Review Fix Exclusive Q & A: Michael Des Barres Part Four

desbarres1Michael Des Barres-It’s really good. I think you’d really like it; it’s a really good look at the music business in L.A., and we play an ‘80s band trying to do it again, and the director of the movie, Allison Anders and I been very close, so five years ago she decided she’d like to do a film festival in Los Angeles showing documentaries of bands and musicians that you would never normally see.She asked me if I would see the films and do the Q & As with the filmmakers or the participants in the movie after the screening, and I said absolutely, that would be great, because for me it was not me up there showing off, I was turning people onto stuff that I would never think. Last night we showed two documentaries. One was called “Wesley Willis’s Joyrides.” Do you know who Wesley Willis was?

Reviewfix.com – No, who is that?

Michael Des Barres-
He’s an African-American schizophrenic/singer/songwriter/painter. Unbelievable – this guy came down with Leukemia in 2003.They showed this film on him, it was moving. He’s 6’5”, 300 pounds on the streets; he did these drawings, these architectural drawings that were so devastatingly interesting, and then he became a singer in this band, and he was completely schizophrenic, hearing voices, demons, being arrested and the documentary was about him, and then I did a Q & A with the filmmakers, and then we showed another movie called “Haack…The King of Techno,” and in the late ‘50s early ‘60s this guy was making music electronically, the first guy to really incorporate electronica with rock ‘n’ roll, and we showed that and I spoke to the director, and it was amazing, I loved it.

Reviewfix.com – So these all have musical themes?

Michael Des Barres –
It’s called “Don’t Knock the Rock.”

Reviewfix.com – Just getting back to the past a little bit, the Electric Church I read about was an idea for a club. Is that true?

Michael Des Barres –
It was not a club, it was a state of mind. What we did was we’d go into these parks we put makeup on and beautiful, mad clothes. This was like ‘67, ‘68, and at that time this was amazing, indescribable, with the atmosphere, so much creativity going on. It was just an excuse to roll in the grass with girls, and if we’ve got an audience, great, and that’s when the guitars came out, and then I started to play guitar, and I said, “Oh my God, this is a joy.” This was fantastic, and that became the Electric Church, and then I started to think – in my narcissism and megalomania – I thought, “This is a religion. Rock ‘n’ roll is a new religion.” The girls and the electric nuns were worshiping these crushed-velvet messiahs, so it was also tied in with religious imagery, and I was finding my way intellectually, artistically, and out of that mind thing grew “Silverhead.”

Reviewfix.com –
“To Sir, with Love” – that came through the acting experience onstage? How did that come about?

Michael Des Barres – Well I was in a drama school called Corona Drama School, and one day the producers came to the school. I was like 17, 18, and they came in and they said, “We’re doing a movie about kids in Eastern London with Sidney Poitier,” who at the time was the biggest movie star in the world, which is still unbelievable because an African-American, I mean, while back in the States they’re hosing down African-Americans on the street, so this is an incredible achievement, and he remains the most charismatic man I’ve ever met. The most noble, dignified man I’ve ever met.

Reviewfix.com –
Have you kept in touch with him through the years?

Michael Des Barres –
We just did the fortieth anniversary DVD with special features, and it was amazing. I’ve seen him at various functions, but he’s Sidney Poitier, I mean, what are you going to do? Mr. Portier, you’re a god, thank you very much. It’s not like we stood around and talked about Iggy Pop, you know. Our worlds are different.

Reviewfix.com – Just getting back to “Silverhead” for a second, a couple of things I wanted to ask you, “Long-Legged Lisa” or “ Rock Out Claudette Rock Out” – are these based on real people?

Michael Des Barres – Yes. “Long-Legged Lisa” was a girl in London, but it was also that I really loved Marc Bolan (“T-Rex)” and I wanted to write a song that evoked his sound like, his stuff is all about peace, and I thought, “What can I do like that?” And there was this girl, this beautiful girl, and of course every Lisa I’ve ever met thinks it’s about her and I say, “You know darling, I totally wrote this song about you. Please take it – it’s yours.” There were quite a few Lisas.

