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'Godzilla' Returns

Steve Ryfle is a former Los Angeles Times reporter. Fifty years ago Godzilla, Japan's giant radioactive reptile, made his first film appearance. Japanese director Ishiro Honda made the original Godzilla movie in 1954. The film is coming back to theaters in a new uncut version. Ryfle's book about Godzilla is Japan's Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of 'The Big G.'

21:55

Other segments from the episode on May 26, 2004

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, May 26, 2004: Interview with Steve Ryfle; Interview with Zaha Hadid; Review of Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake's new recordings “Back together again.”

Transcript

DATE May 26, 2004 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Steve Ryfle discusses his book and the "Godzilla" movies
it's based on
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of "Godzilla")

GROSS: Godzilla was king of the monsters, and the movie was king of all
monster movies. But the "Godzilla" that Americans have seen is considerably
different from the original Japanese movie. In honor of its 50th anniversary,
the film has been released here for the first time in its original version.
It's much more than a campy or scary monster movie. It's a very bleak, somber
film with echoes of the firebombing and atom-bombing of Japan and direct
references to the perils of radiation.

Probably know the basic story: A giant and angry reptile emerges from the
ocean and stomps across Tokyo breathing fire and destroying the city. The
American version of the film deleted about 40 minutes from the original to
make it shorter and to make way for new footage that was added to make the
film more marketable to American audiences. The new footage featured an
American Wire Service reporter whose reports provide the narration for the
story. The reporter was played by Raymond Burr, who went on to play Perry
Mason. Here's how he opened the film.

(Soundbite of "Godzilla")

Mr. RAYMOND BURR: This is Tokyo, once a city of six million people. What has
happened here was caused by a force which, up until a few days ago, was
entirely beyond the scope of man's imagination. Tokyo, a smoldering memorial
to the unknown, an unknown which at this very moment still prevails and could
at any time lash out with its terrible destruction anywhere else in the world.
There were once many people here who could have told of what they saw. Now
there are only a few.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest, Steve Ryfle, is the author of a book about the making of
"Godzilla" and its many sequels. It's called "Japan's Favorite Mon-Star." I
asked him why Raymond Burr's character was added to the American version and
why some of the film's message was changed.

Mr. STEVE RYFLE (Author): Well, this was, you know, the mid-'50s, about a
decade or so after the end of the war. I don't think there was a lot of
sympathy for Japan, so the underlying message of the film may not have
resonated so well with American audiences at that time. That having been
said, I don't know that the distributors of the film in the United States had
purely political motives. I think they were driven more by capitalism than
anything else.

And what they did was essentially disguise a Japanese film as an American one.
And if you think about it, what they did was rather ingenious. They rented
Raymond Burr for one day. The story goes that they paid him for one day's
work, and they kept him at the studio for 24 hours in order to film all of his
scenes. They filmed everything on a little sound stage on Vermont Avenue in
Los Angeles. They hired Asian actors, some of whom posed as essentially body
doubles for the Japanese actors. They used over-the-shoulder shots and
whatnot to kind of pretend that Raymond Burr was actually speaking to members
of the Japanese cast. And they rather effectively, if crudely, incorporated
him into the Japanese film. And what it did was it created a very marketable
giant monster movie of the variety that was so popular at that time.

GROSS: Now the ending is really changed. In the original "Godzilla," the
Japanese movie that is being released now in its full version in the States,
the movie ends with the paleontologist saying, `I can't believe that Godzilla
is the only survivor of his species. If we continue testing H-bombs, another
Godzilla will one day appear somewhere in the world.' What's the ending in
the American version?

Mr. RYFLE: Well, you know, the giant bug, giant reptile, you know, atomic
monster movies were extremely popular in the 1950s. I mean, I could run down
a list of really wonderful titles, like "Tarantula," "Them," "Black Scorpion,"
"Giant Gila Monster," "Giant Behemoth," "The Amazing Colossal Man," "The
Attack of the 50-Foot Woman" and on and on and on. And what was the normal
pattern in those films--essentially in the American atomic monster movies, the
monsters were stand-ins for Cold War invaders. And at the end of the movie
there would be much celebration as the American military ultimately defeated
these warriors, these monsters, with new and more powerful military might.
Often there would be, you know, a new version of an atomic weapon that
obliterated the monster. And the message was clear that, `No matter what the
threat, you know, never fear. The American military is strong; it will defend
you.'

