West Yorkshire, UK
Gordon Raphael: Hi Gordon, how’s it going today?
Me: Well, haha— you know!
Gordon Raphael: Oh this is starting great, I can see you’re gonna be loads of laughs to interview, but wait— you so DO enjoy talking about yourself, now don’t you?
Me: Yeah.. I actually love interviews cuz I can talk about the thing I know best— me!
Gordon Raphael: Without further ado, ahem... What was the most thrilling place you have ever been?
Me: Well, two places actually. In 1984 I was on my way to Europe for the first time. Two of my friends in Seattle felt sorry for me because I was so depressed and penniless, and they invited me to go with them on a trip to England first and then tripping though Germany, Austria, Italy and Greece.
Before I went on the trip I decided to visit my dear and best friends who had moved from Seattle to New York City to become rock 'n' roll stars in the new wave and punk scene there. When I went to go visit them they were living in the middle of the East Village, in the area around St. Marks Place, Avenue A and Tompkins Square Park. As soon as I landed in that area I felt like I was in actual heaven. Us Seattle people always talked reverently and with worshipful tones in our voice when we mentioned either New York or London: this is because most of the music that we listened to and talked about came from these two cities. But when I arrive to the "golden streets of the village", my mind was blown as soon as I got out of the subway at Astor Place. Everyone walking on the streets looked like a freak, artist, musician, party person, weirdo, rockstar, philosopher, poet or kinky sex slave. Everyone took great pride in what they wore, and the clothing wasn’t judged by the price or the label. It was a display of creative intent, and people were literally wearing their imagination as their clothing.
The pizza was amazing, the falafel's were incredible... At night the Pyramid Club was the place to be. Tompkins Park was almost constantly dangerous with fighting, people stealing stuff, old people playing chess, homeless people selling hypodermic needles out of tents they were living in, and yet in there was also a constant motion of young angelic people from all over the world who had gathered to perform their art, party and have sex.
I went to Peppermint Lounge, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, The World and Danceteria on that brief trip, and I wrote several poems and essays about it in my poetry book called “Hello Mama I’m an Electric Duck aka The Theory of Why”. The other place that is really worth telling about was a strip of land on the West Coast in Washington State, right on the Pacific Ocean called La Push. No matter how sunny it is, in the middle of summer, when you drive out the the beach at La Push, there are ominous black clouds in the sky— always! It was a sacred spot to the Native American QUILEUTE TRIBE and it is a wonder to behold. There are strange rock formations that shoot vertically out of the ocean just off the coast, and bleached white huge driftwood logs that look like the better part of giant trees that wash up on the shore.
I have hiked into that area from the Olympic Rain Forest, and also driven out there in rented cars just to experience the vibe and majesty of that place.
Gordon Raphael: Well, you do go on and on, haha! Ok, How about— tell us about your four favorite shirts!
Me: Wow, I hoped you were going to ask that! Lets see. I had two favorite shirts in my high school years, you know— when I was first really being a stoner, and experimenting with LSD. The first was a maroon long sleeve T-shirt with a really bold yellow lightening bolt from the neck to the waist! My dad used to call me Flash Gordon, and this was like my secret super hero shirt. I wore it at my first concerts, when I was playing onstage. I played a cool electric organ called a Fender Contempo, and with that thing AND my cool lightening bolt shirt, I was totally rocking out!
Then I bought a shirt from Duane Skinner, a really cool kid at my high school that I looked up to and respected. He stole two of them from Lamonts (clothing store)— he kept one and was trying to sell the other one at school for money to buy marijuana.
I don’t know how I had 10 dollars, but I did and I had to buy it. It was another long sleeve T-shirt, but it had really cool white stars on dark blue around the neck and chest, and then red and white vertical stripes under that. So it was basically like wearing a US flag in your body, in a kind of artistic and disrespectful way.. which is what I was all about! I mean, I carried a briefcase with a bong inside of it, AND was reading Karl Marx Communist Manifesto at the time.
Okay, now the Paisley’s! My cool hairdresser and friend Darrick Saffrey GAVE me this amazing bright orange, and yellow Paisley shirt. It was the brightest and loudest shirt I have ever seen! He KNEW I would rock it, and wear it proudly. I let my bassist Mike Davidson wear it for the cover photo of our Colour Twigs album, and I got my first ever passport with me wearing that amazing shirt. When I was living at the punk rock church in Ballard (Seattle), I lent it (NOT WANTING TO!) to our roommate Rico, he wanted to wear it to a party. I saw him a few days later, and asked him about it and he told me he accidentally LOST it! I was so sad and upset. Still am really. I just figured out, while telling this right now... that he probably sold it for heroin. I never realized that before!
Finally I have this green Paisley... it is SO mid 1960’s and so hippie and cool. I still have it, even though I didn’t get it til the mid 80’s. I think I actually stole it from my good friend Walter Tear Bear, at that same church... hmmm. Its, sadly— a bit too small for me right now, I was so rail thin for most of my life, and now... “the good life” haha! A few years ago some of the buttons fell of, and my girlfriend at the time, in Los Angeles, offered to sew some cool new ones on. It lives in my closet, and I do wear it from time to time, as it’s still magic.
Previously as a teenager I had said (smoking pot and taking peyote, mescaline and LSD) “why would anyone choose to be straight when they could be high”
Gordon Raphael: Wow, I was dozing off during that last rant! I had better snap out of it, I have a job to do here. Ok, where were we? Gordon, what was it like to relapse on drugs?
