Waxing lyrical: David Lynch on his new passion - and why he may never make another movie

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

From fine art and films to TV and now music - Lynch seems able to turn his hand to anything and transform it in the process. So why does he seem so out of touch with the modern world?

For several years in the late 2000s, David Lynch used to post an almost-daily weather report on his website from his hometown, Los Angeles. I guess he finds something brilliantly surreal about the meteorological stasis of Southern California, and on the day I drive to meet him at his studio, the weather is the same as it is virtually every other day in the Hollywood Hills. Blue skies, golden sunshine, a gentle breeze.

The studio, which he has occupied for almost 20 years, is in the house where Bill Pullman lived with Patricia Arquette in Lynch's brilliantly surreal 1997 noir, Lost Highway: a cluster of geometric patterns in poured concrete, spread across a slope in a quiet neighbourhood just below Mulholland Drive. Los Angeles may be the capital of the mainstream, but it's also the home of the weird, which makes it an ideal habitat for the director and his unique brand of bizarre Americana.

"I always say people should find a place where they feel good, and I feel good here," he says. "I like LA because of the light. The light makes me feel so good. It's really beautiful. And there's something about LA being so spread out that gives you a feeling of freedom. Light and freedom."

That LA sunlight streams uninterrupted through the large windows into Lynch's workspace, which is not so much an office as an artist's studio. Large canvasses recline against the walls; an apparently unfinished abstract drawing lies flat on a table; the desk is cluttered with art tools and creative detritus, leaving just enough empty space to accommodate his modest Apple laptop.

Now 67, Lynch still wears his signature white shirt buttoned to the neck, a pair of paint-spotted old khakis and a dark sports jacket with at least one elbow worn through. He still styles his grey quiff like a rockabilly. He smokes from a pack of Natural American Spirit cigarettes ("100% Additive-Free Natural Tobacco"), deftly flicking the spent butts on to the concrete floor around the desk. He drinks from a vast cup of coffee, a beverage he loves so much that he recently put his name to three "David Lynch Signature Cup" organic coffee blends.

"I must have a very high tolerance for caffeine," he says. "I always associated smoking and drinking coffee with the art life. They go hand in hand. There's something about drinking coffee and smoking that makes me happy and facilitates thinking. I just really love those things."

Lynch may be best known for his movies, but the last time he made a feature – the epically odd Inland Empire – was in 2006. So we're here to talk not about his filmmaking, nor his art, nor his signature coffee blends, but instead about his burgeoning music career. In the bowels of the house beneath us is the well-appointed recording studio where he recently recorded his second solo album, The Big Dream. And tinkering at the mixing desk is his collaborator and engineer "Big" Dean Hurley – who is, in fact, relatively small.

Lynch released his debut LP, Crazy Clown Time, in 2011. As you might expect from the director of Blue Velvet, the album's blues- infused electronica was angst-inducing and atmospheric. The Big Dream is more of the same: dark, layered soundscapes, marked by the lyrical and musical motifs of early rock'n'roll. Lynch plays guitar and sings, and, once again, accentuates the dreamlike atmosphere by distorting and processing his vocals to unsettling effect. In the absence of any new movies, the records make an intriguing addition to his oeuvre.

The director was born in Montana in 1946, and, during the first 10 years of his life, he recalls, "I would hear a lot of music on the radio, classical and popular, but I wasn't choosing the stations. Then Elvis Presley came along and, for me and about 10 trillion other people, he changed the face of music. It was just so fantastic, so powerful, so beautiful."

Over the years, Lynch's sound design has become almost as celebrated as his imagery – indeed, he once said that although "people call me a director, I really think of myself as a sound man" – and his films contain several renowned music cues, such as the tiny woman in the radiator serenading Jack Nance in Eraserhead (1977); or Dean Stockwell (aka Al from Quantum Leap) miming Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" as Dennis Hopper gurns violently in Blue Velvet (1986). He's also enjoyed an enduring working relationship with film composer Angelo Badalamenti, who wrote the unmistakable synth theme for his influential early 1990s television drama, Twin Peaks.

Lynch didn't cut a record himself until 1997, when he was put in contact with the Scottish vocalist and fiddle-player Jocelyn Montgomery, and produced her LP Lux Vivens: The Music of Hildegard von Bingen (a 12th century German Benedictine nun). It was after that project, unlikely as it sounds, that Lynch found his current, electro-blues groove. "I started to make sound effects with the guitar. That's what got it going, right there. I've always loved the electric guitar: to hold it and work it and hear what it does is unreal. All of the songs on both of my albums started with a jam, pretty much. Dean and I jam. If we're lucky we catch something in a certain sound or beat. And that's our point of departure."

