The Tape Insert
Julian Lennon. They asked me to interview Julian Lennon.
I said "me?' (I was kinda shocked). "You want me to interview
"It's for promotional use" said Jackie Tesman, (she's one of
"then!" although she doesn't act like one of "them").
"We'd like to have a non-journalist type interview him, to help
publicized his new release, Help Yourself."
So, after I got over the initial shock, I said "okay."
Actually, I said "okay" long before I got over the initial shock.
I mean, even though Kind Missile (that's the band I'm in) has been signed
to Atlantic for over 6 months now, I'm still not used to meeting
celebrities. I don't know if I'll ever get used to it. I hope I don't.
Anyway, I studied up on Julian, read some press info, listened to all the
records a few times, and Help Yourself maybe 10 times, looked at the
lyric sheet and though up a bunch of questions, mostly about the songs
I though up a whole bunch of silly, stupid questions I could've asked,
buy when the time came to do the interview, I was even more nervous than I
thought I would be, and decided to play it pretty straight.
So if I sound shy and reserved in this interview, it's because I was.
Julian is warm and friendly, but he's also incredibly famous, and I'm
incredibly self-conscious and insecure.
But I'm pleased with the results, and I guess Julian was too, 'cause at
the end of the interview, he offered me his home phone number and said I
should give him a call if I'm ever in L.A. I suppose he could always get his
phone number changed if I bothered him too much, but it was still a very
I should also mention how much I like "Help Yourself." My
favorites are "Listen," "Help Yourself," "New
Physics Rant" and my absolute favorite is "Imaginary Lines."
I really really love that song.
And I like the little goofy things that he puts in between the songs I've
got to remember to do some of that on the next King Missile record.
- John S. Hall
P.S. Have you heard the Obligatory Major Label Sellout mixes Of King
Missile's "My Heart is a Flower" (mixed by Ivan Ivan) yet? Ask for
it by name. Then find someone and share it. Help Yourself!
John: Hi, I'm John S. Hall. Last month I interviewed
Julian Lennon. It was a lot of fun. It was kind of scary. It was nervous at
first. I never interviewed anyone before and ah both of us had to get
up really early in the morning, so it was very surreal, and this is how it
Music to Rebel King
John: So, um...I guess, well, let's start with just
looking over materials and stuff. I see a lot of the same thing. I don't
want to go over too much of that, but the ideas I have are that 'Valotte'
was recorded in somewhat of a vacuum in the sense that you didn't know what
to expect reaction wise or you could sort of do whatever you wanted to
and then, I guess, as reaction came in, there was maybe some feelings on
your part about the criticisms you were getting and wanting to tone
down certain influences and things like that and now you've come
around to just more doing what you want to do again.
Julian: Oh yeah, yeah. I mean, when I first went out
with the first album it wasn't a concern of mine of what other people
thought you know of what I was doing. There was no particular
direction on my behalf or even saying that I had influences from here or
there or anywhere but obviously, when the reviews came in and the
criticism came in, it was obvious where other people's minds were at
as far as I was concerned. People obviously had their own visions or
opinions of me that stuck, you know. And it's not that I felt I was living
under somebody's shadow but I believe that the press and, to a
degree, the public, because of the press, had created a shadow for me
to live under and it was hard to ignore, you know.
John: I heard a story when Elvis Costello and Paul
McCartney were writing together...McCartney was saying, 'We can't do that
because it's too Beatlesque,' Elvis Costello was saying...well, but
uh...(laughs)...Paul McCartney! In a sense almost everyone I know admits to
Julian: Oh yeah, sure. It's very difficult, 50-50, it's
like being on a knife. Its...people expect me to have that influence
in what I do and, on the other side of the knife, people condemn me
for that influence, so it has been in the past a hard balancing act but,
this time 'round, I sort of said, 'Well, yes. I love the Beatles stuff, you
know.' I'm not gonna hide from that. And I guess, to a degree, it's
what possibly 50% out there believe I should be doing is something
reminiscent of that and so, this time round, I said, 'Alright, well,
it seems to be what they want and it's what I like to do anyways, so
this time I'm not going to hide influences.' I mean, I've sort of
tapped on them in the past, to a degree, but with this album, especially 'Saltwater,'
there's no denying that (laughs) but, I mean, as well as themake-up of
the songs, the sounds used in the songs, the mellotron...and you name it,
which has always been a favorite of mine anyways. I decided to go
full out, you know, and - I hope they like it. I do.
