LIBRARY: Articles    

Edmonton Folk Festival Press Conference   Print


Edmonton Folk Festival
August 5, 1994

Following are excerpts from the Folk Festival press conference.

Why haven't you toured since 1982?

"I was in poor health for most of the 80's. Every decade I go a few rounds with death - I'm a polio survivor, and there's a thing called Post Polio Syndrome - PPS - where the physiology is affected. I became allergic to air conditioning; flying brings on strange symptoms and traveling had to be kept to a minimum. I'm just now putting my toe in the water again."

Re: The audience at Edmonton

"Oh, they were a very interactive audience, as well as warm! I enjoyed them very much. It was quite a spectacle with the candles, it was wonderful."

Will you play again in Canada soon?

"Well, the festival season is over now, and I have an album coming out in late October, so that will put me in heavy PR mode in September, which is also international - it will go for four months and continue till after Christmas - and we'll see if I'm still standing because that's a lot of flying, too. I would like to tour, though. I've never played in Winnipeg."

Why play solo?

"I don't have a band. That takes a lot of rehearsal, and I don't know if you've noticed, but I have a strange way of playing. My music, which is not folk, is more jazz-classical with pop rhythms. Economics for one thing. The way I play is like a band and it's hard for the players to get in on it. There's a bass and a drum part already in it. The calibre of players that can play my music are very expensive."

Did you get your guitar tuning style from David Crosby?

"Crosby? He got the tunings from me! In those days there were about 4 tunings around the folk scene - D modals, open C and open G. The harmonies that I heard in my head I couldn't get with my left hand so I turned to the tunings. Now I have about 50 different tunings of my own invention, you heard about 8 of them last night. It's difficult to remember. Imagine that you are a typist and you have a typewriter where someone keeps switching the position of the keys on you. It takes a lot of rehearsal to get the left hand accurate. It's very hard for performance, but as a compositional tool it coughs up fresh harmonic movement."

You seemed to be having some trouble with tuning last night.

"You tune up in a different temperature and then when the guitar hits the lights on stage it goes out of tune. Some of the tunings the strings are so slack (on one there is a Bb on the bottom which is extremely low) and the second string is flapping like a rubber band and it's only through damping and comping that you get the tone out of it. You break strings a lot with tunings, too, and on one song there was a new string and it hadn't stretched out properly and let go about 7 notes into the song. So the tunings are problematic for performance but wonderful for composition."

Re: Wayne Shorter.

"My first record with Wayne was on Don Juan's Reckless Daughter. He was in a band called Weather Report at the time and Jaco Pastorius, who I was already working with, had just joined the band. We flew to London to record, and I was looking for a musician who played illustratively. I'm a painter first, I don't read music and anyone who I get to sweeten the chords I want them to play illustratively. I read music tediously, so I have no language as a musician, only the language of metaphor. So a lot of times I'll be telling a piano player to play a Japanese wave, and they'll eventually get it, but Wayne was the first musician, having all those languages himself, who's native tongue was metaphor. So the first record that I put him on he said, "What I'm going to play is like you're in Hyde Park, and there's a nanny and baby and a boat and your just etching it ..." so there were all these dotted lines. So he was the first player who spoke to me in illustration so I can't do a record without him now. I'll say, "OK, Wayne, you're the bird here, or play me some high-heeled shoes here." He knows exactly what I'm talking about."

How do you like playing a small venue in Canada?

"I had a choice and I picked too gigs this year and Edmonton was one. It's like coming home. The prairie is my home. Small things excite me like wooden sidewalks and sneezing at goldenrod."

Do you still have that special place in BC?

"Yes, I go there to write. Sometimes I unplug the phone and they can't get a hold of me."

Re: the Baby Collings guitar.

"The little guitar, the Collings? He's a loaner from Austin. He makes Martins basically the way Martin used to make guitars, 300 a year by hand, they are just superb. They are like 50s Martins. I'm in love with that little guitar, it's a barker too, very loud for a little guy."

Does it worry you that Canadians consider you an expatriate?

