Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways (2014) s01e04 Episode Script


I wrote this ballad, it goes like this It goes I know it's kinda It's kinda long.
It's got a bunch of parts to it.
We should record it in three different parts.
Wow, Chris, what's that? It's a little something I've been working on.
- What? I got it.
- I got it.
- Oh, I like that.
- You ought to make Naw, I got nothing.
I'll figure it out, though.
- I got one.
- Hold on.
- Oh.
Oh! - That's really pretty.
You know what we should do? We should tag that, uh at the end of this thing I've been writing.
Fuckin' fooled around with this thing It goes Whoa! Yeah No, I don't think that one's gonna work.
B side, B side.
Okay, ready? - Ready? - Let's record a song.
One, two, three, four.
It's an oasis, you know.
There's a lot of country out there.
I mean, there's a lot of space, and then in the middle of all that space, some of the coolest, freakiest stuff comes out of this city, you know, that goes on to inspire people around the world.
If you're into music, art, any sort of self-expression like that, you tend to kinda gravitate to here.
There is a certain feeling that you get when you go there, and I think that's what happened to me when I was a kid.
It was wide open, it felt free.
You could do anything.
I think there's something here.
There's something geographically or, I don't know, mystically or something.
It's not only an oasis in Texas, I think it's an oasis in the whole country.
You know, a lot of people think that it's this oasis of liberalism in the middle of Texas The cowboy next door with his rodeo wife, and the lesbian couple on the other side of you But what you don't realize is the lesbian couple voted for Bush and the rodeo wife is the closeted lesbian.
It's so It's just a weird place.
I mean, there's so much stuff that's come out of this place that kinda "started things" that it's kind of It is kind of amazing.
And I don't know if it's the water, the attitude or what, but it's just You know, in the '60s it was such a hippie town and then late '70s and '80s, pretty punk rock.
Somewhere in the '90s it really started turning into just crazy.
It became a big small town.
Boy, they will tell you what they are.
That is the "live music capital of the world," isn't it? Isn't it what they say? "Live music capital of bar bands," or whatever? God bless 'em.
I love Austin.
That was all a deliberate Chamber of Commerce kinda thing That Austin is the "live music capital of the world" and everything, but But there's some truth to it.
Then you can go from hearing a reggae band to rock, to blues, to jazz, country like, next door to each other every single night.
People wonder why Austin has never become like another Nashville or L.
when it comes to the music business.
Austin is more of a creative incubator, really.
It's It's a great place for musicians to get together and just work it out.
And the scene began to take shape in the '70s really when Willie came to town.
Now you were born in Abbott, Texas? Mm-hmm.
- It seems like a lot of songwriters will go from Texas to Nashville, but you seem like you were one of the few that went back.
Well, I went there for a while and stayed there for quite a few years and liked it, but most of my work was in Texas, and west.
That's where, you know, I grew up, and I hear it in my music, and it's not hard to figure out where it came from.
And I thought about Houston first.
My sister lived in Austin, so I visited her and decided that, you know, that's where I'd start out.
Then we had the first Fourth of July picnic over in Dripping Springs and that changed a lot of things.
Austin already was a music town, but it was really when Willie came to town that somehow all the things converged.
That's sort of what really brought Austin to a public knowledge.
Willie moving back to Texas kind of changed my life.
I probably wouldn't, you know I definitely wouldn't be exactly who I am if it hadn't been for that.
All of a sudden I didn't get my ass kicked because I had long hair and cowboy boots.
You know, this thing that happened where all these hippies were coming out to see Willie's gigs, I mean, I can remember seeing Willie at a place called the Half Dollar and the hippies went and sat on the dance floor in the front.
And people started dancing by them and kicking them You know, cowboy boots, in the small of the back as they came by And Willie stopped.
He Just in the middle in the song, he said, "There's room for some to sit and for some to dance.
" It was like the first time that the rednecks and the hippies had been in the same room anywhere, especially in Texas, and they were all doing the same thing Pass the beer around, pass the joint around And, uh, realized that they had something in common, namely the music.
What I like about Willie is he is quite underrated as a lead guitarist.
