Title: The Music Week Interview
Source: The Music Week, with Mark Sutherland and Julie Cullen. 6-Music, BBC radio. Transcript from tape by "Pieter from Holland" as published on the Tom Waits Library, 2004.
Date:aired November 26, 2004
Keywords: Real Gone

Picture: Mark Sutherland and Julie Cullen, 2004


The Music Week Interview

"The Music Week" with Mark Sutherland and Julie Cullen. BBC's 6-Music.

"How's It Gonna End"

JC: How It's Gonna End, by Tom Waits. He was, without question, the hottest ticket in Britain this week(1). Seventeen years after his last UK appearance(2), the legendary twisted bluesman played a one-off show at Hammersmith Apollo

MS: Yeah, Thom Yorke, Johnny Depp, Jerry Hall, Tim Burton and Fatboy Slim, were among the celebrities checking him out at the gig. Why wasn't I invited Julie!?

JC: Yeah, I know... You know, I think we were busy that night blowdrying our hair Mark.

MS: Well you might have been, but I don't think I can say that would keep me busy all night, to be honest with you. But 6-Music's Andrew Purcell was there and he also managed to grab some exclusive words from the man himself..

Tom Waits: "Oh man, you want me to give you a whole retrospective here! I hate Memory Lane! I'm not gonna give you an answer to that anyway. And I rarely will elaborate, you know. Because it doesn't really interest me."

AP: Tom Waits has never played the music industry game. Every few years he emerges from his family home in "Nowhere, California" with a new album, written with his wife Kathleen Brennan. He does a couple of interviews, he plays a few gigs, and then he disappears again. And yet he remains one of the most influential and revered artists alive. Inspiring everyone from Nick Cave, Gomez, Beck, Sparklehorse, P.J. Harvey and, perhaps surprisingly, young British bands like: Hope Of The States. Here's their leadsinger Sam Herlihy...

SH: "I've got like every Tom Waits record, but I've realised that I've listened to sort of 5 songs of this one, and 6 songs of that one. So I've been listening to new songs I had never heard. And I found my new favourite song ever written. It's called "Tom Traubert's Blues". I'm gonna see if I can get him sing it with me on the next record. But... that's unlikely to happen."

"Hoist That Rag"

AP: There's no denying that the trademark growl is an acquired taste. As Suzanne Vega once admitted.

SV: "I feel like I ought to like Tom Waits and I've tried many times to like Tom Waits and I buy his albums and I listen to them a few times but I find they never make their way back onto my turntable. And I'm not sure why that is. Maybe it's because I'm having trouble getting past his voice."

Tom Waits "Well it's (..?..). It's ventriloquism for fun and profit. Yeah, it's an instrument. Yes, you can call it an instrument. It's my instrument mostly."

AP: It's worth remembering that he didn't always sound like Fuzzy Bear on the wrong end of the Tequilla binge. At his first label Asylum, he wrote beat poetry for the piano while everyone else was growing their hair and "freaking out".

Tom Waits: "I mean, in the old days, yeah, I would go into a room with a piano and an ashtray and a bottle and come back with all the songs. I had my little, my own little Brill Building."

AP: At Tuesday's gig the piano wasn't even wheeled on stage untill the encores. Performed: "Come On Up The House", "Invitation To The Blues" and "The House Where Nobody Lives." The new album Real Gone had dominated the first half of the set, plus one each from Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs and Franks Wild Years. The fans who've waited a VERY long time:

Fan 1: "I thought it was worth waiting 17 years for, really."

Fan 2: "The best thing in the world ever, was the second half of the set when he got on the piano doing what he should do all the time. Which was absolutely astounding. It was amazing."

Fan 3: "How he can just sustain that for so long... Right from the word "go" when he came on stage, he just gave everything."

AP: Talking to fans like those afterwards, it struck me that Tom Waits inspires such level of respect, because of his awkwardness, because he genuinely looks and sounds like no one else. Famously, when the world was hooked on cocaine glamour and glossy production, he made Swordfishtrombones. Sparse, surreal, like the disintegrating dreams for generations being thrown down the kitchen stairs. He may not return to Britain for another 17 years, but his work here is done.

Tom Waits: "You are providing some little, you know, opportunity for somebody who is much younger than you to hear you. You know, I mean, songs don't go to school and then you do it. You just listen to other people's records and figure out how they did it. So now I'm doing that and maybe some little kid is "Say, who's that guy that sounds like a cherry bomb?!" You know? "I wanna sound like him!"


(1) The hottest ticket in Britain this week: The concert was an instant sell-out, with 78,000 people attempting to buy tickets in the first hour of the box office opening.
- Fiona Sturges: "At �65 a ticket you'd hope to be left slack-jawed in wonder by stage hydraulics, flame-throwers, dancing girls and at least a dozen costume changes. But supply and demand being what it is, instead we get an old goat in a dusty suit shaking a pair of maracas. What's more, he's half an hour late, though what's another 30 minutes when you've waited 17 years?" (Source: "Tom Waits, Hammersmith Apollo Half an hour late, but after 17 years, who cares?" The Independent. By Fiona Sturges. November 24, 2004)

(2) Seventeen years after his last UK appearance: November 19-22, 1987: Hammersmith Odeon. London/ UK (Franks Wild Years tour)