Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dust of the Earth, chapter 23

Welcome to the continuing serialized version of Phantom Limbs' bassist Jim Parks' novel, Dust Of The Earth, a Tucson story about Tucson history, mystery, other worlds, desert mojo, forbidden love, and the fledgling Tucson music scene... (c) by Jim Parks, reprinted with permission

We left off last time with our narrator contempating getting eaten by a mountain lion...

 Chapter 23
"Fear Of Mountain Lions" (c) 2010 by Howard Salmon
It sounded like a catfight - only bigger, louder. I heard the snapping of branches -- then growling and roaring. I peeped out of my sleeping bag and saw shadowy forms tumbling through the underbrush maybe twenty yards away and upslope from the campsite -- the direction Ehmet had left. As the fight continued, I saw that there were three forms, two smaller and one larger, all big cats. I prayed to whatever God I had never before believed in that these forms would come no closer, and that in their struggle with each other would ignore the shivering rectangular bundle nearby. At last it appeared that my prayer was answered. The unholy ruckus ceased.

I spent the rest of the night waiting for Ehmet to return. I called out his name several times before remembering he couldn't answer. After hearing no more noises for half an hour or so, I emerged cautiously from my sleeping bag and found enough coals still aglow to get a new campfire going. Back in my bag, I meted out the sticks and branches I had collected earlier and managed to keep a small fire burning till dawn. Exhaustion overcame fear a few times that night, but I always woke up to find the fire burning low and remedied the situation.

Not long before sunrise, when I could make out the lower country spread out to the east of us, I started to think about searching for Ehmet. I felt like a coward for not searching immediately after the catfight - but realistically, what could I have done? And why had Ehmet left? Did he abandon me? I couldn't believe that he would do that. I dreaded telling the whole story to Don Pedro when I got back.

But all these considerations became pointless when Ehmet limped into camp. His clothes were ripped in several places, and he was bleeding from a wound on his shoulder - the claw marks of a mountain lion. I started to walk to him but he waved me off. He motioned to his camp gear and I packed it up for him. He slung his knapsack on his good shoulder, and I followed him as we slowly made our way back to the lodge.

To Be Continued...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tucson Drummers Series: The Awesome...REX ESTELL!!

Legendary Drummer for The Pills!!
Rex Estell today, rocking out on his drumset
SLIT: How did you discover the drums?

The Beatles, Ringo of course, his b-day qued me into which instrument I should play,
as I wanted to play guitar and sing, like anybody enamored with Beatlemania like my family was. By the time The Who, Cream and Jimi Hendrix had taken over, drums seemed to offer the most satisfaction.

SLIT: Was there an "Aha" moment?

RE: Sort of.  I acquired a Silvertone with a lipstick pickup for 15 dollars and a
homemade amp for 30 dollars, and tried to sound like Hendrix without any skills,
only knowing Gloria and Hanky Panky at that point. A friend and I hitchhiked with
his new drumset to my basement, where they remained for weeks, and my parents
decided I would make a better drummer, and bought me a set for Christmas;  Decision

SLIT: Did you take lessons?

I took guitar lessons, though I'm self taught on the drums, except for a lesson by
Randy Castillo at the Night Train on foot and toe control.

SLIT:  What bands have you been in?

RE: Around 20, give or take a few, beginning with a Beatles cover band called Seltaeb,
shortened to 'The Bats', and another one that played Aice Cooper, Edgar Winter, Johnny Winter,
and Allman Brothers tunes called Potash. Moved to Tucson, after a few years of not playing, I played with a band on Halloween, and started playing again, first with Ariel, leading up to Z-9, then the Pills, Animation, a 3-peice techno band with Jeb Lipson.

 I was to become a singer after Rich Flowers of the Psalms tried out for the spot,
and sounded great, though decided not to join up, so the guitarist Arkie Wolff
suggested I sing and we get a drummer, which we did. That would be Spyder Rhodes,
previous to his becoming the DJ at Club Congress. We formed the Front, which became
the Watch when we moved to L.A. in 1985. a Cure/Church/Cult inspired outfit.  I
would continue to play guitar and sing after that, still playing drums for jams and
such, as drummers made friends easily in L.A.and were always ready to play.
On a side note on what it all led up to: My associations with developing Ahead drumsticks would begin, continuing my interest in drumming, drums, and making musical equipment and accessories more reliable for live performance, and/or the recording studio. My roommate requested the use of my studio and drum set, I gave him my support, and we did a large part of the R&D to launch the worlds first aluminum drumsticks. That would be my contribution to the world of drums
ultimately.  They last forever, if used properly. I began playing Drums for David Garver in 2004,
and am on six songs on his  album Blind Artist:

SLIT:  What were the various styles like?

