ON THE COUCH: ELLIOTT SMITH

To celebrate his appearance at tonight's NME show we probe the mind of one of the finest songwriter of the 90s...

Which song describes you best?‘Success Can Only Fail Me Now’, by Quasi. It doesn’t have any words, but that’s kinda the best part.”

What’s your idea of heaven?George Jones (country & western godfather – Ed) would be singing all the time. It would be like New York in reverse. People would be nice to each other for no reason at all. And it would smell good.”

What is hell? “Hell is like really posh restaurants full of winners. I hate winners.”

What’s your earliest memory? “Playing on a gravel embankment next to a highway in Dallas. I found a turtle, picked him up and he peed on my hand.”

What’s your greatest fear? “Maybe bitterness. Maybe… style.”

Who’s your all-time hero? “One of them is Harry Dean Stanton. For one thing, he looks like a real person. Leadbelly‘s another. And Joe Strummer. There’s millions of them.”

What’s the worst trouble you’ve ever been in? “That would be the week or so I spent in a psychiatric hospital in Arizona. I finally persuaded them that I was sane when I kept threatening to sue them.”

Who was the first love of your life? “She was my next door neighbour when we were four. Her name was Amy, and we’d get married on the sidewalk almost every day. Then if we got mad at each other we’d have to get divorced for an hour or so, til it blew over.”

What is your greatest talent? “Appreciating other people’s talents. And avoiding boredom.”

Who would you most like to exact revenge? Why? And how? “There’s a doctor in Arizona I’d like to have incarcerated for a week.”

What’s your most treasured possession? “One’s a guitar that my dad gave me. But the really prize one is a flat-rock that I put a bunch of religious stickers on as a Sunday school project when I was a kid. It says ‘Jesus loves you’ on it. It’s called the God Rock. My mom sent it to me last year. I think she thought it would improve the vibe of my apartment.”

What have you most regretted doing while drunk? “Fighting other drunk bastards who are bigger than me, and losing. And walking down the tracks of the subway in New York looking for the Mole People.”

Can you cook? “If you consider baking bread cooking, then I can do that. I was a baker for a while.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? “Something that I read in this same article. I think it was ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s all small stuff.’ (That was Kristin Hersh – Ed)

Can you read music? “Really slowly, with great difficulty.”

If you were invisible for a day, what would you do? “It’d probably be something petty and spiteful, unfortunately. Like pulling the power on the Jerry Springer Show.”

What are your three final wishes? “I just wish people would be good to each other. I’d wish to be impervious to pain of any kind. And I’d wish that for all my friends.”

Kitty Empire