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How much can one fan of OKOM (Our Kind Of Music) accomplish in just a couple of years? Plenty, if it's Rockzilla, aka photographer Michael Johnson. From 2003 to 2005, rockzilla.net was a chronicle of the alt.country scene from a uniquely Texan perspective. But all good things must end, and Rockzilla has retired from the online 'zine scene.

This mirror site was copied from the rockzilla.net site with the express permission of Rockzilla hisself. If you don't believe me, go to the KHYI-Fans email list and ask him! Buddy will back me up, too.


 

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 Shining a light upon music that matters

 

John Townes van Zandt II
The Rockzillaworld Interview
By Marianne Ebertowski

Its legs to walk and thoughts to fly
Eyes to laugh and lips to cry
A restless tongue to classify
All born to grow and grown to die

Tell my baby I said so long
Tell my mother I did no wrong
Tell my brother to watch his own
Tell my friends to mourn me none
(Townes van Zandt: "Rex's Blues")

(Left. JT Van Zandt at The Old Quarter)Watching the self-effacing young man on stage singing and playing Townes' song is an unsettling experience. The likeness is uncanny: the young man has Townes' tall, slender figure, his handsome features, the same mass of black hair, his smile, his charm, his voice. Even his guitar picking is close to the still so badly missed Texan troubadour who died on New Year's Day 1997. "Tell my friends to mourn me none," just how do you do that, and what do you do, if you are Townes' son? Well, what J.T. or John, as he prefers to be called, has been doing the last years is playing his father's songs to the bereaved fans and friends all over the world who still miss him so dearly.

Tonight, in the small cultural center "toogenblik" in Haren, Brussels, John is struggling with his voice. He picked up a bad cold immediately at the beginning of his European tour, but his charm and kindness help him win over the crowd just as effortlessly as his dad used to. He plays "Pancho & Lefty," he plays "Marie," he plays "Old Shep," a stage favorite of his dad, he plays his own dog song "Fishing Dog's Lament" and Elvis Presley's hilariously cruel "Song of the Shrimp." He does a couple of Blaze Foley songs, John Hurt's beautiful and tragic "Louis Collins" and a version of Lightnin' Hopkin's pleading "Needed Time" that brings the house down. He sings his own "Take Me While I'm Strong" and as an encore he picks a few traditional instrumentals with an impressive ease.

Maybe most of the crowd had turned up in the first place because he was Townes' son, but after two hours of singing and picking and another hour of talking to people, posing with them for photo's and signing his live CD made at the Cactus Café in Austin, everybody has taken John to their hearts as his own self: John Townes Van Zandt II, the great late Townes' son, indeed, but a man in his own right, a man who tries to do justice to his father and to himself.

When John and I sit down for the interview, its way past midnight, but he looks fresh and alert. I am struck by his openness and his courage to be vulnerable. He worships his father to whom he refers as "Townes" and even more often as "he," but without denying Townes' dark sides. After all, he if anyone, had to witness them often enough and maybe, just maybe, he is a little bit scared that these dark sides are hiding somewhere in himself. But, if they do, he has been able to handle them very well so far.

Today John is almost touching home ground: after all, the Van Zandts originally came from the Netherlands. They landed in the North East of the USA, finally ended up in Forth Worth where they became real Texan aristocracy. John's great great great grandfather, Isaac Van Zandt, was the first ambassador of Texas to the United States and it was he who wrote the constitution of Texas when it was still an independent country.

"After that his grandsons lost the Bank of Fort Worth in a poker game and it went downhill from there," John laughs, "Then of course, Townes, he was very different. He was raised to become, perhaps, a lawyer and found his way in music through influences like Lightnin' Hopkins and Bob Dylan."

RZW: "What was it like to grow up as Townes van Zandt's son?"

