put out since Scary Monsters. So I’m kind of ducking it now by telling everybody it is that already.

KO: Right.

DB: I’ll tell you what: It’s the best album since Heathen that I’ve put out …

KO: (Laughing)

DB: … for sure (laughing).

KO: Well, what was the first thing you felt when you walked away from completing the album?

DB: I think, probably, that it had more cohesiveness than I had … it wasn’t my intention to give it a cohesiveness. There wasn’t a conceptual through-line or anything like that. It was, really, a random collection of songs that I’d been writing over the last while, plus a couple of covers that I really liked.

KO: Right. You have ‘Never Get Old’ from the Vittel advert, and then ‘Bring Me the Disco King,’ which is something that you wanted to revisit.

DB: ‘Disco King’ … I wrote it in ’92, and initially did a version of it which played to the title, alarmingly. And it was supposed to be a spoof on the whole disco thing from the ’70s at the time. And I had those … drums on it … the works, you know, it’s a 120-beats-a-minute … it was very funny, I think. I kind of went off it as fast as I recorded that, because it sounded just too trite.

KO: OK.

DB: Then I did it again with the band that I had together for Earthing. We did it in a lot … sort of, muscular, way … like the band was at that particular time.

KO: OK.

DB: And that didn’t work, either. So it kind of crawled along through the years with me. I thought about it as a march, then a tango … and the samba really stunk, so (laughing) I kind of stripped it completely down this time, and just had … piano. And we did it at half the tempo from the original version back in ’92. And now it absolutely works brilliantly, for me. Frankly, I think it’s one of the best tracks on the album.

KO: And it works well in terms of the album itself …

DB: Yeah, exactly. Somehow … now it fits. This poor, little orphan Annie thing actually seems to have a home now.

KO: Can you talk about some other songs that you had to make work fit?

DB: Um … no … well, OK, to make fit. OK … well, no, that’s the thing … for them to …. My basic reference to everything is the song itself, and we did the songs as I wrote them the way they felt they should be recorded. I guess it’s because I’m using the stage band on this album … that brings to it a kind of cohesiveness.

KO: And who does the band consist of?

DB: Um, the same as I’ve had – virtually – for the last six years, with a couple of changes. BUT, it is: on guitars, Jerry Leonard, who actually has his own band called Spooky Ghost.

KO: Oh, right.

DB: And he works in a very ambient, atmospheric way. He does a lot of layering … I guess you could kind of put him in the same area as Robert Fripp or David Torn. That sort of feel.

KO: OK.

DB: Earl Slick, who kind of concentrates more on blues and hard rock kinds of sounds.

KO: Mmm.

DB: So that kind of … they were very much the pad for that. Tony Visconti and Mark Plati handled the bass playing.

KO: OK.

DB: Mike Garson did the keyboards. Actually, he did piano … I did most of the keyboards. Sterling Campbell was the drummer.

KO: OK.

DB: Let’s see … oh, God, I’m terrible at this … Gail Ann Dorsey, who’s been working with me since ’95, is doing vocal backings, as is Katherine Russell … or ‘Kat’ Russell … she was doing vocal backings, too. They also are both with me on the stage. Don’t think I’ve left anyone out …

KO: OK.

DB: That’s the basic stage band. We had a couple of guest players … we had … David Torn did a couple of tracks. Did his kind of Spooky riffings.

KO: Do you happen to recall which tracks those were?

DB: Yeah … ‘New Killer Star,’ which, I guess, is one of the standout ones for David … and also ‘Looking for Water.’

KO: OK.

DB: Oh, and Matt Chamberlain played drums on the aforesaid ‘Disco King.’

KO: OK.

DB: Matt, who you may or may not know … he’s the drummer on the Heathen album.

KO: Right. And he’s played with Tori Amos, as well?

DB: Yeah. Matthew’s fantastic. In fact, Matt and David Torn have worked quite a bit together on different projects. I like them both very much.

KO: OK.

DB: Both are musicians and great guys.

KO: So you just …

DB: They were all pretty much people that I know this time.

