Yes, I Am A Rich Man

The Sheraton Hotel Press Conference, Oslo

 

Society Pages, August 1988


Q: After seeing the show in Skedsmohallen, Oslo one might suspect that your favorites at the time is the band in the Muppet Show. Is that correct?

FZ: I don't watch the Muppet Show that often. But when I do I don't really pay that much attention to the hand. But I'll try to watch them when I get back to the States and if they're really good we can audition some of them for the next tour.

Q: 20 years ago you made quite a parody on the psychedelic scene at the time, more specifically, the Sgt. Pepper album. Do you hate that album?

FZ: No I don't hate it. I just think that when I did the original parody of that it was to point out the fact that at the time the Beatles were only in it for the money. Everybody else thought they were GOD. I think that was not correct. They were just a good commercial group. The songs that we did last night, "Norwegian Woods", "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" and "Strawberry Fields", we changed the words to be about the television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart.

Q: You had some trouble with the so-called Washington Wives and those kind of people...

FZ: That's not exactly true. They had trouble with me. I didn't have trouble with them.

Q: There has been some fragments in the press here, but we don't really know the full story. Could you tell a little about that?

FZ: There were these ladies in Washington D.C. who decided that it would be a good idea to warn parents about the lyrics in rock 'n' roll records. It was really a stupid thing they were complaining about. But what it could have led to was federal legislation that would have amounted to censorship of rock lyrics, so I went to the Congress to testify against them. Basically it's over. Tipper (Gore) is still around, her husband ran for president but he dropped out.

Q: On your album here it says 'Don't forget to register to vote.' What party or what candidate do you suggest people vote for?

FZ: I don't tell them who to vote for. I have mentioned on a couple of occasions some people that I didn't like and I will also mention my personal favorite as a candidate. But I don't instruct people how to vote. The problem in the United States is for a country that size it has the lowest percentage of voter participation of any industrialized democracy. The highest is in Italy with around 95% and the U.S. is lowest with under 30%. So they need to be reminded.

Q: But are there in fact any politicians that you personally would vote for?

FZ: I like Mario Cuomo but he's not running.

Q: What's the story behind sausage?

FZ: Oh, sausesh! Let me try and explain this concept to you. You remember Mr. Smothers, my bodyguard for many years? Well, Mr. Smothers liked sausesh! you see he couldn't pronounce sausage very well because he had false teeth so when he would say it would come out as sausesh! He discovered the legendary European sausesh! in Copenhagen. They sell them on the street on a piece of waxed paper (two long things with mustard on them). One day, he decided to buy one of these things and eat it. The guys in the band saw this gentlemen walking down the street with these sauseshes! hanging out of his mouth with mustard on them. This is included in a song called "Dong Work For Yuda". So most of the guys in the band already knew about John and his warm feelings for the sausesh of Denmark. But then yesterday, Dave, the new bodyguard, told us a story about this dog in England that has been on television that can say sausage. The way it works is, the dog's owner does something to the dog's throat. I think he probably grabs the dog by the balls! He squeezes them and moves his throat and what comes out is sausesh! The whole band heard this story just before we went on stage and it just worked it's way into the show.

Q: What's the connection between sausesh and Fornebu?

FZ: To me, Fornebuuu, or however you pronounce it, always struck me as an amusing word. It's probably not very amusing to you cause it's merely your airport. However, different words in different languages strike people in different ways. Here's a reverse example: I was told by a friend in Norway that there was a child born whose uncle didn't speak English very well and they were talking about various names to call the child. He thought that the word 'vomit' would be a really good name to call the child because in his ear it sounded real heroic. That word in America is not all that charming. But in my ear the word Fornebuuuu is something that could amuse members of the band and so that is why we had the Fornebuuu Sausesh Show' last night.

Q: Going on the road with 11 musicians, playing live music and with a lot of expensive PA's and equipment on stage, isn't that asking for bankruptcy today?

FZ: Well, it's not asking for a profit that's for sure. I won't know until June 9 if I actually make a profit on this tour. And it is quite possible that if I'm lucky I'll break even.

Q: But obviously you have strong feelings about going out playing live music today, perhaps particularly today?

FZ: Yes. Especially in the United States before we came to Europe, because it was the beginning of the election year and we were doing all the voter registration and stuff. Since we haven't been in Europe for so long and the way pop music has gone in the last four years, I think that it's a useful reminder for people in the audience to see what cam be done with good musicians and a creative attitude towards the show. We try to do something unique every night for each of the audiences and I think we're the only band touring that does that. Most of the other groups that are touring know one show and even if they play it perfectly, they're playing the same show every night. What we do is try and do something completely different every night.

Q: Do you think that it has become a trend for the groups to play the same show every night?