RE: First came Garage, the Troggs, the Kinks, British Invasion stuff, then on to
Blues/Rock/, mixed with Pop, Punk, New Wave, ending up with Techno, and then back to
basic rock n' roll in 2004 recording-wise, with the Taos musician/actor David Garver
playing drums on 6 songs for his album 'Blind Artist'. 

SLIT: How many have you recorded with?

RE:  Most, though only few tapes seems to remain. The Pills, Animation, The Front at Randy Chu's studio, The Watch at Studio City, the Whiskey, the Roxy, oh, and most recently, David Garver, formerly of the Boheims.

SLIT:  How did you get involved with the Tucson scene?

I moved there in 72' from Indy, Indiana and spent a lot of time watching bands and
checking out the live music scene, pretty much in awe of all the bands that came
through, or were from Tucson. A Gold Mine for music at the time, and still is it seems.

SLIT: How'd you join the Pills?

RE: Robin, Fred and I were Z-9, with Ariel Bagby on vocals, a real punk/art school band
that would become the Pills upon Brian wanting to play with us, and Ariel, bless her
heart, going back to school, doing photography and taking great shots of the band
along with Cliff Green, and others. Z-9 was unique in our Souxsie meets Blondie way,
though Brian brought direction and gave the band a stronger image that was a perfect
blend of the New York Dolls, Sex Pistols, and the boys next door. Tripp (Mark back
then) Smythe would join after one gig, and would add experience with another voice to the band. the final 5-piece line up would put the Pills in a league of their own, even though grassroots fans would remain, curiosity seekers would also come in large numbers.

SLIT:  With the Pills, did you have any weird experiences due your wearing eyeliner and

RE: Just a lot a whistling and hoots and hollering, and even more disappointment when
it was realized we were 'guys'. Robin, Tripp and I especially, Fred, not so much, he
had an athlete's body, and Brian just for being Brian, his hair, and rock star
looks getting reactions no matter what. Always fashionable, and ahead of the times
generally! We spent a lot of time in the 'Ladies' room, at our fans or make-artist
behest always!

SLIT: Back in the day, was there a rivalry between the Serfers and the Pills? 

RE: Maybe, though I don't remember any, we loved each other and were their biggest fans and they ours.  We were all aware of the effect of our appearances, style/anti-styleand of course, the music and the impression we made had on peopled.  It was 'shocking' in a fun way, to be sure. They were Neil Young to our David Bowie so no problemo, as far as I recall. Others may differ, I was always
setting up and tearing down, moving equipment and missing out on some of the fun, the same for you or any drummer, I'm sure.

SLIT: What was it like recording the Pills EP? 

RE: Great! It could've been better, though I have no complaints, we were lucky to get
something as good as it was. We wanted lots of 12 string guitars, horns, pianos, a
super pro sound and we got it somehow. There was a level of creative tension as it
was a big deal and we all had high hopes, mixed emotions and uncertain living
situations that made some things less fun. Gas money, dinner, rent, gas, food, rent,
strings, sticks, transportation, food, same as it always was.  Always an expense
that needed to be covered. Oh, and beer, smokes and smoke.

The Pills EP, side A (c. 1980)

SLIT: What's your opinion of The Pills EP?

RE:  I think it sounds great today, DC-10 stands up to today's music well, it's well
recorded, and sounds like we were having fun, so we must have been!
The Pills EP (outer sleeve): Rex is second from the left!

SLIT: Any memories of the KWFM sessions at Westwood?

RE: The bathtub of imported beer in the lobby, and all those folks squeezed into the studio
NOT dancing, though that was okay, they were into it, we just weren't used to no
 mayhem, except for what we were creating. It's up on their website under concerts.
Live in the Studio, doesn't get better than that! Brian didn't feel too good, so he
did his best, playing with a cold isn't any fun. We should re-do some of those
tracks with a dubbed vocal, the performances were our best, caught on tape even!

SLIT:  What drummers influenced you?

Lots! Ringo, Keith Moon of the Who, Charlie Watts of the Stones, Jerry Nolan of the
N.Y.Dolls, Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols, Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, Ginger Baker
from Cream, and then the locals, Marx Loeb, Billy Sedlymayer, Van Christian, Winston
Watson Jr. (who was in Snowblind at the time and rehearsed next door to us, so I got
to hear him play off and onstage, then there's Johnny Ray, who rehearsed in the SAME
unit we did, next door to Winston's), Brian from the Phoenix band the Nervous, even
you, Howie Salmon, I always saw a lot of myself in you, based on your attitude and
love of music, drums, writing, journalism and art, and always wanting to take it all to
the next level. I'm easily inspired by talent of any kind, drummers more so than
others perhaps.

