Ray Harvey: Bartender

The following interview, which was brief but I think penetrating, was conducted January 27, in Aspen, Colorado, and appeared in the February issue of Cunning Stunts. The questions were put forth by the interviewer, Ms. Eileen Appleton, who has graciously allowed me to reprint it here:

If he’s anything — and there does seem to be some question about that — he’s difficult to pin down. We finally caught up with him outside a Starbucks (not that one, the one down the street), near 31 Flavors, whereupon he invited us in for what he calls a spot.

It was 3:00 pm on a wintery afternoon in late January, the sky overcast but luminous. He prefers to sit inside these days, basking, he says, in that artificial air. When asked why, he demurs, a lackluster backhand, and then more or less says that he’s not one of the people who eats and drinks uncompromisingly al fresco. We believe him.

Muscular, mid-to-late thirty, Harvey has repose; he never touches his face. We sit near the slablike window that commands a view of the outlying plains. The telephone poles fall away into an intricate horizon. Distant semis flash….

Q: First things first: Bon Scott or Brian Johnson?

Harvey: Bon Scott.

Q: Why?

Harvey: Because he’ll win the fight.

Q: Ronny James Dio or Ozzy Osborne?

Harvey: Ronny James Dio.

Q: Why?

Harvey: Because he’ll win the fight.

Q: How was your trip in? We heard rough.

Harvey: Actually, I found it tame.

Q: Many readers have noted a sort of subterranean preoccupation with the ribald in your writ—

Harvey: The what?

Q: The ribald.

Harvey: Sex in movies, sex in books, sex in blogs — I find it all really too tedious to talk about. Let us, for once, beg off.

Q: Okay. If, as you’ve said, “there is no order in the universe apart from what man himself puts there,” how, then, do you explain the symmetry of the universe?

Harvey: Order is an epistemological word; it applies only to the conceptual mind. The universe is neither orderly nor disorderly. Man imposes order, like legends on a map. The universe simply is. It could be no other way.

Q: No?

Harvey: Yes. Matter does not possess a will. Matter, therefore, must act as it does.

Q: Your name–

Harvey: Yes?

Q: In many people’s mind, it’s inextricably associated with the fight for freedom.

Harvey: I don’t know that that’s true, but I have no objection to it.

Q: But what is freedom? Isn’t it just a word?

Harvey: No. Freedom is the absence of force. I am opposed to force, in every manifestation. I believe only in the voluntary, the consensual, the chosen.

Q: What’s force?

Harvey: Force is a fist up your motherfucking ass.

Q: Do you really loathe environmentalism as much as you say, or is it partially put on?

Harvey: The truth is, I loathe environmentalism more than I could ever say.

Q: Why so?

Harvey: Because environmentalism is a lie. It’s bandwagon thinking. It’s non-thinking. Environmentalism — and I once, clear back in high school subscribed to it and so I know — is at its root a bastard philosophy, very seductive to some, but predicated upon entirely spurious premises. Environmentalism is repackaged Marxism. Surely everyone knows by now that Marx has been discredited.

Q: By whom?

Harvey: History has discredited him.

Q: In what way?

Harvey: Every communist regime has failed; no socialist regime has ever flourished. The only societies that have truly flourished are those that have been free, or relatively free — by which I mean: to the extent that a society is free, both economically and politically, is the exact extent to which they flourish.

Q: Others have commented upon your conspicuous concern with the lyrical, even as you rail politically.

Harvey: What of it?

Q: It has struck many of us as incongruous and almost quaint. Is there anything you care to say about that?

Harvey: Yes. Poetry is language at its best. It is concentrated speech. Poetry is style. It is density of expression. Poetry is writer’s writing. Poetry is advertising — in good faith.

Q: Who is your favorite poet?

Harvey: Karl Shapiro.

Q: What is your favorite novel?

Harvey: The Possessed.

Q: Who is your favorite character in literature?

Harvey: Stavrogin.

Q: How do you feel about form in poetry?

Harvey: Form is technique, and prosody is skill. Scansion is symmetry. To say that form is an artificial construct is like saying that chess is artificial because it has rules. I feel very good about form.

Q: But where are the rules for poetry? Are they in the sticks and stones? The sea? The sky?

Harvey: The rules “live in the masterpieces,” as Shapiro said. Rules are rooted in the nature of the human mind, which seeks order.

Q: How does one learn to write?

Harvey: Imitate.

Q: Where do you write? In what sort of space?

Harvey: Standing near the window, where the light is strong. You could say I write in a cold sweat, or a whitehot fever.

Q: And yet?

