This is about all the bad days in the world. I used to have some little bad days, and I kept them in a little box. And one day, I threw them out into the yard. "Oh, it's just a couple little innocent bad days." Well, we had a big rain. I don't know what it was growing in but I think we used to put eggshells out there and coffee grounds, too. Don't plant your bad days. They grow into weeks. The weeks grow into months. Before you know it you got yourself a bad year. Take it from me. Choke those little bad days. Choke 'em down to nothin'. They're your days. Choke 'em!
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Once upon a time there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. And they grew next to each other. And every day the straight tree would look at the crooked tree and he would say, "You're crooked. You've always been crooked and you'll continue to be crooked. But look at me! Look at me!" said the straight tree. He said, "I'm tall and I'm straight." And then one day the lumberjacks came into the forest and looked around, and the manager in charge said, "Cut all the straight trees." And that crooked tree is still there to this day, growing strong and growing strange.
There's nothing more embarrassing than a person who tries to guess what the great American public would like, makes a compromise for the first time, and falls flat on his face... I would rather be a failure on my own terms than a success on someone else's. That's a difficult statement to live up to, but then I've always believed that the way you affect your audience is more important than how many of them are there.
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He likes a day in the studio to end, he says, "when my knees are all skinned up and my pants are wet and my hair's off to one side and I feel like I've been in the foxhole all day. I don't think comfort is good for music. It's good to come out with skinned knuckles after wrestling with something you can't see. I like it when you come home at the end of the day from recording and someone says, "What happened to your hand?" And you don't even know. When you're in that place, you can dance on a broken ankle.
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I've always been a word guy, I like weird words and I like American slang and all that and words that are no longer being used... I like to drag them out of the box and wave them around... this is an interesting one, it's amazing how in addition to punctuation just a little pause in the wrong place can just completely transform the meaning of something.
My kids are starting to notice I'm a little different from the other dads. "Why don't you have a straight job like everyone else?" they asked me the other day. I told them this story: In the forest, there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. Every day, the straight tree would say to the crooked tree, "Look at me... I'm tall, and I'm straight, and I'm handsome. Look at you... you're all crooked and bent over. No one wants to look at you." And they grew up in that forest together. And then one day the loggers came, and they saw the crooked tree and the straight tree, and they said, "Just cut the straight trees and leave the rest." So the loggers turned all the straight trees into lumber and toothpicks and paper. And the crooked tree is still there, growing stronger and stranger every day.
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If you are recording, you are recording. I don't believe there is such a thing as a demo or a temporary vocal. The drama around even sitting in the car and singing into a tape recorder that's as big as your hand - waiting until it's very quiet, doing your thing, and then playing it back and hoping you like it - is the same basic anatomy as when you're in the recording studio, really. Sometimes it's better that way because some of the pressure is off and you can pretend it's throwaway.
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If you can make a little painting for the ears with a few words, well, I like words: I like cutting them up and finding different ways of saying the same thing. I get into a spell, and it all comes easy. I don't labor over it. I go inside the song. I think you make yourself an antenna for songs, and songs want to be around you. And then they bring other songs along, and then they're all sittin' around, and they're drinking your beer, and they're sleeping on the floor. And they are using the phone. They're rude, thankless little f-ers.
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If I want to walk out in the desert and heat up a can of beans on a fire, I still can. In those movies like Gattaca or whatever, the space age stuff is always all there is. But in the world there is never just one way of living. It's more like a big junkyard. Put it this way: I'm not afraid I'm going to end up on a space station in aluminium-foil underwear.
I guess I've always lived upside down when I want things I can't have. My wife actually thinks I have a syndrome called Reality Distortion Field. It's kind of like drugs, only you can't come back from it. Reality Distortion is almost a permanent condition. Things come in and they go out: Presto, chango! To a certain extent, I did that with myself. As a kid, I did want to be an old-timer, since they were the ones with the big stories and the cool clothes. I wanted to go there. Now, I guess I want to bring that with me and go back in time.
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They have removed the struggle to find anything. And therefore there is no genuine sense of discovery. Struggle is the first thing we know getting along the birth canal, out in the world. It's pretty basic. Book store owners and record store owners used to be oracles, in that way; you'd go in this dusty old place and they might point you toward something that would change your life. All that's gone.
When I started looking for pointed shoes, I used to go to Fairfax on Orchard Street in New York City, one of those little pushcart guys. I'd say, 'You got any pointy shoes?' They would go way, way in the back and come back with a dusty box, blow the dust off the top, and say, 'What do you want with these things? Give me twenty bucks. Go on, get outta here!' And that was the beginning.
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Your hands are like dogs, going to the same places they've been. You have to be careful when playing is no longer in the mind but in the fingers, going to happy places. You have to break them of their habits or you don't explore; you only play what is confident and pleasing. I'm learning to break those habits by playing instruments I know absolutely nothing about, like a bassoon or a waterphone.