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Telegraph Magazine Article
Topic: Telegraph Magazine Article (Read 4405 times)
dead dog laughing in the cloud
Telegraph Magazine Article
March 19, 2006, 01:14:11 AM »
There was a 7 page spread on Daniel in yesterday's Telegraph magazine.
Not sure if/where/when this will be available online...
Re: Telegraph Magazine Article
Reply #1 on:
March 21, 2006, 07:53:27 AM »
The heartbreaking songs of the manic-depressive Daniel Johnston have long been one of music's best-kept secrets. Now a film has thrown some light on the battles with his demons. Mick Brown ventures into his chaotic world. Photograph by Misty Keasler
Ashort precis of the life of the singer, songwriter and artist Daniel Johnston, as recounted in the new film The Devil and Daniel Johnston, might read as follows - and it should be borne in mind that the film is biography, not fiction:
Gifted teenager from fundamentalist Christian family shows early signs of artistic individuality in music, painting and making home movies about domestic strife, in which he plays the role of himself and - in drag - his mother. He also begins to demonstrate early signs of mental disorder. He goes to college, where he develops an overwhelming and unrequited crush on a girl named Laurie. In the basement of his parents' home he starts writing songs to her. After suffering a nervous breakdown he runs away with a travelling carnival. He works in McDonald's. He writes more songs about love and madness, appears on MTV and is hailed in independent music circles as a genius. He is admitted to mental hospital. After performing for 3,000 people at a show in Texas he almost kills himself and his father in a plane crash. He is arrested following an incident in which an elderly woman falls out of a window because he was 'trying to cast out her demons'. He spends more time in mental hospital. He is invited to sign to Elektra Records - his big break - but declines because he believes the band Metallica, the biggest act on the label, want to kill him. He spends more time in mental hospital.
And so it goes.
'When they made the film, I thought it was going to be funny, you know?' Johnston told me. 'But when I saw the final edit it seems tragic: Danny goes to the mental hospital, Danny goes to jail. But I can see the humour in it...'
Johnston has been described as a singer-songwriter 'who takes a lot of psychotropic meds. The best is when he forgets to take them.' Johnston has spent the past 30-odd years chronicling in songs and paintings his life, his obsessions, his phantoms and his dreams. But his reputation derives largely from the extraordinary body of songs that he wrote over a period of five or six years in the 1980s, when he first began to display the signs of the chronic bipolar disorder that has afflicted him to varying degrees of debilitation ever since.
Many of these songs are about Laurie, the girl for whom Johnston has burned a candle, unheeded, since he was 19 years old. Others are about his madness, the struggle between good and evil refracted through his fundamentalist Christian upbringing, cartoon super-heroes or deceptively cheery bromides to a life of constant anguish. 'Don't let the sun go down on your grievances,' he cautions in one, singing in a high, cracked voice, alternately fragile, eerie and almost unbearably painful. These songs sound like dispatches from another world. But what makes them more haunting still is Johnston's breathtaking facility with melodies. Listening to his music you can hear echoes of the classic pop of the Beatles, backporch hymns, Broadway refrains.
'Everybody who wants a copy of his records, like friends, I give them one,' says his 83-year-old father, Bill, who cares for Daniel and acts as his manager. 'And I warn them, don't listen to it more than three times in one day because you can't get it out of your mind. It sticks.'
Johnston's own website describes him as an 'Artist, singer, songwriter and pilgrim of indie music with 30-plus albums, hundreds of songs, and dozens of fans.' A good joke. Johnston may be a well-kept secret to the world at large, but the 'dozens of fans' include a host of contemporary music luminaries. An album released in 2004, ironically entitled The Late, Great Daniel Johnston, featured cover versions of his songs performed by such artists as Tom Waits, Beck and Sparklehorse. And when a preview of The Devil and Daniel Johnston was shown in London a year ago the theatre was packed with music journalists and cognoscenti. Johnston, who these days seldom travels very far from his home in Texas, had been brought over to London for the occasion, and afterwards was led to the front of the theatre for a question-and-answer session.
A shambling, bearish man, he seemed distinctly ill at ease fielding questions about his life and work. When somebody asked how he felt about his music being compared with that of Robert Johnson and early Dylan - as it has been - Johnston blinked back: 'Well, it's certainly a compliment.'
