Transformer/Interview with Victor Bockris

by Tobe Damit
by Tobe Damit

After I posted a very extensive review of Transformer: The Complete Lou Reed Story (2014 updated edition) here in Loud Alien Noize under the title ”The Beauty of the Beast”. I felt the need to ask the author, the well known punk-era writer,   Victor Bockris about certain aspects of the biography and his relationship with Lou. He was kind enough to answer them, for your pleasure as well as mine.

LAN: This is a really in-depth biography, I have read several of your books and never before have you gone so deep into someone’s psyche. What is it about Lou Reed?

Victor Bockris: Transformer is the result of a close friendship with Lou between 1974-1979. This is from Rock’n’Roll Animal to The Bells. A solo workaholic rock star such as Lou is by definition a lonely guy. When I started hanging out with him he was living with a long time girlfriend he had known since 1966 at the Factory. Barbara Hodes had gone to Long Island and helped pull him out of his post Velvet’ slump, also offering him a nest in Manhattan. The first night Andrew Wylie and I went out drinking with Lou in fall 1974 the three of us were sitting around a table drinking when he suddenly said, “I haven’t felt this happy in years!” I was stunned. The point is Lou was looking for people he could really talk to. He wanted to emote about his life. No bullshit. We were the same way. And once Lou got a friend he wanted that friend to be available to him at any time. We called ourselves Bockris-Wylie. The first thing Lou did was break us up. Then he developed separate relations with both of us. All my time with Lou was spent in his apartment or mine talking about his problems or mine. He gave me much good advice I rely on to this day. Lou opened his psyche to me and that is why I could write about him so accurately. He once gave me a piece of paper on which he had written “From Lou#3 to Lou#8 ‘Hi!’” Writing from a psychological angle was the only way to start a biography of Lou Reed.

Lou Reed and Barbara Hodes at The Bottom Line, NYC. February 12, 1974. © Bob Gruen
Lou Reed & Barbara Hodes,The Bottom Line,NYC,1974©Bob Gruen

LAN:How would you describe the first impression you got from Loud Reed the first time you saw him in person?  

Victor Bockris: I first met Lou in 1974 shortly after interviewing William Burroughs, Mick Jagger and Salvador Dali. I did not know that much about him so Bockris-Wylie met him on equal grounds, which probably helped. He was so lovely sweet kind and funny we got into a really cool conversation. I started telling him looked he looked like Frank Sinatra ands he came right back about Sinatra laying down Heroin at the Sands with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra. Then right in front of my eyes Lou transformed into the young Frank. It was so startling I glimpsed something dark in him. I almost fainted and ran to the bathroom trying not to throw up. The whole thing was so connected by the end of the interview he invited us to have dinner with him. Mick Jagger had called in the middle of it and we were committed to sending him a re-edited transcript the following day. So we had to decline. Later in the week we went out for that drink in Answer #1.

photo of Victor Bockris and Andrew Wylie by Elsa Dorfman
Photo of Victor Bockris and Andrew Wylie by© Elsa Dorfman

LAN: During the years you were the closest to him, What would you say his state of mind was and what seemed to be his main concerns?

Victor Bockris: Lou’s state of mind changed a lot during the five years I knew him. When he started living with Rachel he felt a lot more secure and protected, but he was suing his manager and most of his royalties were in escrow. For a man with an international rep touring the world he was quite poor. Of course Metal Machine Music had blown a hole in his fan base and pissed off a lot of people, but one of Lou’s greatest strengths was his courage to do it ”His Way”. There was also a truly perverse side to Lou that was his greatest weakness and his greatest strength. His greatest concern was making music that rocked but also dug deep into his psyche, like Kill Your Sons. It was amazingly moving to see Lou Reed on stage in those days singing into a storm of abuse – “It’s your life cocksucker Lou REEED ain’t no kind of human being!” – the poor bastard – but the Glory of Love now might just see you through. He was as great as Rimbaud. That was Lou. He was so beautiful he could make you cry.

LAN: At what point did you feel the need to write his biography? How did it happen?