KO: OK. I was going to say, you decided not to bring in any high-profile guest artists …

DB: No, I rarely do that. I did it on the last album on a couple tracks because I felt the tracks actually suited the two people I wanted to play: Dave Grohl and Townshend.

KO: Mmm-hmm.

DB: But this time … no, I really try and keep it as representative as possible of, really, what the stage thing is going to be, which …

KO: OK, so in some ways this album is a preview of the tour itself, then.

DB: Well, that’s an interesting thing, I wonder if it is. Well, it’s going to have to be now. (Laughing)

KO: (Laughing)

DB: Um … yeah, I think there’s probably six tracks that will stand up to any sized arena. I’m very confident about that. There’s six, really, kind of very, very strong pieces. Not super-loud, either, two of them: the ‘Disco King’ and the other one, ‘The Loneliest Guy,’ are extremely small, minimalist pieces. But I just think they’re very strong songs.

KO: And what were the other four, that you think …

DB: Uh … well, let me see now. ‘New Killer Star,’ which I, as you can tell, I … that’s a great one. ‘New Killer Star’ … probably one of the tracks that I’ve written since anything from Scary Monsters, if you can imagine.

KO: Hmm … (laughing)

DB: (Laughing) Ah, what do I like a lot … ‘She’ll Drive the Big Car,’ which is my favorite suicide song … (laughing). ‘Never Get Old’ is kind of fun. I suppose it’s sort of tongue-and-cheek …

KO: It doesn’t really reflect the title, does it?

DB: (Laughing) No! it’s a rather silly song. But it’s kind of a petulant 56-year-old saying, ‘I’m never ever going to get old.’ Which I thought, alone, was a good stand-up piece. Very happy with that one. Oh, I’ll tell you one I can’t wait to do on stage is one of the covers, which is ‘Pablo Picasso.’ It’s a song by Jonathan Richman.

KO: Can you tell me a little bit more about why you chose that song in particular?

DB: Aw, because I’ve loved it ever since I first heard the Lovers do it back in ’70 … ’74? ’75? Sometime. It’s a terrific, very, very funny song.

KO: And the George Harrison … was that tribute song …

DB: Actually, it was unwittingly a tribute. I kind of … I wanted to do it because … the only version I’ve ever heard … still, to this day, I’ve still not heard George Harrison’s version.

KO: Really?

DB: The only one I know is Ronnie Spector’s …

KO: Wow … OK.

DB: …which came out as the last single on Apple in 1974, and was produced by Phil Spector and George Harrison. And I always presumed it was a Phil Spector song. It kind of has a lot of that going for it, no doubt because of the production. And I’ve always thought that it was a totally neglected song, especially for Ronnie, because Apple was kind of falling apart at that particular time. It didn’t get any promotion whatsoever, and I don’t think anybody’s heard the thing. And, of course, every time I’ve mentioned it … oh, and I’ve done this … ‘Oh, the George Harrison song.’ George Harrison? And I went to look at the credits, and, of course, it’s written by George Harrison. So, ‘OK, yeah, it’s a tribute song!’ I’m very pleased about that, that’s lovely, but I really … that wasn’t the intention.

KO: I see.

DB: It was actually to cover this Ronnie Spector song.

KO: But you still haven’t heard the George Harrison version … (laughing)

DB: I still haven’t heard the version! I’ve really got to put that to right at some point.

KO: Can you talk a little more about the overall production cycle – when you went into the studio, and how the sessions went?

DB: Well, I think … specifically, what I tended to do – and I did this also on Heathen a lot – is … I go in with a sketch of the idea … how I want the song to sound … and then I start working through it with, usually, a drum machine, Tony Visconti playing bass and me playing everything else. And then I kind of bring in the band when and as I need them.

KO: OK.

DB: Because everybody played with such … well, at times we were able to … we worked in a room that was 8”x3”. That’s what it feels like. Tiny, tiny little room that we work in. … We had a guitar player sitting at the desk and Visconti sitting at the desk, so we kind of recorded like that, over the top. But I did end up keeping quite a lot of my original tracks again, like I did on Heathen. So a lot of the keyboards, a lot of the guitars, and the saxophone lineup and all that stuff is me. And I just added stuff as I needed it, really.

