Penthouse Retrospective

by Chaunce Hayden Originally Published: June, 2000

Joe Strummer | 20 Years Ago This Month

No more preaching?

Exactly. It was time to shut the fuck up, to be more explicit. I needed a hiatus after that. Also, I got to see my kids grow up.

Were you aware of how frustrated and betrayed your fans felt when you left the music scene so suddenly?

Yeah, but let’s not get soft. It’s a cruel world out there. We did our thing and we split, and that’s kind of nice. Shakespeare wrote, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” There’s a lot to be said for brevity. The first time I saw the Ramones, they played a 30-minute set in London. And you could not want another minute.

Are you on good terms with your old bandmates?

Oh, yeah, every day we’re on the phone. But — I don’t know what it is — there’s definitely a defect there.

Here’s the million-dollar question: any chance for a Clash reunion?

Here’s the word on that: I always felt it’s gonna be either the old four original baseball cards or none. So I ain’t saying nothing, except that with the new mind-set I’ve finally got on, who knows what will happen.

You were always very vocal about your social and political agenda. Has that agenda changed?

Yeah. My new vibe is to destroy everything. I’m not joking, either.

Wasn’t that more or less always your position?

No, the Sex Pistols wanted to destroy everything then. I just hopped on their vibe. Hey, I’m slow getting there, but when I get there I get there.

So what has you wanting to destroy everything these days?

I read this piece of scientific nonsense. Basically, it stated that when we were hunters and gatherers back before recorded history, even in the most hostile environment it would only take three hours a day to collect whatever we would need to sustain us for the next 24 hours. Can you imagine us being these people where three hours a day we go out and get seeds or kill something, and then for the rest of the day we sit around making fantastical costumes and paint our bodies and do ludicrous things. Compare it to today. We’re all on the job ten hours a day. We clock in and clock out six days a week, and we’re miserable as fucks.

You don’t seem to be getting on too well with technological progress. I understand you don’t even like CDs.

[Yells] CDs suck! I mean, I have 50 CDs in the suitcase over there. So I guess I’m a hypocrite, but there’s something about analog that is so much better.

How do you feel about downloading MP3 files for songs instead of buying records?

[Yells] Down with the Internet and MP3! You must allow me to be a bit eccentric here. Music is just waves of tones. Now, the digital way of remembering these waves is using zero and one, right? There’s no way that a digital tape can have the delicacy of an analog tape. Of course nobody gives a shit about that. I’m just some idiot on the periphery. To be honest, I would love to have all my music put down on vinyl.

I think you’d better get used to MP3 and CDs, because I don’t think we ’re ever going back to vinyl.

Obviously, everyone says that. But have you listened to the cows?

The cows?

This is the clincher. A journalist in London told me this. He writes for this highfalutin hi-fi magazine. He told me about these guys in Texas who were playing music to their cows because it gave them a 20 percent higher yield on the milk. They were playing the music off cassette systems.

Imagine 100 million cows in barns, listening to Mozart.

Eight years ago they changed their systems to CD machines. Because they figured it would be more convenient. But as soon as they did that, the yield dropped down to the same level as cows who heard no music at all. It took them about 18 months to figure out that it wasn’t the feed or the weather or the water. They didn’t give the extra 20 percent yield because they were listening to digital music! That really rocked my world.

What does it all mean?

It means we’re fucked! Everything in Britain is switching to digital television. They’re not even going to broadcast analog television after 2006. We’re so done for over there.

The name Joe Strummer may not immediately jump to mind if someone mentions it these days, but almost everyone remember The Clash in their lives.

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