AUTOreverse #14, Summer 2011
DINO DiMURO INTERVIEW
Questions by Russ Stedman
Do you remember the first record you bought?
Very hard to say. For singles, it could have been PINBALL WIZARD by the Who, or CRIMSON AND CLOVER by Tommy James and the Shondells. Albums, it was probably GOD BLESS TINY TIM or the soundtrack to BONNIE AND CLYDE. And I’d still buy those records. Maybe not HAIR, though.
What bands from childhood have you NOT outgrown?
Probably the Beatles, Beach Boys, Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa. Jimi Hendrix, the Who, and Black Sabbath are still great but I played them way too much. Jethro Tull and Deep Purple, I feel kind of silly now that I was SO into them.
I never understood either of those bands. Especially Jethro Tull. What was their appeal beyond the song “Aqualung”?
For me, it was the showmanship of Ian Anderson, his acoustic guitar playing, and the use of medieval instruments and motifs. I was really into baroque and renaissance music as a teenager and dreamed of melding ancient instruments with rock, and Tull kind of did that. Also, THICK AS A BRICK and PASSION PLAY were very early examples of Concept Albums for me. MINSTREL IN THE GALLERY and WAR CHILD have a couple good tunes. But in hindsight, I actually like the early blues-based Tull better, and really can’t stand AQUALUNG. They put on a decent stage show but only if you were a stoned teenager. You could tell Anderson kind of looked down on the audience, too.
Are there any bands that you hate so much that they immediately spring to mind after reading this question?
I try not to be a hater, but there are songs by Supertramp that make me want to murder somebody, and most 80’s synth-rock bands like Eurythmics, I could definitely do without.
Tell me about your fascination with Mary Lou Lord.
Mary Lou appeared in my life thanks to America Online, which was my “internet” in the early 90’s. I was checking the HOLE message boards because Courtney Love was known to post, and I quickly discovered that Court DESPISED this Mary Lou Lord, who was a folksinger who apparently dated Kurt just before Courtney. Her hatred was so over-the-top that I had to check out this Mary Lou for myself.
In a total otherworldly coincidence, my boss Wylie knew Mary Lou’s first manager, and had gone to her showcase at Sony and picked up her cassette. I stole his tape and just fell in love with her voice, and later with Mary Lou herself after we met. I’d just gotten married to Julie, so my love could only go so far! But I supported her career as best as I could, and I still consider her my friend. The few times she and I hung out after shows were amazing, and she introduced me to a world I never would have otherwise seen. Just watching her record at the famous Sunset Sound Studios made my whole life worth it.
When I watch FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS, I think of myself when I see Mel, their number one (and only) fan. Mary Lou has thousands of fans, but my level of devotion was definitely Mel-like.
What was the first “Big Rock Show” you went to? How old were you?
Jesus, it may have Zappa at the Shrine Auditorium or the Santa Monica Civic! I was a teenager and it was the awesome ROXY AND ELSEWHERE band. The thing is, I was always a very timid lad and going to something like a rock concert scared the hell out of me. I saw some local bands at dances at stuff, but I really can’t think of any other rock band I might have seen before Frank. Once I did that, I caught up quickly and started seeing all my favorites. I gotta say that two of the greatest shows were both by ELP, and since Emerson has been working with my friend Marc Bonilla, I was able to tell him in person how much fun those shows were. Scantily-clad Rock Chicks jumping up and down right in front of me – that kind of stuff. I got to see the Who with Keith Moon, Led Zeppelin with John Bonham, the famous THE WALL performance, Paul McCartney’s first WINGS tour, Richard Pyror cursing out the gay audience at the Hollywood Bowl…. awesome stuff!
Wow! That’s some amazing shit! Ah, to be a Hollywood teenager in the 70’s! How many times did you see Zappa, and do you remember what tours?
I saw the Roxy band twice: Santa Monica Civic, and the Shrine, in ’74 I think…. a new years eve show with Beefheart and Dr. John in ’75 in Long Beach… Joe’s Garage Tour at the Sports Arena (though he only played on WATERMELLON IN EASTER HAY)… and my favorite show of all, the Palace in late 84, where I was right up at the edge of the stage and could literally grab his leg, and he looked at me and shouted “Let that waitress through!”