His solo work on that crazy beat-up Martin guitar is phenomenal.
We've remained pals for four decades.
Love Willie Nelson.
It's one thing to listen to Willie Nelson on Spotify.
It's another thing to see him in Austin, because there you're seeing him in his native habitat Why he is the way he is.
I wanted to ask you about Austin City Limits.
- Mm-hmm.
- Were you the first? I was the first.
Think I played it more than anybody.
They talked Willie Nelson into doing it for 500 bucks.
Lone Star Beer put up some money to pay for it, and the show aired on PBS.
Without question, I think Austin City Limits brought international attention to this small town.
- Did you watch it a lot? - Oh, yeah.
I went to tapings from time to time.
You know, 'cause you could They weren't that hard to get into.
And you know that That Austin City Limits was in that old rusty building on campus forever and ever.
Now the last time I did it was one of the last tapings in the old studios.
It started in that room and it stayed in that room for 36 years.
We're in a new room today, brand-new, state of the art facility.
Although we have moved out of the original studio, it's completely intact.
If you walked in the door you could turn on the lights and the stage is still there, the bleachers are there, the skyline is there and nothing's changed.
If we could go in and record on that stage, man, that would be huge.
Like, I don't know how possible that is, but, you know, I'm It's totally possible.
Like I said, the studio is there.
And even though the show is downtown in our new venue, we still do all of our posts back at the old place.
So, I mean, if you wanted to do everything in there, man, I'd be thrilled to work with you and clear the time that you need to do it, whatever.
We have that on camera, Terry, just so you know.
- I'm still rolling.
- We didn't cut yet.
- Well, this is it.
- This is the so-called historic Studio 6A.
Nobody thought it was gonna be historic when it was built in 1974.
Literally, this studio is designed for all kinds of production except for music.
Nobody really anticipated that we would do a live music show here.
Oh, we're making Oh, we're recording and making a TV show.
- Remember? - Yeah.
What's up? - That's the - That's a nice guitar.
Have you played in here yet? It's rad.
It's really dry and fucking But then What they did in there soundwise is sick.
Okay, this is where we're gonna put the dead body.
I think James and I were a bit stressed before we came to Austin.
We knew it wasn't set up like a traditional recording studio.
Dude, you got to hold the button down before you talk to me.
I can't hear ya.
What? I think James had been here before and said the room was fairly "dry.
" That's the one we used in Chicago, isn't it? Because it's a television studio, it doesn't have a lot of ambiance, but we actually found out once we got here and we set up the mics, it actually sounded really good Really cool.
I started working at the radio station in my hometown, in Poughkeepsie WPDH, and a listener called and said, "Have you ever been to Austin?" I said, "No.
That's in Texas, right?" And he said, "There is an incredible music scene in Austin, and you really ought to go check it out someday.
" So, I was kind of looking for an excuse for a road trip to go to Willie Nelson's Fourth of July Picnic.
Thank you very much and welcome to the Willie Nelson Fourth of July Picnic.
Is everybody loaded? Great! 'Cause we are, too! Spent a week in Austin and a musician friend of mine and I kinda made a pact that we were moving to Austin.
I landed a job at KUT-FM in the same building as the PBS station where Austin City Limits was being born and talked my way into the job as producer of Austin City Limits.
I took over in season four, and that's when we built this stage where Roy Orbison hit those high notes that only he could.
Hard to imagine that Ray Charles and his 17-piece orchestra actually did fit here somehow.
I always do the introductions to the show from the stage and I was getting ready to introduce Johnny Cash and noticed he's off in the corner a little fidgety.
Asked him if there was anything he needed, and he just kind of looked at me and said, "Nah, uh, I'm all right, it's just that this is a real music show, and I just want to make sure that I get it right.
" Hello, I'm Johnny Cash.
Good evening.
And afterwards, Johnny called it one of the best TV performances that he had ever done.
We have had a lot of historic moments take place in this room across all genres of music.
And they had good sound for a change, on TV.
Most of the time TV sound hadn't got that good yet, but Austin City Limits and Terry and those guys worked on it and they came up with a pretty reasonable sound for a studio in television, and that's why a lot of the bands wanted to go there.
