INTERVIEW: The New York Dolls’ David Johansen Resurrects Buster Poindexter

David Johansen startled the dormant music industry with his band’s punk flair in the 1970s. A founding member of The New York Dolls, he wrote and performed the group’s savvy material, paving the New Wave highway for superstars like Blondie, Gwen Stefani and Lady Gaga. This April, his alter ego, Buster Poindexter, reestablished his formidable albeit bewitching stage persona with a concert at The Cutting Room in Midtown Manhattan, fittingly titled, “The Return of Buster Poindexter.”

You have inspired so many musicians of all ages with The New York Dolls. Do you always start writing songs with fans in mind?

No, I write with myself in mind and always have. The first, and I guess the most important thing for me, is to amuse and entertain myself. But then again, is my psyche that much different than the fans’? Who knows. I just think as an artist, one has to remain true to oneself, otherwise the whole enterprise is likely to start resembling a job with pandering and all sorts of unseemly vulgarities. Yikes!

Do you feel more powerful when you are Buster Poindexter? What can Buster do or say that you cannot as David?

Well, in The Dolls, I’m representing a group philosophy, nebulous as that may be. It’s kind of like a speech writer for a party. As a solo performer, there is a certain nobility that I try to maintain. It may not be noticeable, but it’s there, holding things together. Buster, on the other hand, is more about the imperfection of the human condition, the impossibility of creating superior art. Buster is like the lie that tells the truth.


In 2013, David Johansen is bringing “The Return of Buster Poindexter.”

I loved seeing your performance! You still sound really young. Do you do anything to stay fresh mentally and vocally?

A while back, I stopped smoking, which is something I’d always assumed would be impossible for me to do. It’s made a tremendous difference in my vitality and overall outlook. I don’t normally eat junk, and I exercise moderately. A little qigong. Nothing fiendish.

Do you really feel “saved” like you sing? How so, if you do?

Yeah, I guess I do. I’m the kind of person who takes everything to the N-th degree, yet I somehow manage to get some sense at the last minute and get to carry on with a newfound wisdom. With what happened to most of The Dolls and so many people in the business, I guess I’m kind of a miracle. I have a lot of gratitude for that.

Who do you think carries on your indie rock legacy of today’s bands? Do you think it is possible in the current music industry to have true artistic spirit?

It’s possible, if you’re an artist, if you don’t follow the herd and you have your own opinions about things. It seems to me that a true artist is in it for the long run, and being able to live an artist’s life is its own reward.

How can young people bored with Top 40 find new inspiration in music from your band and its contemporaries?

Well, a lot of people don’t really like to think all that much and will pretty much go along with whatever the system hoists upon them, as far as entertainment and otherwise is concerned, but some have the capacity to think for themselves, and they seek out stuff that’s got something more to it than mere consumerism.

If someone wants to start being a great songwriter, how do they discover their inner honesty? What can they learn from you?

Just dig yourself. Strike the right smart/stupid balance. People will dig it too.

How can people go see your show? Give us all the info.

I tweet at @BusterPoindextr, and we list upcoming shows on Facebook.

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