Horse sex, David Hasselhoff and Canadian motherfuckers are just a few of the topics KINKY FRIEDMAN is likely to bring up, as SAMUEL J. FELL finds out
“I’m going deaf, but I enjoy going deaf,” says Kinky Friedman, seconds into this interview, “because you can make up more interesting things that people are saying, than what they’re really saying.”
He rounds that comment off with a laugh – it’s vintage Friedman, the long-time satirist and songwriter, political aspirant, general raconteur. As you’d expect, it doesn’t stop there. “Although I’m 71, I read at a 73-year-old level,” he deadpans at one point. A few minutes later, talking about his recent successful tour through Germany, “I’m kinda the new David Hasselhoff.”
I mention that still touring at 71-years-old is no mean feat. “I got that from Willie Nelson, Willie’s my shrink,” he responds. “Willie says that if you fail at something long enough, you become a legend. Of course, the other advice he gave me, when I was running for Governor (of Texas, in 2006), was if you’re gonna have sex with an animal, always make it a horse. Because that way, if things don’t work out, at least you know you’ve got a ride home.”
Friedman wasn’t elected Governor, although whether or not that was because of Nelson’s advice remains to be seen. Regardless, the man in the hat with the big cigar will grace our shores once more this month, promoting the release of his latest record, The Loneliest Man I Ever Met. Not unusual until you consider it’s his first record in some thirty-two years, thanks again in part, to Willie Nelson.
“Willie advised me to keep writing, because I’d stopped writing about forty years ago, at least songs,” he explains. “They just seemed to be going up in the ether and disappearing. I wanted to wait until the record companies were dinosaurs, which they just about are, and until the charts and the radio stations became meaningless… when the audience becomes the show. For better or worse, that’s kinda what we have today, so I’m writing songs that are different than what you’re hearing on the radio.”
The Loneliest Man I Ever Met is a gem, a clutch of songs delivered in Friedman’s trademark dry style, albeit a little more subdued than previous releases, a little more subtle perhaps. Nelson makes an appearance, as do Mickey Raphael and Little Jewford, from Friedman’s Texas Jewboys, the band he fronted through the 1970s. He covers a number of tracks from the likes of Tom Waits, Nelson again, Warren Zevon. He’s back in the saddle.
Talk, of course, turns away from the record and towards touring, where he’s now attracting a much younger audience, something he really enjoys. “They look at America in a different way than Americans do,” he muses on the younger crowds in places like Europe. “They seem to really relate to, say, Hunter Thompson maybe, Gram Parsons, Shel Silverstein, people like Tom Waits, Kinky, Iggy Pop – they go outside the mainstream, they’re not interested in that motherfucker from Canada… what’s his name? Justin Bieber. And it’s pretty cool, it’s a smart audience and very savvy. And that’s true pretty much all over Europe, and I think in Australia too.”