All right, clap your hands! Come on, let's go! When the Foo Fighters played Austin City Limits it was a big deal for all of us because we'd all grown up watching the show.
When you walk into that room and you step foot on that stage, you can feel the ghosts and the spirits come out of it.
There's something about that stage that's just different than anywhere else.
I don't know if they realized how important the show was when they first started doing it.
There weren't too many of those shows on television when I was a kid.
Music in Austin was always a big thing.
Their music scene goes back to at least the 1930s and 1940s.
There was this club called the Victory Grill Where people like B.
King and Bobby "Blue" Bland played some of their first live shows.
There was the Skyline Club, which is the last place that Hank Williams played before he died in 1952.
And Elvis played five times, you know, before anybody knew who he was.
By the 1950s and 1960s, Houston was really the music Mecca.
King, his entire band From Houston.
Little Richard, first recordings in Houston.
In his autobiography, Ray Charles says, "If you want to get a good band go to Houston.
" Houston was the Mecca, but Austin was where all the girls in the halter tops were.
Austin was, uh, quite a magnet.
I mean, it was a big college town.
The University of Texas is 50,000 students.
What Austin is is it's a sister city to San Francisco or Berkeley.
There were health food stores, there were It was You'd think that you'd dropped off into California there.
And there was like, psychedelic bands, you know, the 13th Floor Elevators and, you know, the Moving Sidewalks, Billy Gibbons' first band.
The Sidewalks and the Elevators lived in the same fucking house in Houston.
That was '66, '67.
I was like 16 and just learning how to traverse new avenues of sound.
I know that you had bands before the Moving Sidewalks, or was that really the first one? We were previously called the Saints.
We added horns, we became this big rhythm and blues thing.
And then boom, 1966 The 13th Floor Elevators appeared.
What Roky and his gang were doing was off the chain.
We suddenly changed our name to the Moving Sidewalks, you know "13th Floor Elevators," okay, "Moving Sidewalks.
" It's about forward motion, go up, go forward.
This was the same time everybody was discovering mind-altering uh, "interests.
" It was real live d-lysergic acid diethylamide, you know, 25 And it was because Owsley himself brought it there and set up another chemist in the laboratories at the University of Texas.
And there was heroin And there was some coke, every other kind of psychedelic you could imagine.
And some those "excursions" were not so popular with, uh, law enforcement.
And the "straight and narrow" started becoming wider and wider and wider.
Now because of their scrapes with the law, the Elevators wound up in San Francisco when basically the scene was coffeehouses.
It was more of a folk scene.
I went to school up there near San Francisco.
At that time the folk thing was huge up there and jug bands and stuff like that.
Rock and roll, to us, was like, "squaresville," you know? We You know, folk was cool.
And then, bang Everybody went electric.
I didn't realize that they were considered to be the pioneers Oh, yeah, 'cause they went to San Francisco and, like, we're playing that stuff, and people were just like, you know Yeah.
The band I was in in college, uh, we used to play Roky songs and 13th Floor Elevator songs.
If you listen to those early records, I don't know anybody who was quite doing what they did.
His music's fucking rad.
Yeah, we got to learn "Two-Headed Dog.
" Oh, cool.
- It was a good song.
- It's pretty good.
Roky Erickson's voice is the most wickedly lovely, demonic sound.
And one of the greatest screams When he sings that first line of "Two-Headed Dog," man, it's just one of the best moments in rock and roll.
What a goddamn pioneer.
And I truly love psychedelic rock.
I really do.
I mean, I just do.
I mean, I'd put echo on everything if I could, you know? And I love the fact that one of my favorite bands of all time, ZZ Top, was totally influenced by him.
Now he's not necessarily in the finest of mental health or whatever, he He's brilliant.
You know, kind of a genius.
How would you describe the Elevators for someone that's never heard 'em? Well, uh, I guess they'd get into it right off, you know, 'cause it That music, it's kind of careful music, you know.
But we did come up with it, you know, and everything, you know.
Once you guys became an established band, did you see the whole thing, like, getting bigger and bigger? Uh, well, we just, uh, each time we'd play, you know, we'd feel more confident about what we were doing, you know.
