Saturday, 15 December 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Michael Des Barres interview (Part One)

I always enjoy talking to Michael Des Barres; he has a ridiculously hectic schedule, and does some fascinating things, but his underlying philosophy is very similar to mine. Yesterday afternoon I had two film directors here, they were talking to Corinna and me about a film project based on our monthly webTV show On The Track. In the middle of this my housekeeper Helen and her irrepressible daughter Jessica (to whom I have been Uncle Jon for most of her life) arrived, and then - with all this madness around me - I telephoned Michael.

MICHAEL: I am so excited, you know, I’ve got this live album. It’s called Hot and Sticky Live from Carnaby Street.  I cannot wait till you hear it, it’s like in the heyday of that Humble Pie album [Performance - Ricking the Fillmore from 1971], and Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!

You can hear the crowd, you can hear feedback, it’s so raw. The MC5 you know that era of stadium rock and roll.  We are so proud of it, I can’t wait for you to hear it.

JON: What’s on it?  Is it all stuff from Carnaby Street?

MICHAEL: It’s not all stuff from Carnaby Street. I do I Don’t Need No Doctor [Humble Pie], Get it On in a medley with By Baby Saved my Ass.  We do those to end the show  and the only cover it Stop, in the Name of Love, which I sort of rewrote the lyrics to be about what’s happening in America, which is…there’s shootings every day.  I mean conflict every day here and everywhere else.  And it’s something that I’m working on to create a 'Fuck War' concept with Tom Morello of Rage and Steve Earle and other activist rock and rollers and do a concert just to bring awareness to the idea that it takes a catastrophe for people to get together. I mean people have to drown, die, lose everything in order for the nation or the community to connect with one another, and my point is, is that why must we only … and then a couple of weeks later the media forget and then they’re on to some other scandalous bullshit involving a congressman or movie star. So the life of catastrophes and people coming together around them is getting shorter and shorter as we, dare I say, progress. So I did Stop in the Name of Love on the live record and I want to coral my friends and people that I’ve worked with in the last couple of months because they’ve been very involved with Steve Van Zandt and Bruce doing charitable stuff, and with 'Skinny Santa; I got connected to a  whole bunch of people who want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, in every area: child obesity, violence and gun control…

JON: I was going to ask you about the Christmas record.  How did that come about?

MICHAEL: What happened was, I’ve always adored Christmas.  It’s a glam rock holiday, I just love it so much.  I love the whole notion of gifts and Jesus, you know, and what he said.  I am completely the opposite of people who say ‘oh it’s a crass commercial way to make money’.  Everything is a crass commercial way of making money <laughs> You can single anything out and label it that. For me, I love  Christmas, and then I suddenly realised that the portrayal of the jolly fat man – like many of our institutions,  and our evolution – is not an image that perhaps we should be given to those children who are eating Cheetos and crap every day.

JON: That’s a really, really good point.  I hadn’t thought of that.

MICHAEL: Yeah, because we worship this iconic view of jolly fat Santa Claus.  You know jolly fat Santa Claus in reality would have had a heart attack with a kid on his lap in a store many Christmases ago.  I’m talking about eating food to anaesthetise feelings and to try to deal with this anxious-ridden world.  It’s really a metaphor for indulgence.  It’s another way, you know Banksy would do it.  I just did it with Chuck Berry.

JON: And it rocks like a bitch!

MICHAEL: Yeah, it’s like the Stones.  It’s a very simple….. I played it all and it’s very, you know….you know Chuck Berry wrote songs for children.  All of Chuck Berry’s music was for teenage sex-in-the-back seat music, but the Stones took and then made it hedonistic and dirty and bluesy and sort of fantastic, but essentially that Chuck Berry vibe for me is very childlike so that’s why I sort of used it in this song because it’s very … it definitely struck a nerve.  I mean Nickleodeon are using it, Serious Christmas Channel uses it, you can hear it in gas stations, you can hear it in supermarkets, and on Little Stephen’s show, that’s Underground Garage, it really penetrated the media.  And it will every Christmas.

JON: And I like that way that, right at the end, you’ve got the opening guitar riff from Carnaby Street.

MICHAEL: Yeah, I mean everything is linked.  

And this seems a sensible place to leave it for today. We will be back tomorrow..

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