And what the American distributors of "Godzilla" did was essentially, if not
completely, attempt to create an ending of that type. Raymond Burr's last
line of the film was, you know, `The menace was gone, but the whole world
could wake up and live again.' I think even in the Raymond Burr version of
the film, the rather downbeat and poignant ending still shines through to a
point. But in the original version, as you said, it's much more pessimistic.
You know, `If we continue to test these H-bombs, another Godzilla is going to
appear somewhere in the world someday.' To me, what that essentially means is
in our world that someday, you know, one of these bombs is going to be used
again. And if you look around us today, I mean, it's never been more true. I
mean, we're just, you know, one accident away from a nuclear tragedy. And,
incidentally, the scientist's prediction was correct, wasn't it? Godzilla
came back again and again and again and again. That's why we're here talking
about this today.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: You know, watching the movie as an adult, I was thinking, `Well, you
know, it's the H-bomb that's responsible for "Godzilla," but it's the atomic
bomb that was actually dropped on Japan.' Why is it the H-bomb that the movie
is so concerned with?

Mr. RYFLE: Well, the H-bomb testing program was in full effect at this time.
And there was an incident in early 1954, the Lucky Dragon tragedy, and this is
really the incident that may have been, you know, the most responsible for the
creation of "Godzilla." The Lucky Dragon was a Japanese fishing boat that set
sail from its home port in Yaizu in January of 1954, and its voyage was
ill-fated from the beginning.

They were originally set to tuna fish in the waters off of Indonesia, but at
the last minute the owner of the boat ordered the fishing master to set sail
instead for the waters off of Midway because he'd heard that there was great
catches of albacore tuna to be had there. So in late February they began
fishing there, and on the morning of March 1st, 1954, in the predawn hours, a
few crew members were standing on the deck when they thought they saw the sun
rising in the West. And what it turned out to be was an H-bomb test. Now the
crew of the boat had not been warned that they were drifting dangerously close
to the Pacific Proving Ground, the H-bomb testing zone at the Marshall
Islands. And even if they had known that they were close to the testing
ground, they certainly did not know that a test was going to occur on that
date.

So as they stood there wondering what the heck this was, a few of the men who
had served in the war started to get an eery feeling, and the captain said,
`Let's get the heck out of here.' About the time they reeled in their nets,
they were being rained on with this sticky white ash, this radioactive
fallout. And by the time they got back to Japan, many of the men were sick.
The radio man later died of leukemia that year. It became a huge
international incident.

And in mid-March, after the boat had returned to port and this incident was
starting to make waves in the press, Tomoyuki Tanaka, the producer of the film
eventually, clipped a newspaper article and went to the head of production at
Toho Studios and said, `What if these nuclear tests, what if these H-bomb
tests, awakened an undersea creature that came on land and destroyed Japan?'
And that's really the genesis of "Godzilla."

GROSS: There are amazing scenes of destruction in "Godzilla." You know,
Godzilla in the movie--he's not just a victim of the hydrogen bomb, a victim
in the sense that he's become bizarre and radioactive as a result of this.
But he also is a kind of like metaphor for the force of hydrogen and atom
bombs. And, you know, he breathes fire, and he sets Tokyo ablaze. And the
scenes of Tokyo burning are really disturbing, especially if you're a child
watching it. Can you describe how those scenes were shot?

Mr. RYFLE: Well, the miniature sets of Tokyo in some cases were so large that
they had to be built outside to accommodate the width and the dimensions of
them. They were basically shot using, you know, miniature buildings
constructed in 1/25th scale. And, of course, Godzilla, as we all know, is a
man in a latex costume who tramples through the set. You know, for instance,
when Godzilla destroyed the clock tower in the Ginza, that is a very, very
accurately detailed model. You know, often people will deride these films for
being, quote-unquote, "cheap" simply because they do not use the stop motion
animation technique that other giant monster films before them did use. That
being said, the amount of care and detail that went into the construction of
the miniature Tokyo is just amazing. When you witness Tokyo on fire, there's
a great shot during the middle of Godzilla's long rampage. It was just
amazing. The destruction, the death toll is sort of unparalleled on screen.

GROSS: Of course, the American version of "Godzilla," the one with Raymond
Burr, was dubbed, and over the years a lot of people have, you know, mocked
the dubbing of that and many other monster movies. How is the dubbing done?
How much preparation did the actors have for this? How carefully selected
were the actors?

