Tim Booth was interviewed by Jools Holland during the recording session for Later. You can view the interview in Real Video at the Later website. But for those who don’t have that facility, here is a transcription.
Can you talk about the inspiration behind the song Falling Down?
The first song I think we’re now doing is Falling Down, which was a jam we did with Brian Eno, just messing around and we gave it to an engineer we had with us called KK, who’s a whizz and is going to be a very famous producer I think one day and he just chopped it up and none of us thought much about it for about a week and then he handed me a CD and it just sounded fantastic. He’d chopped up the jam and put it back together again. So I resang a vocal and eventually we presented it to the rest of the band and people were a bit slow to catch on that it was a really great song. But eventually it came through. That’s its history.
Lyrically, I’m not sure what it’s about, it’s about some mad, strange, eccentric woman who’s coming into her power. “Baby’s on the lamb tonight”, on the lamb means on the run, prison jargon, “her sky’s all full of stars and love’s just something that always goes wrong, it looks and smokes like Eva Gardner” And it’s kind of this woman, you can see her, she’s almost like that, what’s that hitchhiker , the girl from Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, that kind of free spirit. That was the only idea I got when I was writing the lyrics. It kept on coming like that.
Are there times when you express yourself better through music than in everyday life?
I try and keep them as unconscious as possible. And often they’ll tell me lots of things, either about what’s just gone on or what’s to come. I wrote a very strange lyric, improvised a lyric a number of years ago, didn’t touch it, came back to it, improvised the second half of it, put the two pieces together and it was a song about a guy going off into the mountains and committing suicide in the snow, lying down in the snow, very clear and very peaceful decision on his part. And two days after we recorded and cut the record, the person I was living with, her mentor went and killed himself in that way. And they played the song at his funeral. And things like that happen quite a lot with lyrics I find.
Tell us about singing (or not) for Joan Baez?
I do a lot of workshops. I teach ecstastic dance, taking people into trance states without drugs and I was at a workshop of a woman who trained me, she’s kind of a New York shaman and Joan Baez was at the workshop. This was in California. It was about a ten day workshop and Gabrielle had said to me, the leader of the workshop, that she wanted me to sing some songs. I got a few people together to do some music and each day we’d come in and say “Do you want us to do it now?” but the workshop was really theraputic and intense and never suitable. People were actually in too deep powerful states to sing a song. And so this went on for a week, where we got ready to do a song and it never happened.
The last day, the last morning of the workshop, the musicians had given up bringing their instruments in and Gabrielle told us this huge spiel honouring Joan Baez to the hundreds of people in the workshop saying “Before Dylan, before God, before Jesus, before Buddha, was Joan Baez” and she does this fantastic thing honouring her for what she did in the sixties and her protest movement and at the end of it she said “And the only gift I can think to offer you is that Tim will sing you a song” I kind of like died on the spot. It was like “oh my God” It was the worst kind of drumroll for a singer to take the stand that I’d ever had. I pulled it off, magnificently of course.
What’s it like to play with other musicians (and the audience) so close to you, watching your every move?
When there’s an audience, I sing to a group of people. I can’t remember the cameras and it’s not always best on camera. You know, you want to look a little bit more minimal, and cool and edgy. And where there’s people, it’s great, there’s people. And it’s just very different.
But it’s like I tend to use people at our concerts. If I’m like getting insecure and having a bad gig, I’ll look for someone who’s really enjoying it and sing to them and they tend to give me the lift and save me from my voices, the critic voices that plague any creative person and that’s been a technique that I’ve used for years.