Way Down In New Zealand

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FZ talks to Gary Steel 5.12.90
By Gary Steel
T'Mershi Duween, #20-21, July-September 1991

Hello Mr. Zappa.
Hello. I had to go into a room where it was quieter. I was trying to explain to my secretary what Sardinian vocal music sounds like. These old men, mostly shepherds, spend a lot of time up in the hills with the sheep. This should be very interesting to you in your country (said ironically). They come down from the hills and they have these festivals where they dress up like sheep, run round in a circle and sing these very strange songs. Each city has a choir. The best choir in Sardinia is in a city called [Bitti]. The choir is usually five or six old guys, two or three of whom have very low voices and they sing these low chords and then this tenor does this ornamentation inbetween, so they hit a block chord, and it's a call and answer structure like African music, except it's in the Sardinian language and it's about sheep.

I have some tapes. I found out about them in 1988. It turned out that the promoter of our concerts in Italy was a musicologist. He put together this tape of all different kinds of things and didn't tell me what was on it, just stuck it into the cassette in the car. I remember being in the middle of nowhere when this thing came on in the car and I thought I was going to go through the roof. I never would have believed it ... the low voices of these guys; it really was the most unexpected noise out of a car speaker. I've been trying since then to find out more about it. I have a friend who works for the Italian Broadcasting Organisation. He happened to call me two months ago, and since I knew he was also interested in ethnomusicology, I asked him about this. He replied 'Well, I just happen to be going to Sardinia in a couple of days. I'll go and get you some tapes of these guys.' So he went there and he made me a recording in their house, these five old drunk guys doing an impromptu concert, and you can hear their wives saying 'Now it's time for bed' in the background; it was really fabulous. So he sent me the tape, and we sliced it up to make samples for the Synclavier. He's going back to make an entire CD of this music.

Did you enjoy working with the brass section in 1988?
Oh yeah. In fact, if I do the concert in Tokyo, I'll probably have a horn section.

Presumably these albums from 1988 will include some of The Beatles songs you did?
No, I don't have permission to release those. I don't have the permission from the publisher, even though the Beatles medley was one of the most popular things from the US tour. The publisher is Michael Jackson, and since I wrote that song about him, I doubt that he would give me permission. I think it's kind of stupid to even approach him, a waste of time. It's funny that a lot of times if I have the urge to do a cover tune, the people who control the publishing are the writers. Ordinarily, let's say you're a songwriter and someone calls you up and says 'I wanna do your song', he says 'Fine, go ahead and do it' because you don't have to do anything and the other guy pays you. But in my case, if I want to do something like 'Stairway To Heaven', everyone panics like what you gonna do to it?

What percentage of your time would you say you've been spending collating all those tapes, and working on new stuff?
From the end of the tour until November of last year was virtually one hundred per cent in the studio mixing and editing that tour material. The only time I took time off was for five trips to Russia and one trip to Czechoslovakia. The last of those was January this year (1990). After the Czech trip, I was side-tracked into some foreign trade stuff that I'm doing with my Why Not? company. It's a Delaware corporation chartered to licensing, consulting and social engineering.

How does that operate exactly?
I took an interest in things in Eastern Europe and Russia last year. When I went over there, I met all these very interesting people who wanted to do a wide range of business things with people from the West, and there was no way for them to get in touch ... kind of like a dating service. Find out what some body wants over there and try to find 'em a partner over here. So every time there's some article about that part of my business, I get faxes and letters from all over the place.

Did you enjoy your diplomatic stints in Russia and Czechoslovakia?
I don't know whether you'd call it a diplomatic stint. I'm not a diplomat and I've never really had a reputation for being diplomatic (laughs). An ambassador is supposed to convey the message from the President, and if the ambassador starts being creative and using his imagination, even if it's better than what the President says, he'll get into trouble. I was really surprised how they appreciated me in those countries. They have a free glasnost rock and roll newspaper, a pathetic little thing from Siberia. Rock is all over the world in places you never would expect to find it. Somebody from a radio station gave me a history of just what they have to go through to get records, and beyond that interview information about the artists they want to play. Especially in Russia, they take everything very seriously. If they like something, then they want to know every minor detail about the performer. I guess some of the stuff I did in the early days was smuggled in there and a whole cult formed around it.

