Title: Picture Disc Interview
Source: Limited edition Picture Disc (Baktabak/ UK, 1989) by Barney Hoskyns. Transcription from tape by "Pieter from Holland" as published on the Tom Waits Library. A more complete version of the interview was published in print as: "The Marlowe Of The Ivories", New Musical Express magazine (UK), by Barney Hoskyns. Alternate version published as: "The Backpages Interview: Tom Waits", Barney Hoskyns for Rock's Backpages, 1985/ 2002
Date: published 1989 (interview from May, 1985)
Key words: Frank's Wild Years (play), New York, Swordfishtrombones, Public image, Joseph Cornell, Acting

Record front cover: NME picture disc (Baktabak UK)

Accompanying pictures
NME picture disc front cover (Baktabak UK, 1989)
NME picture disc back cover (Baktabak UK, 1989). Credits: photography by George DuBose (1985)


NME Picture Disc Interview



BH: I was gonna ask you first of all about the musical which you earlier mentioned. So if you wanna tell the truth and the lie about it? (laughs)

TW: Well actually we're looking for a producer now(1) you know? It's one of those things, you know?

BH: Another director, I heard that you...

TW: Another director, yeah. We got some leads over, we're close you know? It's an enormous undertaking cause it requires mobilizing so many people and ideas and schedules. You know it's a real... It's a... So, it's really complicated you know?

BH: It would be quite a big production? Big for off-Broadway?

TW: Yeah, like Dino de Laurentiis(2), you know. (laughs)

BH: How big is the cast?

TW: I'm not sure, there are about 5 principal characters. It's just a simple ...(?)... old thing you know. It's a story about a eh... you know about failed dreams, about a eh accordion player from a small town called Rainville you know who goes off to seek his fame and fortune and eh... ends up eh hoisted on his own petard(3), I guess they say." And eh... So it's eh... you know?

BH: It's not based then on the Frank of "Franks Wild Years"?

TW: It is.

BH: It is?

TW: Yeah.

BH: How did he come to... say he is not the Frank of the San Fernando Valley?

TW: It's been altered a little bit, yeah.

BH: And Rainville is what? Some town in California?

TW: Yeah.

BH: Some imaginary town?

TW: Yeah. So, he burns his house down, and then he leaves it all behind and he goes off to be an entertainer in Las Vegas.

BH: One thing that I wanted to know is: did his wife die in that house?

TW: No, I didn't want to give the impression that she went up into the smoke in the chimney, no.

BH: She didn't?

TW: No, she was at the beauty parlour...

BH: But the dog went up?

TW: The dog...

BH: Possibly...

TW: The dog may have.

BH: The dog was at the dog beauty parlour. It sounded like the kind of dog that would go to a poodle parlour... A skin disease... (laughs)

TW: Yeah for a hot cone and a... (laughs)... Anyway... but it's you know it's a play in New York and anything that's a little off beat you know eh... Theatre is really like a ritual surrounding, it's very eh well-established and anything that eh... you know when you you're comin' in here from some other place you know, there's not always a place to sit around. So, you wait for a table you know?

BH: Would there be dancing and stuff? I mean would that be in the musical tradition or would it be quite small scale?

TW: A little tap dancing...

BH: Yeah? (laughs)

TW: I would describe it as a cross between "Eraserhead" and "It's A Wonderful Life". I mean, it seems to carry eh... you know, both sides. It's bent and misshapen and tawdry and warm and... something for the whole family, you know?. So...

BH: I probably should mention those two movies... they showed them in the same week over Christmas on the TV...

TW: They we're on the bill together!

BH: No. no, they we're just shown on TV within about 3 or 4 days of each other, at Christmas. I saw them both and I just thought that's so wonderful...

TW: Yeah...

BH: Yeah...

TW: But... So we are looking for a producer and eh it's you know...

BH: And you're looking for money as well? I understood you've got sufficient funds?

TW: Eh... Yeah we have money for the workshop. This is really like a... you know... I don't know how interesting this really is to your readers you know, so I don't wanna make it sound tedious like... business information or anything like that. You know, because a lot of people just right past that. You know?

BH: Yeah. Well I think the song "Franks Wild Years" I think has been very popular, particularly in the UK. But we had it on... you know from New Musical Express and we put out a tape and we have that track on that(4) .

TW: Oh yeah! (laughs)

BH: And I think that track is quite famous and there's probably a few people wondering what happened to Frank, so I think it's of interest.

