26 min read

Tangled Up in Bob, #2: Scott Warmuth

Masked and Anonymous (2003)

I first encountered Scott Warmuth a few years ago when I noticed a post concerning Bob Dylan's recent paintings, many of which, it turned out, had been based on movie stills. Scott, as it happens, is a dedicated indexer of Dylan's many quotations, not just his paintings but, most particularly, those found in a run of three works–the 2001 album "Love and Theft," the 2003 film Masked and Anonymous, and the 2004 book Chronicles: Volume One–that he sees as unusually densely packed with unattributed sources. I've relied on Scott's work in a few parts of my book on the cinematic Dylan, so I was eager to get a chance to speak face-to-face. Recently, I got to do just that, and learned more about Scott's unusual methodology and remarkable results.

Note: This conversation has been edited for length and clarity

I would love to start by asking what your Bob Dylan origin story is. How did you come to him?

The first two Bob Dylan albums I ever heard were ones that my dad brought home when I was a kid: Desire, and Planet Waves. I was born in ‘66, I would have been, like, 9 or 10 years old. For me, Desire was always the record I went to, I didn't spend as much time with Planet Waves. I would listen to those songs—they're so cinematic. For me, “Isis” was the big one at that point.

But that album is just filled with these beautiful songs. And so I would listen to that. I've been playing guitar since I was eight years old, huge rock and roll fan, record collector, started doing music writing for my junior high school newspaper. And if you're studying the history of rock and roll, it's all right there. I really got to spend a good amount of my time in my teens, when I'm learning to write songs, playing in bands with people, listening to those big three from the mid-60s–Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde–and then working my way back through that catalog when I was in college, listening to all of those records and really becoming interested. If you want to write songs you gotta look at a lot of different people. But Bob Dylan's right there.

I got one of the versions of the lyrics book that came out in the mid-‘80s. It's got a kind of gray and orange cover, maybe not the best graphic design, but it's got all the lyrics in there, including lots of lyrics to albums I hadn't heard. So I spent a lot of time diving into it. Stepped away after a while in the late '80s–when some of those records came out, they really weren't what I was looking for. Really, with the release of “Love and Theft” in 2001–I bought that at a big box store on a whim. I haven't heard a new Bob Dylan record in a while, it's a couple of bucks, throw it in the cart—and just being knocked out by that. And a lot of the work and research and writing I’ve been doing on his later period really comes out of a great appreciation and love for “Love and Theft,” what a wonderful record that is, how it continues to unfold, how it's constructed. And for me, such a spectacular return to form that I wasn't anticipating.  

Three works that are very, very closely related are: “Love and Theft,” Chronicles: Volume One, and Masked and Anonymous. I think they’re all cut from the same pieces of cloth—they overlap in terms of source material, they were used in similar ways, and that interrelation between them is fascinating to me. So I spent a lot of time diving into “Love and Theft” and figuring out the little pieces there—This is a line from F. Scott Fitzgerald (somebody pointed that out) or, This is a song that is based on a Big Joe Turner song. There's more and more and more and more within “Love and Theft.” And then to see that Chronicles: Volume One is written in the same elaborate puzzle-like patchwork style, where he's combining different voices from all sorts of different authors, and then getting ahold of the Masked and Anonymous script and seeing that, Oh, it's exactly the same style. He’s got a co-writer [Larry Charles] with Masked and Anonymous, which makes it even more interesting. They're very similar in terms of that approach that I see beginning with Time Out of Mind, where he's taking material from a whole range of different sources, often pairing them together, creating hidden subtext, or crafting new voices, or peppering up the language in a lot of different ways. And you also see that spread through his visual work. Even in his interviews, he's doing that–including quotes from books, or a twist of a sentence out of a Woody Guthrie letter from the ‘40s. It's endlessly inventive and fascinating and just so rich, in terms of how much is in there.

 When you take “Love and Theft,” or Chronicles, or Masked and Anonymous, how do you go about identifying sources? Sometimes you're finding F. Scott Fitzgerald, sometimes you're finding that book of carnival photos, and Spalding Gray. How is it that you even make the leap to finding those things?

