Slick as Ever
In her first career, Grace Slick sang of white
rabbits and finding someone to love. These days, Slick has traded her
microphone for a paintbrush. On October 8 she will appear at the
Celebrity Art Gallery in Walnut Creek, showing paintings like this
self-portrait from her days as the lead singer of Jefferson Airplane.
Q: Have you ever been to Walnut Creek?
A: I have been there, I know, but I was probably drunk. So I don’t remember it.
Q: When you appear at galleries, do people ask about paintings or singing?
A: All the time, I hear things like, “I was in the eighth row in Cleveland and my eye was bloody because I had fallen down. Do you remember me?” I’ll say, “You’re asking me if I remember you in Ohio in 1972?” It’s actually very sweet. People are very pleasant and dreamy about those days.
Q: How did you become an artist?
A: I was living with a guy with a brilliant mind who was bipolar. He did not want to take the drugs for it, because of the sexual side effects. He became physically violent, so I sent him home to Rio, and I was kind of sad. I started drawing animals, like polar bears, to make me happy. My friends took a look, and said, “These are really good.”
Q: Was becoming a rock star just as spontaneous?
A: It started because I was working as a floor model at I. Magnin in San Francisco. I would wear $10,000 outfits all day, and then go home and party. One night I saw Jefferson Airplane at a club called the Matrix. I thought, “They get paid more than I do all week, plus they get to drink and have fun.” So I formed a band—The Great Society—and we started opening for Airplane. When [Airplane’s] lead singer got pregnant, they asked me to join the band.
Q: Jefferson Airplane played Monterey, Woodstock, and Altamont. What do you remember about those shows?
A: We were the only band to play all three, as far as I know. Despite everyone’s romantic memories, Woodstock was a mess. God bless it, it was the first of its kind. We were helicoptered in and supposed to play at 9 p.m. We didn’t play until 6 a.m. But Monterey Pop was unbelievable. Just a beautiful day; everything was set up right. We saw acts that we had only heard. I got to meet Jimi Hendrix. There was no corporate anything. That’s the way festivals should be. Altamont was ugly. The land was grey-yellow. The day was grey. All the way around, it was not happening.
Q: The film Gimme Shelter shows the violence erupting with the Hell’s Angels while you were onstage.
A: I didn’t have my contact lenses in, and I saw movement that was abnormal on the side of the stage. I asked my drummer what was going on, and he said, “The Hell’s Angels are beating up [guitarist Marty [Balin].” I thought, “Hmm. That’s going to ruin the set.”
Q: Will you ever do a Jefferson Airplane reunion?
A: No. Airplane got together for one last performance in 1989, and I stopped doing rock ’n’ roll. I don’t like old people on a rock ’n’ roll stage. It starts looking sappy. There are a few—Sting, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel—who can pull it off. But very few. Although, I do wonder what Janis [Joplin] would be doing now if she were around.
Slick appears at the Celebrity Art Gallery on October 8 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., 1389 N. Broadway, Walnut Creek, (925) 938-6260, www.areaarts.com .