Clip of Saltwater
John: There's a dedication on this record, "For
the truth to finally surface, well, at least the beginning of
it," so you're...
Julian: Yeah, well, you know, as I said before, I feel
I've shed a skin. See, the problem I felt I was having in the past, to be
truthful is that, to a degree, I was living almost two lives or at
least two people's history, you know. It's not like I only just had my life
to talk about. I had my dad's, too you know. And that is a lot of
weight and a lot of pressure. It can get to you, you know. You can't
just be yourself or talk about yourself. You have to talk about your
family too you know. And it was a constant thing. But now I sort of got to
the point where I can't do that anymore, otherwise I'm not being me.
I can't be free doing that. And that's, in one respect, why I sort of
have a new-found sort of freedom and positive attitude because, you know,
I've got to the point where I'm just not going to talk about it anymore,
you know. I've had enough. And if people want to know about dad then
I say, 'Go read a book. You'll probably learn more from that than you will
from me' because I wasn't around that much and he wasn't around that
much so, as a man, as a person, I don't know him that well. I really
don't. I can remember times of happiness and sadness with him, yes,
but that's about it, you know. Now, if you want to talk on a musical level,
on musical terms, that's a different thing, you know. That's why I
feel good these days. Positive.
John: The only thing I was really going to ask you
about regarding that was if you felt - or what was it that you felt
were the most important things you learned from your father and your
mother for that matter?
Julian: Well, musically, as far as dad is concerned - I
mean, I think the stuff that he and the Beatles wrote were fantastic. Dad,
on his own, musically, directness, truth, .honesty, say what you feel,
don't be afraid, you know, which is something I used to be in the past
too 'afraid.' that sort of put a damper on my life so I refuse to be afraid
anymore, so that's why there is a new change with this album also.
From mum, I think, qualities that I got from her was being respectful
to people in life, you know, 'Do unto others as, you know, as they
would do to you' and a lot of patience from mum, too. She's guided me
Clip of Help Yourself
John: There's that story about the album title coming
to someone in a dream (hear Julian lighting his cigarette) that I read
Julian: Yeah. Well, this guy that used to work with Bob
John: The producer?
Julian: Yeah, the producer of the album - called Help
Yourself. He used to work with Bob Ezrin about, I don't know, 12 years
ago or something like that in a band in Toronto. And he hadn't spoken to
this guy. This guy's name was Mr. Zero and he called Bob up at 4 in the
morning, which is way past Bob's bedtime and said, 'Bob, you remember me?
You used to work with me a long time ago.' He said, 'Yeah, but what are you
calling me at 4 in the morning for?' He said, 'Well, I hear you're working
with Julian Lennon, right?' and he said, 'Yes, that's right. What of it?'
and he said, 'Well, I just had a dream. Now you can take it or leave it.
You can do as you wish with it, but I believe the album should be called
'Help Yourself.' And at that time I was sort of searching for a title. I'd
thought of a couple of ideas but Bob came to me the next morning in
pre-production in the studio and said, 'This guy called me up and he says
he had a dream and he thinks the album should be called 'Help Yourself,'
what do you think?' and I went, 'Yeah, that pretty much rounds it up', so
that's it, that's where we went with it.
Clip of Help Yourself & then Get A Life
John: 'Get A Life' - um - 'Get A Life' - there's a
line from there that I - oh, well, you mentioned fear earlier and trying to
conquer it. There's that line, 'I'm just as scared as you you know.'
Julian: ...'but trying all the same. There was no other
- 'Fear is just a crying shame, you know, work it out or go insane' so
that's something I hope I've worked out or worked on at least.
John: What kind of things were you afraid of or what
kind of things are you still afraid of?
Julian: I used to be just an observer of life. I've
always been a very shy person. If I'd go any where, I'd watch life and
watch people. I'm a people watcher, but I got a little tired of that and I
thought, 'You know, I really should say what's on my mind, otherwise it's
just going to back up in my head and my head's going to explode someday.'
With this album, through the work, through the time that it took and a lot
of pain that it took, I - it brings me a little closer to who I am.
John: So is it a cathartic experience besides being
Julian: Well, overall it was like a sort of self-help,
John: I know that song. (laughs)
Julian: Yeah, I mean, the reason how this all came
about was when Bob Ezrin, the producer, and I first met. As I said there
was a lot of things inside me that I felt I just wanted to get out of my
system and I didn't how to do it. So from day one we decided to literally
lock me in a little gray room overlooking a carpark with just a keyboard,
pen and paper, and a tape machine and I'd go there at 10 every morning and
leave not earlier than 7 at night, literally for about 6 months to a year.