VZ: "It was mysterious at first, because I didn't see him at all till I was in 5th grade. Then we started to hang out more. First, he scared me to death. I imagined him as Elvis Presley or something because I had his albums. I lived with my mother and a stepfather by that time. I would keep his albums in my room - I didn't listen to him, but I kept them propped up at my dresser and when I finally went to meet him the first time I flew to Nashville. He lived on a big ranch and there was no electricity or running water. He lived in this cabin and he was quite mad, you know. When I got off the plane, I had this picture in mind of a very young Townes who is clean cut and athletic and by this time when I saw him, he had long greasy hair, gold teeth and he was very skinny. I knew it was him and I was walking towards him off the plane and at the same time I was thinking 'O my god, what is this? What have I got myself into?' (laughs). It was quite scary.

He had this dog Geraldine who was half wolf and she is still the smartest dog I have ever come across in my life. She really saved the trip for me. I was so nervous to be around my dad, but this dog had a natural affection for me and I truly believe she understood the situation and was trying to ease my nervousness a bit. Geraldine kicked off my absolute passion for dogs. Townes was getting drunk a lot, doing drugs in front of me, telling me that he had nothing to hide from me. He was doing hard drugs and I had just never seen a life like that. So I was going out of the cabin to play in the snow with Geraldine and that pretty much took up the whole day. I came home when Townes would be passed out and I felt safe as long as he was asleep. When he was awake, I was back outside again. (laughs) But then, as I grew a little bit older and got into my teens, I felt some of my natural tendencies similar to his take over. I was no longer scared. I started sort of learning the life style, but I was able to pick and choose. I never tried hard drugs, because I saw what they did to him and so in a way he led as an example of what not to do. At the same time, he was on his own path to what he became. I didn't understand just how fantastic his songs were then. He hadn't had any real hit songs yet and they didn't play him on the radio. So, basically, I equated that to him not being successful, but then I grew to learn that he had made a choice and that him being not commercial was actually the path that he wanted. I though at the time that no one liked his music. But, obviously, now I know that that wasn't right."

RZW: "At what time did you actually realize how good he was?"

VZ: "I started really becoming attached to music when Don Williams and Emmylou Harris covered "If I Needed You" as a duet in the eighties. That was sensational for the whole family. And when Willie Nelson did "Pancho and Lefty" in '85 or so, it was clear to me what was going on. And money started to roll in which was a new thing. Then I really knew how respected he was. More so by his peers though than an audience."

RZW: "Did he teach you how to play guitar?"

VZ: "Not at all! Not that he wouldn't have, I don't think, but I was so afraid of music. I always thought that's the last thing I'm gonna do. He was always in rough shape and there were five or ten people at his gigs. I got a postcard from him one time: at the front there were Indians on horse back, a black and white photograph, on the back it had the drawings of how to make several chords: C-G-F-D and at the bottom it said 'love, dad.' I learned those chords, but then quickly disposed the idea. I was always into sports and I was just wasting a lot of time, really. I was just like any teenager. At the same time, there was a big difference: Townes had a natural drive for what to do from early teenage years and it just wasn't there for me. I didn't go to college after high school. I kind of went around and did my own thing. Then eventually I went to college and graduated from the University of Texas. I was after a more stable life and then once he died I realized how important his songs were to me and I should learn them out of respect for him and there would be a connection that would draw me closer to him spiritually. That's basically why I started right after he died. I got his guitar, that's the first thing I did. Then I started to learn his songs on his guitar.

First of all I learned "The Highway Kind" which was my favorite song and then I played that at the tribute very nervously with Willie Nelson, Steve Earle and Guy Clarke and Emmylou and all those folks. After that was over, I put it down for a while, because it was such a stressful few months to learn it all before appearing on Austin City Limits. Once I got to do that, I went back to do my daily job. You gotta make money after all. Townes's love affair was with his music, the financial aspects of his music he never cared about. We all know there are sharks in the music industry. Some of the people closest to him robbed him blind. So, there wasn't any inheritance at all. Basically, his guitar was all he got.