On my first trip to Moscow, I went to this place called the [Stas Namin] Center in Gorky Park. This guy [Stas Namin] had created facilities where rock and roll bands from all over the country could rehearse and he would help them get record deals and so on. He was giving me a tour of this place, and in one of these rooms was a Siberian RnB band. I walked in and I thought the guy was going to have a heart attack; he couldn't speak for spluttering. Through an interpreter, he says 'Look at this' and opens his wallet, shows me a photo of his house in Siberia. He's got all of my records on the rack, posters of me on the wall, and I was looking because I didn't know how the fuck it ever happened! They took some pictures of me and this guy together. The following year, I receive some copies of this Siberian rock newspaper and there's this picture of me and this guy. Just so odd. You never know who's listening or why they're listening.

I'm constantly amazed at how you fit in all this stuff. It's all that most musicians can do to hold their lives together and fit in the annual album.
I have an advantage. I've got an unbelievable wife and a wonderful family. My kids don't get into trouble and we all get along fine. There's no household stress here and my wife helps with the business. And beside that, nobody around here uses any drugs; nobody's an alcoholic. If you have those things going for you, you'd be surprised how much you can do, especially if you work out of your house and you don't have to commute anywhere.

Don't you find it schizophrenic? Your music is more complex than anyone else in contemporary music – it would appear to be like a full-time occupation in itself – and then you fit in all this other stuff.
What would slow me down a lot is if I had to sit here and write music like everybody else's album, then I would do one album a year. When you listen to what comes out, most of it is so derivative of the other guy's album. In order for everything to be that bland and consistent, I would imagine that people doing those albums have to spend a lot of time copying other people's stuff. Now if you don't have to do that, you can work pretty good.

The Barking Pumpkin set-up is a whole cottage industry. Is it going well?
I think it's about to expand. I would like to try and develop more of the international markets, because I have this problem with the United States. I'm virtually doomed here because you can't get a song played on the radio unless you do payola, and I refuse to do it. It's always a surprise to people from other countries. They've heard my records and have known the music for years, and they come to the US and nobody even knows about me. It's the best kept secret in the US. There are still some far flung markets where we don't have licensing deals yet, especially Eastern Europe. I've done one deal for Czechoslovakia, but there are still other deals that can be done for Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and all the rest of that stuff. I know that a few products have been in there, but I've got fifty-two albums I think in my entire catalogue. I think that's definitely one of the directions the record business will expand. Also the book has been translated into Russian and the publisher just gave permission the other week to them to release it in the Soviet Union which should be interesting, especially my chapter on communism. And it's been translated into Czech, so it should be coming out there in 1991; and into Dutch, which is being released at the end of this month.

Be interesting to see how they cope with some of the odd words like 'werp' in translation.
I met the Czech translator while I was there and although his spoken English was very broken, I knew he would understand exactly what was going on. The guy I've been doing business with in Holland has already seen the Dutch version of the book and says it's excellent. The Russian version I've heard good reports about, but since I can speak, read and write no language other than English, I just have to have faith.

With distribution of the records, what's the situation as far as Australasia goes?
Four members of my family just got back from Australia because Dweezil was playing some shows down there with an Australian star that I don't know. During that time, my wife had meetings with Festival and I don't know what they worked out. I'm waiting for a deal now with them. Let me tell you what else happened when my wife went to Australia. One of the things we were looking for was some property because I had considered moving my entire business to Australia. And while she was down there, I actually went to the Australian consulate in LA to find out if the government offered any incentives for new businesses, and to see what the general receptivity would be to moving our stuff down there. One of the things we discussed, besides moving the record business down there is ...