We'd get flashy clothes and stuff like that that would look like, you know, Davy Crockett or something like that.
You know, I've met Billy Gibbons - Mm-hmm.
- I like him a lot.
He's a really good dude.
And, um, someone once told me that they named their band kind of as a tribute to you guys.
- Is that right? - Did you not know that? Wow, I didn't know about that.
- That's great, yeah.
- I mean, you know.
Well, how did ZZ Top start? They just Somebody said "Well, you know, it'd be better to call you ZZ Top" or something? Did you get to see the 13th Floor Elevators? Yeah, I saw them in a I saw them in a Chinese restaurant.
- What was it like? - They were crazy.
And, you know, the guy had the electric jug and everything.
Yeah! Yeah! You know, it wasn't mainstream, if you know what I mean, but they had records, you know.
That's what I mean, that was what was cool about Austin They were getting away with it.
They were doing it.
And they played all the time, so In the period when I came here, the 13th Floor Elevators had become really famous, and it was beginning the decline of Roky.
How long did it last, that band? Oh, about Oh, until, uh, they started, uh Tried to help me about if they thought I was in trouble for drugs or something like that, you know.
And then, that first time, you know, they came over there and they said, "Wow.
" They decided, "Look, this guy's quit school in the 11th grade," he's And why, because he has long hair and he's "too morbid" and "weird beliefs," you know, and And, um, and here he is, uh, in a psychedelic band.
"Well, hey, buddy, we got to put our finger on this.
" And they did.
They had him, uh, incarcerated for years and years on a trumped-up count of whatever and he had a choice Either go to prison or go to a mental hospital.
And he was advised, "Don't go to prison.
Maybe Maybe you can make it out of the mental ward.
" And fortunately he did, thanks to his brother and some well-wishers that had never forgotten what Roky stood for in the '60s That turning point.
'Cause when I listen to your voice, there's part of me that I wondered if If you like James Brown, you know.
- Yes, I do like James Brown.
- Do you really? Uh-huh.
Because when your voice gets up there into that high stuff, like, "Yeah!" I always thought, "Well, that sounds like James Brown.
" I'd say I've been influenced by well, James Brown, you know.
He screams like I've been getting into screaming like that real thing that hurts you.
It just, you know, wonder where he is, you know.
It just He's the living embodiment of psychedelic music.
He invented it.
And that's to say a lot.
It's really saying a lot.
Then Austin became kind of a focal point of music against the grain, a place with no boundaries.
There was a counterculture in Austin before there was one in other cities.
I was, um, counterculture because my uncle was and, you know, I was the kid among a group of people that was That for the most part, five and up to 10 years older than I was.
Not much interested in school, and I ran away from home when I was 14.
They brought me back and I ran away again in the middle of the second semester.
I moved out of the house when I was 16 and I was very heavily interested in music and I started hanging out around, you know, this coffeehouse called the Gate House.
And I started going over to Houston 'cause I started hearing about a place called the Old Quarter and a place called Sand Mountain, a coffeehouse.
The main thing I went over there looking for was Townes Van Zandt.
As soon as I started playing coffeehouses, I started hearing about Townes and people played Townes' songs, and I went to the record store and there were Townes' records.
And I didn't know any difference between Townes van Zandt and, you know, Jackson Browne, or anybody else that had a record in the record store.
Anybody that had a record in the record store was Was a big star as far as I knew.
I met him in a place In the Old Quarter in Houston, and I followed him around for a couple years.
Did you feel akin to what his whole vibe was? We Yeah, we It was a cult.
We We All of us Me, Lucinda Williams, Guy Clark, even Everybody went through their own stage of wanting to be him.
Some people emulated the wrong things Including me sometimes.
When I got to know him I realized he didn't He wasn't making any money.
And Townes could have made a lot more money than he made, but what's important is it didn't cause him to stop doing what he was doing.
I witnessed somebody that had committed to being an artist no matter what the outcome of that was as far as their livelihood.
Austin City Limits put Austin on the map nationally.
The early seasons, it's pretty strictly, you know, country and blues and folk, stuff that was popular in the In the country region and the South, but it gave it a national voice.
