“If I Wasn’t Grace Slick, I’d Be Dead”
The file has some of your high school records in it. The F.B.I. states that that to allow the band to continue to perform, could be quote, “Detrimental to the defense interests of the nation.”
After going through all of this, I would think it would be hard for you to take a lot of things seriously that to many…
(At this point, Grace starts laughing again.)
others are holy grail. Do you think the absurdity of this climate also contributed to your affinity to painting cartoon-like characters? Ones that are seemingly non-sensical? As so much of the world around you was as equally nonsensical, if not entirely absurd, during that time period?
No, because I understand the drive. Human beings have fear, and when they have fear, they do stupid things. Dick Cheney, although he never said anything when he was in the White House, now he is all over the map. He is like Paris Hilton. For Christ sake, you can’t go anywhere, Dick Cheney’s talking. And he’s talking about Barack Obama is going to lead us to…We’re going to have this terrorist thing. Well, there’s this fear that you can’t do anything about terrorism. If you give it some thought, you can’t do anything about terrorism. It’s almost the perfect form of war, because you never know where they’re coming, who they are, what they’re going to do. It’s not like toy soldiers, where you have all the guys with grey coats on one side, and the blue coats on the other, and you line up on a field, and shoot at each other. It doesn’t work that way any more. So Cheney’s talking about, “Well, Barack Obama’s doing this, that, and the other.” What’s he doing? What could you do? Cheney couldn’t do anything, either. He doesn’t think. He doesn’t think it through. The best you could do is pay attention. That’s for every individual and every nation. That’s the best you can do. Pay attention to what’s going on in the world, talk first. Talk until you’re blue in the face. If you’ve got Hitler, unfortunately, you’re going to have to go to war. But the wars that we’ve had, Korea, Viet Nam…We went into Panama and fucked around, Iran, going into the Middle East. Now, we went into the Middle East during the Crusades, and tried to make them all Christians, and we said, “We’re going to kill you if you don’t become a Christian.” What kind of fucking talk is that? Jesus is a peaceful dude, and we’re going in there telling them if they don’t become Christians, we’re going to kill them. And people wonder why 9/11 happened? We have been going into the Middle East for two thousand years, okay? And they have not come here. They have not come up to England, to France, because England and France were going in there. Spain, also, and they haven’t done it. That’s is the first time they have come to the West, and said, “We don’t like that you’re in our country.” The fact that they took out innocent people is a shame, but that is the way of terrorism. That’s the way it works. It’s not lining up soldier to soldier. It’s, “I’m going to take out whatever you’ve got whenever I can.” And you aren’t going to know when it is, you aren’t going to know why. You don’t have to know anything. “Get the fuck out of our country.”
And I think it’s a real good idea, and I think Barack Obama does, too. Get the fuck out of the Middle East. Convert the car companies to electric cars, so that you don’t have to rely on, or do business with the Middle East. If they want to live like that, and kill each other, which they’ve been doing for five thousand years, fine. Let them do it. That’s their business. It’s not ours. So whatever was going on in the Sixties and Seventies, I’m coming back, trying to make a long story short, but I’m not doing a good job of it. The business of how Nixon is conducting himself, and how the Republicans conduct themselves doesn’t escape me. I understand what they’re doing. They apparently don’t. You know what I mean? I know about denial. I can deny a whole lot of things about myself in order to do what I want to do. And they are in a form of denial, which is current psycho-babble speak, a form of denial, where they think they can do something about peoples’ irrational fear, and how they react to it. The Middle Easterners have been reacting, not responding, but reacting, there’s a difference, to irrational fear for as long as we can remember, and so do we. For some reason, the Republicans will set up this whole thing about they’re afraid of losing money. They covet money, and all this money business goes on, and then they fuck it up, and some Democrat has to come in and clean it up, like Franklin D. Roosevelt. A lot of times, they come in, and it gets all fucked up, and then everybody gets mad, so they vote in a Democrat, and a Democrat has to clean it up. Because Democrats are generally not interested in going to war, although it was F.D.R., I think, who said, “I’m sorry, we have to do something about this guy,” meaning Hitler, and also Japan. So two countries got nuts at the same time. So the fact we won the war was amazing. We’ve got troops going east, troops going west. There’s shit going on all over the place. I don’t remember if it was F.D.R. or Truman, but I would have preferred that they bring an ambassador from Japan over to this country, and take him to Los Alamos, New Mexico, or Arizona, or somewhere, and show him here’s we have here. Show him an atom bomb, explode one, and say, “Check it out.” And say, “Now do we want to talk? Or do you want to see one in Hiroshima, Nagasaki or Tokyo?” Because I think it’s appropriate, because we went in. Nagasaki killed thousands of innocent people.