"Oh, no I don't worry about that. "What side of the border did you write that song on, heh?" I say, well did you like it? What if I wrote about Saskatoon in New York, or I wrote about New York in Saskatoon? You can never tell when a song is going to strike you. In the context of last night I thought it was a warm invitation. It depends on how it's presented. Bryan Adams called me once and he was going on about this Canadian content thing. He was being persecuted for recording elsewhere or something and they were treating him like a traitor. He asked for assistance and I couldn't think of anything at the time, but I came up with an analogy which I think is a pretty good one. What if the Dutch went through the Van Gogh Museum and said, "Oh, we can't hang that here, he painted that in Arles." They've accepted the fact that a Dutchman went abroad and did work in other countries, but in Canada it's very hard to get a beginning here, at least it was when I started and as soon as I crossed the border I was appreciated. Like I said the Mariposa Festival was resentful of Neil and I for our success and we both had bad experiences. Neil gave up his citizenship. He called me up and said let's go and we went to Mariposa, we didn't take guitars but we were invited to play and he drew a crowd away from an old timey fiddle concert and it drew down a lot of resentment on him and me."

Re: Women's issues.

"The new album is a lot about woman's issues. I don't sing a lot about woman's issues. I don't know if the treatment of women has gotten worse but it was an appalling statistic to learn that 50% of women in Canada are battered, 59% in British Columbia. I wasn't polled but if that is an accurate statistic, that's tragic. I saw another program that said every other woman will be raped in her lifetime. This also is appalling. My songs have always been relationship-oriented, between a man and a woman, not about women's issues. There are strange events going on in the world and you cannot look away. Kids packing guns, it's strange times and L.A. is an exaggerated version of these times, in many ways. When writing "Magdalene Laundries" I had intended to put a cheerier lyric to it, and then I bought this newspaper which reported that the nuns in the Dublin Magdalene Laundries had sold 11.5 acres and when they started plowing for development they unearthed 130 bodies of women in unmarked graves. So not only were these women incarcerated for life, but they were just thrown into the ground. Like I said, I'm not a feminist because it's too apartheid. There is some practical feminism, like the Irish leader. I liked what she was doing. It was more men and women discussing women's problems, not women snarling at men. When you think about it this has been a historically strange year for women, between the Bobbitt case and the OJ case. These are the more climactic and ghoulish aspects of it but there are hundreds of thousands of stories like this and they are leaking more than in any other year. "

Are you recognized?

"I always assume I'm anonymous, I move around and then, woops, sometimes it's pleasant and sometimes it's inappropriate. I like to drive around alone across the US and across Canada driving by myself. You have to do that, you have to take it, otherwise the cost of exploiting your talent is too great. There is a loss of personal freedom."

Re: Woodstock

"Woodstock was just a concert, but the thing that was interesting was there were hippies, white-middle-class kids who were being persecuted, which was good for white middle-class kids to experience. The hippie thing had some beauty to it, but I don't think people realized how many hippies there were until Woodstock. Suddenly they descended on this community and first the community was aggravated and then they kind of looked around and said these are just middle-class kids with funny hair. Then we realized we had a voting block, not that our politics were very sophisticated. I was apolitical, basically, but I would say my generation was intrigued by anarchy. They were dissatisfied with the old way but had no plan. We had valid arguments but when it came time to turn it over and say okay now you do it, they just started sucking their thumbs, and then you had the apathy of the 70s, leading to yuppiedom, which spawned generation X which is a generation of nihilists. So I don't know what's going to happen next.

Did doors open for you after Woodstock?

