The main organizer of Richard Dreyfest V, the punk-inspired music and arts festival that opens Friday in downtown Billings, wasn’t really expecting to get an interview with the actor to whom the festival pays indirect homage.
“It was just kind of a weird, cool, freaky thing for us to pick up,” said Phillip Griffin, a musician and writer who stepped in this year to put together the fifth annual festival.
In a podcast that includes the interview with Richard Dreyfuss, the star of “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and many other movies, Griffin heralds the segment by calling it the “extra-deluxe, super-coveted interview with the man himself.”
And Dreyfuss obliges by being delightfully strange and by admitting that he can’t stand punk music.
In the interview with Griffin and Brie Ripley, a reporter for Yellowstone Public Radio who is also helping with Dreyfest, Dreyfuss asks, “If I understand correctly, you guys are basically musicians, bands, right? Rock and roll?”
When he is told that, well, the festival is actually rooted in punk music, Dreyfuss responds, “Really? Wow! That is so inappropriate. I hate that shit.”
Griffin said he and Ripley were planning to do a podcast featuring various festival performers, and his first thought was that he’d call up one of his friends and do a fake interview with “Richard Dreyfuss.” But Ripley, with her background in journalism, did a little digging and found a website for The Dreyfuss Initiative.
The actor founded the initiative to promote civics education for young Americans, figuring they needed to learn how to run the country before they were called upon to do so.
Ripley said she sent a “very J-school email, a media request,” to the nonprofit organization, asking if Dreyfuss would consent to an interview. She heard back from him within 24 hours, in an email that was “really bizarre” and “very much set the tone for what to expect for our subsequent interview.”
We recommend that you listen to the whole podcast, to get a full flavor of the one-of-a-kind festival, but if you’re only interested in the Dreyfuss interview, it begins at about 11 minutes and 30 seconds in to the podcast, which is just under 24 minutes long.
In the meantime, a few other snippets from the man himself:
“Any culture that has, as its central musical instrument, the electric guitar, has to be, by definition, neurotic. … When I was a child and rock and roll came in, I thought, ‘Wow, this is fucking fantastic.’ And I hung out until the Beatles broke up. After that I paid no attention.”
“Having a festival that honors me is very much like sacrificing a lamb to the gods, and they look with favor upon what you are doing. You will all receive, probably during this lifetime, something blessed, from some god somewhere. Because it’s such a wacky thing you’ve done. And I totally think I deserve it. My name is Richard Dreyfuss, I am Rich Dreyfuss, and I approve of this festival.”
Dreyfuss also agreed to show up next year for the sixth annual festival and offered to “talk about any issue you want.”
At the beginning of the podcast, by the way, festival co-founder Austin Finn explains that a friend of his, on a visit to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming years ago, suggested it would be really cool to stage a festival there and name it Richard Dreyfest, because of the importance of the tower in “Close Encounters.”
They soon realized that was impossible, Finn said, “especially when beer and punk was involved, so then we decided to do it locally.”
Ripley, for her part, was thrilled to have snagged the Dreyfuss interview.
“This thing is kickin’ off this year with a bang,” she said.