INTERVIEW FROM THE TOUR PROGRAM
I know there are groups at the top of the charts that are
hailed as the saviours of rock'n'roll and all that, but they are
amateurs, They don't know where the music comes
from . . . I was lucky. I came up in a different era. There were
these great blues and country folk artists around, and the impulse
to play 'those sounds' came to me at a very early age. I wouldn't
even think about playing music if I was born in these times."
do you think would have interested you today if music weren't
I'd probably turn to something like mathematics. That would interest
me. Architecture would interest me. Something like that.
you surprised by the return of so much placid pop -- which was
one of the original targets of rock'n'roll ?
I don't think what we call pop music today is any worse than it
was. We never liked pop
music. It never occurred to me (in the 50s) that Bing Crosby was
on the cutting edge 20years before I was listening to him. I never
heard that Bing Crosby. The Louis Armstrong I heard was the guy
who sang Hello, Dolly! -- I never heard him do West End Blues.
would you describe the spirit of the '50s and '60s?
I knew it was an unsettled, rebellious spirit.
was it like to be adored at times and booed at others -- like
on the Slow Train Comin Tour in the 1970s?
I was booed at Newport before that, remember. You can't worry
about things like that. Miles Davis has been booed. Hank Williams
was booed. Stravinsky was booed. You're nobody if you don't get
Out Of Mind seemed to spark a creative resurgence for you. Did
you know right away it was something special?
It was a little sketchy to me. I knew after that record when and
if I ever committed myself to making another record, I didn't
want to get caught short without up-tempo songs. A lot of my
songs are slow ballads. But if you put a lot of them on a record,
they'll fade into one another, and there was some of that in Time
Out Of Mind.
about the creative process for you? Do you write constantly?
I overwrite. If I know I am going in to record a song, I write
more than I need. In the past
that's been a problem because I failed to use discretion at times.
I have to guard against that. On Love and Theft, Lonesome Day
Blues was twice as long at one point. Highlands (a 17-minute song
on Time Out Of Mind) was twice as long originally.
do you tend to do the most writing? When you're on tour or when
you're home for a few weeks?
I don't know. Some things just come to me in dreams. But I can
write a bunch of stuff down after you leave . . . about, say,
the way you are dressed. I look at people as ideas. I don't look
at them as people. I'm talking about general observation. Whoever
I see, I look at them as an idea -- what this person represents.
That's the way I see life. I see life as a utilitarian thing.
Then you strip things away until you get to the core of what's
Important . . . in the larger scheme of things, the government
is irrelevant. Everybody, everything can be bought and sold.
that pretty pessimistic for someone who everyone thought was so
optimistic and inspiring in the '60s?
I'm not sure people understood a lot of what I was writing about.
I don't even know if I would understand them if I believed everything
that has been written about them by imbeciles who wouldn't know
the first thing about writing songs. I've always said the organized
media propagated me as something I never pretended to be . . .
all this spokesman of conscience thing. A lot of my songs were
definitely misinterpreted by people who didn't know any better,
and it goes on today.
me an example of a song that has been widely misinterpreted.
Take Masters Of War. Every time I sing it, someone writes that
it's an antiwar song. But there's no antiwar sentiment in that
song. I'm not a pacifist. I don't think I've ever been one.
If you look closely at the song, it's about what Eisenhower was
saying about the dangers of the military-industrial complex in
this country. I believe strongly in everyone's right to defend<
themselves by every means necessary . . . you are affected as
a writer and a person by the culture and spirit of the times.
I was tuned into it then, I'm tuned into it now. None of us are
immune to the spirit of the age. It affects us whether we know
it or whether we like it or not.
early '90s when I escaped the organized media, they let me be.
They considered me irrelevant, which was the best thing that could
have happened to me. I was waiting for that. No artist can develop
for any length of time in the light of the media, no matter who
it is. If the media was commenting on every article you wrote,
imagine what it would do to you.
you worry, that the latest rash of awards and acclaim will make
the media start focusing on you again?
No, that time has passed. Once they move away and lose track of
you, they'll never catch up with you again. They're off searching
for someone new to put a label on.
you see yourself touring indefinitely?
I don't see myself doing anything indefinitely. I see myself fulfilling
the commitments at the moment. Anything beyond that, time will
have to tell.
how do you feel personally? Do you feel pretty good about things?
Any day above the ground is a good day.