An Egg Thief in Cyberspace:
An Interview with David Crosby, 1995

by Steve Silberman

Steve & Dave

S.S. and D.C. in Provincetown, on a deck in the West End.
The figure lounging on the right is Oliver Ray of the Patti Smith Band.



This interview took place on January 30, 1995. It first appeared in Goldmine, vol. 21, #14, July 7, 1995.




Steve Silberman: Your new record, It's All Coming Back to Me Now, has the intimate feel of the club gigs you've been playing in between CSN tours. How do you feel about playing smaller venues, rather than the big arenas CSN plays in?

David Crosby: I love it. There's a telepathic bond that happens between musicians onstage. You ball that energy up, throw it across the footlights into the audience, and palpable waves of energy come back at you. When you're playing in the big places, it's hard to establish that tenuous connection.

In a pressure cooker like the Whisky, where the new record was recorded, it happens bigtime, and it makes you reach over your head and play stuff you don't even know how to play. If I had my druthers, I'd never play to more than about two thousand people. As a pro, I like earning the money, and when you play the big sheds, you earn the money. But if you said, "You can do anything you want Dave - what is it?" I'd put this band together, a couple of buses, and hit it.

SS: One thing about this record is that you can hear your guitar playing again, which I think is underrated. I've always enjoyed how you're able to steer a band in interesting improvisatory directions with jazzier "outside" chords.

DC: [Pretending to address Stephen Stills] "You hear what he said, Stephen?" Yeah, I love that too. In Crosby, Stills and Nash, you never hear my guitar. There's just more going on. Stephen is a vastly superior guitar player, and he drives that band. But in my own band, Jeff Pevar and I have an interweave, a way of working with each other, that is a delight to me. Jeff leaves room for me to push rhythmically. When there's a picking pattern, like in "In My Dreams" or "Deja Vu," there's always an open space. Jeff's most powerful weapon is his ability to play not the notes, but the song. There are lead guitar players who like to play lead guitar, and there are lead guitar players who like to play songs. It's a definite difference in approach. Jeff loves songs. He's up there, trying to tell the same story that you are. Ever since I started playing music, my great joy has been submitting to a thing greater than myself, created when musicians link up, making something big in the air over our heads that speaks with one voice. That's my life. That's what I came to the party for.

The Whisky's got so much history for us. That's where I first heard Nash sing, with the Hollies. Me and Stills were in there listening to him go, "He's King Midas in reveeeerrrse," and we'd go, "How did he DO that?" And that was the first place I ever heard Stephen. Chris Hillman took me there when I was still in the Byrds and said, "You've got to hear this band" - Buffalo Springfield. That was the first place I heard Stephen and Neil doing guitar duets, which nobody had done yet. They were spectacular, so we got them to open for us for a bunch of gigs. They were actually a little too good [laughing].

SS: Did you ever sing with the Springfield?

DC: I was actually in the Springfield at Monterey Pop, but that was one for that one gig, 'cause Neil had split. I was the only person at Monterey Pop to be in two bands, and not in the movie. Don't know how I managed that.

SS: Did you ever think you might stay in the Buffalo Springfield?

DC: If Springfield had held together, I would have. I could see that Stephen was a major talent. He might have been a little hard to get along with, but there was no question that there was good energy there. Springfield was a very very powerhouse band. They had the essence, the wherewithal, and the jacks-or-better, which is the songs. And they could sing. If they had been able to refine that band and hold it together, there's no telling what they could have accomplished. But they drove it until the wheels came off.

SS: I have this tape of you with Les Baxter's Balladeers...

DC: Oh, you rat! Look, I was trying to eat some dinner. That was the folk scene, and the only thing making any money was groups like the Christy Minstrels. I think there were something like three Christy Minstrels groups out at the same time.

SS: A franchise.

DC: Right. But Les Baxter saw that, and decided he would have one of those, put it out on tour, and rake in zillions of bucks. We were gonna be really soulful folkies, and he had us in these red bellboy jackets. You would've died laughing, but we sang pretty good.

SS: When did you start writing songs?

DC: I started writing when I was hanging out with Travis Edmunson of Bud and Travis. He was my first mentor. I wandered into a club on Sunset Boulevard called the Unicorn, which was an early-early coffeehouse. I'd heard of Bud and Travis, 'cause I was kind of a folky guy who listened to Odetta, and Josh White, and the Weavers - stuff like that. Travis was really good, so I'd sit there, hawk his changes, and follow him around, carrying his guitar. The first song I ever wrote was a song called "Cross the Plains," and it was ludicrous. It's on a record someplace.

I wrote more and got a little better at it, went to Florida, and wrote some there. I don't think I wrote anything that was worth a damn until I was in the Byrds. I think the first actually passable song that I wrote was "Everybody's Been Burned."

SS: That song has that modal feeling about it which became your main groove.

DC: It's certainly one of the places I'm most comfortable in, no question about it. The lyric ballad, odd-changes feel.

