Quotes: Fatherhood

"Waits is standing in a record store down the road a piece from Washoe House holding a Japanese import CD by Rage Against the Machine that he's just bought for his thirteen-year-old son, Casey. "He'll think I'm really cool for getting him this", Waits says proudly."

EP (1985): Tom is expecting his second child at any moment (to be named Senator if it's a boy because "we need a Senator in the family") and throughout our meeting it's a toss-up whether the baby or the sandwich will arrive first. In the event the sandwich wins with the baby crossing the homestretch a full five days later. (Source: "Lower east side story". The Face: Elissa van Poznak. Ca. October 1985)

Q (1985): What do you wish for your children? TW: "Military school immediately before they're old enough to fight me on it. I've enrolled them already. Would you be very disappointed if they grew up to be bankers? TW: No, I think we need a banker and lawyer in the family because dad's just impossible. He needs somebody to look after him." (Source: "Lower east side story". The Face: Elissa van Poznak. Ca. October 1985)

GB (1985): So, what's your day like? TW: "Well, lately it's been a little easier. I get up at about 7 o'clock with the baby and I get the Rice Krispies going and the French toast, then I put on Mr. Rogers." GB: How old is the baby? TW: "Two." GB: Does the baby watch Mr. Rogers or do you? TW: "I watch it and I make her watch it with me." (Source: "Tom Waits for no man". Spin Magazine: Glenn O'Brien. November 1985)

GB (1985): What's your baby's name? TW: "Well, we haven't picked a name yet. I told her that when she's 18 she can pick any name she wants. In the meantime, we'll call her something different every day. GB: What is she today? TW: "Max today. She's been everything. We just can't seem to make up our minds. When she meets somebody and likes them she takes their name. She speaks 17 languages. She's now in military school in Connecticut. I only get to see her on weekends. At night when I get home all the kids line up in their uniforms and Joe Bob's got my Martini and Max has my slippers and Roosevelt has my pipe. They all say "Hello, Daddy!" (Source: "Tom Waits for no man"Spin Magazine: Glenn O'Brien. November 1985)

Tom Waits (1985): "We've got three children now - Ajax, Edith and Montgomery - I must get them enrolled in military school immediately. I see it like Tobacco Road, the old hillbilly movie, we'll all be heading down that long path together. (Source: "Hard rain". New Musical Express: Gavin Martin. October 19, 1985)

MR (1987): On Frank's Wild Years you two collaborate on several songs. Did that require much adjustment on your part? TW: "It's good. She's very unself-conscious, like the way kids will sing things just as they occur to them. It was chemistry. I mean, we've got kids. Once you do that together, the other stuff is simple." MR: Has family life changed your outlook? TW: "No, but if you don't get that bug off the back of your seat he's gonna go right down into your pocket, [smiles] That's what I like about this place." (Source: "Tom Waits Is Flying Upside Down (On Purpose)". Musician. Mark Rowland. October 1987)

Tom Waits (1988): "... And the kids? Creatively, they're astonishing. The way they draw, you know? Right off the page and onto the wall. It's like you wish you could be that open." (Source: "Tom Waits 20 questions". Playboy magazine: Steve Oney. March 1988)

Tom Waits (1988): "Disneyland is Vegas for children. When I went with the kids, I just about had a stroke. It's the opposite of what they say it is. It's not a place to nurture the imagination. It's just a big clearance sale for useless items. I'm not going back, and the kids won't be allowed to return until they're 18, out of the house. And even then, I would block their decision." (Source: "Tom Waits 20 questions". Playboy magazine: Steve Oney. March 1988)

Tom Waits (1988): "Yeah, well, living with kids is like living with a bunch of drunks. You know you really have to be on your toes all the time. You know, things are falling over and breaking and spilling and, you know. If you live on the second story, you really have to keep the windows shut all the time." [DJ] Do they have a clue as to what daddy does? TW: "Yeah, they just think I play." [DJ] That's pretty neat. TW: "They don't think I have a job. They think I'm just like them." [DJ] And are you? [TW laughing hard] TW: "[They think I] Just get up in the morning and you know, fall down on the floor and roll around and yell and laugh." (Source: Mixed Bag, WNEW New York. Date: October, 1988)