KO: And a lot of overdubs, as well?

DB: Yeah, a lot of overdubs from the band. … We just overdubbed their parts, really. So it’s not an incredibly hard album to play live at all.

KO: Did you end up working with The Matrix on this?

DB: No … (laughing) an ugly rumor. Was that Tony Blair’s band? I thought our beloved Prime Minister’s band was called Ugly Rumor. (Laughing)

KO: (Laughing)

DB: No, I was very flattered to see an article in one of the magazines – Rolling Stone or something – that what they really wanted to do, more than anything else, was work with me. That’s really lovely. But no, it was a Tony Visconti and David Bowie production.

KO: Do you feel that you’ve really hit a groove with Tony at this point?

DB: It does seem that way, yeah. I think we were able to relax a lot after we accomplished Heathen, ‘cause that was really the proof of the pudding. It was such a joy working with him on that … it turned out so well and it just felt so right. Not awkward or stale or anything. We kind of went into this one with equal enthusiasm, so things moved along pretty well. Yeah, we seem to be working great together … it’s really terrific.

KO: The cover art is intriguing … this is the fourth cover that’s featured a painting of you …

DB: Apparently so, according to my Web site! (Laughing.)

KO: (Laughing.) Does that mean it connects with the other albums that feature you on the cover …?

DB: No! (Laughing)

KO: Oh, OK. (Laughing)

DB: Not even remotely! I can’t compare this album to anything. I think it’s safe to say that, as usual, it’s definitely got a Visconti/Bowie signature style. You couldn’t mistake it for being an album by somebody else like a Nile Rodgers or … I dunno, somebody else!  … Really, it’s definitely the kind of album that Tony and I end up making. Which is, I hope, fairly inventive, and quite interesting to listen to. But again, it’s not even remotely like Heathen. And not at all, actually, like Scary Monsters! I don’t know what to say … it’s got … it’s very complex, the textures it uses, in as much as the range is quite wide, and the songs are really diverse in tone. And it does range from the most minimalistic to … I guess something like ‘Try Some, Buy Some’ is incredibly dense. Heavily structured. And all things in between. I mean, it’s quite hard rock on things like ‘Pablo Picasso’ and a track called ‘Reality’ … really gung ho.

KO: Does ‘Try Some, Buy Some,’ then, feature the most musicians?

DB: Which one? The …

KO: Oh, ‘Try Some, Buy Some’?

DB: Funnily enough, Tony and I did that whole thing together. So nobody else is on that, apart from me and Tony. A lot of it, kind of keyboard work.

KO: Why did you record in such a small space, then?

DB: Why?

KO: Mmm.

DB: I guess cause it’s convenient. It’s just down the road from me … Looking Glass Studios. It’s on Broadway. Happy downtown New York. I just climb out of bed and go to the studio.

KO: What time do you usually record, then?

DB: Generally, we’d work from around 11 in the morning through to around 7 in the evening, and then I’d be able to get home and see my kid and all that, before she goes to bed. And lots of time in the morning with her. I get up incredibly early, actually, so …

KO: Really?

DB: Yeah, I get up around 6.

KO: Oh, wow.

DB: I know, it’s a bore. But it does make it easier to do any European business at that hour of the morning. Or any … if I’ve got any friends left in Europe …

KO: (Laughing)

DB: (Laughing) … e-mail back to them and say, ‘Thanks for contacting me!’ No, but we did pretty good. So, by the time I finish, New York is kind of waking up.

KO: Did you do a 5.1 mix?

DB: Yeah, we did … actually, as we speak, Tony’s doing a 5.1 on this particular album.

KO: Are you a fan of that format?

DB: Uh, yeah – it’s a shame there’s nobody in the world that’s got it. It’s extraordinary … I don’t know if you’ve heard the 5.1 of Heathen?