One of the first shows that I booked in my first year as producer was Tom Waits who had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with country music or with Austin.
Tom Waits was kind of one big step in a different direction for the show.
And to this day, that is still, like, one of the most in-demand shows A 40-year-old Tom Waits show.
- We are, actually.
- For the song? - Do you have an old piano here? - I bet we do.
Do you have the old piano here? Yeah, I think so.
The Steinway.
It's behind these bleachers.
- Oh, really? - Okay, so it's a baby grand.
But it is the piano that Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis Did you just film what just happened? But I haven't used it much for anything.
- What?! - It's still in good shape.
Why this shit's on it, I have no idea.
People always said it sounded Who's played on this? Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, everyone.
Was it here for Tom Waits and stuff? Yeah, he played this.
He play He played this, too.
I'm sure Tom Waits played this piano.
What other piano would he have played? Oh my, God.
We got to get that down on stage.
Nobody really knows the history of this piano.
Why is this place Why is Why is it Why What is going on in here? Well, they used it for the PBS pledge drives and for local productions and staff brown bag lunches Private parties.
And, uh, you know.
But, you know, so far it still looks exactly the same.
It's weird, man.
It's like The Twilight Zone with the cigarette - still in the ashtray.
- Yes.
It just looks like you had a show in here last night.
Wow, man.
Okay, I'm going to tell those guys right now! I had forgot that song.
Ah, whatever.
You want to give me a level of the track so this thing works right? And can you relay a message to everybody out there they need to shut the fuck up and stay still? 'Cause we're picking up everything.
Shut the fuck up if you're in this room.
No farting.
Okay, let's try it again.
Archie Bunker's chair is in the Smithsonian and this piano's in the corner of the room with blankets over it and a bunch of stuff on top of it.
I I was shocked.
You're just a hair late on the "da da da da da da da da-bum.
" And when the Armadillo world headquarters opened, that was a milestone in Austin's musical evolution.
When I moved to Austin in 1970 at 18 and got an efficiency apartment, across the street was the Armadillo Had just opened up.
It was a former armory building that could hold couple of thousand kids and they'd have rock and Grateful Dead, and Springsteen played one of his first Texas shows there.
But they also booked Willie and Waylon.
And that place would be packed.
There'd be thousands of people in there doing the Cotton-Eyed Joe or whatever they did.
Let's hear a hoot and a holler right now! My little bands were sort of anti that, you know.
We didn't want to be country, we wanted to be blues.
The first song I learned was "Honky Tonk" by Bill Doggett.
You know And I basically haven't progressed very much since then.
People think, "Oh yeah, that blues stuff" that's, you know, that's easy until you start listening and then try and learn it.
My buddy, Jimmie Vaughan, said, "Oh yeah," he said, "just when you think it's easy" "you start realizing just how tough it is.
" We said, we're gonna have a blues band.
And they go, "You can't do that.
You'll never get anywhere.
" We didn't care.
We were having fun.
This guy named Clifford Antone, he was totally into blues.
All he cared about was Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters and finally he just opened a club and said, "Okay, this is Antone's and we're gonna have blues here.
" And we got to be the house band, the Thunderbirds.
Sometimes there's a fulcrum of a music scene and that was Antone's.
You knew if you went to Antone's that you were gonna hear something good.
Quality, all the time.
Albert King, Albert Collins All the guys from Chicago Would come there and play for like a week.
And we got to learn, you know, from watching these guys.
Albert King played left-handed, like Hendrix, and not restrung, but just turned the guitar over and play.
You didn't go and ask Albert King to sit in.
He was a huge mean guy and he was Albert King, you know, the meanest guitar player you've ever heard of.
All of us right-handed guitar players go nuts trying to figure out how Albert King played like that.
And you can't comprehend it until you'd turn the guitar over like this, because all those pulls were down, down not up.
So Albert became my favorite guy.
You didn't go up and ask Albert King to sit in.
Nobody did.
But Clifford said, "Hey, there's this kid named Stevie Ray Vaughan that wants to sit in with you.
He can play just like you.
" And so Albert's like, "Okay.
