Category Archives: interview

Writer Michael Goldberg Interviewed: Dylan, Rolling Stone & More

ATN MG int cover 2

Andrew Hamlin interviews me for Addicted To Noise.

Among other things I talk about how Bob Dylan, Captain Beefheart and Diane Arbus changed my life, some of the most difficult artist interviews of my rock journalism career, and how I wrote my latest novel. The Flowers Lied.

Here’s how the interview begins:

From his early rock writing, to a spot as a Rolling Stone mainstay, to a pioneering Web editor/publisher, to rock as literature, Michael Goldberg, founded of the original Addicted To Noise in 1994, keeps moving and keeps his thumb pushed down deep on the blurt.

Goldberg was immersed in the punk scene in the mid-1970’s, interviewing Patti Smith and The Ramones and the Talking Heads for stories that ran in the Berkeley Barb and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The Clash nearly threw him out of a San Francisco recording studio, the Sex Pistols tried to break his tape recorder, and Frank Zappa said if Michael Goldberg was one of his fans he was in big trouble.

Prior to starting ATN, Goldberg was an associate editor and senior writer at Rolling Stone for 10 years. His writing has also appeared in Wired, Esquire, Vibe, Details, Downbeat, NME and numerous other publications.

Goldberg has recently published The Flowers Lied, the second of three books detailing the life, work, frustrations, and passions of his protagonist, Writerman.

Who were your earliest powerful influences, literary, musical, and otherwise?

It’s rare that something you read or hear has a direct, clear-cut influence…

Read the entire interview at Addicted To Noise.

– An Addicted To Noise blog post –


Paul Willis in a Berkeley, CA butcher shop. Photo by Michael Goldberg
With Perdue’s purchase of Niman Ranch, and McDonald’s move to “cage-free,” it’s time for us to ask: what does “humane” actually mean?

By Michael Goldberg

With his thinning white hair and black Polo-style short-sleeved shirt with a Niman Ranch “Raised With Care” logo over his heart, Paul Willis looks like a kindly grandfather. This soft-spoken man certainly isn’t my idea of a pig killer.

But that’s exactly what he is.

Willis, a high-profile spokesman for the “humane meat” movement, co-founded and manages the Niman Ranch Pork Company, a division of Niman Ranch.

This week it was announced that Perdue Farms, the third biggest U.S. factory farm company raising chickens, has purchased Niman Ranch.

In addition to running the Niman Ranch Pork Company, in years past Willis has also raised between 2500-to-3000 pigs a year on his Willis Free Range Pig Farm in Thornton, Iowa, two hours north of Des Moines. He still raises 100s of pigs each year on his farm.

At about six months of age, Willis’s pigs are driven to the Sioux-Preme Packing Company, a slaughterhouse in Sioux Center, Iowa, where they are gassed and their throats slit.

Willis is responsible for the deaths of far more pigs than the ones he raises on his own farm.The Niman Ranch Pork Company is a network of over 500 farms that provide a total of over 150,000 pigs each year, who are slaughtered and sold under the Niman Ranch brand. The company’s reputation is based on raising pigs in what is alleged to be a humane way, and its operation is considered the gold standard for compassionate animal agriculture. Companies whose success is based on their “compassion” and “values,” including Chipotle Mexican Grill and Whole Foods, are supplied by Niman Ranch.

False advertising. About seventy-five percent of Niman pigs are raised indoors, according to a Niman spokesman, and yet this is the photo that appears on their website.
Willis, who refers to the dead body parts of pigs that Niman sells as “product,” told the New York Times in early 2014 that Niman oversees the raising and killing of about half of the pigs in America that are considered pasture-raised, or “humanely” raised, though most of those pigs are actually raised indoors.

Though in his early seventies, Willis has become the poster boy for Niman Ranch, the human face of a system that doesn’t value the lives of nonhuman animals. He’s the subject of an eight-minute video, “Paul Willis Story,” created and funded by Chipotle, one of Niman’s biggest customers.

The video tells a folksy story about Willis growing up on the farm in Thornton, and shows him wearing denim overalls, petting pigs who are hanging out in a large pasture, and letting his granddaughter’s chickens out of a barn. Willis has been favorably written up in numerous publications, including Fast Company, and has been quoted in both the New York Times and the New Yorker.

