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Heir apparent to... : Orgasm Addict : Making it in New York : The Arrival of Jeff Buckley : Transcript of a Radio 1 Interview

Puncture - First Quarter 1994 , # 29
A Live Thing - by Steve Tignor

His voice, his musical gifts, even his looks, eerily recall those of his long-gone father, Tim Buckley, whom he hardly knew. These traits may be in his genes, but Jeff Buckley has an agenda of his own. Steve Tignor gets the gist.

Jeff Buckley couldn't be more out of place. Locked in a sleek black publicity room thirty floors up in Manhattan's Sony palace, the artist with the whisper of a voice is trying to stay earnest and low-key amid the show-biz circus. While I trot out my theories about his music, he pulls at his already disheveled hair and picks at the mountain of food the company lackeys have piled in front of him.

But Buckley is forthcoming, his whispers projecting a vulnerable honesty in these surroundings. The conversation comes around to his father, the late singer-songwriter Tim Buckley, who I assumed had been a major influence on Jeff's avant-roots style. But he sounds surprised when I mention the similarities in their singing:

"Do I sound like him? I didn't know my father. He left. He chose another family. I can't help it if I sound like him. My voice has been handed down through the men in my family for generations."

I haven't seen any mention of his father in his press. Does he want the connection downplayed?

"No, it exists. But he didn't mention me! As a singer, I disagree with some of his vocal choices, but there are songs of his that I think are brilliant." Jeff's debut release, a solo live EP, has four elaborate, jazz-styled vocal excursions backed with his own guitar. Hints of the blues, mountain folk, scat, and rock guitar come through while Buckley emotes. Two of the four songs are covers, one by Edith Piaf and one by Van Morrison. I've also heard him do Bukka White and Bob Dylan songs in recent performances in New York.

"I'm just trying to slip into other skins," he explains. "I'm doing songs I love, trying to work something out for myself. When I did 'The Way Young Lovers Do,' I was thinking of Van scatting. I just do them and try to forget them. They can be embarrassing. One reviewer hates what I did to that song. I just tried to bring myself to Van's style and stretch it."

Speaking of slipping into other skins, Jeff Buckley sounds like he was exposed to a musician's eclectic tastes from the beginning, even if he didn't grow up with Tim Buckley's record collection. He doesn't seem to have been drawn to roots music by an adolescent or bohemian craving for a foreign sound (like, say, Mick Jagger) but because he always thought this is music. And he heard his father's records. He sings a similar space-wrought Cali-soul, forsaking rhythm and stretching songs to their tortured limits with his vocals. Like a jazz player running through every approach to a phrase, Buckley sings verses from different angles, wringing vocal possibilities from each song. His musical lineage shows up not just in sounding like Dad but in his habit of phrasing vocals like the originals. John Hammond Jr. (another scion of musical privilege) does the same in his blues playing, executing technically amazing imitations of anything. Buckley and Hammond blow away other musicians, but may raise questions for listeners who find the insight of a cover song in its differences from, rather than its similarities to, the original. Inauthenticity is often more exciting (Jagger again), and tells us more about a song and an artist than technical improvement or re-creation would.

I mention Richard Thompson, a possible folk influence. "Thompson's a great player," Buckley agrees. "But to affect me, the music has to be more fucked. Like Dylan when he puts certain things together and I want to say 'you can't do that!' - but it works. I'm trying to put together everything I've heard and read, the poetry I've written. I've gotten to a point where I need Billie Holiday; but half of what I've always been about is Jimmy Page."

Even for solo appearances, Buckley does accompany himself with an electric guitar, using rock progressions. "Rock and roll has a place in my music. The electric guitar actually has a very warm sound, and there are things you can do with it that you can't do in an acoustic mode. The next album will have a band. I wanted to do live shows to get my ideas together. But I can only get so far by myself. For recording, I need ideas from other people."

When he gets rolling about his music, anyone listening to Jeff Buckley can hear his ambition. His voice sputters with frustration - too many thoughts to put into words, too much about his music that he hasn't worked out yet. There's no star trip; he's more poet and craftsman than rocker. His pretensions are inner-directed, visible in a beatnik-like romanticizing of his artistic struggles. Over the course of a thirty-minute conversation, he is mostly serious. I wonder out loud what kind of audience he will have. Is there a place for his songs, none of which have the rhythms or propulsion that rock-fledged ears want to hear, outside of a small crowd of musicians? As he has said, reviewers could prove unfriendly, could dismiss his over-the-top singing as indulgent.

"No, I haven't really thought about an audience. This music isn't just for me, even if it's just a crowd of bridge-and-tunnellers [NYC term for Jersey kids] at a show. I can offer stories people can relate to. I'm just like anyone else, with a brain, heart, loves, coffee stains, whatever. Anybody who is into music I hope will want to hear me."

Judging by his choosing to work small clubs in the East Village and to debut with a live record, it seems that Buckley knows his music isn't going to be easy to market to a pop audience. I ask him how his relations have been with Sony/Columbia, and how the company are approaching his career. "It's not a conscious underground thing. I've told them that this is going to be basically me doing a live thing. It wasn't planned to start with a live record, but we had this stuff around. I'm not that happy with any of it. I want to do weirder things with the next one."

On that note, it's time to go. As we get up, Buckley has more on his mind. "I have to be careful at this place [Sony]. They're like a father who buys his daughter everything she wants. It takes me out of reality."

We shake hands and I leave him, passing trendy-looking staffers jumping rope in the hallway. My last glance shows Buckley seated again in the shiny room, picking at his cold food as he waits for the publicity rep to bring in the next interviewer. I suspect no matter what they give him, Jeff Buckley will keep to his own path.

Jeff Buckley
by Aidin Vaziri
Jeff Buckley speaks in a code well suited for his tussle-fringed swagger. But there's no better document of this expression than Live At Sin-e, Buckley's debut four-song offering on Columbia. Composed of two snakey originals and a pair of astral covers, the EP evokes the first rate nature of luminaries like Led Zeppelin, Big Star and Van Morrison, sluggish, frail and heart racing. So it comes as no wonder to find Buckley up to his hips in raw, stark raving naked emotion throughout most of the EP - he's simply a student of his environment. He also happens to be the son of 1970's cult genius, Tim Buckley, who removed himself from Jeff and his mother before the younger Buckley even hit puberty, and died a short time later. Buckley approaches a mythical, possessed state with his just-released proper full-length LP, Grace, of which he's already feeling a slight nod uneasy about. In the meantime, he'll just have to keep prancing around New York City, hanging out in coffee houses, dragging around his tattered notebook and being the essence of cool. And there's a hopeless romantic lurking inside that body too, as his most autobiographical songs will reveal.

AV: Tell me a little bit about the debut EP.

JB: It pretty much serves a few functions. It's like a love letter to that place. I love Sin-E (a popular East Village coffee house). Anything can happen there, and it usually does. It could be like some really crappy chick on a stool with an acoustic guitar or it can be Marianne Faithful walking in and doing a set at 1 o'clock in the morning.

AV: Why did you only choose four songs as an introduction?

JB: I did like five and a half hours worth of material. But at first I didn't want to do anything at all like that. I didn't want to do anything that I did in cafes. Because it was just like a learning ground for me for some very specific things that I wanted to get in touch with. I didn't even mean to be signed. I didn't want to have it on an album. And then the president called me up. It's a preview of things to come, that's just a phase in my life.

AV: What determines what makes the cut and what doesn't?

JB: I'm just thoroughly self-critical. Music exists independent of albums. You could make albums like Duke Ellington where you have a workshop with 52 charts and the album is just like six of those tunes, or you can make albums like the Cocteau Twins, just enough and then bang, there it is. And the next thing is entirely different because they're scrambling to get material at the last minute, or whatever. And that's the way this one was. I really hope...I want things to get freer, I want things to get darker. This album is fine. I'll have more compassion for it when I'm over it.

AV: Where do you draw most of your songs from?

JB: Dreams. I have notebooks everywhere I go. I'm always daydreaming. Or things that happen to me. "Eternal Life" is just a song...sometimes when you get too smart for yourself you start worrying about things that everybody should be worrying about but nobody worries about and the weight is so overwhelming that you feel rage on a global level. It's the same thing mothers must feel after they have children. And the whole world is so anti-life, especially a world ruled by men who don't want to sit, listen and understand what life is all about. There's so many countless details to just being alive that just knowing what love is or what pain is or what the reason is or all this amazing wonder and really hard, hard lessons that you've really got to be serious about. Or else you're just fucking around. There's too much of that to still be, either psychically or physically burning crosses or lynching people or coercing people or murdering people or sending people into murder. All that useless shit. I guess that's what 'Eternal Life' is, I guess I'm telling whomever the shoe fits, to wear it. That if you really think this is where it's at, then it's too late for you.

AV: There seems to be a thread of wayward love as well.

JB: It's difficult living with someone especially if they touch you really deeply and there are some issues in the house like a third person, and it has nothing to do with your love. Sensitivity isn't being wimpy. It's about being so painfully aware that a flea landing on a dog is like a sonic boom.

AV: Are there some more general themes?

JB: It's just about being alive, my songs. And about even emitting sound. It's about the voice carrying much more information than the words do. The fact is, there are so many other areas you can go with other instruments going on at the same time. You can reach a trance-like state where what's really going on inside the human psyche is being sung to... the music aims at whats really going on underneath... not what people pretend to be or what they hope they can buy at a store. The little scared kid or the full-on romantic lover is being accessed. There are really majestic qualities about people that can be reached through music. People are incredible to me even though I'm healthily cynical sometimes. It's because we are spirits and the whole tension is that we don't know that we are. Yet, music is able to touch this.

AV: I hear a heavy Big Star influence. You do "Kanga-roo" live. Was Alex Chilton a hero of yours?

JB: Why, wasn't he everybody's hero? You know how Alex was at the time? Complete mental breakdown in the studio. Absolutely. I cry every time I hear it. It's so simple. It blows away everything I'll ever do.

AV: What about your father? What sort of relationship did you have with him?

