How does a vintage, 1988 interview with Tom Waits become a Blank on Blank? Funny you should ask.
We found a few great audio interviews with Tom Waits lurking in the Rock’s Backpages archive. But something about him talking about moles living beneath Stonehenge and Hawaiian nightmares made our ears perk. We went through the 54-minute interview with Chris Roberts and saw a surrealist thread: everything and nothing. Then we got to work on a script, and mixed and cleaned up the rough audio.
As the interview was recorded in 1988, we wanted some Tom Waits Big Time-esque sounds that could reflect a couple different moods: more energy/ faster pace and slower, reflective and searching. We dug through the APM music archive and got some great recommendations from Mark Gibbons that fit the bill.
Meanwhile Patrick Smith started working on character sketches.
We went back and forth on whether to include his signature hat or not. In the end we felt his awesome hair was too good to avoid.
Once the audio and script were locked, Pat put together the animatic storyboard — a storyboard synced to the audio. Here’s what that looked like:
As we wrapped production and got set for release, we dropped a note to Chris Roberts to see what he remembered about interviewing Tom Waits nearly 30 years ago:
He’s a natural raconteur. A great one. You just get out of the way and let him do his thing, perform. If you can nudge the jokes along, so much the better. Waits is a dream interviewee. If only more artists gave a one man show via the medium of interview.
You stay loose. Don’t trample on his lines. Let him be Tom Waits. That’s what you want, it’s what he wants and it’s what the readers want. Don’t rein him in. No point putting a champion racehorse on a leash.
If they’re on fire – as a Tom Waits, Iggy Pop or David Bowie usually is – then just let them flow, and throw your preparation away. Keep it as a conversation where they say more than you, rather than an interrogation.
This was my second interview with Waits. The first, in New York in 1985, was more physically eventful – walking around Manhattan during Hurricane Gloria, bumping into friends of his. It was the first time I’d ever been to New York, indeed to the USA. Hurricane Gloria was raging as we landed. At the hotel the news said to stay indoors at all costs. The photographer and I of course – being crazy, curious Brits – went out and saw a near-deserted, post-apocalyptic Times Square, bejewelled only with discarded broken umbrellas. (This was heaven for the photographer, given the album’s Rain Dogs theme). Next day we met Waits and he was hilarious as ever, and showed us around a bit. His wife was about to give birth “any minute”.