Vic Chesnutt interview
This is a radio interview given by Dave Fanning on his 2fm 8-10 show in July '95.
I think the exact date is the 21st of July 1995, the night before I went to see
REM at Slane, and about two nights after seeing Vic live in the Warwick in Galway.
I've tried to get it word perfect, it's mostly correct, I left out some 'em's
and 'like's. :) I realise it's much more enjoyable to listen to than to read but
Vic interviews are pretty rare so hopefully this will be a treat for Vic lovers.
Dave: We have Vic Chesnutt with us live in
the studio, with Alex and Jimmy as well.
First of all Vic, you're very welcome to the programme, thanks very much for coming
in indeed. Now, tell me just one or two things first of all, you've been in Cork,
and Galway in the last few nights, what was it like?
Dave: Beautiful in both places?
Dave: 'Cause you were in Ireland not so long ago so..
Dave: So you really wanted to come back did you?
Vic: Yeah, bad.
Dave: Bad. Ok, so Is the actor happy is album number 4 right?
Dave: It's giving you to say the very least, lets just call it ‘semi-celebrity’,
do you like semi celebrity or even big celebrity?
Vic: No, I like, wonderful obscurity.
Dave: Wonderful obscurity? Well I mean if you keep releasing albums like
this, you're going to get a bit more sorta ‘up there’.
Vic: No, I'm peaked out.
Dave: Are you?
Dave: You're Peaked out already?
Vic: Peaked out.
Dave: So what's going to happen to album number five, you’re going to release
something so bad that nobody wants to hear it?
Alex or Jimmy (not clear which): It's going to be all accordion music.
Dave: It's going to be all accordion music.
Ok well listen, you are here live with instruments, so introduce a song there
Vic and play it for us will you.
Vic: Yeah, this is called Nathan. here it comes, I think I got it
when I was reading Kafka diaries but I can't remember.
Dave: Very good, Vic Chesnutt with us live in the studios and also Alex
and jimmy as well.
Now on stage tonight at Whelans in Dublin is it just the three of you or is there
Vic: No, there's the helper too.
Dave: The helper too. Doing what?
Vic: She's the bass player.
Dave: Oh there is a bass player as well right, ok so there's four of you
on stage tonight then.
Vic: Yeah four of us.
Dave: So just tell us first of all lets just go back a little bit to say
1984 direction, I mean the kind of music you might've been listening to, I mean
was it something very strange when you went to Athens in Georgia and you discovered
things like maybe ‘hard-core’ lets call it like I mean like the Dead Kennedys,
Husker Du, the Minute men etc. Was that something of an eye-opener for you?
Dave: It was big time was it?
Dave: And did you draw from that in anyway do you think?
Vic: Yes. I especially like their lyrical content, punk rock, I like the
way it was like somebody writing just like or speaking, I like the way they wrote
like that sometimes, like they were just speaking, you know.
Dave: And what about the punk rock that came from Britain a few years before
that from the Clash, the Sex Pistols say ‘77 to ‘81?
Vic: Oh sure, sure well you know I dig that, you know, the most but I’d
already known some of that, like the clash and stuff like that, it was more like
the kinda you know the speedy, the speedier like you know things I found around
that time you know 1984..
Dave: Right. Cause your first album Little, which is still for many
people _the_ Vic Chesnutt album in many ways, I mean that was produced by Michael
Stipe. Was there a point with that album that you never even realised you could
go into a studio and record and it was somebody outside that needed to sorta push
you in there i.e. in this case Michael Stipe?
Vic: Well you know, I just didn't have the bucks, you know.
Dave: It was a question of money?
Vic: Well I mean, I just never even cared really, I was having a good time
doing what I was doing you know, so I didn't really care about going into the
studio that much.
Dave: And do you remember back as far as say getting your first guitar
and living in the sticks, like before in other words you went to, can I call it
a big metropolis like Athens? Or a college town or what?
Vic: Athens? It's a college town. It's not a big metropolis, by any means
but it does have a Super Kroger.
Dave: Ok and did you enjoy yourself when you went there and played in places
like the 40 watt club etc.?
Vic: Yeah. Well yeah I started off playing uptown and then I played the
40 watt club, and I played, I played the 40 watt club every Tuesday for a year,
that's what you know paid the rent for a while.
Dave: And if it's possible like to say do you have a hero who would it
be, like is it somebody like Hank Williams or do we talk still about the Minute
Men, Dead Kennedys, Husker Du etc.?
Vic: Well, you know, I like, I don't have like one overriding hero maybe,
I don't know, I like Stevie Smith, she's my hero.
Dave: Is there something in Hank Williams music that maybe is a bit like
yours in some ways?
Vic: Man no, I’m not no, can't compare us at all, he's a God and I’m a
pee-on. He's you know God, he's perfect, Hank is perfect, plus I’m older than
he is anyway so..
Dave:He didn't go out very perfect, I mean at 29 he was gone
Vic:He went out, no better way to go out than back of a Cadillac..
Dave: Hold on a minute now Vic, cause like you nearly went out in 1982,
you know, you were in a car crash to the point where you're now in a wheelchair
and have been for the last 13 years or thereabouts.
