By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Have you ever chickened out and not gone down a line of thinking that might get you in trouble?
I try not to. I try to feel what I’m feeling and so I say that, and if people agree with that, then you don’t need to go and persuade them. And people might be jeering about it or whatever and that doesn’t — I don’t know quite what that does. I’m just sort of saying it out loud. I don’t believe in God, but I believe in human beings. It’s an interesting message, because there are 6.5 billion of us and 3 or 4 billion of us are in a position to do something or other. And if we could harness the goodwill of those people, then I think we could do something. And people don’t have to unpickle their religious beliefs. They can harness that energy. Like the people who stood against Hitler. There were a lot of religious people who stood up and said, “This is not right.” And they were put in concentration camps and killed because of it. So, you know, a lot of people with strong character can be religious. And you don’t have to pull it all apart. I can say that I’m not believing in the bloke upstairs, but I still go to church. I find it quite peaceful.
Yeah, and I don’t imagine that you’re harboring any deep-seated thoughts or feelings that are going to make the national headlines if you say them out loud.
Yeah, absolutely. You can grab a bigger headline by saying something much more aggressive. I’m more for putting some ideas out and see where it ends. Someone could come along with quite an idea; it’s good to put the ideas out there.
When was your last big national tour?
Five years ago.
Did you notice any differences in America in that five years? You’re checking in with America for 30 or 40 dates every five years. Are there things you observed this time around that are different from the last time you did this?
Interesting question. I don’t know if I can quite tell that. In these last five years I have spent more time in America than I have beforehand. You know, I was sort of based in London and the 2003 tour was much more extensive. And when I went then I still wasn’t in tune, I think, with American coastal thinking. This time I am. I think my attitude has changed. Because when I was a kid, I thought that America was a bright shining place that went to the moon and saved everyone’s problems and everyone was really nice. And then Watergate happened and gradually you get more realistic and realize, okay, countries can’t be that. And I thought America was this other country of Reagan, linking up much closer with Thatcher. It was all about money. It was all about aggressive foreign policy. And that was America. And having been here for the last five years, for really a lot of that time, I realized that the original America does exist. The one that I really liked, it’s still here.
During the Clintonian years — whoever’s running the country, if you’re outside the country you tend to generally think that everyone’s thinking with the head of that administration. That’s not true, but that’s what everyone thinks. People used to say to me, “Oh, you must love your business venture,” and I hated it, couldn’t stand it. So that’s the big thing that’s changed. And that’s why I’m happy to go to places where people vote Republican at the drop of a hat ... I’m still happy to go there and have a chat. And even if they weren’t very strongly Republican, or back in England if they’re strongly conservative, I’m still very happy to chat with people. I’m very interested in what people think, and all the ideas swirling around.
I mean, I’m very involved — well, as involved as I can be at the moment — in European politics, and I’ve made my stand there. I think that the European Union is a good thing. We’ve got to try and make it work. And a lot of people in England, particularly, people very loudly shout against it. The general population in England, I think, casually think, “Well, I’ve been told it’s not a big deal.” It’s a really tricky argument, Europe, because it’s so much easier to explain how to be against it than it is to be for it. The arguments for it are slightly more complicated, somewhat more complicated, than the arguments against it. The arguments are basically, “Who are these people? They speak a different language.” And so getting involved in that is interesting. You’ve just got to talk to a lot of people and you’ve got to read a lot of stuff. In America, that question doesn’t exist, but the God question, I suppose the God question is really confusing. Interesting, in American politics you have to at least tip your hat to God — if you don’t say that you’re talking to God, hanging out with God, chat[ting] to him all the time — to get elected. And then in Europe, it’s almost exactly the inverse. Tony Blair played down his religion and then became more religious — I assume you become more religious if you become Catholic — when he left politics. I find that very interesting. I think that’s because of the world wars.