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Tom Waits On His Favorite Metropolitan Muse

Tom Waits says New York City is a great muse for artists of any medium - as long as the Big Apple doesn't take a bite out of your sanity. The gravel-voiced raconteur - who turned 67 earlier this week - credits the City that Never Sleeps with providing the sort of weirdness that gets his creative juices flowing.

"New York forces you to be in endless situations where a $50,000 gunmetal Mercedes pulls up into a puddle of blood and out steps the 25 carat blonde transvestite with a $2 wrist watch," Waits once said. "It's always setting you off balance."

Along with meeting strange people, you're bound to end up in strange places while living there. "A night club in a church smoking reefer under a stained glass window," Waits offered as an example.

So New York City itself is like a mind-altering substance. And Waits recommends taking the trip - as long as you don't get absorbed in the madness.

"I think it's good. It fractures you a bit. I think it's stimulating for artists who are visually susceptible to images. It's constantly bombarding you with a lot of information. If you cant take it without becoming part of it," he added. 

If you want a glimpse of what Waits is talking about, check out this animation of the interview produced by Blank on Blank - a PBS Digital Studios series featuring artist journalists who give life to old interviews by animating them. 


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