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Performing "Don't Stop" at the FleetCenter, Boston, MA September 3, 2002
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Topic: Keith Richards interview on Fortune - September 30, 2002 Return to archive
09-15-02 06:31 PM
CS Now Keith!

Andy Serwer: Business is not necessarily your forte, but obviously you've got to be concerned about it....

Keith Richards: ...I know people's images and perceptions are that oh, Mick's the business... he went to London School of Economics. Yeah.

Serwer: Right. People do go, well, everyone knows that Mick's...

Richards: That I'm the...

Serwer: ...the artiste.

Richards: I'm the artiste who doesn't know shit what's going on, not much.

Serwer: But that couldn't be true.

Richards: Of course. This is a mom and pop operation. He's Mom and I'm Pop.

* * *

Serwer: The Rolling Stones is a partnership and that's how it works.

Richards: If you want to be the Rolling Stones, it has to be a partnership. Any deviation from it actually being that is always a pain the ass. If somebody starts to do things off on [his] own, it kind of puts a kink in things. As long as there's not too desperate a kink in it, I'm quite happy to look at the numbers and say, okay, what will the market bear--I'm not looking to soak people. What I'm trying to do, what we're trying to do actually--and maybe this time we can pull it off--is a balanced tour rather than just sort of going out in all of the stadiums. It's not good for the band all the time, and it's not good for the audience all the time if that's all you do. And our way of saying, if you want to go on the road again, small, medium and large. I call this the BVD tour. Fruit of the Loom. Small, medium, or large. But that balance of shows will hopefully, and there's no reason to think not, give us a way of going through the tour and still keeping it as fresh--the thing is, there's no point in having soiled produce. [It's] like there's a shelf date.

Serwer: And for the people who are complaining, this whole ticket thing, I come from a totally different world. You do what you do and the fact that you're doing the smaller venues...

Richards: We throw it out and see what the market will bear. We live and breathe by our own... Here it is! Do you want it? If nobody turns up...

* * *

Serwer: Did you guys ever tally up the gross revenues of the Rolling Stones over the past 40 years?

Richards: Well, we probably spent a lot of it. Enormous overheads. I don't know but you can probably get it--well, I don't know that anybody has actually and anyway, they'd all tell you a lie. We have to pay taxes on that shit, you know?

* * *

Serwer: What has [tour director Michael Cohl] done with you guys?

Richards: He makes it smooth. He's got a good operation, he's easy to talk to, he's a friend as well as a business partner. The Stones are very conservative in many ways. We don't like to change anything. The reason we went with Michael was because Bill Graham basically died. Otherwise, we were with Bill. And we had some good times there too. But also, things change. The record business, forget about it. The decline of the Roman Empire. I could have told them that years ago when I saw the costs of those parties that they were throwing.

* * *

Serwer: I want to hear Lady Willpower by the Gary Puckett, but I just want to hear it once. I don't want to go out and buy a Gary Puckett record. Why can't I buy it online?

Richards: I've been breaking copyright laws, including my own. I make a copy of this and a copy of that, what's going on the Internet is no different than when you first got your first cassette machine and decided instead of buying records, tape your friend's copy of it. But at the same time, there's a dilemma that yes, it costs money to make the record and someone wants a bit of pay at the end of it. This way it's downright thievery, but you know I'm a thief, too, and I'm just really interested to watch the playing field and see how it's going to shake down.

* * *

Serwer: When did you start to feel comfortable?

Richards: The first time I got 50 quid a week. That was already like three times more than I'd ever seen in my life before. But after that it's just a matter of zeros. Basically money and finance and economy, every housewife knows about it. How much for the food? It's a basic management thing and you make decisions. And unfortunately a lot of people out there are looking to take it away from you. And all I want is what people want to give to me. I'm not looking to take. And basically they've given me and the Stones in a way a free pass. We don't have to do half the things that every average Joe has to work. Even filling in tax forms. No, it's filled in right there, I just sign it. So in other words, a lot of the day-to-day wear and tear on people's lives, we are not affected by in that way. Our wear and tear comes in another way, usually physical.

Serwer: So do you feel like you need some--like you guys are kind of the CEOs of this operation?

Richards: I want to know where to give some of this money away to. I want to make sure, when I do, I support a lot of friends of mine. Most of them are success stories. I invest in my friends sometimes.

Serwer: That can be dangerous for friendships, right?

Richards: It can be, but I've found that maybe once or twice it didn't pan out, but there's another 20 odd cases of okay, go and do that. Here's a few grand, go and do that. And they come back set up....

How much do you really need? If I'm going to put my money to work, I'd rather give it away and not look for a return on it. Sometimes you make a bum one, but rather than picking through stocks and shares--the print is too fine. I'd rather invest in a person...

* * *

Serwer: It's interesting, you were talking about the fans [earlier, you] just have this thing where you guys just keep elevating each other. They don't seem to be tired of you; you're not tired of them.

Richards: Exactly. That's why we're here talking now. And over the years the amazing thing is this spread of generations and you realize that there's a guy there with his grandchildren. And then there's a whole bunch of 12-year-old guitar freaks over there. And the entire place is a cross-section of the population. Obviously we're doing something right and they've given us a license to do it in a way. Here's the money, just be who you are, just do it for us. In a way, they maybe live vicariously through us. I know I did with my heroes when I was a kid. Yeah, go for it pal, have the lot. I'll give you my life's penny, just do that again. In a way we sort of live in that framework.

For Mick Jagger interview and article click here
[Edited by CS]