Grace Slick and Paul Kantner have unofficially assumed the leadership of that mindless, mindful San Francisco rock and roll starship, the Jefferson Airplane.
They hadn’t planned on it. Members of the Airplane foresee very little of what happens to them. But Marty Balin, who put together the first Jefferson Airplane (including Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Skip Spence as drummer, Bob Harvey as bassist, and Signe Toly Anderson as second lead vocalist behind Balin) in the summer of 1965, has stepped back behind Grace. For years and two or three albums, their soaring vocal trade-offs have been a mark of the Indian/jazz/mechanical/blues/rock sound of the group. But now Kantner is writing and singing more and more; he’s been busted again and again for dope and other extra-legal activities; and he’s hanging out with people like the Dead’s Jerry Garcia, and CSN&Y’s David Crosby, and the Airplane’s Grace Slick, who in December will be the mother of his child, named god (“Just ‘god,'” said Grace. “No last name, no capital G. And he can change his name when he feels like it.”).
Which says a lot for Paul, because Grace, slim slo Scorpio slider, damn well knows she’s a rock and roll queen (and not because Janis is gone; Janis was Little Girl Blues) and does what she damn well pleases. “White Rabbit” and Finch finishing school and all that.
When Grace and Paul speak for the Airplane, they’re representing a haphazard community of people who’ve set some important paces — for San Francisco, for the elite of the hip scene, and for rock and roll bands everywhere. Sure, it’s “gotta revolution,” but it’s still “Jefferson Airplane Loves You,” the slogan for their first promotional button in 1966. The Airplane still plays free park concerts. They still battle their record company on behalf of the people (RCA recently re-released ‘After Bathing at Baxters’ with a reduction on the original $5.98 retail price, which had outraged the Airplane in early 1968) and their own aesthetics and politics.
The politics and the lifestyle are clear. Laissez-faire; non-violent revolution (as Kantner explains), and revolt-inspired optimism for youth: “Free minds . . . free dope . . . free bodies . . . free music. . . The day is on its way. . . the day is ours,” Kantner writes in his new solo album ‘Blows Against the Empire’). All the hassles, all the busts, all the Nixonian-instituted repressions — “It doesn’t mean shit to a tree,” Grace sings. And if RCA objects — well, all right. “It doesn’t mean fred to a tree.” After all, it doesn’t mean shit . . .
(And Hot Tuna — Jorma and Jack’s spinoff group, resulting from one of the lazy periods between Airplane albums, when the lead guitar and loony bass began jamming together at The Matrix nightclub — was named when someone allowed as to how the record people and probably the radio people might not dig the name Hot Shit.)
From the very beginning, the Airplane has been short and terse, their humor simple and unanswerable — unlike their music. In the very first story on the band, in the San Francisco Chronicle in August, 1965, the writer described Balin’s newfound base, The Matrix nightclub. “One wall is a huge collage,” he wrote, adding Balin’s explanation: “We call it the huge collage wall.” Grace, in an interview for a women’s page feature, explained her housekeeping: “Yeah, we try to keep the house from falling down.”
But the anti-norm, anti-intelluctual, anti-art stance isn’t an obligatory posture. That’s just the way they choose to live their life, in line with or despite what the media has forced upon them. And there is that aristocratic air about them as they sit in their bed in their overwrought Tiffany mansion/rehearsal place. The room is just naturally littered, just as the second-floor office is filled with whimsical art, the Jefferson Airplane’s anti-idea of what’s funny. (That ten-inch-square color photo of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich that surprised you when you opened up the ‘Volunteers’ album — that was funny, see?) And downstairs, instead of furniture, there’s a pool table and a torture rack, the rack occupied by a stuffed walrus.
It all fits if you and he and she are all together in that aristocratic circle that moves between the mansion across Golden Gate Park down to the studios in the whorehouse district and out to Marin County where the Dead and Quicksilver live. One musician called it a “booster club” in Rolling Stone. And Kantner explained: “Well, he doesn’t get off in this situation.” And Garcia would add: “Of course, it’s our situation.”
So Grace and Paul, step-parents of the Airplane and perhaps a good part of San Francisco’s spare chaynge children, don’t have to reach out to you. But they are far from cold. Kantner seems satisfied with a monotonish mumble, and Slick is as flat in voice as she is in body. But Grace is a beautiful wit, snapping off word-plays and irreverence at every opportunity, and rewarding herself with a sexy giggle. And if you get into it, and toy with their answers and put down their put-ons, they’ll warm up, and it becomes a rap. They’re very human.
A couple of weeks ago — after Jimi, before Janis — Annie Leibowitz, the photographer, and I went to the Airplane mansion for the interview, waited half an hour while they were waking up, and retreated briskly up the stairs as the office was invaded by a suntanned promotion team from RCA. — B.F.-T.
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I remember once you were talking about why Signe Anderson left the Airplane, and you’d said it was because she was pregnant and couldn’t handle all those things — touring, recording, having a baby, hanging out — all at the same time. And that’s what forced her out. How does that compare with your situation now?
Grace: Well, people all around me have been trying to force me out. . . It’s been going on for five years now. But I think there were other pressures on Signe that made her leave. In my case, there are a whole lot of different chicks around and everybody is sort of helping each other out with various different things and they can take the child for awhile and I can theirs at the house at the beach, and we can trade off.
That kid’s going to get mixed up.
Grace: Well, not really. Some of the most interesting and happiest kids I’ve seen have lived with a lot of different adults, because a kid can go up to one guy and wear him out. And as soon as the adult gets tired, there are five other guys, or five other chicks to go and wear out, and the kid gets to be very bright — and tolerant, you know, with that many kinds of people around.
Why did you decide to have a child?
Grace: Oh, it’s just a small person, and they expand more than animals do. Some people have animals around. I like animals, but I thought I’d try a human being because they have more happening. I think it’s partly an ego thing; you get an old man that you like or dig a lot of qualities about, and you have to like yourself to a certain extent, and you want to see what the combination of those two minds and bodies will turn out like — you’re really curious.
Your contract with RCA is going to be up in November. Any idea who you’ll go with?
Paul: Whoever gives us what we want most.
Bill Thompson mentioned the possibility of forming a record label of your own, and just finding a distributor.
Paul: Yeah, it’s not too hard, and it doesn’t involve too much, other than having them print your names on the album — if we wanted to get into it on just that level. We’d just get that much more control over everything.
How much control do you have now?
Paul: Almost total.
That’s from fighting over five years . . .
Paul: It also has a lot to do with the fact our contract’s up and they really want us to sign again. So they’ll do almost anything.
What has RCA learned from you, and what have you learned from them?