TW: Okay...

BH: (laughs) So he's on his way to New York to be in the music...

TW: Yeah, he goes to Las Vegas and becomes the spokesman for an all-night clothing store. And eh after winning a talent contest.... He won a lot of money at the crap tables, he got rolled by a cigarette girl, and then he's you know despondent and penniless and then he found an accordion in the trash. You know, one thing led to another and before you know it he's on the stage. And he's... His parents ran a funeral parlor...

BH: In Rainville?

TW: Yeah, and when he was a kid he played the accordion.

BH: Oh I see.

TW: His mother did the hair and make up for the... you know... the passengers. And he played you know like "Amazing Grace" during the ceremony. So he had already started a career in show business as a child. And so this is a chance to get back in the business. The get back onto board you know? So...

BH: Your dad's called Frank isn't he? Is this character at all based on you're father?

TW: No.

BH: So, it's just coincidence?

TW: Oh yeah.

BH: Ehm... how has living in New York been? I mean how is it different in New York from living in L.A.?

TW: It's a hard city, y'know, you have to be on your toes you know?... This is not eh... You know a cabdriver actually said to me... Eh I got the cab and I said "Off to New York man." and he was: "If you could make it here, you could make it anywhere, just like Frank said... " You know... like eh... Sinatra... like Frank Sinatra said. I just fell out.

BH: Yeah... Is it possible to be happy here?

TW: I don't know... Ehm... You know "happy" it's such an transient thing anyway, you know "happy" you know? I mean...

BH: Do you feel physiologically different here, I mean do you ...?... living in New York then you did in Los Angeles?

TW: I could go out on the street and drop my trousers and start singin' "Fly Me To The Moon" and no one would notice. Eh... I could shave my head and put on a dress and and and... pee in a beer glass and. you know?

BH: You would be perfectly accepted and ...?...

TW: Well people have eh... you invent your own apartment that you travel with in New York you know, you have to be a little off-centre because it's overwhelming the things that you see you know? If you stare at your shoes, which a lot of people choose to do in order to be able to make it here. You know? But eh...

BH: Have you stayed longer than you expected?

TW: Ehm... I'm absorbing a lot here, it all goes in some place you know, but it's like collecting eh... butterflies, you know what I mean?

BH: Yeah.

TW: And eh... it's hard to tell what, you know, what real effect it's had on you till you move on. And then you go through the cigar box you know? So I don't know.

BH: Do you miss L.A.?

TW: No....



BH: Has it [New York] produced any kind of new sounds for you in your head? Has it affected the sounds in your head?

TW: Yeah I think so yeah. It may be noisier yeah. Eh, it's like construction sounds you know? You hear them all the time. But I started taping a lot of stuff, so... But you know, how that will integrate itself into what I'm doing, I'm not certain but I started taping the sounds of machinery a lot and I play it back at night, cause you miss it you know? When it gets quiet and you're relaxed... you know? So I play it back at full volume... So I can re-experience the sounds of the day... There's like a pile driver outside on my window... You know what a pile driver is?

BH: Yeah. You got accustomed to that?

TW: Yeah.

BH: Like Miles Davis said, when you can't sleep, the only place where you can sleep in New York is sirens screaming past all night. You can get some decent nights.

TW: Yeah... You get used to it you know. I mean...

BH: How much of Swordfishtrombones... was that all written in Ireland?

TW: ...Yeah, it was yeah.

BH: ...?... kinda construction-site noises on that. ... ?.... It's certainly not an L.A. sounding album. Perhaps you'd moved towards, you know, to a noisier musical environment in your mind already by the time you we're writing that record?

TW: Yeah, I think so...

BH: Is the new material that you are about to go in the studio and record as divers and radical as Swordfishtrombones?

TW: Uh, you know, it's more rhythmic, it's much more rhythmic... And eh...

BH: More rhythmic in a contemporary way?

TW: Yeah, I'd say. Well rhythmic AND contemporary. And I still do use rather a percussionist then a drum machine you know?

BH: On Swordfishtrombones one of the most oddball things ever done...

