Mystery White Boy Release Chat with Michael Tighe

Columbia Records Online - May 5th, 2001

SonyMusic: Welcome to the Michael Tighe Chat In Honor of Jeff Buckley. The Jeff Buckley Live Album, "Mystery White Boy" will be released on 5.9.00. Join Michael in remembering Jeff.

Michael Tighe: Welcome everyone. You can start asking your questions now.

Siggie: What is the name of your new band?

Michael Tighe: It's called Black Beetle. Parker Kindred, who was Jeff's drummer, is in the band. Joan Wasser, who was a very dear friend of Jeff's is in the band. Oren Bloedow, who played with the Lounge Lizards and Elysian Fields, is also in the band and we just got off tour. There's a website at that you can look into. There is a painting of a red sphinx and a picture of us and some samples of the music, so I encourage everyone to look there. The name Black Beetle comes from a symbol of re-birth. The ancient Egyptians believed that the black beetle was a symbol of re-birth. The name Black Beetle was a lyric in one of my songs. It basically crept up into my mind as being a good symbol for what I was feeling at the time after Jeff's death, and the people that were in the band, and how we feel him enough in an extension of his life within what we share together musically.

Jillybean: How long did you know Jeff Buckley before you were in a band with him?

Michael Tighe: I met Jeff when he first moved to New York, so I guess that was about 2 to 3 years before I joined the band. We met through a mutual friend, Rebecca. At that time, he had just moved here to New York and we would take walks, eat, play pool, and listen to CD's. It was exciting for me to re-discover New York through his eyes because he was really in awe of how raw and stimulating it was here. He found something here that he had always wanted, or that he felt was lacking from the environment that he grew up with in California. So it was really exciting for me. We would take walks and play juke boxes and play pool. We didn't play music much together, but he would sometimes say that if he had a band, he wanted me in it. When he needed a guitar player for his band, he asked me to audition. The connection between the four of us was pretty obvious and immediate, so I joined.

Julien: I'm French. Can you talk about Jeff's special link with this country?

Michael Tighe: You know, that is something that is hard to put into words but it was very obvious when we went there on our first tour. I think our first show was in Paris, and we stepped out onto the stage and feeling the heat was kind of explosive. Heat and ecstasy from the crowd made us realize that the depth of the music had really connected with some people there, and it continued to. It was always euphoric playing there because of the ravenous, pagan ritualistic element of the shows with the audience being very excited. I was just there doing some press for this new record, and I was really struck again with the loss of him because that place holds so many memories and it felt really like a Golden Era, being there. That was sort of where we felt like kinds or something. I'm not sure what it is exactly about the music that made the people respond so intensely to it, but I didn't ask any questions. I was just very glad.

Sailormoon: What do you think about this new Jeff Buckley live album?

Michael Tighe: I think it's a very important component in his legacy because live performance was really his forte as a musician. It was the place that tapped some of his deepest gifts. He was an amazing, spontaneous, intuitive musician. He was the most comfortable in a live setting reciprocating the energy that was focused on him. That was where he was in his element. So to me, it's a very exciting record that shows how explorative and courageous he was as a vocalist and a guitar player.

Tricky 2000: Hello Michael! I'm a HUGE fan of Jeff's and I was wondering if Jeff liked Prince? I always thought they should work together and when I heard "Everybody Here Wants You," I couldn't help but wonder if Jeff was a fan. Thank you.

Michael Tighe: Yes. He really loved Prince. He felt very akin to his worship of sex and sensuality and women and yes, that song was very influenced by Prince. There are parts of "Last Goodbye" that were also influenced rhythmically by certain rhythms that Prince would use a lot. So, yes, Prince and he shared, in their songs, this sense of them worshipping a goddess. I feel they are very similar in that way. Jeff would have loved to work with Prince. There was never any talk about it or anything, but he would have loved that.

Dr. Matt: How much of an influence was Morrissey on Jeff's music?