SS: When you were writing that song, were you aware that the changes were jazzier than what was happening in pop music at the time?

DC: A little, but one of the fortunate things about working in the Byrds was that Roger had a very open head, and so did Chris. Gene tended to be more normalized in his musical thinking, but Roger and Christopher were wide open. They let me get away with putting "Mind Gardens" on a record! Roger was willing to take a swing at almost anything.

SS: Was any of that encouraged by the Beatles' example?

DC: Of course. They were our heroes. They were absolutely what we thought we wanted to do. We listened to every note they played, and savored it, and rubbed it on our foreheads, and were duly affected by it.

SS: Do you remember when you first heard the Beatles?

DC: I was in Chicago, living with a British guy named Clem Floyd on Well Street, right in the middle of it all. I was singing at Old Town North and Mother Blues. I was trying to quit smoking, and the way I figured to quit was to buy a quarter-pound of pot, which I rolled and smoked every time I wanted a cigarette. I'm not saying to try this at home, kids - but it worked.

So I was in a high old state of affairs, and Clem walked in one afternoon with that first Beatles album, Meet the Beatles. He put it on, and I just didn't know what to think. It absolutely floored me- "Those are folk-music changes, but it's got rock and roll backbeat. You can't do that, but they did! Holy yikes!" I ate it for breakfast.

The Byrds never tried to imitate the Beatles, ever. We always had more ideas than we needed about how to do it our own way. I don't think anybody would say that the Byrds' stuff sounded like the Beatles' stuff. The Beatles certainly didn't think so. They told us they liked our music because it really was our music. Our own synthesis, our own mixture of the musical streams we'd been exposed to.

SS: How did you get into doing Dylan?

DC: There was a guy named Jim Dickson who I met in that same coffeehouse. He heard me singing, and he knew that I didn't know doodly-squat, but I had this pure little voice. He liked the business, and knew a hell of a lot more about it than we did. When I started singing it the Front Room at the Troubador with McGuinn and Gene Clark, I said, "I have a friend who knows a lot about the business. We ought to go sing for him and see what he says."

So Jim became our mentor, and then our manager. He brought us a demo of Dylan and Ramblin' Jack singing "Tambourine Man," which was truly awful - two guys that were not too sharp on staying on tune - but it was a great song. Jim convinced us to do it. Once we realized that you could take Dylan and transmute it the way Roger did, we did a lot of them.

SS: Did you have a sense that Dylan was a peer in updating folk music, both the musical aspects of it, and also its social role - bringing the news, articulating the non-mainstream viewpoint?

DC: Yeah. I'm pretty sure that was the first time anybody had put really good poetry on AM radio. "To dance beneath the diamond sky, with one hand waving free." That wasn't on the radio until then.

SS: Had you been exposed to the Beats before Dylan?

DC: Sure - that stuff shaped us. And some of those guys were around when the Byrds started - Allen Ginsberg used to come and dance every night with Peter Orlovsky. I was unquestionably affected by all of those guys' writing.

SS: What did you get from it?

DC: A lot of my iconoclastic, outside-the-mainstream, don't-take-the-establishment-point-of-view-for-being-what it-says-it-is-at-face-value attitude. A lot of my go-find-out-for-myself-what's-on-the-other-side-of-that-hill. To say it another way: one thing we're sure we don't know is, we don't know. A sense of adventure. I wanted nothing more than to go around the country by myself with a guitar and a bag, bop into town, find the coffeehouse, and say "Hi! Hire me, I'm cheap."

SS: Their writing infused social criticism with real spirituality that didn't depend on religious structures and hierarchies, but on personal experience.

DC: I felt that. I felt from them a mission.

There was a story I used to tell. People would ask me what I'm doing. I would say, "I'm an egg thief." And they'd say, "Do you have a fever, David?" And I'd say, "No, it goes like this. Once upon a time, the whole planet was ruled by dinosaurs. There were these little tiny furry guys that lived there too. The dinosaurs didn't even notice 'em. They would step on one - squish! - wouldn't even notice. But the little furry guys were determined to have their way about things, so they went around and found where the dinosaurs' eggs were, and kept stealing the eggs. Until one day, there weren't any more dinosaurs. What I'm doing is, trying to tempt the young away from the dinosaurs with a set of alternative values, because I don't believe in what the dinosaurs are saying. I don't think John Wayne's right, I don't think war's glorious, I don't think racism is right, and I don't see why people can't live in peace with each other."

The civil rights thing was just starting. It was pretty heavy. I had the full hippie ethic going. My image of myself was this lil' furry sneaky guy out there, stealing eggs. Luring the young away from their parents.

SS: Paul Kantner uses that story on Blows Against the Empire. He's got a song called "Mau Mau" - "We are egg snatchers, flashing sunshine children."

DC: More power to him. Paul Kantner's nearly a saint. The guy has never copped out an inch. If you go to a performance of Paul's tonight, you will get the full blast right between the eyes of the entire ethic that he espoused when he started. He is a fully idealistic human being. I love him so much when I watch him work. He's so honestly committed to his principles and ideals, and to what he believes is the good in human beings.