JB: Musically? Not any. I did, but I don't own any of his records. I have a very, very, very intimate understanding of everything...I had to. There was a time when I was probably 19 or 20 when I felt like I didn't need to know, and then things started coming after me in my head. And then I just had to try to understand. But I'm not ready to communicate that right now. But the thing is, I came into music completely when I was born and fell in love with it and it became my mother and my father and my playmate when I was really young, when I had nothing. No, it wasn't him. I met him one time, and a couple months later he died. But between that he never wrote and never called and I didn't even get invited to the funeral. There's just no connection, really. I'm sure people will fill in the blanks and make up the kind of myth that they want to. I wish I did get to talk to him a lot. We went out a couple of times. Robert Plant and Jimmy Page have much more influence on me than he ever did.

AV: Those are names that always come up when people talk of your music.

JB: That was the first voice I really fell in love with. Young Robert Plant back when he sounded like Janis. He was trying to sound like Howlin' Wolf, but he didn't. He sounded like some fucking animal.

AV: What does being a songwriter mean to you?

JB: My music is like a lowdown dreamy bit of the psyche. It's part quagmire and part structure. The quagmire is important for things to grow in. Do you ever have one of those memories where you think you remember a taste or a feel of something, maybe an object, but the feeling is so bizarre and imperceptible that you just can't quite get a hold of it? It drives you crazy. That's my musical aesthetic, just this imperceptible fleeting memory. The beauty of it now is that I can record it onto a disc or play it live. It's entirely surreal. It's like there's a guard at the gate of your memory and you're not supposed to remember certain things because you can only obtain the full experience by completely going under its power. You can be destroyed or scarred. You don't know, it's like dying. Anyway, music is the only thing I've got. It's the only thing that's been really great to me all the time. There was a point where I was extremely depressed and I couldn't go near anything.

AV: Was that during high school?

JB: High school was a joke. I knew it was completely superfluous when I stepped in. Not the information, but the people.

AV: You grew up in Riverside, California, what was that like?

JB: From womb to tomb, it's thug country. I'm amazed that I had any friends at all. People grow up repressed from the spirit, day by day by day. Cable TV, it's fucked. It's misogyny, it's birth, death, work, it's misery, it's power. It's fuckin' hicks. And that's what I grew up with. I was rootless trailer trash. Now I prefer the Lower East Side to any place on the planet. I can be who I am here. I couldn't do it anyplace I lived as a child. I never fit in California, even though my roots are there.

The New York Times, October 24 1993
The Unmade Star - by David Browne
Jeff Buckley has a compelling voice and a cult following, as did his father. But he's not sure he wants to be famous.

STRANGE things happen when Jeff Buckley opens his mouth to sing. One moment he's a white bluesman with a sound straight out of the Mississippi Delta; the next, a jazz singer whose acrobatic voice swoops and glides through a haze of cigarettes and pained memories. The last thing he sounds like is his age -- only 26.

Even odder, his singing makes otherwise jaded clubgoers and music-business executives rave with none of their usual cynicism. They will talk of catching Mr. Buckley at East Village hangouts like Sin- and the FEZ, where they have heard him sing anything from "I Loves You Porgy" to a Sufi chant, an obscure Elton John oldie or one of Mr. Buckley's own unconventional songs. And they will talk about his new contract with Sony Records and how Buckley is a name to watch.

The one person who doesn't care for the talk is the source of it all. "The music business is the most childish business in the world," Mr. Buckley said one morning last month at a downtown bistro, "Nobody knows what they're selling or why, but they sell it if it works."

Mr. Buckley, whose hair is cut in a short, modestly spikey buzz, pauses and shoots an intense stare out the window. "There was a woman outside who was talking to someone, and I was trying to guess from her eyes what she sounded like," he said softly. "You can tell everything from the eyes."

You can tell a lot from Mr. Buckley's eyes, too. He's the son of the late Tim Buckley, who helped disassemble the barriers between folk, jazz and improvisational music before a fatal overdose of heroin, morphine and alcohol in 1975. Not only does Jeff Buckley have the same winding, sensual, octave-stretching voice as his father, but his waiflike looks recall the face on the covers of Tim Buckley albums like Goodbye and Hello, a cult classic from 1967.

Jeffrey Scott Buckley was born in 1966, the same year his father released his first album and also parted ways with his first wife, Mary Guibert. "I never knew him," Jeff Buckley said flatly. "I met him once, when I was 8. We went to visit him, and he was working in his room, so I didn't even get to talk to him. And that was it."

Mr. Buckley grew up with his mother and stepfather, mostly in Southern California, and learned about his father from old friends. "His life was hell." his son said.

Curiously, it was his father's music that made people notice Jeff Buckley. In 1991, he flew to New York to appear at a Tim Buckley tribute concert. "Everyone was there to celebrate the music of Tim Buckley, and here was someone who looked like him, sounded like him and had the same vocal range," said Nicholas Hill, who was at the concert and has since presented Mr. Buckley on his live music show on WFMU-FM. "It was very spooky, but impressive. The buzz was pretty immediate after that.

Mr. Buckley played briefly in a rock band, Gods and Monsters, but departed in the spring of 1992. As his main solo base, Mr. Buckley chose Sin- (Gaelic for "that's it"; pronounced shin-AY), a coffeehouse where the occasional baby mouse scurries across the wooden floor. The stage, such as it is, is a cleared-away area against a wall.

"I figured if I played in the no-man's land of intimacy, I would learn to be a performer," Mr. Buckley said. Gradually, he did; he also paid the rent on his East Village apartment with money he'd collect from the plastic pitchers passed around at Sin-e.

Shane Doyle, Sin-'s owner, said : "He'll stop by to sing at 2 in the morning, and it doesn't matter if only a handful of people are there. He's definitely unusual in that way." Mr. Buckley often helps wash the dishes, too.

Mr. Buckley's apprenticeship didn't last long. Even though he has no manager -- just a lawyer -- word spread through the music business about the raw talent downtown. Soon, record executives like Clive Davis of Arista were spotted wedged behind Sin-'s chessboard-sized tables. Late last year, Mr. Buckley was signed by Sony, which will release an EP, Live at Sin- in mid-November, followed by a full album next year.

With any luck, that EP, recorded this past summer, will make listeners feel as if they're in that 50-person space during one of Mr. Buckley's eccentric shows. Dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, he often starts by casually telling a story about, say, attending a heavy-metal festival, complete with all the mimicry and timing of a standup comic. Then, accompanied by his own electric guitar, he starts singing, and suddenly the pale, thin, wise-cracking kid is transformed into a kid possessed.

Singing an a cappella version of the traditional gospel/blues song "Be Your Husband," he dips and gyrates, slapping his palm against his chest for a beat. Even his guitar playing is unpredictable, swerving from a metal riff with clear links to Led Zeppelin to complex, jazz-influenced chord changes, sometimes during the same song.

Tim Buckley had only a cult following and bounced from label to label. Not surprisingly, his son is apprehensive about entering the big-time music business. "I'm convinced part of the reason I got signed is because of who I am," he said with a sigh. "And it makes me sad."

Sony executives declined to comment, saying it was "too early" to discuss Mr. Buckley. But Mr. Doyle said : "He gets nervous when the record company limos pull up outside. Those are never his best gigs.

When asked which musicians have influenced his work, Mr. Buckley cites figures that pre-date his father. Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Louis Armstrong and Judy Garland records taught him about phrasing, for example. And "there was a time when I wanted to be Miles Davis," he said.

"A lot of time I feel like I don't belong here" he added, quickly turning forlorn. "Here" meaning where? "Here," he replied, as if the question was downright silly.

One moment Mr. Buckley will gush about a Led Zeppelin bootleg or will cockily say, "There are no precedents for what I'm doing,." Then he will turn near-suicidal : "I'm sick of the world. I'm trying to stay alive."

Although Mr. Hill has booked Mr. Buckley on his WFMU show several times, he still doesn't know what to make of him. "He's very enigmatic and mysterious," he said. "It adds to his mystique."

What no one doubts, it seems, is Mr. Buckley's charisma. Just before he left, for Woodstock, N.Y,, last month to record his first album, Mr. Buckley gave one more show at Sin-. It was near midnight on a Sunday night; yet, the crowd spilled out onto the sidewalk. Afterward, a dark-haired woman approached him. "You are like a sieve for music," she gushed. "Your soul is beautiful."

Mr. Buckley thanked her and began stuffing his guitar into its canvas case. "I'll never stop playing places like this," he said after she left. "You know when someone puts out an album, and then they start only playing big places? I hope I never end up like that. I love it here."

You Could Do Worse Zine #3
Jeff Buckley - by Kylie Buddin

When I first walked up to Jeff Buckley, I didn't know what to expect. At this point the press on him has not been significant enough to know what to expect out of him, musically or personally. To top it off, before I could get to talk to him, three people involved with the show made him sound sort of uppity and fickle. But what I found a few minutes later was something quite different. To put it another way, most people I talked to that night said "he's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet." He was, or at least he was the most entertaining.

JB: Jeff Buckley
YCDW: Kylie Buddin

YCDW: I noticed on Sin- and Peyote Radio Theatre, you do quite a few cover songs, but you seem to make them your own. Like with "Kangaroo," it starts out similar to the original, but then transcends into something quite different.

JB: I did that one because after this album, no more covers. It's a personal growth issue I had with why I wanted to do things this way. And I suppose that people will want to request things in the future but I won't want to do them. But "Kangaroo" came about because Sony wanted two B-sides for some reason. So I produced two songs live in the studio with the band. On of them was "So Real" which is on the album actually, it was too good to be a B side - the other thing was "Kangaroo." Micky and I bonded over "Kangaroo" a long time ago. We were just playing at rehearsal and I kept on playing that guitar motif. So we ended up doing it. And I wanted Sony to have a fourteen minute piece so they would be satisfied.

YCDW: How many songs that are on the Sin- EP will be on Grace?

JB: Two: "Mojo Pin" and "Eternal."

YCDW: Is it all recorded with a full band or are there any solo performances?

JB: All but two songs are with the full band.

YCDW: Which do you like better? Or do you just find that it depends on the material you are working on?

JB: At this point I like being with the band much better. It's much more varied. The way that we play, it can be very empty with the way we go from minute to minute with the music. So it's not always bombast, it's sheer clouds.

YCDW: One of the things that impressed me when I first heard you was that you are not locked into doing any particular style. You could do a country and western song and it would still have a sense of Jeff Buckley's unique style.

JB: That's why I did things this way, so that no matter what I did I would always have a thread going through it, so that that would be my style. Not necessarily going through all the styles, but because I did want to forage through all the other songs I really respected, and all the experiences within them that I really admired, and identified with them. So I found out what I would sound like with them.

