The Richard O'Brien Crusade

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Richard O'Brien's Interview on KLOS

Slight thing I should mention here . . . there are two DJs who did the interviewing, and not being from Cali, I don't know who is who. So I just put their questions with a blank "-". Also, thanks go out to Mark Tomaino and all at Midnight Insanity for having the audio in MP3 format so I could bring this transcript to you.

And without further ado . . .


-Richard, probably best known to people as the creator and one of the stars of the long running classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Welcome to the show

R-Hello . . .

-Nice to have you here.

R-Nice to be here.

-Now, um . .

R-On this sunny morning in California.

-It is a nice day, isn't it.

R-Beautiful day.

-Yes, sir. Now uh, you come to us through the gentleman that we released our cd through. We released a cd last year

R-Yes . . .

-with Oglio Records, and that is currently your record company. This CD that you have come out with, we'll get into, but what is it?

R- Apartment Jazz. Is what I call it.

-Ok...

R-I couldn't find any way to describe the music and people, you know, their eyes glazed over as I was trying to describe it, and then I came up with something snappy . . .

-Apartment Jazz.

R- Like when people said 'house music'. Do we really know what 'house music' means? I don't think so. Acid funk, they say? What does it actually mean, nothing. Truthfully, it's just kind of an idea. So I thought I'd call it Apartment Jazz. And a friend of mine said "Oh, I know what you mean. You mean elevator music with soul, don't you." I said, "That's right, but we're not going to call it THAT, thank you very much!"

I had that feeling that it sort of conjured up an image of a loft in New York with the windows open and a great muslin curtain blowing and a saxaphone wailing in the street. (imitates a sax, which sounds suspiciously like a muted trumpet) That kind of feel, you know. Actually, no, that's a trumpet, isn't it.

You know what I MEAN . . . you know where I'm COMING from.

-Certainly do.

-we're going to play some cuts, and them maybe later you could perform some for us.

R-Alright.

-First, if you wouldn't mind, a couple of Rocky questions.

R-Ok.

-Ok the one you've been asked the most, and of course I would be remiss if I didn't ask it- but when you were writing this thing, did you have any idea- I mean, how can you have a formula for writing a cult classic, but did you have any idea of what this would become.

R- No, I know that Los Angeles isn't theatre-oriented, and therefore I have to explain that there is theatre-mainstream theatre, and then there is fringe theatre. And fringe theatre is when actors do something for five weeks, and it may be at lunchtime, it may be late-night- it's generally in a small venue- you play to probably 60 or 100 people tops, and it was a fringe theatre event. And it played to 62 people per night for five weeks. And that was, I thought- that was it. At the end of that five weeks. We would have exploited our target audience.

-What were the critics saying

R-(still on the last question) Whoever they were . . . (laughs)

-What were the original reviews?

R- I couldn't have written better reviews if they said "Go ahead and do 'em yourself."

-Wow.

R-Fabulous. But there was something about it, even when we were rehearsing, and we were up on top of the building, Royal Court Theatre, in Sloane Square-which is a very famous theatre in England. And uh, eat during the day and again, nice sunny summer weather when we were rehearsing-and I'd come down the stairs and you'd hear somebody at the piano like Tim Curry running through one of the songs with the musical director, just the piano. And you'd see smiles on people's faces in the building. There was a good feeling. They knew something happy was happening up there, you know. And that was, I think it kind of knocked on. You know you say the smile you send returns to you, that kind of feeling was right through the building. It was excellent, actually.

-So after the five weeks

R-Very groovy. (laughs)

-Yes. So After the five weeks, then uh you played it somewhere else, or went to another theatre?

R- We transfered to a cinema, which we converted into a theatre that was further down the King's Road, and that was a lovely old cinema. It was really like an old Bio-Scope cinema, bout 1900, 1905, 1910, something like that. And uh, very early days of cinematography, anyway. And uh, that seated about 300 . . .

-so you're getting up there now.

R-Started to move up there. And then we moved to yet another even FURTHER down the King's Road where we finally settled down for our seven year run, playing to about 600 people a night.

-was it during the seven year run that it was the idea for the movie?

