"Nobody cares about you" was rock's most outrageous promoter's final message to young bands. We revisit our bizarre deathbed interview with the legend.
The number one rule in music marketing is “Death Sells!” Nothing increases the public’s interest (and a music company’s profit margin) more than the sudden passing of a recording artist. From Buddy Holly to Elvis Presley to Kurt Cobain, Selena to Sinatra and Whitney Houston to Michael Jackson, shuffling off this mortal coil is a license to print money. Even small and obscure singers/musicians see a spike in sales from a public who suddenly “needs” to own the recorded works of musicians they never heard of before, but now know are dead. Case in point Nate Dogg, a rapper and singer who spent most of his career in the margins, best known for singing the hooks on tracks by Warren G and Snoop Dogg. Before his death, solo tracks by Nate were scarce and sales light. After? A boom in numbers on iTunes and a slew of “Previously Unreleased” tracks, “Newly Discovered Material” (aka tracks and albums deemed not good enough to put out by the artist while he/she was alive) and compilation CDs appear. In the modern music business, death is the only guaranteed way to make it big.
Kim Fowley is not dead… yet. But the megalomaniac producer/arranger/songwriter/singer/actor & experimental film maker is dying. Confined to a hospital bed in a grimy West Hollywood apartment, wearing an adult diaper and stained t-shirt that is pulled up to reveal a half full colostomy bag attached to his side, Fowley is not long for this world. But rather than wait for someone else to pry the gold from the teeth of his corpse, Fowley is taking matter into his own cold bony hands and releasing a slew of old and new material before his imminent departure date. Fowley, never shy about producing and promoting “A ton of product” is releasing his first autobiography “Lord Of Garbage” (in 3 volumes), several CD reissues (“Wildfire” and “Frankenstein & The All Star Monster Band”), and experimental films, as well as continuing to produce new artists. Yes, the genius behind dozens of bands and songs you know and love is ready to rake it in before the reaper comes to call.
I spent a couple hours with Fowley in early August of 2013 for this honest and no holds barred interview. Truth is, some of the chat was so filthy we didn’t want to print it here, but these XXX-rated tales will appear in Hustler Magazine’s January 2014 issue. For our needs, we were happy to have the self-described “Cunning Prick” reflect on his glory days with The Runaways, Alice Cooper, Frank Zappa, Gene Vincent, G.G. Allin as well as give insight into the music business then and now and why Kim Fowley matters now and forever.
Rocker: You’ve worked with…
Fowley: No. me first. What is you motivation with this magazine?
Rocker: With Rocker?
Rocker: It’s a passion thing. The motivation is to connect fans with the artists they have cared about over the years and that they continue to care about. I believe, in life, you should do what you love.
Fowley: You like music?
Rocker: I love music.
Fowley: So why me? Why are you here?
Rocker: Because you’re able to take raw ambition and raw emotion, find the talent and then transform it into gold. Because you’ve always created on your own plan, never sold out and decided to make music that was popular with a trend just because it’s something that makes money. You’ve never been afraid to experiment.
Fowley: Where did you hear about me first?
Rocker: College. The Imperial albums on vinyl. Then your work with The Runaways. Wrote songs with Kiss, Alice Cooper and hundreds more.
Fowley: What do you think of this (indicating his colostomy bag)?
Rocker: How are you doing?
Fowley: I have five years to live. At the most. I’m on my fifth cancer. They took out my bladder, prostate and lymph nodes from the region. They also removed a tumor from my kidney. I’m dying and bored but busy. I’m writing books. I’m on Sirius Satellite Radio every weekend, and I produce records from my bed.
Rocker: Why is your autobiography “Lord of Garbage” coming out in three parts?
Fowley: Because it’s good marketing. The third part will come out the day I die.
Rocker: Why is the third part coming out the day you die? Is it full of revelations and secrets you can’t tell while alive?
Fowley: No. To die and have a book out the same day? Good marketing.
Rocker: Is it true you are also selling a perfume with the book?
Fowley: Yes. It’s called “Garbage.” Smells like jock straps and junkyards. You can order it from an ad in the back of the book. Here it is. Look. Wanna smell it?
Rocker: No! Okay.
(Fowley’s assistant leaves the room and re-enters with a tiny bottle of perfume, complete with Fowley’s scowling face on the label. I smell it. It is horrible! Fowley laughs maniacally.)
Rocker: That is horrible! Who the hell would buy that?!
(Fowley continues laughing)
Rocker: What inspired you to make music?
Fowley: 1941. Learning how to speak. In sentences instead of “Ma ma” and Da da.” Being put into a room with a record player. “Talk to the music little baby.” I gave birth to a fucking genius. That day I learned to be careful what I say. I was in the music business that day because I was SUPPOSED to deal with the music. I kept direction.
Rocker: What is the first record you remember?
Fowley: “Kareoaka” by Carmen Miranda.
Rocker: How is the Sirius Satellite show going?