Mr. RYFLE: Well, you know, it's interesting that you bring that up.
"Godzilla, King of the Monsters," which is the American version of the film
we're talking about, actually doesn't have a whole lot of dubbing. I mean,
the whole device of inserting Raymond Burr into the film was a way of getting
around that because Raymond Burr essentially is not the protagonist. He is a
commentator, a narrator. And basically what he does is observe the story and
then tell you what the Japanese characters are doing, as if you were too
stupid to figure it out for yourself. But, nevertheless, there is some
dubbing.

Dubbing for "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" is an exceptional case because it
was very crude. I talked to some of the actors who worked on it, including
James Hong, who was a very recognizable character actor who played the villain
in "Big Trouble in Little China." He's a very recognizable actor, and this
was one of his first professional gigs. And he said they didn't even have the
luxury of, you know, looping against the film while they saw it, you know,
projected on a screen. They basically were given a script and sat down in
front of a microphone and asked to read all their lines at various different
speeds, so that later on somebody could pair them up with the lip movements on
the screen.

But most of the "Godzilla" movies that are lambasted for the dubbing are the
ones released in the '60s with titles like "Destroy All Monsters" and
"Godzilla Vs. the Sea Monster" and "Monster Zero." Those films mostly were
dubbed by professional actors. People like Hal Linden worked on some of those
films because they were mostly dubbed by a company called Tetra in New York,
and they employed, you know, stage actors who were, you know, free during the
day. That's how some of them made, you know, a decent living during that time
period.

GROSS: My guest is Steve Ryfle, author of the book "Japan's Favorite
Mon-Star." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Steve Ryfle, author of the book "Japan's Favorite
Mon-Star." The original Japanese version of Godzilla has just been released
in America for the first time.

One of the things that really intensifies all the effects of "Godzilla," the
sense of danger, the sense of destruction, is the score. It's a fantastic
score. And worked into the score are the sounds of the monster growling and
the really frightening sounds of the monster's footsteps reverberating. Tell
us something about the composer of the score.

Mr. RYFLE: Well, Akira Ifukube--boy, what can I say? I think the score for
"Godzilla"--of course, I'm biased, but I think it's one of the greatest film
scores of all time. And, of course, the motifs in "Godzilla" were reused and
reworked continually throughout the golden age of the series in the '50s and
the 1960s. Mr. Ifukube is a highly regarded classical composer in Japan. He
scored many, many, many, many films, including several classics. And, you
know, without Ifukube's music, I don't think "Godzilla" would have made the
impact that it did. The music is synonymous with "Godzilla," as is
"Godzilla's War," which, by the way, Mr. Ifukube created through the
manipulation of musical instruments and sound effects.

GROSS: Why don't we hear part of the score? And you'll hear the monster's
footsteps and the monster's roar worked into it.

(Soundbite of score from "Godzilla")

Unidentified Man: (Japanese spoken)

GROSS: This is music from the soundtrack of "Godzilla." The sound of
Godzilla's footsteps have always seemed to me to be the sound of impending
doom, you know, because it's this thunderous, reverberating sound, and you get
the feeling it's coming closer, you know. And so that's a feeling you're
always left with when you hear these footsteps. It's like it's coming closer;
the monster or the tragedy is approaching. How were those footsteps created?

Mr. RYFLE: Well, there are several accounts of how that was done. It seems
to have been--the most logical explanation seems to be a large drum that was
beat, recorded and, you know, reverb effects added to it. I don't think it
was anything, you know, technically sophisticated at that time. This film
really had a `make it up as you go along,' you know, approach. Whatever
needed to be done, the filmmakers found a way to do it.

GROSS: How was the monster's roar created?

Mr. RYFLE: The monster's roar--boy, isn't that one of the greatest sound
effects in the movie history? Every kid knows it. I remember when I was a
child, we used to try to imitate it, too--not to much success. It was created
by rubbing a leather-gloved hand over the strings of a double bass, recording
that sound and manipulating it, changing the speed. And that's what they came
up with. And Godzilla's roar basically was created using the same sound
effects, even up until now. Now it's digitally altered, but it basically
sounds the same. If you recall, during the 1960s, Godzilla's roar became more
of a high-pitched whine, but it's more or less the same sound.

GROSS: Do you think that the director of "Godzilla," Ishiro Honda, saw it as
a monster film or saw it as, you know, a parable about the dangers of nuclear
weapons?

