David Lynch puts down his oversize mug of David Lynch Signature Cup Organic Coffee and folds his thick, veiny hands in his lap. Despite remaining highly caffeinated at all times—he drinks at least 10 mugs of coffee every day—he looks as if he has stayed up several nights in a row. His thoughtful blue eyes are sunken, and their lids appear heavy.
Lynch grabs an American Spirit cigarette and motions toward an accordion-like lamp he designed. “Let’s turn on the smoking lamp so we can begin smoking,” Lynch says, turning the knob to power a light hidden beneath a translucent red glass shade. Given how much Lynch smokes, pretty much any lamp in proximity could earn this designation. He sips his coffee as he pulls his chair out, careful not to spill on his khaki pants, faded black blazer or black button-down shirt; per usual, the shirt’s white buttons are fastened all the way to his throat.
For a man who has made bizarre, hallucinatory films such as Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, he doesn’t seem that strange. There is no self-reflexive lesbian sex occurring on the premises. There is no jazzman’s wife morphing into a pale old man who just might be Satan. There is not even an attorney stabbing his daughter to death because the demon inhabiting his body couldn’t possess her too. In person, Lynch actually comes across as avuncular and disarmingly normal. He has typical interests—coffee, nature, music (the reason I'm here, since he is just a few weeks away from releasing his second album on July 15)—and he genuinely cares about other people.
“Where are you from?” he asks warmly after flicking his cigarette into an ashtray.
With both his cigarette and current cup of coffee nearly finished, Lynch directs me into the kitchen. He places his mug on the stainless steel countertop and starts to grind espresso beans from his personal collection. There are a trio of Lynchian coffee blends—house, espresso roast and decaf. The latter he could do without: “I never drink the decaf, because I love caffeine.”
“One, two, three, four…,” Lynch counts aloud while holding down the grinder button. He stops at 12 and pulls another mug from one of the many red cabinets surrounding us. “See this cup here?” he asks me. “It’s clean, but it looks dirty.”
He laughs for a moment and then inspects the cup a second time. Spots abound and there appears to be dust trapped inside. But Lynch forges ahead, opening the fridge to reveal a supply of fat-free milk. He takes a half-gallon jug and pours a small amount into the allegedly clean mug. “Now, this is what separates the little girls from the big girls,” he instructs. “We’ll do it in steps.” He points to the espresso machine in front of him as the coffee is brewing. “Those black droplets look so beautiful.” He repeats himself to prevent anything from being lost in translation: “So beautiful.” It’s the third and fourth time (by my unofficial count) that he has used the word “beautiful” to describe the process of making coffee.
Next, Lynch shows me how to froth milk properly. As the milk heats, he stands over me, watching intently. When a sufficient amount of time has passed, he feels the side of the metal pitcher to make sure it’s warm enough. “Great job,” he announces once the milk is evenly steamed. His voice has a rough, raspy edge, but with a precise and controlled meter. It is somehow commanding and reassuring at the same time, an invaluable trait for a director. These days, however, he’s using it for something completely different than stage direction.
David Lynch sings.
In fact, he recently recorded his second solo album The Big Dream, distributed by Brooklyn-based Sacred Bones Records. He seems excited to share this aspect of his life with me. I follow him down a hallway into a long room set off from the kitchen. It’s his sound-isolated recording studio and screening room, which served as Fred and Renee Madison’s bedroom in Lost Highway. (Lynch composed original music for the score.)
Lynch created the space with the help of architect Peter Grueneisen in 1997. It took about a year to build; he later added the projection setup, which includes a JBL 3-Way Speaker System. The volume is almost oppressive, but the fidelity is extraordinarily high. Glistening guitars, keyboards, amplifiers and a large digital mixing board round out the gearhead’s wet dream.
“Big” Dean Hurley, Lynch’s writing and recording collaborator, mans the soundboard. The two met through a mutual friend and have worked together for nearly a decade. On The Big Dream, Lynch and Hurley create an organic tone with electronic elements, a stark contrast from their previous collaboration, 2011’s Crazy Clown Time, which is drenched in echo, reverb and vocoder.