SS: You guys go way back, playing together, to Venice Beach, a house you had there. Could you talk about that communal experiment?

DC: It was pretty funny. This was right after Stranger in a Strange Land came out. We were all fairly naive kids. It was Paul, and me, and David Freiberg - who is still my friend - and Steven Schuster, and Sherri Snow, and Ginger Jackson. We kept all our money in a bowl, and if you needed any, you took it out.

SS: One of the lines that struck me early on in your music, from "Triad," was "Sister lovers, water brothers, and in time, maybe others."

DC: That was from Stranger in A Strange Land.

SS: And the idea was to create a new form of family.

DC: The dream was extended families, and other permutations sexually, too. We thought that it was possible to transcend the monogamous kind of two-by-two relationship, and go way further with it. Across sex barriers, across number barriers - make love to who you wanted to, in whatever numbers pleased you, and in whatever combinations pleased you. That sounded like a really good idea.

We ran head on into prejudice, and jealousy, and possessiveness - but there were times when we transcended it. Even for periods of time. Groups of friends that loved each other pretty well.

SS: Was Grace Slick there too?

DC: No. Grace - God, what a powerhouse. Grace is one of my favorite people that I encountered in the whole scene. Totally, utterly, completely fearless. Not so great when she was drunk, but neither was I. She did me an enormous favor by being the one to break out "Triad" - she recorded it when other people thought it was sincerely subversive. Which I guess it was.

SS: So, you guys were playing folk music in Venice Beach?

DC: Folk music, and stuff we wrote ourselves. When I was living on the Charles Van Damme in Sausalito with Dino Valenti, I was singing more and more of my own stuff. Dino encouraged me to do that.

Sausalito was heavenly then, because it was early on, and they hadn't realized yet that they had an infestation in their midst [laughing], so the Sausalito cops weren't down on us. Gate Six was as loose as Port Royale in the pirate days. You could do anything down there.

There were about 20 of us living on the Charles Van Damme. One of the guys used to work for the phone company, so he had rigged up the phone so we could call anywhere, just by touching the cable to a nail.

We had kids coming over from Tam High, holding dances. Me and Dino, and others - it was like sharks hitting sheep. We were merciless. These little girls in crinoline skirts - and we'd be standing there, with a little trail of saliva out of one corner of our mouths. We were terrible, but we had a lot of fun.

SS: Were the Dead hanging around at that point?

DC: I had heard of them playing down on the Peninsula, there was another name they went under first - the Warlocks. I had heard about 'em: "There are these guys down there who are really out there." That was like honey to a bee to me - I wanted to immediately go and find out who they were and what they did. I didn't encounter them until they were full-blown as the Dead.

SS: Where did you see them first?

DC: God knows. Probably the back of a truck in the park, or on Haight Street. Paul Kantner gave me their first album, and I loved it. This wasn't Paul Revere and the Raiders - this was the real stuff! These guys were having fun, and that's my thing - I love having fun with music. I knew they were kindred spirits immediately.

I started playing with them early on, when Mickey joined the band, and they had the place up in Novato. I first met them when they were still living at 710 [710 Ashbury, the legendary communal "Dead house" in the Haight-Ashbury that was also host to Neal Cassady], but we didn't play that time. I just hung out with them, talked, and liked them a lot. They helped me move north from L.A. Kidd, and Slade, and maybe Ram - I think are the ones who got a stake-bed truck and helped me move up to Novato. We were seeing each other all the time. It was Slade who drove me to the hospital when Christine was killed [Christine Gail Hinton, who died in a car accident in Marin County in 1969, to whom Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name is dedicated.] They're good human beings, you know. They would step in and try to help you through something like that. That's a bunch of exceptionally good people.

SS: Was there a lot of informal jamming going on?

DC: Around them? Always. They have always believed in the magic content of music - that anything is possible at any moment. That's why they've always managed to keep their door open to the incredible peaks that they sometimes hit. They hit valleys too. The only dependable grade of music that you can deliver every day is mediocre. They're not interested in that, any more than I am. So they leave the door open wide, and take incredible chances. And as a result, they've hit musical peaks that probably no one will ever touch. They've also played some dogshit, but they know that. They want those peaks, and they keep themselves open. That's why they'll play with Bruce Hornsby, or Branford, or any of the people they've played with. They want to reach.

SS: Around 1970, the Dead were moving from playing more electric, out-there, jams from Anthem of the Sun, to more folky traditional stuff. I've heard that Stills helped them learn how to sing.

DC: That's what the Dead said, but they were just being nice. They had listened to us a lot, and they liked what happened when three-part harmony went over a good track. It's very generous of them to credit us with it, but we never sat down with them in a room and said, "OK now, you sing this, you sing this." That never happened. Those guys are brilliant. They knew exactly what we were doing, and they evolved their own version of it. They just credited us to be nice.

