John Lurie :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

It feels like John Lurie has done it all. As leader of the Lounge Lizards, he dominated New York’s underground music scene with punk-inflected jazz from the early ‘80s until the early 2000s. As an actor, he defined director Jim Jarmusch’s early films -- Stranger Than Paradise and Down By Law -- cutting a striking figure in black and white, as well as providing scores for those films and Jarmusch’s Memphis epic Mystery Train. He played roles in The Last Temptation of Christ, Oz, and Paris, Texas, co-wrote the theme for Late Night With Conan O’Brien, earned a Grammy nomination for his Get Shorty score, crafted a mythic blues figure called Marvin Pontiac (enlisting Beck, Michael Stipe, David Bowie, and Leonard Cohen to help further his ruse) and created a beautifully absurd fishing show, Fishing With John.

These days, Lurie focuses on painting. Complications from advanced Lyme disease prevent him from playing saxophone, but with his art he taps into the same creative energy that supplied his music with its manic jolt. Occasionally, the two worlds dovetail: Last year, Amulet Records released The Invention of Animals, a collection of ‘90s recordings by the John Lurie National Orchestra. His painting of the same name is featured on the cover.

Last November, Lurie launched a late night live podcast, VICE After Dark with John Lurie, in conjunction with VICE. The offbeat, often hilarious show is currently on hiatus, but its three episodes serve as peek into Lurie’s headspace. Intrigued, I asked him for an interview. Lurie agreed and we emailed back and forth over the holidays. See more of John’s art at his official site and on Twitter, and enjoy our conversation.

Aquarium Drunkard: I've really been enjoying your internet radio show, VICE After Dark with John Lurie. Have you enjoyed doing it so far?

John Lurie: Yes and no. I think it could be something kind of great, but to be honest the first three were pretty stressful. It is, of course, difficult to do a live radio show, but I think I could get used to that part. But there were technical problems that had me kind of flustered.

AD: Is the VICE show on hiatus?

John Lurie: Hiatus for sure. Maybe it’s done, but I hope not. But VICE has to get behind it a bit.

AD: The interviews with Flea, your brother Evan Lurie, and Steve Buscemi were great. Had you talked to other folks about calling in?

John Lurie:  The great thing about those three is that they are all so real. Finding people who are known and can be real is not so easy. I had a list of 10 people that I contacted for the third episode that I thought would be good, but three were in plays, one had a death in the family, three were in Europe and three didn’t get back to me. And then I had no one. But I don’t think the show needs a guest to work.

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