Mr. RYFLE: I think it's a little bit of both. Mr. Honda had served in the
Japanese military during World War II, and upon his return home after the war,
he had visited Hiroshima and witnessed the aftermath of the destruction there.
And he was deeply affected by that, and he said so on several occasions.
"Godzilla" is Mr. Honda's most personal film by far. And you can see the
imprint that the war left on him. He worked personally on the script, you
know. And he spoke many, many times over the years about how his desire for
this film, while it was an entertainment film by and large--but his desire was
to send a message, not an indictment of America. The monster--really, that's
another difference between "Godzilla" and American monster movies of the same
time period. The American monster usually are stand-ins, as I said, for Cold
War enemies. "Godzilla" is not really a stand-in for America. It is more of
an indictment of the nuclear age. And Honda's hope was that somehow this film
would inspire people to think about disarmament. I think today, if he were
still alive, he'd be very disappointed that, you know, nuclear weapons are
possessed by more nations than ever before.

GROSS: Do you remember the first time you saw "Godzilla"?

Mr. RYFLE: I do.

GROSS: When was it, where was it and how old were you?

Mr. RYFLE: You know, I have a wonderful mother. Patricia, I love you. And
I would never have discovered "Godzilla" if it weren't for her. I remember
that first time I ever heard the word "Godzilla." I was probably about four
years old, and we were flipping channels, and my mother stopped on one
channel. There was a dinosaur walking through a city, and I already loved
dinosaurs. And my mother said, `That's Godzilla.' Well, it wasn't Godzilla.
It was actually the beast from "20,000 Fathoms," and once she realized that,
she changed the channel.

But the word "Godzilla" stuck in my brain, and I really wanted to know what it
was. And, you know, she had told me the story of when "Godzilla, King of the
Monsters" first came out. She left work and went to a theater near her office
or the company where she worked, went to go see it. And I was just intrigued.
I remember scouring the TV Guide, and you know how we used to do in those
days? You'd look through the listings. And the first time I located, you
know, "Godzilla," I stayed up until, you know, the middle of the night and
watched it. Those things used to air in, you know, the predawn hours in those
days.

GROSS: You've seen all of the "Godzilla" sequels. Which do you think are the
worst?

Mr. RYFLE: Well, the film that is fairly universally regarded as the worst of
the "Godzilla" series is called "Godzilla vs. Megalon." And, you know, this
film has, unfortunately, been probably seen more widely than any other
"Godzilla" film. It came out in 1973 in Japan; '76 roughly in the United
States. And NBC actually broadcast it in prime time with John Belushi hosting
it and introducing segments of the film wearing a Godzilla costume himself.
It's pretty much widely known as a terrible film. Godzilla and a giant robot
fight two other creatures, one of whom is a giant cockroach with drill bits
for arms. The other is a cyborg alien buzzard with a buzz saw in its stomach.
It's crudely made. It's a lot of fun for laughs, but it's really not science
fiction, you know, in any sense of the word. And yet this film really has
massive exposure, relatively speaking.

And I think a lot of people who just assume "Godzilla" is this campy, you
know, monster that is good for little more than wrestling matches and goofy
antics are thinking of films like this one. That's why the release of the
original "Godzilla" in its uncut form and this, you know, quote-unquote,
"director's cut" version is so important, because "Godzilla" didn't start out
that way. It had serious intentions. And, yes, it's an entertainment film.
Yes, it's not meant to be taken too seriously. We're not talking about, you
know, "Citizen Kane" here. I recognize that. But, nevertheless, the original
film and the filmmakers who created it had higher aspirations than something
like "Godzilla vs. Megalon." And let us not forget that.

GROSS: Well, Steve Ryfle, thanks so much for talking with us.

Mr. RYFLE: Well, thank you for having me. I've enjoyed it.

GROSS: Steve Ryfle is the author of "Japan's Favorite Mon-Star." The
original Japanese version of "Godzilla" has just been released in America for
the first time in honor of the film's 50th anniversary. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of "Godzilla" footsteps)

(Announcements)

GROSS: On Monday, the Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid will receive the
Pritzker Prize, architecture's top honor. She's the first woman to win it.
Coming up, we talk with her about her work.

Also, Kevin Whitehead reviews a new collaboration between saxophonist Fred
Anderson and drummer Hamid Drake.

