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|The Entire World 1994 ("Your Filthy Little Mouth" Tour Book)|
|"Your Filthy Little Mouth" is autobiographical, as any album probably is, but this time it was intentional. All of the reflections in the songs are my personal ones from living in the city for the better part of two years.
I took the approach that many magazines took - an old approach to something new - around the turn of the century, where authors would go on a trip for a year and send back installments month by month and at the end of the year you had a book. At the end of this year we had an album. Song for song, these are people that I either know or have become, living in the inner city. Or perhaps simply people that I can see through my window. I'm going through my artist in a loft phase. It's a little bit of a completion of a circle here. A hardwood floor and two big windows. The ambition was to mix a little Henry Miller with my Huckleberry Finn.
"Your Filthy Little Mouth" as a title has probably all the obvious innuendoes, but I think there is a politician in here. People ask me, "Spiritually, why did you move to New York?" It's one of the few places where you can hang around with … whether it's prostitutes or it's senators …, which I know spiritually is not a great leap! New York is Calcutta on the Hudson. It is the greatest conglomeration of all the noises and all of the sounds and scents that people watch on television and then sing about.
I live in the de-militarized zone of the Village - the DMZ - just to the north of the Village where exactly on the left is the methadone clinic, on the right is the rehab, across the street is the geriatric hospital, behind us is the police cadet school and the church is … and on and on. So no matter who you are, ultimately you're going to use one or more of the facilities sooner or later. So there's space between the people. It's kind of a quiet zone there. If anybody should cause trouble, they'll probably close the methadone clinic again, move it back downtown and who needs to walk that far?
New York is a little twelve mile by three mile wide island connected by fourteen bridges and a lot of people who just lust to cross one of those bridges. When you grow up in Des Moines, Iowa or Lyon, France or Sarajevo or London or whatever and you profess a desire to write words for a living, to make music for a living, to dance for a living, to design whatever for a living, generally the reaction around the dinner table is less than enthusiastic. So many people, in a poetic sense, can't wait to cross one of those bridges, to join that little tribe I call the tribe of "The Land of the Black Shoe".
In essence, below the seventeenth parallel, which is actually 17th Street, it's all black shoes because most of the people down there don't have any money yet. All they have is the dream and just enough cash to buy one pair of shoes. So you get black because it doesn't show the dirt. We all start as "black shoe' and then go from there. I find that the most inspirational - in New York you're more renowned, well once you get past the residency requirement. A lot of celebrity in New York comes from residency - but once you get past that it is more about the work. It is more about the work; it's more about the ambition and the spirit of what you're doing rather than your paid job or how much it just made at the box office.
Once a song was done in demo fashion - a simple guitar and a drum beat - then I would ride around with that demo playing out of my little beat box, bungee cording to the back of my bicycle for sometimes weeks and weeks in and around the city.
I did this in an effort not only to make each song a reflection of an experience, but to have multiple points of view within a given song. We don't usually share this in music. You think nothing of it when you read it in a Tom Wolfe novel. Take the song "Experience". Your reflection on what that word means to you will probably be different on a Friday night than if I ask you on a Monday morning, so you're going to have to wait awhile to get through the first verse. Or perhaps it's reflections of a completely different character upon the same experience and it is only with a long passage of time that you can arrive at that.
Otherwise it's pretty much what I call "Big Bang Theory" - you get it right away and it passes through you right away. We live in a "Juice Man" culture, so why not take a little bit different approach. This is perhaps even more evident in the song "Yo' Breathin' It". It is reflections of several different characters upon the L.A. riots and the ensuing media kind of approach that we're experiencing these days.
Some of it's a bit more simple. Somebody asked me if the women's groups were going to get upset over a song with a title like "She's My Machine". I don't know if it really has a whole lot to do with women. It's a love song to a car.
When people say blues, I shudder. I usually think of BB King. And that occupies a small part of my record collection, but it is not truly my generation. It is not what I grew up listening to, although most popular music, whether it's rock, country, or Sade, is blues-based music and it's as simple as this: most of us being uneducated, pick up a guitar and follow the little dots that are painted on the neck with a simple E chord, the first chord that we all learn. And when you're doing that, you're playing blues. Tomorrow I'll teach you how to be a lawyer.
