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Grace Slick – The Highwire Daze Legacy Interviews

Grace Slick – The Highwire Daze Legacy Interviews

Grace Slick: Welcome To Wonderland

Originally posted: August 23, 2013

LEGEND. Although one tends to throw around the word a lot in this day and age, one thing is for certain: Grace Slick IS a rock and roll “legend” – an icon whose work in Jefferson Airplane / Starship will be forever remembered and revered by music enthusiasts for generations to come. At 73, Grace Slick has been retired from the music industry, but is still very much a creative force to be reckoned with. Instead of a microphone, the paintbrush and canvas has been Ms. Slick’s instrument for creating visual art.

Welcome To Wonderland is her latest exhibit now on display at Gallery 319 in Woodland Hills, CA., and its a collection of paintings sure to set your imagination in flight. Based on the work of Alice In Wonderland as seen through the knowing eyes of Grace Slick, Alice and The White Rabbit inhabit the imaginative tapestries like you’ve never seen them before. In this interview with Grace Slick, we discuss the fine art exhibit now in progress, her unique visions on the classic Lewis Carrol story, the Woodstock Generation, as well as her take on Starship hits such as We Built This City and Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. And now into the enchanted and mystical rabbit hole we shall go…

Editor’s Note in 2020:  I could not even believe I was offered this interview – and what an honor it was!  And I did the research and watched the iconic Grace Slick rip journalists apart on YouTube for not being prepared and asking dumb fluffy questions.  Even at the art gallery, seasoned journalists scheduled to interview her were in awe and quite nervous. We were all reminded to only ask Ms. Slick about her artwork and not her music career.  I was the very last one to interview Grace Slick and told her I was going to focus just on the art and do a quick interview so she could head home. And instead of being tired of talking and the terrifying interview subject I thought a legend could be, she said almost at once “Ask me anything you want.”  After taking a tour of the paintings provided by Grace Slick herself, we sat down and had this amazing conversation…

How did you feel about your very first art show?
Oh geez, I don’t even remember which one it was. Oh, I wasn’t there! I think it was in the Napa Valley, and it was just at one of those fairs they had. I think my agent maybe put three pictures up on little stands and hope they sold. I don’t even remember if any of them sold. I wasn’t there I don’t think for the actual first show. But the first “shows” – it was very interesting for people to buy stuff – cuz I’d do it anyway. I have to! I get kind of nuts if I don’t create something. And I don’t even care what it is. if you told me “I’m sorry, you can’t paint anymore,” I’d say “okay I’d be a set designer.” “I’m sorry you can’t be a set designer” – “okay, I’d be a writer!” I’ll go through all of the arts, except dancing, because I’m a klutz! But apart from that, I’ll do any of the arts – and I’m not a genius – but I don’t suck either! So I can do any of those things – and will, because I have to! I get crazy if I don’t.

Welcome To Wonderland is the name of the exhibit. What is it about the story Alice In Wonderland that you find fascinating?
Its era for one thing – it was very interesting that he chose to have a little girl – this is Victorian England, which is very straight. There’s no Prince Charming – it’s the only one. Everybody else has a Prince Charming. She does it all herself and that’s a real good message for women! Figure it out yourself first, and then maybe there’s some guy that will come along that you appreciate. But you’ve gotta find yourself out first, otherwise you’re gonna get stuck. Because after about three children, guys get interested in somebody else with a younger, smaller, better looking body. That happens a lot! And you don’t have a job – you don’t have any skills – honey you’re screwed! You’ve got three children and no skills.

I’ve been through various groups where the women are complaining about not being able to leave a drunken husband – because they can’t! They have no skills. So the business of Alice In Wonderland is this girl alone – going through all this weird stuff – some of it’s interesting – some of it’s hellish! I experienced more less the same thing, because I came out of, like Victorian, the 50’s – United States – very straight – and into the 60’s, which is just nuts – like going into Wonderland. And you do it yourself. Some of it’s hellish – we’ve got the president and vice president, Martin Luther King – everybody shot and race riots and Vietnam and all this kind of stuff. But then again, we also had a great deal of hope – which is very naïve – but hey! Some of it came true. We have a black president! We would have been so happy about that – to know that that was going to happen. We were young and antsy, so we would like it to have happened faster – but it happened!

You can watch people talk regular now on most of the channels – not NBC, ABC and CBS or Hallmark. But for the most part, you can see people acting like people really do. There isn’t censorship on a lot of those channels. And that’s good! So there’s a lot of stuff that has come about. Unfortunately we don’t know how to take the desire for war out of people. And I find it in myself in that I read – there’s a character called Mitch Rapp and it’s a series of novels about basically a killer who is hired by the government – counter terrorism – and I love it! Why? Why do I like that? I don’t promote war. Intellectually I’d like to say no – always talk yourself blue in the face before you shoot people – but at the same time, why am I reading those books? So there’s something in us that wants to go and kill stuff – blow stuff up. I love explosions! Why? So there’s a lot of stuff that seems to be inherent.