SLIT: What bands/music do you like?

RE:  I still love the old school rock/punk/goth/techno bands of yesteryear, and living in New Mexico I get exposed to more eclectic world music and local grassroots punk-hybrid stuff. Which I like equally, though I have my expertise in rock and alternative music overall.

SLIT:  What do you think of drum machines?

RE: I loved dancing to them, New Order and all that, and it wasn't that much fun having
to play like one, all 16th notes on the high hat which I like, though that was short
lived. I'm more interested in getting the audience up dancing or whatever that like
to do, back in the Pills days, it was jumping to the beat, if you had any room to.

SLIT: Did punk rock/new wave change your life? 

RE: Oh yeah! I was working at Odyssey Record during the 2nd British Invasion and it was Jeff Latiwic that made me aware of what I needed to hear, and after that, I was
totally into the various scenes, all of them were offshoots of different influences,too many to count, from the Stranglers to Gary Numan, the Skids to Billy Clone and the Same, and it all came out inspired, fun, and memorable.

SLIT: Would you ever do a Pills reunion?

RE: Yes,  if they would still have me. Everyone else has reunited, and we are all still here, at least I hope we all are, I haven't spoke to Fred in years.

SLIT:  Do you still play drums?

RE: Yes. Yes, I will always play drums, it keeps me young, in good shape, and in touch with
that part of myself that needs to be part of a group to feel 'normal'. A new kit would be great, though I'm replacing my heads to keep me interested, the right skin makes all the difference when it comes to drumming.

SLIT: Are you in a band?

RE: I played for David Garver for 5 years and we did some great gigs, as it was always
effortless, and suited for my style. I'm pressed for time as my Astrology biz is
more than full time, so I have to squeeze it in. (rehearsal, recording, wood shedding,
etc.) I have done some techno stuff on MuLab that is fun, though very time
consuming, yet the results can be very satisfying, I'll do something with that when
I have more time. I'm on a new drum 'roll' as I've played a new kit that got me excited about drums
again. I'm currently infatuated with Slide Guitar, and the Delta Blues thing,
always have been, though only now am I sticking to it.

Thanks for your great questions! This is the Howie I've always known, even if it was 'on the fringe', and you never disappoint! Rex

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dust of the Earth, chapter 22

Welcome to the continuing serialized version of Phantom Limbs' bassist Jim Parks' novel, Dust Of The Earth, a Tucson story about Tucson history, mystery, other worlds, desert mojo, forbidden love, and the fledgling Tucson music scene... (c) by Jim Parks, reprinted with permission

Chapter 22
I knew that bears - the black bears that inhabit the Southwest -- could usually be scared off with loud noise, shouting, and hand waving. Black bears rarely attack, and when they do, it's because of only a few reasons. They might be protecting their young - so don't get between a mother bear and her young.  Or more commonly, some bears developed a taste for human food and lose their fear of people. Bears will become territorial over a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I thought of my pack lying next to me.

But what about mountain lions? I rehearsed in my mind the stories I had heard as a Boy Scout camping in this area. We rarely see mountain lions because a) they are mostly nocturnal, b) they shy from human contact, and c) their movements are silent. Very rarely, though, mountain lions will attack humans. Usually the culprit is a young male trying to establish his territory. If the young male can't find his natural prey, he might become hungry enough to prowl the outskirts of human habitation, developing a taste for poodles, dachshunds, and the occasional small child. Only the most desperate mountain lions will attack a full-grown human - and then it seems to be more of an issue of defending territory rather than feeding.

So what should you do if confronted by a mountain lion? First, don't run. Second, don't play dead. A bear will usually leave you alone if you adopt a fetal position. He might bite you a bit (and thus, it's a good idea to clasp your hands behind your neck, protecting this vital part), but eventually the bear will lose interest and amble away. A mountain lion, on the other hand, will continue to harass you. Mountain lions have that feline habit of playing with their prey -- for simple entertainment, apparently. There must be an evolutionary explanation for this behavior, but to your basic anthropomorphizing human, cats are just sadistic.

Your only chance to survive a mountain lion encounter is to stand firm. Face the cat, backing off slowly if necessary, but never turn your back. Hold something between you and the mountain lion, a walking stick or a dead branch. A guy who was hiking in Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson faced a mountain lion in this way and slowly backed down the trail nearly a quarter of a mile before the big cat finally lost interest.

