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?

Vic: Beautiful.

Dave: Beautiful in both places?

Vic: Everywhere.

Dave: 'Cause you were in Ireland not so long ago so..

Vic: October.

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?

Vic: Yep.

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?

Vic: Yeah.

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 anyone else?

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?

Vic: Yes.

Dave: It was big time was it?

Vic: Yes.

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?

Vic: Yeah.

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 moment.

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 basically.

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 it out.

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

Dave:Too big.

Vic: I just don't.., I don't understand it, its like going to Mars or something you know

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

Vic: Ok

Old Hotel

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.

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