Interview by Cooper Lawrence
Depending on when you caught him, David Johansen is either a proto-punk god of the 70s, thrusting the New York Dolls into legendary status, or he is the sleek, lubricious Buster Poindexter a decade later, delivering more mirth than sneer.
No matter who he is, when David Johansen is on stage he is deliberate, emphatic and unequivocal. He delivers a night he knows you will love, because he understands his audience.
“If I was going to go to a show . . . as jaded as I am . . . I wanna see something that is going to be kinda like a revelation, musically, and presentation-wise, and that’s what I shoot for.”
Johansen is more than just a musician. He’s a music fan who has been on the edge of every important movement over the last 40 years. Bravely impulsive and intentionally creative, his work has always been small autochthonous masterpieces, copied by less original performers.
“I’ve come up with stuff and then five minutes later other people try to do it too.” Even as his musical palate became more unique, “I was doing jump blues, [which is] late 40s Los Angeles boogie woogie, humorous songs, and then five years later there were 20 bands playing that.”
His latest triumph has been a series of grand performances in an intimate space, The Carlyle Hotel’s, Café Carlyle. On the surface this may seem like an odd choice, until you consider its genesis. “[Legendary concert promoter] Ron Delsener came to see us at The Cutting Room and said, ‘Oh, you should play The Carlyle.’ I think the first time we played was two years ago, Halloween. They gave us a dry run and I just liked the room immediately. It’s great, [since] prior to that I had been on the road.”
When you see Buster Poindexter at Café Carlyle—and it is Buster and not David since, “Buster affords me the opportunity to sing anything I want”—it will be one of the most satisfying and truly memorable evenings led by an inspired artist in his prime.
“It just gets better as it goes along. Like my voice. People have told me that it’s better than it ever was.”
Buster Poindexter returns to Café Carlyle (located at The Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street, at Madison Avenue) for a two-week residency, September 29-October 10, performances run Tuesday through Saturday. Reservations by phone 212.744.1600 or online www.ticketweb.com
Buster will be joined by Brian Koonin (guitar), Richard Hammond (upright bass) and Ray Grappone (drums).