In a rare public interview, Bob Dylan opened up about his latest endeavor, a book entitled The Philosophy of Modern Song. In the conversation with Jeff Slate for The Wall Street Journal, he also revealed some fun—and sometimes, surprising—facts about his musical tastes. You can read the full transcript of the Q&A here.
Journalist Allison Rapp reviewed Dylan’s book for Ultimate Classic Rock, describing it as “a book designed for Dylan to discuss some of the tracks that have sparked his interest, curiosity and imagination over the years…[it] is remarkable not because one of the most admired artists of his generation and beyond has weighed in on the work of others but because it proves a simple fact: Dylan loves music in the same way his fans do.”
Proving Rapp’s point in his WSJ interview, Dylan appeared almost excited to share just how much he loves music, and what may come as a surprise to some, he seems to love metal and rock and roll. Don’t believe us? Check out some of our favorite revelations from the interview below.
“I’ve Seen Metallica Twice”
When asked how he discovers new music, Dylan said that it happens “mostly by accident, by chance,” and later explained how his peers—artists and songwriters—will make recommendations, many of whom he has seen live. In a list of acts such as The Klaxons, Julian Casablancas, Jack White, “The Oasis Brothers” and Royal Blood, Dylan also mentioned, “I’ve seen Metallica twice.” He gave no follow-up as to his experience at the shows, but the fact that he decided to see them again after the first time makes us think he has a secret collection of ‘Tallica T-shirts at home.
A Duff McKagan Song With Profound Meaning For Dylan
In the same answer to how he discovers new music, Dylan gave his interviewer a beautiful description of Duff McKagan’s “Chip Away” from his second solo album, Tenderness.
“[That song] has profound meaning for me,” Dylan remarked. “It’s a graphic song. Chip away, chip away, like Michelangelo, breaking up solid marble stone to discover the form of King David inside. He didn’t build him from the ground up, he chipped away the stone until he discovered the king. It’s like my own songwriting, I overwrite something, then I chip away lines and phrases until I get to the real thing. Shooter Jennings produced that record. It’s a great song.”
Dio and a Full Moon
Slate asked Dylan if the way someone first hears a song actually matters, and Dylan admits something most fans of music know: “The relationship you have to a song can change over time.” However, he also notes that the first time you hear a song is significant. To make his point clear, he turns to Ronnie James Dio: “”Star Gazer,” the Ronnie James Dio song would probably mean a lot more to you if you first heard it at midnight under a full moon beneath an expanding universe, than if you first heard it in the middle of a dreary day with rain pouring down.”
Rocking Out With Zappa During Lockdown
In the middle of the pandemic’s first summer—June 19, 2020, to be exact—Dylan released his 39th studio album, Rough and Rowdy Ways. He also live-streamed a one-of-a-kind concert experience for fans and as we now know, wrote a book. Beyond that, he also revisited some music he hadn’t listened to in awhile. “I listened to The Mothers of Invention record Freak Out!, that I hadn’t heard in a long, long time,” he told Slate. “What an eloquent record. “Hungry Freaks, Daddy,” and the other one, “Who Are the Brain Police,” perfect songs for the pandemic. No doubt about it, [Frank] Zappa was light years ahead of his time. I’ve always thought that.”
Dylan and The Beatles
Slate told Dylan how Ringo Starr once mentioned to him that if you’re a good musician or songwriter then you are likely good at other things, too. Dylan didn’t spend much time thinking about the notion, and instead, shared his thoughts about Starr. “I love Ringo,” he said. “He’s not a bad singer, and he’s a great musician. If I’d had him as a drummer, I would’ve been the Beatles, too. Maybe.”
Dylan and Slayer Collaboration?
The final item in the interview that has us thinking Dylan wears spiked leather on his days off might be a bit of a stretch, but we’re going to include it anyway. Writer and Metallica biographer Ben Apatoff wondered if Dylan was hinting at a hidden love for Slayer when he commented, “There’s a sameness to everything nowadays. We seem to be in a vacuum. Everything’s become too smooth and painless…the earth could vomit up its dead, and it could be raining blood, and we’d shrug it off, cool as cucumbers. Everything’s too easy.” Hey, if Metallica and Lou Reed could collaborate, maybe Dylan and Slayer could, too.
You can read the full interview with Bob Dylan here.
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