Interview by Bill Flanagan. Published in Musician no. 126, april 1989
MUSICIAN: How was Songs for 'Drella composed?
REED: Oh, it was just a hundred-percent collaboration. John and I just rented out a small rehearsal studio for three weeks and locked ourselves in.
CALE: It was on and off around Christmas time. We were planning on maybe five weeks, but when we got working on it I started adding keyboards until we had a whole MIDI setup. I had a Roland D-50, a Yamaha CP8O MIDI and a Korg Ml. And they slowly started being part of the songwriting process. A lot of it was done just on the piano to begin with.
MUSICIAN: The opening number, "Small Town," has claustrophobic lyrics ["When you're growing up in a small town and you're having a nervous breakdown) with very jaunty music. John plays piano and Lou sings.] It is very much like the opening number of a Broadway musical -an upbeat tune that introduces the main character.
CALE: I know we set ourselves up for this idea of a theater piece, but it really is banished. Because what we have there is such a strong core idea that the simpler the better. I was really excited by the amount of power just two people could do without needing drums. When we started work I was always, in the back of my mind, wondering, "Where the hell does the backbeat go?" And by the time we finished it I was saying, "Thank God we don't have one!" [Reed laughs] The way it's going to be at BAM is exactly the same. We're going to maintain that hard-edged, clear-eyed image of it simple and very hard.
MUSICIAN: Most of the songs are in Andy's voice and from Andy's perspective. Were you concerned with making the voice of Andy the character match the voice of Andy, your old friend?
CALE: One of the things that happened while we were putting the thing together was we never quite clarified what our attitude was toward Andy speaking all the time. And that included the question of whether there should be any reference to the Velvet Underground. It's a good lyrical device to write it from another person's point of view, but inevitably it's going to blur. In "Forever Changed" I feel as if I'm singing about myself as much as Andy. Specifically, my coming from Wales to New York and meeting members of the hand.