The thing is: once you appear in front of a crowd and you receive a warm welcome, it's pretty hard to let it go. So, after about a year I got back to practicing again and just slowly on the side always have pursued my own love for music. Townes really paid his dues musically practicing his guitar as a young man. A lot of melodic differences in his songs come from being so fluent. I didn't dare writing anything until I put in a pretty long apprenticeship in playing guitar a lot and then I started to try to sound like Townes."

RZW: "Would you say that Townes' death was a burden off your shoulder ­ in the sense that before you didn't dare to become a singer-songwriter and now you can? Did he encourage you at all?"

VZ: "Well, looking back as an adult I think he had a real desire that I follow in his footsteps. But there would be times, when I woke up in the morning for school about 6. a.m. and he would be sitting on my bed crying and he'd just be apologizing for some cruel things he said the night before while drunk, and he would be shaking his head and he'd say: 'Don't do it to yourself. Don't do it. It's a bitch!' He would say that over and over. It's difficult to interpret. As I have become a man, our physical similarity is dramatic, and our vocal. There are some differences now, but when I was younger, I sounded just like his younger voice. It was really spooky. Now that I am a man, I understand that he used some sort of reversed psychology on me a little bit. If he really hadn't wanted me not to do it, he wouldn't have talked about it all the time. But at times when he was the most down, he would tell me: 'do not do it,' but then when I would follow that advice and would just piss off my younger years running around with other teenagers, I could see that disappointment in him that I wasn't locked away playing the guitar some place.

Townes lived a pretty wild life style. If he wasn't out and around, he was lying in bed all day long and reading. Though Townes wasn't very religious, I think he took his own ideas from the bible. He read it cover to cover a dozen of times. There is something a lot of people don't know about Townes: that his scholastic upbringing was very intense. He was from a very well-to-do family. He went to a private school, called Shattuck, in Minnesota. Their literature standards were great, unlike public school in America. There was tons of Shakespeare and he loved it. He realized that his education was a huge part of how literary he was. He studied poetry of all types and immense amounts of literature."

RZW: "When you play, you know that the situation is that 98% of the people sitting there are Townes' admirers. How weird is that?"

VZ: "It's fantastic! I really feel like I have a unique situation! I can't think of anyone else who was as obscure in their lifetime as Townes. As I see it, during his prime he played in coffee houses, to very few people. When people started come into his shows, he was in a rather bad state because of this alcoholic disease, his shows really suffered. So, when they finally heard they should see his guy, they were disappointed by his performances, because he was usually loaded. It was very tragic. He died before much of his fan base could see him perform his songs. While, Dylan, of course, he's still around playing shows, so it would be pretty silly for Jakob Dylan to show up and play a set of Dylan songs. For me it was not only some sort of cathartic release as well as practice on stage in these tributes to him, I also was told how healing it was to see me as a young man playing his songs for people, so they got to get an idea what he might have been like."

RZW: "So, you don't see it as a burden at all?"

VZ: "No, I never found myself frustrated or irritated with the attention. I can live without it, you know, it doesn't totally drive me, but I think some of the careers I chose for myself I chose because Townes, after he dedicated so much time to music, looked back and there were tons of things he regretted not being able to do. He loved the mountains. For him, being able to spend a few weeks in the mountains was a dream that never got realized after his early twenties, because it was full blast for him, always on the road. So, when during his lifetime I became a fly-fishing guide, he was so proud he kept telling everyone his son was fly-fishing in the mountains. That just gave him the hugest thrill. That was a passion of mine that I just followed naturally. I felt really good that finally I was doing something that would make him proud instead of just wasting time. And then, as a carpenter as well, he was very proud to know that I was creating with my hands. I feel like I chose a few different paths that gave him release. Watching him play music took care of that desire for me, and for him to know that I was fly-fishing on boats took care of that desire to do something else besides music for him. It was some kind of a trade-off we had with each other. We both shared in pride with each other on that. I haven't really thought about what my subconscious had been telling me those years. When he was alive, I didn't dare playing guitar. Just to even start around him seemed ridiculous because he was so good, and at the same time there was no poetry spilling out of me. So I just left it alone and thought that rather than waste time to be second best to him in this category, because every son wants to do better than his father at something, I chose other paths."