Then later on, in addition to those innocent people, a lot more people got cancer who had been exposed to it.
Yeah, and it’s still going on, the repercussions of radiation. So we’re appalled by 9/11? I mean, yeah, it’s all too bad. Nagasaki’s too bad, 9/11 is too bad. But we act like we don’t do that shit? Of course, we do. We just do it with different clothes on. They wear rags on their heads, and we wear spiked heels, or some fashion weirdness. But we’re all the same. So if some Republicans can get that through their skulls, and look at their own actions, it would be a lot smoother, I think. But I also know they won’t. There will always be a certain group of people, and it will be large, too. People who are so fearful, that they make deadly choices.
That has always existed. I know you’re really into Spanish music.
To me the most interesting period of history is the Spanish Inquisition.
Oh, yeah. Isn’t it? There’s another example of people getting nuts. Whenever somebody’s a Catholic now, I just kind of look at them and I think, “Why would you belong to that organization?”
The corruption of popes…
Popes in robes, fucking little boys, and I just think, “What kind of…What would you do that for? Why would you want to join that? It doesn’t seem to be operating very well (laughs).
How do you explain a religion that until some point in the 1800’s, had all the Jews in parts of Italy locked up behind walls for three hundred years, like the Jewish ghetto one in Rome?
Yeah, it’s amazing. And also the stupidity of the Germans. They were afraid that Jews were going to take over the banking system, because they’re real good at it, and they read a little bit of history, about how the Rothschilds, a Jewish banking family that was simply able to run Europe, because they were able to manipulate all the money. Okay, well what you do with people, it’s like sports. I’m not sporty. I sit on my ass, I always have. I like to watch sports. I don’t like to do it. You don’t kill them, because it’s different from you, you appreciate their differences. You make friends with Jewish people. So okay, I can dance real well, and you’ve got some money. So I’ll dance, and you pay me to dance. I slap your back, you slap mine. You don’t kill people, you get together with them, and you do what you’re good at, and I’ll do what I’m really good at.
It goes back to what you were talking about, that fear factor.
Yeah. They were so afraid that the Jews were going to take over, because they’re really smart. At least, they recognized that. But they wanted a bunch of stupid blondes, I guess. What is this Aryan thing? Like I’m Aryan, I’m Norwegian, and I think, okay, Norway, Scandinavians have a real good social systems. But they’re not funny, okay? You don’t run into a lot of funny Norwegians or Swedish comedians. The last comedian that came out of the Scandinavian countries was a piano player in the Fifties. He would stop playing piano for a minute, and tell jokes, and he was kind of funny. But that’s it. We’re not really good at that. So what we do, is since we’re not so good at that, a Swede can appreciate a black person, because they’re really good at something else. And then the Swedes can tell people how to vote for the right social systems to get the people in better shape, which is what Barack Obama is doing. He has studied history, he does know the law, and he’s trying to make it so that normal people, not old white people, normal people, can have a little better life. And he’s apparently looked at the Scandinavian systems. Scandinavians are good at that, but not at other things. So what we do is get together, I think, and I’m really good at this, and you’re really good at that, we get together on and work on it, and create this. And you come up with a third entity. Or you can simply pay each other to do what they do. I don’t understand why you have to go around and kill people. Obviously, it’s cruel and immoral, but it’s also a waste. A waste of talent. What the fuck? And they’re rounding up gypsies and everything, and they want to be pure Aryan. What do you think you’re going to do? Kill everybody in China? They aren’t Aryans. What kind of stupid shit is that? It’s so amazingly stupid. Maybe that’s why some of the Germans said, “This guy is nuts. We’ve got to unload him,” like in the Tom Cruise movie, Valkyrie. I’m glad to know there were some Germans, going, “Jesus Christ!”
In other words, you look at Norway or Sweden or something. You set it up so that it is real high taxes, but you get, and it’s not Communism. They’re so afraid in this country they use the word “Communism,” like they word “pedophilia.” It’s just crazy, but what they do is, you get everybody an equal start. It’s like a horse race. You don’t have one horse five feet ahead of another horse. You all start even.
You can’t do that, all start even, in a capitalist society, I don’t think.