Vic: That ain't the last time I’ve nearly been out.
Dave: You nearly been out since, in the wheelchair yeah?
Vic: Yeah, a few times.
Dave: Yeah cause you know that thing to go back to the first album, Michael
Stipe wanted to get you into the studio because he saw somebody so self-destructive
he wanted to put you down on tape before you did it.
Vic: No. I think that's a myth, I think all that's a myth.
Dave: Is it?
Vic: Yeah, I think he, I don't know what he was doing, he just had an extra
day cause he was recording the Mud Puppies, you know and so..
Dave: Is that the Chickasaw Mud Puppies or whatever they're called, yeah?
Vic: ..and so they got done early and so he had an extra day, and so there
we go, it was fun, we had a good time that day.
Dave: So if I use the phrase ‘self-destructive’, that's not necessarily
true, but it sort of is isn't it?
Vic: Yeah, I mean, you know, it's.. I don’t' know, I don't like to be like
you know kind of like the case study for you know drunken people who ruin their
lives or anything you know. I mean I’m kinda a depressive kinda manic guy, sometimes
I get manic and I start chuggaluggin liquor, and then I get depressed and start
cutting my body parts off or whatever, you know I mean that's just you know..
Dave:But you don't go along with any sort of Neil Young edict of the lines
of it's better to burn out than it is to rust ?
Vic: No, I don’t' think so, no I don't really think that I mean I think
you know burn out is g.. I mean rusting is good, look at the Tinman, there's no
more noble figure than the Tinman in the Wizard of Oz and he was standing there
for an eternity just rusted stiff, but he was still alive, still kicking around
in that tin head of his..
Dave:So therefore are we going to get album number eight and album number
twelve and album number sixteen from Vic Chesnutt?
Dave: No problem whatsoever?
Vic: Yeah, I hope so. I mean I got plenty of songs already that can probably
fill em out and I hope to write better songs in the future, I’m trying, at this
Dave: Ok well the album you have out at the moment has been recorded some
time back so you do have stuff for a fifth and sixth album no problem?
Vic: Yeah no problem, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, probably
eleven albums or..
Dave:Wow, that's not bad.
Vic: ..probably that many for now
Dave: Ok, well just about the current album I mean could I say there's
a sort of a concept to it in terms of playing live and the problems of playing
live and the whole idea of playing live, even though it's not a live album?
Vic: Right well I kinda put that on there, but it's kinda a.., it's not
really.., I kinda lied. It all came about cause we played basically this whole
set with this band when we were opening for somebody else, when we were opening
for a bigger band called Live, and so that's why I chose to record these songs,
because, we picked and chose these songs cause we thought we could get them across
in this bigger kinda rambunctious audience and so you know that was kinda how
it all came about, you know it had guitar solos in it and can of courses you know,
so it was kinda a concept album in that, in that we played the whole set live
Dave: In terms of like recuperation after such a serious accident in 1982
direction I mean the thing is did you accept this or whatever. I mean did you
contemplate suicide say after such a horrible accident that puts you in a wheelchair
for the rest of your life?
Vic: Well I was contemplating suicide the day I had my crash, I contemplated
suicide today about twenty forty times, you know, it's a constant in my life,
always has been, always will be, that's the way I am, some people are like that..
Dave: Yeah but I mean like if you listen to this album here, I played a
track earlier on from Drunk, I mean there's a sense of humour somewhere in Vic
Chesnutt big time that comes right through to any listener..
Vic:Well yeah I mean, the world is a goofy place and I’m here to point
Dave:Yeah right well you've done that I must say, no question about it.
Vic: I mean, I like, I wanted to be a stand-up comedian when I was about
14 or whatever but then I kinda got shanghaied by the bohemian artsy ways and
kinda you know went that way instead.
Dave: Right, well Guilty by Association is one song that you have and Michael
S is there on vocals too, I mean is that a thing that you wouldn't want, the wild
fans, the complete madness of something as big as REM?
Vic: Well I can't even contemplate that, I can't even begin to think about
anything like that
Vic: I just don't.., I don't understand it, its like going to Mars or something
Dave: Alright well give us another song cause we are coming up to the news..
Vic: Another song?
Dave: Yeah do you not have another song in you no?
Vic: I don't have another song in me
Dave: You must have another song in you Vic, for God's sake, you're playing
on stage tonight you're going to do a few you’ve got two of your musicians here
of the four who are going to be on stage tonight, for God's sake..
Vic: Yeah but I’m getting paid.
Dave: What are you going to do?
Vic: Ok I guess we'll do Old Hotel, is that ok with you ?
Alex or Jimmy (not clear who): Yeah
Dave: Brilliant. Thank you
very much indeed Vic, and thank you very much also Alex and jimmy, fair play.
You're playing in Whelans in Dublin tonight, in other words in about the next
half hour or thereabouts you're taking the stage cause it does close at half
eleven. So thank you very much indeed for dropping in folks..
Vic: Thanks for having us.
Dave: ..i really appreciate it, sorry you got caught in the Rod Stewart
traffic down below but such is life, you gave us two numbers, thanks a million
Vic, take it easy right and lets hope we do get album eight, twelve and sixteen
etc. Good Luck.