Tom Waits (1992): "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! Derk Richardson. September 1992)

Tom Waits (1992): "Because I utterly adore my wife and kids I had no choice but to grow up fast. You can't bring kids up if you're still one yourself. On top of that, being a father has a lot of advantages. You get healthier. Life is quieter and you can concentrate on work better. I am my work, and only when I work can I really express myself and what's inside me. I learn more about myself through it. To get to that stage I have to have peace and quiet and the family is a vital part of that. I'm happy with it that way. Someday you just have to quit being a vagabond, and being drunk every day. One day you just wake up and realise that there's an empty space in your soul. It's not cool, just weird." (Source: "Ghost In The Machine" Rock World. October, 1992. By Michael Fuchs-Gambock)

MFG (1992): "It was even suggested in some quarters that, heaven forbid, he'd sold out! He'd thrown away a status he'd spent years working on and refining. But, hero that he is, Waits just smiles wryly and comments: "That's their problem. I'm content that life starts with the family unit and not ends with it. The feeling you get when you hold a baby in your arms - suddenly you realise how strong life is. These guys who came up with all that can't have any kids of their own. I'd bet they're all homos anyway!" "So what! My family is the source of all my inspiration, but it still lets me do what I want and have to do. At the moment there's nothing in my life that I want to change. I'm really happy. Who would have believed it?" (Source: "Ghost In The Machine" Rock World. October, 1992. By Michael Fuchs-Gambock)

Tom Waits (1992): "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. Paris, October, 1992. Article reprinted as "A Conversation With Tom Waits", The Observer, by Pete Silverton. November 23, 1992)

Q (1992): "What can't you live without?" TW: "My wife, my kids. My family". (Source: Gente de Express�o Brazilian television interview by Bruna Lombardi. 1992)

Tom Waits (1993): "Something we have always done as a family is what we call "going for a spin." On a dark, rainy night, we take the old Caddy out on a stretch of treacherous, curving road and get it up to about ninety and slam on the brakes. The kids scream with glee because we always end up in a different place. It's better than the Cyclone or the Tilt-A-Whirl, and best of all, we do it as a family." (Source: "Tom Foolery - Swapping stories with inimitable Tom Waits". Buzz Magazine: May 1993)

Q (1993): How would your children describe you? Are they aware of what you do? TW: "My boy got into a fight with a kid up the road and said "My dad can sing better than your dad." Well, that was easy for me. I won that hands down. But yeah, they're aware of what I do. They're embarrassed when I take them to school sometimes. "Hey dad, your pants are halfway down around your knees dad. And do something with your hair! Kids are starting to talk!" (Source: "What Do You Say To Tom Waits?" The Village Noize, by Bill Dolan. Date: Issue 14, 1993)

Tom Waits (1994): "My kids sing songs they have made up that I listen to and know by heart, and these songs have become part of our family life. You have to keep music alive in your life or else music becomes an isolated thing, just a pill you take."(Source: "The music of chance". Spin Magazine: Mark Richard. June 1994)

Tom Waits (1994): "Children don't know the first thing about music and yet they make up songs and sing them all day long... Who's to say my melodies are any better than theirs?" (Source: "The music of chance". Spin Magazine: Mark Richard. June 1994)

CD (1998): Your kids actually contributed some to the record as well. TW: "Oh yeah. Well, phuh." CD: How does this come up, is this like breakfast table conversation? TW: "Oh, you know how. Everybody gets in [like Jimmy Durante] "Everybody wants a get into the action." Eh, my little girl said- she has a word called, the word is "strangels." It's a cross between "strange" and "angels." Strange angels. Strangels. They're called "strangels." Or I said, or you could have "braingels." Those are the strange angels that live in your head would be "braingels." We just went around and around with it, and it wound up in "The Ocean Doesn't Want Me Today." That little suicide note on the album. Yeah, kids. Great for the... Hey, kids write thousands of songs before they learn how to talk. They write better songs than anybody. So, you hope you can write something a kid would like." (Source: "Morning becomes Eclectic ".KCRW radio Interview: Chris Douridas. Original broadcast August 1992. Rebroadcast January 2, 1998)