In the video, Willis speaks of himself as an “activist” fighting the good fight against factory farming. It’s a good story, and it’s helped assuage the guilt of upscale meat eaters who think they have a humane alternative to the violence that goes on at factory farms.

“We do the best we can with raising the animals as humanely as we can,” Willis said while hanging out at a Berkeley, CA butcher shop, Magnani’s Poultry, one afternoon in early June. Willis was there to promote Niman Ranch “product,” and the event was billed as “Demo and Q&A.”

I was there with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). We wanted to question Willis about Niman farming protocol, which is, in fact, anything but humane. But even if they did raise the pigs with care, there is nothing humane about killing an animal that wants to live. There were about 30 of us, and at least a half-dozen DxE members fired off questions at Willis for about 15 minutes before he abruptly ended the conversation.

DxE fights for animal liberation and against speciesism, which is similar to racism and sexism. Only where racism and sexism describe privileged humans discrimination against humans of color or the female sex, speciesism describes humans discriminating against other species.

Just as there is no moral justification for racism or sexism, there is no moral justification for speciesism. There is no moral justification for humans to exploit and torture and kill animals because they “like the taste of meat,” as more than one carnist has said. Yet that’s what humans do. More than nine billion land animals are killed each year in the U.S. alone for food. It’s mass murder on an unimaginable scale.

“I’ve always raised outdoor pigs, pasture pigs. Ok?” Willis continued. “Factory farming started coming in on us big time [in the early ’90s]. I wanted no part of that.”

Willis’s words are misleading. While he may actually raise his own pigs outdoors when the weather allows, most Niman pigs live their entire short six-month lives inside warehouse-style buildings with as little as 14 square feet allotted per pig – equivalent to the footprint of a small desk and approximately the size of a gestation crate, which are now illegal in California.

David Marin of Tendergrass Farms wrote in a June 11, 2013 post on the “Mark’s Daily Apple” blog that he considered raising pigs for Niman before founding Tendergrass. He changed his mind when he learned from a Niman “field representative” that “only a small percentage of Niman Ranch pigs are actually raised on pasture. In the whole east coast region he [the Niman rep] said that there are virtually no pasture-based Niman producers.

To read the rest of this post please head here.

Nine Things I Learned About Bob Dylan From The AARP Interview – ‘I might trade places with Picasso’

Here are nine things I learned from Bob Dylan’s AARP interview.

1) Bob Dylan listened to tons of big band music as a kid:

“Early on, before rock ‘n’ roll, I listened to big band music: Harry James, Russ Columbo, Glenn Miller. Singers like Jo Stafford, Kay Starr, Dick Haymes. Anything that came over the radio and music played by bands in hotels that our parents could dance to. We had a big radio that looked like a jukebox, with a record player on the top.”

2) Bob Dylan thinks the access to most of recorded music that the Internet now makes possible is a negative:

“Well, if you’re just a member of the general public, and you have all this music available to you, what do you listen to? How many of these things are you going to listen to at the same time? Your head is just going to get jammed — it’s all going to become a blur, I would think. Back in the day, if you wanted to hear Memphis Minnie, you had to seek a compilation record, which would have a Memphis Minnie song on it. And if you heard Memphis Minnie back then, you would just accidentally discover her on a record that also had Son House and Skip James and the Memphis Jug Band. And then maybe you’d seek Memphis Minnie in some other places — a song here, a song there. You’d try to find out who she was. Is she still alive? Does she play? Can she teach me anything? Can I hang out with her? Can I do anything for her? Does she need anything? But now, if you want to hear Memphis Minnie, you can go hear a thousand songs. Likewise, all the rest of those performers, like Blind Lemon [Jefferson]. In the old days, maybe you’d hear “Matchbox” and “Prison Cell Blues.” That would be all you would hear, so those songs would be prominent in your mind. But when you hear an onslaught of 100 more songs of Blind Lemon, then it’s like, “Oh man! This is overkill!” It’s so easy you might appreciate it a lot less.”

3) Bob Dylan is such a fan of Picasso he’d like to be him – maybe:

“Well, I might trade places with Picasso if I could, creatively speaking. I’d like to think I was the boss of my creative process, too, and I could just do anything I wanted whenever I wanted and it would all be on a grand scale. But of course, that’s not true. Like Sinatra, there was only one Picasso.”