KO: I haven’t yet, no …

DB: It’s fanta- … I’m telling you, it’s so great. Such a great sound. Yeah, it’s kind of an indulgence at the moment, only because so few people have it. It’s really cool, isn’t it. I had a nice one … can’t remember which album it was, but there’s a great Neil Young [one]. An early, kind of experiment in 5.1 …

KO: Um … I don’t remember … that was about a year ago, wasn’t it?

DB: It was maybe Rust … it might’ve been that. But I thought it was really great. I mean, terrific. It brought a whole new dimension to … it was a live album, I don’t know.

KO: So that kind of convinced you …

DB: No, well, they asked me over at Columbia if we’d be willing … and I kind of jumped at it, because I like kind of getting involved in new stuff. Mind you, Tony Visconti’s going to have to do it! (Laughing) I wasn’t really bothered. ‘Yeah, go ahead, give it to Tony!’ (Laughing)

KO: Go crazy!

DB: So … I mean, he loves all that stuff, anyway. So he had a ball doing it. And he did Ziggy Stardust, as well.

KO: Are you actively involved in EMI’s reissue campaign?

DB: No. No, I dropped out ages ago … that’s completely an EMI thing. I kind of see them as they come pouring onto my desk. No, I’ve got too much to worry about.

KO: Are any album rights going to revert back to you?

DB: Oh, yeah, everything. Everything will always keep reverting back to me forever and ever … even after I’m dead. (Laughing) That’d be cool. So I’ll have something to do when I’m all down there.

KO: What about a possible box set?

DB: Well, you know, the one thing that I can truly, seriously think about in the future that I would like to get my teeth into – it’s just so daunting – is the rest of the work that Eno and I did when we started to do the Outside album. ’Cause what we left behind … we were … the idea was to do an improv. That was the idea: We’d take eight days, and we’d improv for those eight days. Which is what we did. And after that, we culled the album Outside. But we did so much work … I mean, we were working all day long, with a lunch break, but … I … we had something in the area of 20 hours’ worth of stuff that I just cannot even begin to get close to listening … it seems such an awesome prospect to have to sit there and actually go through everything we did. ’Cause we kind of marked off stuff at the time that we thought works really good. So we had already referenced the stuff we’d wanted to work on. But having to go through all the rest … because there are some absolute gems in there … oh, man, that’s so much work. But I would like to do that. I guess, when I got off the road on this tour that we’re doing, I might be able to bring myself … but I know I won’t, you see, because … I’ll fail this, but will have written another album.

KO: Well, that’s the thing: You have more to write!

DB: Well, that’s the trouble … you kind of … that’s the danger in doing stuff like that. Because you kind of overplay your hand, in a way. I guess it’s something for my old age to kind of put forth. I don’t know. That’s one thing I would love to do, though: I’d love to finish it off. I’d love to kind of find the discipline from somewhere, and actually get down to doing it. Maybe I should just plunk it all on Eno’s desk, because he’s much more methodical than I am. Yeah, let him go through it all. ‘I think you should sing something on this.’ And, ‘Play something around #54!’

KO: Do you foresee yourself writing on the road, when you’re on tour?

DB: Yeah, I can usually handle a lot of lyric work. It’s a little difficult doing melodic stuff. Unless I just write instrumentally, because I don’t want to screw my voice up. If I do too much singing during the day, then it might deliver a wound to the evening’s performance. I really have to keep that as a priority. ’Cause we’ve been doing … on that last tour that we did, the show’s ranged from two to four hours, you know, which is a really long time. I don’t know if we’ll be able to do it … this is such a long tour, I’m not sure we’ll be able to do too many of the four-hour shows. That’s really … that’s getting into Bruceland. It’s a fun thing … it’s that kind of marathon … it’s a great thing to do occasionally. But it does mean I have to kind of really watch out. So I can’t sing too much during the day. Well, I guess I could … I mean, as long as I’ve got a little keyboard out as well, I can usually note down the melodies that I’d like to, musically …

KO: You just have to sing really quiet, that’s all.

DB: Yeah, I know. That’s quite dangerous, actually, singing … it actually tires the voice.

KO: I’ve heard about that: when you lose your voice, it’s as damaging to try to …

DB: Yeah, it really is. The whole whispering thing also is bollocks. It’s best just not to open your mouth at all.

