Title: Gente de Express�o
Source: Brazilian TV series: (Rede Manchete). Interview by Bruna Lombardi. Credits: Produced by: Jean Pierre Manzon. Transcription from tape by "Pieter from Holland" as published on the Tom Waits Library
Date: ca. 1992/ 1993 (post Bone Machine). Aired 1993
Keywords: Bone Machine, writing, Tropicana, childhood, kite flying, suicide, Kathleen

Accompanying pictures
Source: TV screenshot from Gente de Express�o (Brazilian TV series: Rede Manchete, 1992). Interview by Bruna Lombardi. Date: ca. 1992. Credits: Produced by: Jean Pierre Manzon
Source: TV screenshot from Gente de Express�o (Brazilian TV series: Rede Manchete, 1992). Interview by Bruna Lombardi. Date: ca. 1992. Credits: Produced by: Jean Pierre Manzon
Source: TV screenshot from Gente de Express�o (Brazilian TV series: Rede Manchete, 1992). Interview by Bruna Lombardi. Date: ca. 1992. Credits: Produced by: Jean Pierre Manzon
Source: TV screenshot from Gente de Express�o (Brazilian TV series: Rede Manchete, 1992). Interview by Bruna Lombardi. Date: ca. 1992. Credits: Produced by: Jean Pierre Manzon


Gente De Express�O


(Movie outtake: Tom Waits in "Cotton Club")
(Portugese intro)


BL: You are a songwriter, a poet, an actor. You think you put your whole soul, you know, your whole self in everything you do?
TW: Eeehm... you know, sometimes... not every time. Sometimes you're all out of Tabasco, so... (makes pouring gesture)
BL: Spice it!
TW: More Tabasco, you gotta go...
BL: On fire!
TW: ... you know.
BL: And sometimes just a soup, a plain soup.
TW: It's a nice plain soup. With a little bit of pepper. You know with a napkin and a silver spoon.
BL: Sometimes very clean, sometimes diving in the dirt...
TW: In the soup!
BL: In the soup. In the Tabasco!
TW: Of the spoon and into the soup. Sometimes... what were we talking about?
BL: (laughs) Tabasco! Spices, the hard times!
TW: Oh yeah.
BL: You were talking about the heat.
TW: Okay, yeah.
BL: You know, you've have had a lot of jobs. Waiter, pianist in the Tropicana Motel.(1) What are your memories of this period?
TW: Well you see, now that was a hotel, you know, that was really a businessmen's hotel and started out as a nine-dollar-a-night motel for like Fuller Brush men and people who were down the road from a road trip. It wasn't really any musical first time I came there. Although it had been nearly fixed these. It had fallen into this kind of... I don't know, the people who used to stay there were... you know people of nine dollars a night... you know, you're gonna attract a certain crowd. And slowly it got a reputation for bands. A lot of bands started staying there. And I had a place in the back and I was very happy back there. Eh... fresh towels, clean-up maid, it was very nice. They painted the swimming pool black, that was the last thing I remember they did there.
BL: A black swimming pool?
TW: Yeah, a black swimming pool yeah. It's like painting your teeth black so you don't have to brush them anymore. And I knew that it was really finished for me there.
BL: You said: "That's enough!"
TW: That's enough, yeah.
BL: "I can't stand it anymore." That's the last draw?
TW: Yeah it was the last draw of Tabasco for me.
BL: And then?
TW: Eh, oh I moved to New York and I lived in a lot of different places.
BL: And have you been through really, really rough times in your life?
TW: Eh, well two different kind of times.
BL: Rough?
TW: like everybody else. Yeah, I've been through some rough times.
BL: What is a rough time?
TW: Pow! (mimics boxing move)
BL: Pow? (copies boxing move)
TW: Well ehm..
BL: Mmm. Mmm..
TW: Well some of them were rough at the time, but as I remember them, they were actually kinda funny.
BL: Because you said: "I like things that are kind of falling apart." Do you feel that is above yourself sometimes?
TW: That I'm falling apart? Eh while we're on the show?
BL: Ha, ha (touches Waits's knee). Wonderful.
TW: Eh falling apart. Well, when you come from a broken home you'll always feel attracted to things that are also broken. You don't wanna find something that's broken and then put it all together, you're gonna feel sorry for that broken radio and that broken guitar. You know, you will.
BL: You also sorry that you're trying to fix it?
TW: Yeah.
BL: Yeah?
TW: So, that's normal.
BL: You went through a self destructive period in your life?
TW: Gee, I don't know. Yeah, I guess perhaps I did. Eh... Yeah, yeah. So... but...
BL: I mean alcohol, drugs, you know...
TW: Everything baby!
BL: You tell...
TW: (laughs) I'm gonna tell you right here with the cameras and all the terrible things I did. You turn off the cameras and I'll tell you.
BL: Okay, let's do it right now. Put it out!
TW: (Laughs)