You told me a humorous story about running into Flo & Eddie one time…
Yes, at the Gower Gulch shopping center at Gower and Sunset. Mark and Howard looked like even scruffier versions of themselves, coming out of a store, each with a chick on their arms. Marks says with a totally straight voice: “Okay, Howard – go home, roll a few, and we’ll see you in a little while.” Howard nods, and backs out in this total stoner VW van. My jaw was on the pavement! Life imitates Art! That’s the same lot where I saw Richard Pryor and his wife in their car, the day before his heart attack.. He turned and gave me a fake smile and a wave, which was very nice of him.
I know you’ve mentioned “Uncle Meat” as one of your favorites. What are some of your LEAST favorite Zappa albums?
There’s a period where it seemed like every album was Ike Willis doing his Amos and Andy schtick – I couldn’t stand those. I bought them all and was always disappointed. I couldn’t believe Frank would put something like PANTY RAP on an album. And though I wasn’t in love with the Synclavier, at least those albums felt like he really took the music seriously. Toward the end it was mostly the GUITAR discs, the YOU CAN’T DO THAT SERIES, and CIVILIZATION PHASE THREE that were my favorites. And pretty much anything with the doomed ’88 band was awesome.
A lot of your albums feature banjo at some point. Why did you take it up? Did you take lessons? Can you play “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”?
It was BECAUSE of Foggy Mountain Breakdown that I took up 5-string Banjo, before I ever owned a guitar. I saw the movie BONNIE AND CLYDE at age 11 and it inspired me in many ways (and I think it’s great to this day.) A better introduction to bluegrass you could not find! All I wanted was to own the instrument that made those twangy sounds. My parents could not afford the best, but the Sears model I got for Christmas worked just fine. I did learn the first 5 seconds of Foggy Mountain, played at about negative-700% speed, but that was it…. too hard! I still have the Earl Scruggs book, though. Maybe someday. I DID have a friend who could play it. Bastard! He got chicks, too!
Recording Dino Dimuro’s CD “Train Going Nowhere”
Do you consider guitar or keyboards to be your primary instrument?
Definitely guitar, though I will certainly go through “keyboard phases.” It just takes more time, space, and concentration.
Your latest album, “Dino’s 50” has an extremely consistent sound all the way through, to the point where I could tell someone it was a band and they would believe it. Did you plan it that way? Why the complete abandonment of keyboards?
I was paying tribute to TROUT MASK REPLICA by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, so I replicated the instrumentation closely: vocals, left and right guitars, bass, drums. TROUT, if nothing else, is definitely consistent… and if I’d started adding keyboards, I wouldn’t have known when to stop and would never have finished all 50 songs (not counting tape snippets, etc.) I was able to record all the drums, bass, and individual guitars in long passes, so the sound would be uniform from beginning to end. Almost every instrument had its own recording location! The drums were recorded first because the set had to go into storage.
I was surprised to learn that you played live drums on “Dino’s 50”. Is this the first thing you’ve played drums on?
I have fooled around over the years, but nothing more. When I first got the set, I started recordings drums for ELMWOOD, but jumped off that album to work PLAYDATE with Don Campau. I’d say I performed about 1/3 of the drums on that disc. So, by the time I started DINO’S 50, I’d broken myself in a little bit. The all-drum track called 50 DRUMS was actually one of my first attempts at playing the set. It has a lot of edits!
Your early tapes came out on the PHANTOM SOIL label. What does PHANTOM SOIL mean?
When John Gibson and I got cassette recorders in 1970 (those flat, basic, dictation-type machines), we had to come up with names for our new labels. His was Purple Heaven and mine was Phantom Soil. I just liked the idea of phantoms roaming across some old haunted farm’s soil at night. That’s why my logo was a half-moon, though I had some cooler logos in my notebooks of hooded phantoms and such.
You used to do piles and piles of “field recordings”. Do you still have them all? Do you still run around with a small recorder?
I still have them, but I rarely record new stuff anymore because it would take years for me to play back and collate what I already have. And if I do start taping again, I’ll get a digital recorder first.
How many tapes of that kind of stuff would you estimate that you have?
Many, many plastic bins filled with 60, 90, and 100 minute tapes. I used to roll tape during every waking hour I visited John Gibson or Don Campau, so it’s a lot, and that’s not counting anybody else I may have recorded…. plus phone calls, jams, etc.
Something that has hit home for me a couple of times recently has been home-recording friends dying. Do you ever imagine what will happen to all your tapes after you snuff it? I imagine mine will probably just end up in a land-fill, and in fact, I’m almost tempted to just toss them in a dumpster now since anything important has now been digitized and forever preserved online. Your thoughts?
Well, I have thought about that a lot, since I’ve had both a girlfriend and a wife die at tragically young ages.
My girlfriend, Ahna, worked at KPFK Pacifica Radio, and I kept all the air tapes she left behind….but after initially editing a tribute cassette for her (some of which was played on KPFK), I’ve really done nothing else with the rest of the tapes, and finally decided to throw them away.
So, I AM aware that when people die, the stuff that meant so much to them can easily get thrown away. People grieve, but they also move on. And if you’re not famous, who wants to wade through all that tape? How many people would care, for the amount of time and effort you’d need to put in? So for me, I know my kids or whomever would just see my thousands of tapes as mostly crap to get rid of, which is why I’m trying not to add to the pile TOO much and also dump whatever I can. But sadly, it won’t matter much to me OR the world what happens to that stuff when I’m gone. It only matters (and not even THAT much) while I’m here to put my own stamp on it. There are no hidden masterworks, that’s for damned sure (unless it’s a recent album in progress.)
And the only guy on earth who might have enjoyed my demos, my greatest fan Doug McComb, was recently found dead himself!
That sucks. Give me some more back-story on Doug…
Doug McComb and justjohn were two guys from upstate New York I met on the alt.fan-FrankZappa board in the early days of the internet, around ’90 or ’91. I’d gone in there and offered a sample of my “Zappa influenced music” for free, and those two guys became my biggest fans. justjohn was insane: he used to send me checks for $500 and wanted 10 copies of everything, even the obscure shitty stuff! I usually sent him $200 back because it was just too much money. They also did their own highly experimental early-Macintosh recordings.
While John actually bought my stuff, Doug used his computer expertise to set up my first fan page, and for years it was the only place to get any online info about my music. The site would go down all the time, but it was very much appreciated. Doug then did the unthinkable and created my Wikipedia page, which is not as easy as it sounds: their template is very difficult to use, and they bounce most “fan created” pages as being not relevant to the world at-large. My page has been flagged but not yet removed.
Sadly, Doug McComb was found dead in his remote cabin near Christmas in 2009, which is why I dedicated my double CD to him. He’d heard a couple rough mixes but nothing complete. I don’t know if a cause of death was ever found, and it’s strange because he was heavily into one-world-government conspiracy theories.
Of course I was bummed to lose my number one fan, but even more saddened that somebody younger than me died alone and in such a mysterious way.
Ever tried “sending out demos to get signed” game? If so, ever get any response?
Oh yes, and of course, nada. But I later took a weekend seminar on making music for a living, and apparently sending out a tape unsolicited is the worst thing you can do. I got more response from a great review of GOWER in the local Bay Area Music magazine. Clubs and managers called. But once they heard the tape, that was probably it!
What’s the best Tape/CD you’ve ever done?
You always think and hope it’s the latest one, but the closest I got to my intention was probably GOWER STREET. But DINO’S 50 also turned out very close to what I wanted, and that’s all I can ask.
How about some quick takes or memories about some of my favorite Dino songs :
“They Burned Up The Evidence” (from SHE’S A CLIMBER – 1988)
Pretty obviously about The Shroud of Turin. I’ve always been fascinated by the Shroud, because even if it is just a medieval forgery, it was created with a tremendous amount of skill and prescience. But the song imagines what would happen if the Shroud really WAS the burial shroud of Christ, and a band of heathens broke in and burned it up… I’m sure God would be pretty pissed! I feel the same way about the Virgin of Guadalupe, which is a portrait of the Virgin Mary supposedly created by God. There was a point where some priests actually added little rays of sunshine to the painting after the fact! And that made me think: “So, God Himself painted this picture, and that’s not GOOD ENOUGH for you? You think God’s work needs a TOUCH-UP?”