There's better tools than there have ever been for searching for obscure bits of text. So a lot of it is like fishing electronically with a phrase or a sentence and seeing if you get any hits, and seeing if it might make sense. That can be very, very labor-intensive work, because you're going to hit thousands of dead ends–tens of thousands of dead ends. And I don't think a lot of people have the patience for that, or want to do that. Some of the time, it can be boring. I think Andy Warhol said, “I like boring things.” I think about that. Because when you do find something that's interesting, then you're like, Oh, that's fascinating. And then, if you know that the works are intertwined, then I know: I've got a long long list of things that he's using in, let's say, Chronicles: Volume One, I went through that book, page by page, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence in conjunction with my friend Ed Cook, and traded notes back and forth picking up on those things. So if you’ve got a list of books already, when I moved into going through the Masked and Anonymous script in a similar way, I've already got a bunch of likely suspects for that. So then I've got a smaller pool. It's not every piece of written literature ever. It's: here's a stack of 100 books and some magazines and some other things–some films that you know he might like. And that can be easier to go back and forth across. 

One example is: Bob Dylan uses bits from The Big Money by John Dos Passos in Chronicles: Volume One. He is talking about songwriting, and Len Chandler, and there's a section where he is writing about how Chandler would take newspaper headlines and use those to write songs about. But those headlines are the headlines that John Dos Passos had cut and pasted from actual newspapers and included into the book The Big Money. So not only is is he commenting on the use of cut and paste techniques and tying it back to this book that's a bit older, but also if I'm going into the Masked and Anonymous script, I already know that he's using this, and I can find: the animal wrangler’s got a portion. He's got a long speech, and it's got a bit about two shivering bicycle mechanics from Ohio, which is also out of The Big Money. If you'd already read The Big Money because you're going through, and got lucky, and finding some of those bits that kind of stood out in Chronicles: Volume One, it makes it much easier to find it in the parallel work, the Masked and Anonymous script. 

So I did a similar thing with the Masked and Anonymous script where I went through page by page. It's just being diligent, being persistent. Liking to do the work of, Let me dive in–what does this phrase mean? What does that come from? And then just getting lucky sometimes. Sometimes it's a matter of time, as well. I'll put it down for months, pick it back up, dive in, take another look. Oh, I never thought of that one. What does this one mean? And more pieces might come together. It's such a rich work in that it's written in that style that Larry Charles talks about: that when they worked on the script, Dylan came with this ornate box filled with scraps of paper, that had all sorts of different things on it, and they use that to build the script. There should be an annotated, published version that people can have. It'd be a great addendum to the film. The film stands on its own. But the script itself has stuff that isn't in the film. Some things are out of order. It’s not exactly the same. So I think the script is an overlooked work in Dylan's catalog. And it’s not even officially available.

What is the function of this? It's amazing trivia. It's wonderful to go through and go, Oh, my God. But what is he doing that is contributing to his artistry in your mind?

Sometimes, especially with the songwriting, I think it’s things that sound interesting together. Sometimes he is crafting subtext. I wrote a long piece about [“Love and Theft” track] “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum”, and how it functions as an answer record to the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John's Band”, through the use of quotation from the New Lost City Ramblers catalog tying it to how Robert Hunter wrote the lyrics for that song.

So that's interesting. That song is good on its own, but it's got that other concept going on with it. And so what can you do with that knowledge? Well, he wrote this song that's a hidden secret answer record and a tribute to the New Lost City Ramblers and, in particular, John Cohen. That's a cool thing to know! I reached out to the New Lost City Ramblers when I was doing this, and I got an email back with John Cohen's phone number. And we talked on the phone for about 40 minutes. And he had some really interesting Bob Dylan stories to tell me and I had some interesting things to tell them about, Hey, here's some things you might not have seen and might not have recognized about how Bob Dylan is paying attention to your work

And you've got other things that are playing out. I wrote a long piece about how in Chronicles: Volume One, Dylan uses some language from Ernest Hemingway's [short story] “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” to set up a hidden subtext about how he may have neglected his muse in the ‘80s. And using these comparisons to Hemingway, that's a fascinating thing to look for. And I think there are similar things going on in Masked and Anonymous that I don't think are recognized in terms of–what is the language that's being used? How is it being crafted? And what does that tell us about the film?

