David Bowie

Amica magazine, April 4, 1997.
Number 14.
Translated from Italian by Valeria

Floated on the Stock Exchange, first artist on Internet. After 30 years of triumphs he is like rock'n'roll : still young while the others grow old.

The Immortal

The man who fell to Earth is one of those few people who can put on short socks or wear gymnastic trousers with moccasins. David Bowie star number 2083 of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, envied housband of the top model Iman, man who looks at the music with different eyes (not only because one is blue and the other one is brown), the first artist who has sold his songs as bonds (that immediately gave him 88 milliard [liras]), first rockstar to present a song on Internet (46 thousand hits in 4 days, near the limit of tecnical possibilities), he `wears' his first fifty years with innate elegance. Even when he wears a normal pullover and 501 jeans, with that mischievous goatee beard, hair yellow orange and, as the last habit from punk movement, an earring on the left ear. Because he trascends fashions. Like in 1977 when, during the new sounds explosion, RCA proclaimed: "There is the New wave. There is the Old Wave. And there is David Bowie". Chameleon-like, unable to stay still for more than one album on the same sounds, spokesman of that glam rock that during the Sixties was the fashion most followed by `music stylists', Bowie is the last real rock star in a sky that is full of falling stars. Bowie and Mick Jagger, and the gossip tells [wants] that Bianca Jagger decided to leave her husband after having found him in the same bed with David Bowie.

In May, the Duke, as we used to call him, will start his new world-wide tour, Italy included.

How do your bonds work ?

Fine, thank you. The idea wasn't mine, it was my lawyer's. The Bowie Bonds let me remain the owner of my catalogue without being forced to sell the copyright as many other singers.

So it wasn't because of vanity ?

No, it was because of money. I am not a vain person, if I can say so. Vanity has been for many years an unknown sensation for me. I had a lot of problems, in the past, both from the aesthetic and characterial point of view. Differently from what many people could think, I've never liked myself, I've never held myself in high esteem. I've been an awful father, for example. My son Zowie grew without me. Fortunately I was able to rescue the relationship and to make up for the lost time, but the mistake remains. About self-esteem and vanity, now things work better, much better. I find myself acceptable.

Have you ever let your characters steal your role [the stage] , Ziggy Stardust, for example ?

Many times. I often identify myself with my creatures, untill they phagocyte me.The temptation of identifying yourself with your character is very strong in every artist. And this thing has only increased my problems. The image of the artist that has gone through the different ages changing character every time with great confidence is only an appearance. Reality is a bit different. I am an insecure person and I have tried to hide my uncertainties behind the folding screen of art. But art is not life. If you notice, there has been a time [in] which I used to record even two LPs in a year. Behind that ardour [enthusiasm] there was a motivation different from the desire to become famous.

But you are talking about the Seventies, the decade during which you gained a world wide fame becouse of your records, but also because of your ability on the stage, your ability to own, to posses the stage. A "rock'n'roll animal" to say it as Lou Reed would.

Look, I would like to go on with a cue. People say that those ones who have really lived the Seventies can't remember them, because they were too out of their minds to be able to. Well, I have lived the Seventies in that way. I ramember I used to read a lot of articles about the terrible damages that amphetamines, cocaine and the drugs in general could produce on the brain. That time there was the habit to indicate the maximum quantity, the limit over which those damages would have been permanent. I had passed beyond that limit a long time before....

Let's go back to your previous answer. You said that your artistic frenzy wasn' t because of a desire of achievment.

Fame has never been an obsession. There has been a period in the Eighties during which I was annoyed by the idea that my records were in the same houses in which there were records by very commercial artists. I wondered how it was possible that I was liked by the same people that also liked Bee Gees and Phil Collins. If success should leave me alone, well it doesn' t matter. I've never considered myself a songwriter, if ever an explorer. I like to venture through new lands and I hate the so-said `easy records'. Between the risk to go beyond the border and the safety [confidence] to stay in the song-form, I choose the adventure. I have written songs in their canonical form, in the past, but with the passing of time I have evermore often chosen different directions.

Is this the reason why during your shows the time for your old hits is always so limited ?

Can you tell me which sense it would have to go around the world singing things that I have written 30 years ago ? I don' t want to change me in a self-moving juke box. The duty of an artist is to go on creating, not to live with the income of the past things.

Your new record, Earthling, is another album on the border, where you put yourself in comparison with [in front of] Jungle music and the fashionable and trendy sounds.

I have never been a purist of sounds, whatever was the genre [style] I was working with. I love grafts, mixes and compositions. The first time I went to America I was amazed by black music : soul, rhythm and blues, the sound of Philadelphia. When I went back I relived [revisited] everything with European sensibility. The same thing happened a short time later when, after a jurney to Dusseldorf, I fell in love with cosmic music and with the German electronics : Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream... Today fashionable music is dance music, trip hop, jungle. I like to face those expressions that are able to synthesize contemporary reality. Rock, together with cinema, is the form of art for excellence of this 20th century. I take the sounds in and then I expel them in my way. It's a matter of sensibility.

It has just been your fiftieth birthday. Is your approach to music and to art in general changed ?

I think I'm fifty [ to the fact that I'm fifty ] only when somebody reminds me I am fifty. I live without looking back and without thinking to the future. I'm happy I could verify that creativity doesn' t have an `expiry date'. Writers are afraid they could wake up sometimes and discover that they aren' t able to write anymore, artists are afraid to wake up some day and realize that their age doesn' t allow them to create anymore. But I like to repeat that Picasso has produced his masterpieces untill the end and that Burroughs is still as lucid as when he was twenty. Once you've realized that your mind is not destined to become ill, that your imagination stay strong and that you' re not going to lose your will [desire] to create, well in that moment you stop to be afraid about growing old.

There is a song from your new album, Dead Man Walking, that is about the fear to grow old.

I wrote it after having seen a wonderful scene [event] during a Neil Young concert. At a certain moment Neil Young and two other musicians in his band, Crazy Horse, began to dance, embracing each other, turning around, like in a tribal circle, very slowly. And it seemed to me that they were doing that to catch back their dreams, to find youth again, to not allow the energy to escape. And so I wrote Dead Man Walking. It is a sort of homage to rock and roll that is still young while we all are growing old.

Massimo Cotto

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