Anyway, that’s a very popular song of mine, and a lot of it is ripped off wholesale from The Chieftains, the Irish band I was heavily into at the time… in fact, I got to see them live in their home town of Belfast in 1977. The entire final section after the vocals is note-for-note Chieftains. If I get any credit, I think it’s nicely arranged and recorded.
“Robot Margaret” (from “I HAVE A PURPOSE” 1988)
Written and recorded during the same era as EVIDENCE, it was a time when I was taking piano lessons from a great jazz pianist named Scott Hiltzik. It’s one of the few pieces I actually wrote on music paper, but I never had the patience to keep doing that. I was able to play this song live, reading the music, which is why it also appears on SUNDAY AT THE AIRPORT in a solo version.
Margaret is the girl that John and I both fell in love with in grade school (though I got there first!) and the idea of the song is pretty obvious: a guy makes a robot of the girl he loves.
Trivia moment for this song is that I called the actual Margaret while I was making it. She didn’t hang up on me right away as in the song, but she definitely blew me off – and we hadn’t spoken in almost 20 years!
“Doberman Treats” (from “COMPOSITE” 1983)
That was me, trying to take the complex portions of RIVALRY INSANITY several steps further. I loved it at the time, but I remember definitely losing some of my more casual listeners! It was very satisfying for me to digitally clean up the entire COMPOSITE album since there were a lot of quarter-inch tape splices that always bothered me. My movie sound-editing skills definitely helped me out there.
“Repellant Man” (from “DINO’S 50” 2010)
Everybody knows one. They are tragic, and you feel for them, but goddamn are they a pain in the ass! Really wanted a nice low bassy beat on this one and I think I got it.
“I’ve Sold Out At Last” (from “GOWER STREET” 1993)
The first song on GOWER, it was originally called NOTE TO THE GUY WHO BROKE INTO MY HOUSE with totally different lyrics. It may have been too hard to sing, and I had other things on my mind, mostly about getting married and locking into a completely different lifestyle. “Sold out” also refers to the fact that GOWER was going to be my first professionally packaged cassette. At that time I still thought I could somehow make it professionally as a musician, and was interested in “selling out” at least a little bit!
“I’ve Been An Asshole In My Time” (from “OUT-TAKES UNIVERSE” 2005)
Everybody likes to think they are nice guys, but truthfully, we’ve all had moments where we’ve terribly hurt or betrayed someone, even if by accident. I seem to do it every week! And this song is my wish that, when I pass on, people with think: “Okay, he WAS an asshole, but only part of the time.” That’s all I can ask! This song is also a rarity in that it’s recorded live with no edits.
“On Friday Night In Westwood The Assholes Come Out” (from “RIVALRY INSANITY” 1983)
Westwood is a tiny neighborhood adjacent to UCLA, and in the early 80’s it was THE place to dine and see movies and BE SEEN. I met my first wife Julie there. However, on the weekend you got a lot of partying assholes. After a few years, inner-city gangs started showing up to join the fun, and it then became Assholes With Guns. Somebody got shot, white people panicked and fled, and that was the end of Westwood! Still there, but a shadow of itself.
The spoken moment “the rest of this is instrumental” is a pretty obvious Frank-ism, and I do enjoy all the changes in that section, and the little hoedown at the very end. I’d say RIVALRY INSANITY is one of my best tapes, overall.
“Uncle Louie” (from “THE SIMPLE CHANCE OF LIFE” 1995)
Based not on my uncle, but a close friend named Lou who played a character named UNCLE LOUIE in an independent film he made. The jaunty, upbeat mood of the song (whose opening chords were stolen from Paul McCartney’s EVERY NIGHT) pretty faithfully reproduces what it’s like to hang out with Lou (and he loves the song, by the way.) The final verses actually refer to another friend who disappeared from my life.