Well, yeah, you can. Here’s the way it goes. You pay higher taxes, yeah, that’s true, like in the Scandinavian countries. But what you get is housing, education and medical. You’re taken care of basically. Then you go all through school, and when you’re eighteen, you can decide whether you want to live under a bridge, fine. If you want to be Donald Trump, fine. It is not Communism. It is just a system that takes care of everybody until you’re out of the gate. Then once you’re out the gate…But what they’ll do, if you have a baby, they’ll have people, and this is free, come and stay with your baby while you work, and the state pays for it. But you can also be a big banker, you can also be very wealthy. There are no rules against how much money you can make. You pay high taxes, but there are no rules against it. I pay high taxes, but I’ve got enough. I don’t have a whole shitload of stuff. I’ve got one car, one house, one daughter. Like I said, I don’t multi-task very well, so I’ve got one of everything (laughs). But nobody needs any more than what I’ve got, believe me. And everybody could have the same amount of stuff that I have if the system were set up right, but it’s not. So capitalism needs tweaking, just because it is a good form of democracy. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t need tweaking. Thomas Jefferson said we ought to have a revolution every five years. He’s probably right. I don’t know if you want to go out and kill people every five years, but I think you ought to re-look at your laws, and see if it’s working for stuff right now. For instance, the N.R.A. and all these people that think we ought to have a lot of guns. They say, “In the Constitution is says…” Yeah, but, when they wrote the Constitution, they had guns that it took about five minutes for each shot. You had to load the fucker. Okay, so now we’ve got semi-automatic weapons, so that you can shoot a whole room full of people in two minutes if you’re eight years old. So things change, and you have to adapt your laws to that. Now, a lot of that Constitution is just incredible. It is written in such a way that most of it is applicable to today, oddly enough. But some of it isn’t. So you look at it, and see what is applicable for right now. I think I’m not a genius, but I think, if these are the people that are running our country, and I can figure it out, then I get real nervous. I feel sorry for the kids. I mean, I’m seventy years old. It doesn’t make any difference to me, because I won’t be alive when it gets really fucked up. I just feel sorry for people who are younger, because they’re going to be in this stew pot of shit, unless Barack Obama and his ilk can fix it. Or at least begin to fix it. I was so happy when he was elected, I couldn’t believe it.
Your have a black and white portrait of Barack Obama, the pencil on canvas.
Yeah. In the Sixties, we would have been so happy to have him be President, we would have been just beside ourselves. But we had Nixon (laughs). He did give us something to talk about, though (laughs).
Pathetic…In addition to it being a great parody of Nipper and the Victrola, your painting titled “Her Mistress’ Voice” is an extremely powerful statement. To have come up with that, you must know the power of your own voice, not only as a vocalist, but otherwise, as well.
Apparently, the F.B.I. thought I was more powerful than I did (laughs). We got all that stuff though our office, through the Freedom Of Information Act.
I don’t know if you ever knew the MC5.
I gave (MC5 vocalist) Wayne Kramer some of the F.B.I. files that I had gotten declassified on some of their band members, and he said to me, “You just confirmed every paranoia I have ever had.”
I was really proud of that.
Anyway, getting back to this piece of art, “Her Mistress’ Voice,” I was very awestruck by it. When I was looking at it, I felt it described a lot of my life right there in that painting, the white rabbit listening to the Victrola. The great psychiatrist Carl Jung stated there was universal consciousness to the subconscious mind.
The same imagery has the same association, or meaning, to mass numbers of people in their collective subconscious. At least to me, that work of art was like seeing my entire life flash before me, but in a painting.
But it’s also a take-off on the ad, too.
And the ad with the guy sitting by the speakers
Ah, being blown away.
So the little rabbit is rocked back, blown back, the same way that ad is. So it’s a take-off on a couple of different ads.
What was going through your mind when you came up with that? That is so powerful.
I have no idea. Something is disturbed in there, and so I’ll turn it around, into humor. Because that’s what I do. Other people become lawyers, and turn it into…Like I have a really good lawyer, who is like an old hippie, but he’s a lawyer. I’ve had him for about thirty years. He was going to run for mayor of Sausalito, but his wife had an operation, or something. I forgot what happened. But he lives in Northern, California, in Sausalito, and he’s a great lawyer. So I love lawyers. They’re the ones who tell me lawyer jokes. But I don’t have an unpleasant relationship with lawyers. So I don’t have the experience of the lawyer jokes, and lawyers fucking me over. I pulled a shotgun out on cops.
Yeah, I read about that in your autobiography.
Okay? You go to prison for that. Well, my lawyer got me off, where all I had to do was community service. Now that’s a good lawyer. He was real pleasant, and didn’t charge me that much money. I would have paid him way more than what he charged me to stay the fuck out of prison. But I’ve always had really good lawyers. So I don’t have the bad experience with them that other people do.
Going back to your sense of humor…
My parents were both very dry, had a good sense of humor, real dry wit, and they were both Republicans. But they were the old Republicans. Back then, Republicans were a little different. But I used to argue with them. I really liked them both. That’s the only thing I argued about them with was politics. I couldn’t understand how anybody could be that…It’s isolated and selfish. To keep it for us, the people who already have money. Well, that’s rude (laughs).