Victor Bockris: In the summer of 1982 Andrew Wylie suggested I write a biography of Andy Warhol, saying he could get me an advance of $100,000. There was a limitation on who I could write about because I had to have spent some time with my subject. From thereon we came up with Keith Richards. In 1992 after I completed the Richards biography Lou Reed was the only big international star I knew well enough to write about. In each case Andrew got me the $100,000 advance. By the time we signed the Lou Reed contract in 1992 my books were being published in six to twelve countries, so were able to sell foreign rights to the Reed book before it was finished.

LAN: Did Lou knew you were writing his bio?

Victor Bockris: He did. In fact I heard that Keith Richards visited Lou shortly after we informed Lou I was going to write his biography. According to a witness Lou cried “I’m next – why me?” And they both cracked up. Lou had always complimented me on magazine articles I’d written about him. I also heard he appreciated my book Uptight: The Velvet Underground Story. The odd thing is that Lou could never have had the career he had without the vast number of highly appreciative well written articles about him from 1972 until his death in 2013, yet he always said he despised rock writers. Actually he befriended number of them across those forty years. I suppose if you are a star you can’t go round saying great book about me. It would not be cool.

Lou Reed, Denmark, May 16th, 1974 Credit: Jorgen/Angel/Redferns/Getty
Lou Reed Live,Denmark,May 16th,1974©Jorgen/Angel/Redferns/Getty

LAN: What was the first time and circumstances you saw him performing on stage? 

Victor Bockris: At the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden in 1974. It seats around 4,000 and it was packed. As I indicated in Question 3 in those early years Lou’s concerts were like shock rallies lit by Andy Warhol’s suggestion Lou used the bright white light Albert Speer employed for Hitler’s rallies at Nuremberg. Lou Reed’s hardcore audiences had a love-hate relationship with him on stage, which perfectly reflected his persona and lyrics. As a punk rocker Lou’s art was based on contradictions. Everywhere he went he was offering himself as a conduit for the confused emotions of outsiders. He was their priest.

9 October 1974 at the Felt Forum, New York City
Lou Reed Live at the Felt Forum, NYC, October 1974.

LAN: You set up quite a few meetings between artists and you arranged for Lou Reed to meet up with Burroughs, I bet you were very nervous about it. Where you personally satisfied with the outcome? 

Victor Bockris: The 29 minute conversation between Burroughs and Reed I tape-recorded in August 1979 was one of the best pieces I have ever done. We arrived over an hour late, but when we got there we found William having cocktails with four friends. After going round the table putting everybody down, Lou asked Bill questions like did you have to sleep with your publisher to get your books published and did you cut off your toe to avoid the draft? Bill’s guest froze in horror, but he thought Lou was funny and hip. When Lou said, “We who play cannot stay,” Bill did something I‘d never seen him do before, he walked Lou down the stairs and out into the street. When Lou asked Bill, “Can we get together for a quiet dinner?” Bill agreed. However when I said “We should do that,” Lou replied, “What’s this we? I just wanted to get together with Mr. Burroughs.”
When I got back upstairs into the Bunker and tested my tape all I could hear was a buzzing noise like an out take from Metal Machine Music, under which was the faint rumble of voices. I immediately sat down and wrote the whole thing out verbatim from memory. Like I said, it was a memorable experience.

Lou proudly exhibiting Burroughs' Naked Lunch
Lou proudly exhibiting Burroughs’ Naked Lunch

LAN: I feel that this is the best biography you have ever written. How do you personally feel about Transformer??

Victor Bockris: ”Transformer: The Lou Reed Story” was the third in a trilogy of biographies written one after the other with but a few weeks break between them. I did feel Transformer benefited from my experiences writing the Warhol and Richards books. It was also more of a story and had a good sense of humor running through it. I had a more emotionally close relationship with Lou than the others. So yes, it is in some sense the best written. But the Warhol biography is a better book because it deals with a much more significant figure. Of course I updated the Lou Reed book in 2014 with Transformer: The Complete Lou Reed Story. So far it remains the most accurate and in-depth account of Lou’s life. I cannot imagine how anybody could beat it.

LAN: If you could say one last thing to Lou right now, What would it be?