Paul: We’ve learned to let Bill Thompson, our manager, take care of all the business.
Grace: Last couple of years, it seems like they don’t exist, to a certain extent. ‘Cause we don’t really see them — we see Barry Jenkins once in a while, but its a. . .
Paul: He’s not RCA anymore. He’s getting weird; his hair’s getting long.
Grace: So the band makes the music and the tapes go away, and they come out as records. But RCA is too big to even refer to. It’s like saying, “Well, how are you dealing with the government?” I mean, what dealings? You don’t deal with the government at all.
RCA is 800 million people with a dollar’s worth of stock, and there are people doing stuff, like once every two years well meet, Thompson will say, “This is Joe Heefenbacker, he runs the record division of RCA.” Then he shakes our hands and goes off and does something. But that particular interchange is meaningless. It’s like walking from one room to another. You just don’t think about it.
It seems that with every album you’ve done, there’s been a clash. For the cover, for the lyrics, for whatever . . .
Grace: Well, you know when you come in late at three o’clock in the morning, a 14-year-old kid knows he’s going to have to say something about it. It doesn’t matter that it’s right or wrong, he knows that that’s going to have reprisals. So we know that everytime we put something out, there’s going to be something, even if it isn’t the stuff we assume we’re going to have hassles with. We put out some word and everybody thinks, “Oh God, we’re gonna have to hassle with them on that,” and they’ll pick out something else. Like that cupcake thing. We were in the studio doing the musical end of it and Thompson comes in and says, “Hey, how about everybody drawing a little something on this piece of paper, whatever you feel like,” and everybody’s doodling on paper. And Paul’s eating a cupcake. He put, you know, one of these fluted things that are around cupcakes — he just put it down on the paper and drew around it. And passed it off and went on with what he was doing. RCA said, “You can’t put it out; it looks like a psychedelic cunt.”
How did RCA know what a psychedelic cunt looks like?
Grace: So it’s actually just silly. You just hand it in and wait for them to worry about it, and then talk to them. And they usually manage after awhile to understand some of the proportions.
Was there any problem with “Mexico” before it came out?
Grace: No, ’cause nobody’s ever in the studio.
Paul: We just told them, here’s a new single, and didn’t get any hassle. All very simple. Of course, there was nothing dirty in it.
What about Dick Cavett? “Mexico” was banned there, too. To you, privately, did he say, “Hey, I really want you to be able to do this song”?
Paul: Oh, yeah, he held up the show for an hour and a half — it was taped late — with all the audience sitting there — ’cause he was upstairs with the executives arguing with them, telling them what assholes they were for not having us play the song. So they finally still said we couldn’t do it, and he came down, all pissed off. Said, “Sorry, man, I really feel like an asshole to have to tell you . . . “
And ABC had censors there waiting with scissors to cut out “motherfuckers” from “We Should Be Together.” But they had fucked the sound up so much when we did it that we spent a whole night in New York blasting at them and telling them how shitty they were and they’d better fucking get the sound together or we’d blow your radio station up or something. So they spent the whole time — see, it’s like taped a day in advance — and you have to get a certain amount of time filled, so if they were to snip four or six minutes, they’d have to find something else to fill. So they spent a good deal of time trying to work with that, and they didn’t have time to look at it for censoring or anything.
Thompson was talking about instead of going with a particular record company, to form your own company — and it could go beyond rock and roll and records and get into the future of the media — videotape cassettes, holograms.
Grace: It’s hard to tell exactly what you’re gonna do, but I suppose all that stuff could come under the corporation. Or set up some kind of an organization that is loosely outlined to include all the weird things that each member of the band may come onto. Like Marty does like to produce other bands, and Jorma’d like to do one thing and Jack another.
Do you see these media developments as ways to circumvent whatever repressions we feel from corporations or the government; as viable forms of alternative media?
Paul: It’s not alternative; it’s an evolution of what’s going on now.
But it would also be something that could bypass the FCC’s jurisdiction.
Paul: That’ll be pirate radio [Whispers] But we can’t talk about that, either.
So you’re behind that, too.
Paul: No, it’s just an idea I’m trying to push onto a certain group of people. Revolutionaries.
It’s interesting to hear someone say that pirate radio is technically possible, beyond off-the-coast transmission or street-to-street operations.
Grace: It’s possible. It’s a bit difficult to get hippies organized into anything, but I think if they get annoyed enough with the stuff that’s going down, they’re capable of showing up. Like Jorma is always late to almost everything except he’s never missed a job. So anything they consider important, they’ll be there.
You could get involved in visual things, too.
Paul: Oh, yeah, definitely. I’m going to try and get my starship thing onto videotape. That’s a song, side two of my album. It’s about us — me and Jerry Garcia and David Crosby stealing a starship — hijacking a spaceship, going where whoever comes along wants to go.
It’s my answer to the ecology problem. It’s the only way it’s all going to get together and work. Unless we have a war or a big disease or a famine, there’s just too many people, and they’re gonna have to get off the planet. This is my way of starting to get off a little earlier.
We don’t have to stay anywhere, we’ll land wherever we want and then take off again. The sun is only one solar system out of millions of solar systems. The orbit of Pluto is probably a speck of tiny dust in the whole universe. There’s millions of other whole planetary systems. It would be interesting to just keep going till you stop, to see what stops you, until you run into the side of the bowl or something and see this guy out there looking at you.
That’s what old Owsley could do, is to make a machine that would go that far that fast. He’d just read some books for a couple of weeks and get it down. That’s how he made acid. Just went out, got some chemistry books, and decided to do it, and did it. He does it with sound systems; he’s been doing the Grateful Dead sound from one aspect or another for five years. He fucks up at it a lot because he doesn’t have great equipment or enough money to really get it together. I mean if you give him $50 billion and an island and a machine shop, he’d have the starship together in less than a year.
How many passengers would there be?
Paul: In the song there’re 7000. That’s just a number. I’m writing — not a novel, I don’t know what you’d call it . . .
How would you visualize the film, as a documentary?
Paul: No, it’d be the rock and roll groups — us, the Dead, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Quicksilver — being part of the plan to take all the millions that they earn from rock and roll buying an island in the Pacific or somewhere and setting Owsley up with a lot of bread and a lot of equipment to build some super machines that allow you to peacefully take over the spaceship without hurting anybody — just leave them pleasantly disabled so you can get what you have to get and function that way. Get the starship and all the people who want to go on it and start driving. And you can superimpose any story, any concept you want to within the structure of the starship. The starship becomes a whole world in itself. Owsley builds an ocean for Crosby to sail his boat on. Redwood forests — a whole level devoted to country. So you could have any movie trip you wanted to. And it’s all short — little short chunks. So the movie wouldn’t have to have these groups together for five months filming something. You could like film a segment in Golden Gate Park and superimpose that within the forest structure of the spaceship, and that’s just one of the things that happen on the ship that day.