You have said a couple times that you don’t understand why people call you an artist.
I had a very grand view of what an artist was when I was a child. Rembrandt is an artist, Picasso is an artist. Tchaikovsky is an artist. I thought of myself more as a fuck-off, who can get away with stuff. I’m clever, but I’m not an artist.
Do you feel that you are interpreting history through your art, much in the same way that Frank Zappa used to tell me that he felt like a journalist, a reporter commenting on society through his music?
Yeah, I may be, by way of my music and my print, a humorist and an artist. I don’t know. There’s a funny Republican that lives in Florida now, I can’t think of his name. I mean my parents were Republicans, and they were very nice people. They’re generally Fifties Republicans. They aren’t the same as the Republicans we have now. It was a different era. They weren’t quite as fucked up as they are now. There’s something, this cabal of fear now. Like Rush Limbaugh. What kind of lunatic is that?
Your have a painting titled “Monterrey.”
It has all the artists who were there, and it also depicts these different booths. One of them is a booth that mentions the names some of the rock press, like Creem, of course, which is no longer with us, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone and High Times. You were once a “Creem Profile.” I don’t know if you remember this. There was that picture of you taken in a bathroom.
Well, what happened there, because I remember what happened, and this dude followed me in, with a camera. And I thought, “Oh, he’s going to think I’m going to get all pushed out of shape, and kick him out.” So I had gone into one of the stalls, and he said, “Grace,” and he thought I was going to be surprised, or yell, or something. So I took one side of whatever I had on off, so I had one tit sticking out, and I opened the door, and said, “Yes?” (Laughs.) So he took a picture, and put it in Creem. I didn’t care. I didn’t wear a bra. My tits weren’t big enough, there was no point. I mean, if it we were playing outside, and it was raining, I’d take my blouse off, so I wouldn’t ruin the blouse (laughs). I did that once in New York, and it was raining. I had just bought this beautiful silk blouse. I thought, “I’m not ruining this blouse. I just bought this.” It was like a hundred and fifty bucks. So I’d take it off, and hang it backstage. And so the little girl who jumped on stage to dance, saw me do it, and she took her top off. So there are two women dancing around, and it looked like some kind of a porn show with no tops on (laughs), and the band is playing. I used to do this shit, and the band, would just go, “Oh, Jesus. There she goes again.” The guys used to tune between songs back then, because it wasn’t all electronically whatever it is today. So they would tune up, and I’d talk to the audience while they were doing that. And one day, in Chicago, some guy screamed, “Take off your chastity belt, Grace!” and I said, “Chastity belt? I don’t even wear underpants,” and I pulled my skirt up (laughs), and the band is just going, “Oh, God…Jesus Christ (laughs),” because I never wear underwear. I didn’t see the point. If I’m wearing pants, like Levis, I don’t wear them again the next day, even if I did have underpants on.
Now, this is one time it’s amazing you didn’t get arrested.
No, I didn’t. I never got arrested for taking my clothes off. The only time we’d get arrested was when there was a direct interaction with police. So what I did on stage, Jim Morrison…
Yeah, in Florida.
He got arrested for being obscene. I didn’t. So when women do it, I guess they think it’s less offensive to see tits, than to see a dick. I don’t care either way. Dicks are good, tits are good. It tends to take away from the song. In other words, you don’t want to do that just before somebody is going to sing a nice ballad, like Marty (Balin).
And I don’t know what the next song was after I had done any of this stuff, but generally, we played loud rock and roll, so it didn’t matter. We didn’t have that many ballads.
You are sober now.
I’m an alcoholic. I don’t drink, but I’m an alcoholic. We are literally wired differently than other people. The chemical called dopamine doesn’t work in our brains, so we go out looking for something to make us feel okay. I take a drug called Neurontin. It doesn’t make me yell at cops, which is good.
Because one of the side effects of alcohol is that if anyone tells me what to do, I’m all over them like flies on shit. And I’m surprised I haven’t been shot. I really am.
If you were black, you would be dead.
Yeah. Oh, if I was black, I would be dead. Because it would not look good in the San Francisco Chronicle if Marin police shoot Grace Slick to death. It just wouldn’t look good (she laughs). So I’m lucky in that way. And the same thing with medical. When I went in a couple years ago, I had to have a tracheotomy, and they had to rip my guts apart.
If you weren’t Grace Slick, you’d be dead.
They have a joke about it in A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous). They say alcoholism is a disease where your body doesn’t have enough alcohol. But it is really a disease, but you don’t have enough, but it’s not alcohol. It gives the feeling away the feeling of being wired too tight, but in the long run, it’s not a good drug for that, but Neurontin apparently is. So with Neurontin, I don’t get pushed out of shape. It doesn’t mean I lose passion. It doesn’t mean I never get mad. It just means I don’t sit around and shake, or lose it.