Victor Bockris: His death awoke me from the dream of life. His relationship with Laurie Anderson brought out the best in him. And his last album Lulu may well be the best thing he ever did. It was also hugely successful reaching 36 on the Billboard charts and selling over 100,000 copies in it’s first weeks of release in Europe, going into the top ten in seven nations. I was amazed by the number of critics who said it was a disaster, just like the critics had called Berlin a disaster in 1973. WAKE THE FUCK UP!

Lou Reed & Metallica
Lou Reed & Metallica

LAN: What are you up to now? Should we be expecting a new book in a near future?

Victor Bockris: So far this year my agent Helen Donlon has sold ”The Burroughs-Warhol Connection” in Korea and ”Warhol: The Biography” in Russia, both new countries for my books. We also have the film about Andy Warhol starring Jared Leto based on my book to look forward to. Meanwhile I am obsessed with finishing a memoir about my life as a writer. My lips are zipped on that one.

LAN: Thank you so much! I really appreciate that you made time for this interview! It’s always so interesting to know a little more about the circumstances and facts surrounding the writing of a book. It’s always delightful to hear your stories! I cannot wait to hear about your memoir! Hopefully I will finally be able to read more about your life as a writer! This should be totally and utterly entertaining!!

Victor Bockris: THANK YOU TOBE FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY TO REVISIT LOU REED, WHO IS STILL AMONG THE TOP FIVE ARTIST IN MY MIND. IT WILL ALWAYS GIVE ME IMMENSE PLEASURE TO LISTEN TO HIM SING. I wish somebody would take the time to look into Lou’s oft repeated claim that each of his albums was a chapter of his great electric novel. Oh yeah, the ace photographer Bob Gruen used to live above an apartment occupied solely by Lou Reed’s guitars and the man whose job it was to tune them. Bob said the sound of a hundred guitars being tuned never stopped, and sometimes they throbbed with such intensity the floor of his pad would shake and tremble.

Victor Bockris in his room at the Chelsea Hotel, 2004 Photo© Keith Green
Victor Bockris in his room at the Chelsea Hotel, 2004 Photo© Keith Green
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Nico 1988

 A Biopic About Nico

By  

     When it’s announced that a figure with a famed history is getting a biopic, it of course feels a. inevitable, b. secretly kinda exciting insomuch as it prompts internal dream-casting brainstorms, and also prompts the often very unmet hope that perhaps this could be one of those biopic that doesn’t suck, and c. mildly skepticism-inducing in that it probably won’t entirely un-suck. But there’s always that category of hope to keep us writing these announcements, apparently!

     The latest such announcement is a biopic about Germanmusician/model/personality /Warhol/Velvet Underground  collaborator, Nico. Though German singer Nico is immortalized for her work with The Velvet Underground as well as her 70’s solo work, she later led a fascinating, if overlooked, life until her sudden death at 49. Those final years will be the subject of a new biopic from Italian director Susanna Nicchiarelli titled Nico, 1988

     The dream-casting bit of this process is going to be cut short in the next sentence, as the star of this biopic has already been cast. Nico will, per Variety, be played by Danish actress/musician Trine Dyrholm (she’ll also perform her songs in the film), who won the Silver Bear for her role in Thomas Vinterberg’s The Commune at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. According to Pitchfork, the film will focus heavily on performance, and the film’s director, Susanna Nicchiarelli, said they’ll “tell us more than any other dialogue or situation in the film.”

     Many makers of biopics seem to have realized, thankfully, that the best formula for making one such film (supposedly done with immense success in two upcoming Pablo Larraín films — Jackie and Neruda) is not to try to capture the person’s entire life in one film, but rather to focus on a moment or particular period. (Such has increasingly been the trend, and the genre happens to be improving because of it.) This film, titled Nico, 1988, will, as it titularly states, do the same, focusing on the last year of her life (she died in July of that year after suffering a heart attack during a biking accident.) Apparently, Nico, 1988 will actually begin in 1987 as she embarks on a solo tour — with her son going around Europe with her — and attempts to get off heroin.

Nicchiarelli said in a statement:

Most people think, as Andy Warhol once said, that after her experience with Velvet Underground and the Factory —and after having had sex with most of the rock stars of those years — Nico simply ‘became a fat junkie’ and disappeared. But is this how her life really went?