"No, it didn't effect me in any way, except that I was the person that didn't get to attend. I just wrote the song which kind of glorified it. I was supposed to play Dick Cavett on Monday morning and it was a national disaster, and I went to the airport with CSN, we played in Chicago the night before, and we were all supposed to go with our manager, Elliot Roberts, and our agent, David Geffen. It was deemed that there was no way in so David [Geffen] and I went to Manhattan, the boys rented a plane and got in and then got out because they showed up at my TV show the next day. That night when I watched it on TV at Geffen's house I was the girl who couldn't go to the party. So it was from that perspective that the song was written. There was some beauty to it to, like the bombers, you know "I dreamed I saw the bombers riding shotgun in the sky ..." well, we were all fed up with that war. I was in a different position than most of my friends because I entertained troops at Fort Bragg. So I was in contact with soldiers going to and coming back from the war, and draft dodgers. I had a unique perspective on it and a sympathy. There was a lot of "kill a Commie for God" but they were nice guys otherwise. Forgive them for they know not what they do. They came back with an illusion of this dreadful war, which was basically a drug war, there was no righteousness in it, and they came back with a sympathy for their enemy. Either that or so messed up that they thought they were a killing machine and needed to kill until they were killed because they were good for nothing else. When the bombers were going over at the Woodstock event, and they did it for curiosity apparently, they veered off and went to look at this huge crowd, the contrast of the two camps, because America's youth was divided between the gung hos and all these kids who had popped acid and started thinking like Chief Seattle."

Re: the Burundi Drummers

"I saw the Burundi drummers play in England after the fact. There's my band, because I didn't know what the drums looked like, I just knew they had a tinny sound and a skin sound. That's my favorite rock and roll track. The music has attracted me ever since. I listen to a lot of raw ethnic music. I can't tell you anything specific. I absorbed a lot of ethnic music, origin unknown, and it comes into your body and comes out in a song later."

Re: the Nara Japan Concert

"That was a great event. There was a lot of history surrounding the monastery - it's the oldest wooden structure on earth, over 1000 years old. The last time music was held in front of this place was 1300 years before our concert. The abbot of the monastery was excited until he heard the power of the music, it was hard to adjust to with the silent breezes and the contemplation pools. The park was full of small bowing deer. It was fantastic, you could buy biscuits and put them in your mouth and bow to the deer and they would bow and take the biscuit out of your mouth. So we spent the better part of an afternoon co-mingling with these little bowing deer. It was an interesting braiding of cultures, Bobby [Dylan] played and it was a miracle that he held to his structures. I thought he was excellent. It was hard stretching his forms, he has his own time. I played with the Chieftans, and a Chinese flutist named Lui, or you could call him Rui, somewhere in between lay the truth. And Wayne Shorter, of course. Wayne played with Japan's version of Miles Davis. The night that we didn't film, we filmed two nights and played three nights, the night that the cameras were not on was the one. We were all great, and they didn't shoot. The relationship between this trumpet player and Wayne the first night was just killer great. It was the best jazz I ever heard. It was shot for cable, in Europe it was live broadcast, and America was getting it on tape to exploit the big market. It was similar in production to The Wall concert in Berlin."

What poets have influenced you?

"It was very instrumental in the shaping of me as a poet. Bob Dylan's "Positively 4th Street" showed me that the American pop song has finally grown up. "You've got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend ..." just in that statement, it was a different kind of song than I had ever heard. I never thought of songs and poetry as the same thing, to me they were apples and oranges. I loved "Tutti Fruiti" but the lyrics weren't important, I was a dancer and if you could dance to it I didn't care if the words were no good, but I wrote poetry secretively. I didn't show it to anyone."

Are musicians less typecast today?

"I think it's still difficult in the commercialization of it because radios still say we're going to take boys from 16 to 22 and they like this, and you get that all day long. Radio is locked in that way and a lot of people fell through the cracks. In Canada they play three songs of mine over and over again, so I only wrote three songs basically, whereas in LA they play me on a station called the Wave which is a jazzish station. Now there is a new FM station that is quite broad. There were a lot of people getting airplay. Right now it's very successful, but basically it's like churches, they don't want you to be a Baptist-Buddhist-Catholic, they say you have to pick one and fight fiercely against the others. I lost my airplay when I made the Mingus album, they just cut me off like an expatriate again. I've been kicked out of every school of music there is. Nobody knows what I do, but now I've spawned some imitators so there is a school. Woe be to the person who wants to emulate my music because they won't get on the air, but now there is a place for us, at least in LA."

