Title: KFOG Interview With Tom Waits
Source: KFOG Morning Show (USA), by Peter Finch, Irish Greg, Dave Morey, Renee Richardson. October 5, 2005. Transcription from tape by "Pieter from Holland" as published on Tom Waits Library. Thanks to Dorene LaLonde for help with transcript. Audio file as published on www.kfog.com (Today on the KFOG Morning Show: Tuesday, October 5), � 2004 KFOG: World Class Rock
Date: Aired October 5, 2004
Keywords: Real Gone, acting, recording, touring

Picture: KFOG studios, Renee Richardson, Peter Finch, Tom Waits, Irish Greg McQuaid and Dave Morey.


KFOG Interview With Tom Waits


KFOG: Tom Waits is in the studio with us... (applause)
TW: (apparently hitting something by accident, followed by laughter)
KFOG: Feel free to play with any of our toys, sir!
TW: Okay, eh I was just eh...
KFOG: Got the drum machine, the Radio Shack drum machine. Not a morning person are you?
TW: No, no, no. I'm up early every morning.
KFOG: I don't believe that for a second sir. With all due respect...
TW: Na, oh no. Ehm I take the kids to school and all that.
KFOG: You DO, you do eh, do you pull up to the school with the kids and stuff?
TW: Yeah, yeah, all that stuff... This is a good gig though, you guys just kinda roll out, you don't really have to like shave or anything?
KFOG: No, we're not on TV, we don't have to look good...
TW: You're unshaven and eh...
KFOG: But we get up at 3 in the morning.
TW: Oh, I see.
KFOG: Yeah, that's the downside...

KFOG: What time do you go to bed?
TW: Well it varies, but if you have to get up at 6, you know, you usually... You know even I can stay up till 4 but I still have to get up at 6, so, you know.
KFOG: We were noting in the Joel Selvin article in the Sunday paper(1) the other day, I mean, you still write about, you know eh darkened bars and smoky rooms, but you're the family guy these days, right?
TW: Ghee, I don't know, I guess...
KFOG: You got kids.
TW: I don't know how much I want you to know (laughter)

KFOG: Well, just tell us as much as... You did, you said Joel didn't elaborate properly on your one comment the other day that career and family don't get along.
TW: Oh, alright yeah!
KFOG: He didn't get into the "dog analogy". What's the "dog analogy"?
TW: Oh it's eh, I said eh: "Career and family is like taking two dogs for a walk that don't like each other".
KFOG: That's interesting you'd say that, because you work with your wife on a lot of your material. This album... I mean that's "career and family" isn't it?
TW: Oh right yeah yeah, well we've been writing together for years, you know, so, it works.
KFOG: Then you're actually not two different dogs in other words?
TW: No, no, I just mean, certain aspects of it are always... you know, one is trying to eat the other, you know?

KFOG: You're son as well makes an appearance on Real Gone(2), right?
TW: Yeah he plays turntables, he plays drums.
KFOG: Is that a first for a Tom Waits record to have turntables and scratching on it?
TW: I did some on ehm... let's see a few albums back... ehm Bone Machine I did some on that, and so did Mule Variations had some ehm turntable stuff.
KFOG: What about the human beat-box thing? Where did you get that idea?
TW: ...
KFOG: I mean it's you making those sounds, right?
TW: Ehm, yeah, yeah, it's me. Ehm and there was some of that on the last record too, on Big In Japan so. You know, something like that. But eh, I don't know, it's kinda like talking to drummers you know. You always find yourself making sounds like that when you're trying to communicate with drummers, when you tell him what you want: boom-chicka, boom-chicka.
KFOG: Yeah, that's right. When the guy from Semisonic was in, he was doing it with his mouth, the drummer. And you recorded some of the vocal rhythms for the new one in your bathroom?
TW: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it sounds good.
KFOG: So you're always looking for wherever the sounds intrigue you?
TW: Yeah, that's not new.
KFOG: Well no I think it's
KFOG: Ha, ha! Why are you people looking at me?!