FZ: I think that has become more common today than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Part of the pressure comes from the record company because they want you to just go out there and promote your hit. And part of the pressure comes from the audience, because if they see a group that has been on MTV or Sky Channel, what they expect at the show is a replication of the hit. They demand that. If it's a new group and they don't have a big catalogue of songs to chose from, they don't have much choice and they have to keep playing that one song or just the songs on their first album over and over again.

Q: Do you think that rock music today is more boring than it was 15 years ago?

FZ: Well, it is for me. For newer audiences who might not know what the music used to be like 20 years ago, they might think it's fine. But they don't know what they're missing.

Q: Why is it boring?

FZ: Because there's not enough variety in it. It's the sameness. Especially in the United States groups tend to resemble each other in appearance, in the text of the song, in the chords of the song, in the arrangement of the song, in the orchestration of the song, in the rhythm of the song, the speed of the song ... everything is just out of a box. That, to me, is boring.

Q: Do you discuss these matters with your son, whose just going into rock for the first time?

FZ: No, because I try to stay as far away from what he wants to do musically as I can. He's got to take responsibility for his own career and he should have his own ideas about what he should do. The only advice that I give him has to do with contracts and business stuff.

Q: From where do you get your musical inspiration?

FZ: When I come to Norway I get a little bit at the airport. When I go to Denmark it's on a piece of waxed paper.

Q: You have been off the road now for three years. Have you been writing a lot of new material in those years?

FZ: All the new material that we did in the United States was left out of the show because I didn't think the people here would understand it with regards to what it was about. Most of that was written just before the tour. Mostly what I did in the last three years was work on the video projects for Honker Home Video, work on the Synclavier and argue with the Washington Wives.

Q: Has the possibilities of the CD's changed your attitude towards making albums?

FZ: I tend to do things that are longer and because CD's has more time on them, it's easier for me to put stuff onto the album in its original length without having to cut it down to fit on one side of a vinyl album. Especially for live shows because all the songs are linked together. So to give an idea of what a live show is like you should be able to have at least one hour of non-stop music and can't do that on a regular record.

Q: Whatever happened to the albums Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favourites?

FZ: Eventually that will probably come out as L├Ąther, which was the way it was intended to be released.

Q: With your various record companies you have been able to earn a living from your music?

FZ: It's not easy and it requires an awful lot of work. I do have the help of my wife who runs the business end of the company.

Q: Are you a rich man?

FZ: Yeah. You don't mind, do you?

Q: How was it like playing the guitar again as you haven't touched the instrument in three years. It must have been pure hell?

FZ: No, I didn't miss it. The hell came when I had to pick it and hang it on my body and play it again. Suddenly you got this 10/15 pound chunk of wood in my hand. I didn't have any callouses so it was difficult learning how to play again.

Q: Do you compose a lot on the guitar?

FZ: Not anymore. I use the Synclavier.

Q: Do you experiment a lot on your guitar with different sounds, different microphones, etc.?

FZ: Not anymore. May main goal now is just to get my fingers to work.

Q: The clean sound that you use now, was that from the Synclavier?

FZ: No. That was done with a device called a Roland GP-8. The guitar goes into that and the GP-8 is fed directly back into the PA system and then mixed with that is the sound of the strings all by themselves.

Q: Your last studio album, Jazz From Hell, was purely instrumental. Is you next studio album going to be with lyrics?

FZ: I don't have plans for another studio album. The next album that I am going to do work on will be the live album from this tour.

Q: Why are you so fond of live albums?

FZ: I like them. I like live music. If I was going to do something that was completely scientific I would do it on the Synclavier. The one thing I really don't like to do in a studio is guitar solos. I find that to be very tedious because there is no inspiration there for me. The thing that is fun to do is big layers of vocal overdubs, but the material that we are working on doesn't require it. We are recording all these shows 48-track digital, so the sound quality from these live recordings will not be what you think of as live recordings and they'll sound just like they were done in a studio.

Q: With these last albums you have done exactly what you have wanted to do. But it's not that many years ago you had a No.1 hit with Joe's Garage here in Norway. Do you ever feel tempted to try to do that again?

FZ: If Joe's Garage was No.1 in Norway, it says more about the Norwegian public than it says about any attempts that I've made. That album couldn't even be played on the radio in the United States.

Q: Do you ever try to conceive music as hit music?

FZ: No, I don't. I could if I wanted to but even if I did, in the United States, just because it had my name on it, it wouldn't get played on the radio. So why bother. There are plenty of other groups that specializes in that kind of music.

Q: Do you still feel it's very important to go out on the road and play music for the audience?

