His 13th Floor Elevators spearheaded the sixties psychedelic rock movement, but drugs and mental illness would later keep him out of the limelight. An appearance at the 2005 Austin City Limits Music Festival marked his first full-length concert in decades, and since then he has played steadily. He’s set to return to the ACL festival this month.
What do you remember most from the Elevators days?
The Elevators were, like, making friends with the police. It was like looking at a statue or something like that, you know? You would have to interpret it to be sure what it was; you had to do that all the time. But it was exciting—it was like being James Brown and the Famous Flames.
Not so long ago, a return to the stage seemed unlikely for you. What turned things around?
Just takin’ it easy and gettin’ away from things that are threatening to me. If I forgot a song, then the audience would help me. They would sing to me, you know, while I performed and make sure I was doin’ all right.
You’ve had a lot going on: a European tour, a recording session with Scotland’s Mogwai, and now you’re back at the ACL fest.
Yes, I am! I’m looking forward to it a lot.