June 3, 2008

Trumpets, violins, I hear them in the distance
And my skin emits a ray, but I think it's sad, it's much too bad
That our friends can't be with us today

Risaku Suzuki, Kumano, 1997

* From a 1977 interview of Patti Smith. excerpt:

CQ: Do your fans give you expensive gifts -- say, a half ounce of cocaine?

Patti: I've had ounces. And grass. But one time a guy sent me a letter. His name was Timothy -- no number or last name or nothin' -- and two $50 bills in it. Brand new, and I couldn't give 'em back. Free money.

CQ: Have you changed since you began making it?

Patti: I feel stronger. I feel like I've been doin' it all my life. It's still art, and I been doin' art since I was 4 years old. Rock 'n' roll has now entered the art spectrum. And because of that, I put the same energies into working within the context of rock 'n' roll as I did when I wanted to be a sculptor.

CQ: You mentioned that you've been on the road here and abroad. Does travel inspire you to create art?

Patti: O yeah, I been to Paris about 10 times. To get inspiration I got to a bunch of places -- to Jim Morrison's grave in Pere Lachaise, that's the first place I go. In fact, our first European tour was really cool because they had this white Aston- Martin or somethin' waitin' for me. You know, I don't get treated that way in America. In America I'm lucky if I get a station wagon. I'm just sayin' that I happened to be treated like a princess in Paris. So anyway, I had this white car and they said, where do you wanna go? And I said, to see Jim Morrison. So they took me to the graveyard in the big white car. I remember the first time I went, I was all by myself in the pouring rain. Really fucked up and the mud was splattering all over me. I was in this white car smoking a cigarette.

CQ: Just you and the chauffeur.

Patti: Yeah, me and him and a pair of dark glasses and a pack of cigarettes.

CQ: Do you smoke a lot?

Patti: I don't inhale so it doesn't hurt my lungs. I just like the look. really on top of it, I like that Jeanne Moreau woman-with-her-cigarette look. It's all for show. My own show.
CQ: But other rock stars had the technology going for them but couldn't channel the break into a new kind of energy.

Patti: I was lucky. I've never been real fucked up on drugs. I knew Janis real well. She was so fragile, so emotional, a lot like, say, my mother. I mean we're all emotional. But you can't let your emotions consume you. If you can't transcend that emotion, into work, then you can't do anything. I'm real emotional. I mean if I'm really fucked up and cryin' sittin' in a room . . .

CQ: And drugs and booze only make it worse.

Patti: I use drugs to work. I never use them to escape or for pleasure. I use people. If I'm real depressed, I have some real wonderful friends. When you turn to drugs, all you're doing is turning inside, anyway. When I'm in trouble or emotionally fucked up, I don't wanna come to me. I wanna go to somebody else. I don't wanna look in a mirror. I only use drugs for construction. It's like one of my architectural tools now. I don't go to a party and get all fucked up. Or sit in a hotel room all sad and messed up and take drugs.

CQ: But enough rock stars did use drugs as an escape. Now they're dead.

Patti: I'm not makin' a platform about it. I'm just sayin' for me, personally, I think drugs are sacred and should be used for work. That's what I believe in. Drugs have a real shamanistic value. I can handle drugs. I've never had a problem.

CQ: Some New York discos are getting pretty loose in terms of drug tolerance. Have you noticed?

Patti: I can't go. I'm a great dancer, I love to dance, but when I go to discotheques, people talk to me so much that I can't. It's like Edith Piaf. She was very religious but she didn't go to church, because everybody looked at her.

CQ: Judy Garland couldn't eat in a restaurant for the same reason. But are you that bothered?

Patti: Oh, I eat like an animal. I come from a big family. I'm used to bein' watched. Here's what I don't like: If I'm in a certain mood and I feel pissed off or crazy and I exude that, I want people to understand it. The only times I get pissed off are when I'm walkin' down the street and someone wants to talk. I say, "Look, just trust me. I'm fucked up now; I can't talk to you. I need you. Thank you believing in me but..." And when they keep right on botherin' me, I say finally, "Look -- I don't need ya. Go away. You don't understand. Don't buy my records!"

CQ: Do you think about equality for yourself?

Patti: No, I don't wanna be equal with anybody. I wanna be above equal. I don't think most people are equal to me. I'd like to communicate with everybody; I'd like to do something universal, I'd like to have the hit record of the world. But that's not the same as being equal. Women compete with women; it's not all men. When I was sellin' books at Scribner's there were stupid women that were older than me, and they got paid more just 'cause they were older. You can go on forever with that shit. So you fight. I don't think fighting is bad. People get too much of what they want and they loose the fight in them.

* RIP Bo Diddley, who in 1955 resided a stones throw from the current Dust Congress headquarters.

* "I'm looking for the unexpected. I'm looking for things I've never seen before." -- Robert Mapplethorpe


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