“While Elliott was living in Portland, drugs weren’t a problem for him, he just drank and stuff. I think when he went to New York and Los Angeles, especially L.A., that’s what kind of killed him in a manner of speaking. He was around people who knew him not as Elliott, but as Elliott Smith the rock star. But I think he genuinely wanted to stop feeling so bad.
I don’t have a memory of him as a drug addict or as a crazy person or anything other than my friend, a really funny, really super smart, caring person.”
“It was recorded in one day at a house then shared by Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes. Our friend Moira was like, ‘Hey, I’m starting this little label, do you want to do a 45?’ And so we went to Sam and Janet’s house when they were still together, over there off of Hawthorne on 37th and there’s a little setup and we just did it in an afternoon. Elliott did all the engineering and I found all the weird noises. We both had these tunes and there’s a bunch of forks and knives and spoons hanging from a fishing line. It was an actual instrument they had in their recording studio and I was just like, ‘We should put that on there.’ And Elliott had these dumb masks: a bear mask and a weird bat mask. There’s black and white shots of us with guitars wearing these masks. We took the pictures outside of Janet’s basement. We laughed a lot – we both have the same sense of humor – it was just kind of this dumb sense of humor. He had that old Domino guitar.”
“There will be people who will check him out because of his death, but I think it will plateau after awhile, and in the future, there’s going to be some kind of revival. I think that his music will come into its own even more. And at that point, his work will overshadow his death, but there is also the unfortunate point of his death becoming mythologized and adding to what I’d term a negative appreciation, to have someone lionize him as a troubled, drug-addict genius. There’s nobody around here in Portland who has that point of view, but we don’t really have control over his legacy, either.”
” “Tom Waits and the Attack of the Crab Monster” is the result of Elliott and I sitting in the studio for a few days straight. It was one or two in the morning, and we were downstairs, smoking and drinking, trying to finish the record. The organ part that Elliott begins the song with is something he was fooling around with a lot, because there is a lot of organ on that record. I thought it was pretty hilarious, so I told him to just roll the tape and that’s what came out of it.”
“The thing about Elliott in his drug use is that I felt like it was somehow in his plan to get strung out, to get really far out there. I always felt like the whole heroin thing, he nodded to it, no pun intended. He had it in his mind that that was going to be part of the picture. He was getting some mileage out of people freaking out when he would talk about it, so he liked that. I really feel like the plan was, ‘I’m going to get really fucked up and come back from that.’ I never thought that he would intentionally kill himself or OD intentionally; if he died it would be an accidental OD. He had plenty of opportunities to kill himself when he got really depressed; I always just felt like he would have done it. I heard he tried a couple of times and they were half-hearted attempts and something happened. With the heroin thing I just thought that that was part of the plan, I thought he was going to do his thing and then he was going to come back. That was the big picture, and he would overcome his demons or have some depth of experience he could draw from artistically or somehow satisfy some romantic vision he wanted to be like. But I don’t think his romantic vision was finally tragic. I think he liked being a tragic character but he wanted to be around to see the results of that characterization.”
“We were on tour together, somewhere in the South, and went up the road from the venue in the afternoon to grab a drink and play some pool. We got to talking to this girl who was thinking about joining the Army, who seemed kind of lost and unhappy. We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out, and by the time we had left Elliott had convinced her to go back to school and follow her dream of being a photographer, instead of joining up. I don’t think anyone had ever told her that it was OK to pursue what it was she really wanted to do. He was a good guy.”
“I think he always had that button in there. That kind of self-destruction definitely accounted for his alcoholism and his drug use and the way he treated himself, the way he thought of himself. I can’t say that I’ve met anybody quite as fragile and almost comically freaked-out as Elliott.
A lot of his really close, old friends wouldn’t hear from him for months, years at a time. It wasn’t him being a rock star, or being too busy – Elliott kind of always had this aspect to him that was just crawling out of his own skin.
In Portland we got the brunt of Elliott’s initial depression.We saw that a long time ago. Lots of people have stories of their own experiences of staying up with Elliott ‘til five in the morning, holding his hand, telling him not to kill himself.
I don’t think that anybody was really surprised, to be honest, that knew him from around here. If there’s anything that people are freaked out about, or affected by, it’s definitely the brutality of his act.”
“I wanted to write country music, strangely enough, after I saw Elliott play country music. He and I were invited to play on a record by a band from San Francisco called Ain’t, they were friends of ours, and we recorded it in a studio in Northwest Portland. I was gonna play snare drum or washboard and he was going to play guitar. So he got there first, and when I arrived he was just dinking around– and you know, Elliott was a master guitar player, and he was playing this crazy-ass downhome Texas country stuff that I didn’t know he had, and I was just like, that’s the coolest thing I’ve heard in a long time, and it really peaked my interest in country music and old folk music. So that was another piece of the puzzle. That and hanging out with these guys through the Laurelthirst. But definitely hearing Elliott just like play. You know, he lived in Texas for awhile, and it probably just seeped into his bones. He probably didn’t do it very often, because I don’t think he really had a Texas sound much, but I remember that I was just floored. I was like, ‘how do you know how to do that, that’s so fucked up that you know how to do that!’ I made him show me how he was doing it. That influence is really on Western Electric.”