There's a quote of yours that I liked: “I think of Dylan as a magician. Magicians do what con men do—except that the audience knows an illusion is being created.” 

 He knows that this game is being played. And if people find it or they don't find it, I don't know how much that plays into it. I think there's a back and forth with art, but art doesn't just exist on its own. How people respond and react to it is another component for that. So you put stuff out there. People can misinterpret things and get things wrong or have their own slants to put on things. I try to keep my own biases out of it as best I can. It can be hard to do. I think it's one of the reasons why I've spent so much time waiting on writing more about some of the themes in Masked and Anonymous, because I want to keep my own biases in check regarding some of the material that's being used and figuring out how it's being used. I think there's those same types of themes that we could see in Chronicles, and those types of usages. The setups of other components of that are beneath the surface that aren't easily available for that, I think, or play a role. For instance, one of the things I thought was really interesting is in Chronicles: Volume One: he writes about meeting an outlaw appropriation artist named Robyn Whitlaw, who actually didn't exist. She's an April Fool's Day creation by an art critic named Ralph Rugoff, who wrote a long piece for LA Weekly. There’s another hidden April Fool's Day reference in Chronicles: Volume One that ties into the writing of Masked and Anonymous that is difficult to find. And I put it out there as a standing challenge: if you look on page 162 in Chronicles: Volume One, there is another hidden April Fool's Day reference. 

I find things, and I try to share them out. For instance, there's the use of Junichi Saga’s Confessions of a Yakuza that showed up in “Love and Theft.” And that was the story: he took material from this oral history of a Japanese gangster. But it turned out that was only part of the story. What people didn't recognize, and I was able to piece together, is that the guy who did that oral history of the Japanese gangster also did another book, where it's shorter oral histories of all the other people that lived in the town. He was a doctor, he interviewed all the people that were in his town, and “Love and Theft” is full of lyrics not just from a Japanese gangster, but from a Japanese seamstress who talks about how you have to get up near the teacher if you want to learn anything. The book is filled with that. So when I figured that out, I could’ve just said, here's a long laundry list of other things Dylan did. But instead, I just bought a whole bunch of copies of the book and sent it out to people as gifts. Like, Hey, take a look. This is a haystack full of Bob Dylan needles. If you read it carefully, they'll jump out. And that's such a fun experience. If you have a book that you know Bob Dylan likely read, and you're reading through it–Oh, that's one. I didn't see that. And people might spot things that I might not spot as well. 

One of the things I looked at was that new book Mixing Up the Medicine that just came out. It covers the full career. I'm really specifically interested in a much smaller timeframe, but it had a couple of nice pieces in there. A draft of “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum.” One page that I hadn't seen, and a part of a version of an early draft of “High Water (For Charley Patton)” that I was able to look through. I already knew that Dylan had used a minstrelsy sketch called Box and Cox for a couple of lines in “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum.” Your presence is obnoxious to me. I've had too much of your company. And it turns out there was another little bit in there that’s in the draft that didn't make the final version. That was kind of cool to be able to see. Or in that version of “High Water (For Charlie Patton),” it's just a quick portion of a page. But sometimes you have to read what the handwriting is like. And it's in pencil and it's kind of scrawled. A writer I know said, Take a look at this piece, let me know if there's anything you see there. And I got back to him and said, You know what, I was able to piece together that it came from a Melville short story called “Bartleby, the Scrivener. I just got lucky in terms of: I've got a specific piece. These are some odd words. Let me see what I can find with these odd words. Oh, it's Melville. What's the likelihood that Bob Dylan reads Herman Melville? We know it's 100%–he devoted a big chunk of the Nobel Prize speech to that, while incorporating elements from the SparkNotes from Moby Dick. This gameplay is still going on. So there's still plenty of that to do, and a way to do that is to share those pieces out, trade notes back and forth. Everyone's gonna have different approaches, different viewpoints, spot things differently. You can't always crowdsource stuff like this, because it doesn't always work that way. When he's making still film shots into paintings, you have a better chance of doing that. It's either the shot from the film, or it's not. So it's trying to figure out, what are the likely hits? For instance, with this one that I'm working on with the script for Masked and Anonymous, I think about how Philip K. Dick wrote The Man in the High Castle, where he consults the I Ching in terms of how to make plot decisions, which is an interesting way to write a book. And it worked, because the book’s really good. And when I recognized that Masked and Anonymous was written this way, I imagined perhaps Larry Charles and Bob Dylan are sitting together, saying, Let's flip to the page and stop there. That's what the character’s going to say.

