Tuesday, September 15, 2009


KURT GOTTSCHALK is a writer in New York City. He has a radio show on WFMU, and he writes for a variety of publications and blogs including Signal to Noise, allaboutjazz.com, The Village Voice, The Wire and Time Out NY. He is primarily interested in free jazz, obscurities of musical culture, and playing guitar with his band Ecstasy Mule.

What do you do? What are you doing the most lately?
I am usually trying to figure out what music is. That involves playing records, playing records on the radio, playing instruments, going to concerts, writing about concerts, writing about records and writing about people who make records. I continue to be mystified.

How long have you done these things?
The first record I bought was a 45 of Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" at a garage sale. I was probably 6 or 7. I started piano lessons when I was 9. My first published writing about music was when I was 13.

Where was your first writing published when you were 13?
The first thing I had in print was a letter to Trouser Press magazine defending David Bowie against all the New Wave tyrants. Shortly after that, I started reviewing records for the Waverly Journal, a weekly paper in Central Illinois.

What are your primary areas of musical interest?
Like genre-wise? I like energy, I like improvisation, and I like stillness. There's also a Tanya Tucker song I've been real into lately. But mostly risky, genuine, spontaneous, I guess.

How does it make you feel?
I really don't know what else to do. It makes me feel happy, confused, engaged, ecstatic, frustrated and self-assured. The emotion I can most easily elicit in myself by playing guitar is sadness.

When was That Moment in your life that told you you would become what you are? What happened?
Oh, god. Really? OK, walking home from the mall (back home in Springfield, Illinois) when I was 14 or so with two friends acting goofy. I had a cup of ice, having finished whatever drink I was drinking, and I was jumping around and threw the ice in the highway. A guy in a pick-up truck pulled over and said asked what I was doing, said it could have been broken glass or something in the cup, how could he know, shoved me around, knocked me down and kicked me in the head. A cop happened to be driving past, got out, stopped the guy and let him go without question or taking his name, then asked me what I thought I was doing. The only thing I thought I was doing right then was bleeding.
When I got home, I wrote some pretentious thing about the Arrogance of Man or something. I didn't really think it was good, but it felt good writing it. Good in a way I'd never felt before.

How has your work affected your life in return?
I don't know what I'd be if I wasn't a writer. Perhaps "employed." And maybe I would have been a writer even if I didn't get kicked in the head. But I don't know how to think of my life and that moment as separate things.

What's your favorite thing about David Lee Roth? Least favorite?
I love how every line in every song is sung, is performed, is considered. Like Sinatra. Or Ella Fitzgerald. Or Axl Rose - on "Appetite," anyway. I don't like his jaw.

What about David Lee Roth's jaw rubs you the wrong way?
OK, it's too studly manly jocky. The whole thing with him, really. But his powers are isolated in that massive, square jawbone. He's not a bad singer, but he's so preposterous. And the jaw's the first thing in when he comes through the door.

Is your interest in the outer reaches of fandom reflective of the outer reach of fandom that you yourself occupy?
I can relate to it. I don't think I have reached that. I might. More likely I'll be someone who can't sit down in his apartment because of the books and records.

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Kurt said...

it goes without saying of course that if DLR weren't so awesome, there'd be no reason to hate him.

here's an early VH demo.


keep on rocking in the free world.

Larry said...

That's right DLR is awesome. I remember back in Spfld IL in the 80s, probably only about 3 years after you got kicked in the head, you had a Cream magazine with a picture of DLR doing the splits in mid-air. You held it up to my face and pointed to an exposed patch of flesh near his groin - he must have had a sparkly speedo suit on or something - and knit leggings... well, i'm not sure. but i remember you had lots of contempt for him and you claimed that you could see some kind of sore on the area of exposed flesh, but, if memory serves, i don't think i could see it myself. but i also thought he was just horrible, since we were all about xtc and talking heads and stuff at the time.