YCDW: I noticed that you did the art on the inside cover of Radio Peyote Theater. Is that something you pursue often in your spare time, and do you plans on doing any other covers?

JB: If I found something that had that hotness to it, I would. Actually, I want to use some art from my friend Carla Abatobalie, who lives in San Francisco. Our sound man Paul is also a really good artist. Someone at Sony had suggested that I write a poem for the inside of the cover, and I thought better of it when I found a drawing I had done at Woodstock while recording Grace. I just thought I would use that. They didn't like it.

YCDW: What are some things that you do in your spare time that you enjoy doing?

JB: Beside reading and watching movies, finding out of the way places where misfits go. What I really like is night prowling. Sometimes around two in the morning, I will go walking no place at all and find some place to dance. I really like to just sit and watch people. I like to sit some place like the Jojo restaurant, on St Marks Place, and watch people all night. That's a good question. I must lead a really boring life. [laughs]

YCDW: What are some of your favorite black and white movies?

JB: Lets see, On the Waterfront, Street of Crocodiles, Brothers Quay films, American Milan, and Notorious, which I absolutely adore.

YCDW: What kind of music are you listening to now when you get a chance?

JB: Well, today I did James Brown's Live In Paris and then I did Trompe Le Monde by the Pixies. It really depends on what I have with me. I carry Patti Smith with me. Anything with soul for the moment to it. We stopped at a truck stop and got Truck Stop Comedy and Judas Priest's Unleashed in the East.

YCDW: Do you have any favorite perfumes or scents?

JB: I like essential oils a lot. Tunisian sandalwood and myrrh are my current favorites.

YCDW: How would you describe the new album?

JB: I would say it's me and Mick and Matt becoming a band, and it's me laying a lot of old things to rest. And a lot of new things also like "So Real" and "Kangaroo" really point to the future.

YCDW: When I first heard of you, you were doing a lot of coffee houses and then you started to do venues like the Knitting Factory. Do you find much of a difference in your style or your performance?

JB: I wasn't divided between the two. To me they were just different performance spaces. I always played the same old boring shit. Ask anybody. I was just as boring then.

YCDW: What's your favorite road food, besides coffee?

JB: Besides coffee, that's easy: angel hair pasta. Because one, it's really easy to make and two, you can order marinara sauce and they can't mess up the meat. It fills you up, you drink a little wine and you go to sleep faster. But you usually can't get that at Burger King, can you?

YCDW: I usually go for the jumbo sized red hot burrito.

JB: I get the foot long size, I'm going straight to hell, you know it! You get those evil abandonment dreams where you get sucked through the floor.

YCDW: The thing I love abut shows is meeting the unearthly drunken freak that won't let you go. Have you met any recently?

JB: Oh yeah, I'm a freak magnet. They just come to me look in my eyes and say "yeah, you're the one." And they come right over to me. Last time I was in London there was the woman who was upstairs at the Garage she was so brown from smack that I thought she was an Indian but she had blonde hair. She had these yellow teeth and with the things she was saying and her breath, it just sucked the joy out of my skin. It just that when people get drunk they come out and say the most outlandish things. Sometimes I have to leave and sometimes they are terribly entertaining.

YCDW: What have been some memorable shows so far?

JB: Soundgarden and Tad were a pretty weird sight in Milwaukee when we opened up for them. All of them turned out to be absolute angels. I always knew that Chris, Matt, Brad, and Kim were great, but it was especially great that Tad was a honey. The crowd was surprisingly nice to me, and they adored Tad, and they worshiped Soundgarden. I'm sure they couldn't wait for me to get off, but they were very polite.

YCDW: Have you had a favorite show yet?

JB: The Green Mill in Chicago, which used to be owned by Al Capone, is a complete anachronism - nothing's changed. It's just been preserved. Downstairs, there is still a bootleg basement. They never have rock and roll bands, never. You wouldn't believe the decor in this place, I mean Martin Scorcese would get a tremendous erection over this place. We went in there, standing where Tony Bennett probably stood 30 years ago. And nothing but jazz, jazz poetry, and big bands. We get there and the owner's really, really skeptical over how it's going to go, sitting there and he doesn't like us there. It sold out. He made $750 at the door, he's very happy and a little less of a goon to us. And it all went well in this place where music really belonged, and I guess we belonged, too.

That's the thing about this tour. I'm trying to find places where people go to listen. Not like a gymnasium, but a place where people come and I can visit their space. If they like it they listen, if they don't they can talk to their friends. That's why I'm touring before the album, so people can hear it, instead of just being told it's something they should buy. Let them make their own decisions.

We are meeting all kinds of great bands and great people on the road and that's the great thing about the road. We never meet a band yet that were assholes, maybe sick and cranky or something. It's usually more people who are in power, but not even then. It's a great hang. Eating, sleeping, and time to yourself are like gold. Oh, and health.

B-Side magazine - Oct/Nov '94
Painting with Words - by Amy Beth Yates

What does it mean when the hipsters who patronize the legendary Maxwell's in Hoboken NJ shush and glare at those who talk during Jeff Buckley's acoustic performance? What does it mean when just a few nights before in Philadelphia--the most hostile city in America, incidentally--you could literally hear a pin drop while he played? How about a few months later at the Fez in NYC when the mostly industry crowd actually stopped schmoozing long enough to watch Jeff play with his newly assembled band? It means that the man who describes his astrological sign as Beavis with Butthead rising has a presence, and quite frankly someone with presence doesn't come along too often.

A person with genuine presence can talk with their mouth full and not be gross. They can do a loud, animated air guitar riff in the middle of a crowded diner and not make you cringe. They can tell you that they don't own a TV and then recount every episode of "Beavis and Butthead." They are also cordial when drug out of their hotel room on a day so awful outside it's not fit for man or beast. And lastly, how could you not like someone who, out of nowhere says, "You always see men washing their hands after they pee, that's so stupid. I never do that. My penis is cool, unless I'm totally sweaty. But little boys are taught that it's dirty and that you must wash up after touching it." So it is on this day that Jeff is given the short tour of Philadelphia, lunch at a cool diner and then it's off to the Rodan Museum, which is beautiful no matter what the weather. As he sits down with a cup of java and a turkey club he talks easily about himself and his past.

Grace is the first full-length release from Jeff Buckley and also his first release with a band. His previous release was the 4-song EP Live at Sin-E, which included such things as a deconstruction of Van Morrison's "The Way Young Lovers Do" and a cover of Edith Piaf's "Je N'En Connais Pas La Fin." Buckley now claims to hate Live at Sin-E, stating that he is not the same person he was when that was recorded. Nevertheless, Grace is an LP by a band led by a man not afraid to wear their classic rock influences on their sleeve, but this is not to say that he merely regurgitates. He uses his wide range of influences to create a sound that is strictly Jeff Buckley.

Jeff Buckley is a California native transplanted to New York City at the age of 22. After the move to NYC he played in a succession of bands that went nowhere and for a time was roommates with Christopher Dowd of Fishbone. He continued to move around--even returning to California for a brief time--before settling in his beloved East Village, a place he says he'll never leave.

Regarding his decision to move from California when so many flock there, he just says, "I never fit in (in California), and New York was just so overtly romantic that I thought that it had to be the place...I started playing there, and man, that is the wrong place to start. It's the wrong place to run out of money and not have food--it's the wrong place, baby. 'Cause you'd be walking down the street and doors are open and there's food everywhere--there's food on the street. And you think about stealing it, some huge, beautiful pretzel that I wouldn't even buy now, but at the time it was like, 'ooh, Thanksgiving dinner, right there.'"

He is also the son of the late Tim Buckley, a haunting singer-songwriter long before the phrase became cliche. With that aside, he has a long line of musicians and singers on both sides of the family and thanks genetics for all they have given him. So while he doesn't believe that musical ability can be passed down, he does think it can help by giving you the right "parts."

He goes on to explain, "It's the attitude that you grow up in and the heart that you feel for people who sing. My grandfather on my mother's side wooed my grandmother by singing to her from across the street. So everybody in my family sang. And even when my mother married her second husband, I still can't escape the things that he played to me. He was seriously into really good music and he was a car mechanic. He was only my stepfather for about two years but he made a really big impression. He actually came to San Francisco to see me play for the first time ever, and it was really great."

Back in his childhood days Jeff was known as Scott Moorehead, but after his stepfather left the household he took back his birth father's name and his real first name and became the man of the house. Still, it is obvious that his stepfather has left him with lasting memories.

"He taught me about honesty and he taught me how to mow the lawn and how to fish. All that father stuff that his father taught him (he was teaching me): I understood that. I was only about five when he was in the house, but I got it. And what else I got from him is his spirit. He's a big, big man physically, we look nothing alike, we have a completely different chemical make-up. He taught me how to be a man."

As we wrap up our diner lunch and head off to the Rodan Museum, the conversation turns to art and censorship. This is a subject that obviously touches a nerve.

"I resent the fact that a parental warning sticker has to be included on an album as cover art. To me that's censorship.

"The only thing that I can really advocate is thinking for yourself, and not disowning your own judgement and having someone else make your decisions for you. If you feel crappy because Rush Limbaugh is infiltrating your kids' minds, or even Robert Mapplethorpe, it's up to you to use that fucking thing inside your skull to do something about it. When people complain that these things are harmful to their children, what they really mean is that it scares the child inside them. Just because your kids are shorter doesn't mean that they're stupid. Art is always being blamed for the symptoms of society. It's throwing the responsibility on the government, like 'here, you raise my child'."

At the museum, Jeff is especially taken with a sculpture of a woman lying in repose. As we continue to wander he tells of feeling vulnerable after a live show, like he had just exposed his heart to everyone. Regardless, he is a natural born performer who says, "I'm made for this, I can't do anything else. I've tried."

The subject of pornography is somehow brought up, and the supposed detrimental effects it can have on some, i.e. rapists and serial killers. Jeff offers, "Mostly it just induces people to masturbate. And as low and vulgar as it is--and I'm not using those terms in a derogatory way, because I like low and vulgar things--it's still art, no matter how boneheaded. It's still a reflection on us (as a society)."

