Thursday, June 17, 2010
The Roky Erickson, 1975
from Not Fade Away, Vol 1, No. 1, Fall 1975
Douglas Hanners the brains behind the Austin Record Convention, started up a music fanzine back it in the mid 1970s for record collectors. His debut issue featured an interview with Roky Erickson that was conducted by Doug, Kirby McDaniel, Deron Bissett, and me over two sessions. It was Roky's first post-Rusk interview and as you might glean he was lucid and insightful. I had the good fortune to sit in on some of the recording sessions that Doug Sahm "produced" on Roky and Bleib Alien and was underwritten by Doug Breeding. The single from that session "Two Headed Dog" b/w "Starry Eyes" was proof Roky was more than a one-hit wonder and that electroshock therapy did not destroy him. Special thanks for Nathan Hanners for transcribing the text.
This interview was taped at my house with Joe Nick Patoski, ace writer, and Kirby McDaniel, superb music director at KUT [University of Texas]. Roky and his wife Dana were present for along evening of talk, and a later interview was done at Roky’s house with Deron Bissett and myself.
KIRBY: When did you first start playing anything? Guitar.
ROKY: I guess when I was about thirteen...very nice number...I wanted to play guitar, and I’d been messing around with guitar, and I’d play things like "Aura Lee" and "Love Me Tender" and then I got into Bo Diddley a lot. And Little Richard was good; I enjoyed him. He knew...one thing he’d say -‘You know what I like, I like to hear my voice. Now listen to it.(sings) I like the way that sounds." And you could get into that. It’s like Shelley Berman says, "Have you ever watched someone drink buttermilk? You feel like you shouldn’t be watching. It’s like they’re making love with the buttermilk.” That was thawed with Little Richard...he’d say, "Oh God." It’d seem like he’d get all alone, and he’d say "Oh God," and you’d say, "Should I be watching thing?" But he’s had so much influence on me, his singing. I really learned from Little Richard.
Actually my favorite performer is James Brown. He just really blows my mind. James Brown, Bob Dylan, and Mick Jagger. And I like this thing called “Changes" by David Bowie. I think that somebody—either he wrote a song that was perfect for him or somebody said, "Hey man, this has your name written all over it, do it"...and he did.
In other words, there are a lot of breaks out there, but they don’t get broken. It’s like words—they have many levels of understanding. Maybe you may have many fantastic ideas, but because of a lack of communication, you can't get them across; and they don’t come across. It reminds me of Superman. They wouldn’t let him play anything but Superman, so he jumped out of a window. [note: George Reeves, the actor who played Superman on TV, committed suicide]
DERON: Of the certain types of music, like psychedelic music, who did you listen to as a teenager before you started playing yourself, and what kind of guitar player did you respect before you became one yourself?
ROKY: I liked Eric Clapton a lot, and I liked Keith Richards, and I liked B.B. King and I liked the Bluesbreakers a lot—that’s Eric Clapton, but I like his band.
DERON: So you were into the British revival of the American blues, actually.
ROKY: Right. I liked Elmore James, Blind Willie McTell, people like that.
DOUG: Let’s start at the beginning. How did you get into music?
ROKY: I was playing with a group called the Spades at a place called the Jade Room, and all of a sudden these four cats came in, and it was like they had auras around their heads. Cause you noticed them, like they came in and sat down and I said, I wonder who they are, and then they came up and said, “Listen man, we’re with a group called the Lingsmen, and what we want to do is put together a big group called the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, and be kind of a superband. Like they would have this image of big shadows playing this big hard rock and roll music. It would be Superband. So they came in and said, "We want you to be our singer, and we’ll do all the music,” and then they played for me a little bit over at their house, and it blew my mind. And so I had to quit the Spades, which was a hard thing to do. You have personal involvement, and you don't want to hurt anybody, and you don’t wanna mess anything up with your friends; you don’t wanna be cruel: "Listen man, forget you; I’ve got another band out here." So I joined the Elevators, and we just at first wanted to keep it real quiet, and then surprise them. Let people be hearing about us, They wanted to put us on television, but we said no. We wanted to do a couple gigs.
DOUG: When you formed the Spades, wasn't that right after the Beatles hit big? In trying to figure out a date on when you started the Spades.
