Other People's Faces

Anton Newcombe wants to be known as anything other than the wild child from DIG! Or does he?

The longer I waited for Newcombe to write me back, the larger he loomed in my mind--a fragmentary character made up of footage from DIG!, angry rejoinders to that footage, rumors and music. Meanwhile, Guylaine promised to call BJM's tour manager and nag, but in the same email, she mentioned that she wasn't allowed to call Newcombe, either.

His publicist isn't allowed to call?

I went over everything I thought I knew about Newcombe again in my head, and the more I thought, the less sure I was of my so-called "facts" and the more I wanted to talk to him, look him in the eye, see for myself. Anton Newcombe is not a movie.

But he was never writing me back. I knew that. So I lay in bed with a copy of the latest BJM EP, We Are the Radio, trying to drift off. Around and around, every existential thought I could think up entered my head--maybe everyone is Anton Newcombe, crying our own version of "I am not a movie!" into the void--and I almost pulled out old Plato and Descartes textbooks. Instead, I fell asleep.

When I woke the next morning, I realized, no, hell no. We're not all Newcombe. He insists he's not a movie, but just look. Onstage fistfights and Warhols-chasing and drugs and paranoia and all--he is a spectacle to be seen and gasped at, and his silence seems to confirm that he enjoys that reputation.

That's when I called Jesse Ashlock, a friend who once secured an e-mail interview with Newcombe in 2002, to see if I was right.

"I saw him about a month ago," Ashlock says. "I was driving through the Mission in San Francisco, and I noticed him walking down Valencia."

"How did he seem?"

"He seemed like the kind of guy people yell at from their cars. So I rolled down the window and I yelled, 'Hey, Anton!' And he looked up for a second," Ashlock says, "but I couldn't tell if he said anything, because I was already too far away."

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