Waits performs a 50 minute set at the annual Bridge School Benefit, his first concert in over five years. His band includes Les Claypool on standup bass and David Hidalgo on guitar and accordion. Midway through the set, Waits explains his presence.
I volunteered to come here. Long story. Back in the 1970s I borrowed a lot of money from Neil. For me, it was the days of long hair and short money. He loaned it to me so I could start a restaurant. I lost a lot of money on that restaurant. Let me rephrase that, I lost a lot of Neil’s money. And you don’t wanna see Neil mad. Anyway, it was a small, little restaurant, sort of a specialized place. We were gonna have eel and donuts and fish scales, just fish scales, sauteed and all gluten free. But it went under, so Neil said, ‘Listen, you owe me a lot of money, so I have three ideas for you: Jail time or you can come work in my yard, or you can do the Bridge School.
Waits plays Zachariah, a broken hearted serial killer, in this dark comedy written and directed by Martin McDonagh. Billy (Sam Rockwell) and Marty (Colin Farrell), needing material for their screenplay, advertise for psychopaths to share their stories. Zachariah replies with his tale of driving around the country with Maggie, the woman he loved, and killing other serial killers with her. Co-starring Woody Harrelson and Christopher Walken. McDonagh on casting Waits:
And Tom Waits I knew a little bit before, too. Chris and Tom have been heroes of mine since I was eight or nine. I got Swordfish Trombones when it came out. I was 11 or so. He’s more than a musician or an actor. He’s an idol and a icon of American letters. So, to make an offer and have Tom say, “yes” made me go ‘Fuck! I’m going to have to direct these people! What am I going to say? I know nothing!’
Waits speaks about his life and his music from near his hometown of Santa Rosa, California.
I used to think that all great recordings happened at about 3am. So my first studio experiences, I wanted to be recording after the bars closed. I just thought that’s when it all happened. And it worked for me for a while, I guess. But I don’t believe that so much any more. I realise now there’s more than one way to sneak up on a herd of cattle.
Waits releases his first collection of new music in seven years. Bad as Me is his first studio album since his record Real Gone in 2004. The album features David Hildalgo, Marc Ribot, Keith Richards and Flea. His wife Kathleen Brennan also collaborated on the record with him who he credits with the album’s structure.
My wife Kathleen wanted to do 12 three-minute songs. Get in, get out. No f-cking around. Because people don’t have a lot of time. The way I think is more like, “Oh, you got time for 19 songs on there? Put 19 songs on there, baby.” She says,” No, no, no. Twelve.” Like the eggs, 12. You can do a lot in two minutes. So I’m starting to get more economical as I go. Don’t overstate, don’t restate.
Waits plays the devil, Mr. Nick, in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, a role that Gilliam says he was “born to play.” Doctor Parnassus and his sideshow troupe promise their audience a trip to “The Imaginarium,” where dreams come true. He pledges to give his daughter Valentina to the devil on her 16th birthday, in return for loving a mortal woman. The time is near and they work to save her from her fate. Co-starring Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell.
Gilliam and I met on Fisher King. He is a giant among men and I am in awe of his films. [The Adventures of Baron] Munchausen I’ve seen a hundred times. Brazil is a crowning achievement. Brothers Grimm was my favorite film last year. I had most of my scenes with Christopher Plummer (He’s Dr. Parnassus). Plummer is one of the greatest actors on earth! Mostly I watch and learn. He’s a real movie star and a gentleman. Gilliam is an impresario, captain, magician, a dictator (a nice one), a genius, and a man you’d want in the boat with you at the end of the world.
Waits announces a summer tour named the Glitter and Doom tour and includes 13 cities. The announcement comes in the form of a streaming video that seems to be a press conference. Instead, at the end of the video, it reveals Waits talking to an empty room with recorded questions coming from a record player set amid empty chairs.
Waits plays the Wanderer in Tony Scott’s Domino. The movie is based on the true-life story of Domino Harvey, daughter of actor Laurence Harvey, a Ford model who gives up modeling and becomes a bounty hunter. Co-starring Keira Knightley and Mickey Rourke. On why he took the part:
Waits accepts the Founders Award at the 18th Annual Pop Music Awards presented by ASCAP, or the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. After a videotaped introduction from The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, Waits performs a four-song set. ASCAP President and Chairman Marilyn Bergman and actor Nicholas Cage present Waits the award after Cage calls him “one of the greatest blues voices since Howlin’ Wolf” and “one of the greatest word men of our time.”
Waits plays Renfield, Count Dracula’s bug-eating minion, in this Francis Ford Coppola adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula. Count Dracula comes to Victorian England seeking his reincarnated love, now engaged to Jonathan Harker. Co-starring Gary Oldman, Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, and Anthony Hopkins.
I did not actually eat the bugs. And I’ll say that because I’ve lied to other people and told them I did eat the bugs. I didn’t want anybody to think I didn’t have the courage to eat insects. What I really did was put ’em in my mouth and give them kind of a funhouse ride. Uhhh – move them around, let them walk along the jagged cliff of my teeth. And then I brought them back out again. A lot of them wanted to buy a ticket and go right back in for another ride. It was only mealworms – but there were a lot of spiders. I was working with insects. I’ve been in show business for 25 years, and I’m working with insects.
I listened to all kinds of music there. From rock to jazz to folk to anything else that happened to walk in. One night I saw a local guy onstage playing his own material, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I began writing down people’s conversations as they sat around the bar. When I put them together, I found some music hiding in there.