Five Minutes With David Lynch
From penning song lyrics for his film Eraserhead to collaborating on the 2010 album Dark Night of the Soul with Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse, David Lynch has been running thought-provoking sound experiments for nearly four decades. This month, the director of cult classics such as Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet makes his solo debut with Crazy Clown Time, a 14-track effects-heavy “modern blues” narrative, with songs ranging from a Roy Orbison–esque road rambler featuring Karen O on vocals (“Pinky’s Dream”) to the otherworldly title track, which can best be described as Lynchian. Though this back-country protagonist probably won’t be roaming Top 40 lists, his travails provide the perfect companion for a long drive down a dusty patch of highway—preferably a lost one.
Michael Slenske talks blues, back woods and Transcendental meditation with David Lynch:
So was the idea was always to make this record?
No, not really. You know we didn’t start making music to do an album, but after you get three or four or five things that you like you start thinking that maybe there’s an album here in the future somewhere.
What was the first song you recorded?
It might have been Speed Roadster.
That seems jazzy.
Really? Oh, to me it’s real close to a blues thing.
Are you a big blues fan?
Yeah, well, I think rhythm & blues is the precursor to rock and roll and there’s some great, great power in that music, and I think it’s an important point of departure. I recently heard of this guy Gary Clark, Jr.
He’s phenomenal. He’s doing straight ahead, traditional blues, but it’s like from a really great, deep level.
Is there some kind of narrative you want to travel from song to song?
The flow of an album I think is important, but nowadays I don’t know if people really sit and listen to a whole album. Maybe they do once, but for me, anyway, like in painting, I like stories. It’s the same way with music; each song is a little story.
Are they meant to be part of a bigger narrative?
Not necessarily, no. They could be, but each one is standing on its own.
Is there a single in your mind?
“Crazy Clown Time” because it’s the name of the album, and I think it would be a good single.
What exactly is Crazy Clown Time?
It’s a phenomenon of the backyard barbecue with lots of beer.
It’s funny you say that, because it sort of feels like there’s a Southern vibe to the album.
I know exactly what you mean. There’s a character that comes to me, and this character is very, very much is like what you say . . . drives a truck, and really likes the piney woods.
Are you singing on every track?
Well, there’s one instrumental. Every other song I am.
Are you manipulating your voice?
Sure. Sometimes it’s more mechanical but it’s like on “Strange and Unproductive Thinking” it’s manipulated way, way, way big and so there’s varying degrees of manipulation taking it away from more real, and putting it in tune.
Was Karen O the only person beside Dean to play on the album?
Yeah, Dean and I will work on tracks, and I’ll write lyrics, so that was the deal with Karen O. She got lyrics and lived with those and thought about it and then jumped in the booth and out came her “Pinky’s Dream”, which is beautiful.
Is the way you’re working on this album, is that how you’re working on sound for films?
You know, in a way. Sound for film is also an experiment, and you want every element to marry one to the other. So you want music to marry to the image and you just don’t throw in music because you like it, you throw it in to see what it does and you say, ‘Wait a minute, this is not happening at all’. Out it goes and then you try other things.
There’s a huge amount you can do to sounds and huge amount you can do to music, but it’s got to marry to the picture . . . And then boom! It jumps up, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. That’s the magic you’re looking for.
Have you evolved as a player or musician?
Well, I don’t think I’m a musician really. I’m not technically a musician, but I play music, so that’s a very strange thing. I have gotten, maybe, better. But I use a guitar as a different thing than a traditional guitar player.
What are you using it as?
More like a sound effect maker. I’m not a guitar player.
You’ve been big into meditation for decades. Does that help you conjure the sound?
For sure, it’s all about consciousness. Consciousness is tied to all these positive qualities of creativity, intelligence, energy, love, happiness, peace, things like this, and the more of that you can get the better off you’re going to be. Transcendental meditation, which I’ve practiced for 38 years now, is a mental technique to dive within and experience that unbounded, infinite ocean of consciousness within every human being. It’s called enlightenment. And on the way toward enlightenment things just get better and better and better, and the side effect of expanding consciousness is negativity starts to recede. I always say negativity is the enemy to creativity.
Is the hope that that comes through in the album.
You know I don’t know if the happiness I feel inside comes through, but the music makes me happy, it makes me happy to work on it. It’s so much fun to work on music.