On How He Writes His Songs

From the documentary "Cracked Actor"

In some room somewhere David Bowie is cutting up paper with phrases on them into little strips.

Bowie:This is the way I do cut ups. I don't know if it's the way ?? or ?? does his. I don't know. This is the way I do it. But I've used it far more than anything else. Igniting anything that...in my imagination...it can come up with very interesting attitudes to look into. I've tried doing it with ?? and things and finding out amazing things about me and what I done and where I was going. Alot of things I done it seemed that it might predict things about the future or tell me alot about the past. It's really quite an astonishing thing, but I suppose it's a very western tarot. I don't know. Let's see what happens...

End of segment of "Cracked Actor"

Yentob:When we were in Los Angeles in '74 or whenever it was...You were still using that technique of cut ups. Do you still use it or do you do...

Bowie:Yeah, yeah. Increasingly so. To a great extent on "Outside" even say on the new album "Earthling." If you put 3 or 4 disassociated items together and created awkward relationships with them the unconscious intelligence that comes from that...those pairings is really quite startling sometimes. Quite...provocative. A friend of mine in San Francisco developed a program for me on the computer which enables me to do it really quickly.

Yentob:Instead of going to the little boys room...

Bowie:..and cutting things up... (smiles)

Yentob:...you use your computer.

Bowie: Yeah, and you can work with far more material. So I'll take articles out of newspapers, poems that I've written, pieces of other people's books, and put them all into this little warehouse of...this container of information. And then hit the program...the random button, and it'll randomize everything, and I'll get reams of papers back out of it, with interesting ideas. And then I'll either take sentences verbatim as it spews them out, or there might be something within a sentence which triggers off an idea. That's another use of it.

Yentob:Bowie at 50 then. You're not intimidated by that?

Bowie: No.

Yentob:What about Bowie the pop star at 50...55...60?

Bowie:I'm really starting to relish that situation. I'm enjoying being a pop star. I like it. It's alot of fun. Especially after this last year, because we've been working live with my band. More than a band. I mean, for me, probably, they're the most enjoyable set of musicians that I've worked with, both within their talents and as people, the greatest fun and satsisfaction I've had with a band since The Spiders. They really are. I think they're just absolutely tremendous.
Whatever I do...I get drunk on it. I do tend to do that. I live in excess of myself most of the time.

Yentob:And you store away those obsessions for another day and bring them back in? Or do you discard them?

Bowie: I think they're recurrent. I don't think anything I get truly passionate about ever leaves me. It will show itself. I'll recycle a motif or a method of working maybe, or a process. And it just seems that the older one gets you develop almost an armory of styles and devices, because I have no style loyalty at all. I just pick and choose what I believe will work best for the job.

Yentob: So who are you writing for now? What about...you say you're a Communicator...


Yentob:You say you're a Communicator.


Yentob:You're only communicating with yourself?

Bowie:I write for me. Well, I"m fundamentally no different from anybody else. And if I'm writing something that's really exciting me. There has to be somebody else who likes it.



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