In the years since 1973’s Closing Time, a folk-/country-tinged debut that fit on the Asylum roster better than anything Waits has recorded since – and which its creator has spent the ensuing 39 years distancing himself from – Tom Waits’ reputation as a curveball-throwing, question-evading interviewee has gathered more moss than even Dylan’s. A 1976 comment to Rich Trenbeth of Country Rambler seems, on the face of it, particularly prescient: “If I had a lot of money, I’d probably get even more eccentric than I am now.”
This collection of 52 interviews up to and including the years 2008, however, proves that there’s far more to Waits than legend tells. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Sure, the early years are full of the famed boozy puns of a man hiding in plain sight. Following the artistic about-turn of his early 80s Island work, however, Waits becomes a manifold artist: a true entertainer gifted enough to make 466 pages’ worth of transcript a zippy read is a rare beast indeed. He’s frequently hilarious and, on the subjects of his art, songwriting and what it means to be human, offers many more truths than you’d find in any other carefully PR’ed “tell-all” self-promotion fest.