There’s every situation. There’s oceans, there’s sky, there’s spaceship decks, machines and a big room — a recording studio, you notice, makes the most fantastic deck of a starship, sitting behind the board and looking at the reflections from those treble-glass window plates. I mean there’s so much stuff around here that we could easily film, without much planning or work.
Well, the song on the record was recorded like that. With just people coming in and putting in little bits of stuff here and there. “Hey, Harvey, you wanna play on this song? Here, Graham Nash, you wanna produce this number?” And everybody lends a little touch. And rather than it being one big story movie with a hero and girl and anti-hero, it’s just a collection of little — you know, there are thousands of stories in the Big City . . . and this has been one of them.
Grace: It gets a little hazy in the studios, with four or five groups going at once. We have half an album and we didn’t even realize it. The other day, all of a sudden: “Hey, half the Airplane’s album is done. That’s far out — didn’t even know it was going on.” Just start making music and you even forget who you’re doing it for.
Not to compare scenes, but Leon Russell and Denny Cordell’s doing it in L.A. interchange and interflow sessions with no hassles over contracts and credits . . .
Paul: Bonnie and Delaney, they had a lot to do with starting that. And now we have studios here, so it’s easy.
I hear Little Richard helped out on the new album. Delaney and Bonnie said he’d “helped” on one of their songs, but it sure sounded like one of his songs.
Paul: You’d probably say the same thing about Joey’s song. It’s Joey’s song, but there’s a Little Richard song in there, too. Joey wanted a piano part that Grace couldn’t play — you know that real heavy thing? Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-TA-to, 16 times. It takes a lot of muscles, man. And Joey was saying, “Gotta have that Little Richard thing.” Then I said to him one night, ‘Why don’t you call up Little Richard?’ Somebody said it; I’m not sure it was me. Hey, far out. So we call, “Thompson! Thompson! Get ahold of Little Richard’s manager for me.” And they went through a whole scene of going through his manager, which was really a drag. But Joey finally did get together with him.
So how was Richard all together? Did he dig your music? Stick around and listen to it?
Grace: He seemed interested. He had a great expression on his face, you know. There were about 30 people in this little studio; everybody’d come down to see Little Richard . . . he was good.
Did he do his act?
Paul: Not really; he was just being real warm. He sits down and says, “No, man, I don’t play worth shit; I just sort of crash around here, and hey, we could do it in this other key, ’cause I like this key, Ok?” Then a little while later, “Hey, how about this tempo? I really get off on this tempo.” So it got into that, so it’s Little Richard’s tempo and key. That’s Joey’s song, but it became a little bit of both, and it worked out nice. It’s called “Bludgeon of a Bluecoat.”
Grace: Power track, socko. Joey wrote another one, called “As Pretty As You Feel,” and that’s soft, kind of old-fashioned . . .
Paul: That one came out of a jam with Carlos Santana, Jack, and Jorma, and Joey took like three minutes out of a 30-minute jam and wrote some words to it. Marty’s got “Emergency” and a song called “Up and Down.” “Mexico” and “Saucers,” we’ll probably have live versions of those on the album. Grace has a song called “Crazy Miranda” . . .
Grace: . . . and a song called “Flying Fishman” and a song called “N.O. Two.”
Paul: And Jorma’s got a couple of songs he did with his brother Peter. And I’ve got two songs . . .
Grace: “America We Love You as the Child Loves the Father Who” . . .
Paul: Don’t give it away . . .
Grace: I love that line. It just knocks my brains out!
What’s the title?
Grace: “Today We Are All One.” First line is really good. You’ll never get another line like that. I just destroyed Crosby with it last night. Said it to him and you know how he falls apart, he melts all over when he likes something, everything just collapses and he falls over his chair and falls on the floor.
Paul: It’s “America, we love you as the child loves the Father who sits slobbering in the corner eating flies and spiders.”
Grace: It’s a love song.
Paul: I have a song “To Diana,” the chick who got blown up in New York with the Weathermen. For the woman Diana. “Crazy Miranda” is the Women’s Liberation freak.
Grace: It’s more or less pathetic. The whole song is actually the second line, which is, “She believes in anything she reads.” And the rest of it’s more or less superfluous. There’s a lot of information coming in, it’s the inability to make up your mind as to what part of that information applies to you. And I think a lot of chicks who are into that are having trouble figuring it out. What they’re supposed to be doing. Well, should I sit back and let it happen or go out there and grab that guy by the balls? And they sort of do a little bit of each of it and look and sound confused.
I mean, brassieres and stuff, if you don’t want to wear one, just take it off. But burning it . . . I think a lot of street theater is fun but like anything else I’d also like to see people who are good at it. It’s preferable to see people who are capable of getting together more or less what they’ve decided to do. Like I prefer Abbie Hoffman to Richard Nixon simply because he’s more entertaining, more interesting to listen to. I don’t care what the two of them are talking about, they could be talking about toothpaste, and Abbie’s gonna come out hands down because he’s just a more entertaining guy. And if those chicks were to send out their best representatives — figure out who is good at those various things, instead of just sending out anybody and it looks dumb and makes them look stupid.
I’d like to see Bobby Seale doing his nightclub comedy relating to what’s going on today.
Paul: I’d like to see Bobby Seale out.
Grace: I think that kids are the reason all that flamboyant stuff is going down, because you realize after awhile that there is little to distinguish yourself from animals except entertaining other human beings. I mean we all essentially do the things animals do — shit, fuck, sleep, and eat. And art is the only thing that separates us at all. Science, art — those two things, being together or apart.
Paul: When they’re together, it’s called magic.
Grace: Bucky Fuller. Bucky Mod. He’s incredible. But he’s trying to point out something, that people are taught that they are almost useless for a number of other things. Like I’ll talk to people, say, I’ll draw something. “Hey, that sure is neat.” Then why don’t you draw, then? “I can’t draw.” They’ve been told they can’t draw. Instead of just doing it and assuming that you can do anything you’ve decided. And people are told — like if Paul was good at math at four or five, he’s told. “You ought to be a scientist, you ought to be a scientist.” And he figures, “That’s what I can do. And that’s all I can do.” But it isn’t all they can do, necessarily. They can do a whole bunch of junk. And that’s what Fuller was talking about — letting people do anything they feel like — get into all of it, as much of it as you can. People being channeled is kind of sad.
It ties back to what you said about street theater. What’s to stop hundreds, thousands from saying “I want to be their representative,” if they want to try?
Paul: What’s to stop them is the ability to do it.
