Harry Dean Stanton interviewed: on Dylan, David Lynch, Marlon Brando and more

“I’m addicted to the game show channels,” he tells us

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What’s the best piece of Marlon Brando gave to you?
Robert Bearyman, London
He told me Shakespearean soliloquies over the phone. “Our revels now are ending…” What was that one from? The Tempest? He taught me a couple of them and I would do them over the phone and he would direct me over the phone. He was an amazing man, a great sense of humour, tremendous depth, unpredictable. He’s the greatest actor of all time, in my opinion. We were very close, yeah. During the last three years of his life, we spent hours on the phone and I went to his house a lot. What impressed me so much about him? He asked me once, he said, “What do you think of me?” I said, “I think you’re nothing.” He laughed. Eastern concepts. He knew what I was talking about. Marlon’s reminiscent of Dylan. Both very eccentric, complex characters.

What are your memories of working with Bob Dylan on Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid and Renaldo & Clara?
Sam Chaplin, Dublin
Bob’s an unusual guy. We went jogging during the shoot [for Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid], about half a mile from where Sam Peckinpah was shooting, and we ran into his shot. Sam might have thrown something at us after that. Dylan and I recorded a Mexican song. We made a tape together. He asked me, did I want a copy. I said no. What an idiot! I remember, we once drove from Guadalajara, Mexico all the way to Kansas City, I think, Missouri, to a singer’s house there, the guy with a big beard, Leon Russell. Anyway, it took us two or three days. We came back with a friend of his named Louie Kemp, and a guy in a wheelchair who he went to high school with, Larry [Keegan]. Yeah, we spent some time together.


What similarities are there between preparing for a part in a film and preparing to deliver a song?
Charlie Yapp, Birmingham
Just learn the lines! It’s the same thing, yeah, you’re playing a character. I think any performing artist can do films, or as a matter of fact anybody out there in the street can be a film actor with no experience whatsoever if you’ve got a good director. The album was me and [guitarist] Jamie James, we just did it on our own. Sophie [Hubert, director] was there all the time. I think Don Was played bass on a couple of tracks. I haven’t played with the Harry Dean Stanton Band for four or five years. The Albert Hall in London, I played there once. It was great. They asked us to. They might have phoned us. What did we play in the Harry Dean Stanton Band? It was old blues and country, all covers, I never wrote anything.

What made you chose the songs you perform on the album?
Chris, Crawley
I love the songs. “Everybody’s Talkin’”, it’s a heroin song. The guy was on heroin when he wrote it. Fred Neil. He performed it and recorded it when he was on heroin. Harry Nilsson made a big hit out of it, but he jived it all up, made it a rock’n’roll song. I prefer my version. I snorted heroin three times. Years ago. The third time it really took hold and I understood the song. “Everybody’s talkin’ at me / I don’t hear a word they’re saying / Only the echoes in my mind”. It’s an enlightened state, really, but like Alan Watts said – he was a Brit, right? – he said somebody told him once that on heroin you get to an enlightened state, he said, “Yeah, but when you get the message, you hang up the phone.” So I hung up on that one. Will I ever do another album? There’s no answer to it. Everything just evolves and there’s ultimately no answer, everything just happens, nobody’s in charge, it’s just an inexplicable unfolding of events, this whole planet, the whole noosphere. You know that word, the noosphere? It means the sphere of human consciousness on the planet. Look it up.

You read Charles Bukowski’s “Torched Out” in a 2003 documentary. How did you come to meet Bukowski and what’s your favourite memory of him?
Petra Shadd, Epsom
We were very close. I met him through Sean Penn. He was awesome, too. I think he was an enlightened guy. I remember him saying to me once, “Ah, Harry, the prejudice of biological kin.” Made me laugh. His poetry was raw and earthy and totally uninhibited and spontaneous. It was gritty, real and there was a lot of beauty in it.


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