Richard Hell transcript from a live internet webchat conducted on Music365 Thursday, March 30, 2000
Alfred: Richard, when you first recorded 'Blank Generation' did you ever think it would still be listened to more than 20 years later?
RICHARD HELL: I didn't expect to really survive for 20 years myself, so I sure wasn't thinking about anybody listening to the record. But I was definitely going for eternity, reaching for the cosmos. Ha ha!
Gregglory: What did you mean by the line "re-inventin' all the new ways"?
RICHARD HELL: I don't have any idea what that's referring to. The only "new wave" I've ever referred to is maybe Jean-Luc Godard.
Voidoid: Were you really asked to front the Sex Pistols?
RICHARD HELL: I was asked by Malcolm to come to London to make a band - I don't know what that band would have become. We did a tour with The Clash in '77, and they told me that the band he wanted me to front was The Clash. All I knew was that he asked me to come to London, and I didn't want to.
Roi: Richard, do you use the Internet yourself and how do you see MP3 etc influence the music industry?
RICHARD HELL: I do use the Internet. My friend started a website for me, and I take a large role in that website, but I've been online since the early '90s in one form or another. I've always been able to avoid the temptation to obsessively surf, but it's great for research. For instance, I'm writing a novel, and I needed to describe an acid trip. I've not taken acid for many years, and I don't feel like taking any now - I'm not in the mood - so I looked online and found hundreds of them! Also, this is set in the early '70s, and my memory is shot from that period.
As for MP3s, I haven't done that much downloading, and I can't make any predictions cos I haven't given it that much thought. It takes more time than I'm willing to give - it still takes 15 minutes to download a track - but it can be useful. I don't feel threatened by it as someone who makes music. I don't think, as some people are predicting, that musicians are gonna lose their livelihood through the Internet. People will still find a way. And that's the extent of my wisdom on the subject.
Saff: Your website says you're going to California, what kind of reading are you going to do there?
RICHARD HELL: I try to be cute - I try to be attractive - but I don't have an act. I'm not really a spoken word guy, or a character. Sometimes I bring things for a projector to show on a screen – poem karaoke. I had a picture of me masturbating on the screen, for instance. And I use the Dim Stars music as a soundtrack, while my writing scrolls by. That way, I can turn my back on an audience and still provide a spectacle. But unfortunately, I won't be doing that in California.
Marty: I recently caught a screening of Lech Kowalski's rather weak Johnny Thunders documentary. At the closing of the "film" he was asked why you weren't included and replied that he "didn't want the film to be too top heavy with rock stars". Meanwhile the entire film is carried by one long interview with Dee Dee Ramone. Have you had the opportunity to see the film yet and if so, what's your opinion?
RICHARD HELL: He did ask me, and I didn't want to, because I didn't trust him. I haven't seen the movie, so I can't comment on it, but I know Kowalski has this fetish for completely broken down junkies, and I think it's too dull and silly. I don't understand the fascination. You do an interview with somebody like that and they can completely control how you appear, they can use any pieces that they want in any context that they want, and I didn't trust him so I didn't do it.
Chief X: Twenty-five or so years ago did you ever think you'd reach 50? If you did how different is your life now to how you imagined it may be?
RICHARD HELL: I'll look at what I thought when I first went into music. When I first made music, I expected to quickly be running the whole world, like it was puppet I had the strings attached to. It failed to turn out that way, and I kind of lost interest altogether - "If I can't be King, well, fuck you all", and I retired. When I was a little boy, I always wanted to be like Howard Hughes or Orson Welles - and this is my fantasy of Orson Welles - you just stay in bed, and people come up and ask you what you want, and then give it to you. You find out the world isn't going to change the way you wanted it to, so you reconfigure your mind so that what actually happens is what you wanted. You follow me?
I don't know if I'm answering your question, but I'm doing my level best...
David: Do you think that you have received the acclaim you deserve for the influence you had on punk? Will you be returning to England in the near future? Thanks for some great gigs (on tour with Elvis & John Cooper Clarke) all those years ago and 'Blank Generation' still sounds as good today.
RICHARD HELL: Acclaim? I'm really baffled by that question. No amount of acclaim is enough for me. I don't have any plans to come to England, though I always seem to get over there every couple of years.
