Bowie Revisited

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Robert Phoenix

Robert Phoenix

journalist, blogger, interviewer, astrologer & psychic medium

In Bowie’s Head

Reportedly worth over $800 million, David Bowie has gone from “The Man Who Sold the World” to “The Man the World Is Buying.” From space oddity to corporate entity, he’s busy recreating his persona once again. With the ISP BowieNet, his Web site, Bowie Bonds, and arrangements to set up ISPs for the likes of the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, Bowie is becoming a computer baron.His energy, a titanic clash of classical cultivation and maniacally driven curiosity, has given birth to a new record, Hours…the first major-label release to be sold in its entirety over the Internet.

The album finds Bowie in a contemplative mood. With middle age looking him dead in the third eye, he’s addressing the themes of loss, regret, and redemption.He’s also had a hand in creating the new computer game Omikron: Nomad Soul, from which many of Hours’ tracks are culled. Omikron provided a vehicle for Bowie to virtually recreate himself as a 21-year-old rock star (Boz) who performs in an alternate dimension. Dorian Gray looks back through pixilated reflections in the digital mirror.Hidden beneath Bowie’s alien veneer and his ability to fuse artistic effort with Wall Street smarts is a trickster-par-excellence — a corporate coyote who’s not above blowing the mind of a sweaty-palmed journalist at Virgin’s New York offices.

A half-hour late, he arrives with his publicist in tow–stuporifically stumbling across the room, teeth badly broken, dead eyes staring at me through a Thorazine dream. I say to myself, “Christ… Bowie’s fucked.” I extend a hand to a shaky hand. We sit. Bowie rips fake teeth from his mouth and laughs with a vengeance: “Unflappable — I like that!”

I’ve passed the initiation. The interview can now proceed.

Phoenix: Along with the release of Hours…, Iggy [Pop] and Brian Ferry have releases coming out at the same time. Is this a coincidence or a conspiracy?

Bowie: How about that! If I’d had my druthers, I’d rather not have put out an album right now. But Virgin wanted me to put this album out now, because everyone has gone for the end of the millennium thing. I don’t mind. But I would rather have had it come out earlier this year or waited until the beginning of next year. But at least it will come out and I can move onto the next one — which is how I tend to think. I don’t like to sit around and watch it, dust it off and say, “yeah, that’s a beauty.” It doesn’t bother me that it’s coming out with everyone else and their fathers.

Phoenix: Do you still communicate with Iggy?

Iggy and Ziggy

Bowie: I don’t see Iggy at all. I’ve not seen him since ’97. We were working on a tour in Germany. He seemed fine. I think he does far, far more touring than I do. I like touring, but I don’t like it quite so obsessively as [he does]. We have drifted away from each other, and in a way I understand why. I’ve never talked to him about this and I probably shouldn’t talk to you about it…

Phoenix Oh c’mon.

Bowie: All right then. [Laughter] I think there was a moment where Jim [Iggy] decided that he couldn’t do a fucking article without my name being mentioned, and I don’t think that’s a very comfortable feeling. I completely understand — I really, really do. Unfortunately, I think Jim took it personally, and that’s a shame because I would have liked to remain closer to him.I think that he felt he had to physically take himself out of the picture to become autonomous again. We’ve never voiced this to each other, because we’re sensitive to each others’ feelings. I’m not saying that it’s a resentment, but I do believe that he always felt that there was this svengali-type figure dogging him. Because I did such a load of work with him and I was a major mainstream artist myself at the time. [A phone begins to ring in the boardroom where we sit] What do you think?

Phoenix: Why don’t you get it?

Bowie: You think? Okay. [The trickster rolls up his sleeves, springs across the room and answers the phone]Hello, Polygram! [Hearty laughter at his own hijinx]

: Here comes the Velvet Goldmine question: How did you feel about the portrayal?

