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


Nick Drake

This short interview was taken from The Wire magazine, circa 1996. A feature of the magazine was to play a musician certain tracks and ask them to identify the song and comment on it. Here John Cale is played Drake's Black Eyed Dog and, surprisingly, he doesn't recognise it.

Interviewer: Nick Drake.

John Cale: (Listens intently) I've no idea who this is.

Interviewer: Nick Drake.

Cale: That was my first instinct about it, but I thought, 'No, he's too old sounding.' The only other guy with a voice like that was the fat guy from the blues band in San Francisco (Canned heat's Bob Hite).

Int: In the 70s you played on some of Drake's records. Did you do so because you liked the music, or was it just a session job?

Cale: No, I liked his stuff. It was also a question of how to make a grand. It was right after (Nico's) Marble Index and before The Stooges - it might have been after The Stooges. I was doing a lot with Nico and it was one of those trips I came over that I met Drake. Joe (Boyd, then an Island Records executive) had set up the studio. When I met Drake I had a 12-string and he'd never seen a D12 before, a Martin. And you know that very complicated picking that he had? He just picked up the guitar and it was just like this orchestral sound coming out. He went nuts. He was sitting there stunned by it.

Int: What was Drake like to work with?

Cale: Very introverted, I hardly ever dealt with him. I think it was Joe.

Int: What were your criteria for deciding which sessions to do and which production jobs to take? They cover an extremely wide range of music.

Cale: Well, who I knew. I knew Joe Boyd. I was fresh out of the Velvet Underground anyway, and I'd done Marble Index, and I was interested in producing. And one other way of developing what I did with Marble Index was to do Nick Drake and The Incredible String Band and whatever came around. Joe seemed to appreciate what I was doing. Everything he showed me was very interesting.

© 1999- Hans Werksman