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Zaha Hadid talks about being the first woman awarded
the Pritzker Prize
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

On Monday, architecture's highest honor, the Pritzker Prize, will be awarded
to Zaha Hadid, who was born in Iraq in 1950 and now lives in London. She's
the first woman to receive the Pritzker. She'll receive the medallion and a
hundred thousand dollars at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
Although her work has been very influential, it's only recently that her
designs have actually been made into buildings. Earlier this year, a profile
of Hadid for The New York Times Magazine by Herbert Muschamp said, `Hadid has
been my personal Alfred Hitchcock movie for roughly 20 years. At times, the
suspense has been unbearable. Would Hadid become a builder? Or was she
destined to remain celebrated as the designer of some of the greatest
architecture never built?'

I talked with Hadid about her work.

First of all, I want to congratulate you on--a belated congratulations for
winning the Pritzker Prize this year. Now let's get to your first American
building which is the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati
which was completed in May of 2003. Is an art museum, a contemporary art
museum, a good place to try adventurous design?

Ms. ZAHA HADID (Architect): Yes, I think so. I mean, I think that it's
always interesting to try it out on the--not just as an experiment, but I
think that it's suitable because, you know, it dealt, in this case, with the
whole idea of movement and the urban context and the idea of civic space. And
I think civic buildings, you know, lend themselves well to this kind of, you
know, let's say, research, but I think also one can equally say you can test
it out on ideas of housing which actually people have not touched on for a
very long time and how the public housing in the city can have an influence on
the street. I mean, also I think that it's not because these--I'm not saying
it's because ideas are kind of a bit crazy that it's suitable to only art
institutions. I think they could be tried out equally well for, you know,
corporate work or for housing or parks or whatever.

GROSS: Would you describe the contemporary art museum in Cincinnati that you
designed?

Ms. HADID: Well, I mean, I think that--well, what's interesting about it,
it's very tight site, so most of our work is sometimes horizontal, like layers
and so on, but it is a stacked building and the idea that you stretch the
space of a museum vertically. The one thing which I do was to kind of provide
a very nice public space as an indoor room on the ground, which allows
you--people to--only for part of the building but also the building connects
to the street in a good way and, therefore, allows people to move through it
in a seamless way. So it's like a series of rooms which are juxtaposed over
each other, and next to each other, to allow these kinds of spaces to be in
concrete or in metal or in glass, to allow light to come through the building,
which is not--you don't see just kind of a solid object, and it's the idea of
transparency and the kind of geometry together provide a kind of interesting
impression of that space.

GROSS: So you have all kinds of rooms of different shapes and sizes and with
different types of light so that whatever piece they're showing at the moment,
they could find a good setting for it?

Ms. HADID: Yeah, you could say that. OK. You can have a kind of object in
a very tall room or you can have a video installation in another kind of
space. And there's already provided. You don't have to kind of really invent
partitions and stuff like that. But, I mean, the museum is quite compact, and
one thing we just had on the top level is an Un-Museum, which is for children
where you can commissioned three-dimensional objects or spaces for--like a
children's museum where you can touch and then play with and stuff like that.
And that was really also great fun.

GROSS: Now you've designed a science center for Wolfsburg, Germany, and
that's nearing completion.

Ms. HADID: Yes.

GROSS: I think when people think of science centers, they think of very
futuristic design. Would you describe your design for this building?

Ms. HADID: Well, there's a kind of concrete building which is lifted off the
ground and I think the most interesting part about it--it has many kind
of--one thing that is very interesting about it is that if you imagine that
the ground is empty and then there are these very large cones in concrete
which become the entrances, the theater, the restaurant--so you have activity
on the ground in the evening and the day. And then when it lifts up, it
becomes one continuous space for the exhibits. So basically it's like a large
table, let's say, with very big legs and the legs occupy--they're programmed
and make them active the whole day and all evening. And then the top of the
table, the roof, is where the museum is.

GROSS: So the legs are cone-shaped?

Ms. HADID: The legs are kind of like cones but they, obviously don't have a
point because they have a program. For example, one is a kiosk, one is a
bookshop, one is a shop, one is a laboratory, one is the theater, one is
restaurants and cafes, and the intention is that all these--mostly they are
entrances. I mean, so you arrive there and you go up escalators or it lifts
to the main plateau where all the exhibits are.

GROSS: So it's like four buildings connected by the roof?

