By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
So I feel like my interactions with my friends who are little people, it’s just that much more potent — it just tastes better to be with them.
Also, there’s something — I don’t know, I think about my brother a lot, when I see a man who’s half a man, or who’s have the size of a man. Somehow I see something about old Nate in that.
Do you see a bit of yourself in the midget, too?
Oh, I see myself in everything.
Is it possible that you yourself feel very small?
It’s not like that?
No, no. In fact, I feel enormous, and at times, omnipotent. So having a lot of little people around me just makes that sort of like after you’ve been drinking a bunch of champagne, then have a little bit of reefer and it makes it even that much more — if you’re feeling large and omnipotent, and you surround yourself with little guys, you’re like [laughs] the Colossus of Rhodes.
Can you tell us a little bit about Darlene? She’s been with you off and on for so long; at one point she walked out on you, because of your whoring, your —
Not so much the whoring. She was more the drug usage; that’s where she drew the line.
Oh, come on. She didn’t mind the whoring?
Well, I should say, in a strict sense, if it was a whore that I was with, one that I had paid, she did have a problem with that; she said, “Dewey, you will get diseases from people like that. But if it’s someone who’s just really into you and is moved by your music, well, I’m not gonna stand in the way of that.”
So, yeah, with the drugs, though, that pitched her over the edge, and I can’t blame her — if I was in her position, I might’ve done the same — or I might have supported my husband and stuck by him. But that was her choice. I was cawing like a dinosaur at the time, and screaming at the top of my lungs on the top of a building, wearing a dashiki diaper, so I can’t say I have a clear memory of the moment when Darlene left me that first time. But she had her reasons. And I have to believe her.
Was that rooftop episode prior to or after your trip to India?
That was after my trip to India. I got into a little bit of a squirrelly situation there in India. The maharishi and the boys from Liverpool introduced me to what they told me was headache medicine, and it turns out it was “head trip” medicine, I just misheard them. And of course I’m talking about LSD. And that began a love affair with LSD that lasted for quite a few years, and, you know, I can’t say it was all bad, because I did get some good musical ideas out of it; they never quite coalesced into a coherent record, but I got close, I got close, and in getting close I learned that maybe I was chasing my own tail.
And in the back of your mind you were no doubt conscious of not yet having written your masterpiece. True?
Yeah. But that’s what I mean: By failing in the 1960s with that record, Black Sheep, I realized I was chasing my own tail. The way to make a masterpiece is not to force it and just say, “Oh, this is my life so far, it’s been a masterpiece and therefore I can make this record.” It’s just, “Be patient, and wait for the moment of clarity when it all comes together.” And that’s what “Beautiful Ride” ends up in.
During the period when you were writing very “poetic,” basically indecipherable lyrics, and playing an acoustic guitar and wearing shades onstage, a lot of people thought you were borrowing heavily from Bob Dylan. Any comment on that?
Well, those people weren’t around in the many hotel rooms and back alleys when I was writing that type of music, and my voice started to change — it was an illness that I had, it’s called “rasp throat,” which, I don’t know what the technical term for it is, but it causes you to [makes a Dylanesque sound] pinch your mouth and you end up talking like this, and you can’t quite open up in the way that you did before. It’s just something that happened to me. Luckily, it passed.
Um, but I would say to the people who say I was ripping off Bob Dylan that maybe you should’ve been a fly on the wall when I was writing all those songs that you claim sound like Bob Dylan, because if you look at the history, I actually predate him by two years.
What?! Can that possibly be true?
I don’t hold it against him, you know, it’s great music, of course — he stole it from me, and Donovan stole it from him.