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Sylvie Simmons...Interview with Jack Nitzsche, June 1981

(Page 5) Looking for handouts...a roundup.

You're doing a job at the moment: Promises.
Do we have to talk about that! That's one off the things that really did it for me. Oh gosh I shouldn't say these things. I don't know what they are! I had a basic agreement with Capitol Records and I have to fulfil the agreement - they had me on suspension, I couldn't work anywhere unless I gave them one more album, and we could never agree on an act to record. Anything I brought them they didn't like - the Neville Bros, Mink de Ville they dropped - they kept Glen Campbell! Capitol's that kind of a company. Real Protestant you know? I had to do an album. Promises* came closest to something we both could agree on. They deserve more than they got from me. Leslie, the lead singer, is real good and she should have a great album. She should also be with a better company than Capitol. When someone like Rupert Perry becomes the one that judges what's good and what's released and what isn't, you know it's in sad shape. Rupert Perry - we could call him John Doe, I shouldn't do that, it's not nice. The whole idea. The job I've got coming up is Mink deVille again but now they're with Atlantic and Ahmet Ertegun understands what they're doing and now Willy has someone on his side. He's got a good band, good management - better than he had anyway - and Ahmet Ertegun and Atlantic Records. Comparing that to Capitol, that's night and day, right? I'd love to have Rupert Perry and Ahmet Ertegun together on a panel show and just watch the difference. Mink de Ville - that's exciting for me, I love him. This album's going to be real good.

Jack Nitzsche
(Photograph Chris Walter 2006)

Why get involved with record company contracts - is that the only way you can work? Can't you freelance and have people approach you with work?
It's not working that way these days for some reason. I left in 1969 and I moved to Northern California and I just sort of dropped out and just did things with Neil Young, did some films.

Became a hippy?
Not really - I didn't like that part of it. Neil was surrounded with that sort of thing.

You mean acid and stuff?
I'd just been through that one earlier, the whole drug scene, and that was the hard part of moving to N.Cal. When I came back to LA I realised that all the years I'd put into the record biz, everyone else made the money because I'd never organised myself enough to be a business man, get any manager or any kind of representation, attorneys nothing. So, you know, $50 an arrangement with Phil Spector - he's made a lot of bread.

Is that all you got?
Yes. For the first ones.

And he's aware of that?

And sitting in his mansion?
Ha ha. We haven't seen each other in a long time. I don't hold anything against him. It seems that he feels guilty when he's around me though. But I'd love to see him again. I still care a lot about him. So when I came back to LA I decided I'd better do it differently and start making business part of what I do, because I realised it had really become a business.

Something like St. Giles is like a little rebellion now and then?
Every now and again. In a way yes. During the time I was writing St Giles and doing films like 'Greasers Palace' l was hoping that I would just do things that - how do you put this - were arty. I hate the term, but - things that weren't thought of as commercial by record companies. I thought if I just went ahead and did things that were different, that eventually they would just catch on and change things. Stupid! Obviously I couldn't do that. I became idealistic once again when I came to N Cal and yes, it was a sort of a rebellion - that didn't work. I'm glad it's out there again, if only that it gives me the chance to do something like that again. I'm starting to realise that anything new that's going to happen in records will come from Europe once again, not from America, so a lot of signs are pointing the way to Europe for me. That's what I feel like I have to do. Go there and work and feel like writing again, because it's stagnant here.

The little labels are starting to get into the charts there.
It starts to excite me again. I don't know if it's possible to happen in this country. I don't think so. It's so locked up. If I do something new it wouldn't be with symphony orchestra and I don't think you'd be able to label it like you can 'classical' with St. Giles. New music is even sort of pretentious now I think. I think it's all just going to fall under the heading of music eventually. It's silly to pigeonhole things like that. Somehow it's all coming together. The new music will probably come from China. Seeing that film 'Mao To Mozart' and the way they're picking up western music and also keeping in touch with their traditional music, I bet something new will come out of that. The hope doesn't lie here in the land of the free.

Is it still the 'land of the free?!'
Of course not. It's always been Europe I think, except for the roots of rock and roll. They were robbed too, don't you think, all the old blues artists that came up with this stuff in the first place and all died paupers?

All workers are robbed.
It will never end. It'll go on in this way for ever. So there's a choice to make - record business or music. I guess in the end it all has to become a business because you've got to make some money to continue doing what you do, but I don't want to go by the rule book, the corporate structure, because there's no hope there. That's why record sales are going down.

Shame. Maybe it should go back to the days when there were rich patron ladies.
Wouldn't that be nice. A patron that doesn't happen any more does it?

I think Reagan put a stop to it.
That's right. Maybe he had one.

What are your plans for the future?
I make lists and plan a lot of things but nothing ever happens according to plan, so I'm making less and less lists. I don't know what will happen. I like New Orleans, I like New York - I just went to NY for ten days to work with Willy - and coming back to LA was like being in a desert. They close the place up at nine, maybe earlier. NY just felt alive. I know that I've got to get out of LA. I want to do more films than records now because there's more chance to create music in film, more so than in records. I want to meet with Chris Blackwell, Island Records. My attorney got in touch with them and I said just tell him that I'd like to make an album in the Brian Eno type category, and all I meant by that was he did something different on every album and there was no way to predict what he was going to do and Chris Blackwell just put out the records, so I thought he was the right one to talk to. He said to my attorney, tell him he's got a deal, and since then I haven't been able to reach him. I want to do my own album but I want to get home studio equipment and do it at home. I can't afford it right now. It's been a real hard year - strike, five months I couldn't work, then Capitol had me on suspension, another strike is coming - this is a plea.

You need someone to do a benefit concert for you!
If someone would just give me $40,000 I'll deliver 3 albums, top quality - no I can't go on. I think working at home without the pressure of the budget and time, everything, something a little more creative can come out of that. I'll go out afterwards - to the Imperial Gardens to have a drink because I'll deserve it.

Sylvie Simmons 2006

*This LP was never released. Leslie Knauer did leave Capitol and is still making music, writing, singing and playing guitar for Kanary.

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