elliott smith

"This is the first interview Iíve done in a long time," mumbles a slouching Elliott Smith. "I wondered if I would talk about drug use. But I guess, why hide it? Itís a lot easier to tell the truth usually."

And so it begins...†††

†††† Over the course of the past three years, the Elliott Smith rumor-mill has been working overtime. There are the tales of Smith nodding-off between songs at various shows, fabrications about finding him passed out in the bathroom stall of a Silverlake club with a needle in his arm. The sorted details of his run-in with the law at the Flaming Lips/Beck show in LA last November, have now become infamous among his rabid fans. Yet through it all, Smith has remained mysteriously silent. Either he was content to let the rumors fly, or he was just too busy doing whatever it is heís been doing to deal with it. Most thought he simply didnít care.†

†††† Of course, real life is never as black and white as the rumors tend to paint it. Elliott Smithís life is no exception. The fact of the matter is Smith cares about whatís been said about him. Heís been quite busy for the past few years. Not only has he been combating a problem with drug abuse, but Smith has also been working hard on a mammoth new album. He is a musician after all, and, with his new record almost complete, Elliott Smith has a few things on his mind he wants to talk about. So, if youíre still interested, he would like to set the record straightÖin his own words.†

†††† You see, over the past few months another little rumor has also been floating about.† Thereís been talk of Smith being clean, sober and ready to get back to work. Instead of holding their breath, most fans would rather wait and see it to believe it. Well, the wait is over. This rumor is actually made up of 100% truth.† So shout it from the rooftops: Elliott Smith is back!††††††

Amino Acid Redemption†††††††††††

†††† "A lot of your fans have been wondering: What have you been up to in the last couple of years since you stopped touring for Figure 8?"

†††† Itís the question all Elliott Smith fans have been asking, and Under the Radarís Senior Editor, Mark Redfern, just dropped the bomb. Itís a cold January night and Redfern, photographer, Wendy Lynch and myself are sitting at one of Spacelandís bar-high tables.† Across from us, wearing an orange shirt and brown pants with the misspelled words "mroe PRICKS than KICKS" scrawled in thick black ink on his left forearm, sits a distracted Elliott Smith. Heís set to play the Clean Needle Benefit concert here in a few hours, and he hasnít practiced yet. But he doesnít hesitate to answer the question.

†††† "Nothing was very good," he says with a half smile. "Then things got better about six months ago. This is sort of close to me, but itís not exactly connected to just me. It touches on drug use. I got caught up in that for almost two years. Then, I went to this place called the Neurotransmitter Restoration Center. Itís not like a normal rehab. What they do is an IV treatment where they put a catheter in your arm, and youíre on a drip bag, but the only thing thatís in the drip bag is amino acids and saline solution. I was coming off of a lot of psyche meds and other things. I was even on an antipsychotic, although Iím not psychotic. It was really difficult, but also something to get the word out about because it doesnít cost as much as it does to keep someone in a 28-day rehab. Itís usually a 10-day process, but for me it took a lot longer. I think most people go there for just a week. Some people even go there for gambling problems."†

†††† Elliott Smith is an odd person to talk to. When asked a question, Smith doesnít really answer it. He battles the question in his mind as lines of concentration contort his face. He speaks in very slow, almost deliberately childlike, responses. He often loses his train of thought, scratches his head of oily black hair, then goes onto whatever topic is on his mind at the moment. He has a habit of changing subjects in the middle of sentences when he doesnít mean to. So getting him to answer a question in full proves to be a bit difficult.

††††† "It just bombards your system with amino acids that kick all the shit out of your nerve receptors," he continues. "The different proteins in the amino acids eventually sort of rebuild the damaged neuro-receptors. But nobody seems to know about it. Thereís been like 15,000 people treated with it, and its success rate is 80% versus 10% for the normal 28-day 12 step."

†††† Itís important to note that the Neurotransmitter Restoration Center, located in Beverly Hills, is not an FDA approved treatment facility.† A man named Dr. Hit, who was integral in developing the amino acid procedure, runs the center. The treatment has advantages for hard drug users because it virtually irradiates all symptoms of withdrawal. Even though the neurotransmitter restoration procedure is not covered by medical insurance, the cost, about $1000 per day, is still much cheaper than your average 28-day program.† At the moment, Dr. Hit is in Mexico treating alcoholic priests.

elliott smith

†† Smith went on to say he had a strange reaction to the treatment, but his was something of a special case. "I had an unusual reaction to it because I was cut off from a whole bunch of things.† It [the treatment] is very good, and I would recommend it. But for me, it just wiped me out like some debilitating weakness. A lot of my frustration came with being to weak too reach over for a glass of water."

