I heard that you were considering playing Antonin Artaud in a film.
I haven't decided on that yet, but I admire Artaud.
He once took peyote in Mexico and described the experience as the three happiest days in his life. This is what he said about that time: "Boredom disappeared, I ceased looking for a reason to live, and I no longer had to carry my body. I grasped that I was inventing my life, that this was my function and my raison d'être, and that I got bored when I had no more imagination." To me this quotation suggests you and your public persona quite a bit.
Strange, no? Uh-huh. I think it applies to most everybody, surely. But as Artaud said, he only had three happy days in his life. He was an unhappy person, and I'm not. I was just born happy, and he wasn't. But if I had the tiniest bit of the talent Artaud had. I'd be even happier than I am. I find him very interesting as a poet and in terms of his interest in theater and cinema . . . and also interesting as an individual because he was so tortured. But I don't identify with him.
I don't continually question my reason to live — it's just a state of being. I'm just here. The real question is what you're doing with the living you're doing, and what you want to do with that living.
What do you think you've been doing with the living you've been doing in the Seventies?
Wasting my time.
Yet during that time you also wrote "Time Waits for No One," which really is a powerful, ominous, vatic song that no one commented on that much — as if it were a Seventies throwaway.
I liked it a lot. But I don't see things in terms of years — the Sixties, the Seventies — it's just a journalistic convention.
Punk rock, too. I don't want to get into the accusations that the Rolling Stones gave in or up or whatever. It's sort of vaguely true, but it's not really true. To me, rock & roll just goes back to the basic things. It doesn't exist because other people don't come across, it exists because kids want to get up and play very simple. The punk-rock movement said things to get a lot of copy. It's just an excuse to say that Rod Stewart lives in Hollywood and spends millions of dollars. It was just a good line. It wasn't the real reason punk rock existed.
What song or songs have you heard in the past few years that really got to you?
Really got to me? Hardly any. I don't listen seriously to rock & roll today. I never really did listen to white English bands. I like Latin music, all kinds of Caribbean music — I prefer that to white rock bands. I recently saw Tuff Darts and the Jam, right? Tuff Darts are pretty good, but the music really didn't swing. It's like white people, you know what I mean? I liked disco music when it was very Latin — two or three years ago — it was all Latin steps.
Now it's Australian.
Right, Australian. I liked John Travolta.
How does his dancing rate with yours?
It's not really difficult to be a better dancer than I am. I think I'm a terrible dancer, and I'd love to have gone to school and learned it properly, but I don't have the time nor the discipline.
I once heard Nureyev on television say that you were a terrific dancer.
That's very kind of him, because he's a great dancer. I can't dance a waltz or a quickstep. I can't dance steps. I just leap about, and sometimes it's very ungainly. It's hard dancing while you're singing.
You're also a dynamic singer/actor onstage.
Well, Bob Marley, for instance, is a good example of someone who really acts out a song and dances and plays guitar — it's what singers have always done. Etta James is really fantastic. But I think everyone does it, more or less.
Anyway, I wanted the new album to be a dance record with mostly fast stuff on it. And there were other songs we cut out that I would have preferred on the album. I wanted to take "Beast of Burden" off — that would have depressed you — but you know what I mean?
Well, your recent albums have had a lot of dance numbers on them, and people didn't seem to appreciate them all that much.
Not much, actually. But this one is more "up" — especially "Shattered" and "Miss You."
You and Keith call yourselves "The Glimmer Twins" when you credit yourselves as producers. Someone once compared you two to Romulus and Remus.
[Laughing] We're very close, and we always have been. He was born my brother by accident by different parents . . . That sounds all right to me. Let me ask you this: What did you think of Keith's song on the album, "Before They Make Me Run"?
It sounds like a goodbye song, with those lines: "I'm gonna find my way to Heaven 'Cause I did my time in Hell" — almost as if it were sung by Clarence White and the Byrds.
Keith's got a strong optimistic streak. His last complete song was "Happy." And he wrote nearly all of this one except for one or two "Oh, yeahs" in the middle. It's definitely his song.
People don't know who does what. And it's very difficult for me to remember who wrote what particular verse or song. Rock reviewers say: "That's a typical Keith Richards song." But they don't know. They often get it wrong, and it makes me laugh.
How long have you known Keith?
How old are You?
Thirty-four. I met him when I was six.
Legend has it that you met him for the first time on a train when you were both grown-up students.
No, we lived on the same block for a while when we were kids. Another guy who lived on the block was the painter Peter Blake . . . it was a pretty awful block, though [laughing]. Keith and I went to the same school at one point, and we walked home together.
Sounds like "Hey little girl in the high school sweater."
[Laughing] Then I met him later on, and we really remembered each other.
When I listen to you on your records, I sometimes get the sense of a ten-to fourteen-year-old singing, as if inside you were a young boy still. What age do you feel close to?
About eleven or twelve. Just pre-puberty. I know it sounds immature [laughing], but one day I'll do it properly when I'm a big boy.
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