These were the thoughts that filled my head as I lay in my sleeping bag, my ears straining to hear the slightest sound. The knowledge I dredged up didn't occur to me in nearly so organized a manner as I have presented it -- and I wasn't sure I could actually put any of it into practice -- but I was comforted somewhat by the knowledge itself.

I lay still for what seemed a very long time, long enough for the moon to rise higher in the sky and for my surroundings to grow brighter. I wondered where Ehmet had gone so abruptly -- and I wondered which I preferred: absolute darkness with ignorance of everything around me; or the light of the moon creating shadows everywhere, any one of which could be something to fear. But I was startled out of this consideration by a sudden racket nearby.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tucson Drummers: The Happenin'...MARX LOEB!!!

 Los Lasers! The Mollys! The Coolers!...and so much more!!!
photo credit: Gary Mackender
SLIT: What bands have you been in? What's the biggest/most "bigtime" band you've been in? Who do you drum for now?

ML: I’ve been playing in bands since 1965. I’ve played in a LOT of bands. That includes “rehearsal bands”—bands that never play a gig. God. I’ve been in a lot bands. Did I mention that? No? Well, I have.
    Sean Murphy will get real grumpy if I don’t mention this so here goes. When I was in High School I was in a band called Thee Id. My dad went nuts with this name—“Wait, you’re in a band called The Yid?” and he’d crack up. Following this Animals Cover-Tune Powerhouse was a group from Sierra Vista—the J.O.U which stood for The Jive Of Us. Uh huh. It was pronounced The Joe…but not by my dad. The family joke for years was “First The Yid. Then The Jew.” I should add my dad was a (very) non practicing Jew. There you go, Sean.
    An extremely short list of the best known ones would be The Floating Opera, Fox, Dusty Chaps, Ethyl, Los Lasers, Gila Bend, Al Perry & the Cattle, Eyepennies, Tony & the Torpedoes, The Mollys, and The Carnivaleros. Damn—that’s in near chronological order too! I should mention here that someone contacted me on Facebook looking for someone in Fox (or as he put it The Fox). Fox was if not the first—one of the first groups in town that did its own material or at least 90 percent of our show were tunes written by band members. It was 1968. Good band too.
    Biggest “Name” Band would have to be The Mollys. A great experience, even if Danny Krieger and I joined with the band in sort of career decline. We still got to tour the U.S., do a bit of Canada and went to northern Italy (twice). I don’t include the Chaps because I left the band before they hit their Country Swing thang and got signed to Capitol.
As far as local fame goes, I’d say the Lasers take it. It was probably the best bar band I’ve ever been in and it was insanely popular. It also had the craziest work ethic of any band I’ve ever been with—we’d rehearse at least 3 nights a week and then play 3. It was our age and the time, of course—not to mention the drugs, but you didn’t get time off for birthdays or extreme illness. I think every one us at one time or another played with very bad fevers. No lie.
Currently, I’m working with The Coolers—a nine piece horn band and I’m still working with Tony, in the Torpedoes, after something like 15 years. I play with Heather Hardy  too. I get sub calls and frankly, would love more work. Hint hint. Oh wait—drummers are reading this.

SLIT: How did you know you wanted to be a drummer? How did you get started?

ML: I blame Paul Desmond, the great Alto saxophonist with Dave Brubeck for getting me started. Let me explain. I was a 5th grader in Connecticut and my school had an assembly where this guy stands on the auditorium stage and demonstrates all these instruments you can learn to play. I took the violin. I took lessons for about 6 weeks and would practice after dinner every night. The noise I made would make my little sister (a first grader) cry. Yeah, I was that good. Exit violin, stage left.
    Okay so then I’m in 7th grade and I’d gone through phases of listening to Johnny Horton (the first album I owned with “Sink The Bismarck”) and I’d been into the Kingston Trio seriously. The first 45 I bought with my saved allowance was “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by the Tokens. (I still dig that song, by the way). I’d say I started listening to music around 1960—not exactly a great time for rock unless you were into Bobby Vee. But, I’d gotten into the Dave Brubeck Quartet and I thought Paul Desmond was the coolest guy walking. He played an alto—even THAT was cool.
    So I’m in 7th grade and I go to the same assembly—the same guy too. NOW I want to play alto. My parents looked at what you got in the instruction deal. Alto saxophone got you an actual alto which produces sound. They looked down the list and saw that if you took percussion you got a practice pad and a pair of sticks, that is, very little actual sