|cuz: How old you now?
Bill Shields: 43
a young man about town..
CC: How long were you in
BS: 3 tours, I was
there in 1970 for 9-10 months, 1972 for 6 months and in 1975 I was there for 3 months.
CC: So around 75
there would have been a lot of extreme tension ?
BS: 75 was the fall of
Saigon. Me and most of the Navy SEALs and ETT numbers in the navy at that time were called
over there, and it was a very wicked time. Anyone that likes anarchy would have really
seen what anarchys about - thats what Saigon looked like, It was pure anarchy,
it was a very scary place to be and when I left there were about 10 choppers after me that
left Vietnam. So that gives you an idea were I was at. 10 helicopters of Americans left.
CC: That sounds pretty
BS: It was fucked! It
was scary cause I just had a daughter - my oldest daughter was born on the 29th of
December 1974, Id only seen her for about 36, maybe 48 hours, and I went right back
to Vietnam. I was just really worried I wasnt going to leave that godamn country,
but I did I would have swam out of there if I had to. I was leaving!!
CC: Did you ever
encounter any Australians while you were over there ?
BS: Id seen them
of all places in bars (surprise surprise) a couple times in Saigon.
CC: Sounds typical.
BS: Ha Ha guys are like
that. No, I never worked with them, they had a great reputation, I just never worked with
them. I was down south in the Delta, everyone that I talked to that worked with the
Australians were impressed. When I saw them I asked "Who are these sonsofbitchs
?" "Oh theyre Aussies" they were good soldiers - they knew
whats up. But they had a real good reputation in Vietnam.
CC: The film
industrys obsession for Vietnam has as you known been total overkill. Out of all the
Nam exploits which out all of them would be closest to the truth?
BS: Oh gee, yeah,
thats a tough one cause so much of it is bullshit, Im still waiting for the
Vietnam movie because if you take some of the despair that was in the Deer
Hunter, mix it with some of the intense fear of Platoon, some of the insanity of Hamburger
Hill, Im just trying to think. They always get one small section right and then blow
it. Theyre close on some things and yet they miss the mark cause it pathetic, cause
its easy to do, there was one Charlie Mopac or something which was real
CC: Given Oliver
Stone's Veteran exprience, how do you view Platoon?
BS: Yeah, you know, the
good and evil thing the two sergeants thats a bit much I kinda figured on more yet
hes out to make a buck. Also you know he has to make it for... I hate to use this
expression but I will -For the masses for people to understand. There were
parts of it I thought that were superb - the horror and the fear conveyed real well in
there, real well, and I liked that part of it, but the parts that were weak again - the
one very evil sergeant and one very very good sergeant - I said man it wasnt
that clear cut to be Vietnam. It was not clear-cut - nothing was that clear cut
everything was pretty muddy pretty murky and he didnt craft that. It seemed a little
bit more concrete. But he cut the horror - the absolute horror of what it feels like when
theyre on ya, which I appreciate that and the nice thing it made enough awareness
for Vietnam Veterans saying " well they got a glimmer of what it might have been
CC: Any truth to the
rumour that Ollie might be making Southeast Asian Book of the Dead into a film
BS: No, no, thats
not what I would call it. I just got a note from Rollins a couple weeks ago saying he had
showed Oliver Stone a copy of the book and Rollins was having dinner with him and
thats all I know now. Hell Im ready to retire that would be cool as shit you
know, well se if he (Stone) has got some big balls. I wanna see if Stone has the
real cahoonies to do this one, what Id like to see is more of is less on
Vietnam and a whole lot more on the last 25 years and thats what I dont see
being done in the movies. Im saying all my friends are dead yknow, most of
them are dead from Agent Orange or suicide - by suicide Im not saying one barrel in
the mouth and pulling the trigger- Im talking about drugs and alcohol theyre
all fucking dead. You know thats just astounding to me, Im 43 years old and
most the people I knew when I was 18 are all dead. That is just, I mean thats what
old men think about all their friends are dead, shit all my friends are dead!!