Grace: You do have to think about what you’re doing. You can’t just say, “Since I put a pencil to a piece of paper, it’s a good drawing.” So like the chicks going out and arranging little performances, like I saw a thing on television, it was just astonishingly pathetic.
There has to be a certain amount of organization to any community of people but it should be done as locally as possible because it’s very different to govern yourself, let alone anybody else. One guy telling hundreds of people what to do is really outrageously stupid if you think about it. It’s hard to take all your own personal pieces that you’ve got and set them so that they all move smoothly. Running millions of people . . . it’s silly. The communes are a fairly good idea, there would be natural leaders; you don’t have to call them President-anything or Superintendent-anything, they are people who are just plain capable of organizing, guys that are good at cutting up avocados and they more or less organize that way in a small community — you can see all the problems, everybody knows everybody else and you can more or less take care of immediate stuff that needs to be done.
But that guy doesn’t even know what’s going on. Ideal government would be a very boring job — it would be a matter of organizing a lot of utilities and keeping the wires together and the power plant and all that kind of stuff. It’s not a matter of telling people how to live, it’s a matter of making it pleasant for them to live. Government should be in the position of distributing food, stuff like that. It might be a good idea to have government totally by the people — that each person takes four or five hours of the week doing some kind of government job — in other words, along with what you do you also help maintain the government so no one person has total control — I might go down to an office for four hours and do whatever I’m capable of doing — writing out receipts for food distribution in a certain area — but it’s all actually a monstrous secretarial job and that’s all I think it should be.
And you’d be willing to give part of your time.
Grace: Sure, if you reduce government to the level of just paperwork and making sure that train gets to that city with this amount of stuff on it for that amount of people. I’d do it, that’d be fantastic. It goes at a snail’s pace, but just because of fantastic ideas that people have, a small portion of it gets done. I was talking to Paul about Da Vinci sitting around drawing — he’s drawing submarines and things that go up in the air and all that kind of stuff, but a lot of it, in fact, all of those drawings are flying around now and doing stuff under oceans. It sounds silly at a certain point in history, but at another point it isn’t going to be silly, it’ll be a reality.
How far in the South have you toured?
Paul: To Texas, New Orleans, Florida, and that’s weird enough. I don’t need to go to Alabama or Georgia to know to stay away.
PG&E got shot at in the south . . .
Paul: That’s why I want to stay in the starship.
How about the conventional ship? Crosby and Valenti have both talked about having a boat and being able to split at any time, as an alternative to fighting in the streets.
Paul: It’s a temporary solution.
Grace: Also, like David said last night, if you try and deal with this country on a fighting level, you’re lost, ’cause the military is the biggest and most powerful blah blah . . . there’s no way you can do it.
Paul: Did you see Odds Bodkins last week? “Practical Pig”? Dan O’Neill [the cartoonist] had one last week with Porky Pie coming out saying. “We hear you kids wanna get into a fight with us,” or something like that. “I hear you’re buying all these AR-18s that they’re using in Vietnam for fighting in the streets. Well, we have about 16 million of these things. And we’d love to do it on your level.” And that’s about what it is, you know. Everybody really would relish that.
So when you say “We should be together,” who and what do you mean?
Paul: Stealing their children. ‘Cause I don’t see any real hope in changing them. It couldn’t be done.
People are calling you and the Stones the rock and roll bands most outwardly calling for violent revolution.
Paul: Violent in terms of violently upsetting what’s going on, not a violence of blowing buildings up or a violent “shoot policemen” or violent running down the street with an AR-18 shooting everything you can see. But violent shit, changing one set of values to another.
Or something violent in the eyes of the establishment.
Paul: Oh yeah, just a whole turnaround of values. That’s violent to them. It’s extreme.
I like “It doesn’t mean shit to a tree.”
Paul: It doesn’t. Don’t get serious about it at all. ‘Cause it’s not serious.
So this whole conversation is just a gag.
Paul: There’s no real importance to attach to it in the general scheme of the universe.
So what’s the importance of what you do — rock and roll, live performing?
Paul: Important’s a shitty word.
What’s the reason for it?
Paul: Trying to make consciousness. Pointing things out. Just make people enjoy themselves. We didn’t even know what we were doing when we started doing it. Looking back, all we were saying was, “Look, we’re having a good time.” And nothing else. Just sitting around having a good time with all this shit going on around us. Pretty soon people start filtering in, saying, “Hey, they’re having a good time.” David calls it “egg snatching.” Kidnapping children.
It’s also very safe to be in a rock and roll band if you want to smoke dope. You have a lot of shield between you and the gun folk. People get uptight at us riding a Cadillac when we’re in New York, but it’s the single most effective weapon against getting busted in the world. It’s the one thing they recognize. We’ve driven through New York with police leading, in front of us.
But outside of that shield, aren’t you more liable to be busted because of the things you say or promote?
Paul: No . . . it’s very hard to bust people these days.
Another shield, I suppose, is to have people around you who know what’s going on in any situation and know how to handle it.
Paul: Well, it’s like they know if they bust us it’s going to involve a lot more shit that they’re going to have to do right up front, than if they bust some kid out in the street and has no lawyer in back of him . . . It almost feels like Al Capone or the Mafia or the Untouchables, ’cause you got down there and a lawyer will come and [fingersnaps] pick you out. When they busted me in Hawaii I even got another guy out of jail, a spade cat they’d busted the night before and beat fuck out of, and we just bailed him out, and they were really pissed off, ’cause it was easy to do. It was pleasant to do, just to get them uptight, ’cause they did a bad thing to him in front. It wasn’t a bad thing they’d done to me — more inconvenient. Humorous inconvenience.
Grace: It comes down to a decision to keep your hands in or take them out of a fire. After a certain age you know that when there’s a flame on skin it’s going to hurt, and like with Lawrence of Arabia, the trick is not to care that it hurts. If you want to smoke dope, go out and smoke dope and assume you’re going to be hassled sooner or later, and if you like dope that much, then you’ll keep smoking it.
And it’s funny, they always bust you when you’re not actually smoking dope.
Paul: Or they bust us illegally, and that’s why they fuck up so much. They can’t do it legally.
In Hawaii, the report said you were caught moving through some bushes outside the place you were staying at . . .
Paul: I was sneaking up on them, and I had a Camel cigarette in my mouth, and they jumped me and it fell into the sand, and they made this big to-do about looking in the upper level in the bushes, so I said “Why don’t you look in the sand, you’ll probably find a Camel cigarette over there” and they didn’t pay any attention to me.
How did the case actually turn out? Was it thrown out?
