Tom Waits

Tom Waits

God"s Away On Business


My Gravelly Voice

There's no one really in show business in my family but there were two relatives who had an effect on me very young and shaped me in some way. They were Uncle Vernon and Uncle Robert. I always hated the sound of my voice when I was a kid. I always wanted to sound more like my Uncle Vernon, who had a raspy, gravelly voice. Everything Uncle Vernon said sounded important, and you always got it the first time because you wouldn't dare ask him to repeat it.Eventually, I learned that Uncle Vernon had had a throat operation as a kid and the doctors had left behind a small pair of scissors and gauze when they closed him up. Years later at Christmas dinner, Uncle Vernon started to choke while trying to dislodge an errant string bean, and he coughed up the gauze and the scissors. That's how Uncle Vernon got his voice, and that's how I got mine

Hold On


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Science of Sound

Great sound engineers are like scientists. They don't make value judgements. What's interesting about working with great engineers is that if you stop by the side of the road and drag something out of the ditch, throw it in the truck and bring it down to the studio, these guys will circle it like it's a moon rock. They'll mic it, hit it with a hammer, and find out the most expeditious way to approach it. Move it around to different parts of the room. They don't make value judgements. They're more like scientists. They get very subjective about the whole issue of sound. But you don't really know when you're going in what you're looking for. Sometimes you find it while you're there.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Latest Dialogue: King of the Nightowls

This Old Clotheshorse has been moderating the Keeper of the Boneyard's Forums. Here is the latest dialogue:

Tom Waits is probably the most underrated songwriter & musician of my lifetime. He’s one of the most wonderful there is. I, uh, thought his wife was from Illinois? (And a different song) Or maybe that’s a different wife. Or she moved, who knows. Tom Waits is a jersey girl? Well there you see the perils of rewriting the last half of a paragraph without looking at the first half. G’night folks! Tom Waits is an over rated pianist or should I say penis! Leon Redbone. I play with the current bass player for Tom Waits. Waits is an interesting guy. Bless you Tom. Tom Waits has more talent in one finger than everybody else on the current Billboard Hot 100…have you ever seen him in concert, this guy makes the hair on my neck stand up…I have every CD he’s ever made. To me he’s up there with Dylan…He should run for president with maybe Paris Hilton as his vice president…they’d make a lovely pair..Personally, I agree w. everyone here that Waits is a national treasure. Closest I ever got to him was sharing a baggage carousel for a NY/LA flight that got in around 3AM LA time. I thought that was appropriate considering he’s the king of the night owls.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blending Up The Entrails

This old clotheshorse gets up in the morning, lifts the lid on the blender and pours in some skimmed milk, a spoonful of frozen yogurt, a mix of fruit, orange juice, and maybe a handful of flax seed, and he's ready to face the day.

What about the Keeper of the Boneyard he wondered?

''Most songwriters, you can trace back what they've been listening to,'' the Keeper said. ''It's like you can go through the entrails of any animal and tell what the last three days were like. How do you reconcile your irreconcilable musical desires and dreams and wishes and memories? You may not be able to make one thing out of it. I think I feel more comfortable trying to visit different places. I don't know if I have anything that I've made that's a synthesis of the things I love. I don't think I leave it in the blender long enough.''

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Bogart and Bergman Mold Jell-O

So you think about the influence of spouses, how they shape your otherwise shapeless lives, and so you think about Kathleen Brennan, and you wonder as you do about the collaborative process, and it comes out something like this:

Oh! Well, you know, "You wash, I'll dry." It all comes down to making choices and a lot of decisions. You know, are we gonna do a song about our cruise ship, or a meadow, or a brothel, or... just a rhapsody, or is it a parlor song or a work song or a field holler? What is it? The form itself is like a Jell-O mold. It's like doing anything that you would do with someone. "You hold it right there while I hit it," or the other way around. You find a rhythm in the way of working. I trust her opinion above all else. You've gotta have somebody to trust, that knows a lot. She's done a lot of things. I'm Ingrid Bergman and she's Bogart. She's got a pilot's license, and she was gonna be a nun before we got married. I put an end to that. She knows about everything from motorcycle repair to high finance, and she's an excellent pianist. One of the leading authorities on the African violet. She's a lot of strong material. She's like Superwoman, standing there with her cape flapping. It works. We've been at this for some time now. Sometimes you quarrel, and it's the result of irritation, and sometimes it comes out of the ground like a potato and we marvel at it.
"On Sundays, we'd always visit Uncle Robert, who was the organist at a methodist church in La Verne, California. Uncle Robert had a pipe organ in his house that went right through the roof. When he would play he would smear all the notes together like hot melted crayons and the whole house would shake.I remember his house was a complete mess; his clothes were everywhere, his bed was never made. "Now this is show business," I thought to myself. I asked my mom why I couldn't keep my room like Uncle Robert's, and she said, "Tom, your Uncle Robert is blind."
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