Pasadena, Calif. -- Cameron Crowe entranced a room full of TV critics Tuesday with a story about and reflections on David Bowie, who died Jan. 10.
He was “the most generous and exciting interview subject that I was ever allowed a lot of time with,” said Crowe, after he was asked during a TCA winter press tour session for Showtime series Roadies if the music journalist-turned-filmmaker had any experience with Bowie.
Crowe, who serves as executive producer-writer-director of Roadies, said he had an extended period of access to Bowie while the musical artist was staying in Los Angeles. Crowe was 16 years old and had told friends of Bowie that he wanted to interview him. Seemingly straight out of a scene in Almost Famous (Crowe said after the panel the experience with Bowie indeed did in part inform the 2000 film), Crowe was surprised by a call in his bedroom in San Diego from Bowie himself, offering the interview.
Crowe “spent 6 months straight” with the Thin White Duke between Young Americans and Station to Station. “Thank goodness I kept notes on every aspect of it. There were no limits,” Crowe said, recalling that Bowie told him to ask him anything, watch him create, produce, be happy, be sad.
Bowie gave Crowe permission to publish the interviews wherever he wanted, which was a boost for Crowe's career as a young journalist, as “everyone wanted it.”
Crowe told a gaggle of reporters and critics after the panel that he parsed the interview out, with stories in Playboy, Rolling Stone and Creem. (He also told the reporters in the scrum afterward, “I’ve got to tell you about his car—Bowie drove around in a beat up Volkswagen bus!” Crowe said he always hoped people would pull up next to the car driving down La Cienega in L.A. and see David Bowie with his loud red hair after recording sessions, but it was usually 5 a.m. And no one was on the road.)
Having reflected on Bowie’s impact in the days since his passing, Crowe said during the session the thing that stood out to him about Bowie was that he “was always obsessed with the music and art, never the business.” Bowie serves as a role model to artists “that may need to remember it’s not about branding” and doing the same thing that worked before, Crowe said adding that Bowie was in fact the “anti-branding artist.”
Bowie was relentlessly creative, Crowe said. He “always shook it up, always served the gods of creativity.”