Rock and Roll Hall Of Famer and new author Patti Smith is in Houston to read from her memoir, Just Kids, which chronicles her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe and the twosome's rise to fame.
Smith took some time to chat with CultureMap (I called her hotel and asked for her directly, no alias needed) about her inspiration and her favorite Houston landmark. She also gave this young journalist some professional advice: Use a recorder. The Godmother of Punk is into R.E.M., not awkward pauses for note-taking.
CultureMap: What inspired you to write your memoirs?
Patti Smith: I wrote them specifically because I promised Robert Mapplethorpe I would write the story of our friendship and our youth and our evolution as artists. I promised him I'd do that before he died, and it's taken a long time, but I kept my promise. (Mapplethorpe died of AIDS in 1989).
CM: How did Robert [Mapplethorpe] change your life?
PS: He instilled a lot of confidence in me. He had a lot of confidence in himself as an artist and was instrumental in instilling the same confidence in me. And he was very loving and kind and I could always count on him.
CM: Do you still get a thrill from performing?
PS: I love to perform because I like the communication that happens between me and the people. When I had my band, we didn't have cues or lights or any tape loops. We're just an organic band so we were free to improvise and communicate directly with the people.
CM: Who are your favorite contemporary artists?
PS: I listen to my son and daughter, who are both musicians, and a lot of opera. Waltraud Meier is my favorite opera singer. And lots of my friends are musicians, so I like to listen to them and know what they're doing. Michael Stipe is a friend and I still listen to R.E.M. We all like the music we grew up with, so I'm still listening to Jimi Hendrix and Coltrane, too.
CM: Is there any place in Houston you have to go while you're in town?
PS: I like to visit the Rothko Chapel and I did that yesterday, and if I have time I'll go again today. If I lived here I'd go all the time. I like sitting in there and thinking — it's inspiring.