†††††††† Smithís decision to reach out to Dr. Hit and the Neurotransmitter Restoration Center was something of a last resort. "Iíd gone into detox a couple of times, but I couldnít stay for the 28 days because I couldnít honestly do the first step. That doesnít mean the program is wrong, it just means I couldnít say what you were supposed to say and mean it. I didnít want to distract other people who wanted it to work for them, and here I was not doing the steps."

††††Although Smith admits his short-term memory hasnít returned in full, he expects it will get better in time. After years of drug and alcohol abuse, itís really nothing short of miraculous that Elliott Smith is finally clean, sober and, with only six months of recovery, back at work. Heíll be the first to tell you it wasnít an easy road. In fact he admitted to being "a bad alcoholic" when he was living in New York. Now, he can barely drink one beer throughout the course of an evening. "I donít care if itís the 12-step program or the Neurotransmitter Restoration Center. Thereís such a taboo of even talking about drug use, and then there is the added problem if you play music. Then thereís this sort of melodrama that surrounds it, which wouldnít necessarily surround someone who doesnít play music. So, its kind of an off limits subject. Actually, I thought I would just try to avoid it, but Iím not different from other people with drug problems. So, given the opportunity to speak, then I guess I will."

†††† There is something to be said about Smithís account of drug use. As he sits in a bar chair staring at the ground with his hands in his lap, there is a selfless nature to the man that extends beyond the occasional benefit show, to get the word out about alternative drug treatments. This benefit is not the only charity heís involved with. Smith also started a foundation for abused children shortly after the release of his last album Figure 8. The foundation has been dormant for the last year, while Smith dealt with his drug problem, but now itís his number one priority. His girlfriend Jennifer Chiba, of the band Happy Endings, later admits that he is uncomfortable with money, which is one of the reasons why he began the foundation. Smith would rather see his money do some good than spend it on himself.

†††† Yet, tonightís benefit concert touches on a subject close to him. It certainly concerns people he can empathize with. The Needle Exchange Program is a nonprofit organization that provides free and clean needles to IV drug users in order to stop the spread of HIV and other drug-related diseases. "I wish more people would accept it as a valid option of controlling the spread of disease," he says before taking a cigarette out of a pack of Camels on the table. "I canít think of anything off the top of my head that seems more important than something designed to raise money to keep something going that keeps IV drug users from dying." Smith frowns and starts to light up his cigarette. He stops himself. "And I donít think I can smoke in here. I guess thatís a different addiction."††††

Odd Jobs And Old Friends

†††† It was almost two months later when Senior Editor Mark Redfern, photographer Wendy Lynch and myself had a chance to speak with Elliott Smith again. This time we were cordially invited to the Smith residence, which sits on a tree-lined hill, squeezed in-between similar, one-story houses in Echo Park. In order to reach his front door, you have to walk down a few crumbling concrete steps, which then turns into a dirt path that winds through a veritable jungle of weeds and overgrown vegetation. At the moment Smith is sitting at the kitchen table eating burritos with his friend and current drummer Robin Peringer. Heís also in the process of writing "Kali the Destroyer" in black permanent marker on his left forearm. Today heís chosen to wear brown pants and a black T-shirt that says "I Love Metal" on it.†††

†††† The living room of the house is littered with recording equipment as well as an I-Mac computer Smith has been fussing about with lately. Speakers next to the computer fill the entire house with an ambient feedback noise. Playing with noise and different types of sound is what Smith has been concentrating on lately, and he says he hopes to turn whatís playing into some kind of structureless song.

†††† Next to a robotic-looking four-track recorder stands a large painting, although you canít really see it because soundboard schematics are tacked all over it along with Taro Gomiís book Everybody Poops. Other than sound equipment the only other items of major significance are the piles of books strewn all over the floor. Sitting next to the computer is a copy of J.D. Salingerís Nine Stories. Lying on top of a speaker is Michael Foucaultís The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception; and propped next to Heinrich Bollís novel Group Portrait with Lady is a copy of Heatmiserís final album, Mic City Sons.