RZW: "Now that you're 35, do you regret that you didn't start a musical career earlier on?"

VZ: "No. I built a really good business in Austin from the ground up, a cabinet shop with several employees who are professional cabinet makers and we do extravagant homes. I'm very proud of what I do and the skill that I own and just after a week and a half on the road I become sick. I'm smoking more than I ever do, I'm drinking more than I do at home and so I don't regret it. At the same time: it's very powerful getting a good response from a crowd. And not just that, to stick around and meet people and talk to them and let them know that you're just a common person, too. You know, Townes was never recognizable, even not in Austin. When we went out, I never got an indication that he was a superstar. I never experienced what it might be like means to be totally successful in music or being the son of a successful musician. We were without a whole lot of money. When "Pancho and Lefty" came out and a whole lot of money started to roll in, he spent it as fast as he could on whatever, he would give money away. It purified the music for him not to care about the business. I don't think that it's a coincidence that - and this comes from his peers as well- there is no second place for Townes. He was in a league of his own. I was always so proud of him and it never occurred to me that that was my calling."

RZW: "But now, if it came to a point where you could choose, would you consider being a singer-songwriter and giving up your business?"

VZ: "That's a very difficult question that I have been thinking about this whole trip. And I'll I have to say no, because I've got people's families now depending on me because of their job. I took that obligation on. I would feel some abandonment in that. I would feel tremendous guilt. I won people's hearts with my performances of his songs on tributes, but that, of course, is no career, playing Townes' songs. I am writing my own songs that people also seem to enjoy and that gives me some confidence to try harder to write more. But I throw more songs away than I keep, because I compare myself to him so often. Jimmie Dale Gilmore helped me the most about three or four years after Townes died. After I told him: 'I just constantly compare my songwriting to his, some of my songs sound like I'm trying do to a take-off of certain songs,' he said : 'JT, we all deal with that, not only you . We all compare ourselves with Townes ­ he's the benchmark, we all share that burden.' That lifted a tremendous amount of weight off my shoulders."

RZW: "What do you think made him so good, what was the source he was drawing from?"

VZ: "There's too many factors to guess at that. He had a natural talent. There was the insulin shock treatment. He had a true ability to accept all risks to blow every bit of caution to the wind, there are not very many songwriters even folks I would think are tremendous these days who would really give everything they have away and get out on the highway and walk with just a guitar. Townes felt that if you took that first step, it was kind of materialistic suicide, if you will. He was so influenced by Lightnin'Hopkins who was a poor black man with incredible courage and spite for the white man. Townes looked at where he came from: privileged background, private school and wealthy parents and he walked away from all that and hit the road without any second thoughts. And if someone said: I like your shirt, Townes, he would take it off and give it to you, every time. He was just willing to take more risks and like I said, I don't think it was a coincidence that he landed in another place than the rest of us. You know, songwriting is now a popular thing, the singer-songwriter genre is a commercial arena now. You have people that basically get out of college and write about hitchhiking and life on the road and it's all imaginary. That's not a criticism; I'm not looking down on them. I don't think that anyone with half a mind would do what Townes did. All these experiences he wrote off in Delta Mama Blues and Flyin' Shoes, all these incredible creations. If you just gonna sit around in your house with rent paid and money in the bank, just imagining like Townes wrote songs, you never get there, but if you hop on a box car, then you're gonna have some immediate knowledge and experience that will probably help you write a better song than you've ever written. Townes was right when he said: 'if you want to do this, you gotta forget your mom, you gotta forget about me, you gotta forget any relationship you're in, and go out and do it.' That's the standard that he operated under. It's just not an acceptable risk for my life to take right now."

RZW: "You've been on the road with Townes for quite a while. That can't have been easy."