Fowley: I do it from right here. I’m God on the radio. 40 million listeners at any given time (Ed Note: Sirius has 14 million subscribers.) Some people are into it. Sirius XM 21. Little Stevens Underground Garage channel. 9pm – 1am every Saturday Pacific Standard Time. I’m nicer on the radio than I am on the printed page. There is rock and roll music and rock and roll culture but the numbers are down. Maybe one hundred thousand left. Used to be millions. Tickets are costing more. Less people go. Next question.
Rocker: Fuel 2000 just reissued your CD: “Kim Fowley presents Frankenstein All Star Band.” from 83?
Fowley: Brand new album out on Fuel 2000 Distributed by Universal the 30 year old masterpiece of Monster Rock entitled “Kim Fowley Frankenstein & The All Star Monster Band.” Which sounds like Boris Karloff backed by Prince. The companion piece is the film “Frankenstein Goes Surfing.” He’s a toothless vampire sharpening his teeth to bite into the neck of the female werewolf. I’m doing Jim Carey. It’s monster comedy which hasn’t been done yet. The film comes out in September.
Rocker: What drew you to Frankenstein?
Fowley: I look like him. I’m physically unattractive. And I work it. If I looked like Robert Redford I would have called the album “Robbie Redford & The Pretty Boys.”
Rocker: Tell us some stories from some of the artists you worked with. Gene Vincent?
Fowley: In pain all the time from his leg. I’d catch him when he was coming down from morphine or getting off on morphine. Coming on to it, that’s when you would record him. The slow songs he was coming down. The fast songs he was coming up. Nice person.
Rocker: You wrote 2 songs with Kiss for the “Destroyer” album– “King Of The Nighttime World” and “Do You Love Me.” What do you think of Gene Simmons?
Fowley: Genius! He is the mastermind of Kiss. Twenty two thousand bucks a week! For over 2 years in royalties! God damn. Whoooo. Those were the days.
Rocker: Did you guys actually sit down and write the songs together?
Fowley: No. I did my part and they came in and finished it. Great days.
Rocker: Frank Zappa?
Fowley: He knew how to use Edgar Barise and John Cage. He knew how to do derivative from that source and mix it with doo wop and other music. He was bright but not miraculous.
Rocker: You wrote a song for Van Halen’s first CD?
Fowley: Yeah. There is a complete unreleased Van Halen CD in the Warner Brother’s vaults. I told them they should use the name Van Halen. They asked me if they should be Van Halen or Atomic Punks. The played a Halloween show at the Whiskey. Dressed like the Sex Pistols playing all punk songs. After the gig I told them “Stick with the heavy metal thing.” They asked me to get them a record deal. I was at Mercury at the time with The Runaways and The Quick. I brought the president of Mercury to see them. He said, “It’s like the singer from Black Oak Arkansas fronting Led Zeppelin. No thanks!” Mercury passed on Van Halen.
Rocker: G.G. Allin?
Fowley: I wrote his obituary for a hundred dollars. They buried him in a jockstrap and with a bottle of Jack Daniels. You knew that.
Rocker: Were The Runaways were your greatest musical accomplishment?
Rocker: What was?
Fowley: I haven’t done it yet.
Rocker: Was The Runaways movie accurate?
Fowley: No. It wasn’t a musical story. It was the diary of an admitted addict.
Rocker: With the acts you’re producing now, who are you excited about?
Fowley: Lady Satan’s Dyke Bar — lesbians, fags and misfits doing cabaret. From Detroit, Michigan, Brianna, who is the new Amy Winehouse meeting the white Etta James. She’s 20. Troy Gregory of Killing Joke and Crime & The City Solution introduced us at School Of Rock. Cliff Retlic and I wrote the songs. Also Edward West aka Eddie Cunningham whose songs have been in ads for IBM, Coke, Touched By An Angel, L.A. Dodgers and Wal-Mart.
Rocker: What is your legacy?
Fowley: No one cares. No one will remember me.
Rocker: But you’re a rock icon.
Fowley: Rock and roll is dead. Fading away like jazz. If you don’t believe me, turn on the radio. New Americans don’t care. Black people, brown people, yellow people,… Not interested. It died with Elvis, John Lennon, Michael Jackson. All music is now is background sync-licensed noise.
Rocker: You’ve released some video interview lately?
Fowley: I’ve done 6 video interviews form this bed. One for Michael DesBarres’ show. I’m in a movie, INSIDE PUNK, that was done here two Sundays ago. This thing (indicates colostomy bag) broke. They stopped the camera. They didn’t want to continue.
Rocker: Do you want someone to do a documentary on you?
Fowley: Already been done. By me.
Rocker: Any advice for young bands today?
Fowley: Nobody cares about you. They want to be entertained or educated. They want escapist art. Product. Don’t think you are entitled to the love of an audience just because you are talented. Or you are intellectually deserving, but not magically talented. That is the hardest part. A smart person who is not very fun to listen to. Hardly anyone is magical or wonderful to listen to. Statically, no one is going to ever pay you to be a music business professional.
Rocker: The music business is dead.