ROKY: John Camay had a band (Spades) and Gnarly, I was able to get in it with him, and then the Elevators came and found me with him, playing, and said, "John, can we steal him from you?" and so we talked it over with John. ‘Cause it was a real emotional thing. ‘Cause John was a real good friend. [It was] like leaving home.
DOUG: Did you put out a local single as the Spades?
ROKY: We came out with a thing called "You`re Gonna Miss
Me” b/w "We Sell Soul," and it wan`t very good.
DOUG: So then Stacey and Benny and John Ike were in the
ROKY: Yeah. John Ike and Benny and Stacy and a guy named Max Rainey were in the Lingsmen, and Max was more of an easier singer than I was. They wanted more of a harder...not necessarily better or anything. Just for whatever kind of music they wanted to do. So they came and got me.
DERON: What was their sound like?
ROKY: They had a big crowd. Their records were all a little heavy. I'm partial ’cause of the wildness, and they didn‘t have the jug,
DERON: How did the jug evolve into your act?
ROKY: Tommy just had the idea, and he showed me, and I liked it.
DOUG: When the Elevators started. Were you guys into psychedelic drugs?
ROKY: We were known as the first psychedelic band, the first one to be able to play music that would make you see things if you wanted to, and then lay back and envision things like Dylan does. We liked him. And in respect to Dylan, we wanted to put out a rock and roll band. Like he was one single person. We thought we could put out more of a sound if we did the whole thing.
JOE NICK: What was the psychedelic sound?
ROKY: What we did, we made a point of being in a place when we played so that we could hear things to play for the audience. Say, somebody wasn’t able to get high—well, he'd get high with our music. He could have his consciousness or his cortex opened just by our music. We believe in a part of your brain that you need access to, called the cortex, which will allow you to open up into the many psychic things in your mind that you hadn’t been aware of before—ESP and things like that.
DOUG: We talked to Bill Josey, who had Sonobeat records back in the Sixties, and he gave me an explanation of the Thirteenth Floor Elevator name that I had never heard before. He claimed that Thirteenth meant the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, M, which stood for marijuana, and Elevator meant up high. Is that where it came from?
ROKY: The thirteenth letter is M. so we kinda let that just—not to say anything about it, but if people liked to connect it, do; it's fun; and then there`s not a thirteenth floor in a building, so we said "We’re playing on it." It was like if you want to get to the thirteenth floor, ride our elevator.
JOE NICK: Where did you all start playing as the Elevators—what clubs?
ROKY: We played the New Orleans Club and the Jade Room, and we played a lot up at a place called La Maison [Ballroom] in Houston. And then we did two shows on the Dick Clark Show [on the ABC television network], and this was real funny. We asked Dick, "Would you ask us who's the head of the band?"
And so he comes up and says. "Well who's the head of your band?"
“‘Well, we're all heads."
This was on nationwide T.V.
DOUG: You guys played Houston and Austin a lot right at the first. Did you play anywhere else in Texas?
ROKY: Dallas. But we didn’t have much luck in Dallas. We were on television in Dallas, and that was good. Remember? On "Sump’n Ellse." And we were on television in San Antonio and in Houston [the Larry Kane Show]. And then Dick Clark. And then we played with the Byrds in Ft. Worth at Will Rogers [Coliseum]. Driving an old car—I mean we were poor. The carbon monoxide was leaking into it and the devil, or God, looks down and says "Hey man, I can‘t handle it anymore”.- bam - and he stops the car and says you’re not riding in it anymore. So we got a ride to the concert, and everything was alright.
JOE NICK: Wasn’t there a club in Dallas that you were going to open called the Thirteenth Floor Club?
ROKY: Yeah, we were going to, and then they wouldn't let us do it, ‘cause our johns were not in the right place, or something like that, to their standards. They didn’t want to open up some psychedelic club. We were known as the first psychedelic band, and then the Grateful Dead came along. Then we went out to San Francisco and played at the Avalon Ballroom a lot, and that was a lot lo fun. We had an all-Texas show and there were three groups: Sir Doug, Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, and the Thirteenth Floor Elevators. We put on a pretty wild show. All three of the groups got pretty far 0ut.Doug jammed a lot, played a lot of his blues, which—when he really gets going, he's good, he's really good. Ya know, I don’t really hear enough of his blues.
DOUG: How were your crowds?
