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Gonzo Latest News: 02/05/2012 EXCLUSIVE: Michael Des Barres Interview (Part One)

Date Published: 2nd May 2012

I have become very fond of Michael Des Barres. Since our first chat about five weeks ago, I have been doing my research, and he really is a remarkable man who has done some remarkable things. But he also seems to have an inner integrity which is something sadly missing in many members of the human race at large, let alone within the business that we call "show".

He recently reformed Silverhead (his band for a few years in the 1970s) for a brief Japanese Tour, and I have been really looking forward to asking him about it...

Jon: You sound like you had a good time in Japan.

Michael: It was insane on every level. It was an extraordinary adventure. I would describe it best by saying, you know, as a band 38 years ago when we broke up and 40 years ago when we formed, we spent 99% of our careers trying to seduce audiences into our world – that is trying to win them over to our side. Our side was a very decadent and different side from what they had been presented with in the past, so it was a tremendously difficult job. Fabulous job, but difficult especially when we were in Mobile, Alabama in our silver jumpsuits, you know, in front of shall we say - casually - a red-neck audience where the girls all looked like us and wanted to fuck us and of course the lads all looked like quarterbacks - well-fed football players - and wanted to assassinate us. So it was an incredible dichotomy.

What I am trying to explain is, even with the unbelievable jet-lag that I’m going through, (JON: He sounded massively jetlagged) is that the majority of our career was spent trying to win people over. In Japan, when we played last week, it was the opposite. The people of our age that had dug us then came, with their children, with all the teenage internet Silverhead fans and they knew every syllable.

You hear this often from bands, I’m sure you know the guys you have worked with, and been on tours with, the most satisfying thing in the world is looking out and seeing them singing the words along with you and we never experienced that, Jonathan. That was not our experience. Our experience has always been win the fight, let’s go out there and take names and let them know who we are. Well in the interim, the 38 years since we’ve been together, clearly something had happened, and that was it. We didn’t know that until the second song, so the vibe on stage of looking at each other and realising what was happening, was one of the most overwhelming experiences of any of our lives because it was such a sense of recognition and a sense of closure in a sense, you know, in that mission accomplished.

Those two shows are one of the most magical evenings that any of us have ever spent so that would be the great dichotomy between then and now. There were many other things. After not having seen each other in so long, how quickly in rehearsal we could turn into the 22-year-olds that we were when we made the album. That would be ‘hey man turn it down’ , you know what I mean, even though emotionally we were like so brothers it was still the same.

We’re still a loud raucous rock ‘n’ roll band trying to hear each other over the chaotic din that we manage to create whenever we’re together, so the habits that we had established as young men exhibited themselves, shall we say today and we lasted the only difference being we didn’t end up in some esoteric quarrel, but weactually were amused by our own time travelling.

Jon: I was so proud of you when I heard that you already had people from the reception desk telling you to turn down. When I got your email telling me that, I had various colleagues of mine - scientists, not music people - in the office, and we all cheered.

Michael: Yeah, is that the greatest Jonathan or what? I mean how funny is that. But the irony of it was that, you know, those songs – they’re all about sex and they’re all about hedonism and when I was working on them in my car driving along I would literally pull up and be singing...."Rollin’ with my baby".... and I would be getting shifty looks from some little family in their Volvo that stopped aside me and looked at me as if I was completely bonkers and of course they’re right. But the irony was not lost upon me either.

Being told to keep it down whilst singing 'More than you can hold' had too much duality and irony for me not to communicate to my dear friend Jonathan.

Jon: I’m really proud of you

Michael: Oh thank you, my brother. I really appreciate it. It was an amazing experience, and it’s all on film and the guys doing this doc on me, they shot everything, you know, they shot both shows on four cameras, they were at rehearsal, every tear drop, every smile, every shopping excursion, you know, because the minders had two hours off, and the minders said to me ‘Michael would you like to go to a temple?’ And I said ‘No, I would rather go shopping.’ And they took me shopping. I didn’t want to see the cherry blossoms, I just wanted to buy clothes. Shows a lot about my character, but nonetheless , incredible, love Japan, wonderful – want to go back, absolutely had a great chat with some guy from a Japanese magazine, and he’s based in Florida, but a lot of his staff from the magazine went and they were all singing. You know they treat me like a God in Japan.

You’ve heard this a thousand times, it’s so boring, you know, any blonde with eye makeup is treated like a God, but the hotel scenes, they were everywhere I went, there they were you know, it’s an amazing thing for me in all seriousness at this stage of my life to have more power , be more powerful in what I can do now than I did then, and that is a real blessing. It’s not any adolescent narcissism that makes me need it, I don’t need approval any more, but I want to connect before, I keep saying I just want to make people realise that everything is possible, if you let people into your lives. I have said it a thousand times and I will keep on saying it. You know I said it at the wedding that I officiated two days ago in Texas, it’s the same principle, you know, you just want your community, which is all of us, to not diversify, but to communicate, and what better way of communicating to these kids who do not speak English than music?

It was very clear to me that the reason that they were moved was because of a rhythm that they can feel, an energy – their whole culture is based on energy and ritualism and I clearly fit that bill.

Jon: I’m really, really pleased. So what’s going to happen next? Is there going to be more Silverhead stuff or .......?

Michael: I anticipate us maybe playing a festival a couple of times but my focus is Carnaby Street and when you hear it you will see why. Because, my band is young, and the energy behind it is very, very powerful and sharp, and I’m not a time traveller in that sense.

I have no sense of nostalgia or sentimentality. I believe in the right here, right now, and the music that I’m making today is as bold and as rockin’ as it ever was and I really want to concentrate on my album. Of course, I do, I just recorded it! So while loving Silverhead’s material with all my heart, and I will do a few Silverhead songs with my current beautiful bunch of guys, if at all possible, and if its logical and pragmatically possible, we will play, but there are no plans to, official concrete plans because I only deal with official concrete.

Yes there have been tentative offers from a number of promoters throughout Europe for us to play again, and we’ll see, but the majority of my efforts are spent on doing the video for Carnaby Street, for doing the press for Carnaby Street, from playing with my band and keeping it tight and here in LA – not publically – but just for us to play finishing the series, you know the finder which is very demanding, and I had to take those two weeks off from all of this stuff to go and enjoy the Silverhead experience, which I dig with all my heart but that doesn’t mean that we’re going to, you know, float into a definitive re-united tour.

I have been lucky enough to have seen the rough cut of the video for 'Painkiller'
which, as all regular readers will know, you heard here first and it is all that one would wish it to be. The bits I have heard of the new album are astounding, and I confidently predict that Carnaby Street will prove to be the defining album of Michael's career so far! Note, please, that I said SO FAR.

I only meant to have a quick word with Michael about the tour, but he was in a chatty mood with that strange lucidity that jetlag often brings, and I was in a chatty mood with that strange lucidity that bourbon and coke often brings, so we talked for enough time to mean that this is only the first of THREE parts of this interview, which shall be disseminated across the aether in the next few days.


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