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Patti Smith

Patti Smith

Patti Smith tends not to do one-on-one interviews if she can help it, but TotalMusic-Online's Andy Basire was recently one of the lucky few invited to an Ďinteractive performanceí with the poet, writer, photographer and grand dame of punk and one of the most singular artists of her generation.

Patti Smith has just wandered into a subterranean club in London and is surveying the motley collection of music journoís dotted around the room, most clutching a glass of wine, and all with pads and/or tape players at the ready. Dressed, as you would imagine, with her usual disregard for anything remotely fashionable, she will shortly ask each person present their name and where they hail from Ė these days she prefers to get a whole days interviews out of the way in one hit, but sweetens the pill by playing a couple of acoustic songs to lend the meeting an air of performance

Do you want to get rid of the need for interviews?

ďTruthfully I donít like interviews that much, theyíre just embarrassing, people ask me questions like Ďhow does it feel to be a rock icon?í, and Iím like Iíve just come from home and doing the laundry or getting my daughters food. Iím not a rock icon Iím a person that just cleaned up cat shit

Patti SmithWhat did you do during the long period that you didnít make records?

ďIíve always been a worker, in 1967 I was painting and writing poetry, I had many different outlets before I made records. I donít really look at making records as my personal outlet, I make records for other people, for myself I donít need to make records because I can write, paint or take photographs, I could spend my whole life studying, just reading and I would be happy, so when I wasnít making records I wasnít mourning that fact, because that wasnít how I gained personal confidence.Ē

You were a journalist for a while (í70-74), how do you feel about music journalism today?

ďI read some journalism that sucks and I watch the news and that seems tabloid-like, but thatís down to the individual. I wasnít a prolific journalist, but when I was writing there were people around who wanted to make journalism something to be proud of, to be a voice, so when people say Ďoh, I had to write like that because thatís what the magazine wanted I say bullshit! You donít have to write what others tell you, start your own magazine.í Just to illustrate I was once asked by an American music magazine to write anything I wanted, open forum, my choice, and I didnít want to waste that opportunity, so I wrote about the history of Thomas Paine, and I handed it in, real proud of what I had done, and no one thanked me and no one paid me, but thatís OK, and then they got in touch and said they were expecting something about the music scene, and I said well, you told me it was open forum, you should have said it was only a semi-open forum. They never used it, but thatís OK as well, because I learned a lot about Thomas Paine, Englandís greatest gift to America.Ē

Would you say the same thing holds true about the current music scene?

ďYeah, musicians are the same. ĎOh, I had to look like that for the video.í No you didnít. Fuck that! People have become total wimps. ĎWell, the marketing person told me I had to do thatí, who the hell are these people? Rock and roll was a revolutionary movement and I remember when rock and roll was invented, sorry Iím so old, but I was five or six when I heard Little Richard on the way to bible school. I didnít know what that was but I let go of my mothers hand and ran towards that music. People were afraid of it, American ministers and churches were afraid of it, it was looked upon as the devils music, because of the energy. In the Ď60s the spiritual content and the political content and the personal content were stirring, and it was important and gave us strength, rock and roll wasnít created for managers, marketing people or whoever makes the decisions about how people should look, thatís bullshit and thatís not what rock and roll is all about, but thatís the way itís evolving and itís everybodyís fault, itís the artists fault itís music televisions fault, we have completely forgotten what a great thing rock and roll potentially is.Ē

Twelve is available on Columbia Records on April 16 and there is a tour due in May (more). You can also keep up with Patti at her website www.pattismith.net

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