Bowie: I didn’t notice that I was in it. Am I really that uninteresting? God, he was about as interesting as a soapdish, wasn’t he? I presumed that they kind of backed off the portrayal characterization and just went for cipher. I had the advantage of reading the script before it was made and knew it was a stinker from the moment I read it.It had two things going against it: First, they wanted all of the songs that I want to use for Ziggy Stardust, and from about halfway on, the writing just fell to pieces. It had a fairly interesting start and totally disappeared somewhere. I anticipated it would be a bomb. I also think its location was totally wrong. I think [writer/director Todd Haynes] located it in the early ’80s — unwittingly. I presume that’s when he grew up. Because for me, I was watching Steve Strange and Boy George and the New Romantics, who had by that time, (when they had reinvestigated the idea of Glam) put a certain kind of ennui, a certain kind of sophistication on the thing. It was all very mannequinish, by the time it got to the ’80s. It was all made very well. The stitches didn’t show in the ’80s. In the ’70s it was vulgar, tacky and funny and there was a lot more shopping. They didn’t show that in the movie. It was located in the wrong era. The only entertaining areas for me were the gay things. I think that [Haynes] inherently has an understanding of the gay situation.But the lovely thing that came out of it was a fantastic five-page letter from Michael Stipe who asked me to be involved — which I’ll keep for the rest of my life and is far too personal and adoring for me to reveal, yet. But of course it will go up on the Internet eventually.
Ziggy Stardust

Phoenix: Are you doing a Ziggy film?

Bowie: Yeah, I’m not only doing it (overly ambitious as always), I’m doing it on three platforms. I’m working with people on a film version and I’m working with people on a theater version that’s completely different and I’ll synthesize the two into a huge version of Internet hypertext — where we will find out about Ziggy’s mum and things like that. I want this kind of parallel world with Ziggy on the Internet that stays there as archive forever — like a living organism. But the theater version and the film versions will be completely and utterly different from each other. The stage show will be about the interior values of Ziggy and his contemporaries. It won’t have terribly many characters in it. The film would be the audiences’ perception of who or what Ziggy was. It will be a bigger, grander, more blah, blah. But the three taken together is, I suppose, lazy post-modernism where the same story is told in different ways.

Phoenix: What’s the timeline on that?

Bowie: 2002. It’s scary. It’ll be exactly 30 years by then. I hope we can get one of them out by that time.

Phoenix: While we’re on the subject of film, weren’t you going to do a film with Derek Jarman called Neutron?

Bowie: Neutron, yes, absolutely. I still have the script and Derek’s drawings. It’s so sad that things get left behind. I tend to want to do too much. I want to approach his family at some time to see if we could do something with it. I have his script and his drawings. I even know down to the music how he wanted to do have things done. And it would be lovely posthumously to do his piece. It would be fabulous. A wonderful script — very scary piece of work. How did you know that anyway? Very few people know that.

Phoenix: Well there’s another part of the story I want to ask you about. The guy that I heard it from said that you had left a pack of Marlboro’s at Jarman’s and that word had gotten back to you about your cigarettes being there and you stopped the project because you thought Jarman was practicing sympathetic magic on you.

Thin White Duke

Bowie: No, absolutely not!

Phoenix: Urban legend?

Bowie: God yeah. I would’ve given my arm to work with Jarman. My remembrance of the thing was that, as usual, he couldn’t get the funds to actually make the movie. It had some quite spectacular scenes in it. It did require proper sets. There weren’t existing properties around London. He went back to his set designing ideas for it and came up with these amazing Neo-Fascistic buildings for it. I don’t think that anybody was willing to put up the bread for it.

Phoenix: How does it feel to be considered a “Buy-In” versus “Sell-Out?”

Bowie: I like the phraseology, but I’m not quite sure what you mean.

Phoenix: Bowie as commodity, Bowie as brand.

