American Songwriter, November 11, 1983


I was— For starting, I used to really enjoy Spike Jones and Leiber & Stoller. America should give them an award for what they did to make rock 'n' roll happen.

The very first thing that I ever wrote wasn't a song. It was a— See, I didn't start writing songs until I was in my twenties, I started writing off chamber music and orchestra music. And the very first thing I wrote was a solo for snare drum called "Mice," which I performed at one of those things that you— you know, when you're in school, you play a little solo for your class, and that was my first composition.

You never know when one is going to pop up. You never know. [...] I might see something on a newspaper that drives me crazy and I'll write about it. Sometimes I'll sit down and write it. But a lot of the stuff is just written in airports, and I just, I carry noted paper in a briefcase and write it down.

I do a reporting type of a job. And it's also like a— the same kind of a job that a folklorist would do, because many of the songs are right about folkloric type material, just so happens that it's urban, not rural, and it's not industrial—well, some of it is industrial, it's related to the music industry—but, just like a folk song where you have a character who has done a certain thing in a certain field, and down to the ages his myth is retold in story and song, like, crude example, John [...], the [Steam Hammer] or whatever, you know. That kind of a song. Well, I'd do a song about what one of the guys in the band did one time. If it's [...] curious enough, you know, if it has some kind of, uh, something to it that would make an entertaining song. That's the way I work, you know.

Real tough to write [...] music notes and be totally new. You only got twelve of them, unless you're going microtonal. So, it's real hard to think of yourself as being a true trail blazing kind of a totally original kind of a guy, and especially if you're working in a rock 'n' roll or pop music framework, because there are certain norms that must be included into the song to make it sound in that style, and certain things that make a song sound like rock 'n' roll and not like a polka. And if you don't use those norms, then it's like a— It's like a language, if— the people who are the consumers for that type of a song need to hear certain dialects to make 'em understand it—you have to incorporate those things into the arrangement to get your point across.

You know, some people write so they can be famous, I write 'cause I like to hear what I write. And that's my feedback. If I like it when it's done that's all that matter. And if somebody else likes it, that's good too. And if they hate it, I don't care. The way I look at it, they're all hits. Even "Dwarf Nebula Processional March." They're all hits.


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Ttranscription by Román with corrections by Charles Ulrich
This page updated: 2014-03-26