THE MAG: The best of seven questions

You just never know who's gonna be on the other end of the phone. While we spend a great deal of our time talking with folks of all shapes and sizes, some stand out more than others. In 2001, a cast of characters ranging from former teen idol Donny Osmond to sitar shaman Ravi Shankar to porn legend Ron Jeremy took time out of their busy (and not-so-busy) lives to talk exclusively with The Mag.

Monkee man Davy Jones phoned during an afternoon round of golf and gin, babbling away for more than an hour. Frank Black insisted on starting the interview at 7 a.m. Â and then promptly tore us a new one when reached at that early hour. Vanilla Ice missed half a dozen scheduled phone interviews before requesting a lengthy in-person chat. Cult/Guns N' Roses drummer Matt Sorum called while biding time on the set of "The Tonight Show," Tricky from his penthouse suite in the Hollywood hills and Margo Timmins from her Toronto kitchen, as her two dogs wrestled and played in the background. No matter where they were or what they were doing, though, they always had something interesting to say.

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Joe Strummer

Q: Did popularity kill The Clash?

A: "No, I think it was um ... Well, yeah, but I just define it slightly differently in that success probably killed it. The more I think about it, I can see that when we were struggling ... You start a group and it's a long struggle to get somewhere and you don't really know where, it's never really defined. But behind it there's a feeling, 'Yeah, we're gonna make it. We're struggling.' And when 'Rock the Casbah' went Top 5, I think that blew us apart. There's a lot of unity in struggle, it holds you together  you're together, struggling like going up some imaginary mountainside. And when you get to the top unexpectedly, it blows you apart because you lose that unified, struggling feeling."

 Joe Strummer (Aug. 23, GH)

Q: Do you mind playing the same songs night after night?

A: "That was Janis Joplin's problem. She couldn't get into singing the same thing every night, standing in the same place, giving the same emotions to it and knowing full-well that all it was was a show. But I will. John Lennon said he didn't want to be 40-years-old, singing hit songs in Vegas with a silver suit on. But I do. It enriches my days  I go and play some golf. And it enriches my nights  I meet some crackin' looking dame. It opens a lot of doors for a lot of enjoyment. I don't mind getting up smiling in the same places and singing the same songs every night. People are always gonna get 'I'm a Believer' and 'Daydream' and '(Last Train to) Clarksville.' Those are our hits, man! That's The Monkees. Imagine going to see Tony Bennett and not hearing 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco' or McCartney sing 'Yesterday' or the Stones do 'Satisfaction.' Give me a break!"

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Ravi Shankar

 Davy Jones from The Monkees (June 7, GH)

Q: Are The Pixies an albatross at this point?

A: "It doesn't really come up other than the fact that when I do interviews people ask me, 'Are The Pixies an albatross at this point?' (laughs) You know, whatever, it's fine. (adopts alien voice) 'When I look across the space-time continuum I see myself a younger, thinner man playing angular, minimalist rock music to hordes of young European hipsters.'"

 Frank Black (Feb. 1, GH)

Q: So, you think Courtney Love murdered Kurt Cobain or had him killed?

A: "Who else would it be? It doesn't matter, there's nothing I can do. Even if I think that, no one is going to believe me anyway. I'd be the one that would be considered an idiot, so it's just better to leave it at that. People can go out and gather the evidence and look at it and judge for themselves. If after looking at all that, they decide that she's completely innocent, so be it."

 King Buzzo from Melvins (May 3, GH)

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Suzanne Vega

Q: >Did you think Guns N' Roses had gotten sort of bloated toward the end?

A: "With all the horn players and (expletive)? That was boring, wasn't it? I wanted to kill those (expletive) girls by the end of that tour. They were in my dressing room. Behind my drum riser, I used to have my own room and I had a bar in there and I used to have little groupie chicks running around naked. Then these (expletive) girl horn players and background singers came on the tour, and they used to have to sit in my room  sitting down there doing their makeup. And Axl was doing all these costume changes and I'm like, 'What happened to this (expletive) band?' So finally we all agreed to get rid of the horn players. We did a tour after that, the 'Skin and Bones' tour. That was our anti-statement to Axl: 'Let's get rid of these (expletive) horn players.' But I understood a lot of what Axl was doing. He wanted to heighten; he wanted to cross Guns over into supergroup. And he was very smart about the way he did it. He used to bring artists onstage with us: Elton (John), Brian May, Lenny Kravitz, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. And his whole thing was you are who you hang out with. To a certain degree, I think the band achieved supergroup status because of the strategic things that Axl always thought up. It was his thing to put out the double album  very smart guy, very intelligent. At times it gets the best of him. I don't know WHAT he's thinking right now. I don't know where his head's gone. I can't get inside his head. He's created some sort of mystique for himself that's actually legendary now."

