Q&A with Harvey Kubernik (Part 2)
Q: Of all the stories you’ve heard through the years about Leonard Cohen, which strikes you as the most moving? funniest? A: To this day I still find it strange and funny, and still can’t comprehend on some level that in 1967 Leonard Cohen had a full length mirror in the Columbia recording studio so he could watch himself play and sing during his initial LP sessions. If he got lost in the creative process he could employ the mirror to keep him on track or remember lyrics or chords.
I also found the quotes from Nick Cave on Leonard very moving. In the mid-eighties I produced a Nick Cave spoken word reading at the Lhasa Club in Hollywood and we talked about Leonard Cohen around settlement. We were all in same frame game together. The impact an early Cohen LP had on him four decades ago was immense.
Q: You wrote that “this book is neither definitive nor encyclopedic.” How did you decide which content made it into Everybody Knows and which didn’t make the cut? A: Many of the choices were influenced by the supportive working relationship that developed among myself, publisher Colin Webb, and UK editor James Hodgson. After I put together a formal proposal with areas of interest and interview subjects, we had many discussions. Both Colin and James were easy to work with. They were pleased to see names that had never been in a Cohen book and often emailed me about getting a photo to accompany a given quote or section of text. Sometime a photo would trigger a text to be written or a pull quote or a sidebar I would want inserted. Or they would ask if I was interviewing someone and I’d respond, ‘just ran tape on them.’
I also made the musicians a top priority way over the women or lovers in Leonard’s life, none of whom I even spoke to. It wasn’t that sort of biographical examination. If organically something is revealed, fine. But on this Cohen book I felt Leonard’s creative life needed to be re-defined partially by my own hand-picked west coast team of friends and musical associates as well as worldwide interview quotes I gathered to inform the text and enhance the visuals. “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.”
After my brother Kenneth, my regional editor, reviewed the initial large sections, he made some first look observations, namely that my manuscript had to be condensed from 100,000 words to 60,000. That was a stressful and exhausting process for me. You edit alone.
Authors, including Andrew Loog Oldham, gave me some important interior editing tips. Poets and writers Harry E. Northup and Jimm Cushing provided especially helpful feedback, reinforcing that the new data and photos were as potent as I hoped.
I wouldn’t have bled for this book if its pages didn’t contain extraordinary, important insights and observations.
Any major Leonard Cohen project demands certain essential voices and interview subjects. There are, as well, specific subjects and a biographical chronology the reader has to know. That being acknowledged, it was my responsibility to incorporate these obligatory elements with new material to create a portrait of the man from a unique perspective.
There is a bit of redundancy, such as citations and quotes from other publications, but as UCLA basketball coach John R. Wooden once explained to me, life, like hoops, is a game of repetition – as long as it moves the ball to the basket it’s OK.
View the rest of the interview HERE!