Richard Hell
replaceable head
Richard Hell – Exclusive Interview With Bryan Swirsky

Richard Hell doesn’t talk about the past very often. In fact interviews with Hell regarding the birth of Punk Rock are rarer than lucid days in the life of Courtney Love. Rarer than an original US copy of “Blank Generation” on 7”. Rarer than George W Bush’s T-Bone on the 4th Of July.

It was, therefore, a red-letter day in the tMx Bunker when our periodical mithering of the man finally paid off & he agreed to answer a few questions for us. Panic set in almost immediately – the questions demanded more than cursory remotely tapped replies – Hell wanted to meet face to face!

A whip round in the tMx Bunker raised a paltry £6.79 – a raid on the tea & skunk kitty could only bolster it with another piddling £11.39 – the confiscation of all loose change from anyone leaving the building stumped up a further miserly £2.98: a total of £21.16 was not going to get either one of us to NYC.

After an hour’s consideration of selling our collective souls to the devil in order to raise the air fair – we decided to call Bryan Swirsky of NYC Complete Control to ask him to do the gig. Luckily he said: “Yes”. In fact he said: “I’m totally there – already”. Which was round about the time we decided our questions would probably be far more effective translated into American.

Upside : You get a sorted interview.

Downside: Encoule will have to wait a little longer to meet Hell in person.

Our sincere thanx go out to both Richard Hell & Bryan Swirsky for what you are about to read – may the Lord make you truly thankful:

trakMARX: What kind of place was Lexington, KY to grow up in and how did it impact the person you later became?

RICHARD HELL: [laughter] Well…it was a generic small town. Not very small town…I would say the population was something like 150,000 then. I grew up in the suburbs. And it was a university town, which is why we were there. My father was a psychology professor at the University of Kentucky. But he died when I was seven years old. My family was out of work all the time when I was a kid. But the town itself was a kind of typical American small town. It didn’t really have any strong identity otherwise. It wasn’t Deep South. It wasn’t north, it wasn’t east. It wasn’t west. It wasn’t big. It wasn’t little. It wasn’t city. It wasn’t country. It was pretty typical. But I think it was a good place to grow up. I liked it there as a kid. Or in retrospect I liked it – what else did I know? This was out in a suburb where all the houses were identical, a lower middle class neighborhood with box-like houses where there were maybe three different designs of house on the whole street. It was new, built in the mid-Fifties. It was a suburb built for the Baby Boom generation after World War II. All the trees were like, five feet tall because they had just been planted. But it was also on the edge of real farmland. It was great as a kid to go walking off into the fields and woods. Even with all the normal terrors of childhood. I remember when I was going to elementary school, 5th or 6th grade, if you walked on the sidewalk…what’s the width of a sidewalk? Maybe four feet wide? If another guy in your class, or general age group, was approaching you from the opposite direction – or anyone who considered himself to be self-respecting – neither one of you could make room for the other one. There could be a fight at any moment. If your shoulders bumped, you couldn’t be seen moving over to make room for the other guy because that would be a loss of face. I got into a couple of those fights. But compared to New York or some slum it was paradise for childhood.

trakMARX: So how did you get out of there?

RICHARD HELL: Well…it’s kind of complicated and boring. As I said, my father died when I was seven so my mother had to find a way to make a living. She decided she wanted to be a teacher too, but she didn’t have any degrees and had to go back to school. So all the while I was growing up – from ages eight to 15 – she was studying to be a teacher while also working to pay the bills. I didn’t have much supervision – that was something else pleasant about my childhood. And I got in a fair amount of trouble because of that. But it was all fun. Finally, when I turned 15 – which, was just in time because I had gotten in to serious trouble by then – we left town. My mother had gotten a job in Virginia so we left town. So that’s how I got away from there.

trakMARX: And from there you went to boarding school where you met Tom Verlaine?

