The first rule about interviewing Jonathan Richman is you can't interview Jonathan Richman. The second rule about interviewing Jonathan Richman is -- if you want to bad enough -- you can do so only by fax. Not email. Fax. And of the dozen or so questions you'll fax to him, you should know going in he'll answer as many as he sees fit, which, in the case of this unorthodox interview, less than half. Obviously this type of Q-and-A is only optimum for Richman, who doesn't own or know how to use a computer (thus the fax, as you'll soon read) and chooses to do things this way because he was apparently burned by some European scribe a decade or so ago.
Richman, who started The Modern Lovers in 1970, has been called the "godfather of punk." Some might remember him as half of the duo who appeared in the Farrelly Brothers comedy "There's Something About Mary" in 1998.
Lowcountry Current asked Richman about why he only plays one Modern Lovers song on tour (it's not "Roadrunner"), what newer artists he's into and what Richman era he considers the most important. Alas, he ignored all those and saved his longest response for the last question on the fax -- which he decided to answer first.
Regardless, perhaps what's more important is Richman will be at Charleston's The Pour House on March 9 where, hopefully, he doesn't fax it in.
Question. Why is it that you prefer to conduct interviews via fax and not over the phone? And why fax and not email?
Answer. I can't do phone interviews or even in-person ones because I've really stopped doing print interviews. It was after a daily paper in Barcelona whose "writer" I met in person not only misquoted but invented entire answers that I decided (this). After this happened so many times, and so many times when I least expected it to, I couldn't do this anymore. This was nine or 10 years ago, I think. I'm even leery of doing this (interview) because I like it being known that I just don't do interviews. That way the next time someone reads a made-up one -- and they happen on the Internet too -- they'll know that it has to be a fake. By the way, I don't have a computer or know how to use one for that's why this is by fax.
Q. You're on Spotify -- but some artists choose not to be. What are your impressions of it?
A. I just found out I'm on Spotify from you so I called (my publicist) Bonnie (Levetin) at Vapor Records, and she says it's sort of like a radio station that kids can dial up on their computer. Whatever. Their doing it doesn't sound bad enough for me to try and stop it. Maybe it's a nice thing for all I know.
Q. Where were you when you found out about Lou Reed's passing, and what's your greatest memory of him?
A. When I heard that Lou Reed, my boyhood hero, changed worlds, I felt one thing more than any other and that was gratitude to him for all he and the group (Velvet Underground) taught me.
Q. When people come up to you to ask you about a specific show, do you ever remember what show(s) they're talking about?
A. When people come up to talk about a specific show do I remember? About half the time, yes.
Q. How much do you enjoy performing now versus, say, 40 years ago?
A. It was fun playing high school dances and all but we (Richman and drummer Tommy Larkins) might actually have more fun now. We love playing for the 20-year-olds, and everybody else that comes to see us, and I probably practice guitar harder now than I did then. Although that's a tough call.