Tomas: Why did you leave The Heartbreakers (as there are conflicting stories on this), and even though your time with them was short lived, what sort of a person was Johnny Thunders like to work with?
RICHARD HELL: I just left The Heartbreakers because it was a narrow band, with material that was... I wanted to stretch out in ways that wouldn't have worked with The Heartbreakers, that just weren't appropriate. I really liked Johnny - he was a dreamboat, he was a sweetheart, he was an angel. To explain why I left The Heartbreakers - there's nothing you can say that isn't a cliché - I'm in too big a danger of sounding pretentious, so I just want to move on...
Alfred: Richard, have you heard about Malcolm McLaren standing for election as mayor of London. Would you vote for him?
RICHARD HELL: No, I wouldn't vote for Malcolm. The only place I've heard of it is from British journalists when interviewing me. The only time I've heard about the London mayoral elections in the US media, he wasn't even mentioned, so I wonder what that indicates... You know who seems more serious about politics? John Lydon.
It really seems to matter to him. I read a review of that movie about them, and he said, "it would only be somebody who really loved the English people that would write a song like 'God Save The Queen'." He was trying to become more respectable. I think he's integrated into society, which is funny. I saw him on US TV arguing about abortion rights, too. It's funny that he cares so much. Whereas Malcolm - though he was responsible for helping the politics of the punk movement, he only seemed to do it from a desire to be paid attention to.
Alfred: Have you kept in touch with Madonna since Desperately Seeking Susan?
RICHARD HELL: We just meet once a year in a hotel room to have sex... (he's joking - Ed)
Voidoid: Any chance of a Television reunion?
RICHARD HELL: We're really scratching the bottom of the barrel now, aren't we? I think you should ask a member of Television that question.
Shane: 'Love Comes In Spurts'. Autobiographical? Who are you still in touch with from the punk bands from the good old days? Have you seen Rotten TV? What do you think of it?
RICHARD HELL: Yeah, ['Love Comes In Spurts'] was really heartfelt, that song. And, sad as it is, I meant every word of that song. I'm really pretty solitary. I'm barely in touch with my girlfriend. I talk to [Robert] Quine about once a year, and there's some reason or other that I talk to [Tom] Verlaine, or talk to Thurston Moore once in a while. But there's no one from that era that I drop acid with any more.
Eddie: Does it make you smile that us Brits still think punk was a British phenomenon?
RICHARD HELL: Well, the Brits did purify it, the British distilled it. Yes, it makes me smile...
Clive H: What are your other favourite bands from the CBGBs era? Heard any new bands that you rate?
RICHARD HELL: I liked the bands that I was in. I liked Patti Smith at the very, very beginning when she would kinda go into a trance and reel off these little movies from out of her head when she was on stage. But I liked The Heartbreakers and Television and The Voidoids. The Ramones were cool. You know who I've been listening to recently who I like? Guided By Voices.
Yaz: You'll probably have loads of questions about reunions, so I won't ask you. But what did you think of Blondie's comeback being number one and all?
RICHARD HELL: I didn't realise that until someone mentioned it to me a few weeks ago. I met Chris Stein at the end of the tour, and I had no idea they were such an international smash. I like those guys, I think they're cool. I didn't in the CBGBs days, I was a bit of a snob, I didn't think their music was interesting, but they deserve all the success they get.
Ghost: Why Theresa Stern? Where did you get the name?
RICHARD HELL: Because she was supposed to be a Puerto Rican Jew - her mother was a German Jew and her father was Puerto Rican - and I've always liked the name Theresa, while Stern is a Jewish name, but the word also has other connotations.
Zane 2: Are you really doing a project with Wayne Kramer of the ?
RICHARD HELL: No. I don't know how that idea arose, but he did contact me privately recently because he has a relationship with an online music site that is commissioning people to write original songs. But that's not a collaboration with him, just an enquiry to see if I'd like to be involved. And I might do that - well just see if we can negotiate reasonable terms.
M365: Richard would like to thank everyone who turned up, and remind you that some things he said were a joke. OK?
You can read the latest Music365 interview here, and you can find out more about Richard Hell and his projects on his website.
Mon Apr 3 2000 14:28 GMT