4) Bob Dylan’s take on creativity:

“[Creativity is] uncontrollable. It makes no sense in literal terms. I wish I could enlighten you, but I can’t — just sound stupid trying. But I’ll try. It starts like this. What kind of song do I need to play in my show? What don’t I have? It always starts with what I don’t have instead of doing more of the same. I need all kinds of songs — fast ones, slow ones, minor key, ballads, rumbas — and they all get juggled around during a live show. I’ve been trying for years to come up with songs that have the feeling of a Shakespearean drama, so I’m always starting with that. Once I can focus in on something, I just play it in my mind until an idea comes from out of nowhere, and it’s usually the key to the whole song. It’s the idea that matters. The idea is floating around long before me. It’s like electricity was around long before Edison harnessed it. Communism was around before Lenin took over. Pete Townshend thought about Tommy for years before he actually wrote any songs for it. So creativity has a lot to do with the main idea. Inspiration is what comes when you are dealing with the idea. But inspiration won’t invite what’s not there to begin with.”

5) Bob Dylan believes “self-sufficiency creates happiness”:

“OK, a lot of people say there is no happiness in this life, and certainly there’s no permanent happiness. But self-sufficiency creates happiness. Happiness is a state of bliss. Actually, it never crosses my mind. Just because you’re satisfied one moment — saying yes, it’s a good meal, makes me happy — well, that’s not going to necessarily be true the next hour. Life has its ups and downs, and time has to be your partner, you know? Really, time is your soul mate. Children are happy. But they haven’t really experienced ups and downs yet. I’m not exactly sure what happiness even means, to tell you the truth. I don’t know if I personally could define it. [Happiness is] like water — it slips through your hands. As long as there’s suffering, you can only be so happy. How can a person be happy if he has misfortune? Does money make a person happy? Some wealthy billionaire who can buy 30 cars and maybe buy a sports team, is that guy happy? What then would make him happier? Does it make him happy giving his money away to foreign countries? Is there more contentment in that than giving it here to the inner cities and creating jobs? Nowhere does it say that one of the government’s responsibilities is to create jobs. That is a false premise. But if you like lies, go ahead and believe it. The government’s not going to create jobs. It doesn’t have to. People have to create jobs, and these big billionaires are the ones who can do it. We don’t see that happening. We see crime and inner cities exploding, with people who have nothing to do but meander around, turning to drink and drugs, into killers and jailbirds. They could all have work created for them by all these hotshot billionaires. For sure, that would create a lot of happiness. Now, I’m not saying they have to — I’m not talking about communism — but what do they do with their money? Do they use it in virtuous ways? If you have no idea what virtue is all about, look it up in a Greek dictionary. There’s nothing namby-pamby about it.

6) Bob Dylan thinks Billy Graham, the evangelist, was “like rock ’n’ roll personified”:

When I was growing up, Billy Graham was very popular. He was the greatest preacher and evangelist of my time — that guy could save souls and did. I went to two or three of his rallies in the ’50s or ’60s. This guy was like rock ’n’ roll personified — volatile, explosive. He had the hair, the tone, the elocution — when he spoke, he brought the storm down. Clouds parted. Souls got saved, sometimes 30- or 40,000 of them. If you ever went to a Billy Graham rally back then, you were changed forever. There’s never been a preacher like him. He could fill football stadiums before anybody. He could fill Giants Stadium more than even the Giants football team. Seems like a long time ago. Long before Mick Jagger sang his first note or Bruce strapped on his first guitar — that’s some of the part of rock ’n’ roll that I retained. I had to. I saw Billy Graham in the flesh and heard him loud and clear.

7) These days Bob Dylan can relate more to a song like “I’m A Fool To Want You” than to his own “Queen Jane Approximately”:

“These songs [on Shadows In The Night] have been written by people who went out of fashion years ago. I’m probably someone who helped put them out of fashion. But what they did is a lost art form. Just like da Vinci and Renoir and van Gogh. Nobody paints like that anymore either. But it can’t be wrong to try. So a song like “I’m a Fool to Want You” — I know that song. I can sing that song. I’ve felt every word in that song. I mean, I know that song. It’s like I wrote it. It’s easier for me to sing that song than it is to sing, “Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane.” At one time that wouldn’t have been so. But now it is. Because “Queen Jane” might be a little bit outdated. It can’t be outrun. But this song is not outdated. It has to do with human emotion, which is a constant thing. There’s nothing contrived in these songs. There’s not one false word in any of them. They’re eternal, lyrically and musically.”