Paul: In essence. The judge couldn’t throw it out. He was a Hawaiian judge, and he would have had to say, “Yes, the police were lying,” so he found me guilty and reduced it to a misdemeanor and fined me $150.
But at concerts, sometimes I go deliberately past curfew just to show how people do react when you go past that stupid thing — cops get into this ridiculous scene, it’s great. It should be filmed time after time. They say “You can’t play for another 12 minutes,” and they spend like an hour and a half trying to quell the disturbance they start when they could have let us play another 20 minutes and let it be done. Just pointing out the stupidity is what’s fun, ’cause you don’t have to do anything, just point and say, “Hey, lookit that,” and go away. And people will start questioning it, and once they start questioning . . .
Is it anything like that in Europe?
Paul: In Rotterdam they legalized dope for a festival and everyone was getting ripped . . .
I hear you like to leave joints in telephone booths and government buildings. Are you going to continue that kind of crusade?
Paul: I’ll probably escalate. Leave bales of marijuana strewn across cities. Also leaving just tons of food on people.
Are you in fact a “millionaire band”? Some magazines have called you that. Probably because of this mansion.
Paul: This place only cost $65,000 for the whole thing. Pretty cheap for a three-story Victorian house, but nobody wanted to buy anything like this, ’cause no family could use it.
Grace: $1 million a year isn’t hot stuff for thirty people — if that’s called a “millionaire band.”
But would you be in any position to actually do any of these projects — free dope, free food — etc.?
Paul: Oh, no, I don’t think so right now, but we’re working on it.
Grace: As a single band a lot of these ventures are impossible, but with other people and other bands . . .
Paul: It’s that connection of energy we were talking about — Triad . . . Us, the Dead, and Quicksilver . . .
What about your past efforts to run your own tours and your own ballroom? Were these mostly business trips of Bill Thompson’s, or do you want to produce your own shows?
Paul: We don’t produce any more of our own shows. It’s just playing together with the bands we like. The Carousel was because we wanted to have a room to have it together the way we wanted to get it. It wasn’t a business trip as much as setting up a place where we could have fun.
Grace: Musicians can be incredibly lame about carrying on business affairs. They get together and say, “Oh, sure’d be neat to have a whatever-it-is,” but it takes a little more than a “it’d sure be neat.” It doesn’t hold up unless you get someone who can do that stuff, who wants to do that stuff.
One person who wants to do it is Bill Graham. What kind of things do you run into with him, a guy who’s got it pretty well down?
Paul: He’s got it too well down, so it’s becoming like a TV show — the same thing every week. We keep trying to get him to keep the Fillmore open like two nights a week, maybe all night, so people can wander in off the streets and have a place to hang out. He likes the idea, but he’s having problems with them not knowing when he’s going to open and close. The bands are going to do a benefit to support that sort of thing.
How are you getting along with Bill?
Paul: Fine. It’s always been cordial. He’s trying to help us go to South Vietnam and North Vietnam. But the government doesn’t like the idea, even sending us to South Vietnam — it’s the long hair and dope. We’d probably tell people that anybody who didn’t want to fight could put down their guns and split.
It is a little different from saying “Get up and dance.” What would you want to do in North Vietnam?
Paul: Entertain. Maybe try and get some of our prisoners back as a gesture. . . toward our culture.
* * *
How’s Rip Torn’s Richard III movie coming along? I hear the band’s involved in it.
Paul: Rip was here yesterday with a tape for us to look at — portrayals of Richard III, the play, as Rip does it. He does some caricatures.
I hear he does more than just Nixon.
Paul: He’s more Nixon than Nixon. You know the story of the play, Richard III. It’s basically that, except the story’s superimposed over Kennedy and that area of our political arena.
It sounds like a ‘MacBird’ kind of idea.
Paul: Kind of, but better. MacBird was written a lot. This is the original Shakespeare intact. Line for line, and the parallels it draws between Richard the III and his surrounding court and Richard Nixon and his surrounding court are incredibly funny.
What role would the Airplane play?
Grace: Audience . . .
Paul: Sort of the line the Greek chorus has in the Greek tragedies.
What form could this take? Could you go on Broadway?
Paul: Yeah, but I don’t think our band would go on Broadway. We’re going to do a film of it and maybe some live performances.
Would you like to do a film on your own?
Grace: I’d love to go into films. I’d like to do all that stuff — acting, directing, making music for it, drawing — I’d like to combine animation with live action.
Would you want to be producer, too?
Grace: Production is all that writing out stuff, storyboards, stuff like that.
Paul: In films, a producer puts up the money and a director does all that . . .
Grace: Well, a producer can be or have a large part if he wants to. It depends on each guy. Like Antonioni is totally different from Otto Preminger.
Paul: But they still have to do the same thing, plan out the actual physical limitations of the movie. That’s why I had so much trouble with my album. I had to produce it all and plan what went out over the speakers. So if I made a movie I wouldn’t want to have to go in and do what I had to do to make a record. ‘Cause then I’d have no time to do whatever the equivalent of making the music is. I’d have to spend all my time figuring wide angles, figuring how long this scene is, blocking characters, what will be said.
Grace: You can get help with that. Get a good cameraman . . .
Paul: Get a good director. And then do what you can really do best. Which has nothing to do with that technical shit.
Grace: I don’t know. Somehow that doesn’t appeal to me. It’s like hiring somebody to live for me. I’d like to make a movie. And then saying, “Would anybody like to make it for me?”
Paul: Right — exactly. That’s what I want to do. I find producing record albums the most boring thing in the world.
On films, a director has to visualize every shot, thinking in terms of a 3:4 ratio with each frame, thinking about cuts and zooms . . .
Grace: Right, I enjoy that. I’ve got a bunch of those storyboards downstairs. Jerry Slick is a cinematographer, and he would say things and do things, and I was watching and he made out storyboards, and do like every 12 frames or whatever. And I had a great time, just getting fucked up out of my head and drawing dozens of storyboards — each thing, superimpositions and colors and exactly how it’ll be shot and lighting and everything, I like the whole thing.
Probably the ideal thing would be to be a producer and to know how much of that work you want to carry out yourself and what’s beyond you and who’d be good to have to take care of that part of it.
Grace: Well, the main problem in this and thousands of other discussions is that we have said “producer” and “director.” What it actually means is that you, I, they want to make a film and it gets done one way or another and people take a degree of active participation that they can handle or desire to take. But I wouldn’t call anything directing necessarily; it’s just a matter of taking a concept you want to put out — and do it.
Did you ever sit down and talk to Godard?
Grace: Well, he came in and introduced everybody and sat for approximately ten minutes with dark glasses on and without saying anything and just watched, sort of enjoyed that . . . Usually directors are arm-wavers and such, he just sat there. I thought that was good. He’s rather diminutive as a personality. He didn’t storm around a lot.