Do you have a favorite album? Is there a greatest hits?

"No, I've kept that at bay as long as possible, but I can't, they are going to make me do that now. I had to sign a contract. I wanted to keep my catalogs fluid, I didn't like that idea. I work on an album until I'm satisfied with it, I had the luxury of doing that. There are things I would go back and change but I think a lot of it holds up. There is a track here and there that I would like to cut again maybe in a different way. I made 13 albums without a producer which is unheard of. I don't think there is anyone else in the business who has done that, because to me I'm not lettuce, what do I need a producer for. In the beginning all you had to do was go in with your guitar and sing. David Crosby was the producer on my first album but basically he didn't, he just said he would so that they wouldn't make me into folk rock, so the record sold moderately and as long as the company made a profit then you had some freedom. The next 13 albums I made with just an engineer with no producer. Mozart didn't have a producer. I don't need an interior decorator for my music. All the mistakes, the things that you like and don't like about it, I did. I don't have the regrets of other artists who were interior decorated out of their art. They are all my mistakes and victories."

Re: her collaboration with Don Freed

"That's his lyric and my music. (Love's Cries) He's a friend of my mom's because they both still live there and we became friends recently."

Re: Painting

"Since the London show I have probably as much material. I've gone through about two periods since then. That was three years ago. I go back and forth between drawing and painting and the camera. So I had a show in LA of photographs and a show in Scotland. I'm going back to small landscapes, mountain scapes. I went back to Gauguin and Van Gogh land. If I have another show, it depends on organization and willingness. It would be nice to send one across the continent. There is time to develop your painting and poetry and music talent, but there isn't time to exploit them all. Galleries want several shows a year, and that's the tricky thing."

Re: Composing songs

"They don't come out like a litter of puppies. They come one at a time here and there. It's hard to rock hard late at night by yourself, but it's easy to tickle the ivories. I usually write the music first and set the lyrics to it, it's harder that way, it's more interesting. The complex emotion in the chords and the release to another emotion, because that's what they are: emotions releasing into other emotions. Here you put the descriptive passage, and here there is an ironic element to the chord, and here you have to make a direct statement. You have a very skeletal structure that the music will dictate before you even have a theme.

Did Wayne Shorter and Weather Report influence your music?

"Not at all. As a matter of fact, Wayne is a composer in his own right. He's sick of bebop, he's been through all of that. His own composition is turning much more to classical. He's writing movie scores. I just explained how I work with Wayne, I give him a minimal amount of pictorial instruction, and he plays off the words. He's a pictorial thinker, he's a genius really. I give him 12 empty tracks, and I say "play high-heels" and he says it's like acting really. He never plays the same thing twice. I move him around like a fairlight, I compose and edit him. I called him in to overdub one note, because he had an ascending line but he doesn't get to the apex so he came in, blew one note and left. It's very compositional the way we work. He just says, "Sculpt." [People call some of my work jazz] but I have one jazz album, just to get something straight and that's Mingus. There are a couple of my albums that are "jazzy" but any jazzer will tell you that my harmony is not jazz harmony and my chordal movement is not jazz. A lot of orthodox jazz musicians get offended by it. There are laws to jazz, just like there are laws in cubism. Wayne said, "What are these chords, they're not guitar chords and they're not piano chords." It's my own harmony."

Re: Maintaining a low profile with the media

"I remember when the media first began to intrude on these big festivals, and I'm glad they did, that was Big Sur. I'm glad there is a document of that, but the year before the festival was so much more fun because everything went up into the air. Because I haven't played in a long time, and because I've been exploited before, it was easier to just say, this is a concert, period. Today this is the press conference, and I'm yours."

