By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Brian Palmer
NT: Did you think that viewers and the industry would have empathy for you and re-embrace you, or did you realize they would probably get a thrill out of watching you fall?
CF: People love scandal and controversy. I don't know what it is about society, but we love to dig into people's dirt and to laugh at the person who is weak.
NT: Did anything positive come out of it professionally?
CF: No. Nothing. If anything, the people who blamed me entirely for what had happened realized that I had been a victim as a child due to my parents, who were very abusive.
NT: Did you ever blame Hollywood for your substance-abuse problems?
CF: No. Drugs are available to anybody, anywhere, at any time. Kids in Des Moines, Iowa, have the same access as a kid in Hollywood. The difference is that a kid in Des Moines, Iowa, doesn't get his name plastered all over the newspapers when he makes a mistake. I feel like I was kind of the spokesperson for a generation. I took the brunt of it. I was before Robert Downey Jr. and Christian Slater. Heroin wasn't very popular in those days. I was the first who got hooked, and I got the heat. It took people a long, long time to forgive me, and maybe I do blame Hollywood for that. I was just a kid making mistakes like any other kid.
NT: You would think that your low points, commercially, would have come while you were using. But some of your biggest hits -- Dream a Little Dream, License to Drive, even Rock 'n' Roll High School Forever -- were made while you were in the throes of your addiction.
CF: Yeah, I didn't really do much work when I was using that was all that bad. Of course, that was when it all came down. I did [the voice of Donatello in Teenage Mutant] Ninja Turtleswhen I was loaded. Rock 'n' Roll High School was one of my bigger movies, but it was a blur because I was so high when I was making it.
NT: So we could rent that movie and be able to tell that you were high?
CF: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. The only part of making that film that was enjoyable to me was the writing and recording of the music. [Feldman's character, Jesse Davis, was the leader of a rock band.] I did the choreography for the film, too, and I was sober when we were doing all of that.
NT: Is that where you got your first taste of playing rock 'n' roll?
CF: That was the first time I ever performed anything I'd written. When I was younger, I used to listen to my grandma's records -- Bill Haley and the Comets, that kind of stuff -- and I would play-act like I was performing it. Then I got into KISS and Love Gun. Then came my first Michael Jackson period -- I would dress up and act out "Billie Jean." All of this became unsatisfying after a while, because I wasn't really singing anything. So I started working on my voice, doing karaoke. My parents and family always said I wasn't coordinated, that I didn't have a good voice, so I was kind of determined to prove them wrong.
NT: How did Truth Movement come about?
CF: After Rock 'n' Roll High School, I kept telling my fans that I would release an album. I said it for so long that I finally just had to do it. I recorded, like, a nine-song limited-release CD; there were a bunch of kind of guest stars on it, like Lita Ford and Hunt Sales and Spider from Tower of Power. And then in 1998, I took a bunch of songs from that and reworked them and recorded new stuff with a band and more guests. Rick Springfield worked on it with me, and Joe Elliot from Def Leppard. And so far, it seems like people like it. That's what they tell me.
NT: The album seems like a self-referential concept album.
CF: In a nutshell, it's a guy going through a 12-hour period of his life. He starts off Sunday morning at the beach and ends up Sunday night at the park. The album is all the stuff that happens to him along the way.
NT: You sing about fame being fleeting, about being used and thrown away. It would be pretty easy to read the lyrics as a direct chronicle of your own life experiences.
CF: The character is idealized as myself, but really it's supposed to be a third party. Most of the topics are mostly about self-exploration. They're themes that we all go through, stuff that has meaning. The themes are what we think about: religion, relationships -- maybe even suicide or depression. It is a chronicle of me, in a way, because you can only write about your own experiences. There are some writers who dive a bit more into the whys and wheres and whats -- that's kind of where I set myself. I admire Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Billy Joel, even Michael Jackson -- writers who bring some reality into their music. The music is pretty dark, but the idea is that you have to be brought through the darkness into the light. That's definitely one of the lessons of my life.