“Friends Who Never Call Again” (from “THE SIMPLE CHANCE OF LIFE” 1995)
The lyrics are pretty obvious; you have friends from certain eras who just don’t fit when you move on. Not something to be proud of, but it happens. This is the third part of a mini-trilogy: UNCLE LOUIE, THE WIND TAKES OFF YOUR CLOTHES FOR ME, and FRIENDS WHO NEVER CALL AGAIN. I think they fit together perfectly and the instrumentation is pretty hip. This also features one of my favorite Chris Assells guitar solos: we call it THE SNOW SHOVEL SOLO because at one point it sounds like he’s scraping a wet, snowy sidewalk with a big steel shovel. It also feels totally organic to the song, not just pasted on later (which it was.)
“The Grid” (from “TRAIN GOING NOWHERE” 2001)
Written right after Julie and I moved to the San Fernando Valley from L.A., adding about 45 minutes to my work commute. Suddenly I just felt like a rat stuck in a grid, crawling back and forth day after day. Once I found the very simple fuzzed-out chord progression, the lyrics were easy. I tried to improve them later, but nothing I made up felt as authentic. I wanted the guest lead guitars to recall the Rolling Stones and the sax to sound like David Bowie on ALLADIN SANE. The sax worked fine, but Chris and Mike were not playing at their peaks that so the guitars were just okay. I do like Kye Fowler’s vocal, though – makes the song for me. And I have to credit my cousin Doug for coming up with the title: when I wanted to go somewhere in the valley, he’d always say: “Will you just get off the FUCKING GRID?”
“Trouble At The Mutual Admiration Society” (from “Trouble At The Mutual Admiration Society” 1985)
Written right after my girlfriend Ahna died, in the midst of a delusional long-distance phone-and-tape relationship with a girl named Suzanne. The complexity of that song (and the whole tape) was the direct result of my sublimating a shitload of grief I should have just dealt with. That said, I love both the song and the album, and Suzanne & I did wind up having a long and interesting relationship. So, I guess the song did its job!
That album also features my first use of the Casio keyboard that Ahna bought me just before she died, to repay some cash she borrowed. I got years of use from that thing, and recently brought it back for WHERE DID SHAKEY LAWRENCE GO? to consciously evoke bygone days of home-taping.
“The Kids Have Stolen My Script” (from “UNFINISHED” 2003)
At around age 6 my son started learning my lectures by heart and would start feeding them back at me before I could get them out of my mouth, which was funny but also NOT GOOD. I wrote and recorded this very quickly at work, one of my first computer-recorded songs; the rest of them came out on UNFINISHED.
“Do You Want Me To Kill You?” (from “VERMONT AVENUE” 1994)
A random phone call of a very angry mother and her cowering son. Truly frightening, so I scrapped the idea and used the backing track for START WALKIN’ instead. Her voice truly gives me the willies.
You grew up in Los Angeles and ended up working in the movie business as a sound effects editor, which seems like a dream job for an obsessive recorder. How did you first get into the business?
My Gower Street home was almost in the shadows of Paramount Studios and KHJ TV, so growing up around the movies seemed totally normal to me. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized not everybody lived in the Movie Capital of the World, and when I asked my Mom how we’d gotten here, she revealed that my father – who wound up coaching football and baseball – had been a child actor at Cecil B. DeMille studios. In fact, he was slated to play a young Rudolf Valentino just before Rudy died. She showed me his studio portraits and everything. He was also a dancer and photographer, but sports became his great love. Weirdly, his brother Joe became the head movie lawyer at MCA-Universal and used to negotiate in Italian with Dino De Laurentiis.
However, I grew to love movies on my own, beginning with my experiments with our 16mm home movies, and then during Super 8 filmmaking classes as a teenager. It took me years to believe I could actually work in the film business myself, but by the time I did, I thought I could become the next Steven Spielberg (who had just released CLOSE ENCOUNTERS.)
So I went to film school in college, assisted film teachers, and finally got noticed by somebody who worked at a small “post production” house, which is all the stuff that happens after a movie is shot. I worked on everything from Billy Graham movies to porno, TV, features, commercials, and trailers. I worked very long and punishing hours (sometimes all night) and in the classic 80’s Hollywood fashion I was introduced to cocaine, which I only used a few times.