Re: The star machine

"People are trained on the North American continent to get sick of things, and you have to get the new improved to get them to buy again. Every career modulates. I did some of my best work at a time when I'd fallen from grace, same with Bobby [Dylan]. You had five years of development when I started out, generally. The attention span was longer for an artist then it is now. Now they reel you up and reel you down a lot quicker. There is tremendous resentment of what people perceive to be successful, so the masses will support an artist when they are underground and then as soon as they go into the public eye, the press attacks them. People are not taught to question authority or to think for themselves for the most part, they are manipulable. Some of my best records, Hejira for instance, were pretty much slandered. So nothing much phases me. I know when it's good and when it isn't."

Re: Her grandmothers

"My paternal grandmother wept for the last time in her life behind a barn in Norway at the age of 14 because she wanted a piano. She said dry your eyes you silly girl, you will never have a piano. She moved to New Norway, raised 11 children with a nasty drunk for a husband, so she really on paper lived a horrible life, giving, giving, giving like an inspired God-loving martyr. My maternal grandmother played the organ and wrote poetry and she was a spitfire and in her frustration married a oxen-plowing prairie settler, and she had a gramophone and opera records, and he thought she thought she was too good for him. He broke her records at one point. She kicked the kitchen door off the hinges in her frustration. So I'm the one who got the musical gene, it landed in a female, and it had to be taken home for the sake of those women."

Re: Rap music

"I had rap records when I was in high school. Rap's an old pimp song. Pimps used to make up their rhymes standing on the corner waiting for their women, that's why it's so disrespectful of women. My bitch is badder than your bitch, that kind of thing. In this day of crack - there was still some heart in the street life when it was booze, but with crack life, there is none. It vulgarized it and the songs got worse and worse, but I think there are some young rappers who are politically inspired and occasionally you hear something good, and melody is beginning to slip back into it. One thing that rap did is it obscured melody for so long that it's going to come back with a vengeance, the way I look at it."

Re: Open tunings

"It's not the same and it's not methodical. The tunings keep coughing up fresh melodic movement. All I have to do is twist it into some unknown territory and rediscover the neck again, which makes it hell for performing without making mistakes but for going on with out becoming methodical it seems to be infinite. So musically I'm excited as I was when I was a kid, maybe more, because with the advent of synthesizers I can orchestrate. Some people think someone scribbled all over my music, but really it's my composition, I'm just expanding my palette. I have some craft, but I don't rely on craft, I depend on inspiration."

Re: Smoking

"If you knew the history of my smoking cures! Every time I quit I break a leg, it just seems that I would be healthier to keep smoking. I'd have to go into a long history for you to know what I know about my smoking!"

Re: James Brown's "How Do You Stop"

"Larry Klein played me the song when it came out on James' record, and I didn't think much of it. Then he did a show out in Detroit called James Brown and Friends. In the context of that show, that song was outstanding. He did it very slowly, and he just kicked way back on it. It really got to me. I'll tell you a funny story about that song. Larry and I went to see Eric Anderson play in the Cave which is a folk club in LA. So Eric called me up on stage to sing a song that I had sang with him on a record years ago. The audience got me to stay and I sang Cherokee Louise and How Do You Stop. So Eric said, come back to my hotel, and we were going to party later. It was a hotel in a residential area, and in the hotel you go down some stairs into the lobby. So Larry and I go to the lobby and we're waiting for Eric. He doesn't come, and I go up the stairs and I look left and look right, still no Eric. We sit down then I go up again, no Eric. The third time I go up I meet a man wearing a plaid shirt walking a dog on the stairs. He points at me and says, "AHHH, Joni Mitchell!" I point at him and say, "AHH, a man with a dog!" So he says, what are you doing here, and I say we're waiting on Eric Anderson, we're going to have a party. Then I said what are you doing here, and he said well I'm a songwriter. I said what do you write, and he said he doesn't sing the songs, he writes them for other people. I asked, like who? And he said, well, James Brown. I said, I just sang a James Brown song tonight, How Do You Stop? He said, I wrote that song. So that's how I met Man With A Dog."