TW: Maybe this could be even more oddball then that... I mean, oddball for me, y'know it's not... You know: one man's ceiling is another man's floor. I don't know, to me it's gonna to be even... You know the thing is, you have ideas, and the hardest thing is bringing them up and bringing them out and making them as clear on the outside as they were to you before you... so it's like digging a hole you know? And a lot of things don't make the trip. You know? So I... eh for me there are things I imagine and that thrill me and that I wanna hear and that I'm gonna try to accomplish in the studio, but sometimes you only get halfway there you know? The way I'm constructing songs is different now from the way I used to, it's more like eh... more like collage, maybe or something. You know, I'll take this and I'll put that there and I'll nail that to the side and then we'll paint it yellow and brown... you know? Rather then like eh... It's more constructional.

BH: I was fascinated by that "Conversation With Tom Waits" album(5) and hearing you talk about putting the songs together. There was some very interesting ideas. You know, I wish there was more of that. That eh.. you know? I mean you're unusually articulate about how you put songs together. Fascinating. Very interesting.

TW: You know, songs... you know what I usually do is I write two songs and I put 'em in a room together and they have children, you know? I have to start with two, you know? It's like the whole process of writing, you don't know... You know, when you begin... I don't write year around, I write like a season and then I'm done. I would like to be able to write through it all, but you know ... the timing, it's hard, so you say I'm gonna set this time aside and for me a lot of it's like going back to a place where you go a lot, but the season changed and the vines grew over the entrance... and you get back there and you say: well, I'm standing right where I was, how come I can't get back in... and then you realize that things grew over and then you get through that and then you see the little path and then you're on your way, you know? That's the way... and eh...

BH: What do you do the rest of the time, I mean when the writing season is over?

TW: I play golf, I eh... You know, I entertain guests. I'm a member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce; I do bus tours around New York; and I repair lamps...I eh...

BH: I guess playing golf wouldn't be that freakish. I mean, even Iggy Pop took to the therapeutic use of golf...

TW: Oh no, really?

BH: I think so yes. I think it was part of his detoxification process. (laughs)

TW: Oh, that'll do it, yeah!

BH: I think when he stopped, it had become a major part of his life. (laughs)

TW: Well, I don't know. If golf was a part of my life, I don't think I'd ever tell anybody. I think I'd put on sunglasses and a raincoat and sneak off and do it at night. I don't know if I'd be able to be open and candid about my career in golf. But I guess it's all down to how well-adjusted you are...You know, when you realize that you... I used to be more hung-up about who I was, you know? This is me and that's not me, you know? And now I'm more... I don't know... more secure... ...

BH: Yeah.

TW: ... Where does he play by the way?

BH: I don't know. I'm not even sure where he spends most of his time.

TW: You know, I don't know, golf it's eh... Hell, Bing Crosby died on the golf course so...

BH: It's really dangerous.

TW: Yeah that's when... When I read that I said: "this is not for me."

BH: One of the great rock 'n' roll casualties. (laughs)

TW: Yeah, you know the world lost a great golfer, and a great father. And a great American.

BH: A great American!

TW: Yeah, and eh...

Waitress: Have you ordered!?

TW: I don't know. We were going to, but I may have.. I think I'm having a glass of beer.

BH: Do you feel you've escaped the kind of eh prestige cultishness that you had when you we're on Asylum? That kind of coziness. They got all the Eagles, the Jackson Brownes. And they got this oddball character Tom Waits... Do you feel... I'm not saying that Island has given you that escape but do you feel that you've broken away from that rather tied in position you had?

TW: You mean away from that security there?

BH: Well it might have been security, it might have been, I don't know, frustrating as well?

TW: Ehm ... I don't know.

BH: I'm asking because Swordfishtrombones just was such a, for me anyway, break from the previous albums.

TW: Yeah, well it's a break, so you know... So, well you know... you get to the point where the things you hear and see and react to. you can kind of... nail it all together and call it your own you know? I think for a long time I had a certain romance with Tin Pan Alley and that type of thing, and in a certain way the songs were constructed you know? It was actually rather rigid for me, y'know, because I wrote primarily at the piano, and you write a certain kind of song at the piano. The piano brings you indoors immediately, so you know, those types of songs were all a different shade of the same color. Now I'm trying to go out more, outside more. So I write songs about THAT. When you see something, you wanna write a song about what you saw or what you read or what you heard or what you felt about what you saw. Now I'm trying to write more from eh my own eh... maybe more from my imagination, rather than being a chronicler.

BH: Yeah, ...?... Heartattack and Vine and chronicling all of these characters have popped up quite a bit. I'm not trying to pull your leg but eh... rigid you know?

TW: Yeah, sooo...

