What do you think of satellite radio?
Mmm. . . I think personality is what glues the spiritual dance floor together, so to speak. You can take 10 records and have a person play them during your barbecue on the patio, and everyone will walk out having a great time. Most people will put them on in some uncoordinated order, and, in terms of keeping the energy up, just screw it up.
It’s like the eight ingredients that go into Mexican food. How come some people are genius at it, and most of us just kind of so-so? Because there’s a certain amount of genius as to what order those ingredients go into the pot.
Do you think the open playlists on satellite radio expose people to new music and deeper tracks that they don’t usually hear?
It’s sort of a utopian vision. Most folks aren’t that adventurous. Most music, just like most baseball players and most ballet, isn’t that good. Then you’re gonna have to sit through a whole lot of tedium and boredom to come across the one think you really like, and I don’t think most people have that kind of patience. I don’t think most people have the time.
People like to be spoonfed.
We-e-e-e-ll. . . no. I think most people would love to hear what’s adventurous and something new and exciting on a continuing and routinely regular basis. But I know, from just simply going out to the beach once a month and getting my little girlfriend with the blue crewcut and the tongue bolt to give me $300 of what’s brand new. I’m a professional in the business. I happen to love all the research that I do in what’s going on in movie soundtracks, what’s happening in electronica, what’s happening in new country — not regular country and not classic, but new country — and there is so much that just doesn’t cut it that the average person won’t spend their time doing it. The average person doesn’t have a lot of free time on their hands to sit there pushing fast-forward button. That isn’t their idea of a day off. So you kinda need somebody to act as a movie critic or a DJ whose tastes are perhaps calibrated the way yours are that you can find your way to a bank of material that’s already perhaps applicable to you in some way. Am I explaining this wrong?
No, no, I hear you.
I love movies, and I wish I could go watch every movie that comes out. There’s no way for me to do that. So there are some movie critics whose tastes are calibrated somewhere near mine or at least whose visions of what life is about are somewhere near mine. I know that if I refer to their sifting process, then I’m going to be able to make more advantageous use of my time.
Speaking of movies, are you a collector?
DVDs are just another way of archiving, another way of repackaging what’s already been in the mix. That’s kind of a definition of post-modern for today. You know, the material we use in the construction of our stuff isn’t ancient Grecian marble. It’s not frontier woods, it’s a bunch of mulch made into cement [laughs], and cement will be considered the material of the 20th century, compared to those others.
A disc is a great way of archiving what’s old. I’m as much of a fan as seeing the outtakes as a fan, perhaps, but then there is that element, for example, believed by Jim Henson, who created the Muppets: Never let anybody behind the scenes to watch what’s going on. He felt that it ruined the process. Well, not for a minute did he feel somebody wouldn’t know that Kermit wasn’t really a frog and that would f— everything up [laughs]; everybody knows that’s a puppet.
There’s a certain amount of mystery behind what we’re not allowed to see. Or even more importantly, what the producer and director didn’t want you to see. And sometimes the extras detract from some of that mystery. If every magician showed you step for step how to do every trick, there wouldn’t be any more magicians. And the great part of what we do in show biz — and professional sports, and politics — is what we don’t show ya. Mark Twain wrote it best. He said, “You don’t want to see how your favorite Chinese meals or how your laws are made in Congress, because it’s horrifying.” [laughs]
Just like you don’t want to see how we put together a magazine, when it’s 2 in the morning here and we’re tearing our hair out.
Exactly! It detracts from being blown away from somebody’s great art direction, or somebody’s great prosaic approach to writing. And even the most mundane chores in journalism can be turned into artforms. You can witness this through Lester Bangs, Hunter Thompson, P.J. O’Rourke, or whatever. The simple act of replacing the water cooler simply because the boss said so becomes your monthly contribution. That’s the one that won the prize!
You know that coin trick that you show to 8 year olds where you pull the coin magically out from behind the ear? Don’t tell them how you did it. They probably don’t want to know.
Knowledge can be dangerous.
I can tell you. I used to be 8 years old. [laughs] It’s an element you want to maintain. I think it’s an enthusiasm. It’s what psychologists call primary process. And it’s drilled right out of us, probably by the time you’re a teenager — the ability to be enthusiastic for whatever. Let’s just get in the mix, and don’t worry about becoming a beginner again. Me, I routinely take lessons in a variety of things: chess, Spanish, aikido.
Taking chances is part of being an artist. Being safe doesn’t get you anywhere, except maybe at the top of the chart, all of the time.
Taking chances usually means saying what you really think. And if you say what you really think, are you prepared to really stand behind it? That’s what will separate the men from the boys. If you really say what you think and really stand by it, routinely, that’s what’s going to cause shock and be upsetting. Anybody can do toilet humor onstage and be upsetting briefly. Anybody can tear up the Bible onstage and be briefly upsetting.
Or tear up a picture of the Pope.
If you really say what you are really thinking at any given time, that’ll just separate you from the whole tribe. And that routinely is, routinely are, our favorite artists.
Jimi Hendrix ran so contrary to what popular music was at the time, he was saying what he really thought. He could have destroyed himself, he could have wound up a bum not making a dime, because what he was playing was so different than what was popular at the moment.
The ones who expressed themselves regardless are the ones who are the most fascinating to us. It’s what most of us aren’t allowed to do on a regular basis.
Last thing. You love cars. Do you enjoy driving in California?
California is enforced Zen. There’s an experience where you drive for 15 minutes and don’t exactly remember anything that you just saw, yet you perfectly negotiated every turn on the highway. This is exactly similar to what many far-Eastern religious practitioners do — you get in a certain lotus position and make everything go away for 15 minutes, yet you’re actually still there. We do this every day, twice a day, on the L.A. freeway system.
You know, I look forward to traffic jams. That’s where I get all of my best creative listening and critical thinking done. Where else can you do that?
Copyright © 2013 Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.