Re: David Crosby

"Graham had to look at David unravelling more than I did. I got a couple of glimpses of it. It wasn't a pretty sight. Especially because David's eyes were distinctive, they were like brown sapphires. Stars came off of them, especially when he was happy. So I did happen to look into those eyes at one point and see a void, just nothing. I kind of lost touch with him, especially at that point because he had a different circle of friends"

Re: The Quickening

"The Hopi Prophecy says that the last world ended in flood and this one will end in fire. The Hopi are very strong, spiritual people, and the day would come, the quickening, or the beginning of the decline in their mythology comes the day they cannot collect the snakes for their rain dance. In August, they grow this stubby corn in cracked dirt, that any farmer in the world would tell you wouldn't grow anything there, and they plant every seed with a prayer. Then they have to get this little bit of water into this area of the desert that doesn't get any rain in August, and they accomplish that by dancing with live snakes in their teeth, and they have traditionally for hundreds of years gathered those snakes in a certain area. The snakes are the lightening in the ground, they are the gossips, and the messengers between the poles. They dance with them in their teeth - as many as they can catch within three days, and there are two dancing partners that dance in tandem and two referees and then a whole line of animal priests that keep the groove. They dance a certain amount of steps and then they put the snake on the ground. Well, the area where they catch their snakes, a couple of years ago became polluted, so the snakes moved. So that's it. All the aboriginal peoples of the world are entering into their quickening. The quickening comes to the aborigines in Australia when the young no longer carry their bones to the dream caves. The youth has abandoned their religion. "

What's the most difficult song on Turbulent Indigo?

"I can't really speak of them in terms of degrees of difficulty. "Not to Blame" was pretty sparse and seemed incomplete to me for a long time. It is OJ-esque. It was written a long time before OJ perhaps did his dirty deed. It's about wife-battering. I said it was interesting that the favorite day for wife-batters was the Rose Bowl game. There is a correlation between football and slamming your wife into the floor.

Do you bring past experiences into songs?

"Take a song like "Song for Sharon Bell." That song jumps all over the place, you're taking a Staten Island ferry and passing the Statue of Liberty and then it jumps up to a reservation in Ontario where Indians who go into the I-bar world of Manhattan come from this one reservation where they played on these little bridges. They grew up without a fear of heights. Then it jumps back to Maidstone, Saskatchewan then it jumps back to a hotel room overlooking Central Park and the skaters. You never know when you are writing with all your visual files of moments which moment might be triggered. For instance, in "Borderline" there is a line, "like a swan caught on the grass will draw a borderline." In upstate New York I saw beside a lake some people and a swan with her babies, and it's a good thing we were there because some bully kind of guy, and the swan was trying to back her babies into the water (they are clumsy out of water) and she would pick up twigs and drop them with authority like she was saying, "Don't come across my line," and it was such a pathetic defense against this guy who had real bad vibes and probably would have strangled the swan if we weren't there. So I had this image in my head of this swan building a fence. It was like playing possum, animals have such flimsy defenses but somehow they are honored within their own groups, but man doesn't honor them, like "that's no defense, I'm going to kill you!"

Re: Turbulent Indigo

"I always start that way, [just voice and guitar] but I make it as much for me as for the public, but in the long run, there is a minimal amount of layering on this album, and it's designed to take a lot of listenings. It is not designed to impart something on the first hearing. The more you listen to it, I think, the more beautiful it will become to you. I think what has been added is enhancing, especially Wayne. People can't hear Wayne, he is too good. People prefer a lesser saxophonist. You listen to him, he plays high heels on the end of "Yvette in English." If I was to do a video I would synchronize a woman walking to his solo. There is a lot there that kills me. By the time I'm finished with my performance, I'm sick of it, so I'll add something so if I hear it on the radio there is something for me to listen to."

Re: her collaboration with the Chieftans in Japan

"We were told that in Japan we were supposed to use 10 days to go there and scout around for who to play with and the Chieftans were being treated like a Japanese band. You could play with the Chieftans, and there was a western pick-up band with Keltner, but as much as you could braid into the Japanese culture, so much the better. I had this song that was an Irish story and I thought, keeping in the tone poem aspect, playing with an Irish band would be interesting. That's not the way I recorded it, I recorded it much simpler than that. Then it was just rehearsing it and trying different things. It was great."