In Post, you start out as a driver delivering film to labs and other post houses, then graduate to assistant editor, then sound editor, then picture… and if you have big enough cajones, you might be able to break into directing from there. But as I worked my way up the ladder, I realized that I had an affinity for sound editing, thanks to all my tape experiments and primitive splicing I’d done as a kid. At the same time, I realized that anything higher than a sound editor required working with lots of other people, and I much preferred working alone. Plus, quite unexpectedly, the money and union benefits were incredible – especially for a 20-year-old.
Though I never quite gave up my dream of making movies, I definitely stuck to sound editing as a career. At some point I just decided that cassettes and CDs would have to be my movies… though nowadays, anyone can be a director, thanks to YouTube!
Any particular favorite movies that you’ve worked on?
HOME ALONE was a trip. We got a very long version in October, and it was scheduled for a Christmas release. I remember none of the papers or media knew it was coming out, and even at 20 minutes too long, me and my editor friends were falling over in hysterics over the torture scenes toward the end. When it came out, it was the number one movie for months. I wound up cutting all the Kevin Trap sequences for both HOME ALONE 1 & 2 and I’m very proud of that; I usually show those sequences if I lecture on sound editing at my kids’ schools.
GLADIATOR was the same way, because Ridley Scott hadn’t had a hit in years, and nobody knew who the hell Russell Crowe was, but we could tell this movie was going to be a monster. When I met Ridley, I told him it was an honor, but he was totally cool and down-to-earth. The greatest honor of all was getting a sound design credit on the directors cut of BLADE RUNNER, which I fucking love. I hope I am half as busy and creative when I am his age.
Conversely, is there one particular movie that you remember as being a giant pain in the ass?
TROOP BEVERLY HILLS. The film was a complete and utter piece of shit, the director was a total asshole, the mixer hung me out to dry, my supervisor lectured me several times, and I almost quit the business. It didn’t help that this was right after my first major back surgery in 1988.
The main problem was that the movie was shot in echoing hallways and noisy Beverly Hills streets, and the director would talk over the actors and blow boat horns to cue them. It was almost impossible to find clean background noise, and on top of that, the transfer machines at Universal were out of alignment.
I got very, very close to switching over to music studio work at that time, but at 30, I was already too old for a career change of that magnitude. I just couldn’t see starting at the bottom again, sweeping floors for free. And on my next few movies I messed up my work by being TOO careful and paranoid. Not a great time!
Interestingly enough, your next film was the Weird Al Yankovic cult-classic UHF, which I find funny, because you and I have had a joking back and forth for years about a song you did dissing him called “Boring Al Wankovic”. If I remember correctly, the song came out around the same time as this movie. Any connection? How did working on UHF go? Did you meet Al?
I have to say, I did not meet Al, and we all joked that we should pass along my song to him…. but I also heard that he was a great guy, and I have no reason not to believe that. The movie was fun to work on, mostly because it was an early appearance for “Kramer,” Michael Richards, and of course he was awesome, as well as a young and very cute Fran Drescher. I thought it was an okay movie.
I did have a few issues with Al at the time, but in retrospect, I was more pissed at my girlfriend Suzanne who loved him. It’s her voice I’m imitating when I say “He’s FUUUUNNN-EEEEE!” in that song. I actually enjoy Al a little bit, now.
I was a huge fan of his in the 80’s, but I don’t understand him at all anymore, because all of the songs he parodies now I’ve never heard of in the first place, so his jokes are lost on me. The first time I ever heard Lady GaGa’s “Poker Face” was his polka version on his latest album. Yep, I’m too old for Weird Al. Tell us your favorite “brush with fame” story from the movie business.
I was a huge fan of Orson Welles, and I have a two-part story about him.
At Pelifilm, the post production house where I began, a friend of Welles named Richard Wilson came in with some original nitrate footage from the unreleased Welles film IT’S ALL TRUE. He needed it prepared for a special AFI tribute at the Directors Guild, and I did it for free, just for the honor of handling the original nitrate footage that Orson Welles had shot in Rio. In return, Dick offered me and Eric Scott (who assisted me) a free night at the AFI series, and of course I picked the night Welles was going to appear. It turned out to be an incredible evening, and Welles showed about 30 minutes of his last, great, unfinished movie called THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND. It had never been released because the negative was being held hostage in Iran, and it also needed some post production work.