Michael Tighe: It was pretty massive. Jeff went through a phase in his life where he really listened to the Smiths all the time. I remember he would say that, as a lyricist, no one comes close to him. And he also loved Johnny Mar very much, who was Smith's guitar player. My band, Black Beetle, actually just opened up for Morrissey so that was a very moving experience and I think Jeff would have been excited by it. On this new live record, in the middle of the song "Hallelujah," he goes into a little bit of a Smith song called "I Know It's Over," which is a song he used to sing in concerts sometime and was one of the covers that I personally thought was most effective. The sort of scathing, bittersweet quality of Morrissey's lyrics was something that Jeff was fascinated by, and he really admired and respected.

Cabal983: How would you describe the experience of playing onstage with Jeff?

Michael Tighe: It was a combination of being hypnotized and emptied out. And then at times I would feel very intense traveling feelings or feelings of speed, like blazing through horizons. His voice was very very commanding and at the same time hypnotic and it would flood the stage and not only cast a spell on the audience but a lot of times on the band as well. There was something about the way that we played together that opened us up to each other's sway, so we would kind of intuitively bend with each other or travel with each other on a really connected, good night. It is hard to put it into words because I don't remember it a lot of the time because it is also cathartic, but at the same time it was almost like we weren't there. That was something that Jeff induced - for you to leave yourself and just let the music flow through you. And that would happen on really good nights. I have flashes of feelings and memories, and with different songs I kind of remember feeling different colors sonically. So it was also very meditative, and sort of a place where we all really felt like we were doing what we were meant to do, and drawing upon some of the most important elements of ourselves. It's a whole parallel reality that I can sometimes still visit that is very peaceful - the memories of performing with Jeff. The interaction with him with rhythm and melody was really exciting, and something that I miss.

Mattneal: How involved are you with the songbook, and when do you think it will be released?

Michael Tighe: I'm not very involved with the song book at this point and I don't really know when it will be released. I have been focusing on my band and this new live record of Jeff. Mary, Jeff's mom, has mostly been dealing with the song book. Unfortunately, I don't know when it's coming out.

Dr Matt: Any unreleased recordings that we should see the light of day? Song titles?

Michael Tighe: There are a few, yeah. There is one song called "Sky Blue Skin" that I think is very important. There is a song that Jeff did with Liz Frazier from the Cocteau Twins that I also think is very beautiful. I don't know if they will come out, but if something were to come out, I could see those two songs being on them. Beyond that, there isn't too much else. There are a lot of outtakes from "Live At Sin-é," but those are mostly covers.

Tricky 2000: What did you think of the music Jeff was working on at the time of his death?

Michael Tighe: I was very excited and happy for him. A week before he died, he called me and told me that he was very proud of this new music because he had felt that he had contacted the source or the cores of these new songs, which was something that was eluding him for a while. Then he went down to Memphis and focused on searching and contacting the cores of these new songs. He really wanted to express other facets of himself musically that he felt weren't represented on "Grace," but which were very much a part of his musicality or his musical mind and soul. He told me that he was really proud of this new music; that it feels like it did when we first started making music together. He was referring to a time that had a lot of levity and was very innocent with a lot of forward motion and a very triumphant feeling. You can hear on his 4 track recordings some of the ideas that he was going for. They were very very extreme at certain points, very gentle and soothing, and at other times, very terrifying and the sounds would almost jolt you and scratch you and then kiss you. He used to say that he wanted the second record to have terror music on it. Music that would be so haunting and seductive that listeners would have no choice but to be somewhat stunned and a little bit repelled, but really attracted to what they were hearing. I think that he had begun to enter the first phase of orchestrating those kinds of songs.

Misstury: Since Jeff's death, did you learn things about this "mysterious white boy?"

Michael Tighe: I had an incident up in his attic in Memphis where he spent a lot of time. This thing happened to me where I was sitting there and this breath came into me and it just kept coming and it was like my lungs were filling up. My back straightened and I felt as though my head was sort of rising and all I saw were these black and white specks. The breath just kept coming, and I felt some warmth in that breath, and it was really a touch. Since then, it annihilated a fear of death that I have for myself because I felt like there was continuation beyond death. Intellectually I had always believed it but never actually felt it. And then I felt it. Once I felt it, it was easier for me to let Jeff go into wherever he was going. It also made me much more appreciative of life and not scared of death anymore. He gave me so much in his death, just like he did when he was alive. He was almost the carrier of some very important information or knowledge for me. He's never really been mysterious to me because I felt very akin to him from the first time I met him. I learned through his death that I think sometimes he was almost sensing that something like this would meet him in his life. If not death, then the equivalent of it.