Do you remember something in Germany called Bauhaus? There was a guy named Walter Gropius who knew a bunch of artists of all different disciplines – theatre, writing, design, architecture, music, the whole business. They produced a whole range of stuff and it was a major cultural influence on Europe in the period between the wars. The Nazis smashed it and there hasn't been anything like it since. It was a building that acted as a magnet for artists of all different disciplines to work together and share their ideas, to create a style and create products. I started talking to this guy from the Australian consul about whether or not it would be feasible to do something like that in Australia. By the time he explained Australian unions to me, I said 'Thank you very much' and I was out of there in the blink of an eye. It was so depressing. He said 'You know you would have to get permission from the Unions for each different person that you would bring in there, and then the labour department would have to see whether there was somebody in Australia who could do the job' and it was totally depressing.

Why not try it in New Zealand? Our unions are very small and much less powerful than the ones in Oz.
I would be delighted to talk to anybody from the New Zealand consulate about this idea. Putting something like this in your part of the world would be attractive to artists from the rest of the world, just because your part of the world seems to be much more carefree and less stressful than the places they're looking at working now. If you were to talk to many of the useful performers in the US, you would see there is this growing trend because of the censorship that is piling up here. I'll give you an example. Until recently, the Motion Picture Association of America and their head, a guy named Jack [Valente], have this rating system. Well, starting about 1985, there was absolutely no support from the movie industry to fight censorship. Two weeks ago, I saw [Valente] on television and he was starting to look worried about censorship because there are 350 different pieces of legislation that have been proposed in forty-six states to create individual censor boards in localities. Do you know what this will do to the movie industry? You won't be able to make two and a half thousand prints and send them out all over the US and make fifty million dollars in a weekend.

So they'll have to be individually classified.
That's right, and now the lightbulb goes on over their heads. That's the climate in the US right now. The funds are being pulled from the National Endowment for the Arts and so forth. In the US alone, if you stuck an ad in the Village Voice or New York Times, you know, 'who wants to go and work in the Bauhaus?', you wouldn't be able to deal with all the resumes.

So things have got a lot worse since the book was published?
Yes, a lot worse.

Well, I think you'd find there's a bit more freedom in a place like this.
I must say I admire the balls of the guy who said 'Keep the nuclear navy out of our port'. That took fuckin' balls. I don't remember how the US government tried to punish him, but all of a sudden, New Zealand was on the US shitlist. There's something else that nobody ever talks about that's even more dangerous than those ships and the nuclear weapons; it's the poison gas and the germs. A few years ago, there was this terrible situation on the Eastern seaboard where hospital waste was washed up on the beach, AIDS-infected needles and all this stuff. And about a year later there was a report about some stuff that came up on a Californian beach and they couldn't identify it. It was this little rack with these vials with some kind of powder in it. It didn't really look like hospital waste. When they finally found out what it was from the US navy, it was a special formula used to clean off poison gas from those special suits you wear. And that washed up on the beach.

Unfortunately since the Nuclear Free stance, the Government in NZ has changed back to the equivalent of the Republicans, so things aren't feeling very positive around here. It would be pretty difficult to turn the legislation round over night, and public opinion would probably stop them pushing to change the laws too quickly. They're a pretty censorial government.
What's your policy on Japanese investment?

It's booming! Auckland being the only big city in NZ is virtually being taken over by the Japanese.
Is there a company called Parke involved in all of that? That's the sponsor that the Japanese group told me they had. Parke develop small department stores shopping centres, entertainment centres and so forth. I've seen their brochure and their stuff is really quite beautiful, and they've put a lot of money into art projects before. At the back of my mind, I keep saying I should talk to these guys and see if they would like to be a developer for this Bauhaus if I could just find a place to put it. They could do it in a minute. They've got the cash and the expertise to put a basic facility together. The question is where do you build it? There's one place that would take it tomorrow and that's Czechoslovakia, but the problem is that it would be easier to get the artists to move to Australia or New Zealand than it would be to get people to move to Czechoslovakia. The Government there would love to have something like this – they'd probably even love it in the Soviet Union – but if you're going to attract the talent to the thing, then there has to be something of a quality of life factor built into the appeal, otherwise it's not going to work. They have no beach in Prague.