R-It was very early on, strangely. We weren't even out of our first year when they said 'we've done a deal with Fox and we're gonna make a movie' and not only that, but we're allowed to keep all the original actors that were in the fringe theatre event and you go 'Hello! Thank you very much!' (laughter)

-We all get to go!

R- Oh good. You don't get lost in the shuffle.

-Now, at what point were you beginning to be floored by the fact that this thing continued to grow. And even to this day, continues to move and grow.

R-It's interesting. I was very dispassionate about it. I didn't jump up and down and say "oooh, I've got a hit". I kind of watched it from the sidelines.

-Really.

R-Yeah. I don't know WHY I did that. I think maybe it's part of my nature. And part of my background as a kid. I think I always used to underplay excitement, in case . . . in case the toys got taken away, I think. I think it was a bit like that. If I got too excited, then I might upset with it, it may not go through. So I just stood, I kinda stayed to one side of it.

-Were you happy with the movie?

R-At the beginning I thought uh, you've got to remember that the show used to run without an interval, for 90 minutes. Hour and a half, right on the money. Hour 25, if you were REALLY rocking along. But generally speaking, about an hour thirty. And when we made the movie, we wanted to make a 90 minute movie. We wanted it to be running at an hour and a half. And we did. But it's so slow. And we've even got an extra scene in it. And I thought, if it's so slow and it's got an extra scene in it, how come it takes up the same space of time as the show, which rocks along? And I don't understand that. To this day I don't kind of understand that. And why have we left these gaps between the lines? I say a line (pauses for effect) and there's a gap, and then the other person says the line back. And I went, 'why didn't we pick up the cues? Why didn't we rock on with this?' and I thought- it's too slow.

And now of course, the fans say 'Did you, Mr. O'Brien, uh, uh, did you uh, leave the gaps between the lines so that we, us, the audience could say lines?' "Oh yes, of course." (laughter) "It was part of the plan"

-Being that it began in that simple setting, and that it began with you- what is it to you?

R- It's a good pension fund, that's what it is to me.(laughter) No no, it's more than that. It's more than that. It keeps- when you're um, all you are is basically a minor celebrity and personality, you need to keep your name up there, somehow or other, to keep vibrant, alive, employable- all those kind of things. And it's very good as that. It's also ESPECIALLY good for getting five minutes of somebody's time. Cause if you've got that behind you, you want to phone somebody or knock on somebody's door- what a great calling card. "I'm the guy that wrote the Rocky Horror Show" "Oh, really? Let's talk. I'll give you five minutes" And at the end of that five minutes I might get shown the door again, from the other side- but at least I get the five minutes.

-Tim, was he happy with the movie?

R-Yeah, I woulda thought so. He's stunningly good. I mean, we were very lucky to find Tim. And he was lucky to find the show. It was a very lucky happenstance, or whatever you wanna call it. It was great.

-(Rose Tint my World) And of course, the Rocky Horror Picture Show. You know, Richard. I'm writing my own sequel kind of thing, hope you don't mind.

R- Are you? Could you help me out? I'm trying to write one as well, perhaps we should get together.

-Well mine's the uh, Rocky Balboa Picture show. You know, Rocky goes "Uh,yo" and the audience goes "Adrian". It's really kinda fun. (It's gonna be wild . . . and wacky) Starring . . . (you get the idea here that Richard is giving them some sort of odd look, because the subject just sort of . . . dies) Let's just sample some of this CD, Absolute O'Brien. Give us a cut that we can sample about 30 seconds of.

R- Uh . . . oh my God. Uh, just do the opening, you'll just hear the sax on the opening, I love that sax. Track one.

-(Incubus of Love) Alright, this . . . Apartment Jazz. (talking through the music) Oooh, that's nice.

R- It is nice, isn't it. Nick Payne. (Saxophonist on the album)

-Very nice.

R- Cool, isn't it. Cool and groovy.

-You just said groovy. And Apartment Jazz. And now every time I hear this I'm going to think of you in an apartment with a couple of buddies and a radio or a tape recorder playing, and you recorded it there. You did it in a studio, I'm sure but . . .