RICHARD HELL: It was a very non-exclusive boarding school. It wasn’t prestigious or high quality. I had gotten a scholarship to go to a local private school when I was in 10th grade in Kentucky. We didn’t even apply for it. There was a teacher that had gotten a job at this local private school, not a boarding school. And it was just when this school was starting a program giving poor people scholarships. So this teacher liked me from having me in class in public school and thought I needed some help so he recommended me for this private school and they called my mother. I almost got kicked out of there just before we left town. I got suspended for stealing a car and taking off with one of the girls in the school into the interior of Kentucky. [laughter] Where we wrecked the car! [laughter]

trakMARX: So long as you didn’t cross state lines!

RICHARD HELL: I feel kind of stupid repeating this stuff, making myself out to be some kind of bad boy. It’s all trivial. But at least the stuff I say is true, unlike some clowns. So after we left Kentucky I ended up in Norfolk, VA where I went to this huge neighborhood school. It was really traumatic going there. I hated it. Suddenly, after being in the same place, among friends, for so long, to being transferred to this huge, anonymous local school in this new place where I knew nobody…I just hated it and I was ready to do whatever was necessary not to go there. I had this history of getting in trouble in these basically minor ways. But it was clear that if I didn’t want to go to that school then I wasn’t going. My mother said that we could find a smaller school and started looking into where I could go. She borrowed money from my grandmother. And, they found this school in Delaware. It was a boarding school. Basically, the kinds of kids that went there were the same ones like me. When people think of boarding school, they think of ivy-covered walls and people in suits. Tweed, and stuff…

trakMARX: … Proust’s infinite wisdom espoused endlessly at breakfast…

RICHARD HELL: Yeah, it wasn’t like that. Though actually we did wear coats and ties. So I was there for less than a year before I left with Verlaine. We ran way from school. Then I was sent back to a public school for another few months before I came to New York. I had just turned seventeen. I’ve been in New York ever since.

trakMARX: So about your first Rock’n’Roll connection? Were you touched by the Hand of Elvis?

RICHARD HELL: Actually, I do remember hearing Elvis when I was I guess six. “Hound Dog” was the hit. I remember being out in the back yard of this little, tiny house we lived in then playing in the dirt and hearing “Hound Dog” on the radio. This was around the same general time that Davy Crockett hats were given away free at the dry cleaners on the corner. I might have had one of those on. And what I remember was thinking, What does he mean? I didn’t know hound dogs cried. I never heard of a dog crying. I couldn’t picture it. That was my reaction to Elvis Presley. It didn’t come to me what that song was about till many, many years later.

trakMARX: What other music were you inspired by at that time.

RICHARD HELL: My favorite band in junior High School was the Kingsmen. “Louie Louie” and “Jolly Green Giant” and “Money” were the songs, and that was what the best local bands would be playing at dances…that kind of music.

trakMARX: Were you aware of the controversy surrounding the Kingsmen at the time?

RICHARD HELL: What controversy? Oh, you mean that there were supposed to be dirty words in the song. Yeah. There was this rumor that even though you couldn’t understand the words there was something obscene about them.

trakMARX: It was a big deal at the time. So how did you and Verlaine make contact? Did you run in to each other one day at school?

RICHARD HELL: Yeah, he lived in Wilmington, DE, which is where the school was. He was a day student. He didn’t sleep over. He lived in the town. And so I got there half way through 11th grade and we took off in October of the 12th grade, just after school got started. The week before we ran away, I had already been suspended because I ate a bunch of morning glory seeds. Do you know about morning glory seeds?

trakMARX: They’re supposed to have some hallucinogenic properties.

RICHARD HELL: Yeah, they are total hallucinogens. Nowadays, they put something in the seed packets to get you sick. They are very powerful!

trakMARX: Good to know! [laughter!]

RICHARD HELL: Yeah, Heavenly Blues!

trakMARX: Those are the ones?

