5th September 2016
This interview started with Livington interviewing me. He was very curious of my background, what I did, why I was in Japan, etc and I have to admit, it took me a bit by surprise but I later realized, he wasn’t interrogating me, he just genuinely wanted to know about me as much as anyone else he meets. When talking to you, he looks deep into your eyes, commands attention and you give it willingly. It sounds intimidating but far from it. As it happens, it made the interview much friendlier and very relaxing. This is a man you can discuss anything with and we certainly strayed from music.
Q: In a recent interview I did with Al Stewart…
LT: Oh a wonderful writer! I’m very familiar with his work.
Q: …he told me that some of his lyrics sound obvious but actually hide another meaning; is that something you’ve ever done?
LT: I don’t have a lot of double meaning per se. I tend to have something in mind and write what I’m thinking. I like to think I’m a good technical lyric writer, that my lyrics fit well and are in there with precision. Al does have a way of writing a double meaning but if I write a song such as There You are Again or December 1903 or Call Me Carolina, they are very much stories that start, move along and have an ending so not much double-entendre from me.
Q: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if so, what’s your remedy?
LT: Like you, nothing cures writer’s block more than imminent starvation. (smiles) I never particularly worry about it. My feeling is if I have something to say, that I want to say, then I’ll say it. Other than that, maybe I’m not writing because I shouldn’t be writing. Maybe instead of opening up my big mouth, I should close it and open these (points to his eyes and ears) until I learn enough to have the right to write.
Q: Having said that, can you write about anything or are there some areas and topics which for whatever reason – personal, political, etc, - you wouldn’t touch?
LT: Yes. I don’t tend to get terribly political. I like writing love songs and really like writing songs about characters. I loved writing a song about The Wright Brothers (December 1903). I wrote a song on my Last Alaska Moon record called Henry Crossenfeld who was a well-driller and what it means to drill wells in the woods all alone. To give people water, to give people the actual substance of life and be invisible to them – I really loved that character. I ran across a character recently named Walter and Walter engraves tombstones for a living and I loved the notion that…how do you some up somebody’s life in a few letters and a couple of symbols on a tombstone? Those are the kinds of characters that I love and I love writing about that sort of person.
Q: If I were to sign up for your course, what would you expect from me?
LT: It’s an interesting question. With my students, my job isn’t to have them pick it up; my job is to present it. Here is, pick it up or don’t pick it up – I don’t care. You’ve paid me money to put it down, you haven’t paid me money to babysit you until you pick it up. I’m teaching you how to be…one…of…the…Gods! If you don’t want to be one of the Gods, I don’t care! Go away and do whatever it is you people do. You know, you can be a successful human being. You only have one job as a life form and that is to reproduce and it has been my observation that you can do that job at a level of compromise and marginality that almost defies description. I…am…not…interested. Everyone who is in my class is there for one reason and that’s because they had a vision that they could be one of the Gods. So here it is – take it! I live as one of the Gods, here are the rules, pick it up or don’t pick it up, gee I don’t care.
Q: I was very interested to note that you are currently reading Physics For Future Presidents…
LT: Oh yes – Rich Muller! A favourite of mine
Q: …as I have recently purchased a copy myself but haven’t started it yet.
LT: No! Get out of here! You are going to love it! Rich and I have become friends over the years and he is so much fun to listen to him talking about burning hydrocarbons, global warming, nuclear power. He was a member of The Sierra Club (the USA’s largest Environmental group) and resigned from it because of their stand on nuclear power. He believes, as I believe, that burning hydrocarbons to boil water is the world’s worst idea. It’s a truly terrible idea and nuclear power is a far better and safer solution to our energy needs.
Q: I think when the earthquake hit here in 2011 and the Fukushima plant was damaged, the world went into a massive over-steer about nuclear power.