Well, there are beaches here, but maybe Australia's a little more glamorous.
Yeah, but the union situation was so fuckin' unbelievable. It was so hopeless. I always wondered why a country like that with all those resources seemed to be so backward. The answer is the unions.

It sounds like some of the descriptions of unions in the book.
Except that in America they're losing power, but in Australia, judging from what this guy says, the government can't do anything about them, a total racket.

Well, you should definitely talk to the NZ consulate and see what they have to say.
The easiest way to do that is if you mention something about it in this context, tell them if they want to talk about it to call me, because I believe I can put the elements together to get the right kinds of people to work on something like this. If the facility is set up properly, it acts as a tourist magnet and as a magnet for other land development in the vicinity. It's like building a college or something. And I think it's a good business proposition for any country.

Not to mention a good cultural stimulus.
The PR value would be fantastic if New Zealand said it was a good idea. People would pay attention to you, it isn't just about sheep any more. People would be upset about that I'm sure.

I'd better ask a couple of questions about the book because the publishers might get annoyed if I don't. Has it gone well?
The hardback edition in the US sold out completely. It's not a best seller in the US because in order to have a bestseller, you have to do other kinds of things. Normally writers go out and do these book-signing tours, and they tried to get me to do it. I did two or three of them. I did one in LA where I live and I did one in New York, and they tried to get me to do one in San Francisco which I didn't do. I did a lot of interviews to promote it but not all the normal hocus-pocus authors do. I don't see myself as an author and I don't really want to join that crowd.

A lot of the things in the book are quite controversial, and the book would have got across to a slightly different audience than you would normally. Did that provoke any kind of response or outrage?
Not one bad letter or phone call. In fact, mail from the book has been so positive ...

(tape runs out)

The section I expected to provoke a response was about parenting, schools ...
Churches and stuff. One thing I believe: not only am I right in what I said there, but most of the people who might disagree with me probably don't wanna argue with me, because usually what happens in a case like that is if I talk to them, they'll think for a minute and then they're really in trouble.

I don't imagine it's in every school library in the country.
Certainly not. You know about one of the most recent situations of censorship to happen here, about Little Red Riding Hood? That was removed from the public library in California because a Christian group complained that Grandma drank wine and enjoyed it.

Over here, the Enid Blyton 'Noddy' books have just been rewritten to take out anything that could be construed as racist, sexist, etc. Just like the new version of the Bible.
Well, how they gonna deal with the Song of Solomon if they've cleaned up the Bible? Look it up and tell me the guy isn't talking about fist-fucking this girl. I believe the line is plunging my hand in the bowels of my beloved or something like that. Right on out there! They can have that in the library but they can't have grandma drinking a glass of wine in Little Red Riding Hood.

What they've done with Noddy and the Bible is effectively rewrite history. It would be like going through your records and editing out all the naughty words and replacing them with ambient electronics or something. (FZ laughs) How do you feel about how rock n roll has been notated, as far as its historical context is concerned?
Let's just say that anyone who leaves the history of rock n roll to the tender mercies of the editors of Rolling Stone – give me a break! I've refused to participate in these rock dictionaries and encyclopedias. I won't have any part of it because the books are exploitation and not research books, and they are there to reinforce the PR hype that has already come out about the groups that are in there, which is institutionalised bullshit. Once it's in a hardback book, oh yeah that's the real deal. It's all stupid. I haven't seen or heard anything that really tells the way RnB developed into rock n roll and what really happened and all the different people and how every one of them got screwed. And how eventually the whole thing turned into an industry which was designed to support certain types of products. Certain groups were designed just for the use of soft drink manufacturers, etc. Everything turned into a corporate expression. It's nothing more than an excuse to unleash a two minute Pepsi commercial featuring this year's Grammy endorsee.

