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flag US - California - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 30 - 03/31/99

Jonathan Richman
a brief interview with ...

It's more fun now than ever!

"Most people don't know my name. If you say: 'Do you remember the two guys in the movie There's Something About Mary who sang the songs?, they go: 'Oh, those guys'. But if you say: 'Jonathan Richman', they wouldn't have a clue." Jonathan Richman, the eternal Punk'n'Roll oddball from Boston, Mass. (now residing in California), doesn't mind that his role in the crazy comedy ...Mary (starring Cameron Diaz, Ben Stiller and Matt Dillon) hasn't boosted his career a lot, as he told us when we met him recently, backstage at his tour stop in Bochum, Germany.

Neither his record sales nor the ticket sales have increased dramatically after the movie hit the theaters, but that's just fine with Jonathan, onetime leader of the Velvet Underground-disciples The Modern Lovers, who shot to fame in the late 70s with hits like Roadrunner. "More people isn't necessarily better. A lot of people were around in the mid-70s, but that wasn't the most fun. It depends on who shows up and not how many", Jonathan says. "Playing now is more fun than maybe ever. The only time it was this much fun was in about 1972, when we'd just started out and nobody had ever heard of us." Nowadays Jonathan, who looks pretty good for a guy approaching his 48th birthday in May, only tours as a duo, together with former Giant Sand drummer Tommy Larkins. The minimalistic stage set (acoustic guitar and small drum kit) means that they can set up their gear in ten minutes and sound-check in five. The rest of the time is a "holiday" for Jonathan who enjoys sightseeing and supposedly is showing his daughters Europe while on tour over here.

"Selling records doesn't interest us. We're a live stage-show", explains Jonathan, who has released his two last albums on Neil Young's Vapor Records label. "The shows are doing great and they have been for years." They are no Greatest-Hits affair, though. Jonathan always makes up the set-list on the spot and usually it includes a lot from his current release, his best album in years called I'm So Confused, plus a few golden oldies like Pablo Picasso, Eygptian Reggae or Fender Stratocaster. That's not all of course. Apart from his amazing lyrics - you have to listen to them to believe it - there are lots of in-between song banter, funny dancing and goofy facial expressions to go with the music. That's entertainment!

No wonder people like Frank Black or the Lemonheads name Richman as a key influence. Despite the fact that Richman never hit big time commercially, Jonathan can look back very relaxed and happy on what he's achieved in his 30-year career. Is there anything he really regrets? "Yes", Richman answers dead serious. "I only made one big mistake in my life. Twenty years ago I was in Berlin and after the show some guys asked me if they could show me some nightlife spots in Berlin. I said no. Five minutes later I changed my mind but they were gone. That's my one regret!"

Copyright © 1999 Carsten Wohlfeld e-mail address

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