Atmrozin: Are there any plans to release anything from the Memphis shows at Barrister's? Do tapes of those shows exist?

Michael Tighe: Not that I know of. That is a question that people have asked and I think that Mary, Jeff's mom, has asked over the internet for anyone that has any tapes to please send them to her so she could listen to them and consider if they were worthy of releasing. But as far as we know, no tapes really exist of those shows.

Kira Bug: Will this be the last Jeff Buckley release now, or is there more to come?

Michael Tighe: I can't say for sure. There's not too much more, but I could see there being another record or an EP. There is nothing in the works or any plans for releasing another one, so I can't say.

Jewel-box: What was your favorite song to perform?

Michael Tighe: I didn't have one favorite, but "Dream Brother" and "Lilac Wine" were both songs that consistently always really inspired and elevated me. There was just something about the essence of those songs that I felt always very connected to, no matter what state of mind I was in. I also went through a phase where I felt very, very close to the songs "Mojo Pin" and "Grace" as well. I think "Dream Brother" and "Lilac Wine" stand out as songs that consistently were able to really, really move me and inspire me.

Twylanorth: How many old memories will this new CD bring back for you?

Michael Tighe: During the listening process, I sort of had to keep my emotional world recessed. I knew that if I let that surface all the time, we wouldn't get anything done and it would cloud my ears and I could become very obsessed with spiraling down memory's caves. Luckily, in the beginning of the listening process we heard some of the concerts that we ended up drawing a lot of material from which I don't specifically remember. Actually the one from Lyons, France I remember because it was in an outdoor amphitheater in these Roman ruins. And then towards the end of the process of putting the record together, all of a sudden I was struck by more like one massive memory of the whole experience of playing with Jeff. And that was both devastating and it was balanced with the sense of price and excitement at what we had done together as a band.

Julien: Jeff was not satisfied of his works. But do you know if he was finally proud of some songs, some gigs?

Michael Tighe: Yeah. As I said before, he was proud of those 4 track recordings that he did because he felt that the hearts of the songs had been realized. He knew that once that was realized, it would quickly take shape from there. He was someone that liked to have a song live in him for a long time. He didn't just write songs off the bat or rely on a songwriting craft. He really had to experience a song and have it come from a place of truth. A lot of times he was almost reticent to let a song go because he wasn't sure if maybe three months down the road, he would gain some other wisdom about whatever he was singing about. He was also a perfectionist. But when he was saying that he wasn't satisfied like with the Tom Verlaine sessions, he was mostly referring to the fact that he felt he hadn't really entered into the cores of those sessions; also sonically it wasn't as extreme and exciting as he had wanted it to be.

Danelle: How do you feel about being the focus of so much energy and feelings from Jeff's fans around the world?

Michael Tighe: That's a very sweet question. Most of the time, it feels very therapeutic and cathartic to speak about him and to search inside of myself for his essence and try and put it into words. And since I love him more than anybody, I feel that it's my job to take on that responsibility. Most of the time I seem pretty fit. Occasionally, I get kind of emotionally exhausted or it can get strange focusing that much energy on the past. But when I connect with people that really understand Jeff, and are really curious about him, and just sort of intuitively understand not only his music but him as a person and him and his process, it usually revitalizes me to keep speaking about him and keep answering questions.

Decoblue: I sometimes hear Jeff's voice in other singers. Do you hear him and if so in whom?

Michael Tighe: I hear him lately in Ray Charles. And in the past, I've heard him in Nina Simone a lot. I feel his essence very much in someone like Prince or Bob Marley. Joni Mitchell. That's all I can think of at the moment but yes, I hear his essence in a lot of different music, especially now.