How did Rolling Stone magazine get it so wrong?
It's my theory that since the magazine was invented (sic), somebody came along and said 'The government would appreciate a certain spin being put on certain stories and these benefits will accrue to you'. The best example I can give you of this suspicion is the way in which they covered all the PMRC stuff in '85. The first major article they did about that was basically done in a way that made you think that the PMRC had a point, that there was such a thing as a dirty word, that maybe there oughta be all these labels, rituals attached rock and roll records. I was shocked that they had taken that position. I guess a lot of other people were too, and at the Congressional hearing in September 1985, they changed their stand a little bit. The line that they tow is the line that they need to tow in order to keep their advertsiers. The people who get big play in the magazine world, they're financed to a certain extent by record companies, but you've got entertainment appliance manufacturers, cars, beverages and all of this stuff, and none of these advertisers who buy a full page ad want any controversy. The same thing happens in every other newspaper where you have to sell advertising space and the advertiser wants to exert his esthetic influence on the editorial contents of the publication.

The other thing is that the people ... I mean, everybody's entitled to their own opinion. Let's say a rock and roll writer is doing an article about such and such a period. If they're writing about the history of rock n roll, how many of them have the kind of historical perspective of that period of time, either from a political or musicological stand? How can they put any of this stuff in perspective in an academic way? So the result is that the views of the albums and personalities are pretty much on the level of a highschool newspaper. It's just a popularity contest. Some of that is shaded by whatever the journalist happens to be listening to today. At the end of the chain is the editor who will say 'Oh no, they really won't like this; let's modify it.'

With your music, it covers such a wide range that it's a heck of a thing to comprehend.
That's kind of the point, though. The problem is that very few people even have the nerve to say what you just said. That's one important thing that seems to have escaped a lot of people. It is a heck of a thing to comprehend. That somebody could still do that, and still be doing it, and he didn't do payola, that's a heck of a thing to comprehend. And if it weren't for the fact that the earliest part of my career we decided to play regularly outside the US, I wouldn't be in business right now. The largest portion of my income comes from listeners who are not in the US.

Do you think you've got any fans who fully understand what you're doing?
I know that there's a handful of them because I get letters from them. I see that there's a real deep comprehension there, but generally not, and it doesn't even have to be because what I do is to entertain people; some of it entertains you and some of it doesn't, and I don't expect more than that. It's a miracle if anyone follows all of it because that would mean they would either have to have done a lot of research to find out what all the lyrics mean and/or have listened to a wide variety of different ethnic music and classical music and different kinds of blues stuff that I've listened to throughout my life in order to understand how I could develop my style from those influences. I tell you there really are a few lunatics out there who do try.

You've a reputation as a musician's musician – to understand your music fully from a technical point of view, you would have to be a musician. How much can a non-musician fan really understand of your music?
Well, let's say just twenty per cent. What I do is derived from a wide range of traditions from other cultures and different periods of time. I didn't think it up out of thin air. To some people, it sounds like the weirdest shit they've ever heard in their life, but if you know anything about musical history, then it becomes even more entertaining because you see how some of these traditions got mutated into what I do now. That's probably one of the reasons why there's an appreciation outside the US, because those listeners have been exposed to a wider range of musical expression than the US listeners, because there's so little variety in US radio broadcasts and there's no music education in schools any more. So how's a kid who's never heard an orchestra or a string quartet, an opera or a folk tune or a sea shanty to have the slightest comprehension of what's going on?

Would it be fair to say that when you heard Varèse's 'Ionisation' first, that you had little real technical understanding of that record?
Nothing. I just liked the way it sounded. It took me years to find out what was going on in there. Maybe I still don't know. On a technical level, I know more now than when I bought it, but I knew enough when I heard it to realise that I liked it, and I listened to it over and over again.