Tom Waits (1998): "I usually keep a tape recorder with me all the time. It's little. The quietest place for me is in the car, driving on the road. Because at home, if I go into a room and close the door the kids all want to know what I'm doing in there. Then when Kathleen and I are in there together writing, then they really go crazy. It's like the whole bottom just dropped out. 'What are you guys doing in there?' It's funny, but the car is a better place, really." (Source: "Morning Becomes Eclectic" KCRW-FM: Chris Douridas. March 31, 1998)

Tom Waits (1998): "Yeah, well, living with kids is like living with a bunch of drunks. You know you really have to be on your toes all the time. You know, things are falling over and breaking and spilling and, you know. If you live on the second story, you really have to keep the windows shut all the time." WNEW: Do they have a clue as to what daddy does? TW: "Yeah, they just think I play... They don't think I have a job. They think I'm just like them." WNEW: And are you? TW: [laughing hard] "They think I just get up in the morning and you know, fall down on the floor and roll around and yell and laugh." (Source: "Mixed Bag, WNEW New York ". Interview on WNEW FM. October 1998)

Tom Waits (1999): "I got an old Caddy. I got a '72 white Suburban that no one in the family will ride in. My vehicles have always been humiliating for the kids. This one, it's like a motel, and they even complain about this. I say, "You're nuts. You could live in this car." (Source: "Gone North, Tom Waits, upcountry". L.A. Weekly: Robert Lloyd. April 23-29, 1999)

Tom Waits (1999): "Sometimes when I'm trying to get the kids to be quiet so I can think, I say, what do you like? When you're going to draw, do you like to start out with a piece of paper that's already scribbled on and find a little place down the bottom to do your drawing? Or do you like to get a nice clean, white sheet of paper? Which do you prefer? "Oh I want a clean, white sheet of paper." OK, well right now I can't hear; I'm trying to make up some. I need to have the auditory equivalant of a clean, white sheet of paper.' he shrugs. 'But they just carry on, throw things at me..." (Source: "Tom Waits, Hobo Sapiens" Telegraph Magazine: Mick Brown. April 10, 1999)

Q (1999): How old are your kids? TW: "I've got two teenagers. Help. My daughter's 15 1/2, and I have a boy 13 and a boy 5. So we've been together since '80. We were married in an all-night wedding chapel in Watts." (Source: "Holding On: A Conversation with Tom Waits". Newsweek: Karin Schoemer. March 23, 1999)

Tom Waits (1999): "You know, I didn't wanna be the guy who woke up when he was 65 and said, 'Gee, I forgot to have kids.' I mean. Somebody took the time to have us, right?" (Source: "Mojo interview with Tom Waits". Mojo: Barney Hoskyns. April 1999)

Tom Waits (1999): "Mostly my kids are just looking for any way I come in handy. Clothes, rides, money... that's all I'm good for. But I think it's the way it's supposed to be." (Source: "Mojo interview with Tom Waits". Mojo: Barney Hoskyns. April 1999)

Q (1999): How much of a homebody have you become in recent years? TW: "Gee, I don't know. That sounds like a loaded question. If I say no, I'll get into trouble with my family, and if I say yes I get in trouble with everybody else. You know, I live in a house with my wife and a lotta kids and dogs, and I have to fight for every inch of ground I get." (Source: "Mojo interview with Tom Waits". Mojo: Barney Hoskyns. April 1999)

Tom Waits (1999): "The thing when you have kids is that you can stay up 'til five in the morning, but you still gonna get up and have to feed them." (Source: "Mojo interview with Tom Waits". Mojo: Barney Hoskyns. April 1999)

Tom Waits (1999): "And, oh, those kids of mine - they're all bigger than me now. They're taller than me, smarter than me, too. They're pushing me around, talking back and telling me what to do. They know a lot of the groups on Epitaph, like Rancid, mmm... Pennywise." (Source: "Wily Tom Waits' breakthrough". Now On: Tim Perlich. April 22-28, 1999)

DF (1999): Waits is standing in a record store down the road a piece from Washoe House holding a Japanese import CD by Rage Against the Machine that he's just bought for his thirteen-year-old son, Casey. TW: "He'll think I'm really cool for getting him this.", Waits says proudly. (Source: "The Resurrection of Tom Waits ". Rolling Stone; David Fricke. June 24, 1999)

