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David Lynch says he thought his newest work was 'total BS' at first

David Lynch says he felt like he lived three different lives as a teenager.
Vittorio Zunino Celotto
Getty Images
David Lynch says he felt like he lived three different lives as a teenager.

A note from Wild Card host Rachel Martin: David Lynch says that the first time he tried transcendental meditation, "It was as if I was in an elevator and someone snipped the cables — poof! Within I went."

Down he plunged into his own subconscious.

And that analogy — of being in an elevator cut loose — is also what it feels like to absorb Lynch's work. Whether it's the TV show Twin Peaks or the movie Mulholland Drive, it feels like you are plunging into a dark and surreal part of the human psyche and it's totally confusing but also thrilling.

And frankly, that feeling of being in the elevator in free fall is a little like what talking to him feels like. Our conversation started with some lovely memories of his childhood and then the elevator drops and suddenly we're way deeper inside Lynch's mind than I expected to go and we're all just along for the ride.

At 78, Lynch is still making art. He's planning on releasing a new album with the artist Chrystabell in August. He told me the music began as a sound experiment he was working on. When he got Chrystabell to sing over the music, he found "she is perfect for this and in ways I can't really explain."

That said, he doesn't think the new music is an easy listen. He says even he was turned off by it initially: "First hearing it — total bulls***." But, he also says it opened up to him with repeated listens. "Second hearing, a little bit less. Third hearing, beauty."

The album's title, Cellophane Memories, is a reference to the way the music moved him. "It just clicked as being like a friend. And it conjures memories ... in listening to this, all these way-distant memories started bubbling up. Something about this music conjured memories."

He says that will happen to anyone who listens: "You will find music that'll bring back memories ... that will bring so much beauty and happiness into your life. Beauty is so tender. It's a tender music, but tender as in beautiful."

This Wild Card interview has been edited for length and clarity. Host Rachel Martin asks guests randomly-selected questions from a deck of cards. Tap play above to listen to the full podcast, or read an excerpt below.

Question 1: What's a moment from your childhood when you realized you wanted to make different choices than your parents?

David Lynch: I was on the front lawn of my girlfriend's house — in the ninth grade. And I was meeting a fellow named Toby Keeler, who didn't go to my high school. He went to a private school. And he was telling me that his father was a painter. And I thought at first his father was a house painter. But he said, "No, a fine art painter." And a bomb went off in my head. A bomb that changed my life in a millisecond — completely changed my life.

And from that moment on, I wanted to be a painter — only that. So my father, being a research scientist for the Department of Agriculture, I never really wanted to be that. But wanting to be a painter, an artist, has made it for sure I wasn't going to follow in my father's footsteps.

Lynch poses in front of one of his artworks in 2007 at the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary art, during his exhibition "The Air is on Fire".
Dominique Faget / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
Lynch poses in front of one of his artworks in 2007 at the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary art, during his exhibition "The Air is on Fire".

Rachel Martin: You had to have a high threshold for risk to pursue that path — or delusion, some might say. Where do you think that instinct came from, given that those weren't things that were manifest in your parents' life, necessarily?

Lynch: When you love something, there's no problem. There's no problem. You're in love and you take whatever comes along. You're in love.

Question 2: What was your form of rebelling as a teenager?

Lynch: Well, I lived three lives. I lived a home life. I lived a school life, with my sweetheart, my girlfriend. And the studio, you know, art life — and then also was a bit of a party animal.

So I had these three lives and I didn't want any of them to mix, really. So I developed spasms of the intestines.

Martin: You developed a condition — so you created it for yourself? It was psychosomatic?

Lynch: It was a psychosomatic disease, yeah.

Martin: And what did it do for you?

Lynch: I s*** my pants. That's what happened. It was a horrible thing. However, I'll tell you a good side of this. The Vietnam War was cooking up around this time. And my father took me to a doctor because the spasms in the intestines. I got a [colonoscopy]. And the guy was a great doctor and he pretended that — as he was watching — that it was a racetrack. And he said, "Here they go around this corner! They're going around — such and such number seven is in the lead! And they're going around this corner!" — following the [colonoscopy], you know, as he was telling me about my intestines. Anyway, he said, "You have spasms of the intestines," and he said, "By the way, I see on the X-rays, you have a vertebrae out of place, and if you ever get called for the army, I can give you these X-rays, and you probably won't be called if you want to get out."

So spasms of the intestines led to a doctor that helped me get out, and I didn't have to go to Vietnam.

Question 3: What failure have you learned the most from?

Lynch: My film Dune. I knew already one should have final cut before signing on to do a film. But for some reason, I thought everything would be OK, and I didn't put final cut in my contract. And as it turned out, Dune wasn't the film I wanted to make, because I didn't have a final say.

So that's a lesson I knew even before, but now there's no way. Why would anyone work for three years on something that wasn't yours? Why? Why do that? Why? I died a death. And it was all my fault for not knowing to put that in the contract.

Question 4: Where have you experienced awe?

Lynch: My first meditation. I was at [the transcendental meditation] center and I'd just been taught. And I was taken to a little room and my teacher said, "Sit here, close the eyes. Sit here and start your meditation. I'll be back in 20 minutes."

So I sat and closed my eyes and started what I just learned and boom! It was as if I was in an elevator and someone snipped the cables — poof! Within I went. Whoa. Bliss. The bliss that makes you cry. So beautiful. So powerful. Transcendental meditation is garbage going out, gold coming in.

I always say we are living like in a suffocating rubber clown suit of negativity. We don't want to be clowns. We don't want to have this heavy stinking rubber all around us of negativity.

You start transcending every day, the rubber starts disintegrating, evaporating. And freedom comes. Bliss starts coming. It just happens automatically. It's so beautiful. Why isn't everybody and his little brother meditating? I don't know. Go figure.

Martin: I have to say, you seem to truly have found some level of contentment that I don't think a lot of people have found.

Lynch: It's all there within. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. And it's a great trip we're all on. It just makes it greater when you're transcending every day. Money in the bank. 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the afternoon, and go about your business the rest of the time.

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