SS: But you guys were hanging out a lot, especially around the recording of your first solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name.

DC: I couldn't have made that record without them. Jerry practically co-produced it. He was there so many nights, he gave so much of himself to that record. He was so generous, and so was everybody else. It was a joint project of the entire city, just about. It was a joke to call it a "solo record." There were no rules. Because we had just completely grabbed the brass ring with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, I could afford to go down to Wally Heider's studio every night just for laughs. Anybody that showed up, we'd try something. Paul would show up, Grace would show up, Nash would show up, Neil would show up, Jerry would show up, Phil would show up, Casady would show up, and Jorma would show up. We were just screwing around, and when you screw around with that caliber of players and singers, you goin' to get some shit, if you're patient. And we lucked out. I still am as proud of that record as I am of anything we've ever done.

I was in a pretty emotional state, living on my boat in Sausalito, trying to stay so deeply in music that the other thing - Christine - wouldn't drive me under. I needed to work all the time, so I would write constantly, and when I wasn't writing I was recording, and when I wasn't recording, I would try to get some place to play. It was all I had to hang on to , so I was pretty prolific.

SS: Could you talk a bit about how CSN''s been for you as an evolving venue for your songwriting over the years?

DC: Big subject. It's an incredibly strange chemistry, and, at its best, has produced some of the best music of my life, obviously. The mixture of the voices is most peculiar. The approaches to structuring harmonies were most peculiar. How has it worked? It's been a constant battle, and a constant joy. It wavers back and forth between which one is winning on any given day, and it always has. It was the same when Neil was in the group. I don't think Stephen and I are ever going to agree about anything. We're extremely different kinds of human beings. But I like him - no, I love him. I'm not sure I like him, but I definitely love him. 'cause I've been through too much with him not to care.

Nash and I were meant to be friends, from the first minute we met. We feel so much alike about what's right and wrong, and what matters. I've learned an awful lot from Graham as a human being.

SS: How did you meet?

DC: Cass [the late "Mama" Cass Elliot of the Mamas and Papas] brought Graham over to my house in Laurel Canyon, and didn't tell me who he was.

SS: Had you already seen the Hollies?

DC: No, so I didn't know who he was. I just liked the guy. Cass brought him over, and he had never smoked our standard, sinsemillic, crush-you-to-death-and-melt-your-mind, go-home-six-hours-later-in-a-stupor kind of weed. So he had an interesting afternoon.

Cass was one of the funniest human beings alive, and a totally great woman. She knew that he and I would hit it off. I remember taking Clapton over to her house one afternoon, and sitting there - me, Nash, Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Cass, a couple of other people, sitting on the lawn, trading songs. It was pretty good. That kind of stuff happened a fair amount.

SS: Your melodies are very informed by jazz, and non pop-music tonalities.

DC: My brother loved jazz, and played drums and bass, and turned me on to late-'50s jazz, when it was Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck. That era. When other people were all excited about Elvis, I was excited about Brubeck. That progressed, quite naturally, to John Coltrane. The first time I heard "My Favorite Things," I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

I'll tell you about Coltrane. When I was being a folkie in Chicago, my friend Clem was going with this little German hooker who was extremely popular on the South Side of town, who stood about 4-feet-2, very blonde, named "the Dutchess." She took us down to a famous black jazz club called McKee's.

At that time, Coltrane had two bass players in the band: Reggie Workman and Jimmy Garrison, with McCoy Tyner playing piano, and Elvin Jones playing drums. They would get up there and play a song. Per set. First they'd play the song ensemble, then 'Trane would start off, blow the most incredible solo, and walk off the stage. Then it was McCoy's turn. McCoy Tyner has been a major inspiration to me, because of the chords he had to think up in order to leave room for somebody as wild as Coltrane. Then when McCoy got done, Workman and Garrison had a conversation between two basses. Then it was Elvin Jones' turn. At that time, Elvin was probably the most single powerful drummer there was. Unamplified, in a small room like that, he could paste you against the back wall. Which is what he proceeded to do.

I had ingested every possible form of chemical alteration that I could lay my hands on for this event, so I was in a susceptible state. Elvin drove me out of my chair, into the aisle, back to the back wall, and finally into the men's room. I'm leaning against this awful vomit-green tile, trying to cool my fevered brow - just come down enough where I could maintain. And the door to the room goes WHAM!, and, "SWEEEEEEEEwulllllululullulbraallllalala..." [imitating Coltrane soloing] - is 'Trane. I slid down the wall, and melted in a puddle on the floor of that john. He didn't even know I was in there. He had never stopped playing his solo. He was still playing, walking around the club, and walked in there 'cause the acoustics were good. And he was at full burn. He melted me in a puddle. That experience is burned in my brain.