I think that’s a good thing though, that you get angry, happy, sad, whatever, and you are in touch with yourself.
I don’t want to be a zombie. If want to feel, I want to appreciate. This drug that I take, Neurontin, was originally created for people with epilepsy, and it works to the same to a certain extent the same way on me, because I am wound up too tight. So I’ll go into a thing where I’m just sitting there shaking. And I called my (Alcoholics Anonymous) sponsor at the time, and I said, “Look, if we don’t do something about this, I said, “I don’t sit around and shake. I’m going to a liquor store if we don’t…” She said, “Okay, get in the car,” because she’s a sober alcoholic, but she’s also a professional psychobabble whatever. So she took me to this shrink, and that’s his thing, biological problems, mental biological stuff, and he also works with a lot of alcoholic addicts. Because doctors give you the wrong drugs.
Your work titled “Mixed Multi-Media” is a unique black and white portrait of Eric Clapton, and it’s interlaced with silver.
Well, what happens there is I’ll do an original, and then my agent will have it photographed, blown up, and he’ll send me the copy, and say, “Put something else on top of this.” Now, okay, so I do that, and that’s called “mixed media.” There was one drawing I drew that you can’t take a photograph of. Well, I supposed you could have. But it was black and white, and there was a guy sitting down. The background was black, he was white outline, and he was looking at his foot, which was bleeding red acrylic paint. And then in front of him, on the floor, was real broken glass that I glued to the painting. That would be called “mixed media.” But that’s a statement about what we do to ourselves. It was called “Dance” something-or-other. I forgot the title. But what it is, is we tend to dance on broken glass a lot in our lives. We do it to ourselves. Usually when you get fucked up, or something ugly happens to you, you created it, not someone else. You get in a bad marriage and you stay in it, that’s your problem.
That’s one of the point of one the Twelve Steps, being able to acknowledge when we were wrong, and the hurt that you inflicted on others.
Oh, yeah. Of course, the fourth and fifth step, and the tenth step. They’re all involved with that. But most people tend to point the finger when something ugly happens to them. I mean, unless someone hits you in traffic, and they ran a red light obviously, then that doesn’t have anything to do with you. But most of the stuff that’s happens to you, you’ve done it, not somebody else. If you’re in a relationship, if somebody beats you up, get the fuck out. You don’t stay with that. If you stay with it, that’s on you. So, you can whine about what an asshole he is, but if he’s an asshole, you should have gotten out two years ago. So it’s stuff like that, and I feel sorry, because we are so afraid of change, as human beings. Scared to death, we’d rather stay with what we know, even if it’s hideous, than do something different. I’ve always been amazed at that. I’d rather do something different just because I’m bored with what just happened for the last two years. Okay, I’m out of here. I’m bored (laughs). So I don’t mind change. My parents used to move around, and when I go to A.A. meetings, and people whine, “Oh, I used to move around all the time, my parents used to move around, I never knew if I’d have new friends.” And my parents would say, “Okay, we’re moving to San Francisco,” and I thought, “Oh, boy! That’s cool. We get to go to a new place.” So I don’t have the same thing about change. The only thing I don’t like about change is when it gets hot, because of my feet (laughs). But that’s about it (laughs).
You reinterpreted Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby” with a portrait of Janis using that title. It shows a lot of emotion, despite not using color. I noticed that your portraits of her, like “Wild Flower,” an acrylic on canvas, depict Janis as being very happy, as opposed to some of what was written about her, subsequent to her death.
Well, that’s the only woman I knew, you see, because I didn’t spend a lot of time with her, apart from the fact we played together a lot. So I saw her backstage, hanging out backstage, and hanging out at parties, more than I saw her in an intimate one on one, woman whining situation. I don’t whine. I don’t like that, I never have with women, where they whine about their boyfriend. Or talk about the latest shoes. I don’t give a shit. You buy your shoes, I’ll buy mine. I see you at a party, and say, “Nice shoes.” That’s it. I don’t even care where you got them. I’ve got pictures…It’s like, I’ve got paintings that are copies. I will not buy an original, because it’s too fucking expensive. I don’t even care who they are. I have of a painting of a black dude, he’s a Moroccan, and it takes place, I guess, in about 1850. He is about six-four, and has on the whole Morroccan outfit, like a Middle Eastern thing, with a dagger and everything. But he’s so elegant. I have no idea who painted him. I don’t care. I buy the image. I don’t care if it’s original. I don’t care who painted it. If people say, “Who painted it?” I don’t know, it doesn’t matter. Obviously, I’m never going to know him, because it was painted a hundred years ago, so who cares?