KFOG: Well no eh, I mean at Bridge School a couple of years ago(3)... I loved your performance and I was wondering: did you have like the floor miked? I mean you were stomping your foot...
TW: Oooh, I was stomping yeah
KFOG: ... and I was wondering if you had it miked or you know...
TW: I had a riser with a mike in it.
KFOG: Okay you did. Okay, yeah, yeah.

KFOG: Tom Waits' new album is called Real Gone and everybody loves it. And that's gotta feel real good.
TW: Oh yeah, yeah, it does feel good. It's out today actually.
KFOG: Cause you've always been, I mean you have a huge, you know, segment of fans and stuff, but this is almost to the point where it's
being universally popularly embraced.
TW: Oh really?
KFOG: Yeah. Everybody is talking good about it.
TW: You mean eh, MANIA?
KFOG: Yeah! Tom Waits mania! Tom Waits mania has hit. Well, that said, you're not gonna have the Britney Spears(4)..., you know, and you don't want, but you don't want that, you don't wanna be splashed on MTV, and you don't wanna be number one with the bullet. Or do you?
TW: Ehhh... no, no. Things are okay the way they are, you know. I don't know if I want her..., her... uhm life you know. Anymore then she would want mine.

KFOG: We play a tune of the new album? We'll do that now.
TW: Okay.
KFOG: This is Tom Waits. The album is called Real Gone. Take a listen to "How's It Gonna End" on KFOG..

(Break: "How's It Gonna End ")

KFOG: Tom Waits on KFOG. The new CD Real Gone on sale today. And off it we just played "How's It Gonna End". At 08:31 on KFOG.
Female caller: Hi, I was wondering if I could talk to Tom!
KFOG: Yeah go ahead, he's right here.
Female caller: Hi Tom, my name is Reesa, how are you doing?
TW: What is it, Reesa?
Female caller: Reesa.
TW: Hi Reesa, honeh.
Female caller: I'm a huge fan, I was wondering if you're gonna be touring at all in the US? I know you're doing some tours in British Columbia, and something over in London and over there, but are you gonna be doing here at all?
TW: Oh maybe in January we'll come here.
Female caller: In January?
TW: Yeah.
Female caller: Okay. Thank you so much. It's such an honour!
TW: Oh, okay.
Female caller: Ok, bye, bye.

KFOG: How is it when people say: "It's such an honour"? Is that kinda weird?
TW: Yeah, a little weird. Yeah, I'm pretty normal. So uhm, yeah, it is a little weird.
KFOG: A little weird. Don't say that to Tom Waits... Eh got a couple of email questions from FOG listeners, if that's okay Tom. From Mark says: "Does it get more difficult to write as you get older?"
TW: ... Ghee I don't know. You know eh... I'd say no. I think it gets easier cause you're head is fuller with stuff you know? I think, ya know.
KFOG: The wisdom that comes with age?
TW: Ghee, I don't know about the wisdom. The grey hair... I don't know ehm... I think, yeah it has gotten easier. Cause I think, something happens when you get older. You been doing it a while so it's just kinda like you can aim it here, point it there, you know. It's just like catching eh... just like catching... rabbits you know (laughter) You've learned, over the years, how to out smart them.
KFOG: Yeah, drawing from more life experience, stuff like that.
TW: I don't think songs really like to be recorded and I think you have to sneak up on 'em, cause, that's my theory anyway.

KFOG: I'm fascinated that you do your work with your wife, so I'm gonna bring it up incessently... But, does she critique you while you guys are working together?
TW: Oh yeah...
KFOG: ...in that process, does she go like, Tom nah that doesn't work?
TW: Oh yeah, well you have to somebody I think you can turn to and say you know "Is this crap?" And I think that you... I think otherwise it probably gets a little bit like the emperor's new clothes. You know? But eh, it works you know? You know she's got a terrific sense of melody and she's a wonderful collaborator. So yeah, we get along great, you know. And then we have big arguments about stuff you know. Just like any couple.
KFOG: How long have you guys been together?
TW: 24 years.
KFOG: Very good.