Coltrane affected me very strongly. I remember another funny Coltrane story, was when I was programming Africa/Brass into McGuinn's head, playing it and playing it, driving around in this Winnebago with Bo Diddley, the We Five, and Paul Revade and the Rear Doors [sic]. We couldn't smoke joints on the regular bus, so we had our own little Winnebago. This will tell you just how blasted we were: We were playing Coltrane, and we pulled up to this train crossing, and a whole trainload of coal went across it. And we all just sat there going, "Wowww. Cosmic."

SS: How did you start listening to non-Western musics, like the Bulgarian women's choir?

DC: I'm not sure who turned Graham and I on to that. I know that that first record on Nonesuch is vastly superior to everything that's come out since. Les Voix Mystères and all that is good, but nothing can touch that first record. It changed my life. They did stuff nobody else on Earth could do: intervals, inversions of chords, kinds of modes, shapes of melodies that didn't exist anywhere else. Opened my brain like a can opener.

Jim Dickson is the one who turned me on to Ravi Shankar. That was another major experience. I felt that he was the finest melody-mover on Earth at the time, that he could do more complex and more beautiful things to a melody than anybody alive. He was such a brilliant musician, and that stuff was so strange and wonderful to me. I remember turning on everybody I could. George [Harrison] said I turned him on to it. I'm not sure.

SS: Were you close with John Lennon?

DC: Yeah. I guess I can say it now - 'cause nobody can give John any shit for it - but we all ate sugar cubes one time. But the only thing I ever did that really impressed John was showing him an E-modal chord with no major or minor in it. He loved that chord, immediately glommed that chord completely. It was the only time he ever gave me a real smile, and was obviously happy with me.

SS: Was that in a song of yours?

DC: No, we were just fooling around, playing guitar. He and I had a fairly nice friendship going until one time I visited him in New York in the studio, and every time I'd ask him a question, You-Know-Who would answer it. I finally said, "Can we go out in the hall and talk or something?" And John said, "Where I go, Yoko goes." And I said, "Well, it's been great, John - see ya." It was just too frustrating. She was constantly inserting herself, constantly demanding to be seen as an equal. An equal artist, even - and she was standing next to a guy who changed the world. It pissed me off too much. I expect that happened with a lot of people.

SS: How did you get involved in online community?

DC: I'm one of those kids who read all the Heinlein juvenile series when I was in my teens. I always thought that would be our future: spaceships and computers and faster-than-light drives and aliens and stuff like that. I imagined that we would eventually get computers up to the point where they were artificial intelligences, and talk to them, and also use computers to talk to each other.

When I first logged on to the WELL and looked in the music conference, here were these people talking about me! It was great ego food. I'm a raving egotist. So I sat back and dug what they were saying. It was neat, because it was uncensored. Uncensored data is a pearl beyond price, because people usually tell you what they think you want to hear. On the Net, they tell you what they think. It could be a 300-pound lady with a wart for a nose who lives in Duluth, but when she's on the Net, she's a mind and a keyboard, and she's not afraid of you. She'll tell you what she thinks. This is totally precious.

When I realized that, I started talking to people. I began to realize that here was this completely unrestrained, uncontrolled, out-of-control, uncensorable flow of information. This is as important as nuclear physics! We're actually able to talk to each other, and nobody can stop us. It's fantastic to me. I think you're going to see a change in the human race because of it, because for once, there's a completely free flow of information that pays no attention to race, creed, borders, color, or religion.

SS: Or celebrity.

DC: Or celebrity! For a celebrity, this is a gift beyond price. We can talk to anybody, and they can't show up at our door [laughing].

I'm not a really big celebrity. Let's face it. There are people who really are, who have more of a privacy problem than I do. But the idea that I can talk to anybody, anywhere, anytime, as an equal, and that they will talk to me - this is so exciting to me. We're obviously only at the baby-talk stages of it, scratchin' the barest beginning of a surface.

SS: You log in several times a day?

DC: I can't seem to help it [laughing].

SS: Before you got online, did you read fan mail?

DC: Not as much. Snail mail is harder. In the hospital, I would get a couple of hundred pieces of mail a day - it's hard to open and read a couple of hundred pieces of mail. And half of them are people whose handwriting you can't read. I don't know, it's just not the same.

I think the WELL is completely exceptional. The WELL has a sense of community that I haven't seen anywhere, and a lot of very bright, communicative people. I don't know how it happened, but they're there. There's a lot of curiosity, not much animosity, a lot of creative energy, and a sense of the distance in the dance. I feel at home there. I love all the fancy interfaces and stuff on the other services, but the thing that I love about being on the Net is communicating, and there's more of that going on the WELL. So, naturally, it's my home place.

Look at it this way. Most of the ills in the human condition are breakdowns in communication. War is a failure in communication, famine is a failure in communication. Plague. Pestilence. Somebody not talking to somebody to solve the problem. Communication is the saving grace of homo sapiens - the one trick we can do better. This is the future in our hands. I may sound almost religious about it, but I really believe that it's going to change everything at a very pragmatic level.