Could he name his favourite song, somebody else asked. He gave it some thought. 'I have this new song, er... I can't remember the title. I have a bit of a memory problem, actually.' He paused and gave the slightest of smiles. 'I'm surprised I even remembered to tell you that I have a memory problem.'
Johnston lives with his father and his mother, Mabel, in Waller, a small dust-blown town 50 miles from Houston, consisting largely of farm machinery suppliers and fast-food outlets. The Johnstons live in a single-storey wooden-frame house set on a quiet road outside town. In an adjacent lot a new house was being built, with a view to Daniel moving in and gaining some independence.
It was 11am when I arrived, and Daniel Johnston had just got up. He answered the door, barefoot, wearing track trousers, a filthy sweatshirt and a distracted air. He was unshaven with a shock of unkempt grey hair and deep, dark pouches under his eyes. He poured me a glass of water and then led the way through a side door into the garage - 'my studio', as he put it - where he spends most of his time.
It was the rumpus room of a child whose parents have long since abandoned any hope that he might tidy up, because, after all, the child is 44. Every inch of every wall and every surface was covered with the detritus of Johnston's obsessions. There were horror-movie posters, fading photographs of the Beatles and old movie stars, piles of comics and CDs; jumbled on a table were plastic dinosaurs, an outsize head of the Incredible Hulk, a Virgin Mary clock. A battered piano was pushed against a wall decorated with cheesecake photos of Marilyn Monroe. The floor was littered with bulging plastic bags, scraps of paper and used tissues; cigarette butts spilled from ashtrays. A procession of ants marched across the desk where I placed my tape-recorder. Johnston looked around and gave a hopeless shrug. 'It's a mess.'
Conversation with Daniel Johnston, it immediately became apparent, is a problem. It's not that he is disobliging or difficult, but his attention wanders, and questions - particularly about his condition, his life-story or his work - obviously bore him. At several points in our conversation, whether through tiredness or medication, his eyes closed, his head fell forward and he seemed to have lapsed into sleep. 'Sometimes I'll talk to him, and get no response at all,' his father told me. 'It's like he's off in another world.' But then, he added with a sigh, it's almost always been like that.
Bill Johnston was a Second World War fighter pilot, who went on to work on the Minuteman space programme, and then as a plant engineer for an oil company. Growing up in West Virginia, Daniel was the youngest of three children, to all outward appearances a normal, happy child. He attended church regularly with the family - the Johnstons are members of the Church of Christ, a fundamentalist denomination that believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible and allows only a cappella singing in church. He was interested in art - most of his time would be spent drawing comic-book heroes. He also consumed music voraciously - Queen, jazz, show tunes - but it was hearing his older brother's Beatles records that galvanised him into writing his own songs on the piano in the basement of the family home. 'I had all the Beatles songbooks,' he said, 'and I'd learn them backwards, forwards, inside out, everything, to see how they worked. And I'd read everything they said about the songs in interviews. It was gospel to me.'
It was towards the end of his high-school years, his father told me, that Daniel first started to display signs of bipolar disorder, or manic depression, 'although in those days nobody knew what it was'. He would spend all day locked away in the basement and at night he would vanish and Bill would have to go looking for him. At the age of 18, he was sent away to the Abilene Christian University in Texas, but it quickly became apparent he was unable to cope. 'When he got there, he was so out of it he didn't know where his next class was.' His parents bought him home, 'hoping he would snap out of it', and he enrolled in another college, Kent State, to study art. Again his progress was faltering. 'Daniel,' Bill told me, 'just wouldn't take direction. That's part of his problem.' But it was here that he discovered the great catalyst for his songwriting, when he fell in love with a fellow student named Laurie Allen.
'Daniel played a song for her and she said, "Oh that's good'',' Jeff Tartakov, who later became Johnston's manager, said. 'And a lightbulb went off in his head: "She likes me! I'll keep doing this''.'
But Laurie didn't love him. She went on to marry an undertaker. Heartbroken, Johnston returned home and began to write the songs that would eventually comprise his first album, Songs of Pain, recording them on a $30 cassette-recorder, and giving away the tapes to friends. Unable to afford a copying machine, he would simply play and record the same songs over and over again. He estimates that he produced 'about a hundred' cassettes that way, each of them an edition of one. (Friends say the number was closer to a dozen.)