BH: People don't still hang on to this idea of you as the chronicler, this sort of beat-wino thing, you know. Which is a rather easily assimibable image really. Again, I sorta curve the image they might have of you, particular perhaps the Europeans they might have this idea of this American you know low life ...?... Which, you know...

TW: And they don't want you to sober up...

BH: Yeah, that's it! Which you obviously have. You did at one point say, you know: no more booze songs, and you've more or less stopped at that as far as I'm concerned. But maybe someone cared to notice?

TW: You know, you can't really be too concerned with what people really think of you, you know? You just kinda have to pursue your own eh... You know you're on your own adventure of growth and discovery... And eh... Actually people... You know, like Charles Bukowski said you know: "People think that I'm down on 5th and Main, you know, at the Blarney Stone, you know, throwing back shooters and you know smoking a cigar, you know, but I'm on the top floor of the health club, you know, with a towel in my lap, you know, with a blonde, you know, watching Johnny Carson." So, I mean, it's not always good to be where they think you are, you know? As far as the public goes, you know... Cause when people get like an opinion of you and eh... they're like fortune cookies you know? They kinda got you there and that's where they put you. And eh... if you subscribe to it as well, which is easily done, you know. Cause you don't have to figure out who you are, you just ask somebody else, you know. And if you do that... eh...

BH: Well ehm...

Waitress: Do you have menus, did they give you menus?

TW: No eh..

BH: Well eh actually I'm not really that hungry but I'll have... I could do with a tea, probably.

Waitress: We have herbal tea or regular tea.

BH: Just regular.

Waitress: Okay. You want milk or no milk with that?

BH: Milk... if by milk you mean milk like, cream?

Waitress: Yeah, milk cream sure.

BH: I'd love that, thanks.

TW: Oh I'll have a cup of tea...

Waitress: Regular or herbal tea.... We have herbal tea here, Caramel, Peppermint or Spearemint or ...?...

TW: ...Maybe I have a glass of beer instead.

Waitress: (laughs)

TW: A Briar's.

Waitress: Briar's? Sure! (laughs)

TW: But eh.... So you eh... You know as an artist it's just as important to keep a kind of a... to keep moving you know?

BH: When you were, I mean living the Tropicana life(6), I mean was it ever a pose?

TW: Oh gosh, you know. When I moved in that place it was nine dollars a night. And it was like...

BH: I don't mean the particular location but...

TW: Yeah, it became a. kinda like a eh... like a stage, you know? Because I became associated with the place you know, and people come looking for me, you know? You know, you put your address on the back of an album and people start calling you in the middle of the night you know. So I think I really wanted to kind of get lost in it all, you know? Ehm ... so I DID. When they finally painted the pool black, that's when I finally said: "this has gone too far." The water had gotten so eh... you know? It was a pretty heavy place at times, you know.

Waitress: (serving) Oooh!

TW: That's alright..

BH: Wow... this looks very nice. (laughs) You get a free jar! (laughs)

TW: Oh yeah, it's eh...

BH: I remember an interview in which you said: "I'm not gonna be writing any more booze songs." and the guy then said: "Well he'll probably be stumped(?) for topics."

TW: (laughs) He probably wouldn't be writing anymore!

BH: I'm sure that wasn't the case but was there a kind of, you know, overlap period where you had to re-adjust?

TW: Yeah, of course yeah. You know it's like eh... Yeah, you get a good seat at the bar, you know and eh, and you can see everyone in the room, you know. But you know... But I THINK there are other things to write about. (laughs) But, you know...

BH: Yes. (laughs)

TW: It's funny you know... But eh... you know...

BH: You've said that what you tried to be was a private eye, a kind of Marlowe of the ivories. Is that still a good description that still fits, I mean you are a Private Eye?

TW: I don't know eh... My eyes are a lot more private than they used to be, you know eh, but I don't know. It's a little overly romantic, you know?

BH: I like it in a way. Cause I think it applies more to Swordfishtrombones then perhaps the earlier albums. Because it's like you're ...?... so many different parts of the world. More then you've done before in a very observant, and if you like, getting the first person after the ...?...each song completely inhabit, the scenario that it looks at. Ehm... and there isn't so much the sense of you as the center of the stage you know? So it IS more kind of a private eye You're really entering into these characters in a really quite discrete way... maybe...

TW: Well maybe... You know...

Waitress: Are you fine?

TW: Oh yeah, I'm fine. ...?...

