Q&A: Dancing With The Devil & Daniel Johnston

WIKIPEDIA: Daniel Dale Johnston (b. January 22, 1961) is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and artist. Johnston was the subject of the 2005 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. He currently lives in a house adjacent to his parents’ home in Waller, Texas. Johnston has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and is autistic.[1] His songs are often called “painfully direct,” and tend to display a blend of childlike naïveté with darker, “spooky” themes. MORE

Phawker: Hi. How are you?

Daniel Johnston: Good. I just woke up. And I just found a bunch of comic books I haven’t even looked at yet. Idevildanielposter.jpg found them in the attic. I’m very excited.

Phawker: So what’s your typical day like these days?

Daniel Johnston: Typical day? I usually wake up around 5:30 in the afternoon from staying up late the night before. I draw pictures a lot. Watch monster movies. Play piano and guitar [at this point his mother begins yelling something unintelligible from downstairs, she will do this every few minutes all through the interview] Last night I watched A Clockwork Orange again. I like The Shining too. One of the best films ever made. King Kong, the 1933 version, is still one of my favorites. And King Kong vs. Godzilla, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Taste the Blood of Dracula with Christopher Lee. Those are some of my favorites.

Phawker: Do you consider yourself famous?

danieljohnstonlive2006.jpgDaniel Johnston: I don’t consider myself famous. But when a girl at the store says, “Hey, it’s that guy from the movie” I like that. I’d rather be known as an artist than a celebrity, anyway. Like Pablo Picasso. I’m not a Hollywood squares type. I’m into art.

Do you still talk to Laurie, the love of your life?

Daniel Johnston: I went to the movie premiere in Austin and some guy was like, “Laurie is up on stage!” But it wasn’t Laurie. It was like some rip off trying to be Laurie. But then I heard she was gonna be at the after-party. And she was. I was so happy. I loved her to death. I asked her,danieljohnstonahhellohowareyou_1.jpg “Will you marry me?” I was going crazy. I loved her more than ever before for every second we were together. It turns out she’d been listening to my music this whole time and I had no idea. She’s the most beautiful girl in the whole world. And I was singing to her in my head this whole time. But she should marry Jesus Christ. I couldn’t take care of her. We’re very good friends though. But I lost her phone number.

Phawker: Do you believe in Jesus Christ?

Daniel Johnston: I believe in Jesus Christ, of course.

Phawker: Do you believe in the Devil?

Daniel Johnston: I believe in the devil too much. And that’s the problem. I was really surprised when they named the movie The Devil and Daniel Johnston. I don’t like the association.

danieljohnstonlivinglife_1.jpg Phawker: Was Gibby Haynes the one who gave you the acid that night?

Daniel Johnston: We got the acid elsewhere in town earlier in the night. But when the concert started out, he yelled “Satan, Satan, Satan!” and it freaked me out. I never missed his shows. But this time I freaked out. Everyone turned into zombies. And I wound up in the hospital for five years because of it. Back then it was a struggle just to have a cigarette, ’cause I’d have to get it off somebody at the hospital.

Phawker: And how are you now?

Daniel Johnston: I’ve never been better. I’m working on music and drawing and I’m very excited to tour. The fans and crowds have been really great. And what’s cool about going on tour is my brother lets me go to comic book stress and spend hundreds ofdanieljohnstonidreamofsuperman_1.jpg dollars. I can’t read the fine print anymore but I just like comic books for the art. You know, Spiderman, Superman. In our new house we have a whole room filled with stuff like movies, comic books, instruments. My inspiration is stuff like Bela Lugosi, Ghost of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein. It really does inspire me. I just hear it, walk across the room, and record what I think of it.

Phawker: What are your favorite non musical sounds?

Daniel Johnston: Late at night there are these yahoos who live on our street and they get on their motor bikes at 9:30 or 10:00. And I’ll hear the grumbling way down the road across the fields. It’s hilarious ’cause it’s so loud. It’s like gggrrrrr (makes loud motorcycle-esque noises). I also like the sound of my dog barking. She died this year. She’d always bark as I’d play my music to tell me what she thought about it. And I miss that sound.

[As told to EVA LIAO]

Daniel Johnston performed at the Trocadero  last night with the Capitol Years.


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