†††† In case you didnít know, Heatmiser was the band Smith and his best friend Neil Gust formed in Portland, Oregon after they graduated from college in the late Ď80s. Unlike Smithís alternative acoustic solo symposiums, Heatmiser was a loud-as-fuck hardcore band considered almost too heavy for grunge. "For a long time I played in a really loud band that I didnít think was a very good loud band at the time," says Smith of Heatmiser. "Iíve recently been checking it out again to see if I have been slagging it off for no good reason. It is what it is. My main problem with it is my singing and not with the rest of the band. When I first started doing interviews by myself, I was putting a lot of distance between me and them, and I didnít distinguish the fact that I didnít like my singing. In fact, sometimes I think I said, ĎThat band sucked,í which is really not cool. Thatís one of the things I regret. Since then Iíve talked to Neil. He understands that itís just one of those things you canít take back. It sucks. I think it hurt him for awhile."

†††† When Smith speaks about his days in Heatmiser, he does so with a reluctant nostalgia. Heatmiserís music is a subject he slyly avoids, but he does go into a few anecdotes about that particular time in his life. "Around the time Heatmiserís last record came out, Neil and I were both on unemployment, which we thought of as an arts grant," he hoarsely laughs. "But I was also doing odd jobs around Portland, like spreading gravel and transplanting bamboo trees. I had this one job where I had to paint the roof of this warehouse with this heat-reflective paint, and I just burnt the fuck out of myself. It was weird because it was black, but when it got rolled on, it turned silver and started reflecting the sun up at you. I got incredibly sunburned, and I had no idea."†

†††† Smith went on to say that the main lesson he learned from his first and only ill fated band was "a lot of things I donít want to do musically.† Me and Neil both were very frustrated at how straight our songs sounded.† No matter how sort of fucked up the structure would be or no matter what we had at the beginning by the end it would turn out to be tight for lack of a better word.† We werenít trying to be a band that was tight but people after the shows would be like, ĎYou guys were tight!"† That and the fact that more and more people were coming to our shows that were the kind of people who would have kicked me and Neilís ass in high school."

elliott smith

†† In the eyes of many, particularly Elliott Smith, Heatmiser was a band doomed to fail. Smith says the only reason he stayed in the band as long as he did was for the sake of his friend Neil. So when Heatmiser signed to Virgin in 1996, it was more a death nail than a big break. "It was kind of ridiculous to carry it up to a certain point and then drop the ball or the bomb, like quitting the band right after we had signed to Virgin. I was the guy who made that gravy-train crash so to speak, and it was a gravy-train at the time. The breakup happened almost immediately after the contract was signed. I watched myself put my paw in the bear trap on that one because there was this clause about leaving members. In the event of the band dissolving, any members could be kept to that contract with or without their consent under the same terms. They didnít pick up Neilís option, only mine.† It turned out to be a fucked-up situation because they said the reason they had signed Heatmiser was that theyíd been hoping this [the breakup] would happen -- or something to that effect. They said that right in front of Neil and I couldnít believe it."

†††† Shortly after Heatmiser completed Mic City Sons, the band called it quits, leaving Smith with a Virgin Records contract he no longer wanted.† Of course there is a whole other history to Elliott Smith that runs in conjunction with his days in Heatmiser. Since he was 14 years old, Smith had been writing songs on borrowed four-tracks. So when he wasnít working with Heatmiser, he was frantically writing and recording acoustic solo material. "My first solo record, Roman Candle, was just the most recent eight songs that Iíd recorded on borrowed four-tracks and borrowed guitar. My girlfriend at the time convinced me to send these songs to Cavity Search. When they wanted to put out my record I was totally shocked. I thought my head would be chopped off immediately when it came out because at the time it was so opposite to the grunge thing that was popular. Nothing made me start doing it because Iíd just been doing it for years. But it didnít occur to me to put anything out. In fact, it occurred to me not to put anything out. The thing is that album was really well-received, which was a total shock, and it immediately eclipsed my band unfortunately."