I thought when I was in my 20’s that if intellectually – if people read more – if they knew more, you could talk them out of it. (Shakes her head no) Talking helps – education helps, but education doesn’t change genetics. And I think there’s something in us – that we’re still hanging onto a caveman type arrangement where you always think there’s a lion at the cave door. Okay folks, there’s no caves anymore! There’s no lions! Get over it! The body hasn’t gotten over it yet. The body still reacts – and even likes it. And that’s just really weird.

If the Grace Slick of 1969 were to time travel and meet the Grace Slick of 2013, what do you think 1969 would think of 2013?
Partially good! We’ve got Obama, we’ve got freedom of speech that’s way more than it was back then. We have certain things that worked and certain things that still have to be addressed. But like I said, I believe it might be genetic – and how do you address that? Maybe it’s the medical community who needs to work on this. Why do we like to pound each other to death?
I don’t know – the only thing I can think of is Grace Slick in the 60’s would look at Grace Slick now and say, “Wow! You’re still alive? Jesus!” I’ll be 74 in a couple of minutes, so that’s amazing to me! I’ve never done exercise – the only exercise I did was in bed. That was my idea of exercise period. The rest of it makes me sick. I had to play water polo when I was 15 in school –we had to in first period. 7:30 you’re jumping in a pool and playing. I thought I was going to die! All my friends would leap out of the pool and go, “Oh, that’s refreshing!” and I thought “I think that was just awful!” So I’ve never exercised – I didn’t eat right – I’ve smoked all my life since I was 15. So you do the math – 15 to 74 – and drugs and alcohol and buying fast cars and driving 150 miles an hour. Being chased by cops and being in jail a bunch of times. Why am I still here? I don’t know! That’s another genetic thing. Who knows what that is – because I certainly didn’t take care of myself.

When someone mentions the Woodstock generation and says how wonderful and mystical it must have been, what do you tell them?
That was true for a couple of years, because there was so much hope and so much belief in change. We hoisted on our own petards so to speak. But a couple of years there were magic – so yes it was! Within those years though, we also got the other end – which was our leaders and people we believed in were getting shot – and Vietnam is happening. That’s not the Second World War folks. That’s some really weird stuff. And instead of coming back as heroes the way they did in the Second and First World War, they came back and we all looked at them – everybody and went “Ugh!” If you didn’t go to Canada, we thought you were a jerk. So I feel sorry for those guys, because they were young! They were like 18 years old – what do they know? They think they’re serving their country. No, they’re serving a political agenda. That’s not saving people like they were in the Second World War. The Second World War was the last war that had a reason for it. If you didn’t go in with Japan and Hitler, we’d be speaking German right now. That had to be done. But Vietnam? They weren’t coming over here! We thought they were tied up with Russia. But if Russia wanted to come at us, they could do it. They don’t need to use Vietnam. It was a mistake – and we make mistakes – but if people die for your mistakes, it’s a little iffy.

Do you miss singing?
No, cuz I do it anyway. My mother was a singer, so we sang around the house anyway. I don’t have to be on a stage to sing. I’ll sing around the house. There’s a station on TV that plays all kinds of different music. One of them – 832 will be a soft rock, 833 is hard rock, 834 is classic rock – and it goes all the way through jazz. So I turned on classic rock and I could sing along with all of it, because I know all the songs from all those bands. Which is like the same thing my parents did. My mother would sing (and Grace sings) “I’ll be with you in apple blossom times” – that 40’s stuff. And Stardust (Grace sings again) “Sometime I wonder I spent…” so on and so forth. And she would sing that around the house. I do the same thing. I’m just a lot louder that my mother. (Much laughter.)

We Built This City was a huge song for Starship…
…yeah, and it was one of the dumbest songs ever written!

You just answered the question. I was wondering what you thought about that song today…
It was dumb! But during the 80’s, I was trying to be a good girl. “I’ll do what you tell me. I’m not going to do any drugs.” But it’s the stupidest all time song, because there is no city built on rock and roll. Rock and roll is too new. It’s written by a British guy and he’s very good actually – usually – Bernie Taupin. He’s a British guy writing about the clubs closing in L.A. sung by a group from San Francisco. London was founded by the Romans, so basically that’s not rock and roll. L.A. was built on oranges, oil, and the movie industry. San Francisco is built on trade and gold. What do you mean “We Built This City On Rock And Roll?” What city? There is no city built on Rock and Roll! And it sounds like we’re bragging! We Built This City! It sounds like we’re talking about San Francisco and we’re bragging about ourselves!

I always thought that!
I was horrified by that song! And it went to Number One, so what do I know? And there’s another one – Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. Oh really? 55 or some percent of the people who get married get divorced. Yes, there’s plenty of things that are going to stop us! I don’t like singing songs that I don’t believe. I did it and I can do it – but I don’t like it! It doesn’t come from the heart. It comes from “I’ve been in this business for a long time so I can sing this rock and roll song.” But I didn’t like that. The other one that went Number One – I think it was Jane – I forget what it was. But they were really dumb songs. And I love Dianne Warren! Dianne Warren wrote Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. But it ought to sung by somebody who believes it! I don’t believe it. So that I don’t like. I like really screwy songs that were written by the band – not by somebody outside the band. So I know what they’re talking about – I know how they feel – I know the sensibility of it. That’s why I prefer Airplane to Starship. Because Starship used other people and Airplane we all wrote our own stuff.

