WTHR Channel 13 One on One With John Mellencamp
WTHR Channel 13 By Scott Swan
CLICK HERE FOR THE EXTENDED INTERVIEW
Bloomington - Rock and Roll Hall
of Famer John Mellencamp continues his "No Better Than
This" tour in Indianapolis with concerts Nov. 8 at
Clowes Memorial Hall and Nov. 11 at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
The Hoosier singer and songwriter
gave exclusive access to Channel 13 as he prepared for
the tour. Mellencamp, who was born in Seymour and lives
near Bloomington, allowed WTHR cameras to record a
30-minute music set with his band that included "R.O.C.K.
in the U.S.A.", "Pink Houses," "The Real Life," "No
Better Than This," "Paper in Fire," "Troubled Land" and
"Rain on the Scarecrow."
Prior to the final rehearsal,
Mellencamp sat in a director's chair on the stage of the
Indiana University Auditorium for a wide-ranging
30-minute interview covering his new record and his
The following transcript is from
Mellencamp's interview with Eyewitness News Anchor Scott
Scott Swan: "Why is "No
Better Than This" so different than your other records?"
John Mellencamp: "This new
record goes back into the past, the way records used to
be recorded and catch a moment. Today's music, there's
no moment to capture. It's all built. You put the drums
in, they put that in. They put this in and then all of a
sudden, you've built a song. This record is captured.
It's capturing a moment of musicians playing songs. It
was all recorded on on one microphone and a 1950's
portable Ampex machine. So, the sound is going to be
quite a bit different than a digitally recorded record."
Scott Swan: "What's the
message in the song 'Save Some Time To Dream?'"
John Mellencamp: "Our lives
have become so rapid and we have so much information.
And our head is filled with so much nonsense, and
information and important things that you really don't
have time for yourself. My dad has always said that to
me. He always said, 'John have you done anything fun
today? And I said, no - just worked. And he said 'you
better do something fun today. As we lose the ability to
dream, I think life takes on a much duller meaning. So
for me, I hope to continue to dream until the day I
Scott Swan: "What is more
fun - writing the song, recording the song or performing
John Mellencamp: "Writing
and recording has always been more inspiring to me than
actually going out and performing the song. I like
performing. But after you do - I've done some shows 180
times, it becomes like 'I wonder what's on the room
service menu' about half way through the song. And then
when you start having those thoughts, it's time to get
off the stage."
Scott Swan: "Are you a
better songwriter or a better performer?"
John Mellencamp: "I'm not
very good at either. I'm just trying to make my way
through. I'm just doing the best I can. There's been a
lot better. But, there's certainly been a lot worse."
Scott Swan: "How has your
song writing changed since you first started?"
John Mellencamp: "I've been
making records my whole life. So, a young kid from
Seymour or Bloomington, Indiana with a record deal. I
didn't have any vision of what I was doing."
Scott Swan: "You and your
wife (Elaine) were baptized while recording "No Better
Than This." Where are you spiritually?"
John Mellencamp: "That's a
good question. When hatred enters into religion, which
it often does, under the name of God, I think it's an
error. I think that's why organized religion is at an
all-time low and attending churches that's my
assumption. I know when I was a kid, Sunday meant
something. I'm not sure what it means anymore. I think
it's because money and hatred have eclipsed what the
word of the Bible is. America is in a terrible place
Scott Swan: "Are we worse
off as a country?"
Scott Swan: "How so?"
John Mellencamp: "We're in
a bunch of wars that we shouldn't be in. And of course,
when I said that before the Iraq war, everybody thought
I was a traitor. Well, it turns out maybe I was right.
We shouldn't be in Afghanistan. What are we doing in
these places? Why are we spending all this money? In the
constitution, it says that the government shall provide
for the safety and well being of its citizens. They
always have the money for the safety - equals war. But
well being, just don't have the money for that. Just
don't have the money to take care of our sick people.
Just don't have the money to take care of the homeless
people. Just can't find the money for that. But to build
a bomb, we've got the money and we'll go attack people
for no reason at all. Why are we in Afghanistan? For
what reason? Are we really safer now that Saddam Hussein
is dead. Are we really safer? Are you afraid? It's
(expletive), so that's how America's worse in my mind."
Scott Swan: "You were a
supporter of President Obama. How do you feel like he's
John Mellencamp: "I think
he was so far behind the eight ball that you couldn't
possibly tell now. He was left with such a colossal
mess. But let's not forget, he's a politician.
Politicians are politicians. They put on the suit of
doing good and I put on the suit of singing songs."
Scott Swan: "Which of these
descriptions are you most proud of? Legend, Rock and
Roll Hall of Famer, Lifetime Achievement award, sold 40
million records, songwriter, keen social conscience, a
man who will not fit it, pride of Indiana, or part of
the fabric of so many of us?"
Scott Swan: "Hypocrite best
John Mellencamp: "Probably
because I'm always in motion. I think people should be
in motion. You think something for awhile and think
that's not really true. You think you know somebody. And
then you think, I didn't even know that person. So, you
have to always be adjusting your opinion. If you think
you know it all, then you know nothing."
Scott Swan: "So hypocrite
is the word that best describes you?
John Mellencamp: "I think
it's the best word that describes all of us, if we
really take a look at ourselves. I think it's human
nature to say one thing and do another."
Scott Swan: "So, how have
John Mellencamp: "I'm
always changing. (Expletive), you could talk to me
tomorrow and I'll give you a whole different answer to
what you've asked me. What's the matter, haven't you
seen a hypocrite before (laughter)- the whole
(expletive) country is full of hypocrites."
Scott Swan: "How has having
children changed you?"
John Mellencamp: "I've had
children forever. I've had children since I was 18. so,
I've grown up having children. Sometimes I'm really good
at being a parent and sometimes I'm really lousy. And I
think anyone whose honest with themselves would have to
come to the same conclusion. There are some things you
are prepared to deal with and some things were not
equipped to deal with."
Scott Swan: "(Your son) Hud
is a heck of a boxer, isn't he?"
John Mellencamp: "Yeah, he
certainly is. Yeah, but there are other things he needs
to focus in on life besides being a fighter. He likes to
fight. There's good sides to that and there's bad sides
to that because he's a teenage boy. I'm proud as hell of
what he's accomplished. Two times Golden Glove champ,
two-times US boxing champ, it's great. He just came in
third in the national boxing event in Kansas City."
Scott Swan: "What is it
like being John Mellencamp in front of thousands of
people, performing. What is that like?"
John Mellencamp: "It's the
same as anyone else that has a job they've had for a
long time. Some days you go in and it's like, well this
is easy. And some days you go in and you think why did I
ever start doing this? Some days you love your job. Some
days you don't."
>Scott Swan: "But thousands
of people adore you."
John Mellencamp: "Thousands
of people hate me too, so what's the difference."
Scott Swan: "But when
you're up on stage, you're feeling the love that you've
John Mellencamp: "See, I
don't look at things like that. When I'm up on stage,
I'm performing a song that I had written to my best
ability. That's my focus. To be able to deliver a song
in a fashion that the song deserves to be written in and
delivered in. And hopefully the audience is coming to
the song. I wrote a song a long time ago "I don't want
to be a pop singer" I was young. And, I was very
uncomfortable with that whole time period. It was
embarrassing to me, the way people acted, the way people
thought, the stigma with being a rock star. I didn't
like it. You were stereotyped right off the bat. Well,
he's a drug addict, I haven't been any of those things.
I didn't really like the stigma. I never really cared
about money. But, I always wanted to get paid. I never
really cared about being on the radio, but I loved
hearing my songs on the radio."
Scott Swan: "What's your
favorite John Mellencamp song?"
John Mellencamp: "I'm still
waiting to write that song."
Scott Swan: "You haven't
written it yet?"
John Mellencamp: "Haven't
written it yet."
Scott Swan: "So, when a
John Mellencamp song comes on the radio, what do you
John Mellencamp: "It
depends. If I've heard it a billion times, I turn it
down. If it's a new song, I'll listen to it. I wonder
how this song sounds on the radio. I mean, I've heard
Small Town on the radio before - laughter. It's nice
that people still enjoy that song. But for me, I don't
need to turn it up and listen to it. but, if a song off
the new record comes on the radio, I'll turn it up and
listen to it because I want to know how it sounds on the
Scott Swan: "Your friend and
producer T Bone Burnett said 'John you had the
misfortune of being a big rock star in the 1980's, how
will you finish your career with some dignity?'"
John Mellencamp: "I've
played the hits to death. The reason we're playing these
types of venues is because I want to be able to walk out
with an acoustic guitar and I want to be able to play
songs. I want to be able to play music. I don't want to
be a monkey on a string playing hit records that I had
20 years ago. I think that's the conclusion that T Bone
and I came to was that John, you have to reinvent
yourself at this point and create something new and not
worry about massive audiences because there aren't going
to be massive audiences for anyone my age in the near
future. We're doing 24 songs which is almost 2 and a
half hours. My drummer will be a on a trap kit eight of
those songs. The rest of the time he's playing
percussion. That should tell you there's not a lot of
boom boom boom bat. That's not happening."
Scott Swan: "Is playing in
Indiana any more special than anywhere else in the
John Mellencamp: "It's kind
of embarrassing because I'm always able to look out in
the audience and see people I know. Heah, how you doing?
Heah, I saw you yesterday when you were over at my house
last week. It's kind of embarrassing because people know
me one way but when you walk on stage it's our
responsibility to create magic and so you have to create