Yeah, I had gay friends. The first thing I realized was that everybody's different, and it becomes obvious that all of the gay stereotypes are ridiculous.
Plus, you know, when I was young, there was a lot of respect for clowning in rock music - look at Little Richard. It was a part of the whole thing, and I always also believed that it released the audience.
But then I go through long periods where I don't listen to things, usually when I'm working. In between the records and in between the writing I suck up books and music and movies and anything I can find.
There is a real patriotism underneath the best of my music but it is a critical, questioning and often angry patriotism.