Finally, we stand before Rodan's epic sculpture "The Gates of Hell" which shows people screaming and writhing in agony. On the topic of religion, Jeff states, "Why do they always show Christ up there bleeding and dying on the cross? We don't remember John Lennon lying there with a bullet hole in his head. I'm just against all of it, all religion. I'm against the arbitrary organization of 'God' as a concept. We should all experience it all individually and purely. I don't agree with the separation of God and the body, I don't believe that we aren't a part of 'it', I don't agree that it's a man. In most religions there's no place for women. There aren't any women in the Holy Trinity and I need that. I love women, I came from a woman."

Finally, our day comes to a close as Jeff must be back at his hotel. As we begin to make the trek back to the car, Jeff bursts into song, singing that old Journey chestnut 'Separate Ways.' As we both crack up, Jeff laughs "White trash, man. Those are my roots!"

Be proud, Jeff. Be proud.

Talking Music
Confessing to Strangers - By Paul Young

Singing intimate songs is 'kind of embarrassing,' says Jeff Buckley, but his honesty and vulnerability are drawing a crowd.

"I'm still not comfortable with what I do," says singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley. "Every time I get home after a show, I feel really strange -- like when you wake up in the morning and you realize that you went out the night before, got high, and told some stranger all the most intimate details of your life. It's kind of embarrassing."

Maybe so, but Buckley's honesty and vulnerability-along with a mesmerizing voice that quakes with tenderness and intimacy-are precisely what make his songs so extraordinary. And with the summer release of his self-titled debut album on Columbia, Buckley's distinctive brand of blues and folk-tinged rock seems bound to attract a passionate following.

Buckley's late father, folksinger Tim Buckley, cast a similar kind of spell. Still, the elder Buckley couldn't fairly be called an influence on his son. Jeff met him only briefly, as a young boy, shortly before he died of a drug overdose at the age of 28. Buckley admits, however, that the singers in his family have possessed a similar falsetto technique. "A lot of people don't know this," he confides, "but that was not [my father's] voice he was singing with, just as I don't sing with mine. There's a long tradition that goes back generations in my family of singing with a high-register voice."

Indeed, Buckley's voice is a wildly flexible instrument that seems to drift effortlessly from a lilting, sinuous vibrato to a full-throttled wail. "I've always felt that the quality of the voice is where the real content [of a song] lies," he says. "Words only suggest an experience, but the voice is that experience." Not surprisingly, he cites as influences such distinctive vocal stylists as blues greats Robert Johnson and Son House, along with Patti Smith and the Pakistani qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn. ("I idolize Nusrat," he says. "He is a god to me.")

As a fledgling recording artist- and his father's son-the 27-year-old Southern Californian wavers between artistic idealism and congenital cynicism when it comes to the music industry. On the one hand, Buckley says, the corporate music world "steals, it chews up, it spits out, and it forgets." On the other, he adds, "it allows you to make your living at being who you are. And that's a very beautiful and lucky thing."

1994 by Buzz Inc. -- All rights reserved

Interview Magazine, 02/94
"Jeff Buckley : Heir Apparent to..." - by Ray Rogers

Jeff Buckley: Heir apparent to...the untrappable power of music. Buckley's once-you've-heard-it-you'll-never-forget-it sound can't be pinned down to folk, soul, torch, blues, or rock. Just like a rabbit,'s always hopping in new directions and taking you to new places.

Jeff Buckley may have acquired his surname from folk legend Tim Buckley, but that's it. The twenty-seven-year-old singer-songwriter, who met his father just once, grew up with his mom and stepdad in California and was raised on the sounds of '70s FM radio. Since moving to New York City two years ago, Buckley has become an institution in Manhattan nightclubs, strumming his soul out on an old guitar, playing and singing with a graceful majesty. Leaping from folk to blues to rock 'n' roll, Buckley connects the dots with emotional power. The singer will release his full-length album debut on Columbia Records in April.

RAY RODGERS: You've really created a name for yourself in New York by playing live all over town.

JEFF BUCKLEY: Yeah, I grew up in Southern California, but this is where I blossomed. This place turned out to be everything I knew it would be: it stinks like hell - a fucking majestic cesspool. Art is everywhere. Electricity is everywhere. It's very extreme. I'm not saying, "It's a great, wonderful dance," but it makes sense to me.

RR: You moved here from L.A. after being asked to perform at a memorial tribute in Brooklyn for your father, Tim Buckley.

JB: Yes. I decided against performing at first. When my father died, I was not invited to the funeral, and that kind of gnawed at me. I figured that if I went to this tribute, sang, and paid my respects, I could be done with it. I didn't want my appearance to be misconstrued, so I said: "I don't want to be billed; I just want to walk on. I don't want to get anywhere for doing this. It's something really private to me."

RR: What did you sing?

JB: I sang Tim's song "I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain." It was about him having to take the gypsy life over a regular one. I'm mentioned in the song, as is his girlfriend at the time - my mom. It's a beautiful song. I both admired it and hated it, so that's what I sang. There are all of these expectations that come with this "'60s offspring" bullshit, but I can't tell you how little he had to do with my music. I met him one time when I was eight; other than that, there was nothing. The people who raised me musically are my mother, who is a classically trained pianist, and my stepfather.

RR: When did you realize that you wanted to sing?

JB: I just always sang. My mom and I would always listen to the radio while driving to school. "Summer Breeze" would come on, and she would sing the second harmony, and I would sing the third harmony. Music was like my first real toy. I was an only child for a while, and I was alone a lot of the time - and I liked it. I still like being alone.

RR: Whenever I've seen you play here in New York at Sin- or Fez, people sit there mesmerized.

JB: People weren't into it at first. I had to fight to be heard. Then I had to stop fighting. Whole months would go by where people would just be talking. I even got a headache from a performance one time.

RR: What changed?

JB: I learned how to use everything in the room as the music. A tune has to resonate with whatever is happening around it. So if people are talking, I let them talk. That just means they're part of the music. I even had to learn the noise the dishwasher makes at this little cafe; I had to play in B flat, or it wouldn't sound right.

RR: You put so much feeling into your singing. One word goes on for minutes sometimes.

Jeff: Words are really beautiful, but they're limited. Words are very male, very structured. But the voice is the netherworld, the darkness, where there's nothing to hang on to. The voice comes from a part of you that just knows and expresses and is. I need to inhabit every bit of a lyric, or else I can't bring the song to you--or else it's just words.

RR: Where do you find inspiration for your songwriting?

JB: People I know. Daydreaming. I daydream too much. I'm not the greatest songwriter, yet; I daydream thinking about great songwriters. I was brought up with all these different influences - Nina Simone, Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, Patti Smith - people who showed me music should be free, should be penetrating, should carry you.

RR: When you're onstage, you give a lot of yourself. What about when you're offstage?

JB: How do I seem right now? This is how I am. I know about the utter disappointment of meeting somebody that is just "putting it on." If you work at putting it on when you go onstage, you can be ultrafabulous, but when you're offstage, you're like a piece of custom jewelry that has no function, like Michael Jackson.

RR: I want to talk about another Michael. I read a review that compared your recent EP, Live at Sin-, with Michael Bolton's new record.

JB: Oh, my God! Oh, shit, that's really disgusting!

RR: It gets worse. They said he has succeeded in taking from the tradition of African American soul and blues singers in a way that you have miserably failed.

JB: Really? But the thing is, I'm not taking from that tradition. I don't want to be black. Michael Bolton desperately wants to be black, black, black. He also sucks.

RR: I know that Robert Plant was a big influence on you.

JB: That's my man! The cool thing about all those Zeppelin songs is that, because of the way Plant sings, if you put them into a different musical setting, they would sound like R & B songs. With Led Zeppelin, everything was out of tune, and Plant sang wrong notes. But he was the one that showed me that there really aren't any wrong notes.

RR: People talk a lot about how handsome you are. Is it weird to have people drooling over you for how you look?

JB: It's something I'm really wary of. On my record cover, you can barely see my face. I still think I look really geeky. The way you look doesn't mean shit if you can't sing, or if you're mean to people. It doesn't mean shit if you're not truthful with yourself. I have very different ideas about beauty than the rest of the world.

RR: What is your idea of beauty?

JB: It just is. Your smile. People have a certain perfection about them, no matter who they are. Like when Janis Joplin sang. Gorgeous!

RR: Is it an uncomfortable compromise for you to deal with all the music industry hype?

JB: There are thousands of great artists that wouldn't be doing the same kind of work if there were no music business machine. The ones who are popular would be doing much different work, too. Michael Bolton would be pumping gas.

RR: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

JB: Still in New York, still trying to get closer to emotions in music. I don't see myself in an ivory tower.

B-Side magazine
Orgasm Addict

"There is no name yet for the places he or his voice can't go."

They said that about Sixties archangel Tim Buckley and they're saying it about his son, JEFF BUCKLEY. Caitlin Moran gets orgasmic with the multi-octave vocalist. Jazzy Jeff (meaning photo credit)

Oh, no, Missus.
Jeff Buckley swishes through Sony's New York offices with seven or eight lackies trailing behind him. They're showing him the way to The Gold Room. He could probably find it himself, but all of Sony US seem to have signed contracts binding them to fulfill Buckley's every need. When we finally reach The Gold Room, Jeff closes the door behind him. How many Jeff Buckleys does it take to change a light-bulb?

"It's OK, Jeff, we'll do it for you. No, no--we'll do it. Just sit down. Do you need anything else?" He grins. He's aware. He's aware, all right. So are we, now.

The Big Cat Record offices, New York, are in a dirty brown street that smells of malted chocolate and exhaust fumes. The building itself seems to be all about gentility and utility. Basically, it's a dump-and-a-half. The lifts take 17 minutes to arrive. A huddle of Hungarian students waits perpetually in the lobby. Jeff Buckley used to [be] signed to Big Cat.

The Sony Buildings are in the most expensive part of NY--the exhaust fumes are so dense here that the tops of buildings disappear in a cloud of neon-lit pollution. The trees are decorated with fairy lights. The buildings themselves make me experience infinity for the first time: the walls are too far away to see. There are uniformed cleaners scuttling around, constantly buffing and polishing the already spotless marble and chrome. Every so often, a television flashes up maps, to show you where you are. The air conditioning pumps out what appears to be Chanel No. 5. Jeff Buckley is now signed to Sony. Companies as big as the UK government don't employ lackies to run around after nobody. Wosser story here, then?

So we were in this tiny room in the arse-end of London, right, snorkling gin through our noses and laughing as John McEnroe started snogging Chrissie Hynde.

