Earthling: Promo CD Text

by David Bowie


I started using computers around ’93, ’94 but mainly as an art facility. I was doing computer prints and drawings and painting on Paint Box and Painter and the program called Kid Pix. They’re all little programs that can enable one to fool around with colours and lines. And then we created a Web site just prior to having made the album…the ‘Outside‘album, that is, and then going on tour, we put a Web page togerther. From that, we started realizing what an enormous amount of internet information is available. We’d be getting so many pages and comments from fans. And it was just so immediate. I just thought that it was an incredible way to kep in touch with the audiences that were coming to see us, buying the albums, and what they thought of things. I now peruse the Web pages every few days and this keeps me very much in contact with what’s going down with our fans.

I think the idea of putting new compositions out on the web is probably quiet dangerous for corperate compamies, with the notions ofprofit etc. But I really was excited about doing it. So we put out three different mixes. The response was absolutely fantastic. The fourth mix, which was the mix I did with Mark Plati will be on the ‘Earthling‘ album and it is my personal favourite. It’s not so, probably not quite so dance oriented. It has a very dark atmosphere to it. It’s actually. I think, one of the strongest pieces on the album,.

I’m really not quiet sure why we eventually settled on the title ‘Earthling‘. I mean, it was supposed to describe a man in his pure habitat on Earth. And, I suppose, the irony isn’t lost on me in that it’s sort of me in maybe my most worldly kind of guise and most human guise to date. It is full of puns and little jokes and it’s kind of funny I suppose……I think one honestly feels that every record is really important. I don’t know, I mean, this came from such a singular…..I hadn’t intended recording right now. But the life in here was so exciting that we just wanted to do it. I mean, we wrote the album-apart from the two older songs that ew were doing, we wrote the album in somethimg like nine and a half days. I mean, it was done incrediblu quickly. But that was within itself, kind of the point of the exercise, to work really quickly and write really fast and just see what happened more that anything else. And why I’m doing it myself-because I think I had a very strong vision of what the music should sound like. And I really wanted to make it fairly singular. I think maybe my character, whatever that is possibly, comes through moer strongly on this album than on many other albums I’ve done. That’s not to denigrate some of the other album, because some of them were specifically character oriented. But this one, it really represents how I am at the moment quite strongly. Yes.

The video of the song, ‘Little Wonder‘, I devised with the most marvelous new video director, Floria Sigismondi. She comes from Canada. And the last thing she did, it’s the first thing that I saw that really impressed me, was the Marilyn Manson video. I thought she had a wonderful eye, great textures, fabulous cuttings and also she was really quite out on the proverbial limb in terms of subject matter. It was really quite odd and so what I suggested to her is that we work with a really great visual artist, Tony Oursler. He’s best known for his works where he creates puppets, little puppets that are found around the gallery in corners and uner mattresses and things. And he projects video faces onto them. They’re really very, very strange. And he just got a show in the Pompidou museum in Paris. I’m a huge fan of his work. I think he’s really terrific. So I asked Tony if he would work on this and he constructed a lot of ideas. We would shoot many bare white surfaces and then project strange faces onto them at the edit stage.

When I was a kid I think I didn’t take inerest in much of anything at all except rock and roll. I found rock when I wsa about eight years old, with Little Richard and Jimmy Reed and Chuck Berry and all the greats. And that somehow or other, I knew that I wanted to be involved in the music. When I was really little, around eight, I got my father to advance me pocket money. And I had a meat round (laughs), I used to wheel meat around on a bicycle on Saturday mornings. So I had to pay it back but I got him to buy me a plastic alto saxaphone. It was my intention, when I was around nine or ten, to join the Little Richard Band as one of the saxophonists. That was silly, you knkow I thought ‘That’s what I am going to do when I leave school’ (laughs). You think, you know, anything is possible at that age. Actually it is. Anything is possibe I found out during my life.

As a kdi I was really disinterested in the more academic side of school. But almost to the day Ileft school, I got curious about culture generally, and society and art and painting and music and sculpure and films. I just immersed myself in it for the next few years. I kind of took a kind of home study. I mean, it was like I really sort of educated myself and I was drawn to the things that I really found exciting-new novelists, new books, new kinds of art, new theatre. Everything. Because I didn’t have any real training in them, it didn’t occur to me that you’re supposed to only stay in one of them. So for me, it was quite appropriate that, well if I’m doing music, then I can also design some scenery for the stage, and probably the costumes and do some paintings while I’m at it. You know? And it just never stopped. I always worked in all mediums. I’m such a craver for how we interprit our culture, if we do it through art or if we do it through music. I have an enormous curiosity for how other people do it. So I’ve got a real burning need to see other artists they do what they do and where they got their inspiration, how they think and stuff like that.

It started, well, let’s go back a little bit. On the ‘Outside‘ album, since the early 90’s I was really impressed by what wsa happening in London with this new music at that time called jungle and juglists generally. I wanted to work in that medium somehow. I really wanted to explore that. I touched on it on the ‘Outside‘ album on a couple of tracks. ‘I’m Derenged‘ and ‘ We Prick You‘ both sort of played with that nature of groove. But just before we started touring this year, in March, I wrote the song ‘Telling Lies‘ and that was really the first step itn combining hard rock and jungle. I’m not a purist. Nothing I do is hard core and in genre. I tend to hybrid everything that comes within reach (laughs). If it’s there i just sort of grab it and it becomes another kind of colour for whatever palette I feel I’m working in.

