PoFest Interview with Leonard Cohen
I had the opportunity to interview Leonard Cohen yesterday and I gotta say, for a 74 year-old man, he’s spry, wry, and still full of ego. His tour starts tonight and brings him to Edmonton during PoFest, on April 25, 2009 at Rexall Place.
MG: Are you ever surprised by the longevity of your work?
LC: Not really. I’m a terminal amateur. I always feel like I’m one step away from being revealed as a fraud. If I knew what I was doing I’d probably just fade away.
MG: Do women still throw undergarments at you on stage?
LC: No. Nobody has ever thrown underwear at me – wait, that show in Osaka years ago, late eighties. Red lace, maybe. In Australia a woman left a perfectly wrapped pair of underwear on the edge of the stage. Lace ribbon, scent, handwritten card. She left a false number.
MG: You called her?
MG: Do you see this tour as your last?
LC: No one can say. I feel like it’s out of my hands. It was easier 20 years ago (laughs). Have you seen me without my makeup? I’ll put you down.
MG: How about the set list? What can we expect?
LC: Nothing. Go in with zero expectation or you’re going to be disappointed. You’re going to love some of the show and I’ll play your song but maybe not her song. Don’t shout for ‘Hallelujah’ because it’ll be in there. Damn thing getting old, you’re just a jukebox.
MG: But a damn good jukebox. If you could program a jukebox for five songs, any songs, which would you pick?
LC: (coughs and chuckles a bit) That requires more deliberation that I’m willing to put in right now. Gene Vincent would be there. And Gordon (Lightfoot).
MG: When was the last time you told the truth?
LC: My tendency is to lie all the time, simply because lying is more honest than telling the truth. The trick is to never let anyone know anything. Lie, truth…these labels are all substandard. Never confirm any suspicion, never deny involvement or complicity.
MG: You’re visiting Grande Prairie on this leg of the tour. Any special reason?
LC: (mumbling) No. I like the country, the north. There’s a barren totality to the place at this time of year, some kind of naked dance between the geese and the trees. It’s quite beautiful.
MG: Have you ever danced naked with a goose?
LC: Once. In Winnipeg years ago…it ended badly for me. Worse for my partner.
MG: How was the New York show?
LC: (Laughs in the distance) I’ve spent my share of time in New York and it’d been a decade and a half since I last performed there. I owe that city so much. It’s the wrist pulse of the country, you know? Best and worst city in America. (short coughing fit)
MG: Jesus man, you should get that looked at.
LC: Hey, I’m in my seventies and still playing Mr. Song and Dance. I use a cane on occasion. A cane. My doc goes everywhere with me. A cough is a good sign, trust me.
MG: I haven’t listened to the new CD yet. Are you pumped about it?
LC: I’m not sure I get ‘pumped’ any more, at least not in that way. I’m jazzed about it, yes. It’s something I’m quite proud of and had a great time doing. The London shows were a landmark for me. And the band…I’d be in an alley without them.
MG: At what point should artists of your generation pack it up? I mean, Dylan is still cranking out good music, the Stones not so much. Some age better than others. Will you ever be too old to rock and roll?
LC: This is my living. It’s how I survive in the world. Do I have a pension? (coughs a bit)
MG: Do you miss Irving Layton?
LC: Yes. I miss him so. The last few years were hard, but I miss his hand, his way of seeing the world. He made me angry more than anyone, but I loved him for it.
MG: Do you do readings these days?
MG: Mr. Cohen thanks for your time. Pleasure chewing the fat with you.
LC: And you. Best.