Jssekay: Good evening, Paul. We are delighted to welcome you to your first
P Simon: Nice to be here.
Jessekay: You have spent the past 7 years researching and writing "The
Capeman." For the past 2 years, you have been completely immersed in bringing
it on stage. Now it's out in the world and it's the public's turn to see it and
come to terms with it. As its creator, what would you like people to take away?
P Simon: I don't really have a feeling about something I want them to take
away. It's as much a dialogue between the audience and the writers as it is a
performance. At this point, I think I'm more interested in what the audience
takes than what I preset or prefigured.
Jessekay: You've worked with musicians of many races. Now in this play you work
with different races again. That is such a contrast to American society ---
which is very divided along racial lines. Do you think your work helps people
P Simon: I do think that "The Capeman" provokes or perhaps inspires
communication. If one culture's story is told to another culture, the cultures
are in a dialogue. In my experience, this dialogue usually starts off as an
but that's all right, it is a normal way to begin. Especially because people
haven't spoken about these issues freely, there are a lot of issues that need
to get out. Once people begin to perceive that they share common values, then
the dialogue becomes more like a conversation. That is healthy and healing. The
argumentative phase is also healing --- it holds the potential for
cross-cultural healing. But people are more inclined to stay within their own
group. Life is more comforting that way. And that is the irritation that a lot
of my work brings.
Question: In the arts today it is so much about marketing and promotion than
about the product itself. How tough is it to promote your work in this
P Simon: I'm not sure that I agree with the wording of that question. First of
all, I don't think that you can sell a bad product even if you really hype it.
I think you can sell a mediocre product of a certain style. It is not tough to
sell, the marketplace is available. But once you get to the marketplace, it is
a hostile environment. Particularly in the print media, you don't get an
accurate sense of what's being said. We still have this belief that there is
this sense of seeking of truth, but that's really not the case. So that when
you hit the marketplace, you can be seen and you can sell ---- but you have to
pay a price personally for it. (Unless you don't take it personally.) They
don't tell you that you will pay a price. If there was a bargain offered ---
you get on the cover of a magazine, you pay this price --- then you could
decide whether you want to enter into the bargain. But it is unstated. And they
act like it's for free. It's not.
Question: The subject of redemption, which figures so large in "The Capeman",
is something you've touched on again and again in your work. Care to comment on
your own spirituality? WHY is redemption such a topic of interest for you?
P Simon: I don't care to comment. The question isn't clear enough. I understand
these words for myself, but I don't understand what spiritually and redemption
mean to others.
Question: What CD is in your stereo right now?
P Simon: The Power Rangers soundtrack, thanks to my 5 year old. But the most
recent record that I really enjoyed was the Buena Vista Social Club.
Question: What was the first Broadway show you ever saw?
P Simon: The first Broadway musical I ever saw was a show called "Fanny," which
deeply embarrassed me just because of the title. I was about 9 years old.
Question: Do you ride the subway in New York?
P Simon: No, I don't.
Question: What do you think of the designated hitter rule? Does it improve the
P Simon: I like the designated hitter rule. I'm annoyed when I have to see the
Bookpg CF: This is a time of unbridled media power. Do you find it a difficult
time to be well-known?
P Simon: Yes I do. But there are advantages. For example, I do work with this
organization called the Children's Health Fund --- it's a medical unit that
brings pediatric service to those who can't afford it. And having a high
profile is helpful in promoting that. And it probably couldn't have existed
without using that. But on a personal level, you are in the potential murky
world of stalkers. The culture is so enamored with celebrities that it tips
unstable people into your path. So you have to be careful.
Bookpg CF: Imagine this same show. The same theme. Without your name above the
marquee. Would Broadway be looking at it the same way? Would it have come this
P Simon: I don't think it would have come this far. I don't think it would have
gotten to Broadway. Perhaps off-Broadway --- but the amount of money that it
takes to put on a Broadway musical makes for corporate art. This subject is
controversial, and people are afraid. I don't think audience members are
afraid, but business people are afraid.
Jessekay: Your father was a musician. You and your brother are musicians. And
your 25 year-old son is a good musician. Do you think an appreciation for music
can be environmental?