Human beings are just a couple of steps ahead of where we were as monkeys, and one of our biggest problems is xenophobia, fear of the unknown. As long as that guy over there talks a different language than you, wears a different color uniform, you can imagine that he's different enough from you to shoot him. You can't do that if you're talking to him. Once you find out that he's got a six-year-old baby, and his wife has blue eyes, and his left ankle hurts him like crazy, he's not just a guy in a different colored outfit. He's a person. The vicious leaders of this world have kept their power by keeping human beings separate. By making the Jew the scapegoat to the Arab, the Arab the scapegoat to the Jew, the Catholics the scapegoat to the Protestants. By telling the Russians that the Americans were baby-killers, and telling the Americans that the Russians wanted to rule the world. It's a bunch of crap. We're people. We all put our pants on one leg at a time, and we don't have a clue - any of us. The reason the Berlin Wall came down was not because a tank crushed it, not because an artillery barrage knocked it down. You know what knocked it down? People talking. That's the truth, and that's the proof: the wall is gone, and no gun did it. That's why I'm as excited as I am about the Net.

SS: Your music was a force for community, a rallying cry for people to realize their ideals. Do you see your involvement in online culture as a continuation of that?

DC: No. The Net doesn't need me. It's going to do it all by itself. It's inherent in it. It doesn't need people to proselytize for it, it doesn't need people to be its heroes. How it's going to affect the political process, I can't predict. But if you have the guts to stand up and be counted, here's a new way to stand, and a new place to be counted. "As of 15 seconds ago, exactly 92.6% of the country thought that you were lying, Mr. President..." It could get to there.

I don't have much hope for the political process in this country. It's so bought and paid for, a media zoo. My politics: I'm a strict Constitutionalist. The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and there it is, ladies and gentlemen - the finest defense of personal freedom in the history of the human race. I don't see us doing much more than fighting a rearguard action to defend vestiges of it, at this point. The power blocs are too big. The candidates are bought and sold, they mouth platitudes at you, and they're poster children for situational ethics. I voted for Bill Clinton. I thought he was, for a politician, a pretty decent guy. But he's still a politician. He'll tell you whatever he thinks he's got to tell you in order to get through the next minute or two. Politicians are very much like cockroaches - they only move when the light comes on. The TV light comes on, and they scurry around and scurry around, "I'll appoint a commission! Somebody else did it!" The light goes off, and they go after the breadcrumbs again.

I'm discouraged with politics. I was discouraged when I started - "Don't follow leaders, watch your parking meters." It's not fair to say that and not offer any alternative, but I don't have one. I used to think that it was all going to come unglued a lot sooner than anybody thought, and I would get on my wooden ship and disappear. Then Jackson wrote me his answer, which was "For Everyman." What about the guy who doesn't have a sailboat, Dave? And he was telling the truth.

It's our job to make a difference here, and I'm not saying that it's impossible, because there are glaring examples of it not being impossible. Gandhi. Lil' guy wrapped in a bedsheet, didn't have two nickels to rub together, changed the course of history, because he would not cop out. "No, very sorry, this is not right." He wouldn't bend, he wouldn't break, he wouldn't change what he believed in. You could tell him "You can't fight City Hall" all day and he just wasn't listening. He fought City Hall. He stopped the British Empire in its tracks. One guy. I'm stuck between those two points: a saddened and slightly discouraged view of American politics - an arena that can include Rush Limbaugh, gimme a break! - and knowing in my heart that Gandhi's example is still valid. Wishing I were a person of that stature.

SS: You've had plenty of time to reflect on your life lately, having survived a liver transplant. What was the chain of events which led up to your operation?

DC: I got hepatitis C probably 15 years ago, around there. We don't know how. And it started munching on my liver. Then about ten years ago, I became diabetic. And that started munching on my liver. Meanwhile, I spent 20 years trying to convert myself into a chemical waste dump site, and drinking when I couldn't find drugs.

Last spring, we were making the CSN record, After the Storm. I hurt a lot, and my stomach was all swollen up: it looked like I had eaten a basketball. I was in denial about it - just pickin' up some weight, it'll be OK, I'll lose it. We went out on tour, and did forty or fifty cities. Slice and Mouse [CSN roadies] were having to carry me to the bus after I'd walked offstage. JanDee was scared, and I was scared. When we went to Johns Hopkins, they said, "You have a liver disease." I said, "Get out of here." I came back home during the break in the tour, went to another hospital, and they said "You have a liver disease."

In Encino, where I was living before the IRS took my house, I had been neighbors with a wonderful guy named Dr. Gary Gitnick, the head honcho of digestive diseases for UCLA. I went to him and said, "Gary, my stomach hurts." And they put me through the work-up. He said, "You're sick." So I said, "How sick?" He said, "You're going to die if you don't get a liver transplant right away. Your liver's down to about 30%, and losing ground fast."