Most of these songs were about his unrequited love for Laurie - a subject that would preoccupy him for the next 20 years - and reflections, in various shades of ambiguity, on his own mental state: Like a Monkey in a Zoo, More Dead than Alive and Phantom of My Own Opera. Sometimes he would intersperse the songs with taped snippets of the frequent rows he was now having with his parents. A song called Mabel's Grievances - unsettling and hilarious in equal measure - sets his mother's incessant nagging against an improbably jaunty piano accompaniment. Story of an Artist, written in 1982, has all the tranquil and affecting simplicity of a lullaby, until you realise that Johnston is actually singing about how little his family understands him: 'We don't really like what you do/We don't think anyone ever will/It's a problem that you have/And this problem's made you ill...'
When things became too stressful at home, he moved to Houston to live with his older brother, Dick. He worked on a ride at Astroworld called the River of No Return, and recorded another album called Yip/Jump Music, this time accompanying himself on a Casio toy organ. By now he had bought himself a tape-copying machine. He moved again, this time to San Marcos to live with his sister, and recorded a third album, Hi How Are You. He suffered a nervous breakdown, and fearing that his family wanted to put him in a mental hospital, he ran away with a carnival, travelling through the south-west. In Austin, Texas, he was hit on the head by someone with an iron pole for staying too long in a portable loo and hospitalised. The carnival moved on without him.
Johnston took a job in McDonald's, continuing to write songs and sometimes performing in local coffee-houses. It was here, in 1985, that he met Jeff Tartakov, a horticulturalist who had dabbled in rock music, running a small label recording local bands. In Johnston, Tartakov found what would prove to be his life's calling. 'I could relate to what Daniel was singing about,' he told me. 'This loner, this socially awkward, geeky kind of guy who hid himself away recording all these songs about un-requited love - that was such a universal theme.'
Tartakov became Johnston's manager. At the time, he says, Daniel was spending his entire McDonald's pay-cheque on duplicating his tapes and giving them away to anybody who would take one. 'I persuaded him he should at least try to break even.' Tartakov set up a publishing company and started pushing Johnston's songs to other artists. Johnston became something of a local legend. He appeared on an MTV special about Austin music, and in 1986 was voted best songwriter and best folk artist in a readers' poll for the Austin Chronicle. His profile rose exponentially when Kurt Cobain appeared on a television show wearing a Daniel Johnston 'Hi How Are You' T-shirt. Then Johnston was admitted to mental hospital after taking LSD at a Butthole Surfers gig.
He spent most of the next six years either in hospital or living with his parents in West Virginia. It was around this time that he became convinced that he had made a pact with the devil. He accused his parents of being Satanists, and was arrested after an incident in which an elderly woman apparently jumped out of her first-floor window because Johnston was 'trying to cast out her demons'. His album 1990 chronicles his state of mind in songs such as Devil Town and Don't Play Cards with Satan. It culminates with a home recording of the congregation of his local church, Johnston's voice clearly evident, singing a traditional hymn, Softly and Tenderly - in the context, an almost unbearable plea for salvation in the face of mental anguish.
Tartakov continued to nurture Johnston's career through all this. He negotiated deals with a series of small independent labels, and provided a constant source of support and encouragement. 'I don't know an artist in the world who wouldn't kill to have a Jeff Tartakov as their manager,' Jeff Feuerzeig, the director of The Devil and Daniel Johnston, told me. 'He's like Broadway Danny Rose, who loves his parakeet act more than anyone loves their parakeet act. Without Jeff Tartakov nobody would have heard of Daniel Johnston.'
When I asked Tartakov whether he felt Johnston had been consistently grateful and appreciative of his efforts over the years, Tartakov gave it some thought, finally replying, 'All of that, but without the "consistently''.' Johnston, he says, was often hostile and abusive, and on one occasion he attacked Tartakov with a metal pipe.
In 1993 Tartakov finally achieved the coup he had been struggling for when he negotiated a deal to sign Johnston to Elektra Records. Elektra, Tartakov said, completely understood what was unique about Johnston and his music. 'They envisaged him as a Neil Young type of artist - make 10 albums, all of them different.' Furthermore, an executive in the company had a son who was mentally ill, 'so there was a great understanding of Daniel's predicament.'
