Twenty-one years ago the original wired rock star David Bowie spoke to The Big Issue about his love of a new craze called ‘the internet’. After transforming our culture musically and artistically, Bowie saw the potential of the world wide web, helping to pioneer an online revolution. This is an abridged version of Andrew Davies’ interview from 1999, starting with him telling us what he gets up to in chatrooms…
Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, Aladdin Sane… and now Mr Plod. Meet David Bowie’s latest incarnation – although you might argue that this one lacks the glamour of his previous personas. Unshaven, barely out of bed and sporting an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt and shorts, Mr Plod spends each morning sitting in his Bermudan hideout, chatting away to thousands of other internet addicts around the world.
“I like Mr Plod – he’s very popular,” explains David Bowie of his latest net pseudonym. “Panda was big too, and I once used a hyphen – but I got tired of the Prince joke very quickly,” he says. “I get one that I like, then get bored after a week and change it. I even used ‘David Bowie’ as an online name a couple of times, because that’s the one name no one would expect me to use. The trouble is I’m always so big-mouthed that people suss me out after about 15 minutes. I say some damn stupid thing and people say, ‘Oh we know who you are!’”
But Bowie is more than just an avid net surfer. He liked the medium so much he set up his own internet service provider, BowieNet, a glorified Bowie fanclub complete with rare photos (Bowie in a pair of tight white underpants playing the saxophone), a discography, online interviews, news about tours and records and a regularly updated personal journal full of his thoughts and reminiscences.
When I was 19, music was still the dangerous communicative future force, and that was what drew me into it. It’s been replaced by the internet, which has the same sound of revolution to it.
Recent entries include memories of Sunday lunch with his family in the ’50s, and the first 45s his dad brought home. There are also book reviews (he’s been reading Thackeray) and Bowie’s own thoughts on other websites (he’s a big fan of pages dedicated to William Burroughs). You can even get that much closer to the star with your own David Bowie email address (firstname.lastname@example.org). There’s access to Bowie’s paintings too: prints for £75 a throw or signed copies for £200.
It does look like he takes pride in the site’s appearance. The 51-year-old says he’s online for the first few hours of every day, and logs on to ‘chat rooms’ about four times a week, lured by the humorous exchanges as much as anything else.