Dec 122008

One of the coolest things about being a contributor to Rock Town Hall is that I can approach my off-the-beaten-track rock heroes with at least a modicum of authority. Just last month I exchanged emails with Klaus Voorman. He was up for an interview but said he had to ask his “better half” first. Apparently she slapped him down. Klaus Voorman, pussy whipped! What a thrill though that he actually wrote me a response.

I was searching the web a few weeks ago trying to find a bootleg of “Commercial Zone”. The PiL album to follow Flowers of Romance was This Is What You Want… This Is What You Get. But prior to that release, Keith had mixed a version that John had reportedly dismissed, along with Keith. Keith released his mix as Commercial Zone.

Lou Reed Pt.2 (Where Are You)

So I was stoked when I stumbled upon a link to “Contact Keith Levene.”

I fired off the following email:

TITLE: Would love to interview you

My partner and I run a rock music discussion blog, Rock Town Hall,, and there are loads of early PiL fans there. In an internet search for Commercial Zone I found your…site and read that you are working on some new stuff with Peter Ashby and Barry Lamb and maybe some new solo stuff.

In the past we have conducted email and phone interviews with Richard Lloyd, Chris Spedding, Martin Newel, Amy Rigby/Wreckless Eric and others. We…would be more than happy to promote any projects that you have underway.

I hope you’d consider answering a dozen or so emailed questions.

I received a response the very next day asking me to forward my request to two other addresses. One was to a “julianlevene” and the other to a “shelly”. So I did.

Eight minutes letter I received another, somewhat unnecessary, email explaining the reasoning behind the request.

Both were signed “JkL.”

I quickly looked up Keith Levene on Wikipedia and discovered that his first name is Julian which is my oldest son’s name. Alright! We have something in common, sort of!

Three days later I got a response back from “Shelly”. The return email is to a Shelly Levene although she introduces herself as his UK publicist with a different last name. It is a positive and lively response that does caution about asking too much about PiL.

[The following emails from Keith and Shelly (as well as the ones from me) have been edited and condensed for brevity and privacy. There were a few things written that they specifically requested to keep private and I have honored those wishes.]

As I am sure you will understand, and respect, Keith has done PiL interviews to the death. Sometimes they upset him and always bore him because he’s been over this ground for the last two decades, at least!..No more mystery there. So keep those questions to a MINIMUM. His current work is fresh, exciting and has carried on the PiL ethos and his guitar playing is still fabulous as is his bass playing, drumming, production AND songwriting. He has also become quite a good singer which, if you have “Killer in the Crowd” you’ll have heard.

Killer in the Crowd

I had indeed heard the song and a few other odds and ends from Keith’s post PiL years. I was getting excited indeed! I responded 18 minutes later.

Fantastic Shelly. We’ll keep PiL questions to a minimum. Our audience is a well read bunch and likely know most all that history. I am honestly very interested and excited to hear about new stuff.

We’ll work up the questions within the next week and forward them on to both of you.


About a week and half later, I hadn’t had a chance to type up the questions when I received a bit of a rambling note from Keith.

I re read the previous email i sent and realized it made no sense
… What i was trying to say is i’d love to chat with you re your
little offer in the 1st email…i got exited about the potential in just a chat or
a meet with you its more about general interest in so called E- commerce…i
must have written that email in my sleep when i think up my little
schemes…Anyway….where’s the interview? Your interview….do you wanna do it on the
phone?…are you in the U.K.? … that’s a lot closer to what i was trying to say in the email Ossy
Osbourne wrote for me…JkL

P.S. attached a present…look for yousendit

I never received the email that he was referring to.

But moments later I received an mp3 from Keith via yousendit that was really very, very cool. It started out as some of these Adrian Sherwood, Pigface bass heavy type instrumentals but then Keith’s trademark guitar starts weaving around and it is powerfully cool.

I asked if I could post the track and he asked me not to.

I followed up the next day with our questions.

Hi Keith. Thanks so much for doing this. Here are our questions. Answer as many as you want. Skip any you want. Add anything you want. Let me know if you have any questions.


(Click here if you’d like to read the questions we submitted.)

