One of the best experiences being at the SXSW Film Fest was seeing "Berlin" premiere. Plus, I was only sitting two rows behind Lou Reed at the Paramount theatre on Congress Avenue. Like many "stars", their presence looms so large, that when one has the chance to be up close, and you see they are, well, quite human sized, it can be disorienting at first. Lou is maybe 5'5", and he actually looked, frail, actually. Then I am reminded, he is 67 years old for chris' sake, and that he is even alive given his phenomenal life it's a wonder he's made it this far, and then he gets on stage and his diminutive size is erased with his fierce and strong chords, and I'm reminded why I have always been so moved by his songs, his writing, and his music. Listen to what he says in this interview for a measure of this giant of our age.
Hal Wilner interviewed Lou Reed for SXSW’s keynote address and Reed, maybe because of the early hour, was typically irascible.
He talked about his music being misunderstood, problems with music critics and the industry in general, the horrible sound quality of MP3s and the manner in which the world’s problems that informed “Berlin” in 1973 are occurring in the 21st century.
“Berlin” was staged for five concerts in Brooklyn -- “not in L.A., the music business town,” Reed pointed out -- and filmed by Julian Schnabel. It was shown Tuesday and will head to Europe for more screenings before returning to the U.S. in the summer.
“It’s emotional music,” Reed said after a performance clip of “Men of Good Fortune” was screened for the packed house.
“In 1973, a lot of the songs dealt with things, some of which is going on now. I don’t know if people relate to it.
“It’s based on Othello and Desdemona. It’s about intense jealousy and in that sense it’s romantic. Everyone has experience jealousy. I though people could relate to it easily and not be offended. To dislike this because of the subject matter is narrow-minded.”
Reed offered thoughts about a variety of subjects.
ON SONGWRITING: “I don’t know if I know how to do it. If I did I would have written ‘Son of Wild Side’ and would now have a Caribbean island.”
ON PUNK: We made city music. We said no R&B licks, no blues licks because we can’t do that. Aggressive steel street action -- that’s punk. Now it exists and it will last forever.
ON CREATING MUSIC: “What I have going for me is instinct. Thinking won’t get me to where I want to go. Instinct makes the music. “
ON TECHNOLOGY : "MP3s have very bad sound. If you find out you like good sound you have to go out and get a good unit to play over. If the guy making the record likes good sound, the price goes up. People have to have higher standards. Some might say ‘that’s elitist.’ You can get any song you want in the world. If you don’t care about good sound, none of this matters for a second.
“If no one cares, it will stay the same. Technology is talking us backwards, making it easier to make things worse.”
YOUNG BANDS HE ENJOYS: Dr. Dog, Melt-Banana, Holy Fuck, Joan as Police Woman.
“I look to a young group for energy. They all have energy.”
‘BERLIN’ PART II: “(Filming) ‘Berlin’ was not an audition. But I think about doing ‘Magic and Loss’ or ‘Street Hassle’, putting together songs (that share a similar) milieu. I dream on.”