"Love all!" we cried, amusingly. "We cannot believe it! Your tongue was over the line!"

A friend so amazingly good at guessing the Next Big Thing that she seems to "mainline" The Future into her veins at the weekend, has dragged me down here, muttering such words as "genius" and "obsession," as is her wont. Some son of a famous dead man is appearing tonight--and I, she, John McEnroe and Chrissie Hynde are waiting, as Radiohead would put it, for something to happen.

Suddenly, this boy wanders onstage, skin lit holy by the spotlight, and a guitar tucked under his arm. The way he moves suggest street-level royalty--the cool friend of a friend you're too nervous to ever speak to, but spend hours practicing how to light cigarettes like they do. His hair was rumpled and appealing--how do you get hair styled like that? "By fucking wild-eyed on the floor," my friend explained.


The boy starts singing. It is his album, "Grace." As each song unravels, it fills you with a desperation that sucks at the heart, and puts sparks in the eyes. It moves through the blood and makes the veins glow. It crackles across the skin and leaves scorch marks. Imagine if you could actually sing the sound of all hope leaving. Imagine if you knew the syllables of falling in love. If you had fingers that could coax a guitar to sound like the sun in your lover's eyes, the smell of hot skin, the taste of their throat.

Yeah, well...
Kristin Hersh once posited a theory that love is like an addictive poison--one lick of it and you crave the next hit. Anyone who hears Jeff Buckley music will spend the next month craving the next hit.

"Music is my mother...and my is my work and my love."
Jeff is hunched over a pile of old take-away cartons and a head-sized ashtray full of dead cigarettes. He has spent the afternoon explaining his soul away to regional papers and fanzines over the phone. Shaving has not been an issue for the last three days, at least. Neither has sleep, judging from his sore eyes and greased hair. Buckley talks weird--like he'd learnt how to have conversations by reading poetry and New Age "Self Help" books. When his phrasing turns rococo and sounds slightly stilted, you cringe until you realize it appears awkward because he's singing it in his head. He can hear the music and you can't.

"I try to make my music joyful--it makes me joyful--to feel the music soar through the body. It changes your posture, you raise your chin, throw your shoulders back, walk with a swagger. When I sing, my face changes shape. If feels like my skull changes shape...the bones bend. 'Grace' and 'Eternal Life' (from the album) are about the joy that music gives--the, probably illusory, feeling of being able to do anything. Sex is like that. You become utterly consumed by the moment. "Apparently orgasm is the only point where your mind becomes completely empty--you think of nothing for that second. That's why it's so compelling--it's a tiny taste of death. Your mind is void--you have nothing in your head save white light. Nothing save that white light and 'YES!'--which is fantastic. Just knowing 'Yes.'

Jeff smiles, and his teeth show. He has wolf-teeth.

So what noises do you make when you come?


Well, me and my mates have all seen you baby-scat-singing live. You make wibbly sounds and go "Awwuhagh" a lot, as does Bjork. We've got a bet on that you sound like that. Do you sound like that?

"Well, no...," he seems genuinely thrown for a minute. "Although it's very flattering that you should think I can imitate the sound of orgasm. However, some of the pictures that have been taken of me onstage have brought back a couple of happy memories when I look at them--y'know, head thrown back, jaw locked, sightless eyes..."
Jeff does his orgasm face. One can almost see a speech-bubble drawn in the air, saying, "And this is my 25-minutes encore version of 'Kangaroo.'

Talking of orgasms, did you and Liz Cocteau Twin 'do' it? Everyone thought you were an 'item' some months back.

"Oh no. Oh no," Jeff looks shocked. "We were just friends--very, very close friends. She's such a good person, so sweet. Fucking her would be like fucking a sister--no, Liz and I were never bed buddies. That was all lies.
"I am fucking Courtney, though," he adds. "All those rumors are true, obviously."

Jeff is lying so much, his pants are on fire.

"NIGHTMARES...oh, I have wicked dreams sometimes." Jeff pulls on his hair. "Last night's was stunningly twisted, the King of Bad Dreams. There was this artist who wanted to show me his art; took me to this warehouse out in a bleak, bleak piece of desert, showed me into his barn. It turns out his art is human bodies, with the skin eased away from the bone with razors, and woven into baskets, into sculptures of living skin. all of his works of art are still alive--but their vocal chords are nicked and they are blind--they writhe and writhe, with their bodies twisted and out of shape by this man's vision. And he's looking to me for conformation that his art is valid and special. He keeps saying, 'It's shit, isn't it?' But in the way that you do when you want the other person to go, 'No, no, it's brilliant. And then he turns on me, knife glinting in his hand, and tells me he wants me to be his greatest work of all. I run..." Jeff shudders, and looks up with dark, troubled eyes. Well, that's not just eating cheese before you go to sleep, is it?

"No," says Jeff. "No."

So why does this man do what he does? And why is a company as big as Sony so interested? Well, partly because he's had a restless, rootless upbringing, and wants to feel part of something, a member of a gang. When he talks about his band, he speaks of them in the way that one would a brother, a sister, a lover. He obviously enjoys the camaraderie and the closeness; the in-jokes and the we're-all-in-this-togetherness. Buckley's only history that he can speak of without anger or regret is that which he makes himself, through his music and his gigs; his only childhood (partly robbed by bringing up his younger brother, partly from being the "man of the house" from such an early age) is when he stands, glowing and stripped in the spotlight, eyes screwed up and scat-singing, reeling off sherbert-bubbles of angel-phrasing unto eternity.

Why are Sony so interested? Well, they've got over two hours of live concerts in the vault, in case those brooding good looks turn out to have serious cause behind them. And if he lives, well, critical adulation always converts into units if a pretty boy's on the receiving end. His face is his fortune--and his downfall.

No wonder the happiest I've ever seen him is pulling grotesque faces for Steve Gullick. The prettiest genius around, more's the pity.

New Jersey Beat
Making It In New York : Jeff Buckley

A famous father, drop dead good looks, talent up the wazoo, a major label deal after just two years of playing gigs...Some guys have all the luck.

Jeff Buckley certainly seems to have been touched by providence, which may be why he titled his debut album "Grace". But life hasn't been all lollipops and daffodils. Buckley barely knew his father, folksinger Tim Buckley, who died when Jeff was still in grammar school. Jeff Buckley came to New York with an acoustic guitar and a pile of songs he'd written in Los Angeles, and started playing every coffeehouse, open mike, cocktail lounge, and folk club he could find. Barely two years later, he was signed to Columbia Records and releasing his first record, the CD5 "Live at Sin-E'." Who says you can't make it in New York? The question is, how? So we asked. - Jim Testa.

Q: Are you from New York originally? Or were you one of those guys who just showed up at the Port Authority one day carrying your suitcase and guitar?

Jeff: Well, in my case, it was more like JFK airport. But I was living in California, in Los Angeles, before I came to New York. That was 1990. But I didn't really start gigging in New York until '92, maybe late '91.

Q: And that's when you started playing at Sin-É?

Jeff: (corrects my pronounciation) Shin-ay. Right. And other places too. First Street Cafe, Cornelia Street Cafe, Bang On, Tramps, the Knittting Factory. Anything I could find, basically. Over and over and over and over again. So I don't know what I can tell you. The only way to really make it - anywhere - is to put every bit of your being into the thing that only *you* can provide. The only angle is the art that you choose, that only *you* can provide. And to do that, you have to be quiet for a long time and find out what you bring forth. You have to know what's in yourself - all your eccentricities, all your banalities, the full flavor of your woe and your joy. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What makes it different from everybody else's. It's totally subjective. You're just given the task of bringing it up.

It's like going up to some girl with a guitar and saying, "you are the only one, right now, who can make your music. Right now. You don't even know how to play the guitar. You'll find it, you'll find that chord, if you express your hear, *now*. You'll find that small inner platinum mine, that reservoir. It's something that's there, you just have to dig deep and find it. But it's something you have to do yourself. It's not something that can be pulled out of you by any teacher, not any that I've ever met. None. Close friends can tell you when you're finding. Other people who are out there doing it, they're good to talk to. But you have to find it yourself.

Q: The thing you hear all the time from bands is "there's no place to play in New York." When, of course, there are lots of places to play in New York, there just aren't a lot of places where you can play to a decent-sized audience and make any money on a regular basis.

Jeff: There are a thousand places to play in New York.

Q: Your experience would suggest that it doesn't really matter where you play, it's the playing itself that counts.

Jeff: That's it exactly. You can make a very sacred place out of The Speakeasy (a decrepit old Lower East Side bar.) If you put enough heart into it. Or you an turn it into a complete circus. You can do anything you want, anything. I've seen it all. You can blame the sound system sometimes. If you're a band, and the sound system sucks, there's nothing you can do, you're fucked. But if the sound system sucks, then you just mix yourselves on the stage, you turn up or turn down until you make it sound okay, and you use what little you have. There are always angles around technology, around managers, around people. But when you put the music forth, when you put the art forth, the performance piece, whatever, the heart of what you do speaks for itself. And that's what you go with. You lead with that. Each time. Every time. Every second. Sure, you need to be aware of technical things, and take care of them whenever possible, but your salvation lies in what you and your friends together have. What, you're going to blame the Pyramid for not getting a record deal? Your band broke up because the soundman at CBGB was in a bad mood last week?

The thing is, I *never* went and pursued a record deal. Ever. It's too funny to even talk about. It's like playing craps in Vegas. You know the odds belong to the house. You'll *always* lose. If that's why you're up there doing it, forget it. You're already fucked.

Q: Unfortunately, I've started seeing that more and more. You find these bands and you talk to them, and the only reason they want to be in a band is because they want to get signed. It's like they don't even know why they're making music.

Jeff: Really? That's sad. That happens all the time in Los Angeles, so I'm sort of used to that being the standard by which bands are measured - by how ambitious they are about getting a deal.

Q: I think Los Angeles was always more upfront about it being a place where bands would go and play the Strip and get signed. New York never used to have that mentality.

Jeff: That's true. Although on the upside, even thought they're a lot farther down in the underground, there are bands in Los Angeles who have nothing left in their lives except their music. But in New York, there's more of an expectation of hunger - ravenous, and angry - for originality.