VZ: "It was a miserable time! I did a particular stint with him doing North America and Alaska, during the huge blizzard in '94 which struck right when the Denver airport opened. So much happened on that tour! Townes actually had to be put on the plane. He became so uncontrollable because of his alcoholism that I had to ration his intake to keep him from convulsing, and, at the same time not too drunk to play. I had to be a chemist of sorts. He knew I watered down his vodka. It was a very tight rope I walked. After about three weeks he became completely uncontrollable, he was having visions, he couldn't do any of the driving, he had to pull over at every rest stop to get out and walk about, he described seeing goblins and angels all the time. He blew every third gig and maybe three in a row and we're talking great American music halls where people just got up and walked out, where he never played a note, he just spoke in tongues for four, five, ten minutes and we were just wondering how much worse it could get. The answer was: plenty worse, really. We knew he couldn't stop playing on the road, that was his life. At the same time, we couldn't really continue with him. A couple of years before he died, he went into treatment ­ he went into treatment 14, 15 times, to serious hospitals with the full detox, you know, not just group meetings ­ we're talking medical, mandatory treatment to keep him from dying through withdrawals. With that in mind there is a scary feeling I get sometimes. I do have some darkness. I've managed to fight it off pretty well, but only because I think his parents were nothing really like him and he had these natural tendencies I inherited from him. But I had him as a model of how bad it could get, so I always keep myself this side of the line, you know."

RZW: "There must have been some magic moments wile being on the road with him as well."

VZ: "O yeah! For instance, I have always written off his descriptions of seeing goblins and stuff. I've been raised under Christianity, but have pretty much written it off as nonsense. I don't know that there is not a God. I'm truly spiritual. I think that there is a force that drives nature that I'm a part of. I don't feel much different than a stone or running water or a tree. I think we all turn back into that and always were and always will be, but he talked about all these visions and things. And then the last gig we played in this big church in Juna and he was just a mess, but he played a brilliant show and the difference is that this was a township of people who all put money together to pay for the plane ticket and to pay him to play and he just played an astounding show. He just nailed these folks to the wall. They were in tears and his response was just magical. At the end of the night, they brought a Native American shaman lady in her eighties who the whole town obviously endeared. They brought her to him and she spoke in her native tongue. When it was translated she was standing in front of him and they were looking at each other and everybody thought like, wow, this is like a meeting of the minds. She was translated in saying he was like nailed in his stool all night without falling off and it was like a huge white angel with his wings spread holding him up. That was the same thing he was describing for years and I literally wept. I wept on the spot and that night I just completely lost it. I was shown things that challenged every bit of ignorance I had in me. She told him that and his answer was, 'I'm hip.' That's all he said. (laughs) 'I'm hip.' It was like, 'tell these people, don't tell me.' 'They don't believe me.' I still don't know whether I believe it, but that was heaven. And, of course, he affected so many people in so many great ways. His family made the sacrifices just as much as he did, because he was absent as a father and as a husband. At the same time, he saved relationships all over the world. "If I Needed You" is still played at a majority of weddings in Texas. So, in that sense his music was more of a guidance and a support than any father could have been. And I keep it with me. It's such a gift to have. I can put in one of his CDs and drive off to West Texas and it's more healing than any advice he could ever have given me was. Chances are I wouldn't have listened to it anyway (laughs). I truly understand now he's gone what his purpose was. I wouldn't change a bit of it, not a thing.

There were times in my youth where he could be so filthy and so drunk I would be embarrassed to be with him. We would go into a café and people actually scoffed at us, but I always felt that I was with the coolest man on the planet and perhaps who ever lived. He gave that feeling to me, he was such a down to earth person and at the same time such an amazing spirit, I never felt that way again. Even at his worst, I always felt that I was where I was supposed to be."

RZW: "Does the experience Townes' life style stop you as well from becoming a full-time musician?"