There is “Don Blanco,” which is one of your many works of art that has a white rabbit in it.
Is that picture meant as a political statement?
No. Don Blanco is…in California. The people who ran things for a while were Spanish Dons. He is a very wealthy rabbit, who goes out like Zorro. Zorro is actually a wealthy, elite Spaniard, who goes out with a mask on, so nobody will know, and he helps support people, like Robin Hood. There’s another Robin Hood Spaniard, who goes out and helps poor people. But they’re very wealthy. Well, so this rabbit…Well, yeah, it is a political statement actually. This rabbit is a Spanish Don, who is wealthy, but he goes and helps poor people, so yeah, Don Blanco. And it doesn’t have the Spanish word for “Rabbit” (Conejo”) in the title? Maybe not.
Don Blanco. “Blanco” means “white” in Spanish. So it’s white rabbit. I’m surprised I didn’t put the Spanish word for “rabbit” in. He was a Spanish Don in the early 1800’s in California.
In your picture titled “U.S. Blues” (also the title of a song recorded by The Grateful Dead), one of your portraits of Jerry Garcia, why are there eight Jewish stars in it?
For absolutely no reason. Some stuff, I do just to fuck with peoples’ heads. It has nothing to do with anything. I had this wrapping paper, because my daughter’s boyfriend is Jewish. So I had this wrapping paper left over from Chanukah, with all the Stars of Davids on it, left over from a present I gave him. I was just walking by it, and I thought, “Maybe I’ll put that on Jerry Garcia (laughs). It doesn’t have anything to do with anything. So I just thought, “I’ll do that, because people…They’ll be wondering, it will make their brains work, and it will scramble their brains.” (Laughs.)
Okay, it scrambled mine. Do you ever listen to music when you paint?
No. I can only do one thing at a time. I listen to music only in the car. I can drive and listen to music at the same time, but apart from that, I don’t listen to music while I’m watching television, I don’t listen to music when I’m painting. I can have CNN on in the background, so I can hear what’s going on. But when I listen to music, I want to pay very close attention to it. A car is the best place for music, because it’s not going directly into your ear to make you deaf. I don’t like those ear buds.
Do you still run into people that tell they can’t get over the fact you no longer want to perform? You have been very outspoken regarding your opinion that most rock and roll performers should give it up at age fifty. (Writer’s note: Grace does have a few exceptions to this rule, which includes Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. Grace’s explanation when it comes to Keith: “He’s always looked like that.”)
I feel that rock and roll is not an old person’s medium. They look silly. Yeah. Like last night on American Idol, Rod Stewart came on it. Rod, get off the stage, you look like an old man. You’re not hitting the notes you used to be able to hit. You’re singing “Maggie May,” and it doesn’t sound good. Because everything is falling apart when you get old. Your voice is not as good. You don’t look right. Generally, you haven’t picked out the right outfit, because you have on…like an Eighties jacket. Now as a print artist or painting, what I do, you don’t have to look like anything. How you look like has nothing to do with a painting. It’s about how your painting looks.
What is the main thing you want people to get out of your artwork?
I’m not sure, because it’s all different. Just I think any time you’re trying to communicate in a painting or a song, it’s me talking to you in the way I talk. And you responding, by your buying the album or the painting. You understand what I said. You go, “Oh, I know that.” Like right now, I’m painting a guy that’s called “Eddy The Fat Marmut.” He’s holding some flowers, and it’s way cute. And sometimes we need that. It sounds corny, but we need something we can look at and say, “Aw, look at him. Isn’t he cute?” You need that. Sometimes you need a slap in the face, so it will be an angry picture. It just depends. It’s all different. Like the guy whose foot is bleeding, because he’s been dancing on glass. Now that’s completely different than a cute marmut.
Do you think you’ll ever figure out who Alice is?
Oh, sure. Alice is everybody. She came into the Victorian era, an era, the same way I came into The Fifties. Very specific what you’re supposed to be doing, what you’re supposed to wearing, who you’re talking to, how you’re supposed to conduct yourself, where you go to school. It’s very rigid. But if you allow it, your curiosity, and I think the White Rabbit represents Alice’s curiosity, your curiosity will lead you to a lot more interesting stuff. So I had the same life that Alice did. That’s why I identify with it. My curiosity took me out of the Fifites, and I participated in the Sixties. A lot of people didn’t who were my age.
Yeah. I call it “the people who missed the Sixites,” and you can pretty much tell who they were when you meet them.
Yeah. I allowed my curiosity about myself to lead me to a very interesting life. Now, it wasn’t all whoopee and fun, but it is all way more interesting than staying in a box.
And it wasn’t always fun for Alice in the book, either.