BL: Your lyrics talk about: suicide, murder. How far do you allow yourself to go?
TW: Not far enough.
BL: I know, you're still here.
TW: Well, I think you have to look down You know the biggest drawback to making these things really work at itself is, you really have to face your own inability to go forward. I think in stories and in songs, you get a little scared sometimes, you're uninhibited, or you're nervous or worried. Or you don't wanna go too far from home. Just like when you were a kid. How far? I used to have like fly a kite. I had to make the kite look this big in the sky. I had like thousands and thousands of feet of string. Until the kite would disappear. And I could barely...
BL: You didn't take then the risk to have it disappear?
TW: No, you know I...
BL: Cut, just cut?
TW: And then I'd go look for it. And I'd go everywhere. And I'd go ten miles away and in everybody's backyard. People I didn't know. There were dogs that I didn't know and there were strange neighborhoods and I was just looking for my kite. And I found it sometimes. It was a big thrill to find a kite that was that small in the sky (points upwards).
BL: After you cut it...
TW: Yeah...
BL: ... on purpose. In this album (Bone Machine), there are so many references to death...
TW: Oh yeah (laughs)
BL: Have you ever come very close to suicide?
TW: Me?
BL: Who else?
TW: I thought about it. Everybody's thought about it. What would it feel like? For people who are very depressed, thoughts about suicide are like erotic thoughts. These are the thoughts you toy with that make you very excited. The idea.."Ending it all... " You know it's really thrilling. You can do this fast (mimics hara-kiri move). But for me, I don't know. I thought about it, from a dramatic stand point. I don't think... and If I had really been thinking about it, it already would have happened.
BL: You would try?
TW: I never tried it. You know, well I think about it.
BL: And murder?

(Outtake from Tom Waits in video clip for "Going Out West")
(Portugese intro)
(Movie outtake from Tom Waits in "Cold Feet")


BL: And murder?
TW: Murder, no I haven't. Oh yeah, I thought about murder too! The idea of murdering a stranger though it always seems ridiculous. But if you wanted to murder someone, it should be a family member. Cause you have all these stand up resentments and anger towards people in your family and if you're going to really do the big one, it shouldn't be someone you don't know. It should be someone you really can communicate with. You've had an ongoing thing and finally... you know?
BL: Shakespeare, Greek tragedies.
TW: I'm not encouraging that. You just asked me and I eh...
BL: That's true.
TW: I'm just...
BL: No because, you thought about this. So it's in your world. Thoughts.
TW: Yeah it's in my thoughts.
BL: Have you ever been in therapy?
TW: Eh...
BL: What for?
TW: You mean, have I gone to a psychiatrist?
BL: Yeah, a shrink. You know, someone to talk.
TW: Eh, yeah I've been to a shrink.
BL: Really?
TW: But it was, you know expensive.
BL: Oh for sure, they're very expensive!
TW: (laughs)
BL: You've sold your problems, but you got completely broken!
TW: Bartenders are much cheaper.
BL: (laughs) What do you do when you want to escape? I mean, when you really want to get away from it all?
TW: You know what I do, I get it up to about 90... on a wet road, just curbing... at night. Then I turn off the lights and slam on the breaks. The kids love it!
BL: (laughs)
TW: They scream. Spin around!
BL: (laughs) Oh gosh! And when you went to the shrink, could you decide, you know, the lines between the insanity and that sort of balance that you try to sell us?
TW: I don't know who I am.
BL: Do you?
TW: I think that they will draw the line for you. You know, the difference between...
BL: And do you?
TW: My line is like this (draws curved line in the air). You know. And you can change the line anytime you want.
BL: You can cheat on it sometimes?
TW: Erase the line.

