Ghosts and Demons- Refusing interview since assaulting David Letterman on live television, Saul Peterson breaks his silence for the first time by kidnapping Lucy Manson.
Saul Peterson can’t help but be noticed.
The rumble shook my coffee cup as he arrived outside the café, in a fiery red Trans Am (complete with eagle). Seconds later Saul strolled in, flicking his keys round his finger once before shoving them into his dark denim jeans. He immediately headed to the bar, ordering himself a coffee. Despite his best efforts to avoid my eye contact, I find myself drawn to watching him. He moves with an odd sort of grace for such a big guy. Even with the shining charisma of his friend and producer Jiro Jones radiating as he cheerfully shakes my hand, my eyes are drawn to Saul.
Eventually, once he’s gained a large black coffee, he arrives at my table. There are only a few people in the place in the early evening, and Saul hasn’t quite gained the recognition of the general public. Still, he behaves as if people are going to approach him as he slouches in the chair and applies four sugars to his coffee.
Jiro Jones is chatting to me, explaining details of releases and future tour plans. I take notes carefully for a few minutes, but my interest is in finally speaking to the man who has staunchly refused to speak to the press, with the singular exception of David Letterman. I wonder if I should be worried as he glares at his hands. Eventually, Jones announces he is leaving. For a second, it’s almost as if Saul is concerned but then nods silently and shakes Jones’ hand casually. He leans back in the chair and looks at me.
‘So what do you wanna know?’ he asks me, with a sense of foreboding in his voice.
Finally, I get to talk to him.
Your album has been one of the most popular new releases on the alternative scene this year. Has your success changed the way you look at music?
I don’t think it’s changed how I think about music. Not really. I guess I’m still just surprised. I invested in this thing, and I guess I sorta had to take everyone’s word that it was gonna pay off.
So, I know family is important to you. I hear you just adopted. Congratulations.
(Peterson smiles slightly) Anyone who knows me, knows that family is pretty much everything to me. And thanks, yeah. She’s a doll.
What kind of father do you think you’re going to be?
(Smirks) Well. I guess I already know that. Micky could tell ya. I’ll be like I always have. Annoying. Overprotective.
You raised your brother Micky from when you were eighteen and he was thirteen? And you have custody of your youngest brother Jonah who is seventeen now?
Yeah. That’s correct. (Peterson shifts in his seat, looks at his watch.)
Would be prefer we didn’t talk about them?
No. (Peterson looks back at me) We can talk about them. Sure. They’re both geniuses. Joey is at Harvard now and Mick’s a scientist. They’re unbelievable. I’m more proud of them than anything I could ever do.
Both of them feature quite heavily in the music on the album.
Yeah. It was a bad time for the family, when I was writing that. I guess that’s half the reason I was surprised people wanted to listen to it.
What do you mean?
Do you think that people only want to listen to happy music?
Apparently not. I mean, I guess I did, but if I ever really thought about it, most of the stuff I hear isn’t all love and flowers. Except like pop music crap. And that’s fine. You know, for kids to listen to.
So what plays in your house?
My house? I guess it would depend on who was in control of the stereo. Joey has a tendency towards pop music, though he does like some classical stuff. My wife Kina is pretty into like folksy-girl singing... stuff... I listen to good stuff.
Good stuff? Such as?
You know.... classic.
(Peterson laughs, hides his smile behind his hand) No... Zeppelin.
As in Led?
Not exactly. I mean, I appreciate...
Don’t gimme that! People always say that when they don’t know what they’re talking about. How the hell can you be allowed to work for Rolling Stone and not like Led Zeppelin? That’s insane. (Peterson leans forward and downs the rest of the coffee in one go.) You obviously never listened to it.
Sure I have. Stairway to heaven... Whole lotta love...
(Cutting me off) No, no, no, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You obviously never really listened to it. C’mere.
(Peterson stands up, pulls his keys out of his pocket. He drops a handful of change on the tabletop for the waitress and starts walking towards his car. I gather up my voice recorder, paper etc and follow as fast as I can. By the time I reach him, he is standing beside his flame red Trans Am, with the passenger door open.)
Are we going for a drive?
Sure. You gotta drive and listen to this. What car have you got?
I have a mini cooper.
(Peterson holds the door for me and then walks round to climb into his side. The interior of the car is pristine. He shakes his head at me like he’s disappointed and then turns the key. The car roars into life and we begin to drive through the streets of
That’s pretty energetic stuff. Seems strange compared to your sound.
Well I never learned the guitar. It’s probably best for everyone really.
So where does your sound come from?
Peterson turns the key to bring the music back, turns the volume down so that Zeppelin his just moaning in the background) I guess... Well I guess... My mom.
She was heralded as one of the greats. She taught you to play?
Sure. Yeah. She taught me.
I can’t imagine a lot of Led Zeppelin going on in that house. You mother was classically trained. Did she have diverse tastes? What’s the music you first remember?
(Peterson smirks) No. Well I don’t know. I doubt she would’ve liked this stuff. My Dad was a violinist before he met my mom. So it was all pretty classical stuff. The first music I ever heard was her singing. She used to sing all the time when we were kids. I guess that’s why I sing to my kid. It’s nice. Nice memory.
Would you like
Oh god, I dunno. I haven’t really thought that far ahead. She’ll be whatever she’s gonna be. I guess I might teach her piano, if she wants to know.
Do you worry about her future?
Sure, I guess any parent does. She’s gonna be ok. I’ll make sure of it. That’s my job. And she’s got all these people who care about her. I’d hate to see anyone try and mess with that kid. (Laughs)
You have a fierce protective instinct. Will you tell me about Letterman?
I knew you were gonna ask me about that. (Sighs) Ok. Ok. Here it is. Seeing as you’re the only one I gotta talk to. The man said something I didn’t like. I overreacted. I was nervous. I shouldn’t have hit him. I mean regardless of the fact I think he’s a tool. I thought that before, and what he said didn’t change it. I don’t like talking about the past. Maybe that’s why I write about it. I knew he was gonna bring it up, and... well... what’s done is done.
You write about the past, but it’s personal. Do you think that’s why people relate to what you’ve created?
Yeah. Probably. I mean I had a pretty fucked up time for a while. I guess a lot of people have shit like that in their lives. More than I’d like to think. Music is my way of dealing, music and making sure my kid’s ok, that she never knows a life like that.
Do you think a troubled background leads to greatness, musically?
(Pauses for a moment, looks out the window) I think you can’t help where you grow up. There’s stuff in life you can’t change. Like, how smart you are, or whatever. It’s just the way it is. I guess where you go from there is up to you. But if you’re asking do I think my kid will be average because she’s been happy, god I hope so. I would rather have a happy, boring accountant kid who never had to worry about nothing, than a kid with a messed up background who’s a genius.
So, how are things now?
I guess I feel like maybe I’m where I’m supposed to be.
Where to from here?
(Smiles) Well, I guess, musically, more of the same. I wanna write an album for my daughter, full of songs about her. But you know, not in a sappy 'I just called to say I love you' way. I mean like... I dunno. I haven’t really thought out the details yet. But if you mean where are we going now... then I’d have to say to a dealership to buy you a car that don’t run on four AA batteries. (Grins)
- Current Music:Led Zeppelin.