VZ: "Well, I'm a full-time musician; it's just not my profession. I may be kidding myself, really, but the performance on stage has nothing to do with the creation of songs. I'm always thinking of lyrics. I'm always thinking of new chords and structures and how I can become better as a player and a singer. I've done some work for a certain organization called "For the Sake of the Song," named after probably his saddest song, one of his last songs. He was humorously entertained by the fact that he had written what might have been the saddest song ever; you know (laughs), that was kind of funny to him. It's an organization of musicians to play in nursing homes. After that, I started a few unique open mike platforms in Austin that drew in a lot of professional musicians that played off the clock for no money and was told by all of them that it produced some atmosphere that they always dreamed of but they'd never seen. They always heard that Guy and Townes and Rodney Crowell, Steve Young, Steve Earle and all these guys went on and play as a community and it's no doubt that they learned from each other. Nowadays everybody's just trying to do it for themselves and the music suffers. You got individuals who got no links to other creativity, all just pounding their brains how to write non-commercial music. It's all been said or done and that doesn't mean, that there's no more music or things you need to do. I just don't think that there's a melting pot happening right now, at least not in Austin.

Townes would literally lock himself in a closet for hours, if not over night, 24 hours one time. My mom said for two days in this two foot by two-foot closet they have in this apartment and he told everyone he wouldn't come out before he had written this song and he stayed in for 48 hours. He brought in the equipment to stay there. He didn't come out to use the restroom and have a cigarette ­ he stayed in there. When he wrote "Pancho and Lefty," he locked himself in a hotel room to stay there till he wrote this song, and that, once again, means: my ass is not moving from this chair until it's done. He had such a strict code for himself. So I started thinking, maybe I'll do this, and then I think: are my motivations pure enough to approach it that way? I would be lying to myself, if I wasn't worried about the comparison a little bit, but at the same time it's one of my proudest associations in this world and it doesn't make it easy for me to be as good as him. I believe Townes was right: without some extraordinary natural talent, you gotta really work at it hard. It's gotta be your entire life, it really has to be. There's a lot of folks that write songs and it's a purification ­ for me writing a song about an experience or sadness alleviates the sadness. That is an exercise that is very healthy for people, that doesn't mean you have to be a poet.

Townes wrote beautiful songs about family and love, but he never lived those things out, he was off in a corner creating them while his family was wishing that they had a father or a husband. He sacrificed his personal life to describe to the rest of us what true beauty and love is. He didn't experience it, so he became the poet off in the corner beating his brains out what the essence of human emotion is. You can choose that or you can be a simple man who follows his heart and behaves honestly and treats his family well. And in that case, which would you choose? It offers up the same non-compromise, just Townes wouldn't have let anything interrupt his songs. On the other flipside, I wouldn't allow anything interrupt what my personal goals are in my life. I have the same non-compromise within the calling of my furniture vs. the profitability of it. Or the desire to fish every major river in the west of America with my dog ­ at the same time there's no money in that. So, I think regardless of which choice you make, that you can experience the same pride in your actions by not allowing anything else to sway you. I just wanna maintain true pride in growing as a person and if music's a part of that, then I'm delighted, if it's not, then it's not the end of the world either."

RZW: "Don't you think the pressure on you will become very hard to still become a professional musician?"

VZ: "It's still a very small outer fringe of people who listen to this sort of music, and, honestly, I'm not looking towards a career in it. It feels like I'm still a young man, but I'm reaching middle age. That doesn't mean it's too late, but I would be very happy if I were able to write a couple of songs on the side of what I do and pursue it just as hard as I can. I have moments that keep me up late to the night and perhaps a couple of my songs will stand the test of time. It would be a dream, if after I'm gone, a few of my songs would be discovered and became standards. That's just as good an idea to me as playing them every night on the road. I got a house in Austin now that I just bought, some little two bedrooms, on the Mexican side of town that's away from all the progress; it's still the way Austin used to be. It's right across from my woodshop and I'm living a good life, I'm happy. I may do tours like this every year and hopefully, I'll never stop playing Townes' songs, because this is why I didn't have to pay any dues in this industry. I was able to come and play in the same places as Eric Taylor and David Olney, Slaid Cleaves, Rod Picott, but I know that Townes paved the road for me and I'm walking on it."