Harvey: And yet? Yes. And yet. And yet I love the nighttime, when the moon rages and the lovers lie abed with all their griefs in their arms.

Q: Rewriting?

Harvey: Writing is rewriting.

Q: Haiku?

Harvey: You can make it tough.

Q: What is beauty? Is it anything?

Harvey: It is everything. Beauty is symmetry. Beauty is the bah-bah in black sheep. It is the esthetically pleasing, it is the lovely. Beauty is not, finally, ineffable, but it is elusive.

Q: Some have said you’re obsessed with the body human. Would you say that characterization is true?

Harvey: The body human is my deepest obsession. Why? All that’s born, dies, and as the flesh without spirit is dead, so is the spirit without flesh dead. The spirit is a wind that passeth away and cometh not again. Therefore, whatever thy hand finds to do, do it with all thy might, for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest. And remember: Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds. Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

Q: Is human talent innate?

Harvey: No. It is completely willed.

Q: Come, now! Completely?

Harvey: Yes. You decide, you act. Or not.

Q: What is your opinion of vigilante justice?

Harvey: Relatively low.

Q: Speaking of which, are you yourself highbrow, as you’re sometimes accused?

Harvey: Hardly.

Q: By default?

Harvey: If at all.

Q: You would agree, though, man’s understanding of the eternal, is iffy at best–

Harvey: No, I wouldn’t. There’s no real mystery about the eternal, even though it’s made out to be so very mysterious. Time, like order, is epistemological. It happens inside the human brain. As such it only pertains to humans. Time is specifically the human way of measuring movement. Take the human brain out of the equation and there is no such thing as time: there’s only movement. Movement of what? Things. Planets, particles, dust, matter — all these things do not truck with time. The universe is out of time in the literal sense. It is non-temporal. It is timeless.

Read the rest of interview here.


  • Grado

    March 8, 2010

    And your point is?

    (Tomatoes are fruits, I keep and freeze the ones that look like butts and pussies and have little appendages, and then play Barbie and GI Joe with them)

  • Chris Nogal

    March 8, 2010

    Main Entry: pre·ten·tious
    Pronunciation: pri-’ten(t)-sh&s
    Function: adjective
    Etymology: French prétentieux, from prétention pretension, from Medieval Latin pretention-, pretentio, from Latin praetendere
    1 : characterized by pretension : as a : making usually unjustified or excessive claims (as of value or standing) b : expressive of affected, unwarranted, or exaggerated importance, worth, or stature
    2 : making demands on one’s skill, ability, or means : AMBITIOUS
    synonym see SHOWY
    – pre·ten·tious·ly adverb
    – pre·ten·tious·ness noun

  • BedazzledCrone

    March 8, 2010

    Ah! The Dude Abides

  • Denny

    March 8, 2010

    Hi Ray,

    Very good interview and “thank you” for sharing it! I totally agree with your definition of “time”. Man had to define this so He could understand and develope His relationship in this Universe. Otherwise man would be like all the animals, for having “indifference” other than having the instinct to survive…

    Best of Regards,

  • Sherri Perry

    March 8, 2010

    This is a joke, right?

  • Dave Cochrane

    March 8, 2010

    I’ve heard the last point (about time existing only as a human concept) before, but I’ve never got it, Ray. Surely for anything to exist, it needs an amount of *time* to exist in? And when a thing moves from point A to point B, isn’t it its speed which dictates the amount of *time* it takes to make the journey? And even if an object does not move – it still needs the dimension of time in which to exist, as much as the obvious three other dimensions… doesn’t it? Regardless of human observance?

    (I’m asking so many questions that I’m starting to annoy *myself*, so I dread to think how annoyed anyone else reading this must be – now *there’s* an invitation for an insult).

    I’m reminded of the concept of the falling tree that makes no sound since there is no one there to observe it.

    Where are my paracetamol…

    Oh I loved the interview, by the way. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ray

    March 8, 2010

    Thank you, Mr. Cochrane.

    Time is the measurement of movement. Time measures duration. That duration would exist absent humans, but the mechanism of measurement would not.

    You never annoy, old boy. You only ever edify.

    Thank you for dropping by.

  • Mad Chad

    March 8, 2010

    Here’s my question:

    Is it true that George W. Bush is responsable for all the stickers on my produce?

    I’ve been told that the adhesive contains a mild hallucinogen. And that this adhesive is designed to purposely leave behind residue containing trace amounts of lysergic acid diethylamide undetectable by the human eye. And that this is the reason why so many people believe in the war.

  • Mad Chad

    March 8, 2010

    Oh shit! It all makes sense now.

    The hippies and shit that buy there veggies and fruit at that little neigborhood co-op dont have those stickers!