RICHARD HELL: Yeah, anyway, I took a bunch of morning glory seeds in school and there was no hiding it! [much laughter!] Word got out and I was suspended for a week.

trakMARX: How did they even figure it out? Couldn’t you pull off a poker face?

RICHARD HELL: No, I was behaving pretty oddly. I started crying at a school dance because nobody would dance with the school geek. My friends hustled me out of there, but the night was full of incidents like that. Anyway, Tom and I had become really good friends and shortly after I got back from being suspended I had this brainstorm, “Listen why don’t we head over the fence and start hitch hiking south.” We were going to go to Florida and live off the fat of the land. Beachcombing and…pimping! [laughter]

trakMARX: In that order? [laughter]

RICHARD HELL: Yeah. And be writers.

trakMARX: How far south did you make it?

RICHARD HELL: Well, we got arrested in Alabama. We started a fire in the middle of this big cornfield and it got out of hand. All of a sudden there were all these sirens…fire trucks and police cars. And they took us to jail. [laughter]

trakMARX: So how long a stretch you guys do?

RICHARD HELL: My mother’s family comes from Alabama. Tom’s father came to pick him up and these relatives from Alabama came to get me. We were escorted to our homes and we weren’t allowed back in school this time. He went to Delaware, I went to Virginia. He eventually finished high school in a public school and went to college for a year. I stayed determined to get away from home. I made a deal with my mother. She knew she couldn’t keep me there but she didn’t want to get me in trouble with juvenile authorities. So we made a deal that I stayed in that local school and I wouldn’t leave unless I could find a way to put together $100.00 while staying in school. One hundred dollars was worth a lot more back then. Maybe the equivalent of at least $500.00 now; just enough so that she knew I had a little stake. I got a job after school working in a pornographic bookstore right away and in two or three weeks I had the money and I left. Came to New York

trakMARX: Where did you move?

RICHARD HELL: The first place I lived was on 14th street and Irving Place, right where the Zeckendorf Towers are now. I don’t know if anything like this exists in New York City anymore. It was a furnished room. I’m sure they exist, just nowhere around here that I know of. It cost $15 or $16 dollars a week for a little tiny room with a bed.

trakMARX: How did you hook up with Terry Ork at his Cinemabilia store?

RICHARD HELL: Well… Tom and I knew him to look at him. We spotted him at Max’s Kansas City probably and had a conversation with him at one time or another. From like a year after Tom got here in 1969 up until I left Television, Tom and I pretty much did everything together. Anyway, we didn’t have any money but we would check Max’s or some other artists’ bars every once in a while when we had drink money. So we had a small acquaintance with Ork. We would also haunt the bookstores. The way I was living was, I would get a job until I could save up enough money so that I could live for a month or two without having to work and then I’d quit. Or, if I was lucky, I would have an employer who would let me collect unemployment. I would work as little as possible. I had a thousand jobs. Half the time I’d work, the other half I wouldn’t. Tom told me he spotted that guy we vaguely knew and he appeared to be in charge of a bookstore that was about movies. It was Ork. We didn’t have any spectacularly special interest in movies. But it was an interesting store. It was a specialized movie literature store where they also sold film posters and stills and stuff like that. By this time, we both had had a few jobs in bookstores behind us and Tom said: “You may want to check this place out for your next job; it looks like a congenial place to work”. So I did that and got a job there. As jobs go, it was pretty painless. I learned a lot while I was there. I got deeper and deeper into movies. And Tom eventually followed me there when he found out what a breeze it was. Eventually Robert Quine got a job there. He knew Ork a little too but was also attracted to the place because he’d seen us play.

trakMARX: Who? The Neon Boys?

RICHARD HELL: No, Television. The Neon Boys never did a public gig. We were only rehearsing songs. We could never find a second guitar player. But Quine saw Television. I was singing roughly a third of the songs and they were frantic songs and our stage act was really intense. Real unlike what Television became after I left. We were the first young band he had seen that he thought was really interesting. He saw that we were working there and got a job there.

trakMARX: How did the Neon Boys come together and what set them apart from Television? Billy Ficca was the drummer in both bands.