And - I mean, I'd have the weekends off but that was the - if I was going
to eat I'd order things in and I'd stay in there. I went through - there
was a period of three weeks where nothing came out and I got so angry and
so frustrated and so annoyed. I just - or anything that did come out I felt
was pathetic, really pathetic and I sort of went through this thing
with Bob as well where he'd come in, sit down, and read lyrics and go, 'You
can do much better than this, you know, get it out, get it out.' So, at the
end of that three week period, I just went - screamed and yelled and
literally anything that meant anything inside that I felt I had to say just
came pouring out and it was such a release.
John: You know, actually, the more you talk about the
gray room, the more I'm intrigued about this and a question occurs to me - 6
months in a gray room - did you ever ask yourself, 'Why don't I try interior
decorating or acting or something?' Ever think about just chucking it? Did
it drive you crazy?
Julian: Yeah, oh yeah, I went loopy. I really - I lost
a few brain cells in there but I think some others grew and replaced them
and I feel better about it. It's not something I'd ever want to do again.
For me, it was a learning experience, something to push me through a wall
I'd been trying to break down for a long time and it was very painful. It
was something I had to do for myself. And I think, I believe, it worked
because I feel a definite change from when I first went in there. I knew it
was going to be - it wasn't going to be easy. I was dreading the prospect,
but when I was finally let out, should I say, (laughs) I felt like a free
John: Did you let yourself out or did Bob let you out
or - did you just decide it was time?
Julian: I think it was mainly Bob that let me out. He
said, 'OK, you're done. You're well, well-cooked now.' (laughs)
Clip of Listen
John: "Listen" is about the press...
Julian: Well, "Listen" was about
relationships and press and just - just me getting so up tight and so angry
about the fact that people thought they knew me through what other people
had said, you know. I mean, it's that whole press thing where - where
they'll say something, whether they know it to be truth or not, or bull,
you know, and people read it and people will believe that and then you
spend your life fighting rumours, you know. I mean, it's already starting
now in England already. They're already having a go at me you know. Because
I was just in a relationship for over 18 months and we split up and it was
a good split. It was just time to move on, you know. But, of course the
press in England are over there - you know with the last album I was like a
self-confessed abuser of drink and drugs and I'd quit, you know, and, as
I'd said, through this year - year and a half, two years with the album
I've had to be very focused, but the press have already started reflecting
on that and saying, 'Well, Jules is now probably down and out again. Jules
is - his girlfriend's sick and tired of nursing him' and it's like 'Oh
dear, not again. I don't want to read this crap anymore, 'so the onslaught
has already started but Mr. Positive is not going to listen anymore. And
it's tough fighting those rumours, you know. It really is as people believe
what they read.
John: I guess this may be a touchy subject, too, but
it is something that's occurred to me. I mean, I've been reading about you
and getting to know somewhat about where you're at and learned a number of
things. Up until that time my impression at least, or other people's
impressions that I knew, people that I knew, kind of associated you with
that kind of ivory tower protected from the rest of the world type of thing.
These are assumptions that I think a lot of people make because such an
instant media figure even before a record is released. I think, for one
thing, I think people assume you're a lot wealthier than you actually are,
for example, and therefore they make assumptions.
Julian: Yeah, of course. That has been a major battle
in the past for me, is the majority out there you know, 99%, think that I
have all the money in the world and everything that dad had was handed down
to me, which is not the case by any means. As a kid, I used to sort of get
a bit of pocket money from him once in awhile, but all the money that there
is there is in a trust fund governed by Yoko. I think it was wise of dad to
do that, otherwise God knows what the hell I would have been like, you
know. But, any moneys I do have have been earnt solely by me you know. And,
of course, I screwed up as well, like many other people do with management
in the past and money that I made off the first two albums went due to
ignorance on my behalf. There was stuff I was paying for that I had no idea
you know. Where as now I am hands-on with everything and anything that has
to do with me watchful eyes always.
Clip of Rebel King & New Physics Rant
John: Now, "New Physics Rant." Is that the
one with the San Fernando Valley girl scout troop #592?
Julian: Fortunately or unfortunately, yes, it all
depends how you look at it! (laughs)
John: Who's idea was that?
Julian: (laughs) Well, it wasn't mine that's for sure.