Waitress: Are you sure?

TW: You know it's like eh... There's something very American about taking you know... you know, a piece of wire and you know some broken glass and an old T-shirt and some feathers and you know.... Like the garbage in New York is unbelievable, you know, I mean it's just... thrilling, you know? Things that you see in the trash here are just eh... As a matter of fact, I furnished my entire apartment with things I found on the street you know?

BH: Like "Hollywood ...?... "

TW: What?

BH: Like "Hollywood ...?..." in that Warhol movie. And the other one "Trash".

TW: Oh yeah.

BH: A while ago I went to meet ...?... who makes kinda ...?... sculpture things.

TW: Yeah.

BH: It's what I found pretty... It's one of those things.

TW: I'm very interested in the work of people like Joseph Cornell or eh Schwitters(7), you know?

BH: Yeah beautiful!

TW: ...he used a lot of that. So eh.. and eh... Max Ernst(8). You know, that kinda stuff.

BH: You paint a little don't you?

TW: No I ...?... I just, not seriously. Not really. What I'm trying to eh... I wanted to do a record one time, I wanted to call it "Wreck Collections." W-R-E-C-K, Wreck Collections you know? Cause you end up.. It's like when you're moving? When you're moving and everything's getting thrown in the same box? It's always like eh... Things that you decide to put in boxes with other things. Silver ware and... whatever just end up in the same box you know? That's always interesting to me.

BH: New York, of course, is full of, you know, all these bag ladies who just collect things for the sake of it you know. I mean, for no apparent reason accumulate these fast quantities of useless objects... Ehm...

TW: Yeah one of those woman came up to me and one said, she was at a newsstand and she said: 'Is this the place where the clocks are? Excuse me, sir. Is this the place where the clocks are?' And I said: 'Uh, yeah, this is the place where the clocks are'. And she asked me who I was, and I said: 'I'm Father Time'. And she said, 'Dad!'

BH: (laughs)

TW: ... and she opened her arms, you know? It's like eh... New York makes imposes like that on you because you.. I kinda dismantle it and re-construct it, you know? It's really like a ship, New York, you know? It's something ... It feels like a ship...

BH: Yes.

TW: And you can imagine that this is the galley of the ship that you're on. You know what I mean? Because there's no real indication that... this here's actually on the earth itself, that there's actual earth beneath, you know?

BH: That's very true!

TW: And so you get the sense that you, when you leave Manhattan and you feel as though you're.... You know anything outside Manhattan becomes the ocean.

BH: Yes.

TW: You're just adrift. And you start to get that in your head while you're here. Like when people move to Brooklyn and they feel isolated. And it's only five minutes away, but they say: (with New York accent) "I feel so isolated out here!" But it's just over the bridge, you know? "That's because you got off the ship", you know?

BH: It does strange things to you. I've never... I've been here many time but I've never stayed here more then about two weeks and I don't know whether I really could, it does very strange things to me. It feels like I've been dwarfed, I've been turned into an ant. Which is in a way very therapeutic. It's not so much down here you know, in downtown...

TW: as it is in Midtown...

BH: ...in Midtown, yeah.

TW: At Gridlock there is like... It's not like... it's hard to live with dignity. It is not a very civilized place.

BH: It's just, everything is straight noise. It's up and down. It does strange things to the human spirit. That's what I meant. I had a big rush when I landed there the first days and then, then it just started to do strange things to the ...?... things.

TW: Yeah, like I said before, you have to be a little off-centre. If you don't bend with it, it will snap you.

BH: Yes.

TW: Because it itself, it's, it's off. It's not round, and it's going around and it... and every time it comes around it's in a different place. So if you try to walk a straight line, you know, it will knock you over. And eh...

BH: When you see people that have snapped. I mean the guys in the three piece suits, they don't...

TW: Yeah, but then things like you know eh... you get like a Romanian cab driver who's playing... eh...

BH: Country & Western?

TW: No, you know, Romanian music full blast in his cab and he has a picture of Malcolm-X on the dashboard and he's wearing a Budweiser hat, you know, and he has two different shoes, a tennis shoe and an Oxford, you know, and you say, Jesus! He tells you about a club in Queens. You know, I mean it's insane!

BH: It's a ...?... hard to take.

TW: Yeah. So it's both thrilling, addicting, you know eh... I don't know... And, yeah it requires a special eh ...

BH: Preparation...

TW: Yeah... I don't know.

