Richard O'Brien is a man that's hard to place.
On one hand, he created one of the longest running films and stage shows in history, and yet- he sits in a white plastic chair on a hot and dry California afternoon playing a guitar and looking decidedly "normal". Waiting for a chance to get a soundcheck done, he runs through some of the numbers that he will either play, or is thinking of playing during that night's performance. I had the good luck to speak to him for a few moments.
Q- How is Alive on Arrival coming?
Richard- Alive on Arrival is on the back burner, because I'm supposed to be doing something else to be ready for January, so I had to put it on the back burner- writing a lot of nice songs for Alive on Arrival.
Q- With the plot, it sounds like it could be a good Mephistopheles vehicle, will he be in it?
Richard- No, no. It would've been quite good, there is a character called Incubus King, who is the king of the underworld- who is a bit uh, Mephistopholean, I suppose- Nasty son of a bitch . . . It's going to be a good vehicle for a young girl in her twenties with life experience.
Q- And Dungeons and Dragons?
Richard- Yeah, I've just finished my little bit. In fact, they'll be finishing the entire shoot and coming back to LA. Even as we speak, perhaps. Wrapping it. And then they'll be back here to do some post-production. There's going to be quite a bit of that, I think. And I think they're looking at NEXT fall. Not this fall, not the coming fall, but the fall of 2000 as a release date.
Q- And an odd question- were you in armor at all for that film?
Richard- Not really, no.
Q- When you write songs, do you ever change the lyrics at all?
Richard- Yeah. Yeah, you can improve . . . yes, you're allowed to do that. Nothing is sacred, except . . . except God.
Q- (I had spotted his playlist which he was writing on) Rhythm of the Heartbeat!
Richard- Rhythm of the Heartbeat, do you like that? I like that. I wrote that for a musical I wrote many years ago called "Et Tu, Rosebud". It was a musical about Julius Caesar. And I rewrote the second act, cause I didn't think Shakespeare had done very well. Who am I, you know. I think they would have sent him back- said "rewrite that one, Willie." The second act is shit. The first act is great, it's got duplicity, conspiracy, assassination, and a wonderful speech over the body-the Mark Antony speech. And then you begin the second act, and the second act is exceptionally boring. So I rewrote it. I rewrote the second act to make it a bit more interesting.
Q- Are there any songs off Absolute O'Brien that you particularly like?
Richard- Yes. I like Angel in Me, which I shall sing tonight with playback. The first song I do will be Angel in Me. And I think we'll do Rhythm of the Heartbeat. I might do the Dance of Love, too- cause that's kind of good.
Q- (I had intended to ask his least favorite song) Since everyone asks you what you're favorite song is-
Richard- Ever? My favorite song ever? I think . . . (at this point he sang "Hurt" by Timi Yuro) Timi Yuro . . . fucking great.
Q- What about one of yours?
Richard- One of mine? There's songs I do sing quite often, I kinda like 100 dollars an Hour I like very much, and I like I Will Always Hold You in my Heart, I have a special attraction for that because I wrote it for my eldest son. So I kinda like that, it's sentimental. And I've written a lot of songs that I've fogotten. That's the worst of it, isn't it? You spend so long writing them, and getting the words together, and you forget them. There's a song that a friend always asks me to play and I can never remember it. It was in Mephistopheles. (He tries to work it out) Nope. I can't remember a damned thing about it, isn't that strange. And here I was spending weeks, you know, honing it to get it right, and they just . . . go. And you go "Oh dear".
Q- (I explained the specs of the site, about the mailing list and all that)
Richard- Wow. I was just in New Zealand. (for that documentary on him they're doing) About uh, a week or so ago. Yeah, it was nice. I loved it. Bought some land out there. My retirement plan.
Q- We're very happy that you've released the album, to have music billed as Richard O'Brien instead of being associated with musicals.
Richard- Yeah. Well, I am very lucky. I'm exceptionally fortunate, I think. Well, most of us are, actually. We don't count our blessings often enough, do we? We don't say how lucky we are. To have the gift of sentiency, for a start- the gift of life- to be thinking beings. To be able to have a conversation like this, to be such clever buggers. Born in the west, to live in the English speaking west. It's great. This is wonderful stuff. And we don't take that on board, just how lucky we are.
Q- Does the following that Rocky has, all the people who do it, do you ever consider it?
Richard- No, I'm just part of it. I never created that at all. It's these people that created that.
Q- Well, if there weren't the film, this wouldn't have happened.
Richard- Yeah, yes. There's a kind of, uh, catalystic kind of part of it. But no no. Doesn't mean much, really. Because if you wanted to do that, and go "Oooh, I'm fabulous" and all the rest of it- to feed off that- you'd be very foolish to do so. Because the downside is, if someone starts . . . really fucking up and they're a great fan of yours . . . like those suckers in America, those schoolkids that are Marilyn Manson fans. And Marilyn has to turn around and go "Oh, um, actually . . . violence is a bad thing". But weird, after he's gone out of his way to manifest that KIND of thing. But no, I'm not dying to get too close to it. People are people.
Q- What about the Sinbad book?
Richard- Oh yeah. That's something I really like. I like that. I met this artist many years ago, socially. And he sent me one of his first books. He's a children's illustrator, and his work is so first-class. His draftsmanship and his penmanship is splendid. And he rang me up one day and said he was going to do the voyages of Sinbad, and would I take care of the narrative side of things. I said, well, I'm not sure what you want- and he said, actually I'm not sure what I want either. But I've spoken to the publishers.
And unfortunately they were testing the speakers so this was as far as we were able to go. Fun weekend though, and a great time.
The Richard O'Brien Crusade est. 1996