8) Bob Dylan clearly understands what recording an album of standards, Shadows in The Night, means — that in a way he is making peace with a music that, as he puts it, “rock ’n’ roll came to destroy”:

“To those of us who grew up with these kinds of songs and didn’t think much of it, these are the same songs that rock ’n’ roll came to destroy — music hall, tangos, pop songs from the ’40s, fox-trots, rumbas, Irving Berlin, Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Hammerstein. Composers of great renown.”

9) Dylan is asked if Frank Sinatra was “too square to admit liking” back in the late ’50s/’60s:

“Square? I don’t think anybody would have been bold enough to call Frank Sinatra square. Kerouac listened to him, along with Bird [Charlie Parker] and Dizzy [Gillespie]. But I myself never bought any Frank Sinatra records back then, if that’s what you mean. I never listened to Frank as an influence. All I had to go on were records, and they were all over the place, orchestrated in one way or another. Swing music, Count Basie, romantic ballads, jazz bands — it was hard to get a fix on him. But like I say, you’d hear him anyway. You’d hear him in a car or a jukebox. You were conscious of Frank Sinatra no matter what age you were. Certainly nobody worshipped Frank Sinatra in the ’60s like they did in the ’40s. But he never went away. All those other things that we thought were here to stay, they did go away. But he never did.”

Frank Sinatra, “Ebb Tide”:

-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-

[I published my novel, True Love Scars, in August of 2014.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book. Read it here. And Doom & Gloom From The Tomb ran this review which I dig. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]

Audio: Bob Dylan Interviewed By Nat Hentoff Part Two, February 1966 – ‘If I had come out and sung “Desolation Row” five years ago, I probably would’ve been murdered.’

Today I have part two of this amazing interview from February 1966 that Bob Dylan did for Playboy magazine.

I posted part one yesterday.

Nat Hentoff, who had profiled Dylan for the New Yorker in 1964, is the interviewer.

Dylan says some fascinating things, especially given that we now know what’s happened since 1966. This interview was done after the release of Highway 61 Revisited but before Blonde On Blonde was released.

Just one example:

“I refuse to be any kind of Lawrence Welk or something like that. I’ll continue making the records. They’re not going to be any better from now on, they’re gonna be just different.”

-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-

[I published my novel, True Love Scars, in August of 2014.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book. Read it here. And Doom & Gloom From The Tomb ran this review which I dig. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]

Audio: Bob Dylan Interviewed By Nat Hentoff, February 1966 – ‘That’s a fallacy… Nobody sits around talking about [not liking] anybody over 30’

Amazing interview from February 1966 that Bob Dylan did for Playboy magazine. I’ve previously posted some of the transcript but now you can hear the interview.

Nat Hentoff, who had profiled Dylan for the New Yorker in 1964, is the interviewer.

By the way, interesting to hear Dylan praise Buck Owens in this interview, given his recent MusicCares speech.

Part One:

-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-

[I published my novel, True Love Scars, in August of 2014.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book. Read it here. And Doom & Gloom From The Tomb ran this review which I dig. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]

Video: Michael Stipe Looks Back at 30 Years Of R.E.M.

R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe on “CBS This Morning.”

Among other things he says it’s unlikely that R.E.M. will ever reunite. “That will never happen,” he says.

I bet they do.

And he talks about how shy he was when the band first got famous and it sounds like he’ll do a solo album at some point.

“I think I’ll sing again,” he says. “Not soon.”

[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book in a recent issue. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]

Audio: Hear The New Basement Tapes Band Play Unreleased Version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Hidee Hidee Ho’

Jenny Eliscu talks to Elvis Costello and others about The New Basement Tapes album. Includes an unreleased version of “Hidee Hidee Ho” that ELvis sings.

The New Basement Tapes – Live on the Sirius XM, November 14, 2014.