ROKY: We never did have bad crowds. The only bad crowd we had was when we went to Dallas one time and we were gonna play this thing, and the guy said, "Hey, you're gonna have to play real soft and you`re gonna have to just play ‘la, de, da, de da.’ and we said no, we can’t handle it.
DERON: What was your impression of most of your gigs? You've mentioned that nits were very "up" experiences.
ROKY: I don’t know if Mick Jagger wrote "Rocks Off" to me, but I've never had a bad audience.
DERON: What’s a good audience like?
ROKY: Just real responsive—the kind of audience that won’t even clap, because they feel like they wanna do more for vou. If they clap, it's just a regular thing. Our audiences would sit there and not say a word. They wouldn’t clap, they wouldn’t even click their fingers, which was really nice. And they did it because they were blown by the music. That's what they were trying to get across: "Keep playing, we like it; we don't even want to stop to clap, we wanna hear it." So we really never
had a bad audience except that one time, and that was a beer joint.
DERON: Initially you were playing much longer songs than was common at the time you started playing. You were jamming, and this was unusual for the time.
ROKY: Yeah, right. We did a lot of things. We were responsible for loosening up a lot of people. I did a song called "Song to Abe Lincoln" which says, there are a bunch of geniuses around here; you need to relax and start jamming and doing things like we're doing, and so I think we were teaching with discretion. We hardly even knew that we were teaching that discretion is our profession. Whereas, we did influence a lot of people to relax and get out. Like when we jammed with the Conqueroo, they would do as much for us as I`m trying to explain that I hope we did for other bands. We could just jam with them and feel like we had complete freedom to really blow some people's minds with our talent—like, “Man, play it, we know you have the talent, so play it. We wanna hear it." And that was real nice.
DERON: What about the other contemporary bands in Austin? The Conqueroo that you were playing with. Did you relate to any other Austin bands?
ROKY: Janis Joplin blew my mind, man. The reason she got so famous was that because she was as real a person to her good friends. In other words, she wasn’t one of these people who went, "0h, dear, get away from me, my God. I've got to do all these things." [assuming British accent] You know, she was a real person and she blew your mind just to meet her as much off stage as she did on stage. She was so real a person that it's no wonder she made it. I’m sorry she died. That’s all I can say.
DOUG: Wasn’t there one time when she almost joined the Elevators?
ROKY: Well, we did some benefits together. We loved her. She needed to get her own name more than just a member of the Elevators. She had to be known as Janis Joplin. And I had to be known as Roky Erikson. It would be like taking every band in the world and putting them together and having one band.
We jammed with Shiva’s [Headband]. They had a fantastic band, but it's like walking into a mansion. Once you have the floor there, you know it's not going to go away. And Shiva’s was really who I listened to. And then they did go away, so I really didn't have a chance to pick up on the rest of the band. I was really impressed with his [Spencer Perskin's] violin playing.
DERON:• What about California? By the time you got there, had things changed to be more receptive to your music?
ROKY: We were there when it was right. Like, California was really going through some good changes. Especially Haight-Ashbury when we went out there after that Sigma Nu [fraternity] group that we played for. And then now that I haven't been out there, I hear that it's not as big a thing down there anymore. No clubs to go to—maybe the Fillmore's still there, but that`s not it. Actually, we lived in the Fillmore district for the first part, then we were in Los Angeles when the riots were going on. We were playing for Dick Clark. We didn't really make any other clubs in L.A. That day, I remember we did three shows; we did one for KFRC, and we did a gig for a boat going out into the bay - it was kinda terrible and kinda beautiful, but it was hard playing on the boat, ya know. But it was a neat thing 'cause we got to ride out to the Treasure Island, and go exploring on it, just really seeing all the good things in a good place.
DERON: Of all the bands who were your contemporaries in the Haight in the late 60s, which ones did you respect?
ROKY: I liked Big Brother a whole lot. They were like the Family Dog; they were like a party from home, you know. And we got to see the beginning of Moby Grape out there, and we liked Quicksilver, and we liked Doug Sahm a whole lot. We were just really impressed with San Francisco.
J OE NICK: What do you recall as being your most memorable performance? You know, the one gig that you played...
