WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS: Have you ever met Warhol?
DAVID BOWIE: Yes, about two years ago I was invited up at the Factory. We got in the lift and went up. When it opened there was a brick wall in front of us. We rapped on the wall and they didn’t believe who we were. So we went back down and back up again till they finally opened the wall and everybody was peering around at each other. That was shortly after the gun incident.
I met this man who was the living dead. Yellow in complexion, a wig on that was the wrong color, little glasses. I extended my hand and the guy retired, so I thought, “The guy doesn’t like flesh, obviously he’s a reptilian.” He produced a camera and took a picture of me. And I tried to make small talk with him, and it wasn’t getting anywhere.
But then he saw my shoes. I was wearing a pair of gold-and-yellow shoes, and he says, “I adore those shoes, tell me where you got these shoes.” He then started a whole rap about shoe design and that broke the ice. My yellow shoes broke the ice with Andy Warhol.
I adore what he was doing. I think his importance was very heavy, it’s become a big thing to like him now. But Warhol wanted to be cliche, he wanted to be available in Woolworth’s, and be talked about in that glib type of manner. I hear he wants to make real films now which is very sad because those he was making were the things that should be happening. I left knowing as little about him as a person as when I went in.
BURROUGHS: I don’t think that there is any person there. It’s a very alien thing, completely and totally unemotional. He’s really a science-fiction character. He’s got a strange green color.
BOWIE: That’s what struck me. He’s the wrong color to be a human being. Especially under the stark neon lighting that is in the Factory. Apparently it is a real experience to behold him in the daylight.
BURROUGHS: I’ve seen him in all light and still have no idea to what is going on, except that it is something quite purposeful. It’s not energetic, but quite insidious, completely asexual. His films will be the late-night movies of the future.
BOWIE: Exactly. Remember Pork? I want to get that onto TV. TV has eaten up everything else, and Warhol films are all that are left, which is fabulous. Pork could become the next I Love Lucy, the great American domestic comedy. It’s about how people really live, not like Lucy, who never touched dishwater. It’s about people living and hustling to survive.
That’s what Pork is all about. A smashing of the spectacle. Although I’d like to do my own version of Sindbad The Sailor. I think that is an all-time classic. But it would have to be done on an extraordinary level. It would be incredibly indulgent and expensive. It would have to utilize lasers and all the things that are going to happen in a true fantasy.
Even the use of holograms. Holograms are important. Videotape is next, then it will be holograms. Holograms will come into use in about seven years. Libraries of video cassettes should be developed to their fullest during the interim. You can’t video enough good material from your own TV. I want to have my own choice of programs. There has to be the necessary software available.
BURROUGHS: I audio-record everything I can.
BOWIE: The media is either our salvation or our death. I’d like to think it’s our salvation. My particular thing is discovering what can be done with media and how it can be used. You can’t draw people together like one big huge family, people don’t want that. They want isolation or a tribal thing. A group of 18 kids would rather stick together and hate the next 18 kids down the block. You are not going to get two or three blocks joining up and loving each other. There are just too many people.
BURROUGHS: Too many people. We’re in an overpopulated situation, but the less people you have does not include the fact that they are still heterogeneous. They are not just the same. All this talk about a world family is a lot of bunk. I worked with the Chinese because they are very similar.
BOWIE: And now one man in four in China has a bicycle and that is pretty heavy considering what they didn’t have before. And that’s the miracle as far as they’re concerned. It’s like all of us having a jet plane over here.
BURROUGHS: It’s because they are the personification of one character that they can live together without any friction. We quite evidently are not.
BOWIE: It is why they don’t need rock & roll. British rock & roll stars played in China, played a dirty great field and they were treated like a sideshow. Old women, young children, some teenagers, you name it, everybody came along, walked past them and looked at them on the stand. It didn’t mean anything. Certain countries don’t need rock & roll because they were so drawn together as a family unit. China has its mother-father figure—I’ve never made my mind up which, it fluctuates between the two. For the West, Jagger is most certainly a mother figure and he’s a mother hen to the whole thing. He’s not a cockadoodledoo; he’s much more like a brothel keeper or a madame.
BURROUGHS: Oh, very much so.
BOWIE: He’s incredibly sexy and very virile. I also find him incredibly motherly and maternal clutched into his bosom of ethnic blues. He’s a white boy from Dagenham trying his damnedest to be ethnic. You see, trying to tart the rock business a bit is getting nearer to what the kids themselves like, because what I find, if you want to talk in the terms of rock, a lot depends on sensationalism and the kids are a lot more sensational than the stars themselves. The rock business is a pale shadow of what the kids’ lives are usually about. The admiration comes from the other side. It’s all a reversal, especially in recent years. Walk down Christopher Street and then you wonder exactly what went wrong. People are not like James Taylor. They may be molded on the outside, but inside their heads it is something completely different.
BURROUGHS: The politics of sound.
BOWIE: Yes. We have kind of got that now. It has loosely shaped itself into the politics of sound. The fact that you can now subdivide rock into different categories was something that you couldn’t do ten years ago. But now I can reel off at least ten sounds that represent a kind of person rather than a type of music. The critics don’t like to say that, because critics like being critics, and most of them wish they were rock & roll stars. But when they classify, they are talking about people, not music. It’s a whole political thing.
BURROUGHS: Like infra-sound, the sound below the level of hearing. Below 16 Mertz. Turned up full blast it can knock down walls for 30 miles. You can walk into the French patent office and buy the patent for 40p. The machine itself can be made very cheaply from things you could find in a junk yard.
BOWIE: Like black noise. I wonder if there is a sound that can put things back together. There was a band experiment with stuff like that; they reckon they could make a whole audience shake.
BURROUGHS: They have riot-control noise based on these sound-waves now. But if you could have music with infra-sound, you wouldn’t necessarily have to kill the audience.
BOWIE: Just maim them.
BURROUGHS: The weapon of the Wild Boys is a bowie knife, an 18-inch bowie knife, did you know that?
BOWIE: An 18-inch bowie knife… You don’t do things by halves, do you. No, I didn’t know that was their weapon. The name Bowie just appealed to me when I was younger. I was into a kind of heavy philosophy thing when I was 16 years old, and I wanted a truism about cutting through the lies and all that.
BURROUGHS: Well, it cuts both ways, you know, double-edged on the end.
BOWIE: I didn’t see it cutting both ways till now.