Sunday, October 7, 2012

Alan Licht (ed.) "Will Oldham On Bonnie 'Prince' Billy" (WW Norton & Co., 2012)

Will Oldham has a reputation for opting out of music industry promotional activities.  He just doesn’t do the promotional circuit for each release, with the obligatory interviews, television appearances, etc etc.  That’s why it was a bit of a shock to discover this title.

Alan Licht (a friend and sometimes collaborator) sat down with Oldham for a series of interviews over the course of a week.  This book is the result of those interview sessions.  It reads less like a typical industry hagiography or personality profile, and more like rambling conversations between friends.  That’s why it works.

Yes, the sort of information fans crave is in here:  recording session information, discussion of song lyrics, influences, etc etc.  But much of the fascinating material is the discussion that emerges at the margins:  Oldham’s idiosyncratic views on the music industry, art, film, and how to balance the demands of the commercial and the artistic.

This is probably not for the uninitiated.  No effort is made to bring readers up to speed.  There are no references to reviews or any attempts to contextualize Oldham’s recording history.  However, for those familiar with his catalog, it provides a fascinating glimpse into this idiosyncratic artist.

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