But Johnston, who was in mental hospital at the time, refused to sign the contract, apparently claiming that Metallica - Elektra's biggest act - were intent on harming him. Shortly afterwards Tartakov was fired as Johnston's manager by his father Bill - 'At that time Daniel himself wasn't capable of having much say,' Tartakov says. Bill took over managing his son's career himself. The family moved to Waller. In the years since, Johnston has largely managed to stay out of mental hospital, stabilised under a daily regime of medication. He has continued to record, and sometimes to perform. Most of the time he spends in his garage.
'I've had some difficulties,' he told me with measured understatement. 'But I was just thinking the other day that I've been more than triumphant just to be alive. In my sorrow and my defeat, I came all this way but I made it to the other side.'
Is it possible to describe what the problem has been? 'It's manic depression. It's just the way it is. When I get depressed it's the worst, and when I'm happy it's the best. It's like getting out of one car and getting into another car, and somebody saying, hey, get out, this is our car.'
So you don't feel you belong?
'You just can't get out.'
He fell silent.
That morning, before meeting Johnston, I had driven around Waller in search of somewhere to have breakfast that wasn't a Jack in the Box, Popeyes Chicken or Dairy Queen, before eventually finding a Mexican family restaurant. Disorientated from jet-lag, I sat in the restaurant feeling as if I was an actor trying to master the suddenly complicated rituals of ordering, eating.
When I told Johnston this he laughed, suddenly animated for the first time in our conversation. 'Exactly! Like, almost as if you're in a movie and there's somebody watching. Or it's like you're in a movie and there is no movie. Or when the camera does turn on, you go totally blank. Duh...'
How many times had he been hospitalised?
His eyes closed. 'Too many times. I get out of hospital and they put me back in.'
But now things are stable?
His chin tilted slowly downward until it came to rest against his chest. For a moment I thought he might have fallen asleep. I asked him to tell me about Laurie.
'She was my friend.'
And your muse?
'What does muse mean?'
She inspired you to write songs about her.
'It's true.' He paused.
How many songs?
'Hundreds. But I've decided not to write about her any more, so as not to bother her.'
During the making of The Devil and Daniel Johnston, the producers of the film managed to track down Laurie, who is now divorced from her undertaker husband and living in Ohio. Although she does not appear in the film, Johnston was able to meet her for the first time in 20 years. He shook his head. 'I couldn't believe it. Unreal. She was great. She was very friendly, and she looked better than ever. I felt sure we should remain friends and that would be the best. And she's phoned me once since then.'
He closed his eyes. There was a minute's agonised silence before they snapped open and he looked up. 'Do you want a soda?' he said.
He led the way back into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator and poured two giant tumblers of something orange. It looked radioactive.
(continued in next post)
Re: Telegraph Magazine Article
Reply #2 on:
March 21, 2006, 07:55:17 AM »
Jeff Feuerzeig first became interested in Daniel Johnston in the mid-1980s when Feuerzeig was living in New Jersey working for college radio and writing about rock music. He says that when he first heard the home tapes where Johnston interspersed his songs with recordings of his family arguments - the soap opera of his life - he knew he was listening to a genius. 'I knew instantly this was more than just a singer-songwriter. You could hear all these musical influences, from Elvis Costello to Scott Joplin to jazz melodies to the Beatles. But the comedy and the humour touched me as much as the songs of love. I felt that what Daniel was doing might have been an inside joke to 20,000 other people, but it wasn't to me.'
Feuerzeig joined the ranks of, as he puts it, 'Daniel Johnston obsessives', following the artist's rackety career through records and press clippings, while going on to build his own reputation as a filmmaker. It was only when Feuerzeig arrived in Waller to begin filming The Devil and Daniel Johnston that he discovered how obsessively Johnston had chronicled his own life, not only in his songs and his paintings, but also in taped diaries and telephone conversations and the hours of home-movie footage, acting out skits on the family rows in which he played the roles of himself and, dressed in drag, his mother. 'He's like Peter Sellers with the home movies,' Feuerzeig told me. 'He's Keaton, he's Jerry Lewis.'