ROKY: I can remember some that really stood out. I can’t remember where they were, but I would jump on top of my amplifier and start playing with the feedback and it was because of the people's interest in us. The music would do haunting things. We had one song called "Let Me Take You to the Empty Place on My Fire Engine." And what we were trying to portray was what it would be like if you could ride on a fire engine without having to go to a terrible fire. What if the fire engine was connected just to riding it and having fun as a kid, not to a big fire.
Now we try to play space sounds, influenced by the thrill, the fun of being able to go to a horror movie and being scared out of your—you know, just sitting there watching something like “The Curse of the Demon,” where Dana Andrews picks up a poker and it's real hot and he drops it, and the guy next to him just laughs, ‘cause he did it, you know...and then he walks to the woods, and there's this fire thing chasing after him. So the Bleib Alien [his current band at the time] is kind of on that thing, all the more to let you think about things like that.
KIRBY: The Elevators had a reputation for being the first psychedelic band, but didn’t they play for a long time before you guys got into any kind of psychedelics?
ROKY: Well, no. Like with Bleib Alien being brand new. when we first came out we were brand new in the psychedelic sense. And whereas Bleib Alien will talk about the demon rising into the clouds, and they infer the cloud-filled room of smoke, or it says "firing to your heart’s desire" for the fire demon, where in the Elevators, we would actually say, "Let me take you to de empty place" and it would sound like a spade saying “the empty place,” like Uncle Remus, and he says let me take you to DMT place, which is DMT, which is dimethyltryptamine, which gives you a trip for fifteen minutes of beautiful hallucinations. What you do is you smoke it, and you hold it in as long as you can, and what it does is you can feel it going into your skin; like marijuana. You don’t feel it penetrating. But with DMT, it just penetrates, and all of a sudden everything is spinning like fire engine wheels. So we said, "Let me take you to DMT place.” It was like a fire engine ride without the calamity of a fire, as if all the negativity could be taken away from the fire itself.
DOUG: When do you think the Elevators were at their best? A lot of people claim that the very first year that you were together produced the best music in live performance.
ROKY: Well, the reason they say that is because we were more free. We would do things with feedback, and as the years progressed, we'd say, "Hey, don’t do that, don't do this...” You don’t know what you’re gonna do. Well, the whole thing is like talking about something that you would suppress. You have to experiment with your guitar before you can find out what you’re doing. And I would get out on stage and I would start experimenting, and it seemed like it was more curbed, by the members. Like the whole idea of creation was forgotten later on in the years, I feel. You know, that we weren't creating as many new experimental vibrations.
DOUG: The band went through a change there at one point— the drummer and the bass player left.
ROKY: Seems like we were always having things like that. What it is. It’s like with a lot of bands: they'll play something and it’s so fantastic, when they get away from it, they don't believe that it really happened, and they’ll forget it. And that's what kind of happened with us. We'd forget what a sound we had. We'd blow somebody's mind when we were playing and then you wouldn't hear enough about it or there wouldn't be enough interplay on it, and you’d kind of lose faith in yourself.
DOUG: Is that why you guys broke up?
ROKY: Yeah, because it.kinda got blasé—to me it did. It got kinda like...well, this isn't a special band. You know, when I started, we were playing all this screaming feedback. Now all we’re doing is just...I like "Slip Inside This House.” I wrote the melody. I would sit up in this old, old house, and it was an old crummy amplifier and an old guitar, and I'd play [plays melody]. It's probably the only song that gets played on radio - “Slip Inside This House" and "You're Gonna Miss Me." It's like there isn’t enough feedback and there isn’t enough excitement in it on the record, but the idea is captured. And- people look at it as the capturing of an idea. And they like it. It didn't have enough of that haunting feedback special thing, something extra. It didn't have enough of that in it for my liking. That's a gripe I had about it.
DOUG: It’s hard for bands to live up to their initial surge. Very few bands can do it.
ROKY: It seems like I've broken through that. I have 85 songs written, and as I write, I find out that I'm getting better instead of just writing something. And the whole reason for being able to put out a song like "You Really Got Me" and then getting away from it, is you put out something, and you get so close to it that you can't see it. It‘s like I wrote the first line to "Splash I": "I've seen your face before...I’ve known you all my life."
And I got so close to the fact that I was seeing my friends, that I had seen them and known them without having ever met them, that I couldn’t write about it, and Clementine had to write it. And I think that’s the way it is with bands. It‘s like they can’t see the forest for the trees. Clementine was Tommy Hall’s ex-wife. They’re not married anymore. I don't know if they've gotten a divorce, but they're not together. She sang on the "I Had to Tell You" record.