Sure, there are always people who are only there because they want to get signed. And in a way, that's not a bad way to go, because the laws that govern the music business sort of point you in that direction anyway. It's like everything is set up for the people who want to be most famous. And if that's the place for you, baby, then go for it. But otherwise, it's a complete 24 hour a day dilemma. And let me just say that this is a very hard thing to judge from the outside. It's really difficult to just hang a label on someone and say that they're only in it to be rich and famous. Because it is a completely confusing universe.

Q: Okay, but let's take a band that's in it for all the right reasons. They're competing with hundreds of other local, unsigned bands who live in that area. And they're also competing with hundreds of bands from all over the world who come through New York on tour. So it seems almost impossible for any one band to get itself noticed in that total melee. And having watched your career, it seems to me like your approach to that wasn't any gimmicks, and you just kind of seperated yourself from the pack by being good at what you do.

Jeff: Yes, I guess you could say that. And that's a tremendous compliment. But how do you think those (industry) people got there? It was because of my association with one industry person. Somewhere down the line, even if it's something you don't actively pursue, it has to be somebody who knows you. One person, two people. The people who will always be my joy were the people who were there at the beginning. And we've had a dialogue since dirt was invented. And that's my audience. And one of those people happened to be music business people, and once *that* circuit gets started, it's like a huge chain reaction, a domino effect, all those cliches. They come either to dispel the rumor that what their friend is seeing is good, or to totally get on it, so they can be a part of it. That's not real, though. Those aren't real people. Because that industry thing, that buzz, that can always be taken away. But what real people feel, that's there. Don't get me wrong, there are record company people who are real people, who really love music. But the aspect of those people that represents their role in the music business, that can come or go. What's real is the people who come to see you just because they're into what you're doing. And who get into music to experience it, not to judge it. They will always be there, as long as you keep your heart open and strong.

Q: To be honest, I've been around the music business for about ten years, and I really do think that the kind of people who are working in the music business now are much more into music, and less into the business end of it, than people in those jobs would have been, say, ten years ago.

Jeff: That's true. It is a very, very different environment today. I've been watching it for a long time, and it is a different place. The people I deal with at Sony are just like me. They're there because they like the music and they just happen to have a job there. It's communicating, and agreeing or disagreeing with people, that's all it comes down to. In the music business, ideas are like cigarettes in prison. People sell them, people steal them, they're gold. Even if you don't smoke.

Q: What sort of experiences did you have with the local press before your album came out? One common complaint is that none of hte local papers in New York have any interest in writing about the local scene.

Jeff: Good. I think that's good. Are you kidding? The last thing I want in my neighborhood are a bunch of people who are down there because they think they should be down there. People should come of their own volition, not because some guy in the paper says it's cool to go.

Q: But doesn't that just make it that much harder for bands to get noticed, to separate themselves from the throng?

Jeff: I don't know. New York Newsday said I was stealing from the black man, and I was failing at it whereas Michael Bolton was succeeding. So fuck 'em. The Village Voice...they don't know what's going on. The press doesn't matter unless the people on the staff love you. Then, yeah, they can help your career. People on the staffs of the dailies here don't love me, so who cares... But anyway, you can't judge yourself through the eyes of journalists anyway, because they will always be on the outside of the process, and never know anything, deeply, about your art, even though they will continue to make pronouncements about it. If they ask you questions and you tell 'em, then fine, that's accurate. And yeah, press helps. It does help. But if you're looking for humanism in it, forget it, it ain't gonna exist.

Musician, February 1994, p97-101
The Arrival of Jeff Buckley:
A Talented Young Musician Learns to Navigate the Record Business While Protecting His Music
- by Bill Flanagan

Jeff Buckley, 26 years old and halfway through making his first album, takes a break at Bearsville recording studio in Woodstock, New York and talks about the dislocation that comes from having to nail your dreams to a reel of tape, and from becoming part of the Sony Corporation, the multinational that owns Columbia Records, Buckley's new label.

"I'm aware that it's hard," Buckley says. "I'm aware of the past; I know about Columbia and Sony and other big places. I'm not talking about Sire or SST, I'm talking about big fucking Michael Jackson money. I was wary at first that they didn't know how to do anything small, but I'm really determined and I think it will work out for the best." He stops and thinks and then adds, "I know it will. I have to take them at their word that they understand, but you know how people are. Their actions will say exactly what they mean. And sometimes they need a little help. I can't really totally trust anybody in the music business. I've been brought up not to."

Jeff was brought up in southern California by a mother who loved the Beatles and had had a brief teenage marriage to her high school boyfriend, Jeff's father, Tim Buckley. Tim never knew the son he left behind when he headed east to make a career as a singer/songwriter. At 21 Tim was a star. At 25 Tim had been rejected by a music business that deemed him difficult. At 28 Tim was dead of an overdose. Jeff grew up playing Little League, singing along with the car radio and knowing little about his natural father. But he had inherited his father's good looks and he had inherited his father's remarkable voice. He also had inherited strange characters like his father's old manager, who used to check in periodically to see how the kid was progressing, if he was showing any musical tendencies, if he was interested in getting into show biz. When Jeff says he was brought up not to trust anyone in the music industry, he's not kidding.

Which made his situation even more confusing when Jeff's gifts led him through hard rock and reggae bands in California, through an L.A. guitar school, and then to New York City, where for two years he was pursued by A&R men, managers, sidemen and other representatives of the record business he resisted and the music he loved.

Now he's settled on a label and he's living inside the result, the creation of a much-anticipated debut album. Producer Andy Wallace plays back a string overdub for Buckley's scrutiny. Jeff nods along in agreement until a pizzicato section tiptoes up the song's build. He makes a face. "You don't like that at all?" the producer asks.

"It sounds like shopping music," Buckley says, and starts picking out the sequence on his guitar. "White pumps!" Buckley also rejects a bit where the strings echo his taped guitar line. He is being scrupulous in his attention to every aspect of this album. He has to be. His whole life is riding on it.

Very few young musicians have arrived on the New York scene with the impact of Jeff Buckley. His first major New York appearance was at an April 1991 Tribute to Tim Buckley concert at St. Ann's (a Brooklyn church known for hosting hip musical events, from the workshop premiere of Lou Reed and John Cale's "Songs for Drella" to a solo recital by Garth Hudson). Organized by record producer and underground catalyst Hal Willner, the concert consisted of musicians from the downtown/Knitting Factory scene performing Tim Buckley songs. It was not the best show St. Ann's ever saw; too many of the beatniks on stage seemed to have little connection to Buckley's work, and were deconstructing the songs with a musical abandon that aspired to Ornette Coleman, but ended up closer to Moe Howard.

The audience had come to hear Tim Buckley music, not to hear Buckley songs used as launch pads for orbits around individual egos, and halfway through the congregation was fidgeting in the pews. The stage--the church's altar--went dark while one musician shuffled off and another shuffled on. It stayed dark while the figure in shadows adjusted his mike and guitar and then let loose with a loud strum and Tim Buckley's haunted voice. Jeff Buckley stole the show. In the vestry afterwards he was almost trampled by people who know his father and wanted to weep on his shoulder, and record-biz monkeys handing him business cards and promising to make him famous.

"They found out I sang and they asked me to come," Jeff says now of the tribute concert. "I realized I probably wouldn't ever have another chance to pay my respects, no matter what kind of twisted feelings I have about Tim, no matter what kind of pain or anger I have against him--whatever I haven't come to terms with. The fact that I never got to go to his funeral always bothered me. And I thought, I can sink down with this or I can get off it, and then whatever sort of development I've gone through, at least I've done that."

Asked to go back and do one more song at the end of the tribute show, Jeff reluctantly went out and sang Tim's "Once I Was." "It was the first song my mother ever played me by Tim," he explains. "After she left my stepfather, I guess she wanted to get me into who my father was and she played me 'Once I Was.' So I learned it. It was hard to learn it. I couldn't do a really full version of it at home without crying. I almost cried onstage. I broke a string onstage at the end of that song. They were brand new strings. I was really pissed. I felt embarrassed about the whole thing. I just felt really open and vulnerable. There's such a ravenous cult around Tim and you know how people are. I mean, if people learned they could recreate Jim Morrison from his ancient bone marrow they'd fucking do it."

A little shook by his welcome to the New York music world, Jeff made the wise choice of avoiding (a) the uptown businessmen who didn't let knowing nothing about Jeff's own music stop them from saying they loved it, and (b) the '60s types who mised Tim and wanted Jeff to replace the father he never knew. He instead fell in with (c) the downtown hipsters, the progressive musicians in that Knitting Factory/Golden Palominos/St. Ann's orbit.

Jeff eventually joined Gods & Monsters, a band centered around ex-Captain Beefheart guitar wizard Gary Lucas, and supplemented during Jeff's tenure with session aces Tony Maimone on bass and Anton Fier on drums. The rhythm section was just coming off Bob Mould's house-burning "Workbook" tour. Gods & Monsters looked like an underground supergroup.

But the band always sounded better in theory than it did in nightclubs, mostly because it never was a real band. It was a merger of several talented individuals looking for a big break. Gods & Monsters might have been to Gary Lucas what Led Zeppelin was to session ace Jimmy Page: a ticket to mainstream success. But Gods & Monsters remained a great idea for a band, rather than a great band. About a year after the Tim Buckley tribute, on March 13, 1992, Gods & Monsters had a big showcase concert at St. Ann's during which the sound was bad and each fine musician onstage seemed to be listening only to himself. After that performance Jeff told Lucas he was quitting; he would play the rest of the gigs they had booked that week and that was it.

Jeff Buckley's final show with Gods & Monsters, to a small audience at the Knitting Factory the following weekend, was filled with tension and barely contained recriminations. One song into the set Buckley told the soundman, "Let's hear Jeff's guitar," and proceeded to hijack Lucas' band for the remainder of the night. As Jeff led the group, Lucas filled in piercing guitar leads and counterpoint. Jeff let loose howling, primal vocals that were, ironically, like the young Robert Plant while Lucas--relieved of leading the group-- played with disciplined abandon, raising the stakes at every hand. It was an amazing set, everything that the St. Ann's showcase had failed to be. It took the grim relief of failure and the anger of a breakup to show what the musical prototype for Lucas to Buckley should have been--not Page to Plant, but James Honeyman-Scott to Chrissie Hynde.

