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03/05/2012 EXCLUSIVE: Michael Des Barres Interview (Part Two)

Date Published: 03-05-2012


Michael Des Barres is one of the easiest people that I have ever had to interview (I won't tell you who the difficultest ones have been) because when you talk to him (or at least when I am talking to him) the conversation goes into free-fall and we talk about all sorts opf esoteric stuff without actually meaning to...

Jon: It’s something I’ve noticed, because ever since we had our first chat I’ve been researching the Michael Des Barres career going back and you’ve always done a lot of different things. Haven’t you?

Michael: Yeah, because one things informs the other. I know.... you’re writing about Rick Wakeman, or you’re writing about Eric Burdon, or you’re writing about any of the guys you’re writing about. Each one informs the other, because you have context. I just want to express myself. That’s all I want to do. I don’t care in what shape or form it takes, I just want to express myself and that comes in a myriad of ways, you know.

I’m very physically fit so I love to run. Running to me is like performance art in a way, it’s a way of expressing your strength, your vitality, your stamina, it’s as important to me as writing a song, going for a run. You know, when I look in my garden, and I know you live in the country and can totally understand, Walt Whitman is a rock star.

Jon: Oh totally

Walt Whitman is also - believe it or not - a favourite and an inspiration to the uber-anarchopunks CRASS who do a totally different thing to that done by Michael Des Barres..

Michael: You know 'I sing the body electric'. He saw in nature what I see in Chuck Berry or .. you know, it’s the same thing. The rhythm of nature and the beauty of roses is as important to me as a melody. Why wouldn’t it be? So everything, if you can see it like that, you can see that every frame that you are looking in is worthy of your absolute, undivided attention, then of course you are going to go in different tangents. Some people call it ADD, I call it a blessing.

Jon: I hadn’t thought of it like that. Yes, because I’ve been studying what you’ve been doing and there is a mate of mine who is an old punk rocker – he’s a journalist in Texas – and he’s been inundating me with ....’Shit when you get on talking about the stuff he did with Steve Jones let me know.’

Michael: Well, Steve Jones, you know, I can answer that. Steve Jones is the greatest rock ‘n’ roll guitar player I ever played with. Very few people have stood next to him and sang. And I happen to be one of them. I’ve also tried to play his fucking guitar, and he’d sit down and smoke or whatever, and I’d pick up his guitar and it would sound like shit. As soon as he picked it up it sounded like Steve Jones. So he’s got a magic touch and an incredible, how would you say it.....there’s a savant aficionado knowledge of the history of rock ‘n’ roll. This guy is as knowledgeable as anybody I’ve ever known from Hawkwind to the Arctic Monkeys. He knows what’s happening and when they think it was just these four tearaways that picked up instruments - wrong.... it was Matisse, that’s what it was.

It was minimal. Brilliant. Because the less bollocks – if you will pardon the obvious pun – the better, the cleaner and simpler it is for anybody that was brilliant. The choice of the note, the stroke of the brush, you know I’ve said it a thousand times, but Steve Jones was the greatest rock ‘n’ roll guitar player I have ever worked with coupled with Clem Burke who I just played with in Texas, last week because we had a big jam on the night of the wedding.

There was Clem, the infamous BP Fallon, and two local Texan guitar heroes and we just played 'Honky-tonk Women' and 'Hoochie Coochie Man' all night, and it was fantastic. Clem Burke is Keith Moon – he has an altar to Keith Moon in his dressing room before he goes on stage every night with Blondie. So there’s a lot of lineage and knowledge and feel and Steve is a God to me – he gets me off – I listen to the Pistols daily when I’m running or I’m in the gym or something.

Jon: Well I know he’s putting some questions for me about Chequered Past for you at some point so.... I’m trying to keep the stories about you on the blog daily up until the album’s come out and we can’t think of anything else to ask each other. And I don’t think that is going to happen any time soon.

Michael: Oh fuck no. We could talk about a blade of grass, you know, in terms of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s all encompassing. There are so many experiences. I can tell you about evenings with Jimmy Page, I can talk to you about, you know, the first time 20,000 girls took off their tops and threw them at John and Andy Taylor. I could tell you about the first gig I did with Power Station, when I walked out live – it was in New York we did a secret show which thousands of people tried to get into because it was announced an hour before on the radio.

I walked out in the middle of that stage, and I felt like Charlton Heston in 'The Ten Commandments' when the Red Sea parts, because one side of the room went to John and the other side went to Andy and I was looking at a complete vacuum down the middle and I thought how wonderful fame is, and I learnt something from it. I learnt so much ... if you pay attention and you get your ego out of the way, and by the end of tour they were throwing their tops and their bottoms at me.

Jon: There’s nothing I can say to that

Michael: The point I’m trying to make is that one’s life has just been a series of vignettes – just violent joy.

Reading this interview again, the one thing that strikes me is that Michael, for all hios fame and accomplishments is essentially a very humble man. When he describes extraordinary events that have hapened to him, he doesn't do it in a "Hey, look at Me!!!" way. He just tells what has happened and attempts to offer un some analysis of an extraordinary situation. That, is probably, the main reason why I like the man...

 

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