" And he got my brother up when my brother was 17.
This was way early ZZ Top.
We were doing a show at a club called Arthur in Dallas and Stevie tiptoed in, of course I was friends with his older brother, Jimmie.
I said, "Come on up, man.
" And he was already tearing it up.
And he couldn't have been maybe 15.
Do you remember the first time you played - Austin City Limits? - Yeah, yeah.
There would be like 300 people in there.
Everybody'd be dancing and pretty fast forgot what you were doing and you just had a good time.
We were on the show, and I think Stevie opened the show and, uh The first time Stevie Ray did the show he was just a sweaty mess on the stage and he kept leaving the stage and going off thinking, you know, "Man, I I just can't do this," you know, "I've never I've never played this bad," while everybody in the audience was just like, "Wow, this is some awesome, incredible shit.
" You know, I just have a vague memory of being a kid and seeing Stevie Ray Vaughan on Austin City Limits.
I just remember it, like Like a dream almost, I remember seeing it.
I've seen a bunch of the old episodes that were filmed in this room, and, uh, I mean I guess most notably, you know, the Stevie Ray Vaughan stuff, you know, one of the greatest guitar players that ever walked the earth.
I mean, even then, even as a kid, you could tell that he was something special.
The last show that he did in 1990, literally, just months before he died in that helicopter crash was so incredibly powerful.
Eric Clapton probably described it better than anybody, that there was like this power that was being channeled through him that was almost not quite human.
Blues comes and goes, it ebbs and flows, it'll be around.
One by one, somebody's gonna like it enough to chase it.
Did you ever listen to the blues? Were you a blues person? Um, a little bit.
I like Delta blues.
I don't really care for northern blues, like Chicago blues.
I don't like "perky" blues.
If you have to suffer to sing the blues, um, I don't think you necessarily have to suffer to be punk rock, but it helps.
I don't think you have to be angry, but it probably helps.
Houston and Dallas had their little scenes, but they weren't so good.
Not compared to Austin.
God, that scene was so cool.
Those days were just the most awesome.
And when the punk stuff really started up I was working at a record store and kinda gravitated more towards Clash than I did Sex Pistols 'cause Sex Pistols just sound like a rock and roll band to me and Clash kind of sounded more like the Beatles.
Did you have musical aspirations - before any of this, or not? - Perhaps.
However, with no musical ability.
I was the worst accountant probably in the history of that Peat, Marwick, Mitchell office in San Antonio, Texas.
I wanted to go to art school and teach college art.
I thought that way I could have summers off and hang out with, you know, hot coeds during the year and teach them how to draw.
And then punk rock came along.
Playing a show at a big place was just so unobtainable.
And then here comes punk rock where anybody can get up here and do this.
The music isn't what got me first.
What got me first was the whole idea that the guy in the back that's yelling, "Sound asleep, we're sound asleep!" is just as important as the people up on stage and the people in the crowd are making fanzines, they're doing photos, they're doing stuff.
They're all being creative, hook, line and sinker.
I thought, "This is the greatest thing ever.
" The Big Boys, you know, they were one of the first.
In a scene that lasted for about a decade, they were really one of the first.
Big Boys started when I'd gotten out of I was out of college.
It was my first year out of college, and Chris and I were out skating and flipped a coin, see who was gonna play bass 'cause we both played guitar, and, uh, he got bass, I got guitar.
And like, if it would have been the other way around that band would have been a completely different band.
They had the energy of a band like Black Flag or the Sex Pistols, but you could dance to it.
Or you could stage dive to it.
Or you could skateboard to it.
That's the skating connection of all of this is I probably wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for skating.
The urethane wheels had just come out and we all skated together.
And Biscuit skated with us and we're skating to, like, "Brick House" and just all this kind of funk stuff is what we're skating to, you know, kind of thing, and since there were no rules or no uniform, we started playing funk and stuff 'cause that's what we listened to.
And you guys used to tell the audience - to go start their own band.
- Yeah.
And, you know, these paintings, you know what they're signed? "Your name here.
" Because if you look at the bottom of this thing to see who painted this and you see "Your name here," it's like, "Yeah, come on, you can do this, too.
