Ice magazine - August/September 2003
By Kurt Orzeck
Welcome to IceMagazine.com! We'll be bringing you extra interview material and additional overflow material from our September issue this week.
We begin with our cover subject, David Bowie, who shared a great deal more with us than appears in the article.
Here's a healthy portion of "previously unreleased" ICE material:
In regards to the quick turnaround of Reality (Columbia/ISO, September 16), his new release:
"I had a good run in the early '80s. Because I was changing labels just about every weekend, I put out two or three albums 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."
"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 here's a bit of Q&A documented from the tail end of the interview:
ICE: Do you still own vinyl?
DB: Yep, I have about 2,000. And I threw out loads as the years went on. Some of them, really... ones that I thought kinda sucked really suck after the years, and some that I thought sound really good still sound good. But I still have great things like the Incredible String Band... a lot of really strange English bands from the late '60s. And the very first Velvet Underground album to hit the shores in Britain... 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.
DB: So, 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! 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.
And then, 10 years later... that was 1967... I met who I thought was Lou [Reed] in one of those early years when I first went over to the States, and I went to see the Velvets play. It's a very long, involved story... I was sitting and 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!
ICE: 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. 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. He said he's a really strange guy.
In regards to the Reality production process:
"What I tended to do - and I did this also on Heathen a lot - is 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, [producer] Tony Visconti playing bass and me playing everything else. And then I kind of bring in the band when and as I need them. At times, we worked in a room that was 8"x3". And you can just about get the drummer in the broom cupboard. 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."
On hitting a groove with Visconti:
"I think we were able to relax a lot after we accomplished Heathen, 'cause that was really the proof in the pudding. It was such a joy working with him... 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."
On Reality in general:
"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 Rogers 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."
On the future of the music industry:
"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.
"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."
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