But maybe it didn't go on that way, exactly. Because back in September of ‘21, Larry Charles actually responded to a tweet I'd put out–this is what he wrote about the approaches they had. He wrote, Dialogue/poetry/aphorisms are similar to jokes/comedic concepts, plugged in/pulled out/inserted/removed/changed constantly. This is rewriting. I never saw BD refer to a book. His sum is far greater than his sources. He draws on the universe and his vast wealth of knowledge. Well, yeah, I'm on board with Bob Dylan being really great at writing stuff and making art. And he said he never saw Bob Dylan refer to a book. Well, I've got the pile of books that I know he was looking at when he was working on the script. So did he write out all those pieces by hand and stick it into the box? Or rip out a page and stick it in the box? Whatever that piece is, if you're working backwards, I’ve got the script, let me see if I can put the pieces together. And there's hundreds of pieces. And sometimes they're really fascinating in terms of where they came about. 

One I liked is, there's this bit where [Dylan's Masked and Anonymous character] Jack Fate is talking to the armed man, and he says, You know how to use one of those? He's holding a gun. And the armed man says, Yeah, they taught me. I can shoot it and clean it and take it apart. They taught me a bunch of other stuff, too. I can tell a military officer’s rank just by looking at his insignia. And where that ended up coming from was an article by David Brooks that appeared in The Atlantic called “One Nation Slightly Divisible,” where Brooks is really drawing a distinction between us and them, and us being people who write for The Atlantic, and the rest of whatever part of America that is different than that, and that's one of the things he's writing about–Brooks writes, We don't know how to shoot or a clean a rifle. We can't tell a military officer’s rank by looking at his insignia. So that notion of class in Masked and Anonymous, of the other that is so strong, what are the things they’re drawing upon and thinking about? Not everyone's gonna be a David Brooks fan, certainly. But he's drawing that distinction. They say, I'll take that distinction, and I'll put it in the mouth of the armed man who's right there. That that's going on throughout the script is fascinating, that it's thought through that way and there's all these different components going on. You know, I first saw Masked and Anonymous in its initial theatrical run. It played in limited release, but one of the theaters is up the street from my house. So I went to see it one afternoon, it was me and one other guy in the theater. So just to sit there and go, Wow, what was that? And then have it on DVD and Blu-Ray, and the script became available, and printing that out and spending a lot of time going back and watching it. I really like Larry Charles's director's commentary on the DVD. I think there's a lot of stuff in there if you pay attention about what else could be going on and thinking of themes that are incorporated into the film.

 They're playing with so many different things. He talks in the director's commentary about [Ed Harris's Masked and Anonymous character] Oscar Vogel, and I think that's one of the interesting themes is the notion that he was a ghost or an ethereal being who shows up in there. And the notion that it's not based on Jolson, but it's based on Larry Parks, the actor who played Al Jolson in The Al Jolson Story, who got caught up in the communist witch hunts in the ‘50s, and also happens to be Jeff Bridges’s godfather. Like, did he know that it was Jeff Bridges’s godfather? Or they make it explicit that Bobby Cupid is modeled after Brando in The Fugitive Kind. Is it the ghost of Valentine Xavier? Is that character there? That notion of ethereal beings and taking their advice plays a role in the film. I think one of the more critical lines that I think is overlooked is early in the film. He's getting sprung from jail–Jack Fate says, Must be my lucky day. Who would do that? And [the guard] says, Some angels must have intervened on your behalf. I think that notion of angels intervening on your behalf is a critical line in that script. And I think that needs to be paid attention to. And I like, also, that you've got how those pieces move across, so that Dylan is clearly a fan of not only Brando, and Brando's portrayal in The Fugitive Kind, but there's a great courtroom scene in the beginning where he’s describing the guitar that he got from Lead Belly, which is the guitar that he's playing in Masked and Anonymous. But he's also a big Tennessee Williams reader; he’s got quotes from different versions of The Fugitive Kind–the play is Orpheus Descending, there was an earlier version of the play called Battle of Angels, there's bits from that that show up in Tempest lyrics, about the dark glasses to cover my eyes, or about fly away, pretty bird. There's a whole bunch of bits of stuff from Tennessee Williams. There's even a little bit from The Glass Menagerie in the Masked and Anonymous script–Jack Fate’s mother had so many suitors, they didn't have enough chairs for them to sit, which is straight out of The Glass Menagerie. So it's a very, very dense work, which I think is fascinating. You can put it down, you can come back to it, you can look at it different ways. You don't have to know any of these things to appreciate “Love and Theft” or Masked and Anonymous or Chronicles: Volume One. But if you do, it's such a broad tapestry from so many different places that it's enriching to spend time there. 