Reviewfix.com-When I was putting together the top ten underrated album list, I could’ve put either “Silverhead” album on the list. I liked both of them equally. There were a couple of different guitar players on each one: Robbie Blunt was on the second one, right, and Steve Forest on the first, right?

Michael Des Barres – Right.

Reviewfix.com – Was there a difference playing with either guy?

Michael Des Barres – You know, they’re both great. I loved Steve Forest. I also I thought he was a great songwriter, but I don’t really recall how that happened, man, because one was chemically altered from a lot of it. I loved him. I mean, Steve Forest was brilliant and very sensitive, and I think that his fragility really got in the way of him enjoying the road. I love the road, it makes me stronger, but a lot of people succumb to not necessarily the drugs, but the rigors of touring. You’ve really got to be in a mind to handle excess and understand.

Reviewfix.com – So you made the most out of the experience, really. You’ve enjoyed it to the fullest, is that what you’re saying?

Michael Des Barres –
That’s what I’m saying. I loved every minute of it. I loved the traveling, I loved the grind, I loved the constant moving, I loved the new people every night, I loved the newness of it. The whole thing about it, Steve, for me was I loved to be in the moment and experience something new, everyday. Rock ‘n’ roll gives you that opportunity because you’re in Memphis, you’re in Boise, Idaho, You’re in northern Virginia. You’re everywhere, man, you’re in Atlanta, and there’s always different and beautiful girls and interesting guys, and they all are so interesting. In those days you didn’t wear a yellow suit and a brown velvet hat in Alabama, and we did, and as a result everything was a show – every airport, every hotel lobby was a confrontational, provocative piece of theater, and so things happened, brilliant, dangerous, sexy, violent, comedic events occurred, so you were constantly in this incredible, spontaneous, alive zone, so I loved it. Steve(Forest) succumbed to it. Blunt was the most aptly named man I’ve ever met.

Reviewfix.com –
He played with Robert Plant later on. I think on a solo album,“A Principle of Moments” I think, much later on.

Michael Des Barres –
Yes. I loved it. They were from north of England; they were from the same town.

Reviewfix.com – A friend of mine has this copy of “Beetle” magazine, a Canadian publication from October ’74. There is a great story on “Silverhead” in it. I’ll send it out to you if you’d like to read it.

Michael Des Barres –
Yeah, send it out to me right away Steve, I would love to read it. I’ve heard about it. I remember the guy, I remember hanging out with him and his girl, and people told me about it over the years.

Reviewfix.com – Yeah, it’s a great article. There’s a really nice quote from a roadie about you saying, “Des Barres is the most amazing person I’ve met in my life, bar none.” I mean, that was a quote from a roadie there. Really some great stuff in there – it’s about you, people chanting for Savoy Brown while you guys were playing, a lot of incidents of things going on during a tour. An amazing article, really.

Michael Des Barres –
Yeah, it seems like an indescribingly magic time. When you first do it and you first have that inspiration and you go out and do it and you’re fearless, it is somewhat similar to your wonderful question in the beginning of this interview about why didn’t it translate into a larger audience, because every moment is so rich, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is the person you’re standing in front of – a roadie. You’re getting such a wonderful response from the people who are actually around you, that it transcends any notion of multiplatinum sales, because once that happens – this is my experience – once you start getting that, everything dissipates, because it becomes bigger, there become more things you have to deal with. You spend your whole life conceiving of that first album.

About Steve Janowsky 88 Articles
Steve Janowsky is a former co-host of the Rocktologists theme based classic rock show radio show on WKRB 90.3 fm, which was voted the best classic rock podcast in the country by Dave White of About.com. Some of the interview guests on the show were Simon Kirke ( Free and Bad Company), Carl Palmer (ELP), Vince Martell (Vanilla Fudge), Randy Jackson (Zebra) and Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush. Janowsky is also an English and Journalism instructor at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, NY and is an avid guitar player and songwriter.

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