So a fan could approach your music the same way.
Most of them have. The ones that just really crave it, maybe just because it touches them in a weird emotional way or a weird intellectual way that they don't understand what it is but they like it. It's a bit like eating a sausage: you don't know what's in it, you probably shouldn't know what's in there; but if it tastes good, well there you go.

When you listened to your first Varèse record, you loved it. Why would the next person in line hear the same thing and say 'Urgh, that's a horrible noise'?
Another person my same age? Well, that's a good question. I really can't answer that. All I know is that I was completely unprepared for the experience. I was surprised I liked it so much without having the faintest idea of what it was. I could barely comprehend the liner notes on that album. It was too technical for me and there were words in it I didn't understand. Basically, I had a real average education, nothing special to prepare you for 'Ionisation'.

You don't think it might have had anything to do with spending the first years of your life in Baltimore? There's a lot of very strange art coming out of Baltimore. It appears to be a breeding ground for deviation of one sort or another.
Maryland has been a breeding ground for deviation but not usually in the arts. You could single out Edgar Allan Poe and John Waters, maybe a few other people. The real thing Maryland has been famous for in the past, it's been the singularly most corrupt state in the Union in terms of political graft and major crooks being elected to office; Spiro Agnew, for example. The only other thing it's famous for is its seafood, crabs and oysters. There are other things that it could be famous for. The very first biological warfare factory in the US was set up at Fort Dettrick in Maryland.

In your music, the guitar is the only overtly emotional characteristic. As you say in your book, it's the improvisational element ... you can make a mistake and turn it into something of interest. It doesn't work against it. It's quite complementary, but they are two different things.
I think the problem that you're having right now is that maybe in your mind you think that emotionality is a value; it's the ultimate hallmark of successful composition. And I don't think that's necessarily true. I think there are other things you can achieve in a composition that have nothing to do with emotional content. You can always convince people that you're more emotional by having more vibrato, just wiggling your hand back and forth, and if it you do it without somebody asking you to, does that mean you're an emotional musician? No. That might mean you have palsy.

I guess what I'm saying is there's a chance element with your guitar solos whereas with other musicians...
That's not accurate, because the way these things are constructed, it's like building. Say you've designed a building and the exterior appearance of the building is created in such a way that as the light changes, the shadows created by the change of light alter the apparent shape of the building. You've really built a box, but if you did so in a location where the light is going to change and you know that when it changes a certain way, the box is going to have a different shape, you've built that into your plan. If I create a piece, especially instrumental music, always there is the possibility to improvise and stylise the composition; it's never freeze-dried. In fact, the best example of the avoidance of freeze-dried performances is the multiple versions of some of the tunes that have been released by different bands. You can see how things have changed and how arrangements get altered to suit different bands. It's pretty obvious on the 'Stage' series. You can see that the basic skeleton is there. You know what the tune is, and the words. You can play these things with all different rhythmic approaches. Take a song like 'The Black Page' which a lot of people think of as the most lethal and dangerous (actually as a tune you can hum, it does have some complicated routes), but so far we've played it straight, disco, ska, and on the '88 tour, we were playing it New Age. That's the equivalent of the light changing on the building. Just because there's a lot of complicated stuff in there, and you hear that people are doing very technical things on their instruments, it's not that they are being punished.

Some of the technical things that are being done in there are actually embellishments added by the musicians themselves and those embellishments will stay in unless I tell them to take them out. In the case of Tommy Mars who was an over-embellisher, I was always arguing that I think the music works best when the musician learns what the chords are, what the melody is, what the basic rhythm is. He gets that memorised and then he plays with his own style. If you take twelve people which means twelve different styles and twelve different individuals, and they all have the same database to work from, they know what the song is made of, and on a good day what you get is twelve simultaneous different interpretations of the database, and that's more the way I work with the stuff. If the combination of all those different approaches all glued together at the same time has a neutralising effect causing what you think of as emotion to evaporate, then, well, that's too bad. There's plenty of other emotional performers that you can wallow in, that will provide the listener who desires that kind of vibrato experience; there's tons of that out there.