When I talked to John Cohen, one of his questions for me was, Why do you do this? And I told him it puts me in a position of reading things I might not have read, and he seemed to accept that as an OK answer I guess. At least that was the best I could come up with under pressure. But I think that's true: to push yourself to read things you might not have read, to listen to music you might not have listened to, to think about things in different ways. And who better to show you cool books to read than Bob Dylan, the guy who wrote all those Bob Dylan songs? 

You say that Masked and Anonymous is satisfying on its own. You feel that it is, if you're not cued into the complexities?

I mean, I saw it without knowing how it was written. First of all, it's got my favorite band he ever had playing live. So you’ve got me there: here’s a movie where Bob Dylan plays with his band, with Larry Campbell and Charlie Sexton right there. Everybody's on screen. I'm a big film fan. I love cheapy exploitation films for, like, country music–Hey, we're gonna show 10 country artists, static camera, maybe a close up of the singer, then back to the static camera, the full band shot. And then we're going to do 10 different bands like that. We're going to tie it together with a ridiculous plot, using an old slapstick vaudevillian comedian and the worst script ever. That's satisfying for me, because there's George Jones on camera, and you can watch him. So even from that, you had me sold. I think that's one of the things they talked about when they were trying to make the film: they were considering, What do those films of those country artists from the 50s look like? He’s got all the sideshow stuff that's in there–you mentioned that book of sideshow photography, where some of the scenes come from, there's a long piece that's a deleted scene on the DVD where Jeff Bridges as Tom Friend gives a long piece that’s all crafted out of out of that sideshow piece. And the sideshow stuff is a lot of, See what they look like, hear what they talk about, and there they are on screen. And then you got a ton of wonderful performances, and so many good actors in it. I was riveted. And Bob Dylan on screen! He’s 40 feet tall in the movie theater. And with that band playing really loud? You don't need to know any of that if you like music. They play a bunch of classic songs–I love the version of the “Down in the Flood” in the film. Just killer. 

What I want to see, and I was hoping would come out on the Blu-Ray, is the full recordings of the band playing. Just give me that and I’ll buy a third copy of Masked and Anonymous, because I think that's such a hot band, and I love to see that band play live. I got to see them a bunch of different times, and that they're captured on film and preserved is spectacular. So yeah, I appreciate the film on a bunch of different levels. But even as just a music fan, going to see a music film, that was a rewarding experience. 

So I wanted to talk about the paintings, which is now a major focus of yours. Dylan has been painting stills from movies, which is fascinating. How do you go about identifying which of the paintings are coming from films? 

There's other people doing it, too, and they might have a keener eye than me. And this is something you can crowdsource. Sometimes there's a word in it, or a visual that you can pick up on that can lead you to the right place, and you just get lucky. There's a couple of peculiar exploitation films from the early ‘70s that are shot in New York. That one had some words in the neon sign in the background, and I know what I'm looking for: I'm looking for a film, it's in New York City, it's in the early ‘70s. I know this is Times Square, but is this mentioned? And it happened to be mentioned, and I was able to put together, OK, that's the film. That was just being fortuitous, and having that come across. And then once you know that he's watching certain types of films, a lot of them are film noir, so go through all of the classic noir films. I have a subscription to the Criterion Channel, and I like to watch films, so it hardly puts me out to do that–it’s what I'd be doing anyway. For instance, with the New York City films, the one I found from just figuring out what the neon sign behind the couple in the painting said–it was Flesh Pot on 42nd Street, which is not a film that most people are going to be familiar with or have seen. But then it's other stuff that’s Times Square in New York City in the ‘70s. It's a whole bunch of different films. So then watching films that are from that era, I thought Dog Day Afternoon might be a likely film that could be one of these films. It starts off with the montage in the beginning of the film, and there's the old guy standing on the beach on the boardwalk within the first five minutes. OK, great, ding ding ding, that worked. Or sometimes it's a certain director. So then, if you find something that might be close when you're hunting for things–OK, I already know he likes William Friedkin films, let me watch all of his films. I think there's five different William Friedkin films that Dylan has used images from for paintings and drawings in the past couple of years. 