(Outtake from Tom Waits in video for "Going Out West")


BL: Do you have any dreams, that something that you would like, you know, that you imagine you were doing?
TW: ... Mmmm, going into space with a band. I'm gonna write that up as a proposal.
BL: Yeah, as you said.
TW: I don't know what I would like to do, when I'm not eh... I like to think that I can pretty much do what I would like to. And I can find a way to make it happen. You mean with something... I don't know.
BL: ...
TW: I'm gonna think about it and you will have to come back.
BL: I promise to come back.
TW: Okay.
BL: What can't you live without?
TW: My wife, my kids. My family.
BL: And what can't you live with?
TW: A dog. (laughs)
BL: Oh yeah!?
TW: Oh yeah, there's the dog, he is terrible.
BL: Talking about your wife. Your wife she co-wrote the songs with you. How does it work? You know, your relationship working together?
TW: It's great really. It's... To collaborate with someone, you have to come from totally different backgrounds. Otherwise one of you is unemployed in the collaboration. She's a elapsed catholic. She's from Illinois. She grew up on a farm. So she has... Her background in music is from her own.. She invented herself. From church music and Irish music. She has her own mythology. It has changed the way I hear music, because when I started working with her, I think she changed the way I hear things and see things. The way I hear music. So I think we complement each other.
BL: But how has she influenced you?
TW: Maybe more rhythmic, more fearless, more percussive. Making instruments: "Make your own instrument, you don't have to play that if you don't like that! Make one yourself, make one that sounds better." Like this sound (shakes something standing beneath the two). "Put that in a song! What do you want? Have courage! Be bold. Be like a wizard. Be like doctor Frankenstein. Make what you want. Wait for the storm. Put the wires on his neck and he'll get up and walk." And I believe it.
BL: Weren't you before...
TW: Eh, wasn't I... before? You see I think that I... You know we all grow and hopefully we will grow strong. Not always straight. But we grow stronger. And then develop more courage about what we want to do with music and whatever... Eh, and before I think, I was more scared and I... See I was like an old man in the corner with too much wine.
BL: So you've changed a lot since you met her?
TW: Oh yeah. (... ? ...)
BL: How long ago?
TW: Twelve years.
BL: So this marriage seems to have changed you really and...
TW: Yeah.
BL: Yeah. Have you mellowed?
TW: Well, you see...

(Movie outtake from Tom Waits in "The Outsiders")
(Portugese intro)


BL: Have you mellowed?
TW: Well, you see... eh I don't know. I don't really like to think of myself as having mellowed. I mean mellowed is usually the word... It's I don't know. It usually means that you've quieted down and I think I'm getting louder.
BL: No I don't think you have quieted down, you are so restless you know, you are always in the creative process. You can't stop. Is it easy to work with her and to discuss how it works?
TW: Yeah, we discuss every thing. With music you need sometimes someone just to push you into the water. And have you go. You need somebody also to be able to say to you, "This is shit, it's nothing! You wrote this a thousand times! It's really just trash! Get rid of it!"
BL: And you listen to her?
TW: You have to respect someone enough to know that they're giving you constructive criticism. And I'll do the same to her.
BL: Sure. You've been married three times...
TW: (laughs) I've been married three times!?
BL: Am I wrong? Did I miss something?
TW: No, I don't know who told you I was married three times!
BL: (laughs) No?
TW: No.
BL: More, less?
TW: I only married once.
BL: Oh really?
TW: Yeah (laughs)
BL: No other women?
TW: No!
BL: Maybe you forgot?
TW: No I didn't forget! (laughs) No! Married three times! Who told you that I was married three times? Where did that come from?


BL: When did you find out the poetry, you know that you could write your feelings and...
TW: Well, I've been writing songs for a long time, but my early songs I can't even listen to my early songs. I said: "They're like baby pictures for me." I said: "Oh boy, ooph." Then I got more assured and... They're... like na�ve if you look at the things that you wrote when you were very, very young. You say: "Well this is so na�ve" and you know so...
BL: Innocent?
TW: Yeah, that was before I had my bioflexior generator (points backwards). And eh, so now that I got my bioflexior generator I am able of much more...
BL: And another man?
TW: Yeah.


TW: I like eh, you know I like my coffee in the morning. I make the coffee. That's always a big moment.
BL: What time?
TW: About seven (looks away)
BL: Mmm...
TW: What do I like to do?
BL: Well do you always get up early in the morning?
TW: Oh yeah I do.
BL: How is your daily routine? What do you do?
TW: I go out and dig around in the yard. Look for bones. You know, water the rosebush. (laughs). There'll be days that are different. Lately I've been, you know, I am building a lot of stuff. I'm "working" lately. So I haven't had much time but... Ehm you sleep you know eh...
BL: What time do you create?
TW: In the morning.
BL: In the morning!?
TW: Yeah.
BL: Oh is it?
TW: I mean my sessions, my recording sessions are always at ten o'clock in the morning. Everybody hates it but me. But I think this is the best time cause everyone's clean and everyone is empty.
BL: I wanna say, thank you.
TW: Oh!
BL: (shakes Waits's hands) Thank you for your interview and your songs. And your... moment.
TW: Okay!

("In The Coliseum")


(1) Tropicana Motel: Further reading: Tropicana Motel full story