FZ: If there hadn't been so many letters from fans all over Europe during the last three years, I probably wouldn't have come back. The real reason I started this tour was to do the United States during the election year, but fortunately there are still a lot of people all over Europe who wants to hear the music. So why not do 46 cities in two months plus 15 press conferences. WHY NOT!

Q: Does that mean you look upon people registering to vote as important as playing your music?

FZ: Let me explain to you about voting in the United States. One of the reasons why there is such a low voter turnout is that it is complicated in several places to register to vote. They have regulations set up to actually keep people from registering. Here's an example: In Alabama you must register in the basement of the jail! Does that sound like something you would want to do during the daytime? And not only that you would have to do it during business hours, from 9 to 5. In the state of Connecticut, you must register at City Hall. If you don't register at City Hall you must have a lawyer or a notary public administer a one paragraph oath to you at the time you register. You also have to understand that the largest group of unregistered voters is 18 to 25 year of age. So if you're not registered and you don't vote, you have no representation in a democracy. And for the people in that age bracket I don't think they realise what they're missing out on. So what we did was bring people to the concerts who set up tables and we would take a half hour intermission during the middle of the show and ask the audience if they would like a quick and easy way to register to vote. We managed to do no less than 10% of the audience per night and some occasions as high as 25%.

Q: What has happened to the generation of '68 in America?

FZ: They've turned into Wall Street yuppies.

Q: Even if your candidate isn't running. Your sympathy seems to lie for the Democrats?

FZ: Well, let's just say I have less sympathy for Republicans than I do for Democrats. I don't think the Democrats have all the answers in the United States. The problem with them is this, and you're not going to believe me when I tell you this, but basically I am a conservative guy. True conservatism in U.S. politics means two simple things, smaller government and lower taxes. That's what it was supposed to be and that's what I like. A little government that stays out of your way and taxes at a level that is not going to break you back. The Republicans, when they were originally formed as a party, that was what they supposedly believed in. But sometime around 1979, the Republican party was more or less purchased by a group of television evangelists. They said to the Party, "We will give you all this money for your campaigns if you'll include these two things in your platform: prayer in school and no abortion." I'm against both of those things, so there's no way I could really support them because they've been bought by these religious fanatics. The Democratic party on the other hand tends to like complicated social programs with no idea of how they're going to be paid for. They talk about social programs to help this guy or that guy and that means bigger government, more administration and more taxes because in order to make those things happen, you have to pay for the programs. I am not too enthusiastic about that. So, I would say my orientation is a conservative independent and if I can find a candidate that supports that kind of view I'll go out a campaign for him. The Republican candidate who is running right now, George Bush, used to be the head of the CIA. Once you're the head of the CIA you don't resign from that. You don't suddenly forget everything you knew when you were in there. He's still the CIA and if he gets elected that's putting the CIA right into the White House. In the case of the Democratic candidate, Michael Dukkakis, he is a guy who did a practical job for the state of Massachusetts. He's a good business administrator. But I don't think that he knows any thing about foreign policy so it's really not a good choice. However, one of the reasons I suggest people to register to vote is not so they can just choose between two dumbells, but on the ballot you have other things to decide. You have tax issues, bond issues and propositions. For example, there was a proposition on the California ballot in 1986 and it was to make English the official language for that state. A really stupid, badly written law ... and it passed. This law is so badly written that if you went to a French restaurant and the man handed you a menu in French ... you could have him arrested. So there are lots of stuff to consider and if the decisions are not made by the people who are 18 to 25, the people in that age bracket don't have any right to complain.

Q: You were not allowed to perform at the George Mason University in Washington last month. What were the reasons?

FZ: There's a 3-man board that decides who gets to play at the college. Two of the people said fine, bring him in. The third person said wait a minute, these ladies from the PMRC lives near here and they'll be upset if he plays here. Well, that's got nothing to do with it. The man made a mistake. I don't even think the PMRC called him to say don't let him in, he just decided to do it. It didn't make any difference, cause we just played at another school about 30 miles away.

Q: Do you think that the PMRC are finally giving up trying to censor rock music?

FZ: I think what has happened is that the American public is so sick of hearing about it that they're going to go, "Oh, stop it, Tipper! That's enough. We don't need to hear it anymore." That happened in 1985 and since that time there have been several court cases that have come up. For example: There was the son of a man who owned a bank in Southern California who killed himself while listening to an Ozzy Osbourne record. Well, here are the facts: The kid had already drunk 10 beers before he did it and he shot himself with his fathers gun. Now, the father, who was a born again Christian, had a legal defense fund paid for by other born again Christian and tried to sue Ozzy Osbourne and CBS records, claiming that they were responsible. Any rational individual would say, "It was your gun, Dad! Why didn't you have the gun locked up?" The kid was a high-school dropout. Why shouldn't the parent take some of the responsibility here. So that actually went to court and it was thrown out. And they even tried the same case again claiming that the child was helpless because Ozzy Osbourne had concealed a secret 11 cycle tone in the grooves of the record! Anybody who knows anything about audio understands that the human ear works between 20 cycles and 20,000 cycles. Your ear doesn't even hear 11 cycles. Furthermore, to reproduce 11 cycles, you would have to have earphones THAT BIG! That's how crazy these people are ... they'll try anything! It's like the fairy tale about the kid who cries wolf all the time when it comes to Tipper.