And then it's just keeping tabs. There’s the Beaten Path catalog that came out, and that includes the first movie screen-grab paintings that I was able to spot. I think someone initially spotted some that were from Touch of Evil. So then I watched all of Touch of Evil, OK, there's like maybe three or four different ones. We're then getting lucky with Paris, Texas, because I could recognize, Well, there's the name of the motel. Did anybody ever make a movie with this motel in the location? Oh, there's Paris, Texas. Then let's watch Paris, Texas from beginning to end. OK, here's the scene where Harry Dean Stanton is driving in an elevated parking garage and the car is pulling out. And that's the painting. It's the back of Harry Dean Stanton’s head in that. So I think that is interesting too, because they tie together. Harry Dean Stanton was his friend. He performed music with Harry Dean Stanton. So what's that component like? He's making a painting of someone that he knows. Or he's got the one of Susan Tyrrell in John Huston's Fat City, where she's sitting at the bar–Susan Tyrrell’s in Masked and Anonymous! So what was his relationship with her? She's got a great role in the script. I don't know how much they filmed. She's only on camera for a very brief period of time with El Mundo, the masked wrestler. He's holding her as she comes in, she's barely on screen for more than a few seconds. But in the script, she's got a lot to say. So I think there's these ties between those. There's a movie called The Set-Up, which Dylan does some paintings and drawings from, a boxing film noir that's based on, like, a long narrative poem. And that poem, and its sister work, Dylan quotes from a couple of different times on songs on Tempest. So that's interesting, as well–it's a poem that he's using to craft song lyrics from. It's a film that he's using to make paintings from, so there's that intertwining of works that I saw initially in “Love and Theft,” Chronicles: Volume One, and Masked and Anonymous, it expands when you start to think about the paintings, and the drawings, and how the specific films are picked, and how that might overlap of some of those other works.

You have alleged that some of the way he describes the methodology of the paintings doesn't make a lot of sense. Is that true? 

There's a great essay in the beginning of the Beaten Path catalog that's long, and it's available online, Vanity Fair republished it. It's a great essay. And one thing that's funny: there was a glossary of art terms that's about eight pages long, it's available as a PDF at a museum out of Louisiana, and he's riffing off of it. He's taken all these different bits and tying them together and twisting the words around. And he starts talking about lenses and some other things. Some of it is deliberately opaque. But he does talk about using methods for how you'd make paintings. And some of it ties to David Hockney's work with Secret Knowledge, the use of lenses that someone like Vermeer would have used to create such distinctive works. And I think there's some overlap there. So I think he does tip the hand a little bit. I don't know what the method could be. I've taken some time to learn to use some of them–there's one called camera lucida, which allows you to see the source image that you're looking at visually in your eye. It's not a projection, but in your eye, you can also see your writing surface. So I can see what I want to paint or draw or marker or whatever. And I can see my canvas at the same time superimposed but it uses lenses in a certain way. David Hockney demonstrates this in his book, Secret Knowledge. It's an interesting way to work. So perhaps there’s some of that going on. There could be other strategies going on. If there are people that work with Bob Dylan in his studio making his art, they keep that pretty mum. The only things I've seen in terms of the artwork are lists of people who witnessed Dylan signing the prints. They wanted to know, did he actually sign these? People were there at the signing for that. And you'll see some of that in the paintings as well. 