  • BedazzledCrone

    March 8, 2010

    The first good explanation that I’ve heard for why peopole actually believe in that stupid war. Thanks Mad Chad.

  • Dave Cochrane

    March 8, 2010

    Ray said: “Time is the measurement of movement. Time measures duration. That duration would exist absent humans, but the mechanism of measurement would not.”

    But there’s nothing unique about time, in that respect, is there, Mr Harvey? I mean, one could simply say that humans invented the concept of *measurement*. Which, given that animals can’t count (certainly not past 23, anyway) shouldn’t surprise anyone.

    So I may sleep soundly now, in the knowledge that the falling tree does indeed make a sound when there is no one around to observe it. But only if there is a tape recorder hidden close enough to record it. See? And you thought I didn’t get it.


  • Marcus

    March 9, 2010

    Dear Ray:

    You have revealed much yet told so little.
    You continue to remain an fool wrapped in
    a shroud of illogical logic. So if I may,
    riddle me this. If the government shouldn’t
    be in charge of education, as you have said,
    how do we prevent our children from growing
    into adults as foolish as you?



  • Dale

    March 9, 2010

    Marcus demonstrates, yet again, that liberals, unlike freedom-loving people, believe in government, and the more the better. We need liberal indoctrination – under the guise of education – so we can all be stupid enough to gladly submit to totalitarian government.

    I find this exchange particularly interesting: “Q: Is human talent innate? Harvey: No. It is willed. Q: Come, now. Harvey: Really. You decide, you act. Or not.”
    Some of us aspire to enjoy the finer things in life: beautiful women, fast cars, big guns, epicurean meals, sailing on Lake Tahoe, etc. This motivates us to produce things others want: i.e. we act.
    Those who have been demoralized by constant liberal indoctrination, pessimism, cynicism, and the endless claims of “only government”, succumb to this insidious denigration of the free spirit, fail to act, and thereby lack talent.
    Liberals are weak of mind and will; they fill that void-that-should-be-talent and initiative with hollow-headed easily-digested liberal dogmas and tenets. Liberalism is rooted in deceptive rationales that ignore the lessons of history, always seeking to empower those who produce nothing, increase government power and control, increase taxes, and spend away our country’s future. They are a burden on the talented, and, if they get their way, talent will all be cease to exist, as the incentives-to-talent are demonized and taxed into oblivion.

    I think the philosophy that talent is a function of will is a major facet of Joel Gasteneau’s personality, and it leads to some interesting – and surreal – situations.

  • ShyButIntrigued

    March 9, 2010


    I saw in Joel tenacity and will. Some talent, not realized (yet), and an incredible ability to divorce himself from reality that manifested in illness and a necessity to self-discover for his own survival. And I think that was the point. His own survival. And I don’t dispute/argue with that necessity at all. But I don’t see “talent” in him or a political ideology, necessarily. Philosophy, yes.

    I’m a liberal. I have talent. I see merit on the right and the left and the “non.” I pray to never speak as you do of people who do not agree with me, even if that is to a non-God. I hope never to lump people into a list with fast cars, big guns, and vacations. I don’t think like you, or even Ray. But I have sense enough to listen to an intelligent human with a different viewpoint, and to consider it. Perhaps that’s the greatest lesson I’ve learned. And I’m grateful.

  • Dave Cochrane

    March 9, 2010

    @ Marcus: If the government shouldn’t be in charge of posterior hygiene, how do we ensure our arses are given sufficient post-deification care?


  • Eric M

    March 9, 2010

    Hey Ray! Great interview, did you mean for it to sound like it’s in verse, because it does.

  • Nick

    March 9, 2010

    “If the government shouldn’t be in charge of education, as you have said, how do we prevent our children from growing into adults as foolish as you?”

    Marcus, Ray went to public schools. NOW do you see the horrors they produce?!

    Dale, that has to be one of the dumbest posts I’ve seen on the Internet. Well done.

    Ray, “relatively free?” Did you, of all people, really just write that? My god, someone has gotten to you!

  • Dale

    March 9, 2010

    The goal of “liberalism” is to create totalitarian government. When liberalism succeeds, there will be no freedom, and no private property. The liberal government will take everything we earn, liberal elites will decide who gets what, and the elites who will take whatever they want, no “talent” required.

    Ever notice liberals decide what is “politically correct”, and that “political correctness” always requires adhering to liberal dogmas?

