Were you off music for awhile?
It was a strange period. I pulled a Ziggy Stardust moment where I wanted to quit music. I didn’t have an interest doing it anymore because I felt the music industry had gotten to a point where I just felt completely unfulfilled, uninterested. It just seemed very objectified, very much a product, very much a cliché of what someone’s supposed to feel. But I just didn’t really feel inspired to do it and then I sunk into a weird black hole of, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do and I lost an identity like I didn’t know who I was because I didn’t really have anything because I’ve always identified myself personally by what I do and my greatest fear has always been not being able to create and I almost got to that point. I got to that point for a couple months where I don’t think I’ve ever been that lost and different things changed, different people in my life changed, things moved around and I wrote one song and then it became maybe the fastest record I ever worked on. This is the record I was always meant to make that I never did before.
I’m not sure if this record is very American specifically. It’s probably the most autobiographical. The center point is about wanting to find a connection. It’s the ultimate desire to feel like you’re a part of something, that you matter. The whole thing is about wanting to be, to feel a part of something. So in that sense it’s very comprehensive of my whole life if I have to look at it objectively. I don’t think its’ me looking at the rest of the world anymore. It’s me saying stuff about myself I would be maybe too embarrassed or too self-conscious to say. It will really take people back a step. It’s very rock and roll. It’s very un-technological. It sounds very back to music.
After surviving Columbine I went over-the-hill of what you can tolerate because that was the worst. Hollywood and people were giving me dirty looks like I did something wrong like, what the fuck, what are you doing. I just learned to deal with it, I had to move out of L.A. I moved to Chatsworth.
I didn’t do any press. I refused to. I got offers from everyone and then when Michael Moore interviewed me, it doesn’t really show it in Bowling for Columbine but I had been, I came back to Denver for the first time since then where I was in OzzFest at Mile High Stadium. We had hundreds, hundreds of death threats so I’m thinking, if I’m going to die it’s going to be today because its’ Mile High Stadium, they’re not going to be able to stop it if someone wants to shoot so when I went onstage I just had to decide, I can’t live without doing what I do so I have to accept the fact I’m going to die for it if its going to be today and…it was a great show. Obviously I didn’t die.
But when I did that interview, there wasn’t a name for the documentary, it wasn’t really there. I talked to him for about 2 1/2 hours and a lot of stuff that he went to say on the 2nd half of the documentary was stuff I said to him but it opened a window that reintroduced me to the world in a way that people hadn’t really understood me before. If I got paid for every time someone came up to me in an airport or anywhere saying I saw you in Bowling for Columbine, the most common thing I get is, “I didn’t know you’re so intelligent”. And I’m like, “I didn’t know you’re so fucking stupid but I don’t know you, you know, so.” It’s a backhanded compliment.
People ask me what I think about it (the movie) and I of course liked how I came across it but a lot of it (the movie) didn’t really deliver. There was a lot of stuff in there I wanted that movie to answer and it didn’t. Ultimately, I liked what the movie did but as far as the actual subject matter and the answers that I became obsessed with because I locked myself in an attic for 3 months and didn’t want to talk to anybody because I was afraid I was going to get killed; so I wanted a lot of answers and I didn’t get them from it; but that’s a different thing.
What scares you about America right now?
The thing that just scares me, if anything is how much more can the common man be manipulated, how much farther can the government go , how much longer ‘til we get to George Orwell. There’s so many people that know it and talk about it. How ever many people will watch your show and know it and agree with you, that watch Bill Mahr, Bowling for Columbine and you’d think, if all these people did something about it, why would we still be in the same position? So it’s scary to know that the Right Wing has such a strong hold.
If people really stopped and realized how much art and creative people moved the world versus politics and religion. It’s not even up for debate.
An artist at least creates things, puts things in the world, whereas these other people are destroying things, taking things out of the world. That’s always been the point of politics is always to suppress that because they’re afraid of it and they know that. How important is painting for you now?
Recently I haven’t painted in a couple months because I’ve been singing. But it’s always been an outlet. Specifically, if I’m frustrated instead of just pacing or watching the Real World or something I would learn how to paint.
Degenerate art and the Dada era, they were doing it (degenerate art) in the punk rock sense. That was the original punk rock. Life risks.
In being a writer, if you want to be unique you always have to say something that someone else isn’t saying .To even just say you’re a writer you have to be controversial otherwise…you’re not really doing anything. I always wanted to take it to the next step where I felt like I was willing to risk my personal safety, my personal reputation to stand behind what I say.
What do you hope to be your lasting significance?
I’ve always thought about that and the easy answer was always, ‘As long as I’m remembered’ but that’s not really what I believe at the end of the day. As a writer, whether I’m writing songs or writing books or even saying what I believe in a painting, whatever, I just want to be thought of as someone who took the time and risked what they stand for, risked their lives to put that out into the world. Someone who ultimately was an artist. I’d like to actually be able to…I don’t feel uncomfortable saying that but; I remember growing up, saying you’re an artist it sounds pretentious but now it’s one of the only dignified things that you can call yourself