A Strange Phone Call With David Johansen
Photo by Tony NelsonAfter megafan Morrissey lured them out of retirement last year to perform in England, the New York Dolls have (sort of) reunited this summer that is, singer David Johansen and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain are touring, with respectable replacements for late guitarist Johnny Thunders, drummer Jerry Nolan and bassist Arthur Killer Kane. (The stand-ins include, fittingly, bassist Sam Jaffee of Hanoi Rocks.) We hear good and non-depressing reports about their live show, and decided to check in with Johansen to see whats turning his crank these days. L.A. WEEKLY: So hows the tour going so far? DAVID JOHANSEN: For some reason, they seem to like us wherever we go. We get out there and they go, Oh, there it is, the new Chevrolet.
To read about all of the performers at the Sunset Junction Street Fair, click here.
Come again? Its like a brand thing. This world is brand oriented. If you got a logo, they like ya. You mean younger people whove grown up in a corporate-logo culture? I dont think there are too many old people coming out to see us... Theyre reading a book or something. Or buying a Lexus. People take you as shtick? I have no idea what people are doing. I go out and rock with the band, and then go out and have a light supper. The androgyny aspect of the band was never just a gimmick. Well, thats like how we all met, cause we all looked like that. It wasnt like we got together and decided to look like that. Wed see each other on the street and say, Oh, I wonder if theyre playing music? We came up in a time where there was a whole sort of liberation, you could call it, in the East Village, and we were very much... we were the band of the various lib movements. What does the song Private World mean to you now? It means a lot to me, but I dont know if I can describe it. Mostly it just reminds me of, like, a public and a private persona. Kind of like a Rasta-farian not wanting to get his picture taken... The dichotomy between being a public person and being a private person. The line that you draw so you can have a life. I started out and I just wanted to sing, and then I found out that there was all this stuff attached to it. I think I had a good grasp on foreseeing the cult of celebrity evolving. Do you blame Andy Warhol? Was he a prophet or an architect? No, not at all I think he saw it, too, and played with it. But its much bigger than that. Its got to do with the corporate power structure and military-industrial complex, and just trying to get people not to think for themselves. Just earn and buy. Does that make you feel powerless as an artist? I think you can say a lot of things with music, and thats why I have fun with it. You can be very subversive. The industry has gotten better at pouncing on any grassroots musical phenomenon and turning it into a commodity overnight, trapping a form of music that should be inherently subversive, like rock & roll. Yeah, you know, most people who play rock & roll play rock. They dont roll. So they just mimic something else. I know youre big on reading you into contemporary fiction? I dont really read novels, but Im thinkin about it. How about philosophy whats your latest obsession in that department? Im reading a lot about Ramakrishna right now, who was like the Michael Jackson of the 1800s. Hes just this Indian guy that was tripping all the time. His brain was the best thing. He was a Kali worshipper, and he put all his marbles in her basket and rocked! Anything you havent done yet in your life that you want to do? It was to be a disc jockey, and now Im a disc jockey [The David Johansen Mansion of Fun Show on Sirius satellite radio]. I like that Buick Turbo 404. ... Id like to drive one of those for a couple of weeks. [Ed. note: We have no proof such a car exists.] I may interview Aretha Franklin today do you have any questions for her? Yes. I want to ask her how many recipes she has that use vanilla wafers. I bet shes got like 20 of em. The New York Dolls perform Sunday at Sunset Junction and Wednesday, August 31, at the Anaheim House of Blues with the Chelsea Smiles and Tsar.
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