KFOG: Can I go back to your comment that songs don't want to be recorded? I'm fascinated by that.
TW: Well I don't know. I think that eh for me what I have experienced is that in the studio particularly, there's a time when you realise that the songs start changing when you start recording them because they're about to be captured. What you really wanna do is capture something that's living. It's easy to record, you know. You know if you do 700 takes on a song, chances are there won't be anything left of it by the time you get it on tape.
KFOG: You once said that you would like the experience of having worked in the Brill Building in, whenever that was... in the 60's, these hit-making factories...
TW: Oh, yeah.
KFOG: ... cause you would like to experience having to write when someone puts a gun to your head.
TW: Oh yeah. Well eh, I think, yeah eh deadline is always good. Deadlines are good for everybody. So... yeah. You know I went to a building very similar, when I was living in New York. And there was tiny little rooms and each one had a piano in it and you could sit in a little room and you could hear all the music in the whole building. You could hear opera, you could hear show tunes, you could hear jazz guys, you could hear eh hip-hop guys. And it all filtered in through the wall through the window. And I thought it was gonna be like a quiet room you know, where I could work. Cause I couldn't work at home anymore, it was too loud with the kids, so I went to this building, you know, so I could have a little peace and quiet, and I would hear EVERY kind of music in the world! And so I just sat quietly and listen, you know, for a couple of hours and then I left.

KFOG: I love the imagery in your songs and I know that Tom Waits songs have been used in dozens of movies. But if there was a Tom Waits song that you would like to see turned... or you think would be good& you know, you could see turned into a full length movie, which Tom Waits eh... Oh you have to flip your cassette...
TW: (apparently flipping cassette in the studio)
KFOG: You're recording our interview of you!?
TW: Yeah, my wife wants to hear it. (laughter) We don't get your station.
KFOG: What's your wife's name?
TW: Kathleen.
KFOG: (together) Hi Kathleen! Hi Kathleen!

KFOG: Tom Waits he's with us live on KFOG Morning Show. We'll be back with Tom Waits

(Break: "Hoist That Rag ")

KFOG: Tom Waits on KFOG. His new album is Real Gone, in stores today. He's with us in the studio...
Female caller: Hi. I just want to say hi to Tom.
KFOG: Well okay, go ahead.
TW: Hi, how are you doing?
Female caller: Hi, how are ya? My boyfriend will never believe this!
KFOG: Oh! My! God!
Female caller: He's the one that turned me on to your music. He's only 29, he's younger than I am.
TW: Oh, your son you say? (laughter)
KFOG: (together) The boyfriend!
Female caller: But he loves your music, and he plays it all the time. At first I was like: "Okay, that is different!". Now, I love it!
TW: Oh! Okay!
Female caller: And it's so cool, and I can't believe... When I turned on the radio this morning, I took my son to school and it accidentally flipped and you were on and then they were talking and I thought: "Oh my god, I'm calling!"
KFOG: Here you are.
Female caller: So anyway, I just wanna say hi to Tom. Your music's incredible and I can't wait to tell Michael!
TW: Okay, thanks a lot.
Female caller: So you're not playing anywhere around here?
TW: No, no, maybe after a first of the year we'll play in San Francisco.