That was a shock. Even if I'd had other people tell me, I didn't want to believe it. He was real specific and clear about it. So finally I accepted that I was going to have to take this risk, 'cause I had no other choice. So they told me, "Cancel the tour, go home. We'll call you." I was so sick at Woodstock, I could barely stay on my feet. I'd been up the whole night - my cramps were so bad, my legs were as hard as bars, and I was screaming in pain. I had jaundice, and encephelopathy, where you poison your brain and get stupid, and I was all swelled up with this fluid. All of that stuff started to get much worse, so fast, that they changed their minds, and told us I had to come wait for the new liver in the hospital, because they weren't sure they could keep me alive until one got there. When I got to the hospital, I started to deteriorate even faster. When I went in there, I weighed 229, and by the night I got the transplant, I weighed 250, all fluid in my abdomen. They'd caught it just in time.

It's a nightmarish thing. They cut you almost in half, and move your insides around. You wake up and you've got tubes coming out of you in places where you don't even have places. I was scared to death. I wouldn't have made it if it hadn't been for Jan. She never stopped smiling, she never stopped holding my hand, she never stopped giving me strength. Neither one of us wants to go on living without the other one.

I met Jan in Criteria Studios in Florida, when she and her mom were both working there. At that point in my life, I was - how shall I say this politely? - somewhat obsessed with sex. I was following my [cough] around like a caboose. Wherever it pointed, I went. I had no intention of falling in love with anybody. And here was this girl, smiling at me. She had this great smile, and these great eyes, and something went ker-sproing inside me, and I've been in love with her ever since. She's a tremendous source of strength, a very moral being, and she has a great set of values. And she never stops growing. Just when you think you've got her pegged, she'll turn around and whip some new shit on you. That's a wonderful thing in a friend and a partner and a lover. Through this, she was scared to death too, but she never showed it once. I was very frightened, and very out of it.

I have more gratitude than I can express for the young guy that died, who saved my life, and saved four people's lives that night with his organs. Anybody that doesn't do that with their body once the spirit has departed is a selfish person. Once the spirit's gone, the body is just a meat suit. Spare parts. If you can give the gift of life to somebody, or sight, or take some person off of dialysis - Jesus, how could you not?

I was lucky. I'm precariously alive for the time being, because in order for the liver to not get rejected, I have to suppress my immune system completely. Anything I get - any bug - I can only fight with antibiotics. Antibiotics don't touch viruses, so a really bad virus, or a strain of bacteria that's resistant to the antibiotics, will kill me.

SS: Is that your situation for the rest of your life?

DC: Yeah.

SS: Have you talked with other people who have received liver transplants?

DC: Yeah. As a group of people, we are all extremely grateful. One of the nicest was Jim Nabors - he came to see me, and was the sweetest guy. I don't recommend doing this unless you're going to die otherwise, because it's not an easy life. The double handful of pills I have to take makes a chemical soup in your stomach, and I have trouble sleeping. But I do get another shot at being alive. I really am puzzled about that, after all the stuff that's happened to me: overdoses, car wrecks, motorcycle wrecks, gun fights, prison. Terminal disease. [Vampire voice] Vut special fate are they savink me for?

SS: That song you're going to write next week.

DC: It must be that, man. What got me through so many nights in that hospital was logging on. Instead of me being all alone, in pain, not knowing if was going to stay alive much longer - all of a sudden, there were all these sparks out in the darkness, talking to me, who cared about me. It made four o'clock in the morning not anywhere near as bad. That's how I got through a lot of it.

SS: When you thought about why you wanted to live, what did you most look forward to?

DC: I have a great life. I have a wife who's one of the nicest human beings I've encountered on the planet. And we're gonna have a baby, which, for an old fogey like me is pretty far out. "I didn't know there was another bullet in there, your honor!" We found out on her birthday, September 16th. For a raison d'etre, it's a real good one. Also, I love what I do - singing and playing, writing songs, communicating with people, performing, recording. It's the most fun I know how to have with my clothes on. If I get a chance to do it some more, I will.

I've always had a lot of reluctance about the idea of God, or a higher power, because they tried to stuff one of the starched, Western, Christian ideologies down me at prep school. I said, "Right, Mary got pregnant and nobody did her, OK, nice talkin' to ya - " Spiritual awakening came to me in a completely different way, partly through brushing up against Buddhism, and partly through psychedelic experience, and partly through the inspiration of people who I could not help but feel were evolved way further than I was. I could feel some spiritual presence about them that I desired to touch, to taste, to know, to experience. If more growth came from this experience, it was simply intense, flaming gratitude for even another day of life.

While I was still in the hospital, I was having bad nightmares because of all the medications. My center would be right there, and my consciousness would be out in left field, frantically trying to crawl back, struggling to get home. I would sit there and read until I got headaches because I was scared to go to sleep. But once I got past all of that, the dreams started to get good. I wake up happy now. Other things are slightly different - I don't seem to want to eat quite as much. I'm still trying to distill the whole experience.

SS: Have you had any experiences of sensing the presence of the young man whose liver you have now?