†††† Needless to say, the success of Roman Candle and Smithís subsequent self-titled solo record caused tensions in the band, particularly between Smith and Neil Gust. So when Heatmiser had its long overdue meltdown, Smith was somewhat relieved. While the band was recording Mic City Sons, Smith was also in the process of recording his third solo album Either/Or -- a record that would prove to be his most successful album up to that point. But it almost wasnít released at all. "I remember that record most fondly even though I nearly had a nervous breakdown," he says in all seriousness. "I recorded so many songs for it, and one or two of them sucked. Then three or four of them sucked. Then they all sucked and everything I did was terrible. I was never good enough. That was my train of thought. I just lost my confidence completely and totally to the point where right before it came out, I decided that it wasnít. Until some people were like, ĎJust let it go.í I really didnít think I liked it. Then, about a year later, I didnít think it was so bad anymore. Now I remember mostly the good parts of it, which is that I recorded it myself and there was no pressure. Then, after Either/Or, the Oscar stuff happened and that kind of derailed my train. Although it took a lot for it to fully derail."†

A Distorted Reality Is Now A Necessity To Be Famous†††††††††††

†††† Elliott Smithís yet-to-be-named studio sits anonymously within a mile long strip of car dealerships on Van Nuys Blvd. in the San Fernando Valley. After the photo shoot at his home, Smith is excited to show us his pride and joy. Over the course of the past two years, heís been spending the majority of his free time trying to get his studio into fully functional order. Itís been a difficult road for him because the average age of the equipment is about 30 years old. As we stand behind the soundboard in the booth knocking back energy drinks, Smith is like a child in a techie playground, which brings up a little known fact about Elliott Smith: Heís a studio tech fanatic. His favorite magazine is Home Recording because it gives helpful and economical tips on how to improve oneís home studio. Smithís is a far cry from a home studio, but it is an independent studio. He owns all of the equipment and built it himself from the ground up.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

†††† Before continuing the interview, Smith spends two hours explaining what all the equipment does and even goes so far as to show me how to operate certain parts of an ancient soundboard that he rewired and sautered to hell until it worked. His most prized possession is a 1959 Fairchild sound compressor. "It can be used as a compressor or as a limiter. Nothing sounds like this does. Theyíre really rare and really expensive." To date, Smith has yet to record any of his own material in the studio. A few months ago he was recording Neil Gustís band #2 here when the whole soundboard shut down due to heat build-up. "We were there for like three or five days at a time around the clock, and then eventually things started to fail because of heat build-up. So Iíve been racing up the techie ladder and reading books on trigonometry in order to remind myself of all this stuff. Itís not tough. Thereís just a lot of information about it. I didnít think my mind worked like this until I had a sautering party inside a 24-track and was amazed when it worked. That machine was one of the first 24-tracks they made."†

†††† Smith would be more than happy to go on and on about studio teching if you let him. Just a few weeks ago he had The John Spencer Blues Explosion recording here, and, in turn, they asked Smith to play bass for them on a few songs at a New York show. "I played bass and sang on that Beatles song ĎYer Blues.í Me and John Spencer were both singing that at the same time. It was really fun."

†††† When itís time to pick up the interview where we left off, Smith sits down in a chair with an electric sitar, and we eat Rollo candy and with some oranges. Itís Oscar time.†

†††† "The places I used to play were like punk clubs -- especially in Portland. But Gus Van Sant used to come and see me play. We just kind of became friends. Iím not so sure I knew much about him at the time. I knew he made movies and that they were considered sort of indie. Initially we hit it off because he also records. We would talk about microphones and sing the praises of 57s -- really underrated mics." Most of you probably know what happened next, but in case you donít: In 1997 Van Sant made his first studio blockbuster hit with the Matt Damon/Ben Affleck-penned Good Will Hunting. Van Sant decided to use a few of Smithís songs for the soundtrack to the film,† and the whole thing blew up in front of Smithís face, resulting in an Academy Award nomination for his original song "Miss Misery."

†††† "I didnít intend to play it, but then they said that if I didnít play it, they would get someone else to play the song. So for all the songwriters who donít want to perform their songs, theyíd get someone like Richard Marx to do it. I think when they said that they had done their homework on me a little bit. Or maybe Richard Marx is a universal scare tactic." In the end, Smith did perform on the Oscarís, and it still remains one of the most surreal nights of his life. "It was kind of ridiculous," he says. "But at a certain point I threw myself into it because it seemed to make my friends happy. You know, all of my friends were like, ĎOne of us is on the moon!í When really I was on this ridiculous awards show playing this song. It was a little weird. I walked out and Jack Nicholson was sitting about six feet away, so I avoided that area and I looked up at the balcony in the back and sang the song. It was surreal enough that it didnít seem like it happened to me."†

†††† Although the Academy Awards ceremony didnít sit too well with Smith, and he, as well as his bright white suit, was trashed on television, he says it did force him to change his mind about Celine Dion, who performed right after he did. "She was really sweet, which has made it impossible for me to dislike Celine Dion anymore. Even though I canít stand the music that she makes -- with all due respect I donít like it much at all -- but she herself was very, very nice. She asked me if I was nervous and I said, ĎYeah.í And she was like, ĎThatís good because you get your adrenaline going, and itíll make your song better. Itís a beautiful song.í Then she gave me a big hug. It was too much. It was too human to be dismissed simply because I find her music trite."

†††† The Academy Awards performance opened Smith up to an entirely new audience, and the publicity was as much a curse as it was a blessing. At the time Smith was busy trying to complete his fourth studio album, XO. Dreamworks had bought out his contract from Virgin, and, due to the Oscar buzz, the new record was going to get the royal promotional treatment. XO remains Smithís best-selling record to date, but his short-lived dance with fame has left a sour taste in his mouth. "I still donít particularly like hanging out with famous folks much because itís too weird," admits Smith. "Their lives are fucked up because theyíre famous folks, so conversation with them tends to get all strange. I donít know if there is any way of having constant attention focused on you without your life becoming totally bizarre one way or another. I never think about the Oscar thing any more, except for the fact that it comes up in interviews. It doesnít bother me anymore."††

†††† After spending some time with Smith, itís easy to see why fame didnít quite agree with him. As one would guess from hearing his music, Elliott Smith is a rather shy and reserved man. He goes out of his way to avoid conflict. In short, Elliott Smithís personality is the type Hollywood and music industry executives have for breakfast. Smith expressed no desire to be a part of fameís cutthroat machinery. "It got personal with people saying how fragile I looked on stage in a white suit. There was just all of this focus, and people were saying all this stuff simply because I didnít come out and command the stage like Celine Dion does."

†††† Peopleís perception of Smithís live performance is another bee in his bonnet. Recently many have been making derogatory comments about Smithís live performance, particularly his knack for cutting off songs before they are finished. Many thought it was due to the drug problem -- that he was on some type of substance that hindered his ability to perform. Smith assures me this is not the case. "If people come out to see me play, I wonít do things to deliberately play worse than I can. I try to play as well as I can, but I also donít hesitate to stop songs once Iíve started playing them. Iíll see it in the set list then Iíll start playing it, and then I realize Iím thinking about something else, or Iím thinking about whether or not Iím singing on key. Thatís usually the big tip off.† My favorite shows are the ones where it seems like every song is a bullfight. I either want to do the bullfight or not do the bullfight. I donít want to be like, ĎI squeaked by. Hurray!í† Sometimes it seems like the audience reacts that way -- like, ĎAlright.† He made it.í† Thatís how I take it anyway."

†††† If there is one lesson Elliott Smith has learned about being famous, itís to ignore all media hype. Around the time of the Oscars, Smith made a vow to never read his own press again. When asked why, he simply responds, "For one thing, I was there when the interview took place, so I know what we talked about. And for another thing, itís just too weird. Itís a problem if youíre trying to get out of your own weird headspace and youíre having a lot of conversations on tour, where no matter how much you try and talk about, say, music or something, the questions are constantly redirected back to yourself and who you are. I donít think itís important who I am. I really like playing music, but I donít really want to be anything in particular."

Lost Album / New Beginning

†††† "It feels like a million years since I recorded what was initially going to be this new record," says Elliott Smith. Itís almost midnight now and Smith is fiddling with a CD player in the soundbooth of his studio that looks like a skinny droid from Star Wars.†††††† Itís now come to that golden moment in the evening where Smith is going to play us a few tracks off of his new album From a Basement on the Hill. But first heís trying to establish the fact that what we are about to hear is really the final evolution of an album he abandoned almost two years ago. "There was even a little more than half of a record done before this new one that I just scrapped because of a blown friendship with someone that made me so depressed I didnít want to hear any of those songs."† Smith doesnít elaborate on who this particular friend was, and when pressed he says, "He was just helping me record the songs and stuff, and then the friendship kind of fell apart all of a sudden one day. It just made it kind of awkward being alone in the car listening to the songs. Those werenít happy days. So I was like, ĎOK, start over.í I like the new one that started over better. Usually I hate everything as soon as itís done, so I donít know what it means that I actually like this one." ††