DOUG: At one point on the album [“Slip Inside This House”], Tommy Hall thought that he was responding to Dylan`s lyrics.
ROKY: This is like saying “What if...?” So Dylan would say, “Well, there’s a group called the Elevators, that's a neat sounding name." Maybe he didn't write anything directly, but it just came out that way because that's the way the How was. Like if you were playing music in the other room, somebody would write about their environment, so it would affect your writing...Like everything we say affects his head when he’s writing. The Elevators may have been unconsciously in the flow of Dylan's work, and that's what he [Tommy Hall] believed.
DOUG: This record label—Hanna-Barbera Records—claimed that they signed the Elevators like in '68 or '69.
ROKY: Like maybe they’d be good people to sign up with, but we never got anything from it.
DOUG: Contact Records is the Elevators' first label, actually before IA [International Artists]. Was that your own label, or was that somebody else?
ROKY: Contact? I think it was our own label,
DOUG: And then Leland [Rogers of International Artists and Kenny Rogers’ brother] found you?
DERON: Any idea how many of the albums have sold?
ROKY: I don't know. But do you know that there are people that are buying them for three digit numbers, in the hundreds. The second one, Easter Everywhere—that's really bad that they can’t have what they want for $3.98 or $4.98 [it was going for $100 and up because it was out of print]. We got ripped off. I can’t even explain how we got ripped off.
JOE NICK: When did you all get started with International Artists?
ROKY: Oh man, all I can say is right now it seems like a big ripoff. Like they came and said, “Listen, we're gonna do all these things for you,” and then they ran away and couldn’t be found. We didn't get paid any money from all four albums. Never got a cent. That has a lot to do with popularity.
DANA: They did it to a lot of bands. They did it to the Bubble Puppy and the Red Krayola.
ROKY: Like, I do the organ on one of their cuts, and I do the harmonica on their album, and they just made them go in there and do it now. Like "Alright, we got five minutes for a 30—minute album—do it."
This new band has had offers from one record company in Memphis, that if we could put out one 45 and see how we do with it—now that's more like it. And then another group wants to put us out for a nationwide tour where we'd tour Texas and then the nation, apparently on my name, like "We have Roky Erikson and the Elevators and they have a brand new band and all-new material."
Like I have 85 songs ready to do, brand new ones. One of them is called "I've Always Been Here Before" and another one’s called "The Wind and More.” You know, when the wind stops blowing and something else kinda blows through. [They’re] songs that make you think about things beyond—psychic things and ghosts and goblins and gremlins and things like that, waiting behind your door. Fun things.
JOE NICK: Did you ever get any money from "You're Gonna Miss Me" being on the Nuggets album?
ROKY: We never did. Now it would be nice if I got some money. But I took that as a kind of personal good thing to do.
DOUG: The Elevators in your first albums and stuff—you guys were really among the first of the psychedelic bands and really preceded the wave of psychedelic drugs that sort of engulfed America in the late '60s. How do you feel about that now?
ROKY: Except for the bust, those were the only things you had to think about. But psychedelic kind of infers that you’re getting away from being addicted. It's like if someone has some heroin, and they take one snort, and then the rest of their life they don’t take any. They experienced it. The thing I'm concerned about is finding geniuses like Lenny Bruce dead in their room. Oh, man, it just tears you up. All you can do is wad up your magazine, just wrinkle it up, or Alexander Solzhenitsyn put in prison—bam—or Nikita Khrushchev banished from Russia—the premier, bam. It’s things like that that are bad.
But as far as the other thing, I’m pleased with it. One thing I'm not pleased about is they get me in there and they said [heavy Texas accent],. "Son, we looked at your head, and you've taken over 300 trips—trips, I say - trips of LSD, and you may have a regression where you're seeing things again.
KIRBY: You mean like an acid flashback?
ROKY: They call it...exactly. That's exactly what they call them is flashbacks. "Why, he may have a flashback and might go crazy again." And then they'd put their arm on my shoulder and say, “Son, then we'd have to put you back in here again." Oh boy, why don't you guys go bury yourself?
DOUG: I've got a loaded question here: When did you first take psychedelics? Were you in the Spades or the Thirteenth Floor Elevators? Was it in the Spades time period, or the Elevators?