There's one–there’s a dark comedy with Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins called Pretty Poison. He's got a painting based off of that. I was able to track that down because there's a factory in the background, and it's got the chemical company listed there. And that's the name of the town in it. So I was able to figure out from the town that it was that painting, but he's changed the other things. He’s incorporating references to people that he knows. I think there's more of that going on in the paintings than people recognize. And I think especially with the works–the film paintings are interesting, but I really think the magazine cover paintings in Revisionist Art don't get enough attention. There's a broad amount of text in those and some of them are just gags or magazine culture jokes or pop culture jokes, but there's also the same type of hidden gameplay going on that we see in the other works. It's all cut from one cloth, it's just coming out in a whole bunch of different ways. So yeah, the films, there's dozens of them that’ve been identified now. I certainly didn't do that alone, there’s plenty of people who were spotting things. When someone does, they happen to send it to me most of the time. So that's fascinating, to see–it was from that? There's still a bunch that I want to see what they are. There's one that people say, it’s a guy in a diner, it looks a little bit like Leonard Cohen. So I want to see, where did that painting come from? Or the ones where he's changing things around. There's the one from Urban Cowboy where it kind of looks like Bob Dylan's face where John Travolta's face would be. What are the other changes or substitutions that he's that he's making within there? Where those changes are in both the movie paintings ones and the magazine paintings in Revisionist Art, there's still plenty of stuff to mine there that I think we've barely even touched on so far.

Have you looked at [Dylan's 2022 book] Philosophy of Modern Song through this lens at all? Is there any of that in there?

 I think it's different. I don't see the same types of things there. Certainly plenty of interesting things, but I think it's done in a different method than I see in those other works. There's a different voice he might be going for there. But I don't see the same deliberate crafting that’s so densely packed, like in those other works that I'm primarily focused on. But it's only been out for a while. There's some fun stuff. There's some visual gags. Some people are turned off by that voice–it’s kind of that hardboiled film noir voice that he might be exploring there. Similar thing–I know you like the Rolling Thunder Revue film, and you were watching that again recently. And I like to see a bunch of the performances in there, but for me, it doesn't resonate the same way as what I see going on in Masked and Anonymous where the script itself is so densely written. Some of the jokes are maybe too broad and too obvious for me, but I'm an outlier for sure. I have a friend who watched the whole film and he didn't catch on until much later that there were components that weren't based in reality. I'm watching it initially going, OK, yeah, I've seen this in F for Fake by Orson Welles and I might like F for Fake more. So as a Scorsese version of F for Fake using Bob Dylan material? I think that's okay. I wouldn't rate it as highly as Masked and Anonymous. It's different for me. I think of Philosophy of Modern Song in the same way: it's interesting. I'm glad it's there. But it may not be a primary focus for the type of thing that I do. 

So my last question: is there anything you are hoping to see out of him in the time that we have left with him? 

Oh, anything he wants to do, I'm happy. He tours, he comes to Albuquerque. Last time he came, I got great seats right on the side of the stage, so I could see him behind the piano the whole night. What a treat! Bob Dylan comes 15 minutes from my house and plays songs and I can go to see that? So hopefully he tours some more. They’ve got 2024 tour dates, I'm keeping fingers crossed for a return to Albuquerque. I think I've seen him play 11 times now. I'd love to see more artwork. By the time we're even looking at it, he's already moved on to something else. So I love what those paintings are. And I'd love to know more about what the stories are behind that. A Chronicles: Volume Two? You can always hope, but I don't know if he's going to go back to that same style for that. Rumors of a new album, an album of covers, do some blues songs–whatever it is coming out, I'm game. I'm open for whatever might be. I remember when I thought, I don't know if Bob Dylan is ever gonna come up with anything interesting again, in the 80s. So dropping the needle on one of those records going, OK, I like the idea of it. I'm a big Arthur Alexander fan. He's doing a version of Sally Sue Brown, a song I really, really like. And it just wasn't cutting it for me in terms of the way the music was sounding, and I stepped away for a while. So now I have to make amends for not paying attention for a good stretch of time. I certainly think I've tried to put in a decent effort to do that, and spread the word–as if people didn't already know that Bob Dylan's an amazing artist, but that he certainly is. And so whatever it is, I'm going to say, Hooray, thank you.