From the archives: David Bowie in 1997 on his first records and finding Buddha in the Xerox shop

'Somehow or other I've kind of amalgamated it into the hybrid that my music is'
 David Bowie
Photo credit Getty Images
By , Audacy

This Saturday (January 8), the world will honor what would have been musical icon David Bowie‘s 75th birthday. Since his passing in 2016, fans new and old have been keeping his flame burning bright with tributes, special events, and remembrances of the Thin White Duke.

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To celebrate this year, Audacy has unearthed an interview from when David Bowie joined host Jim Keller for a special End Session at Seattle's 107.7 The End in September of 1997, the morning after performing at the famed Paramount Theatre on his Earthling world tour.

Bowie surprised those in the room with the revelation that he and his crew had just returned from a morning bungee jump, "just to keep the body and soul together," as he put it. Unfortunately for Jim, he missed Bowie and his guitarist, Reeves Gabrels, performing a medley of acoustic covers before his arrival. But that misfortune was quickly swallowed in the presence of Rock royalty of the stature that had gotten Jim to skip school back in the late '70s.

Audacy Archives: Listen below to our David Bowie interview from 1997

Bowie and his band had just performed their very first show in the States on their Earthling tour, after arriving from a number of festival and club dates overseas. There, they shared the stage with some of the late-'90s' biggest acts, namely The Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, and Rage Against The Machine. Bowie chose to keep a large portion of their North American outing more of an intimate affair, playing a run of dates in small theaters and auditoriums.

That decision was made, Bowie says eliciting laughs in the room, "because I'm a really generous, wonderful, and loving guy." As expected, each night on the tour was sold out in mere minutes. Again, joking that he should have booked more dates, Bowie then admits that the reaction to their schedule had been "fantastic."

Reeves Gabrels and David Bowie - 1997
Reeves Gabrels and David Bowie - 1997 Photo credit Getty Images

Switching lanes, Bowie, when asked at what what age he knew he wanted to be a musician, barely a breath could be heard before he quickly answered, "seven." Bowie admits to being a "professional gramophone player," when asked if he played any instruments at such a young age; words to remember for anyone still on the fence as to whether a DJ can actually be a band.

"Once I got out of my Danny Kaye period," Bowie says after remembering some of the children's tunes he grew up listening to, "the first record that I think I made my mother buy me was 'The Purple People Eater'... by Sheb Wooley... just around the same time that [Elvis Presley's] 'Heartbreak Hotel' came out. My cousin (Christina) bought 'Heartbreak Hotel,' and I had Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill.' But she left 'Blueberry Hill' in the sun on the table, so it became a vase."

"Then, I got 'She's Got It' by Little Richard and that really was the one. That was the thing," Bowie says. "When I heard the sax line behind Little Richard, that's when I decided I was gonna grow up and be the sax player behind Little Richard." The saxophone ended up being young Bowie's first actual learned instrument, although he says it was "very hard to tell. You'd never know!"

If music had not been in the cards for Bowie, he admits that he likely would have been an artist in other capacities. "When I was at school I was training to be an artist," he says. "Briefly, for about two or three months, I worked as a commercial artist, a visualizer. That's the 'money' way of making a living out of art. But it just wasn't working for me because I had romantic ideas that I wanted to be a painter, but of course you couldn't make a living as a painter. I couldn't, anyway."

Bowie also spoke of other odd jobs he had taken early on, like waiting tables, to help support his lifestyle as a musician. But working in a Xerox shop, he says, was the best because it gave him the freedom to come and go as he pleased to make a few pounds on the side. It was at that very copy-shop that he was introduced to Tibetan Buddhism as well, after reading materials by '60s paranormal and occult author Lobsang Rampa. "I found Buddha in the Xerox shop," Bowie says with a giggle. "We had a bus, well it was an old London ambulance, that we lived in," Bowie adds, "outside a cafe just off Tottenham Court Rd. in London. Four of us lived in this ambulance for about three or four months. It was cheap."

Bringing it back to the '90s, Bowie said he owes his longevity in music to the fact that he continued to "thoroughly enjoy" what he does. That enjoyment also carried over to his contemporaries, naming some of the artists that had grabbed his ear recently such as Soul Coughing, as well as some lesser-known at-the-time European artists like Photek and Apollo 440, who also incorporated live music with electronics, as he had been doing for some years.

"In the early '90s I was back in the States, in Los Angeles... and around that time I was very influenced by a lot of the Dance and Black music that was happening in America," Bowie explains. "I guess that produced things like [1993's] 'Black Tie White Noise,' and that approach. I was just starting to get into Trip Hop and that kind of feel on a lot of those tracks and it just expanded from that point. "Throughout the '90s, I've been really paying pretty close attention to the Dance scene, where I find a lot of the most energizing music is. I've got my own ideas on what you should be able to do with it... that's how things like [1995's] Outside and [1997's] Earthling came about. Over the years I've always been attracted by Dance music, and somehow or other I've kind of amalgamated it into the hybrid that my music is."

Fans will surely remember Bowie's work with Industrial rock icon Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, which eventually would materialize into a joint tour together two years earlier. Reznor was also a part of Earthling, working with Bowie on the single "I'm Afraid of Americans," a rumor he put to rest in this interview before the song, which it should be noted he was very happy with, was even released. He went on to say that the pair would be working on new projects together in the near future.

Listen to the full, archived interview with David Bowie above, and be sure to celebrate this weekend by blasting some Ziggy Stardust into the atmosphere!

As you plan your own celebrations of Bowie for this weekend, don't miss performances from actors Gary Oldman and Evan Rachel Wood, comedian Ricky GervaisDuran Duran‘s Simon Le Bon and John TaylorJoe Elliott of Def LeppardLiving ColourWalk The Moon, and Jake Wesley Rogers in a special livestream concert on January 8. Tickets for the event are on sale now, available via RollingLiveStudios.

Additionally, a new movie about Bowie is in the works that will give fans a never-before-seen look at the enigmatic artist. Directed by Brett Morgen, who previously helmed the Kurt Cobain documentary Montage of Heck, the new film promises to be “an immersive cinematic experience,” featuring some rare and never before seen footage.

Check out more of Audacy's all-new exclusive stations like '80s Underground, New Wave Mix Tape, IndustriALT, ALT Roots, 80s Guitar, Arena RockWake Up and Rock, and The Roots of Rock for those who crave the early days.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images