KO: Are you anxious about the tour at all?

DB: No, not really. I mean, I’ve got such faith in the band … and I know I’m all right. It’s, uh … it’s, mmm … and apparently, the audience is really there for us. The first few things that have gone on sale have just … gone. Dublin and all that … Manchester and London we’re selling out in 15 minutes. We’ve put up second shows, and they’ve all gone. Now we’ve just started with Germany and France, and it’s looking just extraordinary. It’s really … so, I think, everything’s there for it to be a really terrific tour.

KO: Do you think touring is what’s keeping the music industry afloat?

DB: Yeah. Absolutely. That’s exactly what I think. It’s difficult to foresee anything other than a huge calamity in the industry itself. And I’ve said – and I’ve believed for a long time now – that the unique experience is ultimately going to be the live show. I think over the next few years live shows will come to dominate in a new kind of way again. Music itself – the availability of music – has changed the actual sensibility of what music is. We’re now looking at an era where it’s required and thought of in much the same was as water or electricity. It should be free, basically, everybody’s saying. And I think they will have their way. If not free, then like water – kind of a token payment. But it is dealt with differently … it’s something now that you pick up at the supermarket, for God’s sakes, along with your milk and your sugar, a couple of CDs. It’s a lifestyle thing – not quite the manna from heaven that it was maybe was back in the day.

KO: That’s true … that’s probably why everyone’s having such a hard time going through it, because it’s a lifestyle change, not just a technology change.

DB: Absolutely, yeah. It’s totally changed it. But that’s … OK, that’s expected, that’s what happens to every art form. I mean, visual arts have gone from being … again, this very elitist kind of thing, to, basically, a new entertainment form. At least in Europe. I mean, people and families go out to art museums now quite a lot, but it’s looked at kind of … they just go in for the shock value. … ‘Let’s go and see those dots!’ And they just stand in front of some blimey … ‘Lots of different colors!’ or ‘See how dead that shark is!’ It’s got nothing to do with the old definition of art now. It really is an entertainment form.

KO: Right.

DB: Which is what happens with things … photography’s changed beyond belief.  You would take the family once a year to the photographer to get a family portrait. These days, people just smack out their own photograph, paste it into Photoshop … they’ve taken control … it’s very much a Marxist thing, isn’t it? … they’ve taken control of the production – ‘Hey! Hey! Hey!’ Well, they’re kind of doing it with music now, that’s the thing. I guess that’s what I’m ambling toward. They throw around mixes to each other, and then those mixes are remixed … you’ve just got, sort of, fodder for the masses to play with, really. Which is kind of … great. I mean, I love the way things evolve like that.

KO: Do you have any desire to get ISO completely online and sever ties with Columbia?

DB: Well, we’re kind of quietly looking for answers now. I think this year might be a good year to make a bit of a foray into producing a bit of a roster. I’m not going to be terribly ambitious, though, ’cause I don’t want to cheapen things for any artist that we do work with, you know. I mean, one or two is quite sufficient. I don’t have huge ambitions for it … looking at it as being the next Sony (laughing)! But it would be nice for it to kind of develop a wider stratagem than what it’s got, which is just releasing David Bowie. And I think it probably will this year … actually, I can be quite positive about that. I really think I think … ‘I really think I think’ … taking steps backward … ‘I’m kind of thinking!’ (Laughs really loud) … I’m digging a huge hole here. I’m hoping to have another artist during the course of this year (laughing) … oh, God.

… And all that, so that we things can be downloaded for free! (Laughing) … no, nothing I’m doing is purely online … I mean, I’m playing around in the end of the century here … I mean, I still have the real negative idea that it’s all going to fold up anyway.

KO: Really? That’s always in the back of your mind, then?

DB: Yeah. It really is. I mean, I’m kind of looking at the next generation of answers, really … obviously … I can keep stumbling around the world until my legs give out (laughing), but I’m in my twilight years – ohhhh! – (Laughing) as a performer, I guess. Look at Bobby [Dylan] … Bobby, baby, he’s still out there at 60. Forever. He’s been on the road now for 67 years … you know that … continuously, 370 days a year … and that’s incredible. Jesus, I’d love to know what his therapist knows.

