I wanted to follow up on Kim’s question with one of my own related to what he asked. I marvel at your ability to have such a consistent vision of what constitutes quality in popular culture and your refusal to cave in to the brute force of pop culture. It’s my experience that as you get older, pop culture just wears people down [Crumb laughs] you know what I mean? It’s just…
Absolutely. Oh, it’s relentless. Relentless. [Laughs.] I kind of went through a phase where I was taken in
But as far as I can tell, you haven’t.
In my hippy days, I was taken in somewhat by popular culture, in that period.
When? When was this?
In the hippy days, in the late ’60s.
But you’ve been incredibly consistent, even dogmatic, in your tastes. And that’s what I’m talking about, people’s tastes just tend to collapse in the face of the relentless tidal wave of pop culture, they just give up. They just start liking shit that they wouldn’t have liked 10 or 20 years earlier, or at least becoming indifferent, numbed to it.
Well, that’s because what they liked 10 or 20 years ago was probably shit. [Laughter.] Which makes it easy to let go of it. I’ve known lots of people like that which kind of amazed me, that they let go of their liking of punk rock or something when they got to be 50. [Laughs.] They start seeking something different, or even repudiating their earlier likes. But I think I was so fucking alienated when I was in adolescence, so extremely alienated, that I developed very strong tastes and a very strong vision of my own, because I was such an outsider. I think that’s what it is, and also, I’m just neurologically odd. [Laughter.]
That’s the secret to it. But, you haven’t wavered.
No, the stuff that I got onto in my teens, to me still has so much substance, that I’ve just gotten into it deeper, the same things but deeper, like the old music that I like, I’m more deeply into it than ever. Or even other stuff of the culture like that.
This may sound like an odd question, but did you not like Janis Joplin’s work?
I thought Big Brother and the Holding Company was a really terrible band, but that she was a good singer.
I was going to say, what about her singing?
I first saw her at the Fillmore auditorium in San Francisco circa 1967-’68. She was with this stupid band, and then, later, Gilbert Shelton played me these old tapes he had of her in Austin, singing like old-time blues and old-time country music, and I thought she was really great at that. I thought, “Oh of course, she’s just a Texas redneck, it just comes naturally for her to sing in that shouting, nasal, hillbilly voice.” She was really natural at that.
But when she got famous with the rock ’n’ roll she saw that the audience loved her to scream and stamp her feet and just shriek and howl. Basically, she ruined her voice doing that. And then, she was also getting a lot of bad advice from people in the pop music business, and so she starts to try and sound more like the latest Aretha Franklin-type stuff, she’s trying to pick up more on that because that’s what people thought was the hippest, sophisticated, cool thing. So she lost touch with that thing that she started with. And then she just got lost; she was a lost soul. And then she became a heroin addict and overdosed. Died facedown in her own vomit in a hotel room.
Well, you escaped that fate.
Miraculously, yes. A miracle.
[Laughs.] So far.
A miracle. I think I have Aline to thank for that.
Yeah, you’ve said that before, that she saved your life.
Which I guess is also a miracle.
Yeah, but I was no rock star or anything, I wasn’t adored that way. [Laughs.]
No, but you had plenty of opportunities to fuck up.
Oh I did, yes. [Groth laughs.] I walked down many foolhardy paths. And was pulled back from the brink many times. [Laughs.] Sometimes I feel like the guy, the sleepwalker who walks out the window of his apartment and steps onto a beam being lifted to a building under construction. [Groth laughs.] And then walks off the other end of the beam, onto another beam that’s being lifted, that whole cartoon thing. My life’s been like that. Some how I’ve just managed to bumble through and keep going.
Right. Your life is like a Harold Lloyd routine.
Yeah, exactly. [Laughs.] It’s a metaphor, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton.
Drew Freidman has the last, possibly rhetorical question. He wrote: “Robert, Drew Friedman would like to know if you think Rupert Murdoch’s old nutsack hangs down to the floor.” [Crumb laughs.] You probably don’t even need to respond to that. [Laughs.]
Classic Drew Friedman stuff. I hope he draws a picture of Rupert Murdoch.
Maybe I could get him to do it for this.
He’d be good at doing Rupert Murdoch.
Actually, I’d be surprised if he hasn’t already.
Yeah, he might’ve already done it.
I realized he submitted that question three days after the Murdoch paper wrote that piece about you.
That Australian nonsense?
Yep. [Crumb laughs.] Did you read the transcript of his testimony in front of Parliament?
Oh, you should Google that. He and his son appeared before Parliament about three or four weeks ago, trying to do a little damage control after the phone-hacking scandal, and it was just a classic performance of dancing and weaseling.
Huh. I’ll look for it. I like to read stuff like that. Years ago I saw a documentary done about Fox News.
Yeah, I guess that was what it was called, yeah. It was somewhat badly done I thought, unfortunately. But there was some good information in it. One thing was that this guy that had worked for Fox News was talking about how Rupert Murdoch would actually send down directives, almost daily, directly from him. He really had an active hand in that Fox News thing.
Yeah, he’s an evil fucker.
Yeah. But you hate the sin not the sinner. The sin, what’s wrong there is having that kind of centralized personal power, that one man can own a media empire. That’s no good. If I owned a media empire I’m sure they’d hate me too. [Groth laughs.] I would ban all modern popular music immediately. [Laughs.]
Well, all right. I appreciate you submitting yourself to this.
Well, you know, it’s easy to tempt me into shooting off my mouth.
That’s great. [Crumb laughs.] We could do this once a week.
God. Forget about it.