RICHARD HELL: Tom knew Billy from Delaware and they had already played together. So when Tom and I decided to make a band together, his intention all along was to bring Billy up to New York. So we got together and rehearsed at least six songs – those six songs we recorded when we gave up finding a second guitar player. We were keeping Billy in New York on the pretext of him being in a working band. But since we had this material, we thought we’d at least go make a tape of the songs we’d worked up, before we let Billy go back to his life. There were three songs that I sang and three songs that Tom sang. Tom wrote the instrumental music to all of it and I wrote the words and the singing to the songs I sang. I was just starting to learn music. I played the bass on the songs but it was all rudimentary patterns. Basically Tom showed me what to play. We didn’t want all that time to be completely wasted so we recorded the six songs and my three songs are what’s come out under the name Neon Boys. Tom wouldn’t allow the songs he sang to come out and he has never released them. I don’t know what his feelings are now, but he clearly hasn’t wanted to put out the ones that he wrote. He agreed to do that little Shake single which eventually got re-released. The first version on Shake just had two songs, “That’s All I Know” and the early version of “Love Comes In Spurts”, which has nothing in common with the Voidoids’ version, except the title. Different music, different words. And then when I released it with Overground [records] I added the third song, “High Heeled Wheels”. And that was the whole history of the Neon Boys.

trakMARX: So Television came together automatically from what was left of that band?

RICHARD HELL: When we were working at Cinemabilia, still feeling this frustration and regret that we hadn’t gotten anything going, Ork helped us make the band happen. He knew this kid that he thought might work for a guitar player. And it was Richard Lloyd. He was adequate and we made a new band.

trakMARX: I’m sure you’ve been asked this a lot, but why not carry on the Neon Boys? Why change the name to Television?

RICHARD HELL: Well, I had a list of 10 names that I brought to our first planning session. All of the band members were there. I liked Television because it was a new kind of idea for something you’d name a band. And I thought of Television as being the culture mirrored back to its citizens but we were going to make that real. What was actually on television was the lowest common denominator so we were going to make real television. In fact, at our first gig I had four TV monitors on stage and they were turned on to various channels. We had a guy in the audience roaming around with a portapack video camera shooting live in to one of the TV sets.

trakMARX: Wow! The first ever multi media rock and roll band! [laughter]

RICHARD HELL: I liked the name for the reasons I just told you. The minute Tom saw it he said, Yeah, that’s good! And I didn’t realize until after I left the group: the TV connection!

trakMARX: Tom Verlaine…TV…Television! [laughter]

RICHARD HELL: Yeah! Never occurred to me! [laughter] Because we’d only renamed ourselves the year before. And naturally I didn’t think much about his name. As a matter of fact, it was I who suggested that he use the name of a 19th century French poet, but I didn’t think of Verlaine. I said Gautier or something impossible like that. But I didn’t think about his name and it never occurred to me that his initials were TV. And so there was no connection, but doubtless he knew there was a connection. Even though he didn't say anything about it!

trakMARX: What sticks in your mind about the early CBGB’s period, you guys being the first real, underground rock band in there?

RICHARD HELL: CBGB’s had like this sort of club house feel. It was a place you could go any night of the week finding people you liked and wanted to be hanging out with. It was also a place where we mattered, where we were in our element.

trakMARX: But Television provided the trajectory toward what it was to become. It was a divey bluegrass biker bar that smelled bad.