KFOG: Tom, if I can follow up on something she just said about your music being "different" when she first heard it. I find that, and Fogheads will call me out on myself, if I didn't say this to you, sometimes I find your music difficult to "get". I don't know what you're trying to do. Do you have any hints for me, a useful primer, or a good place to start with Tom Waits? Do you know what I'm saying?
KFOG: Tom Waits' guide to Tom Waits music, right?
TW: Oh, Jesus I don't know... Ehm you could probably start anywhere. Eh, you mean you have a hard time understandin' the words or wuh..?
KFOG: I guess I'm more of... the melodies I find odd. I think I'm probably just used to things that are more structured.
TW: Oh I see yeah, I lack structure! I've been told that since I was a kid.
KFOG: Really?
TW: Yeah, I lack structure. But that's why I went into music. You know, because I lack structure. So I guess I brought it with me. Ehm, it's not necessarily a bad thing is it?
KFOG: No, no, no.
TW: ... lacking structure.
KFOG: No, I'm not saying that.
TW: You're said it like it was a bad thing! (laughter)
KFOG: No, like The Beatles or The Stones, had structure, and you don't but, that's fine right?
TW: I have structure!
KFOG: Well no I...
KFOG: I have an intro, and a guitar solo and I have like 3 verses and it faded out at the end. That's structure.
KFOG: That's true.
TW: I could be REALLY unstructured. That was really structured.
KFOG: Do you find that it's harder to be structured then it is.... Or to be unstructured then it is structured?
TW: ... ... Ghee, I don't know. These are REALLY tough questions!
KFOG: Shall we yield to a Foghead for a question? Do you demand an answer to that Greg?
KFOG: No, no I just... I don't know.
TW: Domesticated elephants... they found are now stuffing mud in their cowbell, that they wear around their neck. And they're sneaking off at night to steal bananas...
KFOG: ...
TW: ...
KFOG: (laughter) Is it a non-sequeter or is it, does it relate to what Greg said?
TW: No, I'm just changing the subject... (laughter)

KFOG: Okay, let's go to a Foghead. Linda says: "Good morning all from the UK." Linda says: "great to hear Tom and I'm enjoying the new album, looking forward to see you live in London(5). Please tell me why you don't play the UK more often, cause we love you over here."
TW: Oh okay, you individually or as a group?
KFOG: Eh Linda, I think she.... Eh as a group.
TW: As a group?
KFOG: Yeah, she's speaking on behalf of the UK.
TW: Right. Why don't I play over there more often?
KFOG: Yeah.
TW: I don't know, I'm grumpy. And it's a long way to go. You know, that's about it...
KFOG: Okay... ... That's totally okay... Good answer. Eric says eh... Did you wanna hop in?

KFOG: ... "I have a question for Tom Waits. I'm not really familiar with his material at all. Definitely an artist I like to hear more of. Do you, Tom Waits, have a suggestion for a good Tom Waits album to start with?"
TW: Yeah, yeah, the NEW one. The new one's a good one! (laughter)
KFOG: And then, after he's gotten the new one? If he wanted to explore?
TW: Yeah, the one before that.
KFOG: What do you listen to? For your own...
TW: I'm a Sousahead.(6)
KFOG: You're fer for real? You do?
TW: Also...
KFOG: He came in jonesing for some Sousa this morning!
TW: My dad's a big fan of John Philip Sousa, so I was thinking about him this morning and uh... If you had some Sousa, I'd like to hear some Sousa. You know, I mean eh.
KFOG: It's at home.
TW: Ya can always use a little more Sousa in the world.
KFOG: Yeah, we'll bring it tomorrow.
TW: Okay, bring it in tomorrow.
KFOG: I will. And yet there's so few marches on Tom Waits albums.
TW: Well you know, if two people know the same thing, one of you is unnecessary right? So, why would you listen to the stuff that's like you? I listen to stuff that's not like me and find nourishment there.

KFOG: Says, here this is from Patrick: "You received an Oscar nomination I believe in '82 or '83. for a duet that you did with Crystal Gayle. Soundtrack was for the Francis Ford Coppola One From The Heart?(7)...
TW: Yeah.
KFOG: ... have you done any movie soundtracks lately? How does one start with a..." wait a minute that's it... He continues: " ...Have you done any movie soundtracks lately or any plans for that. And how does one start out with an accordion in high school?" Is that, that's the way you started, with an accordion?
TW: Oh, I played accordion a little bit, everybody did when they were in high school. Cause the accordion lessons used to come to the door. They used to sell accordion lessons door to door.
KFOG: "Gee dad, it's a Wurlitzer."
TW: or a vacuum cleaner.. ehm so eh... What was the question?
KFOG: (together) Soundtracks, movie soundtracks.
TW: I do songs for films. Scores are really long and intricate and involved and uhm, I have done it. I did some film music for Jim Jarmusch on one of his films.