There is, however, one non-original song on The Big Dream, a cover of Bob Dylan's "The Ballad of Hollis Brown". It has a simple plot – in contrast with Lynch's own cryptic narratives elsewhere – but a characteristically unsettling one: a man kills his family and himself out of despair at their grinding poverty. "That was Dean's idea," says Lynch. "We covered a cover: Nina Simone's version of the Dylan song. It's a great song, but also what Hollis Brown is going through is, unfortunately, really timely right now."

He goes on: "I love Bob Dylan. Who doesn't? He tapped into some kind of vein and it keeps on keeping on. There's nobody like him. He's unique, and just… way out cool."

He could almost be talking about himself. Like Dylan, Lynch has acolytes of all ages, and certain music critics have even identified a "Lynchian" strain in recent pop, exemplified most prominently by Lana Del Rey, of whom he professes to be a fan. Another case in point is band du jour Bastille: they recently released a single named "Laura Palmer", after the teen victim at the heart of Twin Peaks, while the cover of their k debut album featured Lynch-like headlamps playing across a road at night.

The esteem in which Lynch is held in the pop world is also evident in the hip vocal collaborators he has attracted, from Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Swedish singer Lykke Li, who appears on The Big Dream's spine-chilling bonus track, "I'm Waiting Here".

As for his audience, not so long ago Lynch made a spoof iPhone ad that went viral, in which he railed against the phenomenon of people watching films on their phones. Many people will likely hear his music the same way. Is he comfortable with that possibility?

"Headphones mean that the sound is right in your head, and that's OK – although it does seem that if someone's really into the music they shouldn't be driving or even walking, because they could get killed. But I can't listen to music and do other things. I hate it. Music as background to me becomes like a mosquito, an insect. In the studio we have big speakers, and to me that's the way music should be listened to. When I listen to music, I want to just listen to music."

"It's the same with cinema: if you have a chance to enter another world, then you need a big picture in a dark room with great sound. It's a spiritual, magic experience. If you have the same movie on a little computer screen with bad sound – and this is the way people are seeing films now – it's such a shame. It's a shameful, shameful thing. It's so pathetic."

Lynch hasn't directed a movie in almost a decade, and though there are occasional rumours of a script in the works, he seems doubtful that he'll ever make a feature film again. In 2011, he told another interviewer, "I don't know what's happening to cinema. It hasn't settled into what it's going to be next." Now, he says, it is settling – and he doesn't like what he sees.

"It's a very depressing picture. With alternative cinema – any sort of cinema that isn't mainstream – you're fresh out of luck in terms of getting theatre space and having people come to see it. Even if I had a big idea, the world is different now. Unfortunately, my ideas are not what you'd call commercial, and money really drives the boat these days. So I don't know what my future is. I don't have a clue what I'm going to be able to do in the world of cinema."

To many, Lynch's masterpiece was Twin Peaks, and he has attempted to return to the small(ish) screen since: his much-admired 2001 movie Mulholland Drive was initially planned as a television pilot. Last year, he and his fourth wife, actress Emily Stofle, had a baby daughter, who currently keeps him from watching much television, but he admits to enjoying Mad Men and Breaking Bad. He doesn't count out the prospect of making another show himself, and the economic models of AMC, HBO or Netflix might prove more amenable to his vision than the movie studios. "I like the idea of a continuing story," he says. "And television is way more interesting than cinema now. It seems like the art-house has gone to cable."

While his followers await further screen work, Lynch is happy to continue focusing on "small projects": evangelising about transcendental meditation via his David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness- Based Education and World Peace; appearing in a very funny recurring cameo role in the FX sitcom Louie; waiting for a new, 18-tonne press to be delivered to his favourite printing workshop in Paris, so that he can get to work on some vast lithographs. He also has an exhibition of paintings and drawings coming up in LA this autumn. Lynch started his career as a fine artist, and for now he seems content to end it the same way.

There will most likely be a third album, too. "Dean will say to me, 'David, you know this is the ninth song we've done since the last album?' I'll say, 'You're kidding me. So if we do three more, we'll have another album?' It's so much fun to experiment and find something that feels good. It's like painting: you get on one thing and that's what keeps coming out. But pretty soon it becomes boring to you, and it leads to something else. There's a transition, when you're sick of what you're doing and yearning for the next thing. And the only way to get there is to just keep trying and not be afraid to destroy something. And eventually an idea for the next thing will come out of it."

'The Big Dream' is released on 15 July on Sunday Best records

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor