Monday, 26 November 2012

Scars: An Excerpt from "An Interview With JD Twain", 2005

An Excerpt from "An Interview With JD Twain", 2004.

At first glance, JD Twain's skin is perfect. Certainly far better than he deserves. If he had an attic, I'd put money on there being a portrait up there, deteriorating. For a man who has lived the rock and roll cliches to their extremes, his skin doesn’t show it.

We sit in a shady spot in the famous Shadowlands Villa garden and he explains: 'I never injected, rarely snorted, gave up drinking in the 80s and… hell, I'm just too vain to let myself go.'
If he's had work done to that famous and beautiful face, it is subtle, expertly done. He has that strangely youthful, slightly leathery look of most ageing Southern Californians, though mercifully Botox-free. Whatever the reasons or method, he looks younger than fifty-six.
His hands give him away. Years of guitar-playing have left those gorgeous, long fingers mashed. The joints in his left index finger are swollen and grotesquely gnarled from decades of barre chords. Folds of tough, wrinkled skin are stretched over the tendons and ligaments which have become exaggerated through the forty years of his spectacular career. A manicure can't hide the hard callouses on his fingertips but his nails are neat and painted glittering silver.
JD flexes his famous hands and if they don't respond as quickly or smartly as once, it doesn't matter. I now notice his hands are covered in many small scars one wouldn't notice unless looking closely.
'I used to maintain my guitars myself. Tended to hurt myself. Stabbed myself with screwdrivers and broken steel strings... sliced myself up until Ted came along to save me from myself. Some say my hands are ugly now, but to me they're proof that I really did work for a living. I didn't get fame and fortune doing “nothing” no matter what some folks say.'
He plays a quick run up an imaginary fretboard and those aged hands are transformed: still supple, capable and magical. Watching JD Twain playing air guitar is at once thrilling and bizarre.
When I mention scars, he immediately removes his shirt. I am still for a second. It is JD Twain, after all. He is as trim and athletic as any man pushing sixty should be, tanned and almost flawless. A scar pokes out from the waistband of his trousers. It look a lot like an appendix scar to me.
'A bear clawed me on a school field trip,' he boasts, a twinkle in his eye.
He turns and there, on his otherwise perfect muscled back, is a long, jagged scar six inches long that runs from his left shoulder towards his right hip. Then, he shrugs and the muscles in his back ripple downward and the scar dances. 'A guy took exception to his girlfriend coming onto me. Man, I didn't dig the early Eighties.'
He doesn't say – but I know – that he talking about his own drummer and the girlfriend was in fact, Sam's wife. Still, such a wound looks unjust.
Though I have mentioned his hands, I have omitted the worst scar of all. Once Twain is fully dressed again, I ask to see it.
The scar is still prominent after almost thirty years. It runs the length of his left palm from the wrist and into the index finger, blended into the hand with age. This is the scar that nearly killed him.
'Sam's Bowie knife to my back was nothing compared. I'm a guitarist. For the first few weeks after Nik Biro got me, I stared death square in the face. For real, no joke, no exaggeration. He nearly killed me, because I would’ve died without use of my hand. Wasting away, or suicide, doesn't matter. I wouldn't have last six months.'
His level, matter-of-fact tone tells me this is very different to the bear scar: he is absolutely serious. What would the musical landscape look like without JD Twain after 1977? Certainly less interesting. No Ludwig & Liszt. No Shadowlands, or only a shadow of itself: a Shadow of Shadowlands.
'I like that. I'm taking that as an album title. Maybe Byrne could do something with lyrics, too... I know how I would've done it, you know.'
'Oh?' Trying to sound casual when Twain is talking suicide options is a tough choice.
'I was going to take myself down to Orange County, to Corona Beach, the little one. I'd light a fire there on the beach as the sun went down and settle down with a bottle of real good whiskey. The whiskey would be laced with curare. Someone would find me the next morning slumbering with a dear friend, Death. And the corpse would be good-looking.'
'That's important to you.'
'Hell yeah. However old I get, my cadaver will be gorgeous. I'm JD Twain, baby.' The twinkle is back.

Excerpted from "An Interview with JD Twain" by Clare Worley, 2005.

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