John Lurie Sustains
*One thing I found so glaring and odd was how the New Yorker article put so little emphasis on this guy threatening two policemen with a baseball bat or that he filed a false police report against you so he could attack you and not be charged. Even his admission that he claimed your identity to find out from the cable company if you had ordered a pay-per-view boxing match, and planned to do so again to ascertain exactly how many minutes you watched the fight. This didn’t get the attention in the article that one might assume. *
Yeah, they really passed over it like it was nothing. Like it was something any sane person might do if they got up on the wrong side of the bed. And the thing I thought was sickest was when I wrote the man asking why he was doing this, the next thing was that somehow he found out where my doctor was and said he would wait there. So, after being really ill for seven years and finally finding some treatment that was helping, he is going to wait at my doctor’s office?
In the past two years you have lived in Granada, Turkey, and Big Sur, among other places. But these were no vacations. Has it been difficult for people, including the New Yorker, to grasp the severity of the effects all this has had on your life?
No one comes close to understanding this. Most would prefer to think I have lost my mind rather than believe what is happening. It is pretty unbelievable, so I understand why people say, ‘Nah, that isn’t really happening.’ But, this is two years of this, and I see no end. But what is really depraved is that the New Yorker had a ton of evidence and knew that someone who had been ill for years was hiding from a very disturbed person. And then wrote a piece of fiction about two artists bickering. I just met with a private detective who had read the same emails that the New Yorker had. He said, “I read the article and thought you were hysterical, but this guy is level 3, shoot-people-from-a-tower crazy.” Three different psychiatrists have had similar impressions. All you have to do is read his post on the Dangerous Minds blog and wonder how on earth the New Yorker made this guy sound rational. If he is the guy in Tucson and I can see it a mile in advance, how on earth does that put my sanity in question?
Did the article, which essentially made this public for the first time, resolve anything or did it make matters worse?
Not sure if it made things worse or not. The situation continues. Whether it made it worse or not is all in the mind of the stalker, a place I really do not want to visit. But, I have to live like the threat is 100% real all the time. Certainly wasn’t like the stalker went, ‘Oh my god, what have I done?’ The _New Yorker _sort of made light of it. It is just so strange. How did it serve them to do this? The truth was such a better story.
You’ve painted throughout your career, your work appearing as cover art for some of the Lounge Lizards releases. In 2007, A Fine Example of Art, was published containing many of your paintings. They also can be seen, and prints purchased, at johnlurieart.com. Additionally, you’ve done successful showings in galleries both in the U.S. and abroad. How have these personal battles informed or affected your work?
Well, now things have pretty much ground to a halt.
When things grind to a halt, either by choice or by circumstance, how, as an artist, do you get out of it? How can you get back to painting?
When you are spending all your time trying to figure out how to be safe, it makes it difficult to do much else. I was able to for a while, but now I am just exhausted.
You have been directed by such notables as Jim Jarmusch, Wim Wenders, and Martin Scorsese. You could’ve been a Hollywood movie star, possibly, if you had chosen that field. Why didn’t you? And do you miss it?
The music was more important to me. I thought also to the world, but maybe I was wrong there. Miss it? Nah.
Your music, acting career, television show, paintings, interviews, and stage banter, typically contain moments of playful, often cynical humor. I think this says a lot about how you handle life. How’s your sense of humor these days?
Still there. You want me to say something funny?
Once during a Lounge Lizards concert in Central Park, there was a moment when somebody tossed a microcassette up on stage, presumably from an audience member recording the show. You smiled, and without comment, slid it into your shirt pocket. What was your feeling on people taping your shows?
It is fine with me. I just hope it sounds good. I am so into capturing the thing sonically and always had trouble with it. I hear these things on YouTube and cringe.
YouTube has certainly become the new medium of bootlegging. The Lounge Lizards have a number of videos on there, including an entire 1998 concert taped for Polish television. It’s visually and sonically pretty good. Is the Live in Berlin concert video from 1991 something that you can see surfacing anytime soon, on YouTube or DVD?
I just saw that Polish one. I think the horns sound very shrill. It is a board tape. Live in Berlin? Yeah, maybe someone should put that on YouTube. I know it sounds good.
A quick check of iTunes finds nearly all of the Lounge Lizards releases as well as your solo and soundtrack work available. What do you think of the digital medium, and how much of your material is under the control of your Strange and Beautiful label?
I control all of the Strange and Beautiful catalogue. I like albums. I like analog recording. I find a little of the soul of the sound is lost in digital.
Can you tell me three of your favorite albums?
I can’t listen to music any more because of the neurological effects and because the loss is too great. So, I no longer have favorite albums, but Zero Hour by Piazzola, something by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and something by Fela. But, I am leaving out Ellington and Monk and Mingus and Hendrix and… I guess I never had three favorite albums. It is kind of like answering, ‘what is your favorite color?’
Rumor is you are working on an autobiography. When might we see something in print or online?
I don’t think any time soon. If I write something now it would have to be this story now. I have the title- There Has to Be a God or It Couldn’t Get This Weird.