Tom Waits (1999): "I went through a period where I was embarrassed by vulnerability as a writer - things you see, experience and feel, and you go, 'I can't sing something like that. This is too tender. ' Maybe I'm finding a way of reconciling that," he says of Mule Variations. "I'm married, I got kids. It opens up your world. (Source: "The Resurrection of Tom Waits" Rolling Stone: David Fricke. June 24, 1999)

Tom Waits (2000): "My little boy found a jewel that had fallen out of a cheap ring this morning. I never would have spotted it. But he's only 6 and he was right down in there. I miss that proximity to the ground sometimes." (Source: "Tradition With a Twist". Blues Revue magazine No. 59 (USA). July/ August, 2000 by Bret Kofford)

Tom Waits (2002): "I finally discovered that my life is more important than show business. But, yeah, people are curious about all kinds of things, which takes your mind off that which is really important. They usually ask questions about things that don't matter to them, or to me, or to anybody else. Just to take up time, I guess, and distract them from the important questions, like "Who won the World Series in 1957?" or "Who said, 'Today you will play jazz, tomorrow you will betray your country'?" (Source: "The Onion A.V. Club online magazine (USA), by Keith Phipps. Volume 38, issue 20. May 29, 2002)

Tom Waits (2002): "You know, what happens is that as you start getting older, you get out of touch. I'm like a turtleneck sweater. And then your kids kind of enlighten you: "Dad, have you heard Blackalicious?" I take 'em to the show, but I drop them off. I'm not allowed to go in. It'd be too embarrassing." (Source: "The Onion A.V. Club online magazine (USA), by Keith Phipps. Volume 38, issue 20. May 29, 2002)

Tom Waits (2002): "We were on a bus coming to L.A. And it was really cold outside. There was this transgender person, to be politically correct, standing on a corner wearing a short little top with a lot of midriff showing, a lot of heavy eye makeup and dyed hair and a really short skirt. And this guy, or girl, was dancing all by himself. And my little girl saw it and said, "It must be really hard to dance like that when you're so cold and there's no music.'" Waits took his daughter's exquisite observation and worked into a ballad called "Hold On". "Children make up the best songs, anyway. Better than grown-ups. Kids are always working on songs and throwing them away, like little origami things or paper airplanes. They don't care if they lose it; they'll just make another one." This openness is what every artist needs" (Source: "Play It Like Your Hair's On Fire" GQ magazine. June, 2002 by Elizabeth Gilbert)

SH (2004): Casey Waits, the 18-year-old son of Waits and wife-collaborator Kathleen Brennan, makes key contributions on the album, adding percussion and turntables to such songs as the bluesy urban nightmare "Metropolitan Glide." "It's great and weird at the same time," Waits says. Father and son had played together just a little bit in concert and on record before. "It was both euphoric and embarrassing - for him. I mean, playing with your dad!" (Source: "Pop Eye - Waits tries topical on for size" Los Angeles Times. Steve Hochman. June 27, 2004)

Tom Waits (2004): "But my dad - I think it was a rebel raising a rebel. That's kind of what my kids are dealing with right now." (Source: The Mojo Interview. Mojo magazine by Sylvie Simmons. Issue October 2004)

Tom Waits (2004): "You know, the other day, I overheard my older kids talking to my younger boy. And they were saying: "Don't ever! Don't ever... ask dad to help you with your homework!" (laughter) DL: Wow! What's... TW: It hurt! DL: Yeah I can see that it would! TW: It hurt me! DL: What's it all about? What's... TW: Well, you know I don't know, I eh... They said I made up a war once. (laughter) And eh I think I was just groping for the real name and I just substituted it for rhythm, you know?" (Source: Late Show With David Letterman. CBS TV show (USA). Ed Sullivan Theater. New York/ USA. September 28, 2004)

Tom Waits (2004): "'The government looks at these 18-year-old kids as shell casings, you know, like we're getting low on ammo, send in some more. We're neck deep in the big muddy and the big chief is telling us to push on and offer up our children. I sure wouldn't want to let my boys go.'" (Source: "Bard Of The Bizarre", Telegraph Magazine (UK). By Richard Grant. October 2, 2004)