 Matt Sorum from The Cult/Guns N' Roses (June 28, GH)

Q: What's going on with Primus right now?

A: "We're snoozing, taking a little nap. Of course, I'm sure everyone knows that (former Primus drummer) Brain is in Guns N' Roses right now. I've talked about putting together Primus again, the original Primus, so when that comes about that's what's going to happen. But I've been doing Primus since 1984. It's time for me to take a break. The scene that's going on right now in the rock world just doesn't really interest me. The whole anger, angst-against-nothing scene, I'm just not into it."

 Les Claypool (Jan 25, GH)

Q: In 1996, RCA put out a "best of" album called "Studio." I noticed they're also putting out an album called "Greatest Hits" later this year.

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Ron Jeremy

A: "Are they? God, it's so embarrassing. We've never even had ONE hit, how can we have several? Call it something else! 'Studio' was part of our separation agreement. That's the one, of all the records, I sort of wish wasn't out there. Not that I have any embarrassment, I think it's a fine record but I just feel ... I don't know. The live album  '200 More Miles'  was also part of our separation agreement. I don't mind that one so much because we were at that point where we had a lot of live material and it was time to put one out. We put that whole thing together and worked really hard on making it our record. But I think the 'Studio' thing sort of bugged me because it was supposed to be a greatest hits and we said, 'We can't call it greatest hits. It's stupid, we don't have a hit.' So they allowed us to call it 'Studio' so that it wasn't too embarrassing. But I don't know. I always find that stuff kind of cheap."

 Margo Timmins from Cowboy Junkies (Aug. 16, GH)

Q: How do you think George Harrison (increased the popularity of Indian music in the West)?

A: "George is something so special to me  as my son, student and friend all combined. He's a fantastic person and I love him so much. It is a very mutual connection between us. Though I have never worked with him, in the sense that I jammed with him or performed in his songs or anything, I have taught him Indian music as much as he could learn and give time. It was only once that we toured together. I had a small group of about 14 Indian musicians  this was in '74. And once I did this special show which he really helped me to arrange: the Bangladesh concert. And he has produced three, four records that I completely composed and did the music. So that has been the musical connection, but I have never worked with him."

 Ravi Shankar (April 19, GH)

Q: Do country people resent the fact that you're "a little bit rock and roll?"

A: "(Laughs) What kind of question is that? You really want me to answer that? I think it's funny how people hang their hat on that tune. Marie is coming to the show tonight, and I'm SURE that's going to come up. And if it does, I'm going to go out where she is at her seat, and we're going to sing it. It'd be fun."

 Donny Osmond (June 7, JN)

Q: Are you doing Pavement songs (in concert)?

A: "Nah. It just seems sort of desperate. Right now, at this point, it seems desperate to do it. 'Hey, here you go! Don't forget I made these songs. Come to my show and you'll get to hear an old one.' So we haven't done it yet. I thought I was gonna want to or something, but so far it hasn't seemed apropos. It just doesn't seem right. If it did I would do it. I like the songs and I like to sing some of them."

 Stephen Malkmus (March 15, GH)

Q: What do you think about when you're onstage performing?

A: "There's almost a metamorphous that happens right when I get on-stage. I turn into somebody else completely, and when it's over, I turn back into me. Right now, I'm just me, but onstage I'm the 'Brian McKnight.' I think there's a certain amount of auto-pilot to be honest with you, because everything is so choreographed and I know where I'm at every second onstage. It really becomes more of a regiment than (reality), and every night people scream at the same moment; it's kind of interesting how that happens. But there are moments that I step out of that during the show. I'm almost outside of myself sort of looking at what's going on. You wait for those moments."

 Brian McKnight (Nov. 15, GH)

Q: This album seems much more personal than some of your previous work. Was it hard to go from writing so many songs in third person to first?

A: "The writing of it wasn't so difficult; what I have found difficult is doing all the promotion, just because people start to ask questions, and you have to expect them to do that. But on the other hand, sometimes I have to explain that somethings are still off limits, or that they've got something wrong. Some guy will say, 'When you and Mitch (Froom, ex-husband and producer) were separated ...' and I have to explain to the guy that Mitchell's name is Mitchell, it's not Mitch. No one's ever called him Mitch. And (the writer and I) don't have that kind of intimacy, even though it is a personal record."