One scene-maker leaned over duing the set and said, "If all the A&R people who'd been at St. Ann's were here tonight, these guys would be going home with a record deal." When the last Gods & Monsters song ended, Maimone, Fier and Lucas walked offstage but Buckley hesitated. He then surprised everyone--including himself--by staying onstage and continuing to sing alone. It was a bravura, egotistical move, a violation of all band etiquette, and exactly the right thing to do to establish that he had the guts and the ambition to build his own vision, and that he was not going to be tied to anyone else on his way.

When he finished singing, Jeff walked off the stage and across the room to his girlfriend Rebecca. They locked into an embrace in the middle of the club, his head buried in her shoulder, not speaking and oblivious to the people who came up to tell him what a great finale it had been.

"It was after that night," Jeff says of quitting Gods & Monsters, "that I knew I needed to invoke the real essence of my voice. I didn't know what it tasted like at all. I knew I had to get down to work and that anything else would be a distraction. In that band there were conflicts. It was really crazy, a desperate situation. I just didn't need things to be desperate. I needed them to be natural."

By the time he left Gods & Monsters in early '92 Jeff Buckley had some notion of where he wanted to go, but he didn't have an idea of how to get there. He had no band, and general good will aside, he had no real prospects. Rather than start his own group immediately, he determined to learn to be a performer the hard way, by playing solo around Greenwich Village. He also wanted to understand how the best songwriters did what they did, so he began a self-imposed course of study. One night he came into an East Village restaurant carrying a new CD of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks. He had heard the song "Sweet Thing" on the Best of Van Morrison album and wanted to follow that trail back to its source. Within a couple of weeks he was adding Astral Weeks material to his solo sets, along with Edith Piaf, Mutabaruka and Bob Dylan songs.

Looking back on that period of study now he says, "Before I left for New York for the last time all I was obsessing about in my notebooks was that there's this...this place I want to get to. And I was remarking to myself that there are no teachers. There was nobody to show me. Well, actually there were, but they weren't alive or else they weren't...I'm not going to be able to walk up to Ray Charles and be his protege.

"I went into those cafes because I also really felt I had to go to an impossibly intimate setting where there's no escape, where there's no hiding yourself. If you suck you need work and if you don't then you have to work on making magic and if you make magic then everybody has this great transformative experience. Or at least a good experience.

"And it wasn't easy at first. I mean, when I first walked into Sin- or the Cornelia Street Cafe, people talked their asses off. They didn't want to hear it. And that was a problem and it made me frustrated. Until I made the audience a part of the music. Until I made those sounds part of the music like they were samples on a record. They were actually an interactive part of what I was playing and was going to sing. And then all of a sudden I just fell into a rhythm and I learned about what it means when the audience is responsible partly for the experience. I'm determined to start from that space again with a band. I want to get the band ready to go into these intimate places and learn how to make big magic in little areas. Things that you just can't forget."

During the summer of '92 Buckley's one-man gigs grew in confidence and reputation. He played all over town, but his main venue became Cafe Sin-, a tiny Irish club on St. Mark's Place in the East Village that presents original music nightly, and had become the site of surprise sets by visitors such as Hothouse Flowers, Sinead O'Connor and the Waterboys. The Sine- gigs began as a way for Jeff to learn his craft out of the spotlight, but the spotlight found him there.

Over the course of that summer Jeff generated a buzz that reached all the way up to the midtown offices of the major record labels. His weekly shows at Sine- became an A&R magnet, and pretty soon long black limousines were squeezing down St. Mark's Place and executives with hundred-dollar haircuts were trying to maneuver between the bohemians without getting their suits wrinkled. Regulars got a kick out of watching the bigshots smiling and waving at each other and then scrutinizing each other' reactions. One ritual was absolute: A&R man A did not leave until A&R men B-Z left.

Pretty soon the label presidents were showing up at Sin-e, too. At a meeting set up by Arista A&R, Buckley had the balls to tell label president Clive Davis that he would not be interested in signing to Arista when Davis had not even seen him play. So Clive came to Sin-. "He said, 'What are you looking for in a record company?'" Jeff recalls of Clive. "I said, 'Well, basically, three things. Integrity,' which was, you know, a fantasy but I just thought I'd throw it out. A record company's integrity is to make money, to move units. I understand that. The next thing I said was 'patience,' because I didn't know at that time what anybody's threshold for interesting music was. Number three: 'Hands off.'"

It was not a partnership meant to be. Jeff was taken aback when Davis brought him into his office and showed him a video presentation about...Clive Davis. "He had an eight-minute video all about him," Jeff recounts with amazement. "Him with Donovan, him with Janis Joplin, him with Sly Stone, and him donating all this money to charity. 'My life in the music business!'"

By the end of the summer Jeff Buckley was a big topic of conversation whenever record executives got together. Some felt that Jeff's lawyer (he had no manager) wanted too much money for an unknown, unproven talent. Others said that while the kid had a great voice and undeniable charisma, the songs weren't commercial. (Buckley's original material tended toward moody, elastic forms, not a million miles from Astral Weeks.)

One of the fascinating aspects of Jeff's attraction for A&R men was that precisely because he was playing without a band and because he was doing a wide range of cover songs, they could imagine him being whatever they wanted him to be. The general impression was of a young Van Morrison/early REM style, but brilliant Sire A&R man Joe McEwen heard in Buckley a soul singer, and imagined him in Memphis recording R&B with producer Jim Dickinson.

The same lack of clear direction that frightened some labels away made Buckley attractive to others. Talent scouts saw a very handsome kid with a fantastic voice--and from that they projected everything from a younger Michael Stipe to a hipper Michael Bolton.

How hard was it for Jeff to turn down offers of record contracts and money at a time when he was living hand-to-mouth?

"Very," he answers. "It was really hard. I always knew that my natural place was to make my life making music. The whole reason I was so wary of automatic things is because I suspected that my lineage had everything to do with it. I didn't get the feeling that anybody really heard me.

"Or I didn't know, I had no way of knowing. Because of my father people assumed things about me that weren't true: that I was well taken care of, that I lived in Beverly Hills, that I was a brat. My father chose a whole other family. I mean, it was just me and my mom and my little brother. And my stepfather for a couple of years. I didn't even meet my father until I was eight, and then just for one week, an Easter vacation. Two months later he died.

"Actually my stepfather and my mother had everything to do with my musical roots. My stepfather couldn't carry a tune, but he had a passion for great music. He bought me my first rock 'n' roll album, Physical Graffiti, when I was about nine years old. I was into the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and all these weird things kids would never know about, like Booker T. and the MG's. I began listening to Edith Piaf when I was about 16. Later I found Bad Brains and Robert Johnson and idolized them simultaneously. There exists a common thread through all that stuff. My music has to be a culmination of everything I've ever loved. It's how I learned my alphabet. But I learned, probably in my Miles Davis phase, that in order to really pay tribute to things you love you must become yourself."

Buckley signed with Columbia at the end of 1992 due in large part, he says, to his personal connection with A&R man Steve Berkowitz, a long-haired hipster whose shank of chin hair makes him look like an Egyptian pharaoh and whose love of blues and R&B manifested itself in his weekend gigs as guitarist "T. Blade." Berkowitz advised a slow build for Buckley, doing everything possible to avoid hype. They rejected offers of interviews with fashion magazines and photos for the Gap, and determined to take the pressure off the first album by preceding it with an EP recorded live and solo at Cafe Sin-.

The four-song EP was recorded in a marathon set at Sin- last August. Andy Wallace, who had mixed Soul Asylum, Guns N' Roses and Nirvana was brought in to produce. The recording gear was set up in a small pub two doors down. During Jeff's set the Sin- regulars were joined by top brass from Columbia/Sony. Jeff, who seemed to be in an exceptionally light-hearted mood, played just about every song in his eclectic repertoire.

The three hour-plus set provided plenty of examples of the lessons Jeff had learned about including the audience in his show. A couple of hours along, a bag lady wandered in and stood staring at Jeff, who began singing to her (to the tune of the old Hollies hit, "Long Cool Woman"), "She was a short black woman." She took offense and started squawking at him. Jeff noted that her squawks sounded like Howlin' Wolf and sang Wolf licks back at her in a bizarre Howlin'/hecklin' duet. When a waitress quieted her down, someone else yelled out a request for something by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. If it was a dare, they picked the wrong boy. Buckley is a big fan of the Pakistani singer and launched into a monologue about his hero, as well as a generous sampling of Nusrat's music. At this point a few of the Sony execs began peeling the labels off their beer bottles and staring at their watches, but there was a good hour left to go. During that night's version of Astral Weeks' "The Way Young Lovers Do," Jeff surprised everyone by launching into a scat-solo. He'd never done it before, but the tape caught it and the song made the final EP selection. (Buckley was relieved when it proved too eccentrically played and sung to be edited down.)

Jeff played and played, the tapes next door rolled and rolled. Perhaps aware that some of the record execs were there because they had to be, Buckley began strumming "The End" by the Doors and reciting, "'Jeff?' 'Yes, Sony?' 'We want to fffff-fgggg you!' 'Wo! Ugh!'" The Sony bigwigs smiled. By the end of the night Buckley, Berkowitz and Wallace knew they had plenty of good material from which to pull four songs. Everyone felt great, although when one bystander joked to Buckley that he had just given Sony a couple of boxed sets worth of music to stick in their vaults, Berkowitz stopped smiling long enough to warn the big-mouth, "Don't tell him that."

In the autumn Jeff headed up to Woodstock to begin work on his first album. He had found a bassist named Mick Grondahl and a drummer named Matt Johnson, both downtown Manhattan players who hooked in with Jeff emotionally as well as musically. The burden of actually beginning to make a debut album after two and a half years of circling around it was exacerbated by a series of personal misfortunes that befell the musicians, including the sudden death of Jeff's girlfriend Rebecca's father, to whom Jeff had grown very close (the album will bear a dedication to him).

The assumption almost every one of the music-biz kibitzers had made about Jeff Buckley was that he was an artist who needed time to grow, that he would expand his talent and his popularity over four or five albums (like REM) rather than explode out of the box. Which is probably true, but not necessarily. The side of the road is littered with the bodies of talented young musicians who got discarded when the popular momentum turned against them, or the person who signed them moved to another label, or they didn't perform up to corporate expectations.