RICHARD HELL: It wasn’t even bluegrass. Maybe [CBGB’s owner] Hilly [Krystal] had some bluegrass on the jukebox. It was just a Bowery dive without much of any character. I never went there before we first started playing there. But from those earliest days, before it was a rock and roll club, my impression was: Hell’s Angels, winos. That was the scene. It was a derelict wino bar and favorite drinking spot for the Third Street Hells Angels. Hilly didn’t object to those guys being there. He welcomed them there and that’s where they hung out.

trakMARX: You described Television as being the best band in the world…

RICHARD HELL: …I described Television as being the best band in the world...for six months.

trakMARX: That’s the whole quote? And, after that?

RICHARD HELL: For six months…which is still a pretty high achievement! [laughter] For any band! [laughter] I don’t think that there is any band that could be the best band in the world for much longer than six months.

trakMARX: Are there any recordings of that specific era? Other that the oft-bootlegged Brian Eno sessions?

RICHARD HELL: The Eno sessions happened maybe a month before I quit. I’d already been more or less squeezed out. There’s nothing of mine on that tape but a lame version of “Blank Generation.” I was in the band for a year, just as I was in the Heartbreakers. But the peak of my participation in it probably came at about three or four months. Well…it’s like…I haven’t heard any bootlegs from the days when I played a larger role in Television…but it sounds more like what the Neon Boys sounded like than like Marquee Moon-era Television. As great as the guitar playing is on Marquee Moon, the original band was more to the point. It’s more like…it came at a time when music was really…boring, you know? It was a return to the values of the Kingsmen and the Sonics and Them and the Velvet Underground. It still had this really beautiful guitar talent — ecstatic, explosive guitar — going on as well as this lyrical quality, but it was more driving and crazed.

trakMARX: So why did you leave Television? You were clearly on to something as a musical unit.

RICHARD HELL: Tom felt like he needed things to be done his way and he had the power as the most musically developed to enforce that. Though I was very angry and bitter and resentful about it at the time, it’s pretty clear that I’m kind of the same way myself, and in fact I demonstrated it in my next band. Almost every group has a leader, even the ones that claim they don’t.

trakMARX: And how did you hook up with the Heartbreakers?

RICHARD HELL: I got a call from Johnny Thunders a week after I left Television saying: “Would you like to make a band?” And I didn’t know Johnny very well. We had recently played with him opening for the New York Dolls at the Hippodrome. I think it was their last gig in New York before Johnny and [drummer Jerry] Nolan left the Dolls. Thunders would come around to CBGB’s and we’d chat a bit. But I didn’t really know him very well. I liked the Dolls a lot. But apparently he liked what I did. Probably [New York Dolls/future-Sex Pistols manager] Malcolm [McLaren] had talked to him about me too, because Malcolm was a supporter when things got so tense with Tom. And it sounded perfect and like it could be a lot of fun. It was a chance to shake things up in a way that Television couldn’t. They had become way too cerebral. It was really fun at the beginning and like I said about Television, the Heartbreakers were also the best band in the world for six months. [laughter] Maybe for another few months, ‘cause we really were great. There are some tapes floating around, including some studio tapes. We ended up recording some songs as demos and the masters were lost. So the only things that show up on the bootlegs are these warped tenth generation dubs. Johnny and I split the singing and songwriting. As I was saying, people misunderstand how I left that band. I see people describe it as something similar to the situation in Television. Which wasn’t true. It wasn’t some kind of…battle…or…conflict…over power in the group. It was just that I wanted to try some things that were more freaky than the standard – if very well done – sneering rock and roll that those guys were interested in playing. And I knew I had to put together a group with a different background to be able to play what I wanted. That’s why I left. After I left the group, Johnny and Jerry would do their Queens-attitude, streetgang type of thing and put me down because they considered it some kind of betrayal that I left the group. It was like somebody in the gang who went over to another gang. A far as I was concerned it was a totally friendly kind of split.

trakMARX: How did the Voidoids come together?