No. And some of it was scary. But it’s still better than staying in a box. That’s what I think the White Rabbit represents. That’s my take on it. I may be wrong. If I talked to Lewis Carroll, he would probably, say, “No, you’re crazy, the White Rabbit represents blah, blah, blah.” But for me, a lot of people interpreted my songs, and my art, completely with their own view that has nothing to do with what I intended, and that amuses me. Some people come up and say, “Oh, I know that painting, blah, blah, blah…and my grandmother died…and I showed her…” but I don’t tell them sometimes (laughs). I just have absolutely nothing to do with it. But they have seen something in a structure that resonates. That’s the word I wanted. These things resonate, a painting or music. If it resonates. That’s the point of being an artist. You want it to resonate.
Even if people get it wrong, if they do say, “Oh, when I listen to that song about lather, I had a boyfriend, who…” and I think, “No (laughs).” But I don’t tell her, that,” because somehow the song resonated with their experience. And that’s good. That’s why we talk to each other. Talking is also an art. In other words, you’re good at bringing out, or asking the questions, that will resonate an answer, bring out an answer, make me remember what it is I thought, or why did you do something. You’re very good at that.
Oh, thank you. I could do this with you for hours actually.
So you are good at evoking the resonance, I guess would be the word.
Oh, great. Okay. Because before I interviewed you, I thought, “Jesus Christ. This woman has been interviewed fifty thousand times. Oh, my God.” And I thought, “She must be sick of it.” I figured, “What the hell are you going to ask this woman that she hasn’t been asked fifty thousand times, you know?”
No, you’ve brought up several things, the way what you want to know what you want to know about a certain event or something. And I’ve probably had five good interviewers out of thousands in the last five years, and you’re one of the five.
Wow…Not to sound trite, but I was obviously a big fan of yours. I bought the albums, and the book, saw you live, and I don’t know how many people bought Manhole, but I was one of them.
Well, there are a lot of people who are fans, but most of them aren’t very bright, so…
I feel badly for them because they’re in a job they’re not any good at, so it’s not going to last very long, and or they won’t get paid for it very well, because if you don’t pay attention… Say I’m going to interview a jockey, he just got though the Preakness, either you’re a big fan of the horse, or the jockey, so you do know a lot about him, but you’ve got to bring the guy out if you want a good interview.
Right. You’ve got to draw it out of the person you’re interviewing.
Right. So you’re good at that, and you’re one of probably around five.
Wow, I’m so thrilled you’re telling me this.
I could have done five interviews my whole life, and said reproduce that for your paper, because it was good.
Oh, God. Okay. Some of it I might leave out…
Sure. But part of a good interviewer is you can get into a casual conversation, and then go back into the interview without it being…
It is sort of a conversation I’m having with you, and we’ve gone off, and come back, gone off, and come back. You really are good at that.
Oh, thank you. Getting back to Paul and all that…
China’s father has something going on, where he is so nasty, he doesn’t have any friends. Well, I wouldn’t do it anyway, even if Paul was an angel…But they said guys have offered us millions of dollars to get back together, and do a tour. I wouldn’t do it. Jack and Jorma will not play with Paul, not for any amount of money. Now, that is a person who has fucked up, because he didn’t find out what it is that makes him do that. Because he can be really funny and bright and loving, and then if you say something that doesn’t ring right with him, he’ll start in on you, as if you’re the devil, himself. Now I find that amusing. So when Paul calls up, because I talk to him all the time, and he’ll start, and I’ll think, “Oh, here we go with the tennis game.” So I’ll throw one back at him. I’ve got a real nasty mouth. And I’ll throw one back at him, I’ll lob one over the net, and see if he can lob one back. So I don’t care, I’ll play that game for as long as until I get bored with it, and then I’ll stop.
So that’s how you guys managed to last as long as you guys did.
It has to do with they’ve got some kind of a problem he’s got going, and you’re in the room, or you’re the one on the phone. I could just as easily when I talk to Paul, give the phone to someone else, and if they say the wrong thing, he’ll take off on them. It doesn’t have anything to do with them or me.
It has nothing to do with anything. It’s like a board game. That doesn’t have anything to do with anything, either. You’re just playing a game for a while.
Because you realize with certain people and their problems, you’re an interchangeable game piece. And it is all so predictable.
Sometimes hopefully, it’s more amusing than it is sad. Sometimes it’s sad, sometimes you watch people…In other words, China’s dad. I just love him, because he’s bright, he’s funny, he’s interesting to talk to, but he’s got a problem that has created a situation for him, where now he doesn’t have any friends really, and he doesn’t understand why. And sometimes, most of the time, he tries to act like everything’s cool. But sometimes, he’ll say the saddest things to me. Like he’ll say, “I think about my mom a lot, and I just don’t understand why China’s not talking to me,” and he’ll go on about how it is with him, and he doesn’t know why it’s that way. He won’t do any form of therapy or corrective drugs.