KFOG: Duets. You did a tune with Bette Midler years ago. That was actually beautiful. Are you still doing that with other people or are you mostly solo these days?
TW: I make appearances on other people's records, yeah. I don't know what the most recent thing is I did was... Oh, I did a little thing with Los Lobos(8), who I love. But they just send a tape with a song and they say, you know goof around on it and send it back. I said: okay, that sounds good.
KFOG: You got a great song on the Shrek II soundtrack. Is that a deal where sometimes they're making a movie and the director, whoever, says: "God I love Tom Waits, can I try and get one of his song?" or something like that?
TW: Ehm, that was an old song that we re-recorded. We recorded it... It was only in the movie for like 2 seconds. You know that's the thing about movies. That you always got a transient moment.

KFOG: Well and speaking of movies, your other career as an actor, you've been in more than 20 films. Is that just a deal where the directors say: "Get me a Tom Waits type, no we'll get Tom Waits"? or are you friends with these guys and they throw you in their movie? Or how does it work?
TW: Well yeah, I am friends with some of them. But you know, I'm not really an actor. You know, I do some acting. It's kinda like your plumber who does a little electrical. (laughter). But I like it, I get a kick out of it.
KFOG: What are you happiest doing? Being at home with the wife and kids, or making music or...?
TW: Yeah writing, I like writing. I like recording you know. I guess that's my favourite thing.

KFOG: Would it be okay with you if you just put out records, and you know, did your theatre stuff an movies and never, you know, ventured out& beyond that? That you know, you could just work away, make art, and not be bothered by other people.
TW: Oh, (laughs) eh... I'm not bothered by other people! (laughter)
KFOG: No I'm not suggesting that you are! Except you! (meaning the other DJ)
TW: You mean about touring and like that?
KFOG: Yeah.
TW: Well touring's always hard, cause you're dealing with the physics of different theatres and it's always... Once I get out there, I like it. You know, but it's just hard to push me out there. But uhm, we're going, we're goin'. Ehm pretty soon we're gonna do a show in eh, 2 shows in Vancouver and on in Seattle coming up in I think in October, this month.
KFOG: Boy, do we appreciate the time this morning. Thank you for coming by. Tom Waits' new album. Everybody loves it, it's called Real Gone, it's in stores today.


(1) Joel Selvin article in the Sunday paper: Read article: San Francisco Chronicle. October 3, 2004

(2) You're son as well makes an appearance on Real Gone: Casey Xavier Waits played on the 4-track album 'Hold On' (1999). Drums and co-writer ("Big Face Money"). The album 'Real Gone' (2004). Turntables (Top Of The Hill, Metropolitan Glide), Percussion (Hoist That Rag, Don't Go Into That Barn), Claps (Shake It), Drums (Dead And Lovely, Make It Rain). Production crew. Casey also stepped in a couple of times for Andrew Borger (drums) during the Mule Variations Tour (Congresgebouw, The Hague/ The Netherlands. June 21, 1999)

(3) At Bridge School a couple of years ago: Annual Bridge School benefit (Neil Young's Charity) at the Shoreline Amphitheatre. Mountain View/ USA. October 30, 1999

(4) Britney Spears: Mainstream American singer. Famous for being commercially exploited

(5) Looking forward to see you live in London: Carling (Hammersmith) Apollo theatre. London/ UK. November 23, 2004

(6) John Philip Sousa: American composer/ conductor (1854-1932). Known as "King Of The Marches". Further reading: John Philip Sousa

(7) One From The Heart: Further reading: One From The Heart

(8) I did a little thing with Los Lobos: "The Ride". Los Lobos. May, 2004 Label: Hollywood Records/ Universal 162443. TW contribution: featured on "Kitate" with Martha Gonzalez