RICHARD HELL: I had become friends with Quine working with him at the bookstore. He played me some tapes. He hadn’t been in a band since college but still the only thing that mattered to him was music. He had been in bands but not for a long time and none in New York. Nobody here would give an old bald guy a chance. He was maybe 33. He grew up in Missouri, I think and was in San Francisco for a little while and Boston for a little while. And we like the same things in music and I could hear that he could play. We were on the same wavelength and I asked him to be my guitar player. He was way into it. [Ex-Dust/ex-Wayne County/future-Ramones drummer] Marc [Bell], I had my eye on him. He definitely was in and when I went to finding a guitar player, we found Ivan [Julian] from the first ad in the Voice. He was the baby of us. We played our first gig in 1976.

trakMARX: Musically everything from the Neon Boys to Television to the Heartbreakers to the Voidoids bled into a natural progression.

RICHARD HELL: Well, I had written “Blank Generation” and “Love Comes In Spurts,” though the Voidoids’ versions are by far the best. “New Pleasure” was in rudimentary form from the Heartbreakers. So was “You Gotta Lose.”

trakMARX: How do you feel – twenty-five-odd years later that those songs are still turning kids on today and still make sense to the old timers ?

RICHARD HELL: Well…those songs do hold up pretty well. It’s true that the Blank Generation LP is one of the least dated-sounding records from that period. And I think its partly because the songs and the sounds are so eccentric. But also they’re done with a vengeance, and a desire to get through... And…I don’t know…we kinda swing more than some of the other groups. What bugged me about Television was that as much musicianship and ambition for beauty as there is coming out of Tom, it doesn’t have much swing to it. I also arranged the songs very carefully. I always like to have a few different sections going on instead of having it be stomp, stomp all the way through. And also – as I said – some of the songs are really eccentric sounding. It’s less likely that something really bizarre sounding would get old. It didn’t belong in the time back then and it hasn’t belonged in any time since. So in it’s way, it comes out…timeless.

trakMARX: I was listening to the record before I came over here and I was just floored by how inventive it sounds, even by today’s standard. You played in a lot of weird time signatures and phrasings that no one else in the punk scene was using.

RICHARD HELL: That all had to do with just pure ignorance. I just would make up the songs on my bass and try to get them to do things I didn’t know how to do. For instance it was very hard to get the guys to play “New Pleasure.” It was a very strange to them.

trakMARX: Really!? But Quine studied serious compositional theory at music college.

RICHARD HELL: Yeah, he studied music, and he could usually untangle the songs, but sometimes he was stumped. I think it was “New Pleasure” that he said basically didn’t have any key. [laughter]. Sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn’t. I hear some of the things I wish I could rewrite now. But sometimes it worked out to its own advantage.

trakMARX: Destiny Street was a much more straight-forward rock record. The lyrics had a much more of a storyteller’s vibe.

RICHARD HELL: In a way, I like Destiny Street better. I don’t think that the performances, the mixing and all the elements of production are as good as on Blank Generation. But I like the songs better in a lot of ways. But by that time I was really strung out and I got lazy in certain ways. But, I think Destiny Street has more good songs than Blank Generation does. I think “Time” and “Ignore That Door” and “Kid With The Replaceable Head” and even “Lowest Common Dominator” are as good as the best stuff on Blank Generation.

trakMARX: It was said that the UK tour took its toll. True?

RICHARD HELL: I described all that in the liner notes to the Time CD. I was in bad shape and I did not like the atmosphere in England. All the trends that were happening there seemed like a small distillation of what had been going on in New York for three years and everyone over there was acting like [what we created here] was their property. There was so much hype. And by the time I got there I had already felt that I had gone where I had originally hoped to go in music. And I was kind of tired of it. It was kind of an ordeal. [laughter] It was really psychologically hard as well. Not only was I in bad shape, but I had this confused attitude towards touring and gigging every night in a new town. I had been playing for three years and it would be playing only every couple of weeks for two or three nights. It’s a very different thing to be playing every night and dealing with hostile audiences. And my fantasy was…my ideal was…to have every night be fresh. But you just can’t do that. Not only would you have to be superhuman but that’s not how doing a show night after night works. You find out what works and you repeat it. There are artists like Bob Dylan for instance who do their very best and have this humongous repertoire and a band that’s capable of turning on a dime who can just call out a song and tap out a tempo and do a song that they hadn’t done in five years and make the show different every night. Even for a guy like Dylan, his show might be different every night but a lot of the shows were horrible and boring. Whereas with [the Voidoids], it was my fantasy that each night would be amazing and would blow the heads off everybody. And I never even came close to being able to do that.

trakMARX: Did the Voidoids do a lot of touring?