Going through all the old tapes, has that given you any perspective on it that you might not have had at the time?
Basically what happens when I put on an old tape is I can see the recording studio that I was in, and remember the circumstances in which I was forced to do this work. None of them are pleasant. If you're a small group, an unfamous band at the bottom of the artist roster on a certain label and your budget is limited to make an album and nobody really gives a fuck what you do, they don't understand what you do, they want you to hurry up and get it done so they don't spend too much money. Until I had my own studio, that was the situation I was faced with every time I made an album. You had to, as leader of the band, battle with the forces of evil just to keep them out of the studio while you were doing it because all they wanted to do was to hurry you up and get you out of there. The first album I made in my own studio was 'You Are What You Is', so everything prior to that, I must say I don't get any pleasurable sensation listening to because there's just so much bad industrial baggage that comes along with it.

There's been quite a bit of criticism about the way the CDs have been modified. Is that criticism justified, or are you happy with them?
First of all, there hasn't been quite a lot of criticism, and secondly there have only been a couple of tapes that have been modified. The main one under discussion has been 'We're Only In It for the Money'. The original tapes were rendered useless by the way MGM stored them. If I found, somewhere in the stack of tapes, any original useable version of 'Money', I'd remaster it and put it out just for those people who have harped about it to shut 'em up. But I don't have such a thing. The only albums that have been tweaked are 'Money' and 'Ruben and the Jets'. 'Hot Rats' was remixed from the original sixteen-track master, and extra material from the sessions was added. Some of the cuts on 'Freak Out!' were remixed from the original four-track, and some of 'Absolutely Free' was remixed. Everything else has come from the two-track masters. All I did was add some equalisation and compression.

In the book, you talk about using subliminal cliches, modules of material. Is that one of the techniques to engender a familiarity with the song that's being played?
Well, it is a technique but, for one thing, those modules, unless you are from the same cultural habitat that created the module to begin with, it'll mean nothing to you. The same thing goes with these little pieces of tunes. For example, the ending few notes on the 'Stage' version of 'Strictly Genteel', that was the Hawaiian Punch commercial featuring Donny and Marie Osmond. That was so esoteric. It was on in 1980. The other one we do everywhere for no reason at all is 'Louie Louie', it's like the ultimate bit of mongoloid behaviour.

When are you going to put out a cross-reference manual?
Even if I wrote every one down and explained them, unless you'd lived it, there's no chuckle in the laugh. I wouldn't have the background. Imagine the difficulty because the things that I'm using are not only from television but also from radio. I grew up on radio. I've got references to contemporary classical music, all kinds of stuff. They're music to me and to the other guys in the band if I explain the stuff, but there's such a small percentage of the audience that can read all that data ...

Look at it from another perspective. Let's say I build a junk sculpture. You don't know what the pieces are or where they come from, but if the sculpture works when it's done, who gives a fuck? You don't have to know that that's Donny and Marie. I know that there are fans out there who call each other up when they figure these things out. So this is a very special form of entertainment because there are layers and layers and layers of it and depending on how much leisure time you have to dig into it, you can be pretty thoroughly entertained on all levels. The average music listener today, what are they looking for? Dance beats, some words that are pretty fucking easy to understand and maybe three notes that you can hum. And then of course, a real good hairdo and some nice clothes to look at, and maybe a dance step you can pick up. I flunk in every one of those categories.

Have you heard the old Fleetwood Mac song that somebody covered and sampled a whole lot of your stuff? It was a hit in Europe earlier this year.
Well, if it was a hit, then I'll sue them. I know one other case where someone had sampled some of my stuff and put it out, but they didn't make any money on it, so why should I chase 'em. But I think if it was a hit and they actually got money out of it, then just on principle I should go and kick their ass.

Thank you, blah blah ...