But listening to the first tracks from Jeff Buckley's first album, another possibility emerges. Wallace and Buckley finish adding eerie, almost eastern strings to Buckley's moody lament "Mojo Pin," which Grondahl and Johnson have anchored to earth with throbbing bass and drums. Bringing out these colors makes the song less akin to "Astral Weeks" and more to Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." It is almost a shock to hear that transformation while seeing Jeff, leaning against the studio glass strumming his Rickenbacker, looking like James Dean crucified on his shot-gun in "Giant." For the first time it seems possible that Jeff Buckley won't have to wait long to become famous. Whether that would be a blessing or a curse is a separate discussion.

In the Bearsville studio dining room a little while later, Jeff is asked what he hopes to get out of his Sony recording contract. "Just to make things I never heard before," he says quietly, "that say things that I can't say otherwise. Not so much go as far as I can, but to go as deep as I can."

Grace Notes:

Jeff Buckley plays a Gibson L1, a borrowed Fender Telecaster and a Rickenbacker 12-string. He's using a Fender vibro-verb amp and, today, D'Addario strings. He just bought an old steel dobro and a Bina harmonium from Pakistan. Buckley uses Jim Dunlop slides. After experimenting with several microphones for Jeff's vocals, producer Andy Wallace settled on a Neumann U-87. Mick Grondahl plays a Fender Jazz bass through an Ampeg bass amp. Matt Johnson plays Slingerland drums and Zildjian cymbals.

From Channel 1 (UK) Early 1995

un-named announcer:
"...but now we turn out attention to a new American artist who describes himself as 'rootless trailer-trash, born in southern California.' He had a famous father who's name was Tim Buckley. Tim Buckley died. Jeff was brought up by his mother. He's still in his mid-twenties, and yet has got critics falling all over themselves for new superlatives to describe his songs, his vocal ability, and the fact that on stage he tends to look like a reincarnated Jim Morrison.

"Recently he spoke to Foulard Lodge [help me, that is not right], and Foul asked him how he's been coping with this incredible acclaim that he's been receiving."

Jeff : "I actually read in Mojo today, um, yeah...the guy sort of called me on the fact that I - I'm not really good at taking complements, and I'm not usually because - but I learned...I learned to say 'thank you' because I know that it's only meant honestly. But usually I, I'm sort of apprehensive to, like, accept a kind of superlative that's like [funny ass-kissing voice] 'Well, you're at the forefront of the alternative scene and obviously you're the new age of...', you know '[unintelligible] rock.' And I go, [kinda laughs] 'No, I'm not.' And they think I'm an arrogant bastard. But it's not that at all. It's just, um...I'm just glad that people like it. 'Cuz people I know, like John Molvey [spelling?] is a real big fan and he's a...he's a rabid music fan.

"I keep my perspective about it. I always ask my management not to give me my press. 'Pleeeaase don't give me my press.' But they do. 'Cuz I think they want me to see something. So, I read through, like, a stack of it from a given month or so and then I just throw it away in the garbage. Um, it's good. It's a good thing that - and I feel complimented, and I feel proud of my band that Grace is being received so well, but, uh, as a- but I can't help but be the maker of it, and as the maker I see just evolution, an evolution that's happened from the time that we recorded Grace, and I see imperfections. I walked in, and you were playing 'Eternal Life', and that's a, that's a pretty primitive song of mine. And I put it on the record to- prove it could, to myself, and to the song, just to, you know, just to get on with it. Not to anybody else really. That it could work on a record, and, um, 'cuz I, 'cuz I really- to this day I really don't feel like I have a handle on song-writing at all. And we have, like, a new version of it. It's the third version of it and the final version of 'Eternal Life', but there was, it was this riff that I heard, that I wanted to, like, point sort of the direction that's sort of happening now."

[ heavily edited version of "Eternal Life" from Grace is played]

FL: "Do you find as you're playing, and that the band playing the songs from Grace on tour, the road itself is actually changing the songs, and they're taking a life of their own?"

JB: "Definitely. And through, um, through the band, um, sort of...sort of like knowing our chemistry - just getting more resonated towards each other. The music is really evolving very well."

FL: "When you wrote the songs on the album, did you write them just on your own, or-"

JB: "Yes..."

FL "--did you-"

JB: "Well..."

FL: "--basically demo them and then go take the band in the studio and do them?"

JB: "Oh, no, no. I, ah, well some- they came around in so many different ways. 'Dream Brother' was finished right at the last minute. 'Mojo Pin' and 'Grace' I wrote with Gary Lucas. 'Eternal Life' - these are little but older. Actually, 'Lover' is a bit newer. 'So Real' I wrote with Michael in about a day. I don't know. They just came about all different ways. I''d burned away alot of material that I had been working on before, just totally dispensed with it and wanted to start something new. It was a bit of sabotage on my part, but I think I'm all the better for it. 'Just pushing me in brand new directions."

FL: "I find it interesting that you say that you still feel like you're a beginner at song-writing."

JB: "Definitely"

FL: "Yet, your lyrics do sound so mature. Why''s there no lyric sheet with the CD, because lyrics are so important, and I''m sure this sort of album- that people will peruse every piece of print on it."

JB: "There has been quite a- Well, actually this is a good question to answer because I made a lyric book for people who wanted to know what the lyrics were. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get permission for the three covers. 'Cuz, I mean, printing up the booklets alone was, like, alot of money for me. It's not a Sony expense - it's mine, which means, like [funny voice] zero [small laugh], or like zero funds to work with. And, um, so I'm going to send them to the fan club, the people that, like, wrote and said, 'Please, give me lyrics.' [does anyone have this?] And - that's only overseas - I didn't include them because- well, two reasons. One, is that in my esteem it didn't really look all that good on paper, and I was a bit self-conscious about it. Second reason is sometimes it's better just to, just to garner your own interpretations of the song. You know, just to get your own picture of it, and have it happen to you as much as possible rather than having a blueprint to go by."

[an edited "Lover You Should Have Come Over"]

JB: "I think it was someone in Suede that said, 'Videos are a tyranny.' I think it was them. I have no idea. And that phrase stuck out to me. Yeah, it is. It's a brand new, new-fanggled tyranny, thank God! [funny voice] But it's not new. You know, I've been seeing videos ever since the late '70's on TV. But there were, like, on the channels you got anything from Zappa's Big [????] claymation, to the Resident's videos to Stevie Windwood videos to Softso, and um, uh....even Philip Glass videos and, like, all kinds of pop videos. And it's a real risk to give your musical vision to a director of film. Especially a director of film that is very success-oriented in the video field. Because they make really good commercials, not really a filmic piece, and that's, that's kinda harsh on my mind. Because you might as well be selling Ultra-Brite, you know, just as well as your song. And, but also it's not only the piece. I mean, after you get the piece done - three minute, four minute video - it's also the stream that it goes in to that I really, I really- it just makes me bored stiff. I mean, I, you know, like, your basic video channel is like [fast, rhythmic finger snaps click,click,click,click,click] boom-boom-boom, boom-boom-boom, boom-boom, just, in-for-mation, in-for-mation. It's endless. There's no invocation of any kind. It's just, you know, you, toothpaste, pimple cream, Eddie Vedder, Green Day, ahhh....[funny voice] Weezer, burgers, the Grind, ah...Pepto-Bismol... It's like, commercial, commercial, commercial [bracelets rattle every time he says 'commercial'] - And they'll probably tell you that, as well, you know, the artists. It's just uh...the whole thing is, the whole rub is that, you know, you're- that these are- this is a tremendous record selling tool. But I'm not really concerned with that. And I almost hope that it doesn't work. 'Cuz I've seen- there's this one band- and they'll remain nameless [anyone wanna guess who this is? Pre-Spice Girls, remember :)]- but, I just never would have expected them to fill a house - packed - a really big theater, and like their music is like ughhhg [makes a sound of, let's say, displeasure] - I've heard it all before, but MTV filled that house. I'm convinced. And I just don't want that to me. I really, I really- I mean the gig is really precious to me, that one or two hours."

FL: "Because as you were saying, you know, you might, might be able to control the whole video shoot, the storyboard, and everything, but what you're never going to be able to control is the context that it's put in once it leaves your hands."

JB: "Mmmm-hmmm. Yeah, yeah, it's like- there's like a tremendous visual black market out there. I mean-"

FL: "-And it is basically, as you say, sell, sell, sell, and there's no difference between the music and the traditional acts-"

JB: "-Right-"

FL: "-put in between. It's all for sale."

JB: "Terrific. Yeah, that's true. I mean, Cobain used to write a really great song, and then they mash it into the ground until you can't hear it anymore, and it's not Cobain's fault."

FL: "You mentioned Kurt Cobain. You''re of similar age, and with the reviews of the album and the live shows that you''re getting, yo'u're probably, you know, in a really good position to see that kind of stress and pressure that was put on him. How do you deal with...I mean, do you have to keep people around you that have known you all your life, and would turn to you and, you know what I mean, say, 'Jeff, don't believe the hype'?"

JB: "I''ll make one, uh, 'I'll make one comment is that even with a bunch of people around you that you''ve known for a long time, and even if you have a wife and child, you can still go down because you refuse to let yourself accept their love. It''s all an inside job- hanging on to reality, and hanging on to possibility, and hanging on to life. And it's hard because their are so many outside voices involved. And, uh, and for a while I can imagine it being really being hard to divine where you stand, or where, you know, what''s real, or do you suck, is this all true, you know."

FL: "Because there's so many people with a vested interest. They know what you want to hear and they're going to tell you."

JB: "Yeah, that's, that's, that's quite a danger, but, um, usually people'- I'll tell you this, and I''m completely, you know, 'I'm the right person, one of the right people to say this cuz I'm completely paranoid of the music business all my life- that, uh, people usually aren't...I've never found any inherently evil people in the music business. At all. The're's only one. Only one. Um, and he- people steer clear of him. A, like, really underhanded man. But the rest of then just sort of like doing their job. You just have to remember to over communicate- overtly communicate- yourself in the most heartfelt terms you can find in order to just let people know exactly what it is you think you do, you know. If you completely rebel against everybody- and basically I''m collaborating with these people to get this, this disc out in a way that I think is good, and I have to depend on their knowledge of the outside world cuz they know more about the markets than I do. I really don''t, you know, look at college markets to see when the'y're coming back and blah, blah, blah. So I leave that up to them. So once I know their take on the whole thing then I can make a decision. I don't really want it to get big at all. It's a first work. 'It's probably going to be the only one like it."

[starts into "Grace"]

[announcer's voice-over]

"Jeff Buckley and the title song from his album Grace. An amazing new artist."

Mojo Pin