The Dead Rock Star
Immortals die when the eyes of the world are upon them
Jesus was the first rock star. The cross is the biggest, greatest piece of merchandise in history, bigger than any concert T-shirt. And Jesus was the first dead rock star. Like Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix, he became immortal by dying. A dead rock star becomes perfect, and he'll be that forever. He'll never change, never get old, never turn into something less great than at his peak, at the moment of his death.
It's not just death that turns you into an icon. It's how many people are watching when you die, and the way the camera can turn you into a martyr. I had a song on my last record called "Lamb of God" about just that. It was inspired by Jesus, John Lennon and John Kennedy. We're not just fascinated with death. We're in love with death, because we are so afraid of it. And the people who live their lives close to death, or who die tragically, are the ones we're going to fantasize about the most. It is escapism, it's voyeurism, it's living vicariously. Or dying vicariously.
Jim Morrison had a shaman quality to him; he was a shirtless Christlike figure. He was inspiring. He brought darkness into the mainstream, right in the middle of the Summer of Love. He did and said what he wanted, and he behaved like a child, which is admirable and beautiful. I have Jim Morrison to thank for making me want to write, and for making me want to take acid, and for making me want to expose myself in Florida.
I remember reading No One Here Gets Out Alive when I was in tenth grade, and that made me want to write. I have always, since I was fourteen years old, written things in my journals, and have always been very protective of things that I put down on paper. I have a hard time committing my personal feelings and my deepest, darkest secrets to a place where someone will be able to obtain them.
Morrison's enduring strength as a historical figure is in his mystery. I think the modern, contemporary treatment of rock stars on MTV and the voyeuristic world of reality TV are a great threat to anyone who wants to retain any sort of value throughout history. My whole life, I have tried to steer clear from "behind the scenes" things. They take away from the power of what you do. If you start explaining your tricks, then you are a shitty magician. I'm watching all these other people piss away what could be great works of art by going on Cribs. You can be legendary for not doing anything because of this voyeuristic culture that we live in. You can be famous for "surviving" something, or for marrying a millionaire, or for being a victim of a crime. It's a strange time that we are in now.
With Jim Morrison, it's the dark sexual element. You want to grow up to be like him. With Kurt Cobain, it's about relating to his pain and understanding how close death's door is. When I was just about to start a band in 1989, I was still a journalist, and I got a promo pack from Sub Pop records with Bleach and a black-and-white glossy photo of Nirvana. There was something really dark and alluring about the record. And that feeling hits you every time you hear one of their songs. You can hear a tear in his voice, the pain going on there.
When Cobain died, no one was very much surprised. I was disappointed, but I think a part of me was relieved because it seemed like he was suffering so much in the last year of his life, and his suffering was over, if anything. He despised being the rock star he ended up being. But like Morrison and Hendrix, he was proof that the most amazing art comes from people who are living their lives like there is no tomorrow.