Did you expect to get busted when you were being filmed playing music on the rooftop?
Grace: I expected somebody to show up, ’cause it was really loud — you know, a knock on the door, “I’m trying to sleep, could you turn it down?”
Did you think for a moment that Godard might have planned the bust?
Grace: Oh yeah, he goes out and does stuff and then films what happens with it, and he has a certain plan of a beginning of the action and then he lets the natural event follow through.
I’ve only seen the film as a rush, a bunch of sequences, at different times, so I’ve never seen it as a total film. It’s more or less like a magazine set-up, like there’d be an article here on something, then an advertisement and an article here, and a shot of a pretty girl and a lion picking its ear, for miscellany. There’s cinema verite on Cleaver and young Americans. It’s always weird to see what Europeans think of this country — they get the immediate flashes — that are probably right — signboards and violence. . . kids beating each other over the head.
Would you dig to work with Fellini?
Grace: Oh yeah! I like his films. I don’t know about working with him ’cause I have no conception of how to make a film . . .
But if he had a conception for a film and wanted you ’cause he thought you’d be groovy for if . . .
Grace: Sure, I’d pick up cigarette butts on his set. A lot of filmmakers, it’s obvious right as you’re watching it or even before you see the movie how it’s gonna be put together and how long it takes to set up a shot, and Fellini’s stuff I would really like to see how long various sequences take and how they are filmed, because it could be done any number of ways, but I don’t know, and that always intrigues me.
Which applies to you more — the phrase “We should be together” or “It doesn’t mean shit to a tree”?
Grace: It depends on who’s writing the song. The one thing, I think, the Airplane was more cohesive in its song-writing — the people who were writing the songs were more together in their projection at the time, ’cause Jorma didn’t write at the time. He has a way about him which is dark and Bergman-like, introspection into personal problems, so that aspect wasn’t in the group at all. And Skip and Paul and Marty did the writing and they were pretty much the love trips and stuff like that, and I never was. The Great Society was always a little morbid, so now you’ve got Jorma and Joey, who’s doing his whatever you want to call it — it’s hard to tell.
So you wouldn’t confess to a unity for the band; that one person speaks for the others. Just by accepting a song and going into the recording process.
Grace: Yeah, each person is different now — like Marty and Paul don’t write too much together anymore . . .
Paul: Well, “Volunteers”? “Volunteers” was written almost the same way all those songs on the first album were written.
Grace: “Volunteers” is one song you and Marty’ve written out of maybe 50 since I’ve joined the group.
I’ve read here and there that you’ve got a book coming out.
Grace: It’s getting together . . . I’m kind of scribbling stuff down and collecting strange drawings . . . I write things on matchbooks . . . all that kind of stuff.
Paul: Like “Kill the president” . . .
Grace: Right. Cute little sayings . . .
Paul: I meant the president of . . . oh, Bolivia . . .
Grace: So this company called up Thompson and said, “Hey, we really like your lyrics, we listen to your music and jeez, if you have any writings or anything — have you ever thought of writing a book?” I said, “Sure, I’ve got piles of junk, great, you wanna publish my book — fine.” So I sent them the book, they looked at it, and said, “Too freaky.” So what’d you write to me . . . I didn’t want you, I didn’t ask for this! They said, “Too freaky.” Ok, well, now I’m all hot for it, now you got me all up . . . Now I’m gonna write a book.
[At this juncture of the interview we’re at Wally Heider’s studio, and Jerry Garcia has arrived to get a dub of Kantner’s starship song and to listen to his own band’s tape from the previous weekend’s Winterland gig. He’s stepped through the door applauding, saying, “More, more,” and has sat on a ledge, alternately talking with Paul and listening to the interview, alternately nodding and smiling, very much the guru that he’s called.]
Garcia: Why don’t you write a novel, for Christ’s sake. Write a fuck book.
Grace: Well, it’s got pornography in it, but they thought it was too freaky. It isn’t animals or anything; it’s just people pornography. That’s pretty straight pornography.
So now you’re hot for it; are you trying to tone down the freakiness?
Grace: No, I’ll wait ’til a company that’s just as screwy as I am comes along and publishes it.
Garcia: It’d be nice to publish alternate universes . . .
Grace: Jerry doesn’t want to do much. He’s a humble man.
I want to know how you got into rock and roll. You’re doing a gig with Sha Na Na at Kent State. Were you into jukeboxes or what?
Grace: Rock and roll, rock and roll, rock and roll. I think it was just I went down to see Jefferson Airplane because there was an article in the Chronicle, and there was a picture of Marty, and he looked sort of like he was Japanese or Filipino or something, with a Prince Valiant hairdo, which nobody had at the time, and underneath, it said, “He’s got a rock and roll band,” and it sounded very weird and I went down to see it. And I said, “Hey, that looks great, let’s do that. Those people are having fun; let’s do one.” So that’s the Great Society thing. But that’s not rock and roll, it’s kind of electric folk freak stuff.
That’s a story you’ve given out several times, and several times you’ve also said you’re not a singer, that you’re just talking. But obviously you’re developing or sharpening some kind of technique.
Grace: Well, I don’t think you can get away from yourself, I mean you have a certain kind of nose, I mean unless you go in for plastic surgery you got a certain kind of nose that distinguishes you and the same thing with your voice and the way you pronounce words, it’s going to come out a certain way so anybody essentially that sings, is going to sound the way they sound, unless you work on sounding like somebody else or changing it. So it’s not a singing style, it’s just the way my nose looks or the way my fingers look.
You still learn about phrasing, learn about breath control . . .
Grace: Hmm, yeah, more or less. It’s nothing compared to people who actually study singing four or five hours a day and all kinds of tiny little things that they learn but are actually worthless when it comes to singing over 115 db, because you have to be able to hear yourself to do the correct pronunciations and all that kind of stuff. So, you develop something else and there’s no name for it as yet, it’s like trying to tell a classical guitarist I want you to do one of those high whining woooows, and that’s all you can do, you can’t give him notes to have him reproduce the sound, and there’s nothing you can tell Jorma except with your hands and with your mouth kind of trying to duplicate the kind of sound you heard him make that you want him to make again. And I watch Paul in the studio and he’ll go out there and he looks like an airplane going out of control, you know, he’ll be directing because you can’t write it down. There are too many names for whatever it is.
It seems like most of your professional life is entwined with your personal life, that it all comes out of what you need or what you want. Convenience defines your singing, or why you’re a singer, why you’re doing a book, why you’re having a baby. Everything’s a principle.
Grace: Chaotic circumstance — I was on that corner at that time. A lot of it. And it depends on what you do with the corner when it presents itself to you.
