John Cale
Fear Is A Man's Best Friend - John Cale

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Wilderness Approaching
E Is Missing
Tim Mitchell reads an extract from the book Interview

London 2003-05-28

Borders, London, UK
Review by Ken Clark

As a part of the promotional efforts for the new EP, "5 Tracks" and the new biography "Sedition and Alchemy", John Cale and Tim Mitchell appeared at the Borders Book Store on Oxford Street. Around three hundred people were crammed around the bookshelves on the top floor. There was a keyboard and several guitars set up at the back with people sitting on the floor in front of the make shift stage and crowded around the racks of books, videos and cds. It was difficult to get a good line of vision due to the various shelves all over the store but who can complain about a free performance.

At around 6:40 Tim announced Cale by saying he will be playing selections from his new album that was "one of his best". There would also be a reading from the upcoming biography followed by a brief interview. Cale would then be signing autographs.

John Cale performing at Borders - 2003/05/28

Cale then appeared very tanned, resplendent in a lime green shirt and leather trousers. "Wilderness Approaching" was the first piece to be performed. Each song was introduced with a long preamble as to its origins. "Wilderness" was from a film called "Paris" about arms smugglers set in Las Vegas, "the usual good cop bad cop story". He performed this on the electronic keyboard to much applause.

The next pieces were performed on acoustic guitar. The first was "E is Missing" which Cale provided a rambling discussing on Ezra Pound who had been written out of poetry anthologies and he had been denied any awards due to his fascist sympathies.

The final piece was "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead" which was based on the Andy Garcia movie, a "hero with a golden heart". He got caught up in the lyric about "The sexual exuberance of a concubine" and had to start it up again. Must have been the fine May London sunshine.

Tim Mitchell then read an extract from the upcoming biography about 1963 when Cale received a scholarship. There were stories how Cale wanted to compose a piece for all 88 pianos at Tanglewood where they would all be floating on a pond and sink one by one after they had played. Unfortunately this piece was never performed. Whilst Tim was reading Cale was crouched down behind him perusing the books on display in the racks.

Tim then conducted a brief interview with Cale. Tim would ask a question and Cale would provide a long detailed answer often rambling on to other topics that was interesting to listen to. Most of the subjects have been covered in the recent Uncut and Guardian interviews such as Cale's response to 9/11 "they had it coming", and how the new EP is about the chaos of the world "I try to do what Dylan did, use the "I" and give a character that the audience can follow". Cale revealed that the "golden rule" that he sings about in "Verses and the Golden Rule" is "do unto others...". He also discussed in detail how much he enjoyed using the "Pro Tools" software that he had learnt whist composing soundtracks. Whist recording "Walking on Locusts", he had to rehearse ideas with the band requiring a lot of time. The "Pro Tools" allowed him to "cut out the drek" a lot faster. Cale revealed that the new album was to be called "Hobo Sapiens". They also discussed the influence of Lamonte Young in the discipline of the drone from the Velvets right up to the current material. Tim also revealed Cale's unpublished stories that John said tended to be very short and about the paranormal and murdering loved ones. Cale announced that he would be touring in June and July with samples and performing in the main material from the new album as well as the "non hits".

After the interview Cale retired to a corner and signed autographs. I am not that interested in a line of ink across a page but I could not resist getting close and asking him a question. He was very gracious to all who wanted an autograph. I asked him if he had written any other material with Leonard Cohen other than the B-Side "The Queen and I". He replied no but said it was easy writing with him.

Many dashed off afterwards to see Lou Reed perform at another London venue but my head was full of Cale and as tempting as is was, I just wanted to go home and listen to the new EP again.

© 1999- Hans Werksman