Title: KCRW-FM: Morning Becomes Eclectic
Source: audio tape. Transcription (excerpts) by Gary Tausch as sent to Raindogs Listserv Discussionlist, August 7, 2001
Date: October 3, 1988
Key words: Big Time, Acting, Tropicana, Voice, Chuck E. Weiss


KCRW-FM: Morning Becomes Eclectic


Interviewer - Do you like being in the limelight?
I guess I do. I do, I don't. Half of you is saying "Notice me.", the other half is saying leave me alone. It's a bit ambiguous. You want people to recognize what you do. At the same time you don't want to have to do it all the time every day. The idea with the film, Big Time, was you put the film out there, the film can go on the road and I can stay home. That was the idea but then I end up having to go out and do interviews. It's getting mixed reviews, I guess that 's what they call it - mixed reviews. One reviewer said, "Piano teachers will be shocked." which is one of my favourite reviews. Another guy said it looked like it was filmed in the stomach of a very sick animal. Now those were the good reviews. I recommend it.

Interviewer - are you a private person?
I'm private. Yeah, I'm private, someday I'll be a lieutenant but right now I'm just a private.

Interviewer - does your acting in films have an influence on your songs?
Just small parts. I'm getting a bit more courage about putting some optical illusions in the songs as I become more aware of visualization of music. I start with an idea that's visual and then kind of score it, I get ideas from that all the time.

Interviewer - which is your favourite "character" in Big Time?
That Buddy Greco Las Vegas Halloween cruise ship nightmare is my favourite. The white jacket and the scratches on the film. I think that's my favourite moment. A friend of mine was in the car with his mother and he put on that "Straight To The Top" and she looked over at him and said, "I didn't know that Sinatra had a new album out." and she was dead serious. I'm not bragging, just somehow she thought that was Frank and I thought - well, that's pretty good I guess.

[Tom plays a song from a New Orleans compilation CD - "The Getback" by Joe "Guitar" Morris]

On the Island albums being a departure from previous work.
Up until that point I'd been paranoid about percussion. I'd been terrified of drums for some reason. I started becoming a bit more adventuresome, at least for myself, and trying to bring things up and out that were in there that I couldn't reach before that. I guess you get to an impasse periodically, creatively, so you kind of have to take a hammer to it - so I did.

About his older songs.
I can listen to some of them. All songs are different, some are made out of paper and you just fly them across the room and they hit the wall and you're not always sure when you've written something how long it's going to last, whether it's gonna dry up or if it's still gonna be nagging you in 10 years. Some songs, the more you sing them the better you understand them, other songs you sing once and it's all over, just like stories or jokes or riddles or poems or rumours or gossip.

Interviewer - how do you feel about the Tropicana(1) and that lifestyle now that you're a respectable family man?
Well, you've practically got me going to church there. It wasn't that bad, it doesn't seem that long ago. I guess my life's different now. When I moved into the Tropicana it was $9.00 a night and it was one of those out of the way places, about a block away from the Alta Cienega, which is another one of those "Murder Motels" but it's changed a lot. That bowling alley that used to be there changed hands 4 or 5 times and I think they're selling slacks there now. If you live in Los Angeles things change so rapidly.
Places that you used to go, if you leave town for 2 or 3 months, chances are they'll tear down the gas station or the donut shop or the cleaners where you go. The hotel is gone so I guess it kind of stimulates your imagination about it once you tear down the place where it all happened. The stories get taller as the building gets shorter.

On his voice.
You shape your voice and your voice shapes you somehow. I guess I used to force it more. Now I find it's very popular for people to scream into their pillows to change their voices. It's becoming the very in thing. If you don't like your voice you scream into your pillow and then you get that little bird in there, that little edge, that little sharp ..., that little hoarseness, I guess it's like your mom tells you don't cross your eyes or they'll stay that way. I think that's what happened to me. I like to make big noises with it. I'm trying to learn different things to do with it. In the studio I have some levers on it so I can control it. I can shut it off or I can put it on full.

Interviewer - were Beefheart & Kurt Weill musical influences on the Island records?
I changed the instrumentation primarily. I started working with different people.

[The rest is a phone in - very little of interest]

On Chuck E. Weiss
I've known Chuck for about a hundred years. I go down there to the Central(2) and see Chuck E Weiss and The Goddamn Liars, that's a damn good show, a good place to be on Monday nights.

Why not write poetry?
Books are so quiet. They just sit there on the shelf.

I think Charles Bukowski is one of the greatest American poets.


(1) How do you feel about the Tropicana: Further reading: Tropicana Motel.

(2) Down there to the Central: L.A. venue now called the "Viper Room". Weiss played there for eleven years before the place hit hard times. It was about to close down when Chuck called his friend, actor Johnny Depp. The new club Weiss and Depp put together on the site of the old Central on Sunset Boulevard became the instantly trendy Viper Room. It quickly became a favorite haunt where Hollywood's young and beautiful set could mingle amongst some of the town's seedier rock and roll elements. The Viper Room became a huge success, even weathering the tragedy of actor River Phoenix dying outside the club in 1993. Further reading: Rickie & Chuck