You can do something.
" Someone pointed that out to me "Don't follow in the footsteps of the masters, seek what they sought.
" Yeah, you should always walk your walk, stay true, do what you're doing, 'cause you never know when you might plant a seed and something might happen, you know.
It's It's amazing.
It's crazy to think about in the early '80s in Texas there's a punk band playing funk with an outrageous crossdressing front man.
There's pockets in Dallas and San Antonio and Houston, but for the most part this is the only place in Texas that was pretty much like that and kind of still is.
When you bailed from your hometown, wherever it was, you landed in Austin.
We'd come up to Austin to go hang out at Raul's, which was the punk rock club.
There was Raul's on Guadalupe on the main drag by the university.
Frat boys would drive by and throw beers at us and yell "Devo" out the window.
There was a stop light like, right Like, it's here, and then there's a stop light here, so when idiot frats were like, screaming and hollering at us and throwing stuff, they wouldn't realize that the light was red and the car in front had stopped And, slam! And all of us would be like It was just a really cool community of nut cases and misfits and stuff.
I remember touring bands would come through and always marvel about how there was slam dancing going on.
And people in Austin would help somebody who fell down, they would help them up.
The San Antonio newspaper found out we were playing in Austin I don't know how They came down to Austin and took a picture of me on stage naked with an American flag wrapped around my waist and it was on fire.
And their headline This was on the front page of the "entertainment" section of the Sunday newspaper and it said, "Could this be the worst band in the history of rock and roll?" It was absolutely hopeless.
We were in a band called the "Butthole Surfers.
" I mean, give me a break.
I remember there was an all-ages show and they just brought out a naked woman and the people that owned it were like, "You can't do this.
This is an all-ages show or you get shut down.
" So Gibby lit part of the place on fire.
In 1985 there wasn't a band on earth who could touch them live.
You know what, I like what Thurston Moore said one time "The last psychedelic band.
" I wonder why they've never asked us to play on Austin City Limits.
Just like skating, as big as people think all this stuff was back then, it was this small, little thing and we might as well have all been from Mars or Saturn.
It's interesting because it seems like with South By Southwest it's become this huge music industry capital.
The people that started "South By" were all at Raul's.
Louis Black, who runs the Chronicle All those people were Raul's.
It started here in 1987, really as a reaction from Roland Swenson who's the founder Who was a band manager and couldn't get the music industry to come to pay attention to any of his bands.
He got $5,000 from the Austin Chamber of Commerce and it was partially underwritten by the Austin Chronicle where he was still an employee.
It was all these bands nobody really knew about, and they were just trying to play for people.
Me and my buddies, we used to call it "South By So What?" It started out with 800 people and I think 200 bands and 15 clubs.
It was pretty exciting when it started.
Everybody had gigs and they were playing in different clubs.
I mean, we get now 10,000 applications to play for about 2,300 slots.
It's not really a local thing anymore.
You know, you see bands from all over the world.
A couple of years ago I think it was, there were 120-something bands just from Australia.
There's a Korean night, there's a Dutch night, there's a Japan night.
I don't think it's really a music festival anymore.
It's spring break.
And then now, the record companies come, and they have budgets, and there's bands playing on the corner.
Everybody else has glommed onto South By Southwest which takes away from what the heart of what South By Southwest was created to be.
Then I think as South By Southwest came along it drew more attention to Austin.
There's still evidence of "small town-ness" to be found in Austin, but by and large, it's It's really grown up.
It's not so much isolated or localized as it once was, but there's still a history and a legacy there, you know, that deserves a lot of respect and that we can learn a lot from.
Because you were born and raised here, you have probably one of the better perspectives on this city.
Growing up you must have known that this was somewhat of a music capital, right? I didn't know.
I never really crossed the river to go anywhere other than like, my grandmother's house.
Every now and then we would drive down Sixth Street and, you know, check it out during the day, but I didn't know all this stuff was happening until I went down for my friend Eve's birthday party and I was like, "How could you keep this from me?" Like, "This is everything that I want in my life.
" So I jumped in, man.
