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Interview with Lou Reed
The Gospel According to Lou

by Gabriella,
November 1998

True, he’s never been much of a singer, but nobody can speak songs as well as Lou Reed and few have influenced today’s music as much as he has. What can you possibly ask a living legend? The co-founder of the legendary Velvet Underground. The man who wrote “Walk on the Wild Side,” “Pale Blue Eyes” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror.” A man who reached stardom before I was born and sits next to Bob Dylan and Neil Young as one of the most colorful personalities in the music business. Above all, a man who is famed for having little passion for journalists and who claims that he doesn’t believe in looking back... All you can do is swallow your nervousness and hope for the best -- that the wiry guy in black enjoys his cigar and is in a good mood...

...NYROCK:

You’ve stated often enough that you don’t believe in looking back, but your recent album Perfect Night is a live album with songs from over 30 years. Have you changed your view?

____....LOU:

It’s a live album and that means something new, a new beginning. It was a perfect night, a magic night and I don’t really want to talk about that night because it’s very intimate. I don’t think there will be another perfect night in my life.

...NYROCK:

That sounds fatalistic…

____....LOU:

It may sound pretty miserable, but it’s not. It was THE perfect night, everything was right and I wanted to have a document, a memory of the night. I’m a musician, so, of course, it’s an album. I believe it’s a great album, an album everybody should have. It’s authentic and not a lot of rock’n’roll records are really authentic. I don’t like overdubs, never liked them. I don’t want to change reality, but I felt that the night we recorded it was magic. It’s simple but that’s just it. It doesn’t need anything else.


...NYROCK:

But you were always someone who claimed that art should be as real and simple as possible...

____....LOU:

Perfect Night is minimalistic and that’s what makes it so forceful. I never liked the swamp under which a lot of artists buried their work. I don’t believe in dressing up reality. I don’t believe in using makeup to make things look smoother. How can anybody learn anything from an artwork when the piece of art only reflects the vanity of the artist and not reality? I think it’s pretentious to create art just for the sake of stroking the artists ego. That’s bullshit.

...NYROCK:

Many people claim you’re a perfectionist...

____....LOU:

They’re right. I am. Some even claim that I’m a terror, a dictator and they’re right. But I’m also talented and I know when I created something great and Perfect Night is something great, no doubt, no but.

I’m too old to do things by half. I’m in this business for too long to be halfhearted about anything. When I record an album I’m trying to get as close as possible to that perfect moment. I try to capture as much of the magic as possible. Perfect Night has that magic and it has the raw energy that grabs you by the throat. That’s how rock’n’roll should be. It has to be, to be real and honest.


...NYROCK:

I once heard that you said the music business is a shitty business, but you’re still in it...

____....LOU:

Did I really say that? The music business doesn’t interest me anymore. In the late ’70s I started to search for the perfect sound -- whatever that might be, before that I was mainly interested in drugs, insanity and the rock’n’roll lifestyle. I cleaned up my act because otherwise I would have kicked the bucket. So, I started to search for another insanity. I started chasing the perfect sound, the perfect album. It’s just another way to survive.

...NYROCK:

Perfect Night sounds like it’s one piece, one album. It’s almost hard to imagine that the songs span a period of over 30 years...

____....LOU:

Because I never cared for trends, that never bothered me. Music was what bothered me, what interested me. I always believed that I have something important to say and I said it. That’s why I survived because I still believe I’ve got something to say. My God is rock’n’roll. It’s an obscure power that can change your life. The most important part of my religion is to play guitar.

...NYROCK:

How about good lyrics?

____....LOU:

That also doesn’t harm.

...NYROCK:

How do you see yourself? Your role as an artist?

____....LOU:

I don’t really think about that. I’m an artist and that means I can be as egotistical as I want to be. I can concentrate on my art. I don’t really think about what the subject of my next album will be. I just know that I’m going to make another album.

...NYROCK:

You’ve always reinvented yourself. Is that one of the reasons you dislike your older albums?

____....LOU:

One of my rules is: Never listen to your old stuff. If you do that, then you’re not a musician anymore, then you’re just a self-satisfied nostalgic idiot who’s not interested in inventing anything.

I think life is far too short to concentrate on your past. I rather look into the future.



More Lou Reed on NY Rock:
Lou in Concert at the Knitting Factory (Feb '97)
The New, Happier Lou Reed (Sept '96)

For more of Gabriella’s work, click here.



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