Recorded on November 14, 2014 in Hollywood, CA. Featuring:
Elvis Costello – piano, Rhiannon Giddens – fiddle, vocals, Taylor Goldsmith – bass, vocals, Jim James – guitar, vocals, Marcus Mumford – guitar, vocals, Jay Bellerose – drums, Griffin Goldsmith – drums. Setlist:
00:00 intro
02:01 Diamond Ring (Goldsmith)
05:48 interview 1
10:37 Hidee Hidee Ho – “bootleg volume 2 version” (Costello)
12:25 interview 2
16:00 Down On The Bottom (James)
20:44 interview 3
29:31When I Get My Hands On You (Mumford)
32:53 interview 4
38:27 Lost On The River #20 (Giddens)
42:50 outro

Plus on November 12, 2014 the group did this radio performance:

00:00 Married To My Hack (Costello)
02:41 When I Get My Hands On You (Mumford)
05:48 Florida Key (Goldsmith)
10:01 Spanish Mary (Giddens)
15:27 Down On The Bottom (James)
19:42 Kansas City (Mumford)

[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book in a recent issue. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]

Interview: Meet The Man Behind The Best Bob Dylan News Site, ‘Expecting Rain’

Karl Erik Andersen

The best Bob Dylan site, with the exception of Dylan’s own site, is Expecting Rain, and the man behind Expecting Rain is Norway-based Karl Erik Andersen.

This week he spoke to Ennyman’s Territory.

Read the interview here.

[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book in a recent issue. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]

Video: Watch Bob Dylan’s Classic Dec. 3, 1965 San Francisco Press Conference

Forty-nine years ago, on Friday, December 3, 1965, this Bob Dylan press conference was recorded at KQED’s studios in San Francisco.

The press conference happened at a key point in Dylan’s career. He was now a rock star. “Like A Rolling Stone” was a hit and had been on the radio the past summer into fall. Highway 61 Revisited had been released three months earlier, in August.

Dylan was in the Bay Area to perform for two nights — Dec. 3 and Dec. 4 — at the Berkeley Community Theater.

The man who brings Dylan out is Ralph J. Gleason, who at the time was the jazz and pop critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, and a fan of Dylan. Gleason wrote this cover story for Ramparts magazine. It ran in the March 1966 issue.

There’s some great details about the press conference here, plus photos.

Bob Dylan press conference, part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book in a recent issue. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]

Santa Cruz Sentinel Digs ‘True Love Scars’ – ‘I was trying to take the rock & roll of that time and get it on the page’

This article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel about my novel, True Love Scars, was published recently.

I think the article does a great job of conveying some of what the book is about.

Writes journalist Wallace Baine:

The period of the early 1970s isn’t just a setting for Michael Goldberg’s new novel “True Love Scars.” It’s the orientation for everything in the book, the language, the tone, the references, the narrative.

“I was trying to get at the experience of being young in that time period,” said UC Santa Cruz grad Goldberg, a long-time writer for Rolling Stone. “Not just the drugs and the sex, but the deeper stuff, trying to figure out who you are in the world. I was trying to take the rock & roll of that time and get it on the page.”

The result is an unusual story, fueled by a prose designed to evoke the rambunctious, radical music of the era, with a rhythm and poetic sensibility much more like the rock records of the time than many other novels.

And at the end of the story:

[Goldberg] talks about one scene in the book taking place on the houseboats of Sausalito. “I was listening to the Stones’ (1971 album) ‘Sticky Fingers’ over and over again while I was writing that, really trying to get the mood of that album on the page. I wanted the chapter to feel like what it was like to listen to some of those songs in that period.

“Frankly, I think the ‘sound’ of the narration is quite original. The big idea that I kept in mind as I wrote was that anything goes, that this was as if a 24-year-old and his friend went to a bar in 1975, had a few drinks and then the 24-year-old turned to his friend and said, ‘Let me tell you how my heart was broken…’”

To read the rest of the story, head here.

I’ll be doing a very special reading in the Bay Area on Dec. 13 at 3 pm. As I read, Grammy-winning experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser will improvise on guitar.

The event, titled “a post-beat happening – words + guitar,” will take place at Down Home Music in El Cerrito, CA. Be there!

[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book in a recent issue. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]