Re: The movie "Love"

"That was a very hard project. I was initially approached to write the title song. It was a project called "Love." It was an American who began it. He had the idea to get 10 prominent American novelists to write short stories, 10 men, given the theme of love and sex. When he got it back it was too cliched, so he decided to give it to 10 women. Liv Ullman was one, the woman who wrote Cromwell [Lady Antonia Fraser], I forget her name, an American ... I'm terrible at proper nouns ... she was a screenwriter. Anyway, I had just gone to a Halloween party at the time, and I had gone as a black man, as a costume, but to my amazement I was treated like a black man, there were people there who had photographed me and people I'd lived with, but the costume was so complete no one recognized me. So I wrote a story based on love and sex about that night, going to a Halloween party dressed as a black man and there's your ex-boyfriend with his new girlfriend and they've come as Father and Mother Time and there you are stuck in this black paint wishing you had come as something pink and fluffy. That was the essence of my play. The director, Mai Zetterling, also had a play and she was going through the change, and she was not a happy camper, and to make it worse she had rented a house with two lovers who made out morning, noon and night right over her head. So she came to work in a terrible mood every day. My picture did not go well because it was a difficult thing. I acted in it, wrote it and requested editing but I should have directed it, but I didn't think I had the knowledge and I still feel she sabotaged a lot of the scenes. It played small theatres here and there but blessedly it went under.

Re: Videos

"I've done many videos. With Geffen records, they didn't spend much money on anything. David always believed promote minimally, cream rises to the top, so I had no budget for videos. I went to Tokyo and sold a number of my paintings and I took that money and put it back into videos, but without the company's support you couldn't get an outlet for it. There was a cable movie channel that showed a lot of shorts, and they showed some of my videos in rotation for some time, and then the guy who owned the station shot his girlfriend then shot himself and it turned into a closed-network sports station so there went that outlet. So I've done a lot of videos but MTV went pretty much grunge across the board so there was no outlet in video for my generation, except for Neil because he was Grandfather Grunge, but since Tony Bennett did it, it must be opening up again!!

Are you down on feminism?

"I think that generally speaking, I'm not down on women's issues, but the feminists come from an Amazon camp, the leadership is made up of man-haters and as a result it has been ineffective because it's too apartheid. We are saying the same things, I'm on your side, I'm a woman! But I think that the feminists created this. Any time you take a stance you come against an opposition. It's kind of a boggling thought in regard to liberty itself, because in my early songs, I wrote "we love our freedom ... freedom!" The deeper I got into it, the harder it was to really find it. It became almost mythological because the more of it I got, the less of it I had. It's so easy, because you and I had different ideas about terminology and we're not in different worlds at all. So there are words like "God," there's a word! Borderlines spring up around that word, orthodoxies, etc."

Re: Ft. McCloud

"I was born in Ft. McCloud, Alberta, and we moved to Calvary when I was a year and a little bit so I was only there for months in my infancy. You think they should put a statue of me there!! (laughter) I went back there a couple of years ago to take a look at it, and my father was stationed there in the service during the war, and we rented a room from a woman named Mrs. Crow, Grandma Crow, I had four grandmas. Grandma Crow was one of them, and she was a Cockney, and she realized that you could program me like a mynah bird, she used to program me with stanzas of poetry, which is interesting, she probably prepared me for all of this, "Barber, Barber shave a pig, how many hairs to make a wig, four and twenty, that's enough, give the Barber a pinch of snuff! [in a Cockney accent]"