Ms. HADID: Yeah, there are, like, seven or eight cones and they're all
connected by a roof, and then there's another roof which covers the top of the
table.

GROSS: And what was the advantage of having them be separate but connected?

Ms. HADID: Well, first of all, the ground--I mean, we have--in terms of the
urbanism, there was the city and there was the Volkswagen factory, which is on
the other side, and there was a train station. And the idea was kind of to
get paths through the building on the ground, so the building doesn't block
the path. So the idea--you can move from the station to the Autostadt, from
the Autostadt to the city. And these paths also make the parameters of these
cones, and then you can move up to the building. So the idea that the ground
is--really belong to the city, and therefore you can spin out from the
restaurants and you can hang out there. And then as you move up, you go into
the museum.

GROSS: That sounds nice.

If you're just joining us, my guest is the architect Zaha Hadid, and she won
this year's Pritzker Prize, which is the top international prize for
architecture.

You grew up in Iraq. You were born in Baghdad in 1950. Now I know you don't
like to talk about the war or current politics, but I was hoping we could talk
a little bit about some of the things that influenced your sensibility when
you were growing up. First of all, as a woman, I'm wondering when you were a
girl if you were encouraged or discouraged about thinking in terms of a
career, particularly in such a male-dominated one as architecture.

Ms. HADID: No, I was always encouraged, I mean, not only by my parents but by
the school itself. I mean, I was telling someone yesterday that, you know,
all my contemporaries are, I don't know ...(unintelligible) professional.
And, I mean, I think that this view that because you are from the Arab world,
you know, I think it's kind of not accurate, let's say, perception,
particularly of Iraq, you know, where many women went into university and
higher degrees and worked in variety of professional assorts of life. So I
was always encouraged, I'd say, both by my parents and by the school. And
with school, I went to a Catholic nun school, although I'm a Muslim. But it
was kind of a very tough school and quite demanding academically. And I'm
very grateful to them because I think that all that work in those years kind
of made possible for me to kind of really, let's say, do better.

GROSS: Did your parents believe in modernity or tradition or some balance of
the two?

Ms. HADID: They both believed in modernity and particularly my father. I
mean, both my parents believed in modernity. I think what--another thing
which I think is--in the Arab world, I mean, the whole connection between
Islam and the Arab world, it's so integrated and so intertwined. And it
doesn't really matter whether you're a Muslim or Christian or Jewish if you
live in the Arab world, that the dominance force culturally is Islamic,
although it's not religious necessarily all the time. And so my parents were
always very liberal and open and not necessarily traditional in any way.

GROSS: My guest is Zaha Hadid. On Monday, she will receive the Pritzker
Prize, architecture's top honor. We'll talk more after a break. This is
FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Zaha Hadid, the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize,
architecture's top honor. The awards ceremony is on Monday.

Your father was one of the leaders of the Iraqi Democratic Party. How did
your family's life change when Saddam Hussein came to power?

Ms. HADID: Well, I mean, I think that there were so many changes in Iraq. I
mean, I think in '63 and then in '68, I mean, my parents decided to stay in
Baghdad, and, you know, that was their choice. I mean, in a way everybody's
life was affected by these political changes, you know, but they decided
that's where they'd live and they're not going to leave. And I was abroad, so
I really can't, you know, speculate how it changed because I wasn't witnessing
what they were doing on a daily basis. But I think all our life changed
because we had so many ...(unintelligible) in Iraq, and it kind of constantly
affected us.

GROSS: Where were you going to school at the time? What country were you in?

Ms. HADID: In the late '60s, I was already out. I was in Beirut, I think, or
in London. In London.

GROSS: Did your family stay in Iraq?

Ms. HADID: Yeah, they did. I used to go back every year for 24--till the
early '80s, I used to go back for holidays.

GROSS: Well, why did you stop going in the early '80s?

Ms. HADID: Well, I think after the Iraq-Iran War, it became very difficult to
go back. And after the Gulf War, there was no mode of transportation to
Baghdad. I mean, the airport was closed. You had to go via Jordan. You had
to spend 16 hours in a car to go there and then go back.

GROSS: It will seem odd, I think, to some of our listeners that given
everything Saddam Hussein has done, I'm going to ask you a question about his
architecture. But, I mean, one of the things that Saddam did was commission
monuments to himself, and some of them, from the pictures I've seen, just seem
extraordinarily kitschy. I'm just wondering if you have any thoughts on the
Saddam Hussein-era architecture, particularly his monuments to himself.