ROKY: The Elevators.
JOE NICK: Were you all into psychedelics before you formed the band?
ROKY: I've always had the quest and want for something that would raise my consciousness up. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been in the flow of things, I think people should be able to talk about it. Like some people think, "I may be in this magazine...aw, I shouldn't have said that. They’ll probably think I'm a nut for saying that." And nothing gets said. Nothing really far out gets said, nothing really interesting gets said, because everybody‘s so afraid to say anything. So that’s what we‘re doing. We’re just kinda saying it.
People need to say more about what they're afraid to say, so that things will be discovered, because that’s how man discovers. That's science—being able to accept that there’s something beyond, that there are beings on other worlds that are our friends that are maybe thirty thousand years ahead of us intellectually because they've been born. Maybe we're all aliens; maybe they came down here and colonized and lived on earth for a giant thing, and then they had to split and they left everybody living here, and that we had to look like cavemen because man, we were living with dinosaurs and things. You had to be rough to exist in the environment, so maybe cavemen were smarter than you think of them. Because they said, "I'm gonna have to be here, so I’ll form my body in this way." Maybe they were aliens. You think of an alien - they could be real flexible. Like I could come in looking like Roky and then look like somebody else, look like him. There'd be two of us sitting here that looked like him. And then maybe the cavemen could form their shape to be real big and have lots of hair because of the cold and all the ice, glaciers and everything around during the Ice Age, that they had to form them, or that they were aliens, or that we're all aliens.
DOUG: Well, how many times did you guys get busted as the band, and then you got busted later on?
ROKY: Yeah, I was driving along, and the cop said I had some marijuana with me, So I said, “What can I do?” So I lied about it; like I've already said, because I was going to jail. I know it. And so they were gonna come down hard on me, because l was such a controversial, doing such controversial things. Not as much a controversial person, more or less doing controversial things, and other people sitting back and relaxing and letting me do it. So they said, “We’re gonna make an example of him. We're not gonna have all these people grooving on what he's doing. We've gotta stop it and stop it now, 'cause he's a threat."
Not a threat to the government, but a threat to the police.
DOUG: What you‘re saying is that they got Roky out of the way so that nobody would ask any questions.
ROKY: They had put me in a mental hospital [Hedgecroft] and I ran away from it. And then when I came back to Austin to do a show, a policeman comes down and says, "Hi, man. I used to he a good friend of your father. You used to ride horses on my land. All we wanna do is ask you some questions; just come down and answer the questions."
As soon as I got down there they put me in a cell and I didn't. hear from them for a week. And the club didn't know where I was. They'd said, "Listen, if you get arrested, make your phone call to the club," and I wasn't able to make that connection: So I was shafted, I was just run over.
DANA: Nobel Gunther [IA exec] said, "Don't go to Austin, you'll get busted.” And there was a car out there waiting with the motor running ready to take him to Austin. So who knows what IA was up to`?
ROKY: So I flew to Austin. And this friend of mine took me to the place out here—used to be the Torch Club, used to be the Action Club—and the police were waiting for me there.
DOUG: You went down to Houston and talked to the record company people, and Roky ended up coming back to Austin, and then they grabbed him again, and he ended up in Hedgecroft?
DANA: Rusk State Hospital. Before he even got busted, the record company put him in Hedgecroft for a rest. They said he was doing too many drugs, and he wasn't getting the music out, and he needed a rest. Hedgecroft came right after the first bust, and before the second.
DOUG: Hedgecroft is a private hospital?
DANA: Roky’s mother was in on that business too, thinking that he needed a rest. And she would go to the record company and say, “You’re pushing him too hard, look at him, he's falling apart.” She was just misguided.
DOUG: When did this last bust that put you in Rusk occur?
ROKY: That was four, five years ago. Those three years were the longest three years of my life. I thought I’d never get out.
DOUG: I went up to see a friend of mine in Huntsville [Texas State Prison] Sunday; he's just in for a year at the most.
ROKY: Well, a year is just,..you wouldn’t believe. One day, by the end of one day, you've already thought up ages of thinking. You've thought everything you could think in a million years, and you're tired of it in one day. Like I was going to jail, and so I said, "Hey, man, I'm seeing things on the wall, and I'm hearing voices, so I'm crazy, put me away."
