INTERVIEW | David Lynch Talks “Crazy Clown Time” and Why Singing is “so embarrassing”
by Nigel M Smith, Indiewire
David Lynch, the beloved auteur behind “Mulholland Drive” and “Blue Velvet,” hasn’t directed a feature since 2006’s “Inland Empire.” Since then he’s been peddling his own brand of coffee, shooting a campaign for Lady Dior starring Marion Cotillard, doing daily on-camera weather reports from his home (a practice, alas, he appears to have abandoned) and developing a documentary about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation.
What’s currently attracting the most attention, however, are his forays into the music world. This year saw Lynch helm a live Duran Duran concert, shoot an experimental short with the band Interpol, aid in launching his first music nightclub in Paris and collaborate on vocalist Chrysta Bell’s album “This Train.” And on November 8, you can purchase Lynch’s debut solo album, “Crazy Clown Time,” an appropriately haunting and challenging work of 14 original songs. Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, guest vocals on the stark opening track, “Pinky’s Dream.”
indieWIRE spoke with Lynch about his album, his custom-built music studio and why he’s still drawn to Mulholland Drive.
So you’re currently in Paris?
Your Club Silencio just opened this past summer there. How’s it been going?
Well, it’s not my club, I just designed the look of it. But I hear it’s going real good.
How involved have you remained since it opened its doors?
Well, my job is done. Four times a year they ask someone to do what they call ‘Carte Blanche,’ which is to pick some films and some bands. They program a week of things at the club and that’s what I’m starting to do today.
What’s your vision for the program?
The bands that are coming so far are The Kills tonight, Au Revoir Simone tomorrow night, Kitty Daisy and Lewis the next night, Gary Clark Jr. the next night, ending up with Lykke Li.
Your work with the club doesn’t mark your only musical endeavor this year. On top of it and “Crazy Clown Time,” you’ve collaborated with Chrysta Bell, Duran Duran and Interpol. Why have your musical aspirations taken on a more visible life this year?
I don’t know, Nigel. With Duran Duran, I don’t know quite how it happened, but it happened. What are the other things you said?
Oh, I’ve been working with Chrysta Bell for 10 years. Finally her album is finished and out. It’s really, really, really beautiful. Bell is someone people should look out for and listen to. She’s a great singer and performer.
This album, “Crazy Clown Time,” has been worked on for a while and it happens to be coming out this year.
When you say worked on for a while, how long have you been working on the album?
I don’t know exactly. What we’re saying is 1.75 years.
So when your single “Good Day Today” came out last November, you were then in the midst of recording a full-fledged album?
Yeah, but not on purpose. Through the years Dean [Hurley, who contributed additional guitar and drums] and I had been working on music. This album’s probably more recent, but there’s lots and lots of unfinished and finished things that aren’t on this album.
Did you employ a free-form style in making this album, akin to the way you made “Inland Empire” without a script?
This question has come up before. It has nothing to do with “Inland Empire.” You sit down and make a song. And then lo and behold you make a second song and then one day you have 14 songs. And then they go onto an album.
Even though the album was crafted in this way, it comes off as a really cohesive work.The tracks bleed into one another. Do you see it as one in its own right?
I sort of do, Nigel. I’m glad you said that. There’s something that connects it all. There’s some connecting tissue, but I don’t know exactly what it is. It feels good. Always on an album, the sequence of the songs is very critical. So we did work on getting a sequence that felt correct. I think the thing holds together if you listen to it in a sitting. If you listen to it later track by track, you wouldn’t necessarily experience the sequence, but you could experience the songs that you liked.
The album opens on a very brash note with Karen O’s vocals on “Pinky’s Dream.” How did you snag her?
My friend and music agent Brian Lox brings people by for me to meet and possibly work with. He had brought Karen O over to the studio about 10 years ago, but nothing happened that time. This time when she came over, I had the lyrics to “Pinky’s Dream.” Karen sat with the lyrics for about half an hour. We just kept playing the track, playing the track, playing the track. And then she said, “I want to go in the booth.” Into the booth she went and out she came with “Pinky’s Dream.”
What was it like listening to her interpret your words?
I was next door to heaven. Her voice when she says Pinky… It almost makes me cry. I know Pinky. Such a special person, Pinky is. It’s because of her voice. I really love Pinky and what he’s going through.
What artists did you listen while preparing for the album and/or during the recording process?
No other people. I think what we’re saying is, the whole thing sort of wants to be connected to a kind of electric blues that kind of starts the sound we’re looking for.
How did you foster that electric blues sound you’re speaking of?
All I have to do is light that guitar. Light it up.
Can you tell me a bit about your own studio, in which you recorded the album?
Well, it’s in my house. The room was designed by an acoustic architect. It’s a room within a room. There’s three ceilings, there’s two floors and there’s two walls. So it’s very, very quiet when everything’s shut off. The speakers are theater speakers. They’re always tuned so what you hear is really true to what you have.
Listening to the album, I pictured you recording it into the wee hours of the night.
Sometimes we recorded during the day.
How long have you been living on Mulholland Drive?
I live near Mulholland Drive and I’ve lived here for many years since the ‘80s.
Your milieu has obviously influenced your work so much over the years. What is about that area that keeps feeding you?
There’s a breeze there and there’s a smell in the hills and a feeling that’s very nice. It’s in the city, but it’s in the country at the same time. It has a feeling that’s conducive to making things.
Did you experience a freedom in making this album that’s harder to manifest on film sets?
No. I found it very difficult to sing. It’s so embarrassing. So that was the hardest part. On a film set, I feel very, very good now. You get used to working with lots of people around. Singing is really, really frightening.
How did you get over that fear?
I haven’t gotten over it. I just got more comfortable singing in front of Dean. He’s the only person I sing in front of.
With that said, do you see yourself ever touring with this album?
The Guardian published an interesting piece a few months back where they dubbed this fall as the autumn of David Lynch due to your influence on the musical scene, notably on popular newcomers like Lana Del Ray and Chelsea Wolfe. Are you familiar with any of these young singers?
Lana Del Ray, I am.
What do you make of her saying you’re a huge influence?
Well, all the girls are pretty enamored by me.
Why do you think that is?
(Laughs.) I’m just joking with you, Nigel. I don’t know what it is. Maybe we love the same kinds of worlds, I’m not sure.
Have you ever met Lana?
No, I’ve seen her on the Internet. I’ve seen her video.
What kind of audience are you hoping to attract with this album?
I think it’s a definite crossover album and it will reach millions of people.
I have to ask, you haven’t released a feature since “Inland Empire.” Is your documentary on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation, still in the works?
Yes, but it’s far from being finished. And I’m trying to catch ideas for another feature film, but that hasn’t happened yet.