RICHARD HELL: No. But you asked me about England. That was the first tour we ever did. It was the only tour we ever did.

trakMARX: You never toured the States?

RICHARD HELL: We went on these short jaunts. But that was definitely the first time we ever played seven nights a week for three weeks all in different towns. I felt really frustrated with that. And I couldn’t make it new every night. Someone else who can do that is Iggy Pop. He has that drive to just push it and he pulls it off.

trakMARX: Did you see the Stooges reunion shows?

RICHARD HELL: Yeah! That was one of the best shows I’ve seen for as long as I can remember. Actually I hardly ever go to any shows. Never have except when I was at CBGB’s for three years. But I caught him at Jones Beach.

trakMARX: I was there and it was pretty phenomenal. Swinging the mike chord 150 feet out in to the audience! I wasn’t even close to the stage and you could still feel the danger.

RICHARD HELL: He’s the real thing. Every fiber of him is devoted to making those few minutes on stage every night to take you out of yourself. And he does it. It’s really amazing.

trakMARX: Was there a decisive moment that made you want to retire from music altogether?

RICHARD HELL: Well…by 1984, I was finding the last bits of stuff I could turn up – demos and outtakes and little odds and ends that somebody might be interested to hear. And I put it out on ROIR as the R.I.P. cassette [recently included in the Time double CD, on Matador records]. That was intended to be my farewell after ten years – 1974 to 1984. I just didn’t like the life and it was taking its toll. I just wasn’t cut out for it. [laughter] I ended up playing for a very little while after that with about 10 or 12 different guys. I kind of pulled my self together and put a band or two together with a clear head. The last band I had was one I had with [ex-Feelies/Pere Ubu/Golden Palaminos etc. drummer] Anton Fier, [ex-Raybeats/future-Quine collaborating guitarist] Jody Harris and Laura Kennedy, who’d played bass in the Bush Tetras. We both played bass and this other guy, Nick Sanzenbach, played sax and keyboards. I think that was the last time I worked up a band. We were called The Thing. We did a festival in France and some Northeast dates. Maybe even one in San Francisco. It had some moments, that group. But I didn’t like the life. It was over for me.

trakMARX: Indeed it is a hard road. Do you still pay attention to what’s happening in music?

RICHARD HELL: Not really. I sure don’t keep up. If someone’s getting a lot of media and it sounds like they may interest me, I may go by a CD store. But there’s nothing systematic. The only stuff that reaches me is if somebody gives me something or the band is getting enough intriguing media that I get around to checking.

trakMARX: Is there anyone that you are paying attention to?

RICHARD HELL: I am…for the first time in a long time. That’s what I like about trakMARX and why I am doing this interview. I like your take on what matters. The bands that interest you guys have put more CD’s in my carousel. I play the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mooney Suzuki, the Hives, the White Stripes and I am out of touch or otherwise there would be ten more. I know there are a lot of new groups that have the same general idea of what’s interesting and fun as those I mentioned. I’m way into the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I also must admit I have a weakness for Bjork — I guess she’s my guilty pleasure. I like Will Oldham too.

trakMARX: Would you do it all again?

RICHARD HELL: I’ve never been in a position that’s as interesting to me as the one I am in right now and how would have I gotten into this position other than the way that I did.

Bryan Swirsky – tMx12 – 12/03

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