    Shy, I think Joel was on a quest to resolve an inner conflict, which was in part the result of a flawed philosophy mindful of liberalism (he didn’t even realize he was doing wrong, he was so self-centered). He was actually quite talented, if you’ll recall, at drawing, and his strength of will gave him endurance in physical pursuits. The point of fast cars and such is an example of what gives some people the will to aspire and succeed: for the rewards one can earn in a free society. My point is that liberals demonize and seek to confiscate all wealth, except that obtained through politics and political corruption. Ever hear a liberal attack Nancy Pelosi for her wealth? And how did she get it, through talent? Guffaw!

    Nick, being a smart ass is not a sign of intelligence. Apparently you fail to read your own posts, which usually lack substance and use pop culture in its place. You must be another fine example of public school outcome.

  • Ray

    March 9, 2010

    Nick wrote: > Ray, “relatively free?” Did you, of all people, really just write that?

    It wasn’t elves. There’s never actually been a true laissez-faire society, though some have come close, and freedom is absolute in the sense that either exists or it doesn’t. But there is also a spectrum: societies can be more free or less free, even within police states. The real point is that the societies that are more free flourish in direct proportion to that freedom. And the opposite is true as well.

    For more on the complicated subject of how middle-of-the-road gradually but inexorably leads to less free, see von Mises brief but brilliant essay on the subject.

  • Ray

    March 9, 2010

    By sheer coincidence, this just appeared today:

  • BedazzledCrone

    March 9, 2010

    Dale said: The goal of “liberalism” is to create totalitarian government. When liberalism succeeds, there will be no freedom, and no private property. The liberal government will take everything we earn, liberal elites will decide who gets what, and the elites who will take whatever they want, no “talent” required. Ever notice liberals decide what is “politically correct”, and that “political correctness” always requires adhering to liberal dogmas?”

    Ray: please, please, please, do a blog on the term “liberalism” (when you have time). There is no place on either of my blogs for this kind a blog. Harper’s or Atlantic Monthly had something a few years ago. I will begin – most historians would argue that liberalism began with John Locke – and I quote: “the natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth.” Treatises of Government (1680) To read the entire 2 parts of Locke’s tome got to

    One of your favourites, Friedrich von Hayek is considered to be a liberal, right? – (well as it is now known, classical liberalism). It drives me crazy when people do this. I wish the world would find another word for it – maybe your blog’s readers can.

    Now I haven’t read all your blogs, so if you have already addressed this elsewhere, please feel to let me know.

  • Ray

    March 9, 2010

    Hey Bedazzled. Hayek — who started as a socialist but converted after he read Ludwig von Mises’s irrefutable book Socialism — is loosely regarded as a Classical Liberal, yes, in large part because he was a student of von Mises. But he is no hero of mine. He was, among other disappointing things, a proponent of a “limited” welfare state. He would have done well to take more to heart his teacher’s explication, cited in my comments to Nick above, “How Middle-Of-The-Road Policy Leads To Socialism.”

    Thank you for dropping by.

  • Raymond

    March 9, 2010

    Perfect. rocks.

  • ShyButIntrigued

    March 10, 2010


    After tactfully trying to point out that you lump women with cars, guns, and food as something to “acquire,” as if we were on sale at Neiman’s or a tire store, I have to go with Nick on the intelligence of your posts, “Dale, that has to be one of the dumbest posts I’ve seen on the Internet. Well done.” If you have to pay for it, maybe you should develop some social skills.

    Yes, Joel drew. Sometimes. He embraced physical exploits that blotted his thinking. “An inner conflict?” One would hope he’d be conflicted. After you not getting that you categorize women as commodities, I really don’t think you’re qualified to discuss Hop on Pop, let alone More and More unto the Perfect Day. Get a clue.

  • Abe Froman

    March 10, 2010

    MARTY: Let’s talk about your reviews a little bit. Regarding ‘Intravenus de Milo’: “This tasteless cover is a good
    indication of the lack of musical invention within. The musical growth rate of this band cannot even be
    charted. They are treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry.”

    NIGEL: That’s, that’s nit-picking, isn’t it?

    MARTY: ‘The Gospel According to Spinal Tap’: “This pretentious ponderous collection of religious rock psalms is
    enough to prompt the question: “What day did the Lord create Spinal Tap and couldn’t he have rested on that
    day too?”

    DAVID: Never heard that one!

    DEREK: That’s a good one. That’s a good one!

    MARTY: The review you had on ‘Shark Sandwich’…which was merely a two word review – just said “shit sandwich.”

    DEREK: Where’d they print that, where’d they print that?

    DAVID: Where did that appear?

    NIGEL: That’s not real, is it?

    DEREK: You can’t print that!

  • Dale

    March 10, 2010

    Early liberalism valued commerce and industry, and favored the rising middle class rather than the monarchy and the aristocracy; it had immense respect for the rights of property, especially when accumulated by the labors of the individual possessor. It was optimistic, energetic, and philosophic.

