[The following was taken from an interview that may or may not have actually occurred between a reporter from a local Memphis newspaper and Bobby Rimbaud. The original transcript was burned and pieces transcribed by hand were discovered in a box buried in the archives of the Memphis local library. No one has been able to verify the authenticity of the find. Not even Bobby Rimbaud.]
Q: Ok, let’s get started.
Q: Why don’t we start at the beginning? It seems like in the last few years, you’ve just popped out of nowhere to everyone’s amazement. What is it that you did and what made you do it?
R: That’s a lot of questions. (laughs) Um, where to begin. Maybe I did just pop out of nowhere. Art does that, you know, just appears. No one asks for it, or sees it. It just kind of…is.
Q: When was that first moment that you said, this is it? I’m here?
R: Well, I’m still not here. There is no here, is there? (laughs lightly) I guess the first time I thought something might be happening is when I walked out of my old apartment in the village and there were people out there waiting. I’d been playing bars and clubs around there for a while, but that really hit me that people were listening and they actually cared you know.
Q: You said in an interview with “The Voice” that you started out by hitching a ride on a train from Oklahoma, is this true?
R: (rubs his eyes) What is truth? I mean, I was in Oklahoma, but I can’t tell you when, man. It’s happening now like it happened then. It all happens at the same time, you see. Do you mind if I smoke?
Q: (shakes head)
R: Thanks, man. I was in Oklahoma for a few months. I was living there like an outlaw. There was nothing there but the devil and my guitar. We made music most nights and made moonshine in the day. It was hell or high waters for me there.
Q: When did you leave?
R: I didn’t. I’m still there. If you travel to Oklahoma and roam the roads for an old cabin, you’ll find me sitting there playing. I’ll be playing. I made it up to New York when I was about 19, almost 20. That’s when I started playing for the folks around here. So, yeah, I hitched on a train from Tulsa to New York. In a round about way.
Q: What do you say to the people who claim you have betrayed them by playing certain songs or performing in certain places?
R: I say screw them.
Q: (laughs) Your fans?
R: They aren’t my fans. What are “fans”? Do you know? I don’t. I know that people pay money to come see me perform and then they shout and yell, or write things about me in the press, and see, you can’t help it. You cut things out and slice things up to where in the end, nothing I say here is what people will see. Nothing I ever say or do is what people get to really see. They don’t know me. They are fans of that person, but that person isn’t me.
Q: So who are you?
R: I am everybody. I am everything. I am all that, yet I am nothing. I am noise, I am profane, I am obscene, I am here, I am there, I am what you make me, because I don’t exist.
Q: Did you mean profound? Because you are certainly being profound today.
R: No, I meant profane, as in I don’t give a shit what people say because they don’t even care enough to know a damn thing. God is dead, drugs are good, death is the end, you know, that kind of profane. It gets a reaction, you know.
Q: And you want to be profane or you want to get a reaction?
R: I want to live, man. I don’t care about reactions or shocks or any of that. It doesn’t matter.
Q: Does this matter?
R: I don’t know, does it?
Q: How can you said it doesn’t?
R: How can you say it does?
Q: Well, (laughs, flustered) I mean, people will read this, so, if you have something you want to say, some message that you want to get out-
R: (interrupts) Message? You think I have a message, do you? Everyone has to have a message don’t they? Alright, let’s hear it, what’s your message?
Q: What? I don’t know what you mean.
R: Well, I’ve got a message, the president has a message, the media has a message, we all have a message, so I want to know, what’s your message?
Q: My message is that I want to bring the message of others through the power of journalism.
R: (laughs) The power of journalism. Like x-ray vision or super strength. Um, (smokes) the power of journalism, I like that. You use words as though you know what they mean. The power of journalism. Back to my message, then, right? I am going to go with, (pause) my message being ART.
Q: What do you mean by that, art?
R: Um, (chews nail) well, ART is where it is, man. ART is what we are what we breathe. Without ART, well, then where would we be?
Q: (sighs, getting frustrated) Ok. Next question, where do you see yourself in ten years?
R: (has slumped in his chair, fidgeting like a child) Still making music, I’m sure. Just because you aren’t famous doesn’t mean you can’t make music and I always hope to be making music. I don’t care if it’s for an audience of ten thousand or an audience of just me, music is still music and it’s still just as important.
Q: What made you want to be a musician?
R: I think it chose me, I don’t know. (pushes lips together in nervous thought) There are some times that some people think that there’s something in there, something inside that wants to get out. It’s this feeling, you know, this idea that tells you what you have to say matters. This thought that you are worth the trouble of fighting for. Does that make sense? It shouldn’t.
Q: And that feeling told you you’d be famous?
R: Nothing can tell you if you’re famous. I don’t really even know about being famous. You’re only famous when you have a good number of people listening in to what you’re saying. Fame doesn’t mean anything because people can stop listening. I don’t really care about how many people there are, I care about what it is that is being said, you know.
Q: And what is it you wish to say?
R: I couldn’t tell you.
Q: Well, Mr. Rimbaud, I think we’re going in circles here.
R: No, I don’t mean to, (shifts in chair and takes a drag on his cigarette) I really don’t mean to. I’m trying to answer your questions, we just don’t speak the same language.
Q: What do you mean?
R: Oh, language. The same language, you know.
Q: Ok. What about relationships? Is it difficult for you to get to know people because of the fame?
Q: Would you change that if you could?
Q: Um, a lot of our readers wrote in wondering where you get your inspiration?
R: (leans back in chair and pulls at his lips absentmindedly) I couldn’t tell you. It just is.
Q: If you could be anything other than a singer what would you be?
R: Whatever I could, I guess. I don’t really think that because if I want to do anything other that sing and write songs then I’ll do it. You should always do what you love, you’ve only got so long to try as much as you can, you know?
Q: What do you say about being a voice in this world?
R: I say nothing I guess. I’m no more of a voice than anyone else. You know, everyone has a voice. If you believe something, if you truly believe it and want that then make it happen, man. I mean, picket, protest, get out there and do something. Everyone loves to complain, but no one wants to do, you know?
R: And everyone looks to the president, or the singers or the artists, as though they can fix the problems, when they usually make it worse. An artist is only someone who holds up a mirror, that’s all I do, I hold up a mirror. I can’t use my voice for anything.
Q: A mirror for what?
R: A mirror for seeing, man. The problems we all preach about and complain about are problems we contribute to. Look at yourself, I’m holding up a mirror right now. Do you see what you really are? That’s why people use the artist as a vessel, you know. I can hate them because they show me what I don’t want to see. You know?
Q: That’s true.
R: Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. I couldn’t tell you.
Q: Aside from music, what kind of art are you into?
R: ART is something I just do, you know? Songs are poems, you know, stories about life past and journeys. And I like abstract painting. It’s an expression, man, it’s just all about expression and interpretation. People see what they want to see, like language. It’s what we know.
Q: And how do you stay grounded?
R: Oh, I never tell the truth, man, that’s how you stay grounded. (slumps in seat) It’s easy to be grounded when no one knows who you really are. (pause) It’s easy. Just don’t ever tell anyone anything about you. Life is a lie. You can’t give them anything or they’ll take it from you, so you give them nothing. And when they take that, you still have what you are hidden away where they can’t get. Life is one big damn lie.
[Here the tape ends.]
Samantha Jones lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was the 2010 S.E. Hinton Creative Writing Endowed Scholar at the University of Tulsa. Her work “Serenade” won first prize in the Stylus Journal prose contest. A poet, author, artist and vagabond, she enjoys creating for creations sake.