LS: Well one of the great problems - which you will get a great primer on from Richard’s book - is to understand what a rem* of radioactivity is. How many rems does it take to kill you from radiation poisoning? The short answer is beyond two hundred which damages your cellular structure to a point that your body can’t recover from. Now, how many rems does it take to give you cancer? It’s a little bit in excess of four hundred rems but obviously you don’t have to worry about cancer because you are already dead from radiation poisoning! So then you back it off and start talking about cancers and the cancer associated with Fukushima where people have received doses of three, five, ten, a hundred even rems of radiation and by the way, we take cancer patients and radiate them right to the point of death so that their hair falls out! We give them iodine to fill up their thyroid glands so the cancer won’t concentrate in their thyroid. We do this all the time and they are as sick as dogs but let’s go back to Fukushima. If you don’t die of radiation poisoning, what you’ve done is radiated your cells which gives you an increase – statistically – to get cancer. Everyone already has a 20% chance of getting cancer so with Fukushima the statistic has gone up to 20.02%. Of course, if you were in the aftermath of Hiroshima or Nagasaki or Fukushima, I assure you, you got cancer because of the radiation so this becomes very difficult to deal with psychologically and the nuclear industry has done a truly terrible job – beyond terrible – of speaking about what it means to be irradiated. What does it mean when you go to the dentist and they give you 1/100th of a rem in the X-Ray? How much radiation do you get when you get on a plane and fly to Los Angeles? Now this is all far beyond what you wanted in this interview….
Q: Not at all, please continue.
LT: …but these become very interesting political questions. I am always bemused because we have something in the US called Yucca mountain which is a depository for nuclear wastes and somebody actually said to me the other day ‘How will we warn people in 10,000 years that this is dangerous?’
Well here is what I suspect will happen. Three people will walk by it and let’s assume that there is this iridescent green slime coming out of the bottom of it, one of them will drink it and fall over dead and I suspect the other two will stay away from it and guess what; they’ll put up their own sign that says ‘Stay Away’. These are insane arrogances: The notion that we have to somehow protect and oversee and that we are destroying the planet. We may be making it very unpleasant for you to be here but you cannot have a nuclear exchange that will take away all the human beings off the planet. You can have a nuclear exchange which will take you below a threshold beyond which you simply can’t keep it up! It requires a remarkable level of technical and industrialisation to have to have an all-out war. It takes a stunning level of industrialisation to poison the planet. As soon as you poison it to a certain point, you will stop poisoning it, the planet will be fine and human beings will still be here. Calm down! God I’m tired of ‘the sky is falling’ and I’m tired in particular of our governments thrashing us with this stuff! Not just the American government, the British government does it, the Japanese government does it. They thrash us to make us believe we are in terrible danger.
Q: Well everything politics is all about scaremongering now…
LT: It is.
Q: Brexit, the current US campaign…
LT: Yes! Brexit! What will happen? My former Mother-in-Law spoke about the Thanksgiving turkey. Here’s what we do when we have a populous that doesn’t want a trade deal and want Brexit. You have a turkey and you’re bringing it to the table and you trip, fall and the turkey falls on the floor and slides around. At this point you say, ‘That’s no problem. Pick up the turkey, put it back on the platter, take it to the kitchen and bring in the other turkey.’ Of course, there is no other turkey. You put it back on the platter, take it back to the kitchen, bring it back in and pretend it’s the other turkey and everybody will have a fine Thanksgiving. We have these trade deals like the TPP which was negotiated by good creditable people over a huge length of time because it made sense. The reason why Britain was in the EU is that it made sense to be there and they have to be there. What there are going to do is go back to the kitchen and bring in the other turkey. So for me, I am distressed that these governments scare our beautiful citizens – stop it! Coming back to my class, I talk to my students about being nervous. They get on stage and we speak about nervousness. I look at them and go ‘This was your idea to be here. Nobody asked you to be here, it was your vision, for yourself and if you are nervous being here, here’s what I want you to do. Stop it! How dare you? How dare you bring your self-centred behaviour of fear onto this stage? If you are not enough, don’t be enough and take the liquor.
Q: Mr Taylor, thank you very much for a very enlightening interview.
LT: Thank you. You’re very welcome. You’re going to love Rich Muller’s stuff.
Q: I certainly will. I can only sit and imagine with a bit of envy some of the conversations you and he must have sometimes.
LT: We do!
Q: Thank you again.
LT: No, thank you. That was fun. Nice to see you Glenn.
*A unit of radioactivity