    Starting with Rousseau, a new movement, which gradually became the antithesis of liberalism. In practice, it always leads to a dictatorial State in which the individual is severely repressed. This is known as modern liberalism. To me, using the word “liberal” to describe the likes of the Liar in Chief and his stooges (e.g. Pelosi and Reid) is deceptive.

    Use government policy to create a banking/housing crisis, then take over the banks.
    Use government policy to distort and corrupt our health care system, declare a crisis, then take over the entire industry (meds, equipment, providers, hospitals).
    When liberal-loving labor unions drive car companies into bankruptcy, declare an emergency, take over the car industry.
    When the American people clearly reject your attempt to take over the health care industry, force your Congress members to choose between their Party and their constituents.

    How does this “value commerce and industry”?
    What happened to “the rising middle class”?
    Where is the “immense respect for the rights of property, especially when accumulated by the labors of the individual possessor”?
    Isn’t ramming the corruption-laden unconstitutional Senate health care bill down our throat going to “lead to a dictatorial State in which the individual is severely repressed”?

    Take your liberalism and shove it up your ass, Shy.

  • ShyButIntrigued

    March 10, 2010


    Thanks for making my point YET again, you misogynistic, bloviating blowhard. You make my job easy.

    And I’m done with this guy.

  • BedazzledCrone

    March 10, 2010

    1. You did lump women in with commodities – we don’t really like that & if that is what capitalism has to offer, then women of the world unite!
    2. Didn’t all those crises start under the Bush/Republican era? I can accept that Clinton screwed up the Fanny May/Freddy Mac stuff to let the Bush & Republicans take advantage of a bad move. Don’t the bloated governments and bloated spending generally occur under Republican (so-called fiscal conservatives) administrations (Regan, the 2 Bushes – just take a look at the financial messes they left behind them) and then they leave the Democrats to clean up the mess. At least, Clinton brought some kind of fiscal responsibility.
    3. Why aren’t you ranting about “conservatism”, as well as “liberalism” – wasn’t it under the Bush/Republican administration that all of the rights and liberties have were taken away through the anti-terrorism legislation – look at the massive encroachment of Homeland Security on personal freedoms.

    Neither governments seem to be able to do anything but screw up – but lord almighty, at least try to look at all the messes – and it has always been wars that bankrupt empires. How many billions of dollars have been wasted in the war with Iraq? And don’t think for one minute that Obama gets a pass for continuing, in fact increasing military engagement. He is already the failed messiah – but I kept telling people that would come to pass during the election period. I hated to be right, but what the hell, it was written in the history books.

    In other words, it’s the same old, same old. Just stop blaming liberalism – that’s just a boogieman. Whatever is at fault, we sure as hell could use a new way of doing things.

  • Nick

    March 10, 2010

    More or less, I agree with what Crone just wrote. Dale, when you say “liberals,” you’re including the obvious ones like Nixon, Reagan and both Bushes, right? I’m seeing lots of “Reids” and “Pelosis,” but that’s about it.

    DALE: “The goal of ‘liberalism’ is to create totalitarian government.”
    I’d argue that 99% of the time the goal of ANY government is to create a totalitarian government. It’s the nature of the beast.

    DALE: “Nick, being a smart ass is not a sign of intelligence.”
    Certainly not in and of itself, but at least it’s a giant step closer than your being a dumb ass. Also, I was being sincere. That really was one of the dumbest things I’ve read on the Internet. Learn to take a compliment.

    DALE: “Apparently you fail to read your own posts.”
    Absolutely. I have a weak stomach.

    DALE: “which usually lack substance”
    “Usually?” Dude, are you hitting on me?

    DALE: “and use pop culture in its place.”
    And why not? New York, London, Paris, Munich–everybody’s talking about it.

    DALE: “You must be another fine example of public school outcome.”
    Twelve years protecting my cornhole from priests at Catholic schools, four years at the nation’s oldest public university. Take your pick.

  • lainaa

    June 5, 2014

    The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it does not fail me as much as this one. After all, I know it was my choice to read, but I truly believed you’d have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something that you could possibly fix if you weren’t too busy searching for attention.

  • Ray

    June 5, 2014

    Thank you, lainaa. That’s really very sweet of you. Thank you.

    And thank you for dropping by.

  • Lash

    June 30, 2014

    Good info. Lucky me I came across your site by accident (stumbleupon). I have book-marked it for later!

  • lainaa

    February 1, 2015

    Pretty! This has been an extremely wonderful post. Thanks for supplying this information.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field