elliott smith

He then pushes the play button and From a Basement on the Hillís first track "Shooting Star" comes blaring out of a huge pair of wall-mounted speakers like a banshee playing a guitar with delirium tremens. When speaking of the new record, Smith gets as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. He says the album is coming along nicely and is all but finished -- with the exception of a final mix for a few tracks. The title of the record stems from the fact that Smith recorded a large portion of the album in the basement of a friendís Malibu mansion. "The lyrics on this one are a lot less impressionistic; plus the production of it sounds unlike the last two records," he says while trying to light a cigarette with a broken lighter. "Most of this record was done in first or second takes. Itís a pretty big departure. The songs all sound pretty different from each other. Some were recorded on a 24-track with two-inch tape and some on other formats. The songs get weirder as they go along, and then, when you get near the end, you get to the really weird ones. Theyíre kind of more noisy with the pitch all distorted. Some are more acoustic, but there arenít too many like that. Lately Iíve just been making up a lot of noise. And it could be a song if I sang over it, but it has no structure in and of itself."†

†††† Smith doesnít want to release the record on Dreamworks, so heís in the process of shopping around for a new label. Since he is still label hunting, he doesnít think the album will be released to the public until the end of the year. When asked if he feels obligated to his fans to get the album out sooner, he simply replies, "I could throw something together tonight, but it would be better to wait because I know where itís going and I know what Iím doing. So I can put it together as a double record or a single record with a bonus disk. Then in the liner notes, Iíll explain that itís a double record and that the bonus disk is the second disk to the album. A lot of it was done with another guy, David McConnell, engineering it with me. Itís really kind of uncertain whatís going to be on it now. Itís sort of like it was with Either/Or because thereís so much time that went by while I was waiting for my studio to get done that songs have piled up. So now Iíve totally lost any dream of objectivity about what should be on it. I really want it to be a double record, but then looking on the back of a CD and seeing like 19 songs is kind of fatiguing. The other problem is getting around what label puts it out. They are inevitably going to be concerned: If (A) itís sold as a double record, the cost will be too expensive; or (B) if there are two records released within a short amount of time from each other, they wonít like that either. It wouldnít be like that if it was back decades ago when people like Elvis Costello came out with an album every six months. If that was possible now, that would be great."†

†††† Smith also said he was thinking about putting out a limited edition EP made up of new demos as well as a sneak peak at a few tracks off of From a Basement on the Hill. Of course all of this hinges on whether or not he can find a suitable label for the record. "For a change this time, Iím really going to try and sell this record, which is a new idea -- but not a bad one in this case -- because the money is not going to me. I need to put money into my foundation for abused children. Iím not looking to be benefited by luxury."

†††† As the acoustic beauty of "A Distorted Reality Is Now a Necessity To Be Free" floats around us, Smith also gets into a subject concerning the recent theft of a few new songs off of his computer. "Not long ago my house was broken into, and songs were stolen off my computer which have wound up in the hands of certain people who work at a certain label. Iíve also been followed around for months at a time. I wouldnít even want to necessarily say itís the people from that label who are following me around, but it was probably them who broke into my house. Thatís all I really want to say about it." When a tentative track listing that was pulled off the Internet is produced, Smith looks it over carefully and says, "This is the order which they were in on my computer when the songs were stolen. This is not the right order for the final album. There are other songs that arenít on here. Oh, I-Tunes!"

†††† Elliott Smith isnít the only one whoís had problems with computer thievery. Recently, Radiohead also had an unfinished mix of their new album Hail to the Thief stolen from a computer and posted on the Internet. Just remember all you musicians out there using your computers as sonic storage bins: Those whom you trust might be the ones ripping you off.†

†††† As long as we are dispelling rumors, it seems appropriate to touch on the events of the Flaming Lips/Beck show on November 25th, 2002. Although Smith went into great detail about his run in with the law at the show, the particulars must remain off the record due to a pending court case. What can be said is that Smith and his girlfriend were victims of needless police brutality by off-duty officers working security for the event. Although Smith claims he did not physically assault any of the officers, he was assaulted and arrested without probable cause, and he was not read his Miranda rights. Both he and Jennifer Chiba spent the night in jail without the benefit of even seeing Beckís set. Smith also sustained a hefty back injury from the arresting officer and is now on a strict regiment of pain pills. The pain pill medication greatly concerns Smith and his girlfriend because of Smithís past drug problems. (If anybody witnessed the events that transpired at the Flaming Lips/Beck show or has any information pertaining to said events, please feel free to contact Edward Rucker at (310) 576-6242. All eyewitness testimonies are greatly appreciated.)††

