Yesterday, Brian Johnson 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 pasted 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 your relationship status these days?
A: With Anjani?
A: It’s a good relationship. I’ve known her for a long, long time. She’s just finished six songs of her own for a new album. She went to a little cabin in Wyoming for the last month and has written this album. So I’m very anxious to hear it.
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_____________________
- Update: Until 24 Feb 2009, this was the only live interview with Leonard Cohen done during the World Tour. A few days after the Beacon Theater Concert in New York, Cohen granted an interview to the New York Times. Information about and links to that interview can be found at The Leonard Cohen New York Times Interview [↩]