Leonard Cohen Identifies Himself As “One Of The First Punks,” Tells Bovine Sex Joke, Talks About Roshi, Nick Cave, Jennifer Warnes, Dominique Issermann, & More – 1988 Video Interview

Topics Covered In Interview With Christian Eckert (Munich 1988):

  • Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man album
  • Post-Modernist Disco
  • Leonard as one of earliest Punk Rockers
  • His young bull/old bull joke
  • Book of Mercy
  • “I don’t have time to think about politics”
  • How Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat rehabilitated him
  • Leonard’s attitude covers of his work
  • Nick Cave rescuing his song “to let it fall apart again”
  • His computer
  • Living in a Portuguese section of Montreal\
  • Roshi
  • Gap between public and private life
  • Critics being on trial
  • Concerns about next tour
  • Dominique Issermann’s direction of First We Take Manhattan video

View video on YouTube

Leonard Cohen Talks About “Learning What The Inside Of A Religious Tradition Is” From His Work With Roshi (And How His Yoga Injury Leads Him To “Start Studying Judaism”)


Leonard Cohen

Excerpt from Leonard Cohen of Montreal: Interview by Michael Benazon. Matrix: Fall, 1986.

DrHGuy Note: This was not Leonard’s only injury secondary to his embracement of a hallowed ritual. A month before the scheduled March, 2010  start of his European tour, he announced that those shows would be delayed while he underwent a four to six month course of physical therapy for a compression injury in his lower back suffered during a Pilates session.

Leonard Cohen & Roshi Compare Their Cricket Poems

We were sitting in a little cabin on Mount Baldy one night, listening to the crickets and drinking cognac. Then, Roshi said, ‘Cohen, you should write cricket poem.’ I said, ‘I already wrote one: Silence / and then a deeper silence / when the crickets hesitate.’ Roshi only grunted. So I said, ‘OK, Roshi, what’s your idea of a cricket poem?’ And he said, ‘Dark night / Cricket sound break out / Cricket girlfriend listening.’ I said, ‘That’s good.’ Then a long time went by and he said, ‘Cohen, you should sing more sad.’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


Leonard Cohen Mixes Movie-Making And Zen by Paul King. The Gazette, July 16, 1983.

DrHGuy Note: Leonard also told another version of how Roshi advised him to “sing more sad.” See Leonard Cohen Describes How Roshi Gave Him “The Best [Musical] Advice I Ever Got”

“Home Sweet Home. Roshi said you never lose your home. He also said that home is not an object.” Leonard Cohen On The Idea Of Home In His Work

Your music and words resonate with a place I call home, your latest work even more deeply so. Is it possible to share with us in this format some of the recent discoveries you’ve made about “home” and how these discoveries continue to shape your songs and life?

Thank you so much for this observation. Home Sweet Home. Roshi said you never lose your home. He also said that home is not an object. It is not fixed. Any perspective you have on your home is the distance you are from it. Being at home is the activity of not needing to look for a home, and not needing to abandon a home. The mirrors are clear, the shadows are past, the wandering heart is homeless at last. I spent a lot of time at Roshi’s home. Hospitality. Drinking cognac with the old man – his exquisite hospitality in the shack by the river – that is, no hospitality just emptying the bottle into my glass and filling my plate and falling asleep when it was time to go.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


Online Web Chat October 16, 2001. Photo by Lilian Graziani.

Leonard Cohen Describes How Roshi Gave Him “The Best [Musical] Advice I Ever Got”

How do you think your writing and music has changed since studying under Roshi?

I’ve been studying with Roshi for over thirty years, so it’s hard to say. Roshi came to the studio one night when I was recording New Skin for the Old Ceremony. That was in the seventies. In those days I was being written off as a morbid old depressive drone peddling suicide notes. (Still am, in some circles). Roshi slept through most, but not all of the session. The next morning I asked him what he thought. He said, ‘Leonard, you should sing more sad.’ That was the best advice I ever got. Took a while to put it into practice.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From October 16, 2001 Online Web Chat

DrHGuy Note: Leonard’s reference to “morbid old depressive drone” is one of many comments he made over the years to an insulting review of his 1970 Isle Of Wight performance. See Leonard Cohen On Being Labeled A “Boring Old Drone Who Should Go The Fuck Back To Canada.”

“As Roshi says, you can’t live in paradise – no restaurants or toilets.” Leonard Cohen On Boogie Street

There are moments – I suppose when you embrace your children, or kiss your beloved, or plunge into a pool of cold water – when you forget who you are, when you forget yourself, and that’s a very refreshing occasion, and it’s paradise – there’s no you. But you resurrect immediately into Boogie Street. If you’re lucky, you resurrect with the residue of the experience of paradise. But, as Roshi says, you can’t live in paradise – no restaurants or toilets.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


State of Grace by Doug Saunders. Globe and Mail: Sept 1, 2001. Accessed 09 June 2014 at Ten New Songs. Originally posted June 12, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

In Best Of Zero: Leonard Cohen’s Fragment from a Journal & Death of a Lady’s Man

I lit a stick of incense. I sat down on a small cushion crossing my legs in a full Lotus. For over an hour I thought about how much I hated one of my ex-wives. It was still dark when I began writing a metaphysical song called “Letter to the Christians,” in which I attempted to exaggerate the maturity of my own religious experience and invalidate everyone else’s, especially those who claimed a renewed spiritual vitality.

Excerpted from Fragment from a Journal
By Leonard Cohen

In 1978 Leonard Cohen became a financial backer of and contributing editor to  ZERO: Contemporary Buddhist Life and Thought,  A couple of his contributions, Fragment from a Journal and Death of a Lady’s Man, are available online at The Best Of Zero

Best Of Zero also includes pieces by or about other individuals of interest to Cohen fans:

Joshu Sasaki Roshi

  • On the Nature of Zero
  • Who Pollutes the World?

Joni Mitchell

  • Interview

Allen Ginsberg

  • Collage of Haiku, Kerouac, etc.
  • Two Poems

John Cage

  • The Music of Contingency – An Interview

Steve Sanfield

  • Two Poems

“You need this love to be grounded, until there is no difference between you and your love, or what you love or what you are. It’s just the one thing.” Leonard Cohen

My old teacher told me that the older you get and the lonelier you get, the deeper is your need for love. Like everyone else, I have looked for such deep love. And as you get older, you need this love to be grounded, until there is no difference between you and your love, or what you love or what you are. It’s just the one thing.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From Leonard Cohen als Zen-Mönch, a video shot during one of the several visits Leonard Cohen and Roshi made to a Zen Center in Austria from 1990 to 1996. Quotation interpreted and, in part, translated by Rike.

Note: “My old teacher” is Roshi. The words quoted are from a videotaped interview that is overdubbed in German. This quotation as represented comprises Leonard Cohen’s words in English except portions obscured by the overdubbing, in which case a translation of the German overdubbing is used.  In this quotation, for example, the phrase “be grounded” is an English translation of the German narration.

A similar Leonard Cohen quotation can be viewed at Leonard Cohen on being asked “What is the best advice you have ever received?”