Exclusive Van Dyke Parks interview!

Van Dyke Parks played Leo Johnson's defense attorney Jack Racine in episode #2005 of Twin Peaks. Blink and you would have missed his scene. However, there is much more to be said about Mr. Parks than the size of his role may have indicated. Much more. Parks started as a child actor in the 50's in television shows such as 'Campbell Playhouse' and films like 'The Swan' (With Grace Kelly) Parks interest in music led him to major in music at the Carnegie Institute. He eventually moved to Los Angeles becoming a studio musician, arranger and songwriter. In 1966 Beach Boys member Brian Wilson commissioned Parks to write lyrics for the bands next LP, the ambitious but ill-fated SMiLE. Parks and Wilson collaborated on songs for the album. Due to a number of events, the album was shelved and took over 30 years to see an official release. Van Dyke Parks has produced, arranged, or played on albums by artists including U2, Silverchair, Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, The Byrds, Cher, Rufus Wainwright, Ringo Starr, Frank Black, Keith Moon, Carly Simon, T-Bone Burnett, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Bonnie Raitt, Gordon Lightfoot, Fiona Apple, Sheryl Crow, Ry Cooder, Joanna Newsom, The Everly Brothers and Scissor Sisters. He is a novelist, a film composer (The Two Jakes, Private Parts) and business man. Parks set up the pioneering audio/visual department at Warner Bros. records in 1971. This department was the earliest of its kind to record videos to promote records. We thought it was time to ask Van Dyke how he entered the world of Twin Peaks...

Twin Peaks Archive: Were you aware of David Lynch and/or Twin Peaks before getting the part of defense attorney Jack Racine?

Van Dyke Parks: I knew there was a David Lynch before getting the part of the defense attorney. I was aware of the mania surrounding the famous series one conclusion. Yet, i'd not heard/seen any of Lynch's work, nor seen one episode of the show. Generally, i stay out of the present tense.

Twin Peaks Archive: How did the part come about for you?

Van Dyke Parks: I knew the director of that episode, since about 1969, as a neighbor in Laurel Canyon. He saw me play a cameo as a prosecuting attorney in Nicholson's 'Two Jakes' picture, and figured i could remember my lines.

Twin Peaks Archive: How long did the part take to film?

Van Dyke Parks: It was less than an entire day of honest labor.

Twin Peaks Archive: Do you keep up with or are you friends with any of the cast members or crew?

Van Dyke Parks: Amazingly, i had met, and worked with Royal Dano, back in 1955 Mr. Dano was the judge in the final episode. In 1955, i played the title role in 'Elisha and the long knives' a live tv drama, with Mr. Dano cast in the pricipal adult role. Our family loved the Dano family and stayed in normal contact (Christmas cards and the like) About forty years passed, and we met again on the set. That alone was a completely emotive event for me. Dano was a giant, in my view. He was also my favorite portrayal artist of Abraham Lincoln. His singularly sympathetic face held the wisdom of the ages.

Twin Peaks Archive: Did you ever think there would be such a successful resurgence of the SMiLE project?

Van Dyke Parks: Yes, but not in my lifetime.

Twin Peaks Archive: Do you plan on writing an autobiography?

Van Dyke Parks: I've thought about it. Still, there's something highly co-optive about it. Most autobiography by celebs in the music racket draw a pretty thin line between fact and fiction. Consider this possible entry:

"........so, I was at lunch one day with Barry Gordy Jr. It was my treat.
I liked the guy. So I said to Barry
'....no Barry, not MOTOR TOWN RECORDS.....call it MOTOWN RECORDS.....
Easier to pronounce.....good ad-speak.'
Barry turned to me, astonished. He said:
'....gee Van Dyke....that's brilliant....can I use it?'
I said 'Sure Barry, no prob. Be my guest'."
The rest is history.

The foregoing, just a sample of the incredible challenge i'd have in writing a plausible rear view for the public.

All my best wishes to you Jerry. Thanks for including me. Much fun.

Make sure and check out Van Dyke Parks brillant solo album 'Song Cycle' Also, 'Smile' should not be missed. Thanks to Hank_Jennings for the screenshots.

'Surf's Up'
Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks

A diamond necklace played the pawn
Hand in hand some drummed along, oh
To a handsome mannered baton
A blind class aristocracy
Back through the opera glass you see
The pit and the pendulum drawn
Columnated ruins domino

Canvass the town and brush the backdrop
Are you sleeping?

Hung velvet overtaken me
Dim chandelier awaken me
To a song dissolved in the dawn
The music hall a costly bow
The music all is lost for now
To a muted trumpeter swan
Columnated ruins domino

Canvass the town and brush the backdrop
Are you sleeping, Brother John?

Dove nested towers the hour was
Strike the street quicksilver moon
Carriage across the fog
Two-Step to lamp lights cellar tune
The laughs come hard in Auld Lang Syne

The glass was raised, the fired-roast
The fullness of the wine, the dim last toasting
While at port adieu or die

A choke of grief heart hardened I
Beyond belief a broken man too tough to cry

Surf's Up
Aboard a tidal wave
Come about hard and join
The young and often spring you gave
I heard the word
Wonderful thing
A children's song

Child, child, child, child, child
A child is the father of the man
Child, child, child, child, child
A child is the father of the man
A children's song
Have you listened as they played
Their song is love
And the children know the way
That's why the child is the father to the man
Child, child, child, child, child
Child, child, child, child, child
Na na na na na na na na
Child, child, child, child, child
That's why the child is the father to the man
Child, child, child, child, child


AparecidaProtectUs said...

This was such a cool interview, I haven't known quite what to say. It's so interesting to me the connections that are woven through our lives; who we meet, work with, become friends with in whatever capacity.

But even more so, is what can happen in an artistic environment. It often does confirm for me there is a force in the universe that either guides all this, the person involved making their own luck through hard work and endurance, or equal amounts of both. Van Dyke Parks being on Twin Peaks is like Melvin Belli playing the Gorgon on TOS, only much more eclectic, like Twin Peaks itself.

Mmmmmmm, great stuff.

Jerry Horne said...

It's interesting that so many people can watch the series and not know who Van Dyke Parks was. However, perhaps that evening you hear some music written by him and don't put the pieces together. Like the series itself, it's a puzzle that only time can solve.

Alex V Cook said...

Nice interview, and have been enjoying your site while rewatching Twin Peaks. The founder of Motown is BERRY Gordy, Jr.