BH: ... training?

TW: Training, yeah...

BH: I guess sometimes you kinda have to, I don't know, re-orient when you come in. It's like when the astronauts come back down with like a reorientation syndrome. You probably need that when you rise a few classes before you are allowed out on the streets.

TW: But musically eh, the density is interesting. When you go through the types of things that you hear while you're here. And if you remember to put some of them together. It's like a real international ehm... I don't know. If you're listening there's a lot... I usually enjoy things that I misinterpret. You know? You hear music through a wall? And you've missed a couple of beats? And the words aren't what they are? And so but, you hear them and you think that's what it is. Like when you see a stain on the wallpaper in the shape of eh... well Africa. I mean you just... That happens a lot and you're... Cause you're hearing everything filtered through things that are... It's like being on a party line. And eh... But anyway...

BH: It's down the City really where practically everyone's obsessed with the City. And that creates some kind of high pressure.

TW: And money, you have to have a lot of money to live here.

BH: Yes, well I mean. I can't believe the kind of wealth. We've been treated rather well by Island Records on this trip. But I just... But I get to a point where I just have to laugh... A room service single egg cost 3 dollars!

TW: Yeah. You got a deal!

BH: (laughs)

TW: That same egg, two blocks from there, would cost you 27 dollars you know? It's like there are times that New York becomes like a nightmare. There's no logic. You buy eh some cough drops and a... you know a pack of cigarettes on one block and it cost you like a dollar and a half, and then you go on the other side and it costs you seven bucks. You know? I was going down the street looking for a place that repairs chairs, an upholstery place and in the windows of businesses, as I was going by, it was getting more and more desolate. There's a place that sold nothing more but... buttons. Just buttons! Millions of buttons! In all sizes. And then eh next to that was a place that sold eh, you know it was a place for sewing machine repair. And then a place that I saw had a mountain of nothing but silver ware in the window. A mountain of silver ware! You know? It's like eh... It's not logical. A lot of it is not logical... So... but all of that can be stimulating if you can allow it... Afford to enjoy it rather then be pursued by it you know? So it's all what you can afford to appreciate and enjoy and integrate into your experience.

BH: We were talking about the bric-a-brac and you know the trash on the streets and... I think in a song like "Soldier's Things". Ehm, I think the synopsis of it, is a particular American obsession...

TW: Yard sale...

BH: Yard sale, I mean a lot of you're songs depend on this sense of Americana, whether it's collectible things or you know this passion for... chronicling. All the details, all the little bits, the little areas of American life. I'm thinking, can a European really understand that or are in fact Europeans the only people who really appreciate that because it's so far away you know? In other words, do you think maybe a lot of your fans being Europeans who have mystified and are in love with this fast continent of random things?

TW: Yeah, maybe. Eh...

BH: Do you think... that the Europeans can really eh... appreciate the America you have been singing about for 13 odd years?

TW: Yeah, ehmmm. I don't know. They are like pictures you know? I mean, it's like two people come back from the same vacation with different pictures you know? Eh things you choose to remember are entirely different from somebody you went with you know? Some people don't take any pictures at all, you know Sometimes the pictures you really wanted, you couldn't get. So all you do is remember it. The stuff you take pictures of is very easy you know? It's eh... it's hard to go into places that you don't belong, you know? Or that you, you know where you are... I like to go to places where I don't know anyone. You know and be anonymous and just sit, you know, at some place. That's what I usually want you know? To be invisible.

BH: Yeah, that's true.

TW: Ehm sometimes when your face gets recognizable quite a lot. Then you long for the places that you can't go you know? You have to retain a certain amount of that, for the sake of the intrinsic value of what it is that you're doing, so you can go places and...

BH: I suppose the most extreme example of that is probably Thomas Finche(?) who has just remained completely anonymous for eh... for years. For the sake of being able to go anywhere.

TW: It's the fly on the wall. Ehm... eh.... eh...

BH: Would you say that... sorry...

TW: No that's alright.

BH: Would you say that your American fans are still... you once described them, and perhaps rather romantically, as "truck drivers, waitresses and divorcees" (laughs) ... your fast audience of divorcees?

TW: Well I mean it IS diverse. A lot of older people...

BH: Yeah, yeah...

TW: A lot of people come up to me and tell me that. They say: "Well my son...". I had a woman the other day say: "My son played one of your records, and I just flipped!" you know?

BH: Lush songs like 'Ruby's Arms'. Just bold moments.