Feuerzeig and his crew spent three weeks filming at the Johnston home. 'And every day was like Groundhog Day. Day one: we arrive at four, five in the afternoon. Daniel says, "Oh, hi guys, nice to meet you.'' And I say, "Hey, Daniel, maybe we can do some filming?'' "Er, I'd really like to get a Slushie.'' "OK.'' So we drive over to the Dairy Queen and get a Slushie. And then, "Hey, can we go over the gas station and get some cigarettes?'' So we go get some cigarettes. Then, "Can we go over the five-and-dime and get some stickers?'' So that kills another two hours. Then we get back and he wants to play some music. So we end up doing maybe an hour's filming. All very expensive. Then Daniel goes into his garage and stays up all night. Next day, we arrive. "Hi guys, how you guys doing?'' "You ready to do some filming, Daniel?'' "I'd really like to get a Slushie...'' And this went on every day for three weeks, as if we'd never been there the day before. It was a loop.'
The garage, Feuerzeig said, is 'Daniel's universe. I remember one day, we were making shots and there was a garbage bag with a smiley face on it just lying on the floor. We moved it out of the way. And Daniel freaked out: "Where's Mr Smiley?'' And he found the garbage bag and moved it back to where it was before. He knows exactly where he's put every little thing.'
Yet in many ways, Feuerzeig believes, for all his problems, Johnston has 'the perfect life. For Daniel every day is high school; he's hanging out in the garage, spinning records. He's having a party in his head.'
Feuerzeig's movie, which has already won the director's award at the Sundance Film Festival and was shortlisted for a best documentary Oscar, is compelling viewing, and raises all manner of questions about the relationship between madness and creativity, and also about exploitation. Watching the shaky, hand-held archive footage of Johnston performing live has something of the ghoulish quality of watching a car-wreck, and raises the awkward question: if Daniel Johnston wasn't mentally disturbed would anyone be listening to him? The answer, of course, is that it is impossible to separate Johnston's mental illness from his art; his art is his mental illness.
Feuerzeig told me that he hated the terms idiot-savant or 'outsider artist' that are sometimes applied to Johnston. 'Daniel knows exactly what he's doing, and in a way he's consciously exploited his mental illness. You look at his notebooks and there's all these pictures of Van Gogh. You listen to his songs and it's like he's diagnosing himself out of the DSM4 psychology manual. He's writing beautiful songs about mental illness.
'Our greatest artists throughout history have subverted all expectations and conventional ideas of what is great. They subvert what looks great, what sounds great, and that subversion is where the next step grows from. And Daniel has so clearly done that.'
When I asked Johnston why he thought people liked his songs, he laughed and said, 'They must be crazy. I guess people identify with them. That's what helps sell things.'
But he had always harboured ambitions to be famous?
'Well, I would like to be famous, of course, and I am to a certain extent. Being famous is a fluke, really. You want to be famous and you end up as a poster on the wall of a record store. I want to make it big-time, but with something that's worthy. I want the art to be as good as possible. That's my goal. So we keep trying to do the best we can, hoping that one day we can make it.'
That, he said, was why he spent all his time in the garage, thinking about songs and writing. He had a new song he was working on right now, called I Had Lost My Head. He started to sing in his cracked, high voice - 'I had lost my head/Something that I said...' - and then stopped. 'I don't think I can sing you any more. I've had kind of a slump lately, but I've been trying to get back to it. I know I can do it. I've done it before so I can do it again.'
There was an awkward silence, and he looked at me pleadingly. 'I'm getting worn out now,' he said.
I asked if I could look at some of his artwork, and he led the way out of the garage and back into the house. In recent years, his drawings and paintings have been receiving as much attention as his music, and he has exhibited in numerous galleries throughout Europe and America. Many of these images show a figure who is clearly Johnston himself, surrounded by a gallery of monsters, comic animals and - a recurring image of sexual longing - headless naked female torsos, all rendered in a disarmingly primitive, nursery-colours style. His greatest influence is the comic-book artist Jack Kirby, who drew Captain America and the Incredible Hulk, and whom Johnston regards as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. He has created his own superhero, Joe the Boxer, who is depicted in innumerable drawings vanquishing an assortment of monsters, and whom critics have interpreted as a symbol for Johnston's struggles with his own demons. But he is reluctant to buy into such convenient theorising. 'I just wish Joe well. And I hope I win my struggle, too.'