I remember a story about Sly Stone being producer of a single you were trying to record when you were with Great Society . . .
Grace: He’s incredible. God, the guy — he’s amazing. He went around to each instrument and played — we watched him — from instrument to instrument, played really well, and sang, and produced.
How did that affect your group?
Grace: Oh, we were so . . . people had picked up their instruments two weeks before — you know, like, “Why don’t we start a rock and roll band. The Jefferson Airplane looks like that’s pretty much fun?” So there was no professional hassle at all. I think now if someone comes up to Jorma and says, “Jorma, let me show you how to play that,” that’s a little different, ’cause he’s been playing for a long time.
Paul: But even in the beginning, who was it, Bernie Krause was hired by Matthew Katz to try and orchestrate the band while we were at the Matrix. And he had a shattering experience for himself, trying to direct Jorma . . . saying, “Guys, if you could just play, dom-da-de-da-dom . . . “
Grace: You guys were different, though; you weren’t never really children, and I’ve told people before, like the Airplane was the top money-maker in San Francisco and all the rest of us were on sort of the underneath level and they were always the star billing and all the other bands — Great Society, Big Brother, Charlatans, Marbles — we were all underneath them. And at the time you didn’t have the individual dressing rooms, everyone just piled into one room, and the Airplane would come in and they wouldn’t talk to anybody; they’d just come storming in with this really arrogant attitude, carrying their guitars and kicking things over and stuff like that, and we used to laugh at them — “Lookit those big shots, they think they’re such hot shit,” and they never really were a young group; they started out being arrogant like that and have not finished with it yet.
I wonder why. Well, I know why. Marty owned the Matrix where you started . . .
Paul: Yeah, we had it pretty easy for a group starting out.
Pretty good timing . . .
Paul: And also not too much was happening in the city musically, and we were sort of floating . . .
Grace: The Four Seasons used to hold auditions at the Jack Tar Hotel periodically when they had the record company, and we used to go down and look at them, and they had incredible acts going down there, and that was one of the most enjoyable occasions, watching the amateurs thing for the Four Seasons. Great stuff.
Paul: I got into it when I saw the Byrds doing it.
What, auditioning for the Four Seasons?
Paul: No, I got into making a rock and roll band on the same level that she’s saying how the Great Society started. You know, from being David’s friend . . .
Grace: Well, you guys weren’t my friends. They weren’t anybody’s friend. They were their own friends. Gosh, you guys were arrogant. Except Casady. Everybody liked Jack. But they didn’t like anybody else in the band. I think it was ’cause he was kind of shy, and he was the only member of the band that wasn’t a super star at age three.
How’d you meet David Crosby?
Paul: When I was in school, he came to me and said “Hey, have some of this. The first one’s free.” Then I was hooked and I could never get away from him after that.
Grace: Yeah, he’s just the old dope pusher.
Paul: I met him in L.A. Me and (David) Freiberg and a couple of other people went down there to achieve stardom and all that, and we got together and got a little house in Venice on the beach, and we’d practice every day and night, and spend every day on the beach incredibly fucked up on grass that Crosby’d get for us.
Did you do that trip of having a guitar on your back and going from coffee club to coffee club?
Paul: Just mildly.
Grace: Marty said that’s how he got you for the band. You walked into the club with your cap on and all this hair sticking out and a banjo on your back, and it sounded like the ethnic folk story of all time. “I saw him and I knew he had to be a member of my band!”
“You play drums, kid?”
Grace: Right. “No, but I play banjo.” “Learn the drums. We don’t need any banjo.” He still plays banjo. Got a banjo track on your album.
There’s a persistent story around that Spencer Dryden never played drums before he joined the Airplane. I thought he had a jazz background.
Grace: Yeah, he’s been playing for a long time. Spencer had to answer the question eight million times because the story got printed and reprinted and reprinted.
I see his old lady Sally around L.A. once in awhile.
Grace: Sally’s vibrant. She likes a lot of activity going on. It’s awfully pretty in Sausalito but a bit slow for people who like to see a lot of people and do things.
She’d like to be a big movie star, and she does some topless/bottomless dancing.
Grace: Off and on. I want to go down with the other people and laugh it up and stuff, scream things back and forth from the stage. Sally and I can get pretty repulsive, and it’d be great if she was dancing nude screaming things.
Your PR chick Diane Gardiner and I wanted to laugh it up for dinner one night so we went to the Pink Pussycat in L.A. for some bottomless food . . .
Grace: Spencer used to play there. He was the house drummer; his first old lady was a dancer there. Athena, the Grecian Goddess. He said it was great. Just about toward the end of when he was playing there they put in psychedelic lights which have all kinds of strange elements in them. And if you have scars or capped teeth, it makes them all stand out, so these chicks used to go crazy with the lighting. They’d come out and be doing their thing and they turn on some kind of purple light, and a tooth, and big stretch marks . . . and the girls would go storming off . . .
I saw that happen at Apostolic, Frank Zappa’s studio in New York, and they had this light in the elevator, and this really pretty chick got on, one of Frank’s old ladies, and somebody said something funny and she smiled and the top half was green and the bottom half of her teeth were blue. Apparently fake teeth come out a different color and it was great ’cause she didn’t know it and she’s smiling and we’re saying “Far out! Great teeth!”
Must have happened to you, too, at the Fillmore.
Grace: Yeah — I imagine scars and zits and nose hairs and everything . . . pretty good looking from the first row.
You have day-glo nose hairs, huh?
Grace: Yeah . . . We must’ve looked pretty repulsive under those lights . . . probably quite a flash, looking up there and seeing those green monsters with horrible teeth and ear wax — “Quite an experience, you oughta go see ’em; they’re really ugly.” San Francisco groups aren’t the most beautiful in the world anyway.
Did you ever see yourself in the Woodstock movie? Why was it that you were not a part of the movie?
Grace: Somebody may have been wrong, but in all fairness, it also was a fact that everybody involved, the sound men doing our sound at the time, ourselves, and the cameraman, that was the last group and everybody had been up for 24 hours and had 18,000 different drugs and been in sun and rain and they were all not functioning at top level. There just isn’t much point. There’s no big reason to just be in a movie just because you’re there — there should be some kind of performance and it was pretty bad. The sound and the visuals people kept going to sleep. It was 8 in the morning. If it had been more sloppy it might have been good, but it was just on that level where you kind of think, huuuuh, I don’t like those middle things, if it had been one side or the other it might have been interesting but that just kind of slobbering around in the middle . . .
Annie, did you have any questions?
Grace: My favorite color is black.
Annie: Yeah, I wondered how you saw yourself, in a photograph?