But I can live with it. No, no, I'd had this musical idea maybe four years
ago while I working on the demos for Mr. Jordan. I had this groove and this
melody but didn't know what the hell to do with it and we finally after I'd
written I don't know how many ideas in the little gray room, Bob and I
decided to sit down and go through all the old demo tapes and material that
I had and we finally came by this one, which I think was called "Mondo
Bondage" at the time (laughs), and Bob said, 'Wait, wait, what was
that?' so we listened and listened. He said, 'We can do something with
this' and I said, 'Good, good, I don't know what' and then Anthony Moore
came on the scene, of course with this mad sort of poetic lyrics from hell
which just intrigued me and I thought, 'Where does this stuff come from in
this man?' He sits in his attic 24 hours a day and, you know just churns
out this stuff. And Bob and I loved it so much that we thought,
'Well, what are we going to do melodically as far as this is concerned?'
So, as far as the chorus went, Anthony came up with the lyrics, but I took
the - I came up with the melody and we didn't think that we were going to
have girl scout troop singing it but, of course, Bob's daughter was a girl
scout so that's where the whole thing ties in (laughs) and, you
know, the reason why I didn't mind doing it - I mean, I did enjoy it...is
because I believe, to a degree, that if anybody wanted to know me or how I
thought, they can listen to this album and go, 'Oh, OK, so he's romantic in
some areas, he's angry in some areas - OK, he's happy here. OK, OK - he's a
little crazy there.' I just wanted to show every aspect of my personality.
John: I've been looking at those lyrics for awhile
wondering if you follow them completely. I don't know if I do.
Julian: No, I do. I don't advise smoking anything and
then trying to read them, otherwise you might find yourself in another
galaxy you know, but
John: I really like it.
Julian: Yeah. Absolutely.
Clip of New Physics Rant & then Imaginary Lines
John: "Imaginary Lines" made me cry inside
personally - I mean, it struck me really deeply. I told you earlier it's my
favorite song on the record and that story in the middle about the pearls
which, I guess, in my mind, it's linked to the idea of the promise of
America or something like that or just coming across and you have these
dreams and they're crushed at the border. I mean, that was just my
interpretation of it but that story in and of itself stands on its own to
represent a lot of the struggle of the have nots, I guess, if you want to
call them that - people who are reaching for things and get stepped on.
Julian: Yeah. It's - It's just sad that, really, that
we're not all allowed to have the same opportunity in life, you know. That,
through whatever reason, well, especially in this case, you know, a higher
power - powers, should I say, that are on this planet. That people really
don't have the freedom that should be given to them, you know - don't have
the choice in life that people should have. And people are just left in
situations to deal with, you know, troubles like, I mean - not you know,
the fact that it was their land in the first place, I mean, talking about
California, but it belonged to these guys and now, I mean, that's why the
first line, 'Heaven help the soul that's severed from the place where it
belongs.' It's just unfair - it's just really unfair. And, personally, you
know, apart from explaining that or singing about it, I don't know what to
do about it.
John: Was there ever a time in your life when you felt
guilty about the opportunities that you had that other people didn't?
Julian: No. Because I spent two years of my life
schlepping around record companies that just said. 'No, No. No
frigging way, you know, either you're not good enough or the material's not
good enough or we don't want the hassle.' And finally, through all of that,
and through struggle and patience, I found this company - this little
company which is no longer, of course, in England, called the famous
Charisma label, and the boss of that, who is unfortunately no longer with
us, a guy called Tony Stratton Smith, heard me and just went 'Yeah, we can
see something in this guy. I think he can do it' and afforded me the
opportunity of being able to try and make something of myself. At which
point, that was the beginning and start and bes all and end all of how it
all came to be, you know. And I was very grateful and very thankful for
that, otherwise, you know, I still would have been waiting tables, which I
used to do. I still would have been working on a farm, which I used to do.
So, I'm fortunate, in that sense, I was able to find someone who believed
or trusted in me. There was no help from outside. There was no help from
family or people that knew people that knew dad or, you know, there was no
sort of open doors, you know. I had to prove myself.
Clip of Listen
John: I think that's it. Thank you so much. I had a
lot of fun.
Julian: It's been an absolute pleasure very, very laid
back very easy interview. I think now we're wired from hell with this
rocket fuel coffee we've been drinking, (rattles his cup on the table) I'm
ready to fly back to Los Angeles without the plane. It's been an absolute
pleasure, thank you.
John: Thank you so much. I was kind of
Copyright © 1991 Atlantic Records
Transcription by CJ Burianek