Ms. HADID: I haven't really seen them, so I can't, you know--I mean, I've
seen them in photographs.

GROSS: OK. Right. You've seen them in photographs. OK.

Ms. HADID: But, I mean, one can say the same thing about North Korea, I
suppose, or, you know, Basaf(ph), Germany. I mean, I don't think it--I mean,
I actually don't believe in monuments personally. I don't think that they add
to the culture of a place. I mean, I think they're kind of delicate--because
they do represent a political view, and so whether one should build them or
not, it's a bigger topic, let's say.

GROSS: Saddam Hussein had the money to commission, you know, some spectacular
buildings and even paid various architects from around the world a lot of
money to design them. And would you examine the politics of a country's
leader before accepting a commission there, or is that the wrong way to go
about it, do you think?

Ms. HADID: I mean, I think it's very difficult to accept commissions from
various countries. But, I mean, one has to kind of then--one would say that
nobody should work in so many other places on the planet.

GROSS: Right.

Ms. HADID: So I think it depends on what the commission is. If somebody
asked me to do housing there, I would--you know, for the indigenous population
and if that improves their lives, then I think about it one way. If I'm asked
to do something else, I have to think about it in a different way. I don't
think it's a kind of blanket question-answer situation.

GROSS: Now you said that most of the girls who grew up within Iraq became
professionals, they went into careers; that there was nothing that stood in
your way of doing that growing up in Iraq. Once you became an architect and
you were working--I think throughout your career you've been working in
London, did being a woman stand in your way as an architect?

Ms. HADID: Oh, it has a lot.

GROSS: How do you think?

Ms. HADID: Well, I think that there are moments actually now--kind of the
whole, you know, kind of idea that a `woman can't do it'-`can do it' has been,
you know, lifted, let's say--that prejudice. You know, if I went to a meeting
with even an assistant of mine, to the side they will talk to him and not talk
to me. You know, if I were to meet a kind of politician, like when I was in,
well, the Cardiff Opera House, I think the big problem was I was a woman and
foreign and this other stuff. So I think it does. I mean, there's no
question about it. I mean, there's a world which you, as a woman, no matter
how successful you are, you can't enter into. You are not part of a network.
You know, it takes you a long time, let's say, to come over these things. I
mean, I never thought it'd be a problem because, you know, as I said in our--I
mean, for good reason or bad reason, I always thought, you know, I should do
well because the work is good. And the focus was on the investment in the
work and not into politicking for whatever other things. So I was very
surprised and shocked when all these, you know, prejudices began to emerge.
And it comes--well, I come across it less these days, but it's still there.

GROSS: How did you manage to support yourself and your employees during the
years that you were designing buildings that weren't actually getting built?

Ms. HADID: Well, we always had a project. I mean, you know, we won many
competitions, and so we had some income. I was teaching to finance the office
or give many lectures. But then, you know, I was commissioned to do the
housing in Berlin, the commission to do the product ...(unintelligible) for
the fire station and another pavilion and many installations and exhibitions.
And it was very tiring and extremely difficult to survive, but it--you know, I
don't know how we managed. It was with tremendous difficulty. And it was
only juggling between teaching and lecturing and, also, some of these
commissions. I mean, we're not really sitting in the office, you know,
knitting.

GROSS: How do you like the commissioning system in architecture? It seems
like, on the one hand--it must seem very fair on the one hand and very
frustrating on the other because you're always having to design buildings as
if you were actually going to build them, but chances are you're not going to
build them because it's a competition, and only...

Ms. HADID: Going to win.

GROSS: ...one company's going to win it.

Ms. HADID: Well, I think that--I personally like competitions because they do
lift the standard. You know, also, it's a public event, so people know about
the project. They know about the size. They know about the story. It's not
always fair when they choose, but let's say it--I mean, anyway, I've been
grateful to the system because if it wasn't for commission, I would not have
any work--very little, you know. It was only because in the last five years
I've won quite a few. And my first sort of the peak, which I won in '83, was
the one which propelled me into the scene, let's say. It was another
competition, which was a very big competition. Now these competitions are
much smaller and more invited and, let's say, less open. But I still believe
in the system, you know. It's not always fair, but I still think it's--I
didn't have the privilege of actually being commissioned directly through
projects. There are many more so now, but it's not been so easy.