A couple years later I was at World Wide Pictures, which was Billy Graham’s film company. They would sometimes rent out their shooting stage, and Welles booked two nights to film a sequence of magic tricks for a TV special. It turned out that my old friend Joanie was working the set, and as I was talking to her, I heard that unmistakeable voice booming out “JOANNIE!!” She jumped up to help Welles with his wireless microphone. “Yes, Orson! Coming!”
There’s a picture from the set of CITIZEN KANE where Welles is working on the script in a wheelchair – he may have twisted his ankle or something. Thus it was very bizarre to see him STILL using a wheelchair at World Wide! He must have needed breaks from his enormous weight any time he could get them.
Later, the crew drove off for a dinner break, and I decided to approach Welles when he got back and offer to work on THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND for free… but I have never been more terrified in my life! It was worse than approaching the hottest woman in a bar for her phone number – WAY worse. I both admired this man tremendously and was petrified of that voice and the authority behind it. I thought my heart was going to explode through my chest.
However, his entourage simpy pulled up to the gate, told the stage manager that they were finished shooting, and drove off. That was it! Lost my chance!
And in another very, VERY weird coincidence, the cameraman for WIND, Gary Graver (who also directed porno on the side) wound up directing a porn script I wrote and was never paid for: BEVERLY HILLS EXPOSED, starring Harry Reems.
I don’t know how it is nowadays, but when I was starting out, it was almost impossible not to occasionally do some porn work. It was film, and required the same skill-set as legit cinema, and sometimes you needed the experience and the cash (that’s how I paid for my first decent stereo system and cassette deck.). But it’s a sad and dangerous world and I didn’t stay there for very long.
Mostly I run into stars in the hallway or in passing, and it’s always fun. Usually they are very cool. Kevin Costner, Lilly Tomlin, Kevin Spacey, even Ice T – they nod and say hello and smile, in general. In return, you gotta act business-like with them, which makes it hard to get an autograph.
However, I did gush when Cameron Crowe came into my editing room to watch the car chase from VANILLA SKY, and he signed a fake ALMOST FAMOUS album cover for me.
One of my favorite “famous people” stories you ever told me was about hanging out with Robert Crumb…
My sister Janey lived in San Francisco in the early 70’s and befriended a bunch of underground comic artists like S. Clay Wilson, Rick Griffith, Spain Rodriguez, and Robert Crumb.
I was heavily into Crumb at the time, and meeting him in person was almost as awesome as if I’d met Zappa. He came down to Hollywood with his wife Aline in a VW van driven by Terry Zwigoff, who later became a famous director but at the time just seemed like a cranky friend of Crumb’s. Terry was pissed off at some comics dealer on Hollywood Blvd, so we all drove there, and you can imagine how cool it was to walk into a comic book store with R. Crumb!
Anyway, a little later Crumb and Aline and Terry came over to Gower street to see my bedroom, and I’d forgotten that I’d drawn my own portrait of Mr. Natural (a pretty good one, too) with Crumb-style lettering that spelled out “Welcome to Phantom Soil Enterprises.” When I realized it was there, I jokingly tried to cover it with my hand. Crumb peered at it and said: “I’ll sue.”
Crumb was a nice guy, but extremely shy and soft-spoken. At one point he did climb onto Aline’s ass like he does in the comics, and he also sketched a face on a wooden thread spool that I still have. When I saw the Crumb movie, I couldn’t believe how much he talked; I spent the whole day with him and he said very, very little.
You worked on “Fresh Horses”. Did you meet Molly Ringwald?
No, but I have a great Molly Ringwald story!
There’s a taco place near Universal called PAQUITO MAS, and lots of stars go there. One day I was there with my friends and Molly Ringwald, looking her most Molly Ringwald-esque, was standing in line right near us.
After we sat down outside, I said to my friends in a loud, booming voice: “Hey, we should call Mitchell Fink (gossip columnist for a local paper) and then he could write: WAS THAT MOLLY RINGWALD WE SAW HAVING LUNCH AT PAQUITO MAS IN NORTH HOLLYWOOD?”
My friends kind of winced, and gestured behind me. I turned, and there was Molly, with that classic OMIGOD Sixteen Candles face… totally self conscious! Sorry Molly!