R-Yeah.

-It's really gorgeous. [We always love it too when guests work the word "groovy" into their answers, and you've done that already. Twice, as a matter of fact.]

R- That's very nice. Why do you like it? Why do you like it so much? Why does it appeal to you? It's your age, isn't it. You're showing your age.

-It was one of my favorite words in the 70's, it went away, and all of a sudden it's come back.

R- Fab is another word I like very much. Absolutely FAB.

-I like "oyster".

R- Well, have you thought about therapy?

-I don't know what the hell I meant by that. Uh, Renee you're on the air with Richard O'Brien, go ahead.

Renee- Hello Richard!

R-Hello.

Renee- Richard, we know each other!

R- Oh my God. In the biblical sense?

Renee- Well, I don't know if you remember doing "Lower Depths" in the Hockston Theater in Boston?

R- Indeed I do . . .

Renee- You do?

R- Yeah . . .

Renee- Uh, I was working as an understudy in stage management and I asked to borrow the pair of tails that you wore as the actor in Lower Depths.

R-Yeah . . .

Renee- And you lent it to me. And then when I went to return it, you said "Oh no, keep it." And ever since, most every Halloween, I wear your tails.

R-How extraordinary. They're a collector's item.

Renee- It is, actually. I have meant to dry clean it, it's become a bit tattered.

R- Well, it's not original anymore, it's had some restoration, sorry.

-Renee, thanks for calling. Let's go to Kevin. Kevin, you're on the air. (pause) Kevin, you there?

Kevin- Oh yeah. Hey Richard what's going on?

R-Oh not a lot. How bout you?

Kevin- A friend of mine has seen the stage show live in Europe, and I've heard rumors of it being in the States live, and I was wondering if you knew if it would ever go live again in the States.

R- Well we've let the stock rights go in the States, that's true. We have trouble in the United States with the stage show because the movie has been so popular. And as a consequence, we take the show into a town and a taxi driver for instance will say "Why you in town?" And you say "Well we're bringing the Rocky Horror Show" and they say "Oh I've seen that." And you say "Really?, but this is the live show." "Yeah, I've seen the live show, it's on every Friday night down at the theater." You call cinemas theaters, that's another problem you see. And we go "No no no, that's the movie. This is the live show. You know, live actors." "Yeah, yeah, every Friday night in front of the . . " and you go "No! (gritting teeth) That's the FILM, this is live." And then they turn round and say "Why should we pay 30 bucks for a seat when we can go down to the theater- the CINEMA- and pay five bucks." And you say "Oohhhhh, ok. Let's leave town, what the hell."

-Do you think you'd have a problem filling a theatre? I don't think you would, would you?

R- No, I don't think so. But it's always educational, isn't it. It's educating the audience.

-And I love a guy coming in with an eloquent British accent doing a hick taxi driver. That was really cool.

R- (doing it again) Oh yeah?

- Well plus, I think that if it were to be back on stage, say for example on Broadway.

R-Yes.

-The performances would be so passionate and inspired because people have become so enamored with the film.

R-Yes. The production values would have to be high. We have toyed with the idea of dropping it in Vegas for a while and putting it back into, into the consciousness.

-It'd be a blast. Get Tom Cruise.

R- Tom. I tell you who'd really like to do it- David Hasselhoff. He's been trying for years, he'd love to do it. Yeah, I'd like to see him in the heels. Strut your stuff, David! Do your Thang!

-I don't think I'd want to see that. I don't know. I can think of a lot of people I'd LIKE to see in that role, but not David.

R- Would you like to share that with us?

- I'll make you a list.

-Let's go to Susan, she's on line 5. Susan?

Susan- Hello?

-You're on the air.

Susan- How're you doing?

R-Hello Susan.

Susan- Uh, I just fell in love with that bit of a song you had. What is the name of the CD so I can go out and buy it?

R- It's called Absolute O'Brien. Yeah.

-Record stores?

R-Most record stores, popular record stores that push up the prices . .

Susan- That's the way it always is. But I just fell in love with that small cut.