GROSS: Now I want to ask you a question about design of a different sort, and
this is clothing design. People who write about you always point out that you
wear Issey Miyake clothes. And I'm wondering how important the design of
clothes is to you, as somebody who, you know, is so caught up in designing
architecture.

Ms. HADID: Well, I mean, I think it's fun to dress--you know, when I was in
school in London, I used to go and wrap myself in, you know, fabrics and funny
stuff like that. And, I mean, I think it's a balance, not being a fashion
victim but to wear something which, you know, you feel comfortable and you
enjoy wearing, you know. And it's really the bottom line. It's not about
making some sort of statement about, you know--that you're wearing cheap or
expensive clothes or a particular thing that is fashionable. I think it's
important to actually be able to express yourself in the way you dress. And
this might be something you design or something else had designed.

And Issey Miyake, particularly, I have a tremendous respect for him and
Yorji(ph). Actually the Japanese are particularly good. And they did travel
very light, compact. They crush into a small--you crumble them into small
corner of a suitcase. You can carry lots of things with you when you're
traveling. When you're up in your hotel, you don't have to iron them.
They're perfect when you open them. So, I mean, all these things, which have
to do with, on one hand, practical issue; on the other hand, you know, fun
issues. They can wear them upside down, side--you know, back to front. You
have more than one gown. So it's, you know, fun.

GROSS: Well, I want to congratulate you again on winning the Pritzker Prize,
and I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

Ms. HADID: Thank you very much.

GROSS: Architect Zaha Hadid. She'll receive the Pritzker Prize at a ceremony
on Monday. You can see photos of her work at the Web site npr.org.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Music by the Bebo Valdez Trio.

Coming up, jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews a new CD featuring Fred
Anderson and Hamid Drake. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake's new CD, "Back Together
Again"
TERRY GROSS, host:

Tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson and drummer Hamid Drake both come from Monroe,
Louisiana, and are mainstays of Chicago's exploratory jazz scene. They met in
1973 when Drake was 18 and Anderson was 44 and quickly formed a working
partnership. These days Drake is on the road much of the time while Anderson
stays at home, but they recently recorded as a duo. Jazz critic Ken Whitehead
has a review.

(Soundbite of music)

KEVIN WHITEHEAD reporting:

Saxophonist Fred Anderson and drummer Hamid Drake have recorded together for
ages. "Back Together Again" on Thrill Jockey is their first album one on one,
though each has played in other duos. Drake says the format let them hone in
on what they've developed together. Anderson has a rhythmic way of playing
saxophone, while Hamid's percussion can almost spell out a melody, given the
clear ringing sound he gets from trap set and from big, tambourinelike frame
drums. It's almost a case of role reversal.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: Fred Anderson has played a pivotal role in Chicago as a talent
scout. He's run several bars that serve as musicians' training grounds,
including the long-running Velvet Lounge. One reason he and Drake are
simpatico is that Anderson helped mold the young Hamid's style 30 years ago,
urging him to listen to drummer Edward Blackwell, a master of praising a
melody along with the horns. Blackwell showed how drums could define the
shape of a performance, not just lay down a beat. Like him, Drake laces his
jazz with West African polyrhythm, to which Hamid adds echoes of North Africa.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: Fred Anderson is a transitional figure among Chicago saxophones.
He was a pioneering free-jazz musician in the '60s, but he also harks back to
brawny-sounding players reared in the swing era, like Gene Ammons.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: The CD "Back Together Again" comes with a CD-ROM including three
of the same tunes preserved on four-camera video. You can see how the players
were arranged in the studio, close together and unseparated by sound baffles.
You also see Fred Anderson's characteristic stance: hunched over his
saxophone like a 1940s rhythm-and-blues honker. There are also excerpts from
a double interview where the musicians talk about their shared history and
concepts. That's all good, but the audio disc may be too much of a good
thing.

Hamid Drake knows a lot of rhythms and is a very interactive improviser, but
here he tends to hit medium-tempo grooves and run with them.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: In the end, 72 minutes of grooving duets get redundant. By
comparison, John Coltrane and Rashied Ali's tenor-and-drums album,
"Interstellar Space," recorded in 1967, was only about half that long. First
rule of showbiz often overlooked in the CD era: Always leave them wanting
more.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man: (Singing in foreign language)

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for The Chicago Sun-Times, The Absolute Sound
and Down Beat.

(Credits)

GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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