TW: Yeah they're kinda like eh... kinda lush (laughs). Like eh... I don't know. The song... the Americans... the songs in America ..They do POP songs. Like the function of the American songs really has changed a lot. It used to be like ice ...?... like songs live in the air. And it just, you know... and eh... You know, there's so much... there's like a whole intricate elaborate you know sense of you know of what gets to you and how and when and where and who you know. So it's... I don't know... I don't know... ... Yeah, a lot of people from different walks of life know my songs... and that's a good feeling...


(1) Well actually we're looking for a producer now: Jay S. Jacobs(2000): "Terry Kinney was set to direct Frank's Wild Years, but just a few weeks before it was scheduled to open, Kinney resigned (or was fired) over creative differences with Waits. Steppenwolf's head was actor Gary Sinise (who would later win an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in Forrest Gump and turn in strong performances in Apollo 13, Mission to Mars, Ransom, and Of Mice and Men). Sinise stepped into the breach and became Frank's director. There was some talk of retooling the production - building new stage sets - but by this point both time and money were in short supply. Waits remained calm. He told O' Donohue he felt that such turmoil was "normal. Sometimes the spark comes from a conflict of ideas. It's just wood and lights and people walking around until you somehow bang up against something, and something breaks, and something sparks, and something catches and then it has a life. Until then it's just on the page." (Source: "Wild Years: The Music and Myth of Tom Waits. Jay. S. Jacobs: ECW Press, 2000)

(2) Yeah, like Dino de Laurentiis: Produced several prestigious Italian films in collaboration with Carlo Ponti in the 1950s, before turning to grandiose international productions. After the failure of his massive Dinocitta' Studios in Rome De Laurentiis moved to the US. His taste for overblown spectacle has led to some expensive failures (Hurricane (1979)and Tai-Pan (1986)), though he was also behind such critically lauded productions as Ragtime (1981) and Blue Velvet (1986). In 1984 De Laurentiis unveiled the DEG (DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group) Film Studios in Wilmington, NC, but the venture was a failure and its founder bowed out in 1988. Raffaella De Laurentiis, the second of his four children with actress Silvana Mangano, is a Hollywood-based producer who formed her own company in 1987.

(3) Hoist on his own petard: [Purple Avenue] Caught in his own trap, involved in the danger he meant for others. The petard was a conical instrument of war employed at one time for blowing open gates with gunpowder. The engineers used to carry the petard to the place they intended to blow up, and fire it at the small end by a fusee. Shakespeare spells the word petar. "'Tis the sport to have the engineer hoist with his own petar." (Hamlet, ii. 4.) (Source: "The First Hypertext Edition of The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable", E. Cobham Brewer. � 1997-99 Bibliomania.com Ltd )

(4) And we put out a tape and we have that track on that: unknown/ unidentified tape

(5) That "Conversation With Tom Waits" album: read full transcript: A Conversation With Tom Waits

(6) The Tropicana life: Further reading: Tropicana

(7) Like Joseph Cornell or eh Schwitters: Joseph Cornell: Cornell, Joseph (1903-72). American sculptor, one of the pioneers and most celebrated exponents of assemblage. He had no formal training in art and his most characteristic works are his highly distinctive `boxes'. These are simple boxes, usually glass-fronted, in which he arranged surprising collections of photographs or Victorian bric-�-brac in a way that has been said to combine the formal austerity of Constructivism with the lively fantasy of Surrealism. Like Kurt Schwitters he could create poetry from the commonplace. Unlike Schwitters, however, he was fascinated not by refuse, garbage, and the discarded, but by fragments of once beautiful and precious objects, relying on the Surrealist technique of irrational juxtaposition and on the evocation of nostalgia for his appeal (he befriended several members of the Surrealist movement who settled in the USA during the Second World War). Cornell also painted and made Surrealist films. (� 31 Dec 1995, Nicolas Pioch. The Webmuseum) Further reading and images: The ArtchiveArtcyclopedia

(8) Max Ernst: The German painter-poet Max Ernst was a member of the dada movement and a founderof surrealism. A self-taught artist, he formed a Dada group in Cologne, Germany, with other avant-garde artists. He pioneered a method called frottage, in which a sheet of paper is placed on the surface of an object and then penciled over until the texture of the surface is transferred. In 1925, he showed his work at the first surrealist painting exhibition in Paris. Further reading: Max Ernst Museum