R-Well that's nice. I was very lucky. I got a very good producer. Now I was supposed to go and do this album and get out in three weeks. Because it was a stage show, most of it is from a stage show that I had already done with the band . . . and we went in and uh, about 18 months later, we wound up with this album.

But I was so lucky with this producer who was expecting to only do three weeks and went . . . beyond his remit. And the generosity I have found in this industry is remarkable. People who will go the extra 40 yards for you. And it breaks my heart, the generosity is so good I sometimes weep with the way these people work. And Pip Williams of course is well known, he worked with the Moody Blues and played guitar with the Moody Blues, this is the producer, and Shirley Bassie he's produced, among others.

-Sounds like you had a great deal of fun.

R-I learnt an awful lot.

-We're sitting here with Richard O'Brien, who wrote the Rocky Horror Picture Show and has a new CD out, Absolute O'Brien.

-You brought your guitar.

R-I did, yeah.

-What was your plan with that?

R-I don't know. Somebody pushed it into my hands as I came through the door really, and said "Here, you like these things." The trouble is, I don't actually know how to play it. I was taught by Maoris in New Zealand. And Maoris play strangely play three chord stuff like (here he does a Maori song) Now here's the interesting part- see that? That's a jazz chord. That's a ninth. And it suddenly becomes Polynesian, doesn't it. Isn't that weird?

But if you put in- I've written a song using this same chord- Rhythm of the Heartbeat. (which he of course proceeds to sing)

-Of course I don't play guitar . . .

R-Well, I treat it like a drum. That's all I can do with it.

-Very very nice.

-Uh, Richard is there anything else that we need to know that we haven't discussed yet. Like future projects.

R- Future projects? I'll tell you, my avoidance skills are improving. I'm honing them, I'm working on them. In fact, I should have a PhD with Honors, I should have a PhD in avoidance. I'm very good at that. And I'm supposed to be writing something for January. And I think what I'm gonna have to do is when I get somebody else to come in and motivate me. So they say "10 O'Clock tomorrow morning, we work from 10 to 4."

-Now when you say writing something, are you talking about musically?

R- I'm talking about writing something for stage, a musical. And what I'm really supposed to be doing is Rocky's sequel. The monsters rising from the grave. And going back, truthfully. We did a film called Shock Treatment which was supposed to be a sequel, and the director said "No I don't want to do more of the same" So five drafts later, we'd lost the plot completely. We kept the- the songs are good, great soundtrack, but the storyline was completely confused and muddy. So what I'm going to do is go back, to the original story. Nine months later, Janet's having a baby, whose is it. Is it Frank's? Is it Brad's? Is it Rocky's?

I think we know damned well whose it's going to be, don't we. It's like- "Congratulations, it's a Transvestite."

-Sounds like a great idea. Why are you having trouble getting to it?

R-Because I'm slothful. Slothful as you say over here (he pronounces it slothe) I like Sloth better, though. And Sloth of course is supposed to be one of the seven deadly sins, but I can't see it, can you? Works for me . . .

-Do you work better under a deadline?

R-Yes, I think everybody does. You get pushed into a corner with a pointy stick you know . . . you gotta fight your way out.

-Now when you're hanging out. When you're doing whatever Richard wants to do, what is that?

R-Uh, um . . . is this a family show?

-Say whatever you want. What do you like?

R- Again, I do so little. I enjoy doing nothing. I enjoy painting and drawing. I'm not so good with the paint, but I'm alright with the draftsmanship, with a pencil . . . uh, and writing songs gives me a great deal of pleasure. I spend a lot of time just scribbling lyrics onto the backs of envelopes and things like that . . . that gives me pleasure. I enjoy doing the crossword very much, the cryptic crossword especially. Um, Daily Telegraph, if you're interested. You know, that kind of stuff.

-Well look. The album sounds great. Gonna grab a copy seeing as how we don't have to wait until the 7th, it's a perk of having your own radio show.

R-Uh-huh. I know what it's like.

-You'll sign it, won't you?

R-I will!

-Thanks again

R- Yeah, thank you for letting me into your uh- on your show . . . I was going to say into your homes, but you don't live here, obviously.

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The Richard O'Brien Crusade est. 1996