Teenage Wildlife


Melbourne Australia music weekly
by Murray Engleheart
October 27, 1999

Transcript by Adam Dean

When the much publicised blink and you missed it new wave of seventies' glam swept in courtesy of the Velvet Goldmine movie and soundtrack one prime player on who much of the entire concept was at the time graphically based was wondering what all the fuss was about.

"I felt probably it was only half decent when it did the gay pieces." says David Bowie. "I think the gay stuff he did in there was pretty good. But I thought the rest of it felt so much like early eighties' New Romantics. I just don't think he got it at all the period that I went through anyway. I kind of knew that when I read the script when they first asked me if I would be contributing to it. I thought, oh, this is a real sleeper, this is really, really bad and its going to die! So I said, no. I'll just wait until I do my own thank you very much."

David Bowie has moved an enormous distance and through a dozen musical characters since his 1972 Ziggy Stardust figure which Marilyn Manson devoured whole for his AntiChrist Superstar album right down to duplicating a real life stunted left eye. Being named Artist of the Millennium by such polar opposite taste as London's Sun newspaper and the country's considerably more prestigious Q magazine was hardly a great surprise. Still the man who was born on the same day as Elvis Presley - and as he was quick to point out - frighteningly intelligent wheelchair bound astronomer and philosopher, Stephen Hawking was quite happy to do this writer an answering service message. At 52 he continues unwaveringly to have his finger on the cultural pulse heartily endorsing Trent Reznor and Placebo, hearing that Frank Sinatra's daughter wants him in a movie about 'ol Blue Eyes while being incapable of standing still artistically. The classy rock n' roll of his new album, Hours...which was released on the internet before it was available via more earthy mediums is a case in point.

"I think for the first time for a long time I'd actually taken the trouble to write the songs before we went into the studio. So I spent a lot of time virtually crafting them in a very reactionary, old fashioned traditional way. I just wrote proper songs applied myself to them and the lyric and kept them extremely simple really. I didn't want them to become decorative in any manner. Just about everything has been done on the studio in more of an experimental fashion much like the middle to late seventies. I guess the last time I wrote songs per se was really the early eighties"

Bowie also made doubly sure that the Hours...album was coming from a place that was uniquely his own. "I think Reeves (Gabrels, his long time right hand slinger) and I found it to be a very personal album unto ourselves. We wrote it very much together out of the studio in the living room of my house and then it was recorded virtually with the two of us. We pulled a few people in after the event to put on bass and drums so it wasn't recorded like a group effort although there are some quite group sounding pieces on it. There was one that was recut as an entirety. That was the track called If I'm Dreaming All My Life (which features former Rollins Band guitarist, Chris Haskett)."

On The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell Bowie puns on The Stooges' Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell from their 1973 punk meisterwork, Raw Power which he mixed. "I think there's an awful lot of double entendre put in it." he laughs. "It's also a reference to All You Pretty Things from the Hunky Dory period. It's quite silly and it was also kind of really putting to be the Evelyn Waugh, Vile bodies bunch of people," he laughs again. "the fright young things. We're going through far too serious a period I think for flippancy now. So just sort of for me I buried them."

Henry Rollins once told this writer that part of the reason that he covers so many areas professionally is out of fear that he might drop off the screen. Is Bowie's award winning Bowienet website and his acting and musical career rooted in that same fear? "That's interesting." he says before a long pause. "I'm thinking that one through. I don't believe so. I think its about using one of the others to give another form of kickstart. I find that to wander from form to form becomes inspirational for one of the other forms. Often I'll be working in the internet and something will happen visually that will excite me enough to try and go and paint it. On the other hand I'll be painting something that creates an atmosphere and I'll think God! I'd love to write a piece of music that would accompany what that looks like!"

That constant search for new soundscapes could almost be likened to the efforts of sax colossus John Coltrane in all his sonic guises. "Shit" he sighs. "That's a heavy one. Tell you what. I don't think by virtue of the way that he approached music he was anywhere near as possibly playful as I am. There was a depth of concentration and seriousness about how he approached music that completely escapes me. I would love to have had his dedication to the way that he approached music. I tell you what. If you want to go that route I actually feel - and one's got to be so careful with this or you'll sound just a tad immodest - that Miles Davis" he laughs "actually maybe had a simpler attitude in that his sense of experimentation wandered off sometimes into just plain ludicrousness! And there was a sense of play with the way he approached his music in altogether a different way to Coltrane. But I feel awfully insecure being in that kind of...I think I'll get off the bus here! And get back into rock again. I'm on dry land there!"

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This document last updated Thursday, 04-Nov-1999 22:19:04 EST
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