Title: Tom Waits
Source: Big Brother Skateboarding magazine (USA), by Russell Bongard. Transcription by Dorene LaLonde as sent to Tom Waits Library, July, 2002. Photography by Anton Corbijn
Date: telephone interview. Published: July, 2002
Keywords: Alice, Blood Money, Ozzy Osbourne, Nic Cage

Magazine front cover. July, 2002. Thanks to Dorene LaLonde for donating magazine

Accompanying pictures
Entire article. Picture by Anton Corbijn. Thanks to Dorene LaLonde for donating magazine


Tom Waits


Everyone loves Tom Waits. And the reason is because he's getting old, and if you don't love him now it may be too late. But Tom's son, Casey, is young, and so are we, and therefore he loves us. And we love him because without him telling his dad to do this interview we would have never gotten Tom on the phone.

Tom Waits by Russell Bongard

Tom Waits is fun to talk to. He has the kind of voice that would sound like anyone's voice who just swallowed a mouthful of broken glass and was trying to wash it down with a glass of cobra venom. He agreed to this interview because his son, Casey, is a fan of the magazine. When the publicist found out I would be doing the interview, she got very disappointed because she thought she had made it very clear that Casey would very much like to have his father talking to the one and only Dave Carnie(1), who he thinks is just peachy. Dave gave me the interview because he thinks that publicists are smelly and does not care to be anyone's peach.

- What do you know about Big Brother?

* Oh, my boy reads the magazine. He's 16.

- Are you aware of the contents of this magazine, sir?

* You mean there's things in there I'd have no idea about?

- It is full of naughty articles. A potty-mouthed based magazine, if you will. It definitely encourages a lot of pooing.

* You mean you're giving me an opportunity to jump ship right now?

- No. I just wanted you to know about the types of things your child has been reading.

* Well, then from now on he'll only be able to look at it from across the room. But to be honest with you, I've had people call me and criticize the magazine for some of its content. But I realize that boys will be boys.

- So you've been telling all your friends that you're going to do a Big Brother interview?

* Oh, yeah, everybody knows.

- But isn't your son the same kid who once mentioned something about digging up someone's corpse(2) and using the teeth to make jewelry?

* Well, you know, the way I look at it is that when you're 16, lots of things pass through your mind, but I think he has an adequate filtering system.

- Okay, speaking of 16-year-olds, have you been watching the Osbournes(3) these days?

* You know, I haven't seen it because I don't have a TV.

- They had six million viewers last week tune in to watch that old man.

* I don't know what to say about that. The only thing I can think of is why would you want to submit your whole family to something like that?

- Well, it's MTV. It's like the education network.

* But a man has to value his privacy. If you don't know where to draw the line, then you won't have any life at all. Now, why he'd want to do that, I can't imagine, unless he's on medication.

- Well, he's the same guy that snorted a line of ants off the rim of a swimming pool if that's any indication. Have you ever met him?

* Yeah, I've met Ozzy.

- Is he cool?

* Oh, he's a gentleman. Very informed. Well mannered. Never says bad words. We've discussed mostly physics and high finance, so go figure. He's not the guy you think he is. I actually met him over at Nic Cage's house.

- Speaking of Nic Cage(4), I understand that you're friends with him. Does he take your advice?

* I can't be absolutely sure of that.

- Well, this is just my opinion and the opinion of a million other people, and that is that he needs some good advice from a close friend on picking better roles these days.

* He's made a lot of great pictures.

- I agree, but it's his choices lately. I mean Captain Corelli's Mandolin versus Wild at Heart? I mean, c'mon. That is not the same person.

* Easy, easy. There are many rooms in the house of madness, you know? Enter them all, son, before you finish.

- I suppose I can't argue with that. Okay, so you're releasing two new albums this month, Alice and Blood Money, correct?

* That is correct. I got tired of carrying all those folks around in my head without paying rent, so I said, go out there and make Dad some money.

- That's very Guns N' Roses of you. Are you going to tour at all?

* I'm not up for that.

- I'm not either. When was the last time you had a booger on your sleeve.

* Is that one of Larry's questions?

- No, he was out tuning up the golden wheelchair when I came up with that one.

* Did you know that the male spider, after he strings three strands on his web, goes off to the side and reaches out with one leg and strums them? The sound that it makes attracts the female spider.

