"The earth could vomit up its dead and we’d shrug it off": Bob Dylan on modern life, Metallica, Dio, Oasis, 'nose candy' and binge watching Coronation Street

Dylan
(Image credit: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images for ABA)

Bob Dylan has granted a rare and unusually revealing interview to the Wall Street Journal, throwing in unexpected references to Metallica, Ronnie James Dio, Oasis, his favourite Duff McKagan song and his fondness for binge watching Coronation Street. 

Though the exclusive Wall Street Street Journal article, conducted to promote Dylan's recently-published The Philosophy of Modern Song (opens in new tab) book, is behind a paywall on the newspaper's website, Dylan's 'people' have helpfully posted the interview on the legendary singer/songwriter's website, and it turns out to be quite a read. 

In conversation with writer Jeff Slate, the 81-year-old musician reveals that he thinks that modern life is "too easy" and offers up a somewhat bleak view of humanity, stating "You need a solar X-ray detector just to find somebody’s heart, see if they still have one."

"We seem to be in a vacuum," he tells Slate. "Everything’s become too smooth and painless... The earth could vomit up its dead, and it could be raining blood, and we’d shrug it off, cool as cucumbers. Everything’s too easy."

"We’re pill poppers, cube heads and day trippers, hanging in, hanging out, gobbling blue devils, black mollies, anything we can get our hands on. Not to mention the nose candy and ganga grass."

Quite.

The good news? Well, Dylan is of the opinion that music still has the power to elevate, inspire and transport each one of us beyond our day-to-day realities. "A great song," he says, "touches you in secret places."

Asked by Slate how he discovers new music, Dylan replies that it's "most by accident, by chance" but goes on to say that fellow "performers and songwriters recommend things to me."

"Some I’ve seen live," he continues. "The Oasis Brothers, I like them both, Julian Casablanca, the Klaxons, Grace Potter. I’ve seen Metallica twice. I’ve made special efforts to see Jack White and Alex Turner." Dylan also declares himself a fan of Nick Cave, Eminem, the Wu-Tang Clan, Royal Blood and more "anybody with a feeling for words and language, anybody whose vision parallels mine."

"There’s a Duff McKagan song called Chip Away, that has profound meaning for me," he says, hailing it as "a great song."

"A great song mutates, makes quantum leaps, turns up again like the prodigal son," he states. He also suggests that the environment in which one hears a song can affect one's relationship to it.

“[Rainbow's] Stargazer, the Ronnie James Dio song, would probably mean a lot more to you if you first heard it at midnight under a full moon beneath an expanding universe, than if you first heard it in the middle of a dreary day with rain pouring down." he explains.

Away from music, the iconic singer/songwriter also reveals a previously undisclosed fondness for long-running British TV soap opera Coronation Street, and old Twilight Zone episodes.

"
I know they’re old-fashioned shows, but they make me feel at home," Dylan says. "I’m not a fan of packaged programs, or news shows, so I don’t watch them. I never watch anything foul smelling or evil. Nothing disgusting; nothing dog ass."

So now we know.

Read the entertaining and revealing Dylan exclusive in full on The Wall Street Journal site.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.