DC: I did, a very strong one. I was online when it happened, one of the first times I was coherent enough to log on. I had this flash that I could feel the guy's soul finally going up and out. Then I had this other flash, that I could gather up a whole bunch of energy, a gratitude-wave from all the people who were linked online, and send it after him. If it was a hallucination, it was sure a powerful one. I saw that donor's soul go.

SS: Does music come to you when you go through an experience like this?

DC: It's bound to do it. This is as close to the bone as you can get: life, death, birth. But I can't predict it. I know there's all kinds of stuff cooking in there. When it's going to pop out, or in what form, I have no clue. I don't even know which one of the people inside my head writes this stuff. All of a sudden I wake up in the middle of the night, "Quick! Jan, where's a pencil?"

I was scared after the operation that I wasn't going to be able to play. My hands shake from the medicine -"If it affects those muscles, maybe it'll affect my diaphragm muscles. Maybe my voice will be weird, maybe I won't be able to sing right." I hadn't sung for two months. You know how artists are - "I've lost it all!" Four or five nights ago, Jackson [Browne] and his lady Deanna were over here. We were just fooling around, and I sang "Rusty and Blue." Jackson was playing this great guitar lick to it. That was the first thing I had sung, and it was good! I just about climbed through the roof.

SS: When you were in the hospital, facing the possibility that you might die, what about your life were you happy that you got to do?

DC: The music. The love. The friends. The adventure. The sailing thousands of miles. The making love - there's was a lot of really good making love. My daughter, who is such a joy. The few women I have loved, and the one woman who I am really in love with. The friends - I've had great friends, man. And the chance to go and see what was on the other side of the hill. I should have been dead five times ago, and I keep getting another shot at making music.

I was afraid I was going to die, but I really didn't feel cheated, and I wouldn't have felt cheated. If anybody's had a full dance card, it's been me.

SS: If you could go back, and talk to your younger self, and send him some messages from the future - what would you tell him?

DC: There's the obvious one. "Don't waste your time getting involved with coke and heroin, because it's a complete dead end, and it'll waste ten years of your life." There are people who say, "But would you have written the same music?" But I didn' t really write much music when I was on coke and heroin. I wrote some, and some of it's good. Some of Coltrane's music was good when he was wacko. But I could have written a hell of a lot more.

The whole drug experience is such a weird thing, man. When I started out smoking pot, taking psychedelics, I didn't think, and I don't think now, that I was making a mistake. But being a junkie - that ain't worth a shit. The curve of song production went down at exactly the same rate as the curve of hard drug use went up. Everybody who watched me knows it. The minute I stopped, the songs started coming again. So what possible other conclusion can I draw, other than that it was a waste of time? I'd be tempted to tell myself not to do that.

I don't think I'd change much else.

I lucked out early on. I never had to wonder, "What do I want to do with my life?" I knew I wanted to sing, because I was good at it. I was lucky. I've had a lot of good breaks. I was never insecure about what was going to happen. I feel for kids now, though, because the message they're getting is not only is their personal future insecure, but the future of the environment, the social structures - the entire world is completely insecure. I don't like what we're handing them, and I don't think they like it either. It's a place that's poisoned and mortgaged to the hilt. That's not fair.

It's very frustrating for me to watch young musicians with talent. My perfect example is the band called Venice. Venice is one of the half a dozen best vocal bands in the world, they sing rings around everybody, and they're going to break up, because they can't get a record contract, because they don't fit into whatever mold happens to be the mold right now. That's real frustrating to watch. The business end of the music business is enough to piss off the Pope.

SS: The last few CSN albums haven't done well.

DC: That kind of music isn't real popular now. The major demographic of record-buyers is kids, and they're buying rap and hip-hop. There are very few singer-songwriter records that make it at all. Even when you get a hit, like Bonnie [Raitt] had with Nick of Time, the next two albums had to struggle, both of them. The market isn't there for that kind of stuff.

Also, I don't think our records have been that good. They've been spotty. It's difficult for me to discuss. I don't want to say which songs I think made it, and which songs didn't. You have to have a record that's consistently great songs, all the way through, and I don't think these records were. The consistency wasn't there. Live It Up was drastically overproduced, and only had three things on it that were really any good. After the Storm was a better job, because [producer] Glyn Johns is a brilliant man. But again, I don't think the material came up to the level that it needed to be.

It may be that we're not doing what people want of us. The only thing on After the Storm that people tell me they want to hear of us was the Beatles song. Three-part harmony and acoustic guitars. Well, that's particularly not what Stephen wants to do, and I can't control it. I'm a partner. All I can do is come with my best stuff, and do the best job that I can, under the circumstances.

My new record is very raw, and it's very real, and that direction suits me much more. I don't know how I would approach another recording experience with CSN. I would try very hard to get us to go somewhere, sit down, and sing together for awhile before we recorded anything.

That was the joy of that first Crosby, Stills and Nash record, man. We could sing that record. We could just sit right down in your livingroom, and sing you that whole first record - bang.



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