Re: The musician's influence

"I don't know what other artists should do but, for me, at a certain point I didn't feel as I entered into this a responsibility, truth and beauty used to be the artistic pursuit. At a certain point, because of the elevation you were given for whatever reason, the church had failed, the government failed, and coming on Woodstock musicians had put in a position of leadership, and I thought, my God, if we have this many ears, then I felt personally that anything that came down my path that was nutritious to me, I had a responsibility to get it into the art, but my peers didn't necessarily feel that. It's kind of in Sex Kills, it was the last night of the riots and I saw this car and it was a stretch limo and the licence plate was "Just Ice" and I started thinking about justice and I got Plato's Republic which was the birth of western thought basically. It was ridiculous. Plato begins with the antagonist asking the people what is justice and all he can find is "just the strong doing what they can, and the weak suffering what they must." Then Socrates says, to have justice you must have a just society and then he creates a society that is just to him, but it would be injust to me, for instance, because it was a society of specialists. You couldn't be a poet, a painter and a musician, you would have to be one of the three, so already I would be pinched. And there were many pinching factors in this society which he created which is the birth of fascism in a way. So I started interviewing people, and I was sitting in a cafe one night and it was quiet in there, and this lawyer came in and he was fine boned and a sensitive looking man and he said he'd been up in San Francisco and there had been a Gay March up there that weekend, and I said, "Oh for the march," and he blushed and said, "no I'm a lawyer," and he had gone up there for something else so I said fine. I said, "What do you think of justice?" And he said, "I don't know, Joni, I'm an ecology lawyer." And I said, "Oh, that's a good job." and he said, "I don't know if you'd be too proud of me, " and I realized this guy was depressed with feelings that he had sold out, so he said to me, "I guess lawyers aren't that popular these days, " and I said, "Not since Robespierre slaughtered half of France!" and he laughed really hard, so I said, write that down! And jackoffs at the office, at that time the Geffen company had a lot of accusations levied at it and also there was this new rape that had been developed called whirlpooling, which was corralling a young girl in a public swimming pool so that it was doubly daring, raping someone in public and in broad daylight. That had become the new sport in New York City and LA so that's where the rapist in the pool comes from. Times were too much with me."

Re: the "Back to The Garden" tribute CD

"I've avoided this question, but I felt that it seemed to me that they had done it under duress because nobody seemed to understand that a chord has melody and a song has words, melody, and chords. So I couldn't really recognize, I mean, I understand the concept of rearranging but I felt that in many cases that the song was completely lost and that the fellow who sang Coyote was a little too tuned into it, unless he's gay, when he sang, "and he drags me out on the dance floor and we're dancing close and slow," I thought he should of re-genderized it. Beat of Black Wings while it was interesting to take it in a kind of a beat chord, all that was left was the words, it was a recitation against rhythms. Maybe if I hadn't written it, but to me that song was so carefully crafted, it's such a dark message, it's from the point of view of a soldier who is really unhappy and the music is so light, it's almost Satie, it counters it, but if you take away that carefully balanced, music being light against the heaviness of the lyric, almost waltz-like, you lose the pathos and go into melodrama. So I felt that a lot of the songs had gone into melodrama theatrically speaking. A lot of them are soliloquies and they require almost Shakespearean disciplines, you have to change emotion quickly in the middle of a sentence, and there is a lot of humor, something for the pits so that the tomatoes don't hit you. Even in some of the darkest things, but if you don't get the right read on it, if you don't get some comic relief before you go in, if you are a listener who wants a lighter feast it's just a little too weighty. So even the more weighty ones I try, honest to God I do!!!

Re: the Edmonton Folk Festival

"I really loved the audience. I loved the interaction. Have you ever been in a black movie house and people yell, "Look out he's around the door!" There was so much comment right after the new songs in the songs. The new songs should communicate, I don't want to become a living jukebox, where people are only coming to live their childhood through me, because I plan on being a vital artist until I lose it or something. I don't have any bookings at this point. I plan to do more of this, the press stuff.

 

Copyright protected material on this website is used in accordance with 'Fair Use', for the purpose
of study, review or critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of the copyright owner(s).

Notice and Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement.


Comments on this article


You can comment using your Facebook profile, or by registering and logging in through this website. Registered comments are indexed and are a permanent part of the website - Facebook comments are not indexed, and may eventually disappear.

» Register and log in to be the first to add a permanent comment.