Me: Oh, you had to ask that, didn’t you! yeah its true. I went to rehab in 1989 for a fucking awful cocaine and heroin addiction. I was really in bad shape, but before that I had been smoking pot day-and-night for 15 years. Now some say marijuana is relatively harmless, BUT I am here to tell you that in the hands of an addict personality— it will perfectly annihilate emotional feeling and transport one into outer space, almost permanently! After 15 years of round the clock pot smoking, I tried heroin, and said “wow, this is really what i wanted, but was afraid to ask for”! Previously as a teenager I had said (smoking pot and taking peyote, mescaline and LSD) “why would anyone choose to be straight when they could be high”. See, I was already a huge philosopher, haha, in my mind anyway.
So after rehab I lasted 10 years with no drugs or alcohol, and I was doing amazingly great. I had my touring band Sky Cries Mary in Seattle, was so happy about that— and I met The Strokes in NYC, and recorded their debut EP The Modern Age while NOT on drugs. But then that summer in Mallorca, I smoked hashish one time at the beach with my good friends The Satellites, and also my bestie Anna Mercedes.... and ten minutes later i asked “hey, I got money now... can I get a huge chunk of this for myself?” As soon as I got high that one time, I was on the wheel and it was like those ten years of no drugs had never happened.
I became very anti-social, just buying weed and locking myself in Transporterraum Studio tweaking on my solo records (I Lick the Moog was one of them). If someone handed me a joint I would either smoke the whole thing, or walk off with their joint, finish it on my own and then leave the party. Eventually I started having extreme panic attacks, every time I smoked, especially during the 9/11 crisis in Manhattan. This did not stop me though. Eventually I lost my own record label in London, AND missed a festival slot (V Festival) with my band Black Light, cuz I was to joking stoned to pay attention to my own important business. After that shit happened, I quit in a RAGE. It was easy and I never have been tempted to try getting high again.
None of my love relationships have been extremely peaceful or easy, I must say, but I still believe in love and try for it all the time.
Gordon Raphael: Wow, dude.. you’re really on your soap-box now, huh! Can you tell us a few things you tried to do “to be cool” and if they worked or not??
Me: Yeah for sure. Looking back at my life the first thing I did to be cool was bring my childhood red wagon to elementary school on “library day”. The other kids in third grade (8 years old) were in the junior section, checking out 2 or 3 easy to read books. I asked for special permission to go to the big kids area, and was checking out thick biographies of Albert Einstein and Albert Schweitzer, or Norse Myths, Greek Myths, Native American stories. I’d check out about 8 books and pile them high in my wagon! (Jesus!) and pull that thing home with every kid looking at me like I was a show-off kook! In 8th grade (age 13) I brought the girl of my dreams, Lori Johnson to see my band play.
I knew if she saw me playing my Fender Contempo Organ in my rock band, she’d fall in love with me, and we’d be hold hands and kissing in no time. After the show (at a Junior High School dance) I strolled up to Lori with a proud smile and asked “how did you like that?”. She smiled a big smile back at me, and said, “that was amazing, I like your band — and I think I love your guitarist, will you introduce me please?” I was crestfallen, jealous and sad... but tried to hide it. I introduced Lori to Rob Lindfors, our guitarist, and before long they left, hand in hand— to become girlfriend and boyfriend for a few months.
Lastly I will tell you about when I lived on Olympic View Drive in Edmonds (also near Seattle). I lived with my band Medusa, and a few intense mystics as well. it was way far away from the city by bus, so i was often stuck there as I had no car and certainly NO money. I was teaching myself to play guitar that year (I was 20), and I would sit by the water near our house, a cool small secluded beach on Puget Sound, making up songs and singing. As Autumn rolled around I was getting very lonely and bored, so I would sit in the front yard with my long hair, my roommate’s 1926 Gibson small acoustic guitar, and my shirt off, singing in the front yard in the crazy hope that some girl or woman would drive by and smile at me, or better yet— drive by and ask to come sit with me. Or better yet, ask me to come for a drive in her car. This of course NEVER happened, but what did happen is that I caught literal pneumonia— because in my desperate desire, and my marijuana induced fantasy singing and playing my guitar with my shirt off, I hadn’t noticed the huge change in weather and very cold temperatures outside!
Gordon Raphael: Oh Jesus, have you always been so foolish?? Well, Gordon, I appreciate that you’ve been willing to chat with us, and here’s your last question. Have you ever really been in LOVE?
Me: Oh yeah, let me tell you. First of all I have been deeply in love in the traditional sense, you know I’m one of those heterosexual kind of guys— so I have really been crazy in love with, I don’t know— 12 women....
Gordon Raphael: Wait dude, they say you can only have been in love, truly in love with, like one or two people in your lifetime!
Me: No, hate to cut you off but: Some of the people I was in love with ended up being my girlfriends, and some did not. It doesn’t really matter. I know what I felt about them and why. There was something so beautiful, inside and out, as they say, and magical, and talented and in most cases tortured (as in majorly freaked out about life). I’m so glad I met them all, I learned and gained so much from each of them. None of my love relationships have been extremely peaceful or easy, I must say, but I still believe in love and try for it all the time.
I gotta say this too. Being in love is not ONLY for sexual or romantic partners, either. I have fallen deeply in love, tragically in love with songs, books, movies and paintings as well, even poems! I have fallen in love hard with the sky at night with millions of stars out by a beach, or in the mountains. Certain trees, certain parks (Washington Square Park and Union Square in NYC for example, Volunteer Park in Seattle).
Yeah, I would not last long without being deeply in love with all of those things.
Gordon Raphael: Hmm, I will think and reflect on what you have said here. You’re a bit of a fruitcake now, aren’t you? Oh well, thanks for stopping by.
Me: Oh yeah, no problem... thanks for having me!
"How I grew" - Video by Gordon Raphael
Medusa Xeroxes (top)
Mathias Chahbendarian (black and white)