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Nicchiarelli wrote the screenplay based on interviews with Nico’s son, Ari, and her manager from the time. Note that a biopic about Andy Warhol starring Jared Leto based on a biography of the famous artist written by Victor Bockris is also in the making.

A list of Nico’s close friends over the years:

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Click for Original article in

flavorwire

Jim Jarmusch’s Ambitious Stooges Documentary

gimme-danger

The Cannes Film Festival is going to be rocking next Thursday, thanks to the special midnight premiere screening of Jim Jarmusch’s Stooges-centric documentary, “Gimme Danger.” The film aims to “presents the context of the Stooges’ emergence musically, culturally, politically, historically, and relates their adventures and misadventures while charting their inspirations and the reasons behind their initial commercial challenges, as well as their long-lasting legacy.”

Jarmusch has commented: “No other band in rock’n’roll history has rivaled The Stooges’ combination of heavy primal throb, spiked psychedelia, blues-a-billy grind, complete with succinct angst-ridden lyrics, and a snarling, preening leopard of a front man who somehow embodies Nijinsky, Bruce Lee, Harpo Marx, and Arthur Rimbaud. There is no precedent for The Stooges, while those inspired by them are now legion.“He added that the film “is more an ‘essay’ than a document. It’s our love letter to possibly the greatest band in rock’n’roll history, and presents their story, their influences and their impact, complete with some never-before-seen footage and photographs. Like the Stooges and their music, ‘Gimme Danger’ is a little wild, messy, emotional, funny, primitive, and sophisticated in the most unrefined way. Long live The Stooges!”

up-stoogesLG

 And Every Stinking Bum Should Wear a Crown!!

iggy-pop

Iggy presence will be felt on the silver screen in a long term project with horror master movie director Dario Argento’s  The Sandman  in which Osterberg will have the leading role playing THE SANDMAN HIMSELF!!

FYI Gutterdämmerung has already premiered in Berlin on the 7th of May in Berlin! The very same day and place the Post Pop Depression Tour kicked off !

Iggy never ceased to amaze his fans, always hitting us with his best shot since the 60s! Iggy is a cockroach. If we were to live in a post-apocalyptic nuclear world, Iggy would still be very much alive AND kicking ass!

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VU 1972 Reunion at Le Bataclan

Lou Reed, John Cale & Nico on French TV

velvet-underground550 JUST CLICK ON IMAGE FOR FULL FILM VERSION. 

In 1972, Velvet Underground alumni Lou Reed, John Cale and Nico reunited before the cameras of the POP2 TV program at Le Bataclan (yes that very place where those terrorists killed 89 people on November 15th 2015), a well-known and very intimate, Paris venue . It was Cale’s gig originally and he invited Reed and Nico to join him. Reed, who hated rehearsing, spent two days with Cale working out what they were going to do. According to Victor Bockris’ Lou Reed biography Transformer, rock critic Richard Robinson videotaped these rehearsals, which took place in London.

Both the videotape and the audio from this show have been heavily bootlegged over the years. A legit CD release happened a few years ago, but it still sounds like a bootleg. A high quality video turned up on various torrent trackers and bootleg blogs after a rebroadcast on French TV. It’s fairly easy to find. Now if only some of the outtakes from the Le Bataclan filming (if there were any) would slip out—they did “Black Angel’s Death Song” which I’d dearly love to see—not to mention what Richard Robinson might have (There is an audio only recording of the rehearsals attributed to Robinson’s tapes already making the rounds on bootleg torrent trackers.)

One thing worth pointing out here is that during “Berlin” you can see Nico’s face as Reed sings a song which he told her was about her. She might even be hearing it for the first time.

Nico Interview 1972

Reed and Bowie performing “I’m Waiting For The Man”:

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Gutterdämmerung

Grace Jones, Iggy Pop and Henry Rollins Are Starring in the “Loudest Silent Movie on Earth”

Iggy Pop
Click!

God has eradicated sin once and for all. God has abolished rock ‘n’ roll and those other two things that go with it (er, drugs, sex). But God is in for a challenge — as he’s about to meet Iggy Pop. 