Tom Waits (2004): The quietest place around here (home) is in the car, so I write in the car a lot. Because here at home, I don't necessarily dominate the various turntables around here. When you have kids, there are things going on all the time." (Source: "Tom Waits Interview". San Diego Union Tribune (USA). By George Varga. October 3, 2004)

JS (2004): "Waits' 18-year-old son, Casey Waits, plays some percussion and scratches some turntables on "Real Gone." The college student has introduced the world of skateboard rap to Waits' already panoramic musical world view. Waits rattles off names from the graffiti underground such as Sage Francis, Aesop Rock, Vast Aire, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Weakerthans, Atmosphere, KRS-One. "He delves," Waits says. "All that stuff gets played around the house because that's what happens when you have kids. You stop dominating the turntable. I haven't had that kind of sway around here for years. 'Put on that Leadbelly record one more time, Dad, and I'm going to throw a bottle at your head.'" (Source: "Barroom Bard's Next Round" San Francisco Chronicle (USA). By Joel Selvin. October 3, 2004)

Tom Waits (2004): "We wanted to get it (recording Real Gone) done before the summer began. When the kids are out of school, it's a whole new paradigm shift at homeThey're everywhere." (Source: "Magnet Interview With Tom Waits" Magnet Magazine (UK), by Jonathan Valania. October, 2004)

Tom Waits (2004): "Sometimes my kids will listen to something I did and say, "Were you going for a Cookie Monster-in-love thing on that, dad?" (Source: "Magnet Interview With Tom Waits" Magnet Magazine (UK), by Jonathan Valania. October, 2004)

JV (2004): "You have a daughter who's in college. TW: It was inevitable. I have a son who's 18, [played turntables on Real Gone]. As far as my kids go, it's the family business. If I was a farmer, I would have them out there on a tractor. If I was a ballet dancer, I would have them in tutus. JV: What do they make of what you do? TW: I'm their dad, that's really the extent of it. They are not fans of mine. Your kids are not your fans, they're your kids. The trick is to have a career and have a family. It's like having two dogs that hate each other and you have to take them for a walk every night." (Source: "Magnet Interview With Tom Waits" Magnet Magazine (UK), by Jonathan Valania. October, 2004)

Tom Waits (2004): "The other day my little boy (Sullivan, age 11, is the youngest of the three Waits - Kathleen Brennan kids) had a record on full blast, and he was dancing, totally in the moment. I saw him through a crack in the door. It was amazing how he believed in it. As soon as he knew I was there, he stopped. Turned off the music. Well that's really what you're trying to accomplish in the studio. My job is to locate that mood, enlarge it and then put everybody in the middle of it. You want them to dance like there's nobody watching." (Source: "Tom Waits: Dancing In The Dark" Harp Magazine (USA), by Tom Moon. December, 2004)

Tom Waits (2004): "When I was a kid, I listened to old men's music. I didn't listen to the stuff my friends were listening to but to their dads' records. But now I have three kids and whether I want it or not, I hear their music all the time. Our house is full of rap and hip hop and that influences my music now. I'm like the old man in the red sports car now." (Source: "Worth The Waits", by David Sinclair. The Times (UK). October 22, 2004)

NS (2005): "When you'd become a father and you've got these kids out there, doing all their own little things, does that change your perspective on the kinds of reportage you can do in songs? TW: I have to fight for my right to the turntable. NS: Yeah? (laughs) TW: Yeah. And I don't always win. I infrequently win, as a matter of fact. "Dad, if you put on one more song by Leadbelly, I'm gonna throw this bottle at your head! And you've taken all our toys!" You know? "Where's that little blue and white piano I used to have?" You know, "Where's my little megaphone, with the voice changer on it? Where is that?!" NS: Well, where are those things? TW: I took em! NS: Oh! To the studio? TW: To the studio! (laughs)" (Source: "Cool Ivories", American Routes radio show, by Nick Spitzer. February 16-22, 2002)

Tom Waits (2008): "Q: What have you learned from parenthood? A: “Never loan your car to anyone to whom you’ve given birth.” - Erma Bombeck." (Source: "Tom Waits - True Confessions", ANTI label blog, May 20, 2008. Glitter and Doom promo, Tom Waits interviews himself)

Further readingInterviews (complete transcripts)