In the lounge he pulled out a handful of canvases - childlike renderings of Captain America, a cartoon duck - spotted with slogans such as 'fun', 'love' and 'life is rated r'. The largest showed the stump of a tree against a lowering Van Gogh sky; in front of the stump a new shoot struggled for life. 'It's called Hope.' Johnston gave a wan smile. 'Really,' he said, 'after all these years, it's a miracle I'm still alive.'
Daniel vanished to his bedroom, and Bill suggested we talk on the back porch. We sat in the stifling heat, swiping away flies and listening to the banging and sawing from next door, where workers were making ready Daniel's new home.
Life, Bill said with a sigh, had not been easy for him and his wife, and nor for Daniel. They were a good Christian family, and a lot of Daniel's behaviour had cut against that. The naked torsos of women that he likes to draw, for example. 'I keep harping on at him, because it's against my religion to be immodest in any way, but he won't stop because I want him to,' Bill sighed.
Then there was the business about the devil. 'I think that came from his Christian upbringing. There was a movie about that where Satan made an agreement with some guy and Daniel kind of fitted himself into that picture, but he doesn't believe that any more. He thought he was Frankenstein at one time, too. Those are unusual times when he gets off his medication. Anything can happen.'
The worst, of course, was the plane crash. That was in 1990, when Johnston had played for 3,000 people at a show in Austin. Bill had flown down in his small aircraft to take him home to West Virginia. 'Daniel got all kinds of accolades for that show - he had to go back out on stage three times, they loved him so much. But the minute he got off that stage he wanted out of there.' They took off for home, and were somewhere over Arkansas when Johnston reached over and turned off the ignition key, killing the engine. 'So I just turned it back on. And then when he thought I wasn't looking he reached over, grabbed the key and threw it out the little vent window there.'
Bill was able to crash-land the plane. 'I found out later Daniel had been chucking his lithium for 10 days, and when that happens he goes completely out of his tree.'
Nowadays, Bill looks after the medication. He reached into his pocket and took out a plastic pill-dispenser. 'These big lithium ones are for his bipolar situation, to keep him from going ape. It works well. But one time they made a mistake and double-dosed him and almost killed him. He was in the hospital and they got him back. That was five years ago. But the lithium caused him thyroid problems.
'This one is a calmer - it keeps him from getting angry. They won't let him drive a car for fear he might have road-rage. These two are for his diabetes. He takes these morning and evening. This one is Zyprexa - off-hand I'm not sure, but it keeps his characteristics in hand. Without this he gets real cross - goes round kicking things. And these two are his happy pills - without them he gets depressed again, and when he gets depressed none of these others help him; he just goes.'
Bill paused. 'He has case-management that's supposed to look after him, but they leave it up to me. They never come near the place.'
If managing Johnston's life had been difficult, managing his career, one sensed, had proved even more problematic. Ever since he decided to take over as his manager nine years ago it had been one thing after the other. Record deals, royalty rates, publishing rights - Bill would be the first to admit that he still didn't really have a handle on all of it, but the biggest problem, he said, was finding the right kind of people in the music business.
'Where I come from, your handshake was your word. And I've found that doesn't hold for any of these people we have to do business with. All they want is whatever you've got that they can sell and make money from. But I've made a little bit out of it every time, and I've kept going.'
Over the years Johnston's recordings have been released on a succession of small labels, most recently a New York indie label called Gammon. In 2004 Gammon released the double album The Late, Great Daniel Johnston, comprising one disc of original recordings by Johnston, and another of cover versions of his songs by a number of artists including Tom Waits, Beck and Sparklehorse. The record was promoted as a 'benefit album' to pay for Johnston's new house, but Bill told me he had yet to receive 'dime one' of the proceeds.
When I contacted Taylor Clyne of Gammon Records he told me that the label had experienced 'a lot of financial problems', and that despite selling more than 16,000 copies in America and Europe, the Late, Great album was 'still in the red by $40,000'. Two of Johnston's previous albums, he said, had lost money - Johnston was 'a hard artist to market'. Gammon itself, he went on, was 'in a cryogenic phase right now', which is to say it no longer produces records. However, a new Daniel Johnston album, Lost and Found, is to be released in this country by a small British independent, Sketchbook Records, in May.