RZW: "I saw Townes for the first and last time in 1996 on his last European tour, shortly before his fatal fall on the stage at the Borderline in London. What was life for him after that?"

VZ: "I guess a waiting game. He predicted his own death years before to the point where it became crying wolf. He would say: ' T, I don't have much longer, you know that.' I heard it so many times, basically since The Late Great Townes Van Zandt came out in the seventies. So I had come to accept it long before it happened. I was in Austin on New Years Day when he died. I was living in Corpus Christi as a fly-fisherman. I spoke to him on the phone from the Denver Airport. On Christmas Day I was gonna see my mom in Colorado and he told me his hip was hurting. He had called his ex-wife Jeanine - she wasn't his widow, she was his ex-wife - and she wouldn't allow him to come over because he was drunk and he could possibly ruin a dinner that she had planned for guests. That he had broken his hip was a huge thing for me, because I thought, he's always got some kind of pain or sickness for the last ten or fifteen years, so I offered to go up and meet him. But he said, 'no, say hello to the family, I don't wanna fuck up Christmas for them.' So I made my calls and did my thing with my mother, went to Austin, partied for New Year's.

I had a fly-fishing trip, a booked trip at 10 a.m. on the second of January. So, I am going down the I35, just left Austin and there's this intense fog firing up and I'm surfing around the radio. The only reason I keep pushing the button is, because I was so fatigued I wanted to listen to something to keep me awake. Suddenly there's a Townes song and then they play another one. I was in disbelief, but I justified it even further, because it was a Tuesday and on Tuesday in America they have something called a 2 for Tuesday where they play two songs in a row from an artist. Then the guy came on and said: 'That was a song by the late great Townes van Zandt.' When he said that I just completely lost my mind. I heard it on the radio that he died, you know! I first messed the panel, I was trying to pull the fucking steering wheel off, you know, I was a wreck and then I turned back to my girlfriend's house. I still hadn't cried. I hit the backdoor and she came to the door and said: 'What are you doing here?' Then, when she saw my face, she just figured it out. There was something written on my face. As soon as she started crying, of course, I crawled into bed and wept for the entire day and then in the night I pulled myself together and said: 'I'd better get a suit,' and went to Nashville to join the rest of my family, saw his body.

The funeral was, of course, an all-star cast. It's funny, I sensed at that moment that I had time to grieve throughout that day on the second, but since the moment I had put that suit on I told myself I wasn't gonna cry in front of my brother and sister, there was no time to feel sorry for myself. I was the eldest son and I had the responsibility to pull it all together. From my performance at the funeral throughout today, the catharsis I feel when I give people in a live performance his songs is still the same thing. Through me being able not to grieve, I help other people to get over it ­ there are still people who cannot accept it. In that regard, you're helping me come up with a few answers myself, because it's been a rollercoaster ride since then.

His predictions of his own fame have come through after his death and for me it's just been a natural progression from the day he died till now: I don't think anything I've done could be done any differently. One thing I did do is turn down numerous offers to do some recording in the midst of his demises and, of course, the industry popped its ugly head up and was looking for me to put out an album immediately. I just had to make sure the time is right and if that happens when I'm seventy, as long as I know I didn't take advantage, it's not about riding his coattails, that's fine. It's about not distracting the attention he worked so hard for and he deserves and that he's getting. I'm happy to be a representative of his and I'm proud to be his son. Enough time has passed now where the inspiration to write songs and be a singer hasn't been confused or polluted by the fact and the timeliness of his death. I'm very cautious that people understand that I'm in true reverence of his talent and I don't need to share the attention. I just want to do it the right way. It's a feeling based on the standard that he created for me."

Contact Marianne Ebertowski at ebertowski-at-rockzilla.net

 

  
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