Fowley: No it’s not. It’s just different. It’s not dead. Music still provides many things for public media and industry, but not in the same way as before. Now it’s licensing for movies, TV, video games, sports, commercials, sporting events, ringtones, ringbacks,… they all use music, and there is payment. So you can make a living by finding those outlets. CDs still sell. Vinyl sells. Now cassettes are selling again. If you can find all those outlets. 50 things you do. You have to get more outlets going to equal the old income of when it was just record sales and touring. There is still a music business. It’s less but more. Like going into a restaurant with 100 things on the menu you can eat. Previously there were less things you can eat that were better. It’s a redistribution. My music is used by Pittsburg Penguins, Boston Bruins, U.S Olympic skating team and Romanian gymnastic team. There are results there. As well as video games, “Rock Band,” “Guitar Hero,” “Lollipop Chainsaw” use my music. It’s a living.
I have 164 IQ. 19 points over genius, so I figured it all out.
Rocker: What would you have done if you never discovered music?
Fowley: Whatever high IQ people do to make a living. Come on more questions. You have a high IQ. You’re in your forties or fifties.
Rocker: Fifties? Not even close.
Fowley: Put that IQ to work bitch! Is this the best interview you’ve ever done? Are you shocked?
Rocker: No. Not shocked but you surpassed my expectations.
Fowley: Do jews and mafia in the music industry read your shit?
Rocker: I don’t know.
Fowley: If I was Jewish and Italian I could have ruled the world. At one point, you could change your name for 100 dollars, in 1959. I could have been Chris Andrews, John Steele or Tex Greenberg, If I would have gone with Tex Greenberg I would have been David Geffen times a thousand. But, oh no! I had to use a name that seems easy when printed, but when you try to say it on the air it’s hard. Once Dick Clark mentioned Kim Fowley and he stumbled on the OW part. Imagine Dick Clark not being able to pronounce your name? I would have changed it for a hundred bucks. Tex Greenberg! It hits you hard and you smile. I came so close to being Tex Greenberg, but I wanted everyone in high school to know I’d done something, so I kept the name Kim Fowley. Fucking dipshit idea that was.
Rocker: Why should readers care about Kim Fowley?
Fowley: Let me wrap this all up for you. Kim Fowley has 28 personalities: Record Producer, Music Publisher, Songwriter, Recording Artist, and many, many more. Visit Kimfowley.com and see all the gold and platinum records I’ve been involved with. Many you probably didn’t know I worked on. People like me are necessary. Someone has to make you feel superior or happy. That’s what I do with my music.
Picking At The Bones: Kim Fowley’s “Going Out Of Business Sale”
Here is a partial list of the many items you can get at the gift shop.
Kim Fowley: “Lord Of Garbage” Book:
Three part autobiographical journey through the twisted mind of a musical madman. Book one out now, it tell Fowley’s story from unwanted child of b-movie actors to Hollywood Hustler. The 3 volumes were dictated by Fowley and are wonderfully rambling first person accounts of his pain and passion, warts and all. The books are also being translated into French and Spanish.
Kim Fowley: “Wildfire” CD:
A 2 CD compilation of his early Imperial albums, out on England’s Cherry Red label. “Outrageous, good clean fun,” the set combines 2 solid discs of sixties garage rock and weirdo shit, plus a third album of surf-inspired instrumentals in a double disc collection. A nice intro for people who know him only as, “The creepy guy from The Runaways movie.”
Kim Fowley Presents: Frankenstien’s All Star Monster Band” CD:
Kim describes this best as: “Boris Karloff being backed by Prince.” A solid disc of early eighties oddball horror-funk. With Halloween right around the corner, this will be the perfect soundtrack to your night of adult “Trick or Treat.”
Kim Fowley: “Let’s Get Blasted”: Cassette.
Yeah, you read right. Cassette! A new album by about “Sex, death, dope and violence from a pimple’s perspective. Acne rock!” is coming soon from Burger Records www.burgerrecords.com
Kim Fowley: Garbage: The Fragrance:
See above. It stinks!!!
In addition there will be a Kim Fowley comic book coming from Josh Bernstein covering 75 years of rock and roll stories for the cartoon community.
Fowley’s experimental films, that can be viewed on YouTube, are just that. Odd disjointed films. Like “Eraserhead.” They don’t all make sense, but like a car crash, you have to watch. You can’t look away.
“Dollboy: The Movie.” Which Kim calls “The new Rocky Horror Picture Show,” indicating I have over 900,000 hits on Youtube.” If you think Kim is ugly as a man, you may not want to see him in full drag. Or maybe you do.
“Satan of Silverlake” is a twisted blend of sex, drugs, rock & roll and random blurts and bad behavior. Fowley stars as a young Hugh Hefner, serving as a ringmaster lording his power over several dirty girls. “Nothing Equals Nothing” indeed.
“Black Room Doom” is his response to The Runaways movie.
Plus Kim stated there are hundreds of unreleased Kim Fowley songs, CDs and films to come out in various form and formats (and under various names) in the years to come.
For all things Kim Fowley go to: www.KimFowley.com
Kim Fowley’s Book: “Lord Of Garbage” available at Amazon.com