P Simon: I think musical ability is genetic. It is passed on. My 5-year-old son
is very musical. His mother and I are both singers and he is a singer. I don't
think he even thinks about it...he sings over chord changes. But there is a lot
of music in the house, a lot of singing in the house.
Jessekay: In a less genetically advantaged family, how would a parent teach
children to love music?
P Simon: Well, if the parent loves music, then there is music being played. And
dancing and singing. You don't have to be a professional and your skills don't
have to be on that level to be musical.
Question: When will the soundtrack from the show be available, and on what
P Simon: I'm going to record it in the next few weeks, so I would say a month
after that. Perhaps towards the end of March through Dreamworks.
Bookpg CF: Is it recorded in the studio or on stage?
P Simon: In the studio.
Bookpg CF: Have any of the songs we have heard on "Songs From the Capeman" been
eliminated from the show?
P Simon: "The Trailways Bus" song was eliminated. It is in a shortened
instrumental form now.
Question: It is nice to have the show, but when will you tour?
P Simon: I don't think I am going to tour, I think I may have finished
Jessekay: What led you to that decision?
P Simon: Well, a few things. First of all, the music that I have written in the
last five years or so is all in the show, so it is not easily done on tour. I
am singing in different characters, or they are part of larger, multi-character
songs. Performing those songs would not be easy. And I don't want to be playing
the songs I recorded in the early part of the decade, since I've played those
songs all over the world. That was a career.
Jessekay: When you're in the car and a song of yours comes on the radio, how do
P Simon: I usually listen to it for about 15 or 30 seconds. Then I change the
Jessekay: Bob Dylan recently said, "When I hear my early work, I can't believe
I wrote those songs. I don't remember being that man." Do you feel that way?
P Simon: About Bob Dylan?
Jessekay: No, dear Paul. About your songs.
P Simon: I think it sounds like me when I was very young. But I agree with
Dylan's sentiment. I don't feel disconnected from the early person, even if I'm
not always happy with what I wrote. But I had to write that, to write whatever
followed it. And then, some of the early songs are so sweet and are guileless.
I like that.
Bookpg CF: You have been focused on this show for so long. At this point, can
you look beyond the show to see what is next?
P Simon: I don't know what I would do next. Other than stop. And I think you
have to stop for a long enough time that the energy that you've been running on
is completely used up. And then, you rest. And then see if there is another
thought that crosses your mind. I always wonder if there will be. If there is,
then that is what I would do next.
Jessekay: Thank you, Paul, for a mesmerizing chat. And for all the music. Good
luck with "The Capeman" --- and whatever does come next.
P Simon: Thanks for having me.
Copyright 1998, The Book Report; licensed to America Online, Inc.
Paul Simon has been one of the country's pre-eminent songwriters for more than
three decades. He wrote and recorded the classic Simon and Garfunkel hits
"Sounds of Silence," "Mrs. Robinson," "The Boxer" and the anthemic "Bridge Over
Troubled Water." Simon later explored South African music with his
ground-breaking album "Graceland" which featured such hit singles as "You Can
Call Me Al" and "The Boy in the Bubble." "Rhythm of the Saints" was released
in conjunction with his "Born At The Right Time" world tour. His musical
odyssey has only enlarged his audience ---his distinctive music and poignant
lyrics make his CDs instant classics.
Most recently, Simon has conceived and written "The Capeman," a musical set in
1959, which opens on Broadway on January 29th. Over seven years in the making,
the play was written in collaboration with Nobel Prize-winning poet Derek
Walcott. Based on the true tabloid story of Salvador Agron, a teenage Puerto
Rican gang member who grew up in New York and was convicted of the slaying of
two teenage boys and sentenced to death at age 16. He was known as "The
Capeman" because of the black cape with red lining he wore as a member of the
youth gang The Vampires. He later had his sentence commuted by Governor Nelson
But "The Capeman" is not just a story about a murder. Instead Simon explores a
larger question: Is there redemption?
The 35-song score of "The Capeman" is a time capsule of the influential music
of the period; it showcases Latin rhythms, doo-wop, gospel and rock 'n roll.
Simon has recorded thirteen of these songs on his new release "Songs From The