Bowie: Ah, the branding of David Bowie! Well it’s been done to artists after they’re dead, like Presley Ltd. and selling ashtrays and so forth. It’s definitely a viable option and it’s quite exciting. It’s sort of pioneering and it’s not an acceptable way to go. And that I always find subversive enough. People say; “How can you brand yourself? How disgusting — oooh.” [Gleeful and slightly pervertedly] Yes, I know!

Phoenix: Finally, in Omikron, there’s this theme of transmigration of souls with different characters within the game. And a player can be anyone including Iman, but not you.

Bowie: Yes, that’s right. [More laughter]

Phoenix: How does she feel about that? How do you feel about that?

Bowie: She is a freelancer. You can hire her. She’ll work for anyone… apparently. Well, I quite like that they can’t get inside of me. That was tabled by the French. It’s a French game. A really diplomatic courtesy was extended toward me. They said,[in his best camp French] “but of coorse, nooone can become you. You are David Boweee.” I said, “Yes, you’re absolutely correct.” I’m not lettin’ anybody climb inside of me.Originally Published

14 thoughts on “Bowie Revisited”

  1. T

    For an enigmatic presence, DB comes across as a very straightforward guy who does not need to create any mystery about himself. Always been one of my favorites and this interview does nothing to change that.

  2. Awesome Interview. Its obvious that the fact you had the wits and courage to take it somewhere Bowie did not expect you to take it, Is what makes the article so much more intimate than I think Bowie himself would have wanted. It also caused some excellent info to be revealed by Bowie that showed us so much more than I feel he intended to, But because he liked you the moment he met you, It established a rapport plus you would not quit , – like a true pro – you went for the kill, Getting as much info in the process on the things he least wanted to reveal, Than any average journalist / Interviewer would have been able to.
    I enjoyed the article and analyzing the thought process that went through your mind as you made the most of each moment with him. A classic move was you mentioning the movie that did not get the funding it needed to get made, and the story you asked him to confirm about the cigarette pack he left behind / his fears. – That threw him for a loop, Because he was surprised u knew that so he found himself thinking: “What else does this guy know about me that to my knowledge is kept under wraps ?” – With Bowie being a very very private person from what I’ve heard from others who have worked with him, I like the fact you did your homework and asked him about it…

    1 more thing: Although Bowie & Elvis share the same Birthday, I feel they are 2 of the most different individuals (have very little in common) where sharing the same birthday is concerned. Elvis was a lot more self sabotaging than Bowie, And His mind set was very different to Bowies’.
    Its amazing how that is. It just goes to show that there are so many varying factors involved astrologically , that even being born on the same day, Does not assure you the same qualities, life path or personality traits as another person. Both are musicians, But that is a very general statement about 2 very powerful figures in the music industry.
    I Suggest this article gets read by everyone, It is a wonderful piece of writing & a moment (I feel intuitively), That was Captured in history and will live on forever.

  3. a

    Love it. In love with it. Thanks for showing us the way…yet again. The Trickster trope is dead-on. Going to have to incorporate that idea more into all-night manifestation conferences with my coven of goddesses. The Trickster energy in itself has its own way(s) of being(s) in the world. How nice to see Bowie’s gleeful side here. Excellent Divining. I’m starstruck!

  4. M

    Hello Rob,
    What a nice interview with a typically eccentric British Celebrity. I am from the generation of idolising Bowie for all the great work he did in the 70’s. He has always had the spirit and drive to ” dare to be different” and look what a legacy he has left behind, even today, in the noughties, he inspires all those up and coming front men and women to be creative and bold. Let’s be frank he didn’t have to do anything to be in the headlines – he was the original ” glam rock”.
    I really enjoyed the quirky aspects of the exchange in your less than stereo typical interview. The article left the reader wanting more – always a good sign of the best in journalism !!

    Bye for now, M x

  5. J
    Judy Casey Anderson

    Wow, Robert, what an amazing interview, and theirs nothing I can add to the already existent comments. You definitely displayed some of your best YOU in this interview. Thanks for bringing it front and center for me so I could read it.

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