Sandra: How close were Jeff and Chris Cornell? I am a huge fan of both and was more than thrilled to find that they knew each other

Michael Tighe: They didn't necessarily see each other a lot, but whenever they did, they had a strong brotherly connection. It was always cute to see them walking together because they kinda looked alike, with Chris Cornell being the bigger version of Jeff. They looked like cartoon foxes or wolves, and their eyes would light up when they were around each other. They would look mischievous and they shared a strong sense of humor together. They respected each other musically, so I think it was enticing for them to be around each other.

Twylanorth: Did Jeff have a favorite book?

Michael Tighe: He never told me what his favorite book was, but when I went to Memphis, he was reading Dante and Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." He read a lot of books, but those were some of the books that were in his house in Memphis. He used to sometimes talk to me about Ayn Rand, who I had never really read. He used to sometimes mention her and what she said about cigarette smoking or something. I just had a flash of him telling me on the bus about Ayn Rand. So I could tell he was definitely affected by her.

Dr Matt: What was the last song you and Jeff performed? Any personal comments?

Michael Tighe: "Everybody Here Wants You." And I remember he said that he was happy with it, but that he wanted to really make it more of our own song with an even more unique voice. Which is interesting because if you hear the song now, it sounds very realized and beautiful and definitive, and it makes you realize that maybe sometimes things are finished even when you don't think they are. There are just a lot of questions about the music that we were working on, and about destiny, and what it all means.

Julien: Is it true that, a few days before his death, Jeff called his close friends and that it sounded like a 'last goodbye'?

Michael Tighe: Yeah, he did contact certain friends that he hadn't spoken to in a long time. In retrospect, it does feel as though he was sensing some type of departure or massive transition that he was going to undertake. I don't think he consciously thought it was death, but I think that he was realizing so much about his life at that time that very close to when he died, all these old memories and connections opened up in him. He felt it was really important, and had a sense of urgency to contact certain musicians that he had played with and certain friends that meant a lot that he had fallen out of touch with. I have heard of that happening sometimes with people and the time surrounding their deaths. All of a sudden they just, for some reason, connect with certain people that they haven't in a long time. Which is kind of a very inspiring thing that happens in life, because it almost makes you feel that somehow they sense that something is going to happen and they want to brace the living for the shock. If you get a phone call from someone and they are telling you that they love you, or that you are connecting with them again, that is some type of resolve; as opposed to you falling out of touch and all of a sudden the person died. That could leave you very, very confused. But as I was saying before, Jeff was very generous with his heart in the midst of his death. And yes, there is a lot of confusion and pain and unresolve that has been distilled, but I feel that that is left. That what he did was sort of reconfirm with certain people that he loved.

Tricky 2000: Had Jeff lived, what direction do you think his music would have gone in?

Michael Tighe: I think that this next record would have exposed the experience that he felt when all of a sudden his life speeded up with touring and his career taking off, and the issues that that presented with his ego and emotions and his relationships and his relationship to himself. That whole time was a very surreal time - there was a lot of bliss in it and a lot of pain, and he really wanted to express both of those things in this new record. He also wanted to release some of this beautiful violent nature that he had, that he was attracted to and which felt beautiful and important to him. So these were the songs of experience of his whole life. But I think that a lot of the experience would have come from his life after "Grace," because that was a monumental marking and end of a certain phase of his music, he felt. This new record was moving in that direction. Beyond that, I think his craft as a songwriter would have gotten more refined. He would also have just explored many, many different facets of his musicality, because there is only a certain amount of it that is actually recorded. He was like a million musicians in one. Unfortunately, we can't always hear all of them. Luckily, I got to hear a lot of them in the rehearsal process. I think he would have incorporated all of this information into different types of songs. He wanted to make orchestral and dance records. He wanted to make love songs. He wanted to do so much and could have done so much.

SonyMusic: Well, it looks like we are out of time for tonight. Any parting words to our audience?

Michael Tighe: I don't really except, again, sometimes I go into these situations with a little bit of reticence and again I have been struck by a warmth that I just thank everybody for.

SonyMusic: Thank you for chatting with us. To learn more about Jeff Buckley, visit his website and please share your experience of seeing, hearing. feeling Jeff perform his music live, or any other encounters you had with him during his time. This has been a production of Talk City Inc., ©2000 All Rights Reserved.