My parents were… My mum was a primary school teacher and my dad was a coal miner.
The household I grew up in… A two-floor detached on a main road between Ammanford and Swansea.
When I was a child I wanted to be… an orchestral conductor.
If I could change one thing about myself… My nose – I'd reduce it sizably.
You wouldn't know it but I am very good at… motivational speaking. I don't do those tours, though I hear you can make a lot of money.
You may not know it but I'm no good at… lying.
At night I dream of… I can't remember dreaming – I dream of what I can't remember dreaming.
I wish I had never worn… those baggy, checked Eighties pants. Very, very bad.
What I see when I look in the mirror… A shocking resemblance to my father.
It's not fashionable but I like… Morgan cars.
I drive/ride… a gas-guzzling jeep.
My house is… It's very crowded, it's filled to the rafters with too many books.
My favourite work of art… Anything by Magritte. I love Surrealism and Dada.
My favourite building… the US Bank Tower in LA.
A book that changed me… Silence by John Cage – it was my first encounter with Zen, it kind of opened my eyes.
Movie heaven… Snow Falling on Cedars – I don't know who it's directed by, but the cinematography is stunning.
The last album I bought/downloaded… Rick Ross, God Forgives, I Don't.
My greatest regret… Not practising the viola more.
My secret crush… Erykah Badu. I would have her children!
My real-life villains… Any GOP [Republican] candidate.
The person who really makes me laugh… Armando Iannucci. I've been watching Veep, and I also caught up with Twenty Twelve recently, which isn't Iannucci but it's great. The PR lady is brilliant. I hope they do a follow-up – they could really stretch it.
The last time I cried… was at the idea of going to the Hollywood Bowl to watch the Beach Boys concert, and hearing "In My Room" again. I didn't go; I knew I wouldn't be able to cope.
My five-year plan… Forget it, let's improvise the world.
What's the point? Living.
My life in six words… Make noise, be quiet, learn more.
A life in brief
John Cale was born in Garnant, west Wales, in 1942. He studied music at Goldsmiths before winning a scholarship to the Boston University Orchestra. In New York in 1965, he formed The Velvet Underground with Lou Reed. Since leaving the band, he has released 15 solo albums, as well as collaborating with and producing for many artists, including Patti Smith, Brian Eno, Nick Drake, and The Happy Mondays. Cale lives in Los Angeles and his latest album, Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood, is out now