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Lou Reed

IT was never going to be fun time at Lou's place but, having been told that he's actually "a nice guy" and "a big fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm", I let the guard drop a touch.

Big mistake.

That apparent great sense of humour of his - which first attracted artist wife Laurie (O Superman) Anderson - is well hidden when we're finally connected.

I say finally because there's a last minute rescheduling followed by ten more minutes of trying to get through to him.

Whether that delay soured his mood is unclear but he's surly at best.

The plan is to talk about the return to the album, the movie, maybe a Transformer tour, future plans... and, if he's amiable enough, try for a few personals on his recent wedding, comedy (Curb Your Enthusiasm and whether he's aware of Little Britain's Lou and Andy characters), his last communication with John Cale and Mo Tucker, the chances of another Velvet Underground reunion... and time allowing, lots more in between.

Hello Lou.


It's good to talk to you.

"Thank you."

You're playing Nottingham for the first time. but does the name mean anything to you, the home of Robin Hood...?

"That's it, the home of Robbing Hood."


The Berlin tour sees you revisiting your past, something I'm surprised you would do. Why do it?


Did you not hear that?

"I can't hear you."

Can you hear me now?

"Yeah, better I think."

(I repeat the question).

"A friend of mine named Susan Feldman who runs St Ann's Art Warehouse [in New York] had been asking me for quite a while... are you having a problem with your phone?"

No, can you not hear me?

"I can hear you. So, she has asked me many times to perform Berlin and I just said yes one day."

At the time critics struggled to accept it after Transformer, so how did the criticisms affect you?

"I don't take critics seriously. I think the only people who do are other critics like yourself."

Right. Commercially it didn't do well, either, compared to, say, Transformer.

"You want me to talk about sales figures to you about an album?

"Do you want to talk about the music or not? Then we can wrap this up quickly."

OK. Well, in terms of the film...

"Do you want to talk about the music of the album or do you want to discuss sales figures?"

Well, there's a lot to talk about, obviously...

"I would think you would want to talk about music but if you don't, tell me now."

Can we talk about the film?

"About the what?"

About the movie.


Now the sound is fantastic (it really is) and I was wondering...

"Where did you see it?"

In London. At a screening in London.

"Was it a real movie theatre?"

(No it was made of marshmallow and staffed by sugar pixies - what the...!?)


"Usually when it's one of those places I have to go in and turn the volume up because they don't play it loud enough, because the sound is extraordinary."

(Right, I've scored with that. I noticed the sound. Onwards and upwards).

In terms of the film, what was the balance of control between yourself and director Julian Schnabel.

(Oh dear, I pronounce it "Schnay-bull").

"Schnar-bull. He's a world-famous artist, you should probably learn how to pronounce his name."

(Oooh, one to the kidneys).

"And what do you want to know - it's a figures question, right? Who controlled what?"

No, the relationship between the two of you in terms of the film.


"Julian and I have been partners on everything."


"So, we're just partners."


"I would never come up with a question like that."

(My turn to pause. Instinct tells me to throw the phone against the wall. This is a waste of time. Instead I say nothing for ten seconds to see what happens. And he starts to talk again).

"Julian certainly did the sets, his daughter did the montage visuals."


"(Mutters) This is a bad connection. You know, Ellen Kuras did the cinematography. Bob Ezrin and Hal Willner were in charge of music direction and arrangements..." (He's just reading out a list of personnel now) "... how would you like me to divide all that up?"

(OK, let's move away from the film).

In terms of the Berlin tour, what happens after that? Would you consider a Transformer tour?


And why's that?

"Because Berlin has a story line. It has a beginning, middle and end. Ezrin and I had always had an idea about trying to stage it and we never had the opportunity. Here we had the opportunity so we took it."

When you first...

"This was not, you know, with the idea of now, you see, I don't think you understand much. This album was made with the idea of having recurring characters, with a bit of a plot. OK, and hence a beginning, middle and end. That's why we wanted to perform it."

(Yes, I've read the background. My idea of getting an opinion out of him, a little colour, a flavour of Lou Reed the person rather than the artist is... well, I'm getting some idea of Lou Reed: The Man anyway.)

So what happens after this tour?

"I've been working on a photo book."


"The book is called Lou Reed: Romanticism."

Can you tell me more about that?

"Well, it's my third photo book and it's..... it's very beautiful."

In terms of the subjects, can you explain more...?

"Not really. They say a photo is worth a thousand words. You can go look at the book."

I was told you're a fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

"Of what?"

Curb Your Enthusiasm, the Larry David TV comedy.

"Oh yeah, I think it's very funny."

Which episode do you prefer: Beloved (A)unt or the chef with Tourettes?

"The chef with Tourettes."

(Again his answer is leaden, so I resist trying to expand on it and give up).

OK, that should do it. I know you're a busy man.


I'm sorry I was a disappointing interviewer.

"Well, you know, you don't want to know anything about music do you?"

In terms of what? Did you want to go in to detail about the concept of Berlin or...?

"Well, you know, you didn't want to know who was the cinematographer.

"You didn't want to know who Antony was who sings the beautiful song Candy Says..."

I know, Antony of Antony And The Johnsons...

"You didn't want to know who did the arranging, you didn't want to know who the children's choir was..."

I'm sure I can read that...

"You just want to know, what were the sales figures?"

Not really...

"If you can name one question about music I'd like to hear it."

The question was your reaction to how Berlin was received, the people's reaction to your music...

"So far on these shows people have been very enthusiastic. I would still say, have you asked me one question about music?"

(I'm stumped. What does he expect? Which guitar was he playing?)

"As we speak."


"OK, Simon [it's his assistant cutting in]. We're going to have to end it because we're going to have to run."


"I'm trying to find out if he has a question about music."

(He's not giving up).

"Do you?"

Well, obviously not. You're interpreting everything I say as something negative.

"I'm giving you a chance to ask a question about music."

OK. If no-one has heard Berlin before which track should they listen to in order to encourage them to hear more?

"Men Of Good Fortune."

And why that one?

(There's a crackle of interference).

"Is that it?"

"He asked [it's the assistant again] why would you pick Men Of Good Fortune?"

"He just asked me... you know (sighs)... just instinct."

And that was it. In the past 15 years I've had Eddie Izzard eating his way through an interview, Wayne Sleep being a prima donna and Marc Almond slamming the phone down but that was the most frustrating and pointless encounter yet.

Don't ask him about drugs, I was warned. I can't see how that could have worsened his mood.

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