Leonard Cohen’s Only Interview Since Start Of 2008 Tour
Brian Johnson has posted the full transcript and partial video of his backstage interview with Leonard Cohen that took place June 4, 2008 at Hamilton Place, Hamilton, Ontario.1
I’ve included a couple of excerpts below to give the flavor of the piece:
Q: After 14 years off the road, what brought you back?
A: Well, one of the things was that pesky little financial situation, which totally wiped me out. So I’m very grateful that I had a way to make a living, because that was indicated in very powerful terms. It wasn’t the prime motivator. Thanks to the help of Robert Kory, who is unique among lawyers in that he deferred his fees until the situation was resolved, which is not just unusual but unheard of, I would say, for a lawyer in Los Angeles. So he was able to somehow right the shipwreck. As it turned out, I could have gotten by. But all the time, even when I was in the monastery at Mt. Baldy, there were times when I would ask myself, “Are you really never going to get up on a stage again?” It was always unresolved. It would arise. Not daily, not even monthly. But from time to time, I’d see my guitar. I was still writing songs. But the idea of performing was starting to recede further and further back. One of the reasons was that I was so wiped out physically by the end of my last tour because I was drinking heavily. I was drinking about three bottles of wine by the end of the tour.
Q: Three bottles a day?
A: Before every concert. I only drank professionally, I never drank after the concert. I would never drink after intermission. It was a long tour. It must have been 60 to 70 concerts.
Q: Why did you need to drink?
A: I was very nervous. And I liked drinking. And I found this wine, it was Château Latour. Now very expensive. It was even expensive then. It’s curious with wine. The wine experts talk about the flavour and the bouquet and whether it has legs and the tannins and the fruit and the symphonies of tastes. But nobody talks about the high. Bordeaux is a wine that vintners have worked on for about 1,000 years. Each wine has a very specific high, which is never mentioned. Château Latour, I don’t know how I stumbled on it, but it went with the music, and it went with the concert. I tried to drink it after the tour was over, and I could hardly get a glass down. It had no resonance whatsoever. It needed the adrenaline of the concert and the music and the atmosphere, the kind of desperate atmosphere of touring—desperate because I was drinking so much! I had a good time with it for a while, but it did wreck my health, and I put on about 25 pounds.
Q: What’s the song that presents the toughest challenge?
A: The tough one for me is Suzanne. My chop has not come back completely. I’m playing an acoustic electric guitar. It’s pitched right. It’s right for my voice. People have asked me what’s it like to sing Suzanne. It’s a question I don’t fully process, because I don’t have the sense that I’m just doing it again. It’s hard to sing it. It’s hard to enter it. Because it’s a serious song. I’m alone singing it. And it brought me. . . in my own curious magical universe it is a kind of doorway. So I have to be very careful with it. I can’t speak too much about it because I can’t put my finger on the reason, except to say it is a doorway, and I have to open it carefully. Otherwise, what is beyond that is not accessible to me.
Q: It’s not special because it’s about one particular woman?
A: It was never about a particular woman. For me it was more about the beginning of a different life for me. My life in Montreal, and my life wandering alone in those parts of Montreal that are now very beautifully done up and in those days, it was the waterfront. I used to wander around down there and I used to go to that church a lot.
The full transcript can be found at Cohen wore earplugs to a Dylan show?
Leonard Cohen Macleans Magazine Interview June 4, 2008
Credit Due Department: The graphic is composed of still shots from the interview’s video
Note: Originally posted Jun 13, 2008 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
- Update: Until 24 Feb 2009, this was the only live interview with Leonard Cohen done during the World Tour. Shortly after the Beacon Theater Concert in New York, Cohen granted interviews to several periodicals. [↩]