KO: So you thinking about working with him at some point?

DB: Yeah, Dave & Bob … we have … I dunno … yeah, we were thinking of doing this Buddy Ebsen tribute.

KO: I figured, Lou [Reed] …

DB: Yeah, I’d love to do something with Lou. That I know for sure. It’d be great to put something together. But this is all just wishful thinking. I don’t know what … I saw his show the other week, by the way. It was absolutely tremendous.

KO: I saw him two weeks ago, yeah.

DB: What did you think?

KO: He was phenomenal. Did he have the Tai Chi master? (Laughing)

DB: Yeah … (laughing) … and features Tony Visconti. So you’ve got Visconti and Reed in the same class … that’s wonderful, isn’t it? And they’ve both been doing it for years and years … Visconti’s has been doing a different school, he’s just recently changed over to the one Lou … I don’t know …

KO: Oh, really? OK.

DB: But yeah, Lou’s been doing it for 14 years or something. And he’s no fool at it … his fists are dangerous! But the show was wicked … wow, I loved it. I just thought that making it spare like that, and leaving himself room for anecdotal material, and … this new kind of intimacy with the crowd … has just given him a wider, fuller, richer dimensionality. It just is wonderful to see him like that. I enjoyed it a lot.

KO: He seemed very grateful to the audience, too.

DB: I think he knew he made a bit of a breakthrough. Where did you see him, by the way?

KO: At the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles.

DB: Yeah, that’s a good theater to see him in …

KO: Have you played there –

DB: … I saw him at the Beacon over here. And he was just great. It was one of the best shows I’ve been to this year. I think the … probably the … oh, no, I’m sorry, it was the Town Hall. Which is kind of a smaller version of … but the other show I liked a lot this year, I have to say, was Radiohead at the Beacon. That was quite extraordinary.

KO: Have you been a longtime fan of theirs?

DB: Yeah, I like them very much. Um … and, uh, it was actually the first time I’d seen them live. I just thought they were wonderful. They really were one of the best bands I’ve seen in many years.

KO: What about new albums … have you heard anything spectacular?

DB: I’ve heard nothing that’s, uh … um … there’s nothing really spectacular out there. I think the stuff with kind of potential … you know, it’s difficult to say … first albums are always difficult, unless they are, obviously, masterpieces. But I’ve not heard anything that I would say … I think … you know, you get a band like The Raveonettes. Have you heard them, Kurt?

KO: Yeah, I’ve seen them live, too.

DB: It’s … it’s … there’s a gag there. You know … it’s kind of a gag. I’ll tell ya what, though: track after track of B flat … as a musician, it drives me to … I cannot believe that you can get away with that. B-flat all the way through! God, it’s like little dentals there … something … oh … he’s done a wonderful, analytical job of the early ’60s girl bands and all that … I can see that it’s a really clever album, but …

KO: What’s the second one going to be like?

DB: Yeah, I don’t know. Where do you go from there?

KO: It’s not really …

DB: And Yeah Yeah Yeahs I never got. I guess it has to be a life experience or something, but I didn’t go for the album at all. So I’m still kind of waiting. White Stripes I did sort of like, but there again, I don’t think there was that much on this last album … it was, again … everybody’s doing that desperately searching thing again, and hailing anything that comes along. Although The White Stripes are terrific live. ’Cause they supported us in a few gigs in Europe last year.

KO: Are you bringing anyone on tour with you?

DB: Uh, I know for Europe we’ve got Dandy Warhols, who I like a lot. Oh – I like their new album, by the way. It’s a bit more low-profile than their stuff usually is, but there’s some good stuff on there. Um, I like Courtney [Taylor-Taylor]’s writing. He’s a good writer. Um … no, I can’t think of really anything … oh, what a stick in the mud I am. Nothing’s is killing me … what about you?

KO: Um, let me see here … I’ve really got into … this band Cave In’s pretty cool. Younger rock band.