Maybe because he doesn’t want to know why.
Yeah, maybe he doesn’t.
A lot of people want to stay in their state of denial.
Everbody’s afraid of change.
Yeah. Why would you want a shrink exposing your stuff to you if you want to stay in denial? Why would you tell him all your dirt you’ve done to people in your life?
Yeah. That’s why I think a lot of people don’t go to therapy. Well, you can tell me, a shrink, or anybody, “Here’s the deal, blah, blah, blah,” and I think people are nervous because they don’t even want one person, even the shrink, to not like them, and think they’re not cool. I don’t care what people think enough to be that way.
And the irony is that everybody’s saying it anyway behind their back that has them sussed.
Everybody’s got wonderful stuff going on, and everybody’s got dumb stuff going on, and that’s without exception.
So get over yourself (laughs). It’s real simple. Just put one foot in front of the other, and have a good time. That’s all I can determine. Try not to stab anybody. That’s not good, either.
So about not playing with Paul…
Oh, yeah. For no amount of money, Jack and Jorma will not play with Paul, because he has a personality defect.
It’s weird, because I’ve had conversations with people ever since I heard about the gig at the Greek (Theater), and I’m like there are only two original members, and it doesn’t make sense to me, and I don’t understand how people can look at this is the Jefferson Starship.
That’s illegal actually. We made this up, I don’t know, maybe forty-five years later. You can not go out, or sell stuff, or do anything under the name “Jefferson” without all of the members of the group being involved.
[Author's note: The name "Jefferson Airplane" can not be used as the name for the group. The name "Jefferson Airplane" can be used if all of the original members are all together. However, if all of the original living members are not all together, it can not be used. The current group, according to their own billing, is referring to themselves as "The Jefferson Starship performing the music of the Jefferson Airplane," billing themselves in such manner, as a way to get around the fact that Paul Kantner can not call his present group "The Jefferson Airplane," as stated above. The national tour they are on, which is billed as "The Heroes of Woodstock," is a bit ironic, because the Jefferson Starship did not even exist until after Woodstock.--PP]
Well, how they’re doing it is by saying,
Members of the Jefferson…
No, they’re billing it as “Jefferson Starship plays the music of the Jefferson Airplane.”
Oh, wow. Okay. That’s how they’re doing it (laughs).
That’s how they’re doing it. And I looked at it, and I said, “How can they do that?” It makes no sense, especially without Grace. How do you do play the music of the Airplane without Grace? What’s the point?
Well, they’re not supposed to use the name Jefferson Starship, either. Our manager…
Well, you need to go look at ad for the Greek show.
Yeah, Well, the people who own the names are me, because we bought Paul out about fifteen, twenty years ago. So we’ve had all these lawsuits going. We said, “Paul, we gave you eighty thousand dollars to buy you out of the corporation, because that’s what it was, a corporation. You’re not supposed to be using (laughs), and we let it go for a while, because we thought, “Wel, the dude needs to make money, what the fuck?” But then it started getting so where he was selling like cheesy shit, and his manager was doing creepy stuff, and he was billing it as Jefferson Airplane, and we had to bring another lawsuit to get him to stop it. And now, they can, that is legal, to say…They’re not supposed to use the word “Jefferson,” though,” but they can use “Starship plays Jefferson Airplane,” that’s legal. I can’t believe he’s dumb enough to start doing it again. I’m going to have to start suing him again.
I don’t know where it is. I cut out the ad…I was like, “It doesn’t make sense to me.” I have the ad somewhere.
You know what? I want to talk to you again. We’ve got to do some more of this.
(Writer’s note: much of the above interview was omitted, due to space, as well as other considerations.)
The speaker advertisement that Grace referred to regarding the painting “Her Mistress’ Voice” is for Maxell, and the image she referred to is still used on some of its products, including on boxes of blank cassette tapes that I have in my supply closet, which I use when transferring my digital interviews onto cassette tape, for transcription.
Grace Slick’s artwork is on exhibit and for sale at galleries around the country. Many of her works are currently on display and available at Gallery 319, located at 319 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica, California. Inquiries about purchasing her artwork can be made by contacting Michelle at the gallery, at (310) 899-1499.
Photo Credit of Grace Slick in purple, and photo of Her Mistress’ Voice: courtesy of Jim Steinfeldt http://www.steinfeldtphotography.com
PHYLLIS POLLACK lives in Los Angeles where she is a publicist and music journalist. She can be reached through her blog.