Iwanted to kind of create a hybrid with jungle and rock. ‘Telling Lies was really an experiment in that. I’d already started using a lot of drum and bass and industrial tech sounds on the live show. And it gradually evolved during the course of the whole of this year. Byt he time we were doing the festivals in Europe, we were, really, really enjoying ourselves. Everything was just feeling so great. And the bands we were working with were just terrific. And we were very excited about how the band had evolved in one year. It had gotten so good. Then I took a bighstep and cut down to just fuve pieces Mike Garson on keboards, Reeves Gabrels on guitar, Zachary Alford on drums and Gail Ann Dorsey on bass guitar and myself. It felt a very tight unit. We wanted to take the high energy that we’d created on tour and take it into the studio. We really went in kind of topside up, we went out on the weekends and played the small clubs. So it just kept the whole energy level very, very high. I really feel we’ve captured that on the album.

I love rockand roll, I mean, I really, really do. But on the other hand, I loe creating characters and narrative and creating scenarios. So I’m rather drawn inso many directions at once that it’s a hell of a job trying to kep it all balanced in my own mind.

Well, I gave up straightforward narrative lyrics long ago it seems. (laughs) It occured to me it was a very simple thing, really. Going back to when I was a kid, half the mystery and excitement about a lot of the rock music I was bearing in London at that time-perople like Fats Dominl. Fats Domino is the perfect example, I couldn’t understand a word he was singing. I had no idea what he was singing about. But there was some mystery in the energy that was in there and the combination of he sound of what he was saying against the music. The creative atmosphere. So that, plus the fact that I really like modern poetry and free form, free association poetry-gOes into what I write as lyric and so as an exercise with ‘Little Wonder‘, I just picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. And I used each dwarfs name. And that name had to be contained in each line. So (laughs)then I ran out of dwarfs. So i came up with Stinky (laughs), and there are a few others (laughs). There were a few others we didn’t put in either. Crappy, Humpy, Spunky, etc.

I wanted to say something about the Tibetan situation. When I was about 19, I became an overnight Buddhist. I studied for about six months, (laughs) But I did get to know a couple of Tibetans extreemly well, and that was at the Tibet Society in London. And one of them I kept in touch with over the years. His name is Chime Yong Dong Rinpoche and he is a translator at the British museum in London. At that age, a very influencial book for me was called ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ by a German called Heinrich Harrer. He was one of the first Westerners actually to go into Tibet. This extraordinary existence and this incredibly sublime philosophy. And that book kind of stayed with me over the years. So I wanted to relate what had been happening politically with Tibet through that music. And the subtext of the song is reallt some of the desperation and the agony felt by young Tibetans who had their families killed, and themselves have been reduced to mere ciphers in their own country. I wouldn’t explore it too thoroughly, because it really works in a more on an expressionistic level. It’s a feeling that comes over the song

It’s a possibility-It is kind of a battle, because, I’ll be honest, the only time I have been asked to do it, and I was asked about three or four years ago, it was implicitly required that I do classics or my standards, or whatever you want to call them. And I’m doggedly determined to kind of stay away from them. It’s a particular exercise of mine that now being 50, I want to see what you can do as a rock artist at 50. And everybody else can do what they want to do, but I know what I want to do and I’ve got the chance of doing it. And I really don’t want to go back and kind of start doing the touring jukebox thing. If I were given , if I was allowed to do it on my own terms, I think Iwould have a ball with it. But that hasn’t been given to me. So we will see.

(exhales) It’s extraordinarily exciting forme. Because I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen. Because I’m taking quite a chance. I feel that if I had to fall back on what I’ve done before, I’d much prefer to stop. And I really would maybe just prefer to sculpt and paint. But while I’m still wildly excited about what I do as a musician, then that’s the course I choose to take. Ialso take the negative with the positive. I mean, it has got it’s downsides as well as it’s upsides. the upside is that you really feel, it just makes each day quite exciting knowing that you’re sort of-you’re still playing in the now. I just feel that if I had to go round the world singing old songs, I’d crumple up. I just couldn’t do it any more. I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t want to do that.

One’s intention and what one actually ends up with can be two very diggerent things. I’ll often go into the studio with a specific idea of whre something should be going and it might incorperate things like street sounds and samples. But the actual accidents that happen in the studio…I find some of the best things that happen for me as a musician, are mistakes, frankly, I mean things that people don’t intend to play and words I didn’t intend to say. So many of those things end up as the finished part of the word and really take on their own character. So it can be very different from my initial intention.

Oh, I will definitely go out again this coming year. Yeah, yeah. Absolutely, in fact, we’re very excited about it. This time we’re doing not only festivals in Europe but we’re going to work in America as well. Quite, quite widely. We’re not only doing festivals, but we’ve been invited in Europe to do the rave scene. It’s such a huge thing over there, basically all night dance sessions. It’s almost like a festival at night, you know? And we’ve been asked to do some of those which is going to be really exciting. I think we’ll begoing backwards and forwards from festival situation to rave situation. So the live thing for the coming year, I’m really happy we’re going out again.

I can’t really see a time when I won’t be living live creatively. Performing, recording,painting. Sweet life..Wadda life! I can’t foresee me stopping I love it. I really, really like what I do as a’s fab! (laughs)


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