 Suzanne Vega (Oct. 11, GH)

Q: Certain guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan have attained a different level of fame because they died young. Do you think your career has been punished because you've survived?

A: "Yeah, that's probably one of the heaviest statements that you can make. I should be dead. Maybe people would take more notice. There's a morbid fascination with artists in general, where if any of the great artists were still alive they'd go, 'Oh, that old fart. He paints pictures, does he?' Yet as soon as they're dead, 'but they're GREAT pictures.'"

 Jeff Beck (Feb. 8, JN)


Q: Is there anything that's happened in your career that you're embarrassed about?

A: "Well, the old joke is, I'll be on a talk show and I'll be doing really good  I've been on 'Geraldo,' 'Jerry Springer,' 'Tom Snyder,' Jay Leno has mentioned me a couple times  but then there's always that one comment, 'Didn't you "kiss yourself where the sun don't shine?"' Yeah, I did. Eddie Murphy did a routine about it  mentioned my name and everything on HBO. It's not that it's embarrassing. It's just embarrassing when they always bring it up. Like Howard Stern calls me on the phone to talk about the 87-year-old lady I did in a film once. That's funny. But of all the films I've done, that's what they got to talk about."

 Ron Jeremy (May 17, JN)


Q: What's your songwriting process?

A: "Well, actually, matter of fact, when you and I were just talking I wrote down a song idea  "Kid Gloves"  just something that hit me that I thought might make a good song. You can't let stuff like that slip by because you never know. That might just be my next big hit. So you write it down just to make sure and that's usually how it starts for me. I don't say, 'Hey, I'm gonna write a song about this' and just take off and write about it. I think I have to be inspired by the idea that that would make a great song  something really has to be on my mind, something I'm really thinking about."

 Aaron Tippin (Feb. 15, GH)

Q: What do you think about the "Rock Star" movie?

A: "It was sort of based on me  musician in a tribute band meets his heroes. I guess that part is right, but they decided to make their own movie. So we've pulled away from them as far as we can, and they've pulled away from us. We have nothing to do with it. They didn't really want us to be involved from the start. So we said screw it. We can't be involved with a movie where they don't want us to tell you what's going on. I guess it was too boring of a story: A normal guy from a normal town, who succeeded in making it ... I guess it's too boring. They've got to do something to spice it up, so Hollywood does that."

 Tim "The Ripper" Owens from Judas Priest (Aug. 9, GH)


Q: Are you worried about Suge Knight being released from prison?

A: "Nah, that's in the past. I get phone calls from 'Entertainment Tonight,' and everybody wants to know what my side of the story is. I even look at that in a positive way. The money he took from me basically went toward Death Row Records. It started Death Row Records and it funded Death Row Records. And with that money came 'The Chronic' record from Dr. Dre, Tupac, Snoop Dogg. So I contributed to some of the biggest rap records ever in history and nobody ever associated me with that (expletive). That shows you how far I go back. I paid my dues. I did the 'Stop the Violence' tour before anybody knew who Vanilla Ice was, with Ice T, Stetsasonic, EPMD, Public Enemy. They all know who I am. They've known me since the '80s, dude. I've been kickin' floss since forever. They know me. Ain't no overnight thing where I popped up on the scene. I worked my way in. It's just amazing to see the whole story unfold and to be where I'm at today. I've learned always to expect the unexpected. I never expected to be here today and I never expected to be there in the '90s. So I'm riding a wave still, man, and I'm very grateful that I'm alive today to even talk about it. Because the money that Suge took from me is nothing. I had $20 million in the bank in 1994 and tried to commit suicide. Mansions everywhere, houses everywhere, but nothing brought me happiness. I got this chick pregnant and had a little kid and found out what life is all about, man. It ain't about myself; it ain't about material things and personal (expletive). It's about my family and my friends. That's me, man. I'm just a real (expletive). I just keep it real from this point on and hopefully people can see through all the (expletive) and help me get past my stigma."

 Vanilla Ice (July 26, GH)

Q: Does being stoned 24 hours a day help your music?

A: "I don't know, because I've never made a song not stoned. So I wouldn't know what it was like to make a record without being charged. Hopefully, I'd like to say I could do it without being stoned, d'you know what I mean? But I haven't tried it yet."

 Tricky (Sept. 20, GH)

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