I can simplify this even more. Want to change keys, just put different color little tags of tape behind the dots and ask the guys when you fire up, "What color is this one in?" That's blues. That is as blues-based as this project is to my way of thinking.
Nile Rodgers is one of your ultimate choices as a producer. If you have a great ambition, if you have a very clearly defined singular sound in mind, I don't know if Nile is your man. His references are way too broad-spectrum, whether it's Chic and Diana Ross or producing (Grammy-winning) albums for Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughan's (with brother Jimmy) first platinum album. It's across the board. Most musicians profess an interest in all kinds of music and they're not lying, what they mean is, is they're dialing through the radio they stop at the country station and go, "Oh, nope not yet." And they dial through the dance music and go, "Christ, not that either," and get to whatever their hat and shoes look like. Essentially they told the truth if truth well told.
My driving wheel is rock music, but in its many different permutations, its many different varieties. Rock music is no longer like the word pizza. If you say "pizza" in 28 countries, they know what you mean. If you say "rock", well that's everybody from Tom Petty to Metallica. That's everything from the Black Crowes to the Chili Peppers. I like it all. If you ask me to - write a song in the dark it will probably finish up at around three minutes and 28 seconds, it'll have a verse and a chorus and it'll go "Wow!" right before the guitar solo. This I do without looking. If you ask me to do it in the dark, that is what I would come up with.
But the influences come with many different sources. Nile does not have a signature sound to his production. A signature sound perhaps would be somebody like a Mutt Lange or a Brendan O'Brien, or in the dance groove would be Stock Aiken and Waterman or Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Right away without hearing the artist you know exactly who the producer was. The producer is a stronger entity than the artist in those cases. Nile adapts, Nile flows with. You have to be very open-minded because the ideas are going to come from right and left field. Should we get to the lime?
There's the old line, "Gosh, it's good to be back in New York City and hear the familiar comforting sounds like, 'Move your fuckin' truck!'" "Your Filthy Little Mouth" is all the bad news that comes pouring out of CNN, it was all the rumors and gossip which came pouring out of my last girlfriend, it was what everybody is saying about Heidi Fleiss and what Heidi is saying back. Finally, but not leastly, in this day and age the most erotic, the most torrid is mental. Passion in lovemaking is probably … I've finally figured out what sex is … it's pure communication through plumbing. If you don't have anything to talk about, well you're not going to score as high on the judge's card.
In a day and age at least in America where program directors, station directors, all are claiming to know their market and specialize their market more and more, that whilst even as they speak this, more and more radio stations are going out of business. It's when more and more acts, more and more radio stations or television stations are narrowing their focus to a specific given kind of individual, what I'm seeing out in the streets is a law student with dreadlocks on a Harley Davidson and a Japanese girl on the back listening to Kitaro on a Walkman with a Metallica T-shirt and they're headed to get some Thai food. Or Cuban Chinese food. This is the audience. This is who we are. Don't tell me that you know exactly who I am and exactly what one kind of music is going to appeal to me.
We just finished a video with Wayne Isham (for "She's My Machine"). Wayne's tastes as well are across the board. Everything from Metallica to Billy Joel. And it is a whole new approach to video for me. We change as people, our sense of fashion. I was a fashion emergency even when I signed up. We change as people and the music reflects that and so should the video. It's certainly not Diamond Dave, it's not vaudeville. I'm trying to sum it up in two words. It's a whole new approach.
There's always a fresh catastrophe going to show up tomorrow on Geraldo, somehow I know it. Literally everything is life threatening and I don't try to detract from any of it, but most of us do have a few comments for the television set as it reads off the list on a daily basis. And it is precisely those comments that I pin up lyrically first.
A little sense of humor, a sarcastic eye, a little sharp wit. Even the darkest of my characters reflect perhaps differently by the last chorus and even the brightest and the most illuminated of my characters stop celebrating and brood sooner or later.
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Interview © 1994 "Your Filthy Little Mouth" Tour Book