Such is only the beginning of the wild premise of the upcoming silent film, Gutterdämmerung, which BEAT Magazine reports sees Iggy Pop playing a rebellious “punk” angel named Vicious who attempts to return delicious chaos to the world, Henry Rollins playing a puritan priest, and Grace Jones playing “the only person capable of controlling all the testosterone of all the no good rock ‘n’ rollers.” The film has been dubbed by its writer/director — Belgian-Swedish visual artist Bjorn Tagemose — as the “loudest silent movie on Earth.”

For, screenings of it will be accompanied by the score of a touring rock band. As per a video announcement of the project, which you can watch below, the audience will be standing while watching this “fully immersive experience.” The video alleges that “12 epic rock stars are playing in this film”

If none of that has gotten you excited, perhaps a statement from Jesse Hughes of the Eagles of Death Metal will:

It’s not a rockumentary, it’s not fucking Spinal Tap, it’s the real fucking deal. And it’s the craziest fucking story you’ll ever fucking see in the theater.

Getting to the bottom of exactly what Gutterdämmerung is exactly is a true mind-boggler, so here’s your handy five-point guide.

It’s based on Alice In Wonderland

“It’s kind of like Alice In Wonderland in rock’n’roll hell,” says one of the film’s cast members, Jesse Hughes of Eagles Of Death Metal. “Each person in it doesn’t really know what the other characters are and how they connect. No-one really knows what the actual storyline is, the first I saw of my own performance was in that trailer. Everything’s been shrouded in secrecy.”
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The plot is… odd

In terms of plot, we don’t know much, but what we do know is that a fallen angel throws a magical guitar from the heavens for an evil priest, a rock’n’roll tank general, a bazooka henchman and a stuffed-trousered cowboy to fight over through the deserts of California and the World War 1 trenches of Belgium.

It’s a silent rock movie

Despite being about music, Gutterdämmerung is a silent film – but not just any silent film. Branded as the ‘loudest silent movie ever made’. A live band will be providing the soundtrack as the film tours the world, playing music composed from contributions from all of its rock’n’roll superstars. “The manner in which a silent movie was given music by a piano player will essentially be replaced by a rock’n’roll band,” explains Jesse. Björn’s taken Iggy Pop’s current band, one hell of a brilliant set of musicians, and as it tours around the world it will incorporate the performers who live there, so it’s got this roving feel to it. We all believe in it, even though we necessarily didn’t know what we’re believing in.”

It’s got a killer cast

It stars Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins, Lemmy, Josh Homme (with whom Iggy made his last album ”Post Pop Depression), Grace Jones and Slash. No biggie. Jesse tells us he plays “a hot cowboy with a dick bigger than [legendary pornstar] John Holmes.” Director and writer Björn Tagemose adds that Iggy is a spoilt angel who didn’t get into heaven because God doesn’t trust him and, instead, gives him a guitar. “He is the centrepiece,” says Tagemose. “In his defiance, Iggy throws the guitar down to earth as he doesn’t agree with rock’n’roll being taken away from the planet and everything becoming peaceful.”

Rollins, meanwhile, is an evil priest chasing down a couple who discover the guitar in the desert, while Lemmy is a general who leads the rock’n’roll army and Josh Homme plays his bazooka-toting henchman. “He has a bazooka which is called Death Dominion after Dylan Thomas’ poem, And Death Shall Have No Dominion,” explains Tagemose. Meanwhile Grace Jones is the gatekeeper of purgatory. “Imagine her like Cleopatra in a big chair with either a thumbs up or thumbs down,” adds Tagemose.

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It’s all in glorious black and white!

Yes, black and white! Like them old timey films! Gee whizz! Iggy will begin his Post Pop Depression Tour the same day the movie premieres in Berlin on the 6th of May!!
Gutterdämmerung-screenshot

Oh and BTW…Iggy Pop also has another film project lined up. He’s set to play a serial killer in The Sandman, the latest horror film from Italian master Dario Argento. Now that really should be another smash it!! Click on image below so you can contribute to the financing of this film!! OR just read about it….

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