Grace: Oh, being pregnant. All I see it as is a very large stomach . . .
Annie: Would you like to be photographed with a very large stomach?
Grace: No, for some reason I don’t . . . it’s not the large stomach, it’s the posing that I don’t like, and my old man figured that out. He tried for maybe two weeks as a young fledgling photographer to position me, and living with me he finally got real good at candid photography. Because if he ever said, “‘Move your arm a bit,” I’d say, “What for? It’s not real.” The arm’s there.
Boy, you’d be a good model, wouldn’t you?
Grace: I hated modeling. I did it for two or three years. It’s also a matter of a personality flaw, of being almost totally stubborn. I don’t like to be told what to do at all. That’s unfortunate because a lot of people come up with good ideas and can direct you . . .
Do you mind being advised?
Grace: Yeah . . . I don’t like it at all. And I think it’s wrong sometimes because I lose out in that process. I feel really restricted if someone says, “I want you to play that faster.” And I think, well, I won’t play it at all. Like a kid. “I don’t wanna do it! I don’t wanna do it!”
Are you also very insistent, then, when you direct others?
Grace: No. I don’t care what they do. All I do is get someone who’s a real good musician and I can trust him and they always do come out with something good . . . The phone’s going to ring. [Two seconds later, it does. It’s a special, super-compact Trimline that Grace calls “the Ferrari.” She answers:] Yes? You have a very direct voice today, whoever you are. Abbie.
Paul: Where’s our tickets to the show, you fucker?
Grace: When do you spreck? [Abbie was in town for a speech — later canceled.] You all by yourself. Come on by . . . Yeah, we talked to him for a couple of hours. Crosby, Paul . . . good stuff. Just a second, I’ll give you the man. [Kantner, on the phone, tells Abbie about his album and promises a tape copy.]
How was your date with Abbie at the White House?
Grace: Oh, it was funny. God . . .
Did you see Tricia?
Grace: No . . . I suppose it could’ve been done because the White House didn’t know who we were until the reporters let them know because the reporters were taking pictures, so the guard said, “Sorry, you can’t come in,” and I said, “I’ve got an invitation.” “Don’t care if you’ve got an invitation. Guards say you’re a security risk.” “Hey, man, I’m a singer.” “Well, sorry, you can’t come in.” If Abbie hadn’t been there I think it would’ve been smoother. But I preferred that silly business. I always like that. [A] We got the invitation. It said “Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Slick.” And I showed it to Jerry, and he was lukewarm about going. So I called Abbie and he got this flag together and slicked his hair back — he looked like a pimp, you know. Greasy hair and this funny suit that didn’t quite fit. Draped a flag that his old lady Anita had made over the fence.
They were right, though, ’cause I had acid powder in my pocket and I don’t know that I would have used it, because I don’t know the set-up of the White House or how it would’ve gone down, but in case everything would’ve been cool, they would’ve had good reason to keep me out. You see, it was a tea, and what I’d envisioned in my head was White House and Finch College and all that junk, those formal teas, they have a table, ’cause you’re taught that, that’s one of the things a finishing school teaches you — how to serve tea. The usual setup is a long table with two silver encrusted large teapots and the hostess and whoever she figures is the maid of honor serve at either end, and you each get cups and stand around like at a cocktail party.
And the amount of acid that I could just have on the sweat on the end of my finger could have gone by just like that [flick] and nobody would’ve even noticed it going into a cup. And I was thinking of talking to Tricia and saying, “Thank you for a nice tea and I think you’re probably going to enjoy the rest of the afternoon considerably,” dump, and she’d be thinking about that remark for awhile . . . and that’s the only reason I was sort of disappointed at not getting in; otherwise it was just great fun.
I see you’re starting to get a few grey hairs. You must be over 30!
Grace: I wish it was all the way out to here. It’s only about five inches long because I used to dye it black, and it’s been there since I was about 24, but I’m just starting to let it grow out, and it’s five inches of grey hair and five inches of red . . .
How’s your throat now? It sounds like the nodes are something that’ll keep recurring . . .
Grace: It’ll probably keep doing it. It’s like some people have large calves on their legs, other people don’t. A person with smaller calves is going to have more trouble pumping a bicycle. I’ve got a stupid throat. I enjoy singing, but it’s not strong, so that’s it. Fortunately, the operation is less painful than having a tooth filled.
It’s like Crosby said, I don’t think it’ll be too much of a problem because I don’t plan to be singing that long. There’s nothing more ridiculous-looking than old people on the stage. And it’s getting to be so that the level ought to come way down as to who ought to be cavorting around on a stage. When I was young, around ten, and my parents’ friends would come over and try to be real chummy, like be your friend or peer, and you just thought they were assholes. And people who continue to perform on stage figure everybody really thinks they’re neat, and they don’t. They think, “look at that old jerk.” There’s a time. And also there’s a matter of your head wanting to do a number and being able to handle a number of other things. You start out performing because it’s fun, then you learn more things and you want to do more than go “Na-na-na-na” on a stage. The production end is interesting, writing is interesting, and you learn to coordinate all these things.
So in later years you may see your role not necessarily as an entertainer singing rock songs, but maybe as a communicator . . .
Grace: Yeah, there’s just a certain appearance and attitude with rock and roll — like the guy Alice Cooper — and stuff like that, and I enjoy that, young kids goofing around and making a lot of people uptight about it. There’s no reason to be uptight, it’s like that reviewer in New York who got really upset with Jagger’s film Performance, and he just laid himself all out in this review by making these incredibly stupid statements . . . You just make statements to amuse people and you wear certain colors just to make people laugh and there’s no big deal about it — and he has lipstick on, all right, it’s just not that big a problem. And people get excited by Alice Cooper because he’s got false eyelashes on. Well, that’s for your amusement, you just go, “Ho ha, look at that guy with false eyelashes on.” But that’s good stuff, and I think a 35-year-old person still having the mentality or the desire of a 20-year-old is sad, actually.
I don’t think so.
Grace: I don’t mean to close yourself up and become conservative. I mean by that time it would seem that you would have learned enough to extend yourself further than that.
It’s hard to say what will happen to this whole scene in ten years, though. Like you might grow with the audience while they grow with you, and you’ll probably move to a different place and still be valuable in some kind of communications role.
Paul: We seek to eradicate that audience/performer relationship as much as possible. That’s not really valid anymore, for us. Just don’t like it.
Well, whatever you do, whether it’s film, TV, records, you’re still performing on some form of stage and they’re receiving it.
Paul: I like a live stage.
Grace: All I’m talking about is being a huge fat full person as much as you possibly can and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have died because you’re not prancing around on a stage. Prancing around on a stage is not the entire purpose of my life.