I started skipping school, I started missing out on projects, I wasn't doing homework, I was hanging out in smoky bars way too late and showing up to school in the morning just disinterested, like, "Where were you?" I was like, "I was hanging with Jimmie Vaughan and Pinetop Perkins and James Cotton at Antone's last night.
" You remember him from when he was a little kid.
What did you think the first time you saw this little kid? Well, I I just didn't think anything about it.
I just figured his parents, you know, brought their kid and then I started hearing about him "Gary Clark And he plays with that little girl named Eve, you got to hear 'em play.
" Yeah, I don't read music so it was either by sight or, you know, by ear.
Had mad VHS tapes of Austin City Limits and they're worn.
Like, you can tell like, parts where I just watched them over and over again.
"Okay, well, it's somewhere in here That awesomeness is in this section of the neck.
" You know what I mean? So let me figure that out.
I spent a lot of time like, this close to the TV, like, "What is that?" And so finally one night, uh, we got him up.
He had that smooth thing that he's got now But there's a smoothness on top of the The "soulful roughness" that's going on that you immediately get Bam! You get it when you hear him.
And he had that when he was a little kid, so we're Everybody's like, "Okay, we know he's got it.
" He's just heavy of As a blues player as anybody.
He's for real.
He's not faking it, you know what I mean? He asked me to open up some shows for him and took me on the road for my first time.
I'd just graduated high school, I was like, 19 or something? Yeah, I was young.
I couldn't even get into most of the clubs.
I would play the set and then they'd make me sit outside.
And, uh, yeah, I still got pictures of, like, me in the club with Xs on my hands, you know, I was too young.
We're real proud of him, you know, in Austin, because he's sort of like the new generation.
He's just like a mentor and a teacher.
I'll always be grateful.
I can He changed my life, you know what I mean? We're gonna get everybody.
Gary Clark, Jr.
, y'all know Jimmie Vaughan on the guitar.
First time that I played on this stage was with Jimmie Vaughan.
It's like the first time I saw Austin City Limits with Jimmie Vaughan, it was on, you know what I mean? It's a trip.
I mean, I'm tripped out right now sittin' here.
It's crazy.
- It gets weirder, too.
- Does it? - Oh, yeah.
- Awesome.
We have almost 40 years of these incredible classic historic performances.
I'd love it to think that people Anybody, anywhere in the world, can someday go and watch that Johnny Cash song from 1982 or the Willie Nelson song from his pilot show when he was 39 years old.
Or, you know, pick an artist, pick a song.
That's history, man.
Now have you played on Austin City Limits, the TV show? I performed on Austin City Limits with Roky Erickson.
He's, uh, emerged and risen from the ashes of a really challenging period and it's a It's a real bonus.
The idea of putting people together on stage to perform live for an audience with no holds barred, no editing, just musicians in a room Usually those moments are only seen in smoky bars and small clubs and basements and theaters, but they managed to capture them and share them with the world.
I worry about cities like Austin because it's only a matter of time before that candle blows out, man.
When cops started to come around with decibel meters at the gigs, telling people to turn it down because, you know, neighbors or residents of like, new condos that went up weren't feeling the noise, I was like, "Okay, this is This is a game changer.
" Like, that's what we do, you know what I mean? Like, we make noise and people love it.
That's why we're here Like a thing, it's like music, food, outside, the river Like, that's what we do.
Like, don't fuck with that.
I mean, my biggest concern is that the prices of places to live become too high, that it pushes the creative people out.
I mean, we need those people in our community to continue to make it interesting.
So with South By Southwest getting bigger and ACL and their new venue getting bigger Yeah.
Like, then how do you "keep Austin weird"? That's a good question.
Reason why all the artists moved here in the first place was because you can move here and live on basically nothing.
You could, you know, make music or do art or do your craft and be able to survive.
And there's a lot of people who think it's growing too fast.
Maybe I gotta move further west.
And maybe, you know, at some point you might want to because the population is growing, but there's plenty of room out west.
That's true.
- It's a long way to El Paso.
Like, which decisions do I make? Do I make the ones that preserve this thing? Or do I do other things people think should happen? That's where I'm at.
I'm like, I don't know what to I don't know, and All right, here we go.
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