DB: Now, I don’t know them.

KO: Yeah, they’re fairly recent … when punk did its whole thing, the U.K. never really developed a hardcore movement, but D.C. did. A lot of those bands have matured and gotten a lot more complex … dense, two-guitar albums …

DB: What do you think of Kings of Leon?

KO: Um, I wasn’t as stricken by them as I thought I’d be.

DB: Yeah.

KO: Especially coming from Memphis, I thought I’d be really hooked on them. But they’re a little bit too lush or something … I don’t know what it was.

DB: I tell you what … now that we’re talking about this, I’ll tell you who put out a really good album just now, I don’t know if it’s actually out, but it’s really great, is John Mellencamp.

KO: Oh, is it good?

DB: It’s good. He’s kind of gone back to a whole rootsy thing. Yeah. That’s my pick of the week. This week’s release: John Mellencamp! I’m not a huge Mellencamp fan, old-school or anything, it’s just that this new album … hold on …

KO: Well, he’s reinvented a lot of the old blues …

DB: Yeah, yeah … (steps away, comes back) … Trouble No More! The album’s called Trouble No More, and it’s really a fine effort. It’s good, authentic playing. ‘Stones in My Passway’ …

KO: Have you thought about doing an album oriented in that style?

DB: Well, not in that style, but again … I’ve got a Pin-Ups 2 list stuck up on a wall somewhere, which has about 130 songs on it. And I keep peeling them off now and again, and they go on the newest album, ’cause I can’t wait to do this Pin-Ups 2 thing, which … I dunno … I would like to do a Pin-Ups 2, where I’d cover, again, a lot of fairly obscure songs that I’ve always loved. Sort of redo my record collection. Just for the fun of it, ’cause I get such a blast out of doing covers. It’s a great thing to do.

KO: Do you still have all your vinyl?

DB: Yep, I have about 2,000. And I threw out loads …

KO: Really?

DB: …as the years went on, yeah. Some of them, really … ones that I thought kinda sucked really suck after the years, and some that I thought sound really good. But I still have great things like the Incredible String Band … a lot of really strange English bands from that … David Allen’s Gong? Stuff like that from the late ’60s in Britain. And the very first Velvet Underground album to hit the shores in Britain.

KO: You have that on vinyl still?

DB: I got that … it’s a shellac demo album that came from The Factory in New York. A friend brought it over to England and gave it to me.

KO: Wow.

DB: So I was, literally … I had my band rehearsing ‘Waiting for the Man’ the first week I got it. So – dig this, this is so cool – we were playing ‘Waiting for the Man’ at our gigs before the Velvets had their fucking album out! Anywhere! It was shellac … we were covering them … now that … I am the man who found Velvet Underground! I kid you not. Anywhere in the world, I was the first person playing their songs onstage.

DB: …10 years later. That was 1967. Um … and I met … well, I met who I thought was Lou in 1970-ish … one of those early years when I first went over to the States, and I went to see … it’s a very long, involved story, I won’t go into it … I was sitting, chatting with him after their show at the Electric Circus, and was then told a couple days later that I was actually talking to Doug Yule! (Laughing) Who never wised me up to the fact that he wasn’t Lou Reed.

KO: (Laughing) And you were referring to him as ‘Lou’ in conversation, too?

DB: Yeah, I was talking about his fucking songs! How I really loved them, what great … and this guy was just, ‘Yeah, oh, great, yeah …’ I told Lou about it eventually, and he really laughed … he said, ‘Yeah, I can imagine that …’ And he said that he was doing a book signing someplace, and he heard a familiar voice and looked up and it was Doug Yule getting a copy of Lou’s book of poems. Do you remember that?

KO: Yup.

DB: It was Doug Yule standing about and getting it signed by him. He said he’s a really strange guy …. Well, there you go. I’ve got to kind of move along now …

KO: Thank you so much for your time …

DB: Oh, no, I hope I was at all a help.

KO: It’s been a pleasure.

DB: Thanks.

KO: Thanks.

DB: Bye.

If you dug this interview, you’ll probably also dig:

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