CC: I was going to ask
you this question last but are you surprised to be alive now?
BS: Oh yeah its
absurd its totally fucking absurd that Im still around. I still laugh about
it, I mean every morning is a good day for me, everyday is a good day, yknow
its always amazing to me and you can ask my wife, I wake up in the morning and
its a good day its a good godamn day I woke up! And thats the way I
lived my life. I mean even I have bad days like everyone else but its still amazing
that Im still awake Im alive, Im here. I never counted on this one
its been difficult cause I never planned on being alive, its very difficult to
figure out the rest of my life I dont really I just let things happen cause I really
go one day at a time Im really glad to be alive today, its not like some kinda
celebration. Im still alive I didnt drop dead, theres been no heart
attack sonofabitch this is amazing. I have a lot of cynicism for the world but
not for myself, Im just fucking impressed Im still around, so - everyday is
pretty precious I dont think Im going to be around for ever. Vietnam did teach
you that you can drop dead right now tonight right now on this phone call and theres
are no guarantees that there are no implied warrantees for this life, you will drop dead
its just a matter of time. So when youre around you better fucking appreciate
the fact that youre around one more day and enjoy that day, and Im a big
believer of that. What you can do and what you will do is not what you should have done.
What great fucking quotes man Im giving you them easy tonight (laughter).
CC: When did you decide
to become a writer?
BS: 1978, I was going
to the University of Pittsburgh and was fiddling around wasting my G.I bill and though
well heres four free years of collage, I failed miserably in Business, so I took
some English classes and loved them and figured "well, Ill give it hell"
and so I found a good professor and I started to write. I didnt start to write about
Vietnam till about 84. Up until then I wrote a couple of books and theyre way
outta print... I didnt write them for therapy cause I dont believe on writing
for therapy I never wrote one godamn word for therapy. I just wrote because I wanted to
write. I didnt write it cause it was going to make me feel better or ease my mind it
really has never done that. I never wrote I just write.
CC: How did you hook up
with Henry Rollins publishing company 2.13.61 ?
BS: A friend of mine
Blackie Hix, had sent him about 10 of my poems in the late 80s, I got a letter from
Henry Rollins saying " I wanna be your publisher, Ill publish anything you got
" I thought "yeah and sure", I had a lot of people say this, and he sent me
a whole bunch of his books and I thought "Hey this might be cool, Ill give him
a shot" and so Im glad he did. First a book of mine Human Shrapnel and I
thought O.K and he said "just keep writing Ill publish them". And then my
last book Southeast Asian Book of the Dead and hes geared up to do the next one!
CC: Whats going
to be the title of your next book ?
BS: I have a bunch of
new titles. One is called (from a Roky Ericson song) Swing a Bloody Hammer
which I kinda like, another one would be Living Hell, and the third one I
wanna go with Im pushing on this title Lifetaker. Thats the one I
wanna go with..
CC: What would be your
favourite music at the moment ?
BS: Im listening
to a band that Jack (The Stump Wizards) turned me onto The Telecasters a guitar band from
out of LA or somewhere, The Lyres from Boston, The Splatterheads - Ive been playing
the shit out of that band for the last 6 months ( Bot the album) What a band Jesus Christ!
Just kicks. Im away from the CD player I just lose track but the Splatterheads are
what rocknrolls all about.... Pegboy, another band Ive been listening
to. I love it, being 43 years old and my whole generation is in classic rock and all that
crap arse music and its like NO! that shit just bores me to death. Whats
happening now is were living a renaissance of music. Theres so many bands now
that are just terrific, you cant even keep up its great, Im glad that I
lived this long to keep up cause I bitched and moaned 15 years ago in the late 70s
and said "boy rocknroll is shit". Now this is Molly Hatchet time and
now it is just superb and youre just limited by your wallet, there are that many
great bands, youre only limited by your wallet.