Motor City Babylon
Legend Kim Fowley on life, death, Hollywood and the power and beauty of Detroit
Published: February 29, 2012
If you love rock ’n’ roll and its history, Kim Fowley should require no introduction. From discovering Jan & Dean on the same day Buddy Holly died (and he was discharged from the Air Force) in 1957 and his first major hit records (the Hollywood Argyles’ “Alley Oop” and the Murmaids’ “Popsicles & Icicles”), straight through to his cameo appearance on Zappa & the Mothers’ Freak Out; introducing John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band (in addition to the Doors and a whole crew of rock’s founding fathers) at 1969’s Toronto Peace Festival, and working with the Seeds, the Modern Lovers, the Germs and Motley Crue, Kim Fowley has always been more than just a “Zelig of rock ’n’ roll” or the self-described “hustler,” the last of a dying breed, he’s often termed himself. Fowley’s discography and resume includes KISS, Alice Cooper, Cat Stevens, Blue Oyster Cult, Gene Vincent, Steppenwolf, Paul Revere & the Raiders, the Scorpions, Slade and the Byrds, to name only a few. He’s put the Runaways together. He’s met and knows almost every major figure ever involved in the genre — and definitely has the stories to back it up. He’s a legend, a madman, a lover of Detroit, and a true one-of-a-kind character, whose upcoming Blowout sets may very well be his final Detroit visit ever. On the other hand, he just might survive us all. …
Metro Times: So, I take it you decided to return to Detroit when you saw that Rick Santorum was leading in Michigan?
Kim Fowley: No. I’m only in favor of Snow Mercy for president. She is my current female companion, who is going to be my female JC Crawford. Remember Rev. JC Crawford who introduced the MC5 back in the silver ’60s? Well, Snow Mercy is going to be introducing Kim Fowley’s Psychedelic Dogs on the two different stages I’ll be playing in Detroit. She’s 6 feet tall.
And when I was recording her, I figured out she’s the Greta Garbo of rock meets a female Jim Morrison, with a Nico variation on Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. She’ll be onstage. But even more importantly, she functions as my nurse. I’m having bladder cancer recall surgery tomorrow morning. And I will then be leaving a hospital bed six days later to do this.
So maybe I’ll die onstage for Detroit, which Johnny Guitar Watson did in Japan. I think people would get off on that. But she’s not only my nurse. In case the enemy shows up, she’s also my bodyguard because she does circus training every day and circus performance that is pretty dangerous. And as far as the Republican primary in Michigan is concerned, Kim Fowley’s B-movie father Douglas Fowley [best known for playing the director in Singing in the Rain] was a Thomas Dewey Republican. And the day that Harry Truman won the election, my dad cried all day long. So that’s my brush with a one-time Republican past.
MT: Wow. So there’s yet another reason why you had to go in the opposite direction, right, Kim?
Fowley: Well… [Pause]. Four years ago, I supported Paris Hilton for president. So now it’s Snow Mercy for president. She’s too young for president. But she has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and is a fetish model. She has a teaching credential at university level. And is a dominatrix in a dungeon. No, I’m not a client. But she is magical. She is also co-director of Black Room Doom, which is — what is it? — it’s a female Spinal Tap on a female Jackass level. I did about half of the movie but I got tired of wrangling girls. I’d already done that with the Runaways and the Murmaids.
So, Snow Mercy is finishing the movie up, which brings to mind: I mentioned Paris Hilton. Well, she’s in a movie along with me, Johnny Depp, Keanu Reeves, Mickey Rourke, Slash, and Kim Fowley. It’s called Sunset Strip. It’s about what happens when you’re really young and you enter Hollywood for the very first time, which I did early because I had B-movie parents. The other people did it because they were either born into it or they just showed up real young to take on the challenges of Hollywood USA. The movie is premiering March 16 at SXSW at the Paramount Theater. It’s going to be the big movie where the film festival overlaps with the music festival. So Austin is our next stop. And from there, it’s the tour of Europe — France, Germany and Holland.
So I’ve got a lot going on between cancer surgery, Hamtramck and the Blowout, and Texas and Europe.
Plus, I have a book coming out — Lord of Garbage, published by Kicks Books in New York City. They are also publishing Harlan Ellison, Andre Williams, Sun Ra and Nick Tosches in our family of authors, with Billy and Miriam, who also own Norton Records, as our publishers. It’s a paperback of Kim Fowley poetry – from 1957 to the present, along with back stories of what was going on in my rock ’n’ roll life per year as the poems were being written. And mine was a total different experience of being a poet because ’57 was the tail end of doo-wop and rockabilly and I take it right up to today.
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