- No, I didn't know that. Is the sound recordable? Because if anyone can do it, it's you.

* Well, we can only imagine and dream what the sound might be like.

- Seductive I'm sure.

* Well, isn't that what we're all doing? Putting out mating calls?

- Do you think that was what Frito-Lay(5) was thinking when they messed with you a while back?

* Oh, right. That was a long time ago. Yeah, we nailed 'em. It was David and Goliath.

- I heard the numbers were quite astronomical at the end of the day.

* Well, they should be when you bring down a big cartel. They were lame. The problem with a big company like that is that its hands don't talk to its feet, and nobody knows what anyone else is doing. In this case, it was an ad agency that hired a fan of mine actually, in Texas. And they paid him like 60 bucks to come in and do an impersonation of me. Then, a little later, I was doing a radio interview, and the guy says we have to break for a commercial, so he punches that ad in.

- I'm sure that was an early-morning wake-up call for you.

* Well, yeah, I said that guy sounds just like me. I mean, there's a lot of things I can't remember, but I think I would have remembered doing that. I had an excellent attorney that went to bat for us.

- What is your recipe for a gravely voice?

* Well, my son, you scream nightly into a pillow.

- Tell me a story about Frank Zappa.

* Well, I was just starting out, and I was his opening act for a few years. It was a difficult gig because I had to come out into a chrome forest of equipment at rodeos and hockey arenas by myself, prior to Frank, and if you've ever been to a Frank show, you know that he has rabid fans that want red meat. So Frank would refer to me as "the rectal thermometer." I was the one who had to go out before Frank and basically take the temperature of the crowd.

- When did your problems with Korean people begin?

* Are you trying to get me in trouble?

- No! I heard that there was a press release put out by someone in the Korean government stating that your albums were inflammatory and that basically you are no longer welcome in their land. So what did you do to them?

* Hey, I'm hearing about it for the first time.

- Stay out of Korea, I'm warning you.

* Did you realize that mosquito repellents don't actually repel? They hide you. The spray blocks the mosquito's sensors. They don't even know that you're there.


(1) Dave Carnie: Further reading: Dave Carnie interviewBig Brother magazine OnlineJackass.

(2) The same kid who once mentioned something about digging up someone's corpse: Casey-Xavier (born 1985). Casey played drums on "Knife Chase" (Blood Money, 2002). He co-wrote "Big Face Money" (Hold On, 1999) and played drums on that track too. He also joined in on drums during the Mule Variations tour in 1999 (The Hague/ Holland June 21: "Big In Japan"). Tom Waits: "I went to Graceland. I had to pull away from the crowd about half way through. My little boy said, 'Hey why don't we dig him up and take his teeth out and make a necklace.' A lot of people on the tour act like they're seeing the place where Christ lived and they don't like to hear things like that. But I got a kick out of it." (Source: "Composer, Musician, Performer, Actor - TOM WAITS Is A Renaissance Man Whose Musique Noir Captures The Sound Of The Dark Age" PULSE! magazine (USA), by Derk Richardson. Date: Rinehart's/ Petaluma. September, 1992). Tom Waits: "I was in Memphis about three weeks ago, for a wedding. While I was there I went to Graceland. It's like a sideshow. It's like the ultimate sideshow on a carnival. Paying to go in and look at a room where people used to drink and get loaded. I would have rather seen his pickled head in a jar. Then I would have felt like I got what I paid for. We walked by the grave. My little boy said: 'I wish they'd dig him up and take all his teeth out so I can make a necklace.' I don't think anybody had thought of that yet. Elvis's teeth necklace." (Source: "The Lie In Waits" VOX (USA), by Peter Silverton. Article reprinted as "A Conversation With Tom Waits", The Observer, by Pete Silverton. November 23, 1992 (1997?) Date: Paris, October, 1992).

(3) The Osbournes: American "reality-TV" series. Ozzy Osbourne had a camera crew film his everyday life. It was aired on MTV in 2002.

(4) Speaking of Nic Cage: Nicolas Cage (1964). The son of literature professor August Coppola (a brother of director Francis Ford Coppola) and dancer/choreographer Joy Vogelsang. Cage changed his name early in his career to make his own reputation. Starred in some movies Waits was involved in too: The Cotton Club (1984), Rumble Fish (1983).

(5) Frito-Lay: Further reading: Waits vs. Frito Lay