The next day he responded that he’d like to do it via phone and actually wanted to do it thru Skype. I have Skype but it works for shit on my system for some reason and told him that I’d be happy to call him on the phone but that the hours I can phone interview (needing to record in a quiet room) were limited.

He responded:

If you dont have Skype (which i cant imagine, you being so clued up on
the web) its ………..
It will be better in real time and could be interesting going by the
questions. JkL

Cool! He liked our questions. I was now starting to get nervous. Mod gave me the business because he knows I’ve met a handful of B and C level celebrities and never really got nervous. “Yeah but, I’ve never had my soul grooved by David Faustino.”

We had scheduled something but when I emailed him prior to calling (as agreed) he didn’t respond. So we’d try again. This went on for the next 8 days. It got to be a joke with my wife. “I can’t help with dinner, Keith Levene is supposed to call.”

In a few of his notes he mentioned that he wanted to pick my brain regarding web design and e-commerce. I told him I’d be thrilled to help in any way I could. At one point he sent me this:

Ok..we’ll do it like Hannibal Lecter. Quid pro quo Clarice.

You ask me something re my illustrious career..i ask you something i wanna kno
Re the emails you’ve been ignoring.


But I hadn’t been ignoring any emails???


  14 Responses to “The Official RTH Non-Interview with Keith Levene”

  1. Tragic.

    I was reminded of a song by Schnell Fenster titled “When You’re Heros Let You Down”.

    My sympathies sammymaudlin.

    Sure would have been a good interview though.


  2. dbuskirk

    Love the new SECOND EDITION cover. Sounds like you’re lucky he didn’t invite you over for fava beans.

  3. BigSteve

    Sammy has the patience of a saint. This guy’s brain is obviously fried. How do people like this function in the real world? These exchanges make Richard Lloyd sound accommodating.

  4. Keith Levene sounds annoyingly eccentric but Reggie Jackson sounds like a flat out douche, especially given your age at the time. This kind of behavior is why I have no interest in meeting my idols.

  5. sammymaudlin

    An aside on the Reggie story- Some guy who witnessed the exchange between us yelled after Reggie “You sign autographs with your foot?!”

  6. Big Steve wrote: “These exchanges make Richard Lloyd sound accommodating.”

    Actaully I was thinking these two need to be interviewed *together* – that would be a trip

  7. hrrundivbakshi

    What did you guys expect? Dude plays a Travis Bean guitar, fer chrissakes!

  8. Mr. Moderator

    I never liked Reggie Jackson – in fact, he’s one of the only superstars in any field from Philly that no one here cares about (for instance, even Kobe Bryant has maintained his share of hometown fans) – but now I like him less for dampening your love for baseball during the time when we first met. I had no idea you knew who Paul Linblad was until I read this piece. Good thing we had enough other shared interests way back when.

    As for how you handled this Levene interaction, way to make lemonade from the lemons he handed you.

    Hrrundi, your wisdom and maturity are to be admired. The Travis Bean guitar should have been all the information Sammy needed to know regarding the diminishing chances of this interview taking place.

  9. So did you ever find Commercial Zone? If not, I can help you out.

  10. sammymaudlin

    I did find it. It was very interesting but I doubt I’ll listen to it again. Loads better than what Lydon released though.

  11. You say you’re a fan and yet you print this – even private emails that were meant to be private? Your non-interview is lame at best. Take another look at your questions dude, almost all of the questions relate to a time 20-30 years ago. Shame when he has stuff going on today. Looking at your questions, makes me wonder how many artists you have interviewed – Dugout Chatter? And fyi, I heard through the London musicians grapevine that Keith’s wife has been quite ill and maybe he just didn’t find the time to do your interview. Looks like you’ve been punk’d by one of the original punks. Rock on.

  12. hrrundivbakshi

    I for one am thrilled that we now have a member who’s hip to the “London musician’s grapevine.”

  13. […] kick out the mucous membranes before getting annoyed with former PiL guitarist Keith Levene, his 2008 non-interview, and a commentator named Charles. It’s an unfortunate, uncharacteristically unclassy end to […]

  14. jeangray

    How do I get in on this London musician’s grapevine????????

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