Of yet more concern to Bill is how his son will cope in the future. The house next door is almost finished. Daniel's brother Dick is taking over as his manager. 'But he's got four kids of his own and he can't come and live with Dan.'
As for money, whatever Johnston gets he spends. 'If he gets a chance he could spend $300 on comic books, candy and soda.' Bill sighed deeply. Daniel, he said, could walk out of the front door right now and not be able to find his way back. 'We can be driving along just around here and he'll say, "Where are we now?'' He's not sure if we're close to home or where we are. Someone always has to be with him, if for no other reason than to keep him from getting lost and to see he takes his medication. He will not take his medication. He's willing to, but he has to be reminded. If you ask him now how many pills he has to take in a day, he wouldn't know - "Whatever they give me!''.'
A weight of sadness settled around us. It sounded, I said, like living with an 11-year-old child. 'Yes.' Bill looked at me without smiling. 'Maybe 12.'
As if on cue, the screen door rattled and Johnston appeared. If he noticed I was still there, he didn't acknowledge it. If he knew we had been talking about him, he didn't seem to care.
'Dad!' he said. 'Can we have lunch yet?'
Bill sighed and rose to his feet.
'... can I have French toast?'
Two weeks after this interview, Daniel Johnston was rushed to hospital suffering from kidney failure. He has now recovered and is scheduled to perform at the Barbican in London on April 14 as part of a series of related events (020-7638 8891; barbican.org.uk). A solo exhibition of Johnston's artworks will be at the Aquarium Gallery in London from April 28 to May 20 (10 Woburn Walk, London WC1; 020-7387 8417). The film The Devil and Daniel Johnston will be released nationwide on May 5.
Copyright: Telegraph Group Ltd
Re: Telegraph Magazine Article
Reply #3 on:
March 21, 2006, 01:22:23 PM »
Hi everyone. I still plan on keeping a low profile and enjoying the board as a lurker while hopefully hundreds of new fans sign up over the next few weeks but I will try to post the occasional news item. Since I posted the Telegraph article and a clearer picture of the entire story is beginning to emerge there are a couple of things I'd like to clarify.
1) I was never hit over the head or attacked in any way by Daniel. I was attacked and spent time in the hospital in 1991 in an incident completely unrelated to Daniel. In fact it was just before he and his family moved from West Virginia to Texas and he called the hospital and spoke to my father a couple of times offering to come take care of me.
2) Kurt Cobain wore the shirt a few years later than it appears in the article.
3) I wouldn't say I was fired by Daniel's father. I was fired by Daniel. I think the film explains it better than I ever could here so hopefully you'll all get to see it.
It's a great article and these are FAR from being the most important parts but I thought the corrections were worth noting.
Re: Telegraph Magazine Article
Reply #4 on:
March 22, 2006, 04:54:32 PM »
Tough read, actually. I mean, thanks a million Jeff for typing out the article and making it all readible...
...it's just a little hard to get through, y'know? Some parts got me rather emotional in terms of wondering how the Hell I'd function on that many drugs (medicines???!) a day. What is it, like 10? And the side effects are so apparent in his seemingly nodding-off moments and distractions...
("Phew. For a minute there I lost myself...") radiohead
"Although there's a darkness, love balances chaos."-HL
Re: Telegraph Magazine Article
Reply #5 on:
March 22, 2006, 07:59:46 PM »
One more correction, a bit more 'minor' than those listed above -Dan is the last of five, not three.
Well...As I sit here, and think about Dan, I realize that my heart (and the hearts of everyone who loves him) is continually breaking for him... and for my older sis, and for all of the other 'victims' of severe mental illness... truly sucks!
May the film bring about more love for those afflicted, and maybe even more money for research...so that perhaps better, less scary, meds can be found.
Quote from: Stress Records on March 21, 2006, 07:55:17 AM
Growing up in West Virginia, Daniel was the youngest of three children, to all outward appearances a normal, happy child.
"'Get busy living, or get busy dying."
- Shawshank Redemption
Re: Telegraph Magazine Article
Reply #6 on:
March 22, 2006, 09:14:09 PM »
Great Read Jeff!
Re: Telegraph Magazine Article
Reply #7 on:
March 25, 2006, 10:03:13 AM »
you name me a street
and i will name you a bar,
and i will walk right threw hell
just to buy you a jar.
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