Somebody To Love has been an iconic song. What do you think about the various covers of it, like The Ramones and W.A.S.P. has covered it. Have you heard those covers?
I don’t care and no. Anybody can do it. I heard some punk versions from Germany of White Rabbit and stuff. That’s fine.

Speaking of White Rabbit, there’s a lot of paintings in here of white rabbits…
I was born in the Year Of The Rabbit, so this rabbit thing has always been with me. So I figure okay, I’ve been hammered by White Rabbit things! Good! I’ll go with that. I have an artistic mind, so I’m going to go there. It’s stupid for me to go over here and say, “Geez, I’d like to be a nuclear physicist.” I got an “A” in geometry. In algebra, I told the teacher “I’m not having anything to do with this!” I will never add letters! I add numbers – I can do arithmetic – and I can do geometry, but this is stupid! I will never need algebra. And it’s the only “B” I ever got. I just looked out the window and said, “This is stupid” – for me. It’s not for somebody who operates in that area. But I’m not going to operate in that area. It’s ridiculous. But I don’t know. Where did we start with this? (Much laughter)

I just wanted to know how you relate to the rabbit. I saw one of your paintings of the rabbit smoking, which was pretty cool!
Yeah! The rabbit – I think – and this is only an opinion – represents Alice’s curiosity. And your curiosity is always slightly ahead of you. Sometimes you will ignore it because you’re afraid. Don’t! Go for it! Life is very short. What you did you don’t regret – it’s what you didn’t do. I didn’t do Jimi Hendrix – I didn’t do Peter O’Toole – I haven’t been to the Middle East – and I never learned how to ride a horse. And I can remember those four things. But I’ve been around the block a couple of times, so I’ve done a whole hell of a lot of other stuff! And I’m glad, because I got a chance to see a lot of stuff. So if I drop dead tomorrow, I’m still good. I would have liked to have seen the Middle East. I would have liked to have screwed Peter O’Toole when he was 30, and Jimi Hendrix when he was 27. And I would have liked to learn how to ride a horse, because that synchronicity with an animal – that flowing thing with an animal. I saw a movie called Black Stallion where the kid is riding bareback on this beautiful black Arab stallion along the beach. It’s a completely deserted island – and he’s riding this horse, and it’s just beautiful – just the movement of him with this horse – and just hanging onto the mane. And I thought, “God damn, that looks like a good deal.

What prevents you from doing that now – learning to ride a horse?
Because when you get older, your bones get all weak. So you don’t want to be crashing around on them. There’s a lot of things that I can’t do now. But like this painting right here of the old woman – she’s crippled…

And there’s a rabbit looking out the window…
Well he’s kind of my guy. There’s no point in him – he’s my guy, so I put him in there. Artistic freedom. But she is crippled, but she finds beauty still – even though she’s crippled – by looking at the tree with the little bird in it. I realize that about myself – even though my feet are all screwed up – and I can’t stand for more than about eight minutes. There’s still so much beauty – so much to look at! The human mind is just this massive receptacle processor. You don’t necessarily need your feet – but it would be good! But if Pistorius wasn’t such an asshole and shot his girlfriend – there’s a good example of how you don’t need feet anymore. Particularly now in the medical community, you can make some feet! We’re getting better at that all the time. That’s just an example of how “don’t worry about what’s wrong with you. Look out the window and look at what’s right!” And the rabbit represents China’s (my daughter’s) husband – and the bird in the tree – the canary – represents China. Because that’s what they call each other – because she’s small and blonde and she calls him the rabbit. She thinks he looks like a rabbit. I don’t – but she does – they call each other “rabbit” and “canary.” So I use the rabbit and canary a lot – and that’s basically my daughter and her husband.

And then last question. There’s a painting with a rabbit on it and the words “I know you.” Tell me about that painting. “I know you…”
He’s more my daughter than me. She’s able to see – even from a distance – that somebody is going to be a shit! Somebody is going to advantage. Since she was little – both of her parents are rock and roll- right? So she has watched what happened with us. She can see the expression on people’s faces – she watched the process of people who are going to be coming up for one reason or another – what their faces look like. So she’s able to see when people are going to jerk you around for one reason or another. I don’t. I’m like this dumb, “Hi! Heyhey! Uh!” I’ll talk to anybody, anytime – and she’ll come up to me and say “Mom, see the guy in the red coat over there? Let’s move out of the way.” She knows and I don’t. So she has a perception which that bunny has. “I know you! I know what you’re gonna do!” And it may not be even bad. He’s just “I know you – and you are better than you think you are.” “I know you. You have wonderful hair!” “I know you. You’re a brilliant mind, but you’re kinda ugly.” Whatever it is, he’s kind of got the eyeballs for it…

(Interview and Photos by Kenneth Morton)

To learn more about Grace Slick and her artwork, go to: WWW.AREAARTS.COM
Gallery 319 Official Home Page: GALLERY-319.COM/

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