I also worked on THE PICKUP ARTIST, which was produced by Warren Beatty, and word in the editing room was that Molly and Warren were shacking up. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, though! Warren even used to sleep with editors’ assistants!
I have to include this for Ian’s sake : you recently told me that KISS’ star on the walk of fame is on the sidewalk outside of the building you work in. Did you see it happen?
Yes, I watched from the 7th floor of my building. It was awesome – they were in full costume, and were signing guitars that fans passed over to them. I wish I’d brought mine!
Let’s talk about your latest album, “DINO’S 50”. What is the song “24 Hour Feast” about?
It’s about somebody I know who had sex many, many times in a row… not 24 times, but close. It was actually called 24 HOUR FEAT when it began, but I changed it to comment on the fact that this was the beginning of an album with 50 tracks on it. Sort of an over-abundance of music, but using a food analogy.
How about “The Man Who Gave You The Buzzer”?
That song is about a few things, none of which I can talk about. Sorry! But some of it is just nonsense verse.
I imagined it to be about CIA mind control experiments and Clockwork Orange type shit…but it must be more “saucy” than that.
The Man Who Gave You The Buzzer is the second cousin who gets you to try weed. The Man Who Brought You The Papers is your financial adviser or life insurance salesman. The rest of the song is about a friend who is married but always gets lots of female co-workers to flirt with him. However, he angrily states that it does him “… absolutely NO GOOD!” This song begs to differ.
So how about this : I know what N.I.M.B.Y. stands for, but what about S.O.F.T.Y. and F.R.O.S.T.Y?
S.O.F.T.Y = She’s Only Friendly To You.
F.R.O.S.T.Y. = means nothing, just wanted to spell it like that.
People who have written about your tapes in the past have always mentioned Zappa, which I think came out more on earlier stuff like “Snoutburger” (which STILL needs a remaster!)…but these days, I think you have more of a Beefheart thing going on musically, especially on the new one. I never truly listened to Beefheart beyond Trout Mask until very recently. Has this developed more over time, or am I just noticing it more now that I got myself educated?
No, you are very right. I’ve always tried to “do” Beefheart, but he’s such an original that it’s much harder to “get.” But Frank got into my blood at such an early age that it’s impossible NOT to channel him at certain times.
There are certain songs from the past that are definitely Beefhearty on purpose: BIG PENNY, JUST BECAUSE YOU USED TO BE FAMOUS, IN THE WINTER OF MY DIMURO HOUSE YEARS, PLAYBACK. But 50 was the first time I really tried to stick to the Captain’s instrumentation. And really, there’s not that much within 50 that sounds THAT much like Trout, or Beefheart. It’s mostly an attitude, or a quick fragment here and there. I still wind up doing myself, or Frank.
“DINO’S 50” was professionally duplicated. Would you do it again?
Since DINO’S 50 was planned as a tribute to TROUT MASK, I always wanted a professional gatefold for the two discs. Don Campau fought me on that – he really believes in the homemade thing – but even he admitted it was a good idea when it was done. Whatever comes next will be decided at that time, but I DO prefer that someone else put the damned things together. And even now, with The Death Of The Album Experience, I want to keep making complete works even if they do get broken up into iPod shuffles eventually.
What do you imagine your next release to be?
It can always change, but currently I am working on both my collaboration with you, Russ Stedman (working title STED-MURO) and trying to get at least disc one of the three-part ELMWOOD finished.
ELMWOOD was planned as a sprawling GOWER-like tapestry based on my best friend John, but it’s a daunting project and I’ve taken many breaks and detours from working on it. Moving back into my music room at the Gower Street house may have affect what I do, also.
To wrap things up, the totally out of context closing question : have you ever been to the Landmark Forum Seminar or any similar such “Life-changing event”?
Do you mean like EST? Not really. The closest would be a music business seminar I took over a couple weekends. I did have friends who did EST and Lifespring and stuff like that, and they make you feel square and out-of-it for not going. I’m sure those things get you motivated for a while. I did become more professional after the music seminar, but the ultimate result was that I knew for sure I was never gonna make a living from music, and it was nice to have that certainty. I’m fine with doing it “just to do it.”
Thanks for taking the time to answer everything, Dino!
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