††††† Unfortunately, it has now come to the point when our time with Elliott Smith draws to a close. Itís almost 1:30 in the morning and we have been listening to tracks off of From a Basement on the Hill for the past hour-and-a-half. Before we leave, Smith says he thinks heíll stick around to put a bass part on an incomplete song. Since heís been recording this album in quick takes, he says it probably wonít take too much time as long as he doesnít have to sauter anything in the studio.†

†††† Smith is one of the nicest and most giving of musicians in this crazy business we call the music industry. There is no one who makes music quite like he does or the way he does. Elliott Smith makes his music much like he lives his life: on his own terms, for better or for worse. As we leave the studio, Smith is in the booth busily hunched over some wires sticking haphazardly out of the soundboard with a cigarette in one hand and a manual of some sort in the other. His girlfriend yawns and bids us adieu before looking over her shoulder at her boyfriend and shaking her head in loving dismay. She says sheís used to spending late hours here with him as he fiddles about with his obsession over sound equipment.†

†††† Days after the interview there is one thing Smith told me that stayed in my mind for one reason or another. Perhaps itís proof of Smithís new lease on life, but itís certain his remark can be taken as a sign of the good times and better music to come: "Thanks for coming around," he said. "You know, for a couple of years I dropped out of just about everything. But I feel better today. I think itíll be a good record."


The Elliott Smith Song Box

While Under the Radar visited Elliott Smith in his studio he played us a recording of twelve cuts off of his new album From A Basement On The Hill.† Many were final mixes but Smith also played a couple of rough demos.† A few of the songs were even from a different now abandoned album he started recording two years ago.† The following are just a few quick snapshots of the new material with Smithís comments about each song attached.

1) Shooting Star:† "This one is kind of all over the map. †The end part is a joke.† It was supposed to have faded out but I decided to keep this whole big noisy section at the end." - Includes the great lyric:† "To fuck some trophy boy that you won tonight at the bar/ So sad so far/ Youíll make him sad shooting star."

2) A Passing Feeling:† "I was really into staying up four or five days at a time while recording.† Some of them didnít take to long like this one.† There was a co-producer early on but he didnít really co-produce.† He just walked angrily in and out of the room because I knew what I wanted to do.† Iím playing every instrument o n this one except one.† Thereís also a fill in this song thatís almost all kick drum and sounds really funny."

3) See You In Heaven:† "This one took me several days. Itís one of my favorites.† I kept setting parts for this song then fucking them up and doing them over again just to hear the sound of things."

4) Iím Already Somebodyís Baby:† "This is a rough mix and I think Iím going to keep it that way.† I donít want to double the vocal.† It sounds good to me as it is.† I guess itís called ĎIím Already Somebodyís Babyí.† Itís kind of a boring title.† Iím not necessarily somebody elseís baby though.† Thereís a sample in this song thatís layered Chamberlain and Melloton."

5) Coast to Coast:† "This one was called ĎCircuit Riderí but not any more.† This song I donít play everything on.† This one actually has two drummers on it.† One is Steve Drozd from the Flaming Lips and the other is the drummer for the Lillies.† Steve and I are good friends and weíve both had similar situations and we have both improved in the same way.† I asked this friend of mine to make up something he could say as fast as he could in fifteen minutes about people healing themselves or being unable to heal themselves.† While heís saying this thing there is a main vocal that goes over that."

6) A Distorted Reality Is Now A Necessity To Be Free:† "This one is my girlfriendís favorite.† Thereís also a rough demo of this that sounds a lot different."

- Includes another great lyric:† "My momma told me, ĎBaby stay clean/ Thereís no inbetweení".

7) Letís Get Lost:† "I know itís the name of a movie but what are you going to do.† This one is not a perfect mix by any means but itís got a certain something I donít want to disturb.† I just played this one twice and sang it at the same time."

8) True Love:† "True Love is a lyric driven song.† This is the oldest one that weíve heard so far.† This is from that record I was going to throw away.† I still might.† Those werenít very happy days.† It was a long time ago at this point."

"These are all the most normal songs.† They will be interspersed with God knows what because there are some songs that are a lot more distorted.† Then there are some that are more acoustic but there arenít too many that are like that.Ē Ė Elliott Smith

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Elliott Smith Dies at age 34

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