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04/05/2012 EXCLUSIVE: Michael Des Barres Interview (Part Three)

Date Published: 04-05-2012

On to part three of my mammoth conversation with Michael Des Barres on monday evening. I feel very priveliged to have such intimate conversationsd with Michael, in which he opens up so readily about his music, his motivation, and his life...


Jon: I was listening to the Detective stuff the other day. I did what you told me, and I didn’t know you guys were so tight

Michael: It was ridiculous then. Shocking. A lot of those cuts they were like huge here. That band here is one of the seminal bands. The guys at Classic Rock, they’ve all acknowledged it. Classic Rock and Mojo have all given Detective kudos for being seminal bands that never sold millions of records but made great records. You know, sonically. I think One More Heartache is one of the great rock ‘n’ roll tracks, as do a number of people, and that’s enough for me.

I remember listening to it back with Page and Plant – it was obviously on their label - and even though the obvious influences of Led Zeppelin were on that album, it was still felt that when playing it for those two, well first of all getting them both in the same room, is all another chapter.

Barney Hoskins has just got a big definitive Zeppelin bio coming out which I am very heavily quoted in. I knew them very well you know. I mean Pamela was with Jimmy for Christ’s sake and Jimmy was a huge Silverhead fan – why else would he sign us to Swan Song, you know?

Jon: You ought to write your autobiography

Michael: Well I have. You know we have a 95-page proposal out. I was raised in an England which was Lindsey Anderson’s public school in If. It was like Oliver Twist in Dickensian life. I am a marquis, I was raised as a blue-bloodied British elite, which I loathe and despise to this day, and I have a very interesting life just lineage-wise, apart from the rock ‘n’ roll and show business elements. But the abuse that I went through, the extraordinary struggles.

At sixteen I’m a star in To Sir with Love, and my mother is in a lunatic asylum, and my father is in jail. It’s a hell of a fucking story. And I’ve told it. And I’m not going to go in the slew of: "born poor, write a hit record, buy mum a house, OD on heroin, get sober and work with rescue animals..." That is NOT my story.

(He did mention a couple of names there, and I can think of a couple of others, but in the interests of peace, love and harmony between all sentient beings, I have discreetly expunged them)

It’s a real savage attack on the hypocrisy of the British class system. It is also a cold clear objective compassionate view of what sobriety is. See I don’t believe in the twelve steps. I believe that if you are using drinks and drugs and alcohol, there are many more steps to your life than 12 of them. I believe that AA is an incredible organisation. But there are many more rooms than this in that house.

And I talk about that which is extremely controversial given the stance of most of the celebrity rehab stars that now get on the cover simply because they put down a bottle of vodka. Your life starts when you put down a bottle of vodka – it don’t end. You don’t instantly become spectacular and philanthropic and a wonderful human being simply because you quit heroin. There’s a lot more to it than that, Jonathan, as I’m sure you are aware. I am sure someone in your family, I’m sure you have experienced this. We all have.

Jon: I’ve been through a lot of drugs

Michael: Yeah, of course you have and the thing is you probably understand what I am saying. That clarity, and compassion and essential life living in the moment means that you live in the moment, that you don’t subscribe to some dogma.

As I said drugs and alcohol are for kids.

You experiment and you see and you know and you either end up like Aleister Crowley living on heroin and boiled eggs alone in Hastings or you don’t. I don’t see the glamour and the melodrama of drugs, I know what it is and it’s not glamorous. It is a brief glimpse into a consciousness that transcends the physical but it is not something that can continue because it will then do the opposite. It will sedate your higher self and destroy it and I that is not my vision for me, or humanity.

Jon: Well you do too much to be able to sedate yourself, don’t you?

Michael: The Devil makes work...... My hands are never idle, except when I was working for Steve Stevens (Billy Idol's guitarist)

Jon: The other day, I thought bloody hell my wife and I have seen you on television in various things we had watched and didn’t realise it was you

Michael: Well that’s it really. Nobody knows from whence .....but I can’t go anywhere without ‘Hey Michael’, whether it being on Roseanne’s show or killing people on MacGyver or singing on American Bandstand, you know, Dick Clarke’s thing, a lot of holy water has passed under the bridge

Jon: I'm looking forward to the album coming out because I’ve seen the rough edition of the video – I haven’t seen the finished one yet but it’s bloody good.

Michael: It is good – it’s going to be better. There is a sync issue that I don’t know if you spotted but I am such a perfectionist that I’m going to fix it. I’m going to fix it actually tomorrow morning – I’m going to get in there and really fine tune that video. But you know, Rob is the most supportive – I cannot tell you how great he’s been. And you know this, because you and Rob are friends, but I don’t know this and my experience of going into partnership with him I’m telling you has been the greatest and we are going to fucking make history, him and me.

There’s an article The Boss played in LA a couple of nights ago and a piece written how disappointing it is that he’s moved in the direction of the new album, and how he is incorporating loops, and this, and that his audience want to see a rock ‘n’ roll show which - when he does play - is majestic in what he does. It’s gospel, it’s church.

There’s very few bands capable of doing what I can do and when I say I, I mean the whole unit that is Carnaby Street – there’s a timbre to that voice and that keyboard like you picked up on immediately, that D3, that Wurlitzer keyboard is something that is so subliminal and means so much that people don’t even know what they’re listening to, but they know it – it makes them feel different and I am convinced that that is a secret weapon there.

Jon: I think so, because somehow you’ve managed to tune into the Zoot Money mojo, and it works and it’s something that people don’t do anymore

Michael: No, people don’t do it. I keep saying it’s below the waist music, so therefore you have to have some kind of sexual confidence or a love of the carnal which is not hidden or clandestine or masturbatory or secretive, but is exulted and joyous, you know, we have bodies, you know, use them.

Jon: I tell you what, something else I’ve noticed and this is really, it’s weird when I’m getting all this just from the one track – the only one I’ve heard and that live video you sent me of one of the other tracks, but although you are referencing the 60s, it’s not retro.

Michael: No I love that you say that. It’s not in any way whatsoever – it seems that plagiarism is a talent even now and the one who plagiarises the best. In my case it’s me, it’s in my blood that stuff and the sounds have a certain immediacy that transcend any evocation of the past...

And so it ended. I enjoyed our conversation very much, and I am sure that we shall speak again soon. In the meantime, if you have any questions that you would like to ask Michael Des Barres, email me on, and I shall pass them on.

If you have only just started reading this series you can read:

Part One Here
Part Two Here


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