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Willy Deville

Interviewed by Greg Olma
Interview with Willy Deville from 2006
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at

How did the new DVD come about? Why release it now?
It's difficult because with these DVDs, what you're dealing with is a live concert. You have to keep it interesting. It's already over in Europe; it's gotten very boring with a lot of other artists. It's all of a sudden gotten a little out of proportion. They're just DVD-ing f**kin' everything. So we're not only working with doing music but you're working with a visual. You have to keep it exciting. I went to the record company and I stuck to my guns. I said "I have to keep this interesting." The point of that is that I want to show the interviews so that people see what goes on backstage. I even wanted, really, more bus stuff; what happens to make the show. That's really what's important; letting people have a peak and it's not all cocaine, broads, and limousines. That it really is a gig. It's a job. It's not that I lost the passion, I'm still a fan. I still love doing what I do. For me, it's like making love to a woman. Those songs that I have written are like my children. Each one is different and each one will grow as it gets older. I very rarely listen to my old records, to be quite honest. I listen to La Chat Bleu or something like that; like I did the other day and it's amazing. I was so f**ked up and I created such wonderful stuff. And I was on automatic pilot. I'm not anymore. Maybe it's great that I didn't become an overnight success cause that's hard to keep that up like Jonnie Bon Jovi. I know that boy. He's a nice kid.
MSJ: Would you say Crow Jane Alley is the release you would recommend to a new Willy DeVille fan?
Absolutely! I'm happy with it. I almost wore it out. I had to put it away. I started driving my wife crazy; lying in bed with the headphones on, falling asleep listening to it. I never listened to one of my records so much after I finished it. You do them and you get so close that you loose your objectivity so you have to kind of put it away so you don't get too close to it but you're already too close to it. Unfortunately the suits, you know who I'm talking about, they're not artists. They are what they are. It's like you meet a chick and fall in love. You get married and want to get a home. So you go to the bank to get a loan. You move in. Now the bank don't give a sh*t if you and your old lady fall apart. Your marriage goes down the toilet. They don't care; they don't want to hear. They don't have hearts. I still do take it very personal because that's my blood on there. It's who I am. A record company just lets it gather dust and doesn't respect my art. Basically, I'm not a pop star. I'm just a working artist and I'm fortunate to have a career.  

MSJ: What was the last CD you purchased?
The last record that really made me wacko, I loved it, was John Hammond's record that Tom Waites produced. That record is f**kin' phenomenal. Actually, I was banned in Boston once. I did something really crazy on stage. Tom Waites did a show in Cambridge and he wanted me, not to open, but equal billing. Now right away, I'm flattered because I love Tom. I love what he does. So Tom is going to do this show in Boston and he said he wanted me to do the show with him. Don Law said "he's never coming to Boston again, ever." The Tom said "if Willy DeVille doesn't play on the show, I don't." He did that for me. I was very apologetic and my percussionist said "you don't have to f**kin' apologize to those people" and I said "no man, I pulled a number and you know it. I was f**ked up and people saw me at my worst."
MSJ: How do you pick a set list for a show?
I find that if me and my band have a good time, that's all that matters. Then we're at our best. I play like I do for my wife in the bedroom, when I sit on the bed and play guitar. Again, you can't get any better than real. And that is what I was searching for with the Live in Berlin. I haven't become a lounge singer yet.
MSJ: What are the differences between the European audiences and American audiences?
They're more familiar with me in Europe. They love me more. They know me more. I'm really a nice cat. I try to be nice. I have to admit, I was a snobby little f**k in the beginning. I know I had a big mouth. I was cocky but I was right. Proof of the pudding is; I'm still here and they're not. I don't want to get negative cause I look back now at those times with fondness. Even though it was rough at CBGBs. The whole band only got $50 a night; even to the end. That's why I never went back there. I've never walked through those doors other than to have maybe a beer once. I was down in New Orleans and came up here; kind of going down memory lane so to speak. I ended up on Bowery down there and I thought "let's see what's going on here." I walked in and I saw Hilly standing there. I had a big straw hat on, silk suit. He bought me a beer and it got around to "would you like to come back?" I said "no Hilly and you know why? Because you never treated me right. You never were fair with me." You are working so hard to get a record deal and sort of "make it."
MSJ: Do you have any fond memories of playing CBGBs?
Yeah, I look back now and I giggle at all the funny sh*t that went on. One night, one of the girls, Ramones' girlfriend, came in a found him with some oriental chick. The chick put her head through the front window; glass window. Blood was everywhere. It was chaos. I caught the crabs in there 4 times. After the 3rd time, I thought I was hallucinating at that point. Then I got the razor blade out and I had to shave everything, you know; burn the f**kin' bedding. Everything is infected with these little f**ckin' things. I thought Johnny Thunder was in there going "DeVille is going to be here in about 10 minutes, he finishing his beer." He's opening up a jar full of 'em and throwing them in the urinal. That's just a joke for Johnny.
MSJ: What life lesson have you learned that you would like to pass onto a new musician starting out?
Jesus, I'm the wrong person to ask. I made every mistake you could make. I don't know why God left me on this planet and let everyone else die. I'm still here, dancing around and singing. Just doing what I always did. I feel good about myself. I feel better than I ever felt. Once you hit 50, you can't stay up all night doing blow and all that bullsh*t you used to do at 27. When the show is over, I unzip my Willy DeVille outfit, climb out of my skin, and force myself to slow down. Leave, get the f**k out of there. Don't hang around. It's a job. It's my passion but it is a job. You do the best you can do and then you go home.
MSJ: What was the last concert you attended as a fan?
I've become kind of close friends with Ron Delsener and I know a lot of people don't like him. I went to see Van Morrison who is very close with Ron and a lot of people don't like him. They say he's a grumpy bastard and this and that. I never had a problem with Van. I never had a problem with Bob. I don't know why. Maybe it's because we're poets and we have something in common. We have the same scars. I went to see Van Morrison who hadn't had a drink, it looked like in some time, because he was drinking coffee and his hands were shaking like a bad girl in church. My wife said to him, just very nicely, "so where are you livin' now? Are you living in London? Dublin? Where are you living?" He just all of a sudden looked at all of us and said "I can't do this" and he got up and he ran out. I thought, "typical Van." Some people get insulted but I've seen him worse and I've seen him better. You never know what you're gonna get with Van. That's what I like about him.
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