Q: Is it true that you recently won a Grammy award?

FZ: That's right.

Q: What was your reaction to that?

FZ: I laughed. I think that the Grammy's are fake.

Q: What about the Synclavier record "Blood On The Canvas" that was scheduled to be released?

FZ: That is not a Syncalvier record and it will not be coming out.

Q: How many You Can't Do That On Stage releases will there be?

FZ: Six double CD's. All live, no overdubs. All different bands covering all the way back to 1968.

Q: What about the works "Opus 5", "You Look Like A Dork"," Brown Clouds" and "Little Dots". Will they be released?

FZ: I have one recording of "Little Dots". The performance is good but the quality of the tape is not very good. So I'm a little bit reluctant to release that. "Brown Clouds" is part of "Greggary Peccary". "Opus 5" is included in one of the Mystery Discs, I believe. There is a good studio recording of "You Look Like A Dork" but I don't know which album would be best to put it in.

Q: Whatever happened to the plans for your TV station?

FZ: People were just too afraid of what would happen if I had my own TV station. I couldn't get anybody to finance it.

Q: More recently you started your own video company called Honker Home Video. Can you tell us more about future releases?

FZ: Well, it's kind of hard to talk about it because I don't have a European distributor for it yet. But there are two feature length movies: "Baby Snakes" and "Uncle Meat". A one hour show called "Video From Hell", a documentary called "The True Story of 200 Motels", a one hour animation show called "The Amazing Mr. Bickford" and there is a half hour show called "Bunny, Bunny, Bunny."

Q: Will we be seeing anything of the tape that was made at the Roxy show in 1973?

FZ: There is a piece of that included in the "True Story of 200 Motels." But all the Roxy has been transferred to video tape and one day I'll put together a Roxy concert.

Q: What has happened to Ray White?

FZ: He came to one rehearsal and then he got a phone call that someone had broken into his house in San Francisco. He left and we never heard from him again. We could not find him.

Q: Sting was on stage at one of your concerts in the U.S. Which tune did you do with him?

FZ: We did an Oliver Nelson song called "Stolen Moments" and after we played the melody and a solo we brought Sting out. He saw us do this stuff about Jimmy Swaggart so he came on stage and explained to the audience that four years ago he was attacked by Jimmy Swaggart who claimed that one of his songs, "Murder By Numbers", was written by the Devil. So he performed that song with us.

Q: You know you have a fan club here in Norway and it has existed now for eight years. What do think about that?

FZ: Well, in a way I'm flattered and in a way it's like being followed by Interpol. There're only two other organizations that has as good a follow up on their suspects, one of them is the Vatican and the other is CIA.

Q: You've said that you don't like traveling. Don't you ever go on a holiday?

FZ: Well, it's maybe hard for you to understand, but I like my work. Some people wait all year so they can go 2-3 weeks to do nothing. If I had to do nothing for 2-3 weeks I'd go crazy. The most I could stand would be three or four days. I've known people in the record business who are really excited about vacations, managers for instance. I had a manager just like this. He would tell me how much stress he was under, how hard he was working and all the phone calls he would have to do and he really needed to take a vacation. So what would he do. We're in Los Angeles and he wanted to go to Martinique. Do you know how hard it is to get from Los Angeles to Martinique. You have to take so many planes and go through so much bullshit to get there. He says he's stressed, but he goes through all the problems to get to this place. Together with him on the plane are every other manager and record industry guy who is stressed. They're all going to Martinique and they all have to get rid of their stress. They get to the island and the hotel and what's waiting for him at the hotel? A bunch who hate him because he's an American and he's under stress. So you have a whole bunch of guys from the same business who went to the same hip island because that is where all the music business guys go and they all want to get rid of their stress. So they go to dinner and they're all demanding they get their food first and their fighting and the stress keeps going, but they're telling themselves they're on a vacation. Then, when it's all over, what do they do? They get back on the plane together and they can't wait to get back to Los Angeles. The trip home is even worse and he comes back and tells me he feels a lot better. To me a vacation would be that I would turn the phone off and sleep for two days.

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