Top Half - Avalon Studios TV-NZ, July 7, 1988
Dylan: OK, Joni Mitchell time. Well, she may have had a cold but that didn't stop her from giving us a revealing interview and then grabbing the acoustic guitar and playing a couple of songs - one of them brand-new and unrecorded. Joni, you've come all this way to New Zealand on a promotional visit. I guess it's important for you for this album to be a success.
Joni: Yes, for a lot of different reasons. For one thing, it was a good idea, I felt, at this time to - There's a kind of a battle between artists and business. I had a bit of a head-on confrontation, artists versus business, right at the completion of the album; and I thought maybe it's time for me after 20 years in the business to be more cooperative. And people seemed to like this album, which was an unusual experience for me - for a while, you know? It was getting some airplay, which was good, because when I made the "Mingus" album I kind of ventured into a no-man's land of radio play where I was a 'neither/nor' - I was neither a jazzer nor a rocker. They couldn't figure out where to put me. So there are a lot of reasons why I figured it was time to do it. Also, this is kind of a new idea, I think, these press tours. Robbie Robertson and some friends of mine had done it and survived it, so I thought, "Well, OK."
Dylan: Are we going to see you playing live here in New Zealand?
Joni: When we were in Paris on this tour, my husband was along at that time and we met with Manu Katché. To go out on the road, we definitely have a particular band in mind. Manu plays with Peter and they're going on the amnesty tour fairly soon, I think this fall or maybe late summer, so we have to wait until he's available again. So we talked about going out next year at this time.
Dylan: You've seen a lot of changes. You've been through the '60s, the '70s and now the '80s. What do you think of where music's heading nowadays?
Joni: Where is it heading. Well -
Dylan: Or where it's at now.
Joni: The '50s - I've been around through the whole quote-unquote rock & roll thing. When rock & roll was born it was kind of a combination of church music with sex. It was like blasphemous church music. The second wave of rock & roll was a kind of opportunistic wave on the part of business. They just started sending up pretty boys and pretty girls with not much talent and grooming them for it - Fabian, that period. People got quite sick of that, and out of that came a more serious era with the reemergence of the folk singer and lyric-oriented work. We've come through another pretty-face (minimal talent, maximum good looks) period and a dance era. It's the second time I've been through it and it seems as though it's going to move in a similar manner that it did the last time; that it's going to be followed by a more pensive, lyric-oriented period. You have young women now coming up, writing songs.
Dylan: How big a part of your life is music now, in relation to your other interests like painting and poetry?
Joni: Well, they've always been equal.
Dylan: There was a time, though, when you did consider retiring from music.
Joni: I've always considered retiring from it, since the beginning. I've been threatening to retire for 20 years...still here.
Dylan: With so many well-known musicians playing and contributing to your albums, is it hard to make a Joni Mitchell album still sound like a Joni Mitchell album?
Joni: What does a Joni Mitchell album sound like, really? You know, I'm a musician and I like all kinds of music. Whatever I like eventually finds its way into my music. Different people have different ideas of what a Joni Mitchell album is. Some people think "Mingus" is a Joni Mitchell album; therefore I should be making jazz. Some think "Blue" is a Joni Mitchell album; therefore I should be singing simply with a guitar and voice and revealing intimate things, supposedly, about myself. Some people say, "Oh, why don't you make another 'Court and Spark,'?" since that was probably the pinnacle of my appeal, was at that time. So far, there are no requests for another "Dog Eat Dog" but it takes a couple of projects till the ones they hate, they say, "Why don't you make more like that?"
Dylan: Basically, what's your favorite album?
Joni: I don't have one. The one I'm working on now, always, you know.
Dylan: What direction do you think you'll take for the new one, for the follow-up to this one?
Joni: Well, I have a couple of new songs. How they will be treated I'm not sure. I enjoy working with synthesizers and I still like programming drum machines as much as I like playing with a live band. I don't know.
Dylan: Can we listen to -
Joni: Want a new one?
Joni: I'll play you a new one. See, they all strip back down - most of the songs, anyway, can be played just -
Dylan: You still write on acoustic guitar.
Joni: Sometimes. I mean something like "Empty Try Another" doesn't really have a song at its nucleus. It's a rhythmic texture with chants. There are some that come like that, that are more textural than song-songs - folk-song, song-songs. This one could be arranged symphonically with a lot of layers or it could be done with a band live. It could be done with a jazz band or a rock band or it could be left just bare like it is. It remains to be seen. No matter how I treat it, somebody's going to hate it and wish I'd done it another way. Just can't please everybody.
[Music: "Night Ride Home" and "Number One"]
Dylan: "Number One" from Joni Mitchell's "Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm" album; certainly a very down-to-earth and a very obliging superstar.
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