So they said, “Alright, he's crazy. “
For three years...I was such a good actor. When you put your mind to it. you can really convince people, so you gotta be careful. `Cause at the end of three years, I'm sitting there and they said, "So you‘re still hearing voices?"
And I said, "No, man, I'm not hearing voices. I lied."
And they said. "Yeah, sure you lied.”
It’s obvious now I lied. but they were just mean as they could be. There at Rusk, I got beat up there by one of the attendants once. A lot of times people are victims of police and bad record companies.
DOUG: That Rusk episode - do you mind talking about it?
ROKY: When I got there it was like, “Here comes this guy with long hair and a top hat." And they said, "Oh, boy. We got him."
If I had been wearing a tuxedo it would have been just as bad. And so they cut my hair completely bald, just as mean as they could, and they put me in khakis. And for three years you'd get up at six in the morning, and you'd clean up the place. It was just terrible, man.
I got my GED while I was there, and I got couple of credits in college, but that was the only interesting thing the whole time, ya know, Some of them were groovy; I was on television a couple of times. A couple of groovy guys managed to get me out to be in a rock and roll band with some of the patients, and we called it the Missing Links. We performed, you know, but I couldn't perform. I tried. It was so funny. I’d try to scream there and I'd be under so much tension that I couldn't scream while I was there. But I try to scream now, and I'll be able to scream now as good as ever when I get on stage again.
We have so many...like the word “wrong“ and the word "mistake" and the word "text." They should have different meanings so that when you say "text", you could say it could be in text and out of text and not be slandering the word “text," And then if someone was wrong, they wouldn't be considered. See, if I said something like, I'd say one statement; I'd slip and forget I was in a mental hospital and I'd say something, but then they’d say "You're crazy. You're gonna be put here one more year for that."
You know, llike I'd be there two years and think I was getting out, and I'd say something, and they'd say "You're crazy." They lived in the small town of Rusk, and they never got out of it. [It was] a penitentiary—like thing. Cold, man.
DANA: Paranoid is more like it—the people were real sheltered.
ROKY: It was nice sometimes. She came up to visit me every two weeks, that's all they’d allow. We had from 8 till 4, and she’d bring me a carton of cigarettes and she brought me a television and a twelve-string guitar. But you wouldn't wanna watch television because by the time you got it set up and passed all the regulations to watch your television, you didn’t wanna watch it. Or there wouldn't be a good show on. And then with the guitar, you couldn’t be inspired. You wouldn’t wanna sing "Gloria," I wouldn't do my own material in this band. I'd do others. Because I had such a pessimistic attitude—they could learn this, they couldn't learn that, they wouldn’t know what I’m talking about. 'Cause you were in there with people that were in there for murder—vicious murder—and they said, "Alright, here's the guy with the vicious murder and here`s Roky. His circle is just as big as Roky`s circle – they’re equal. They’re in here for the same thing: they’re crazy."
It's just like the "Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll." There’s injustice in justice.
JOE NICK: Do you think people put down psychedelics now?
ROKY: With psychedelics, a lot of people will say things about psychedelics without realizing that when you take acid, it enters your body and goes out of your body in fifteen minutes. And all it is, is in your mind and what you've thought of and been ` able to build, in your mind. And that's why it’s so beautiful: because it's an art. It's like being an artist. Because the whole idea of it is like being able to have nothing but positivity around you. Like, if you're ever gonna take a trip, you always wanna know where you're going, who you`re gonna be with, what you`re gonna do, what records you're gonna play, what books you're gonna read. So that you don’t have a knock at the door and “I'm Ariel and Happy Birthday and we have all these..." you know. [laughter]
At the time we went to press several things had changed with Roky since this interview was taped. He has released a single with Doug Sahm’s assistance and production: "Starry Eyes/Two Headed Dog" on Mars Records. It was cut at Odyssey Studios in Austin with Doug on guitar and Bleib Alien backing Roky. Doug took interest in Roky after Bleib had played their first dates; and he helped Roky get to LA where he played with Doug at several clubs in hopes of generating some record company interest. While in LA, Roky went to San Francisco and talked with Tommy Hall. He said that they are close friends, Tommy and he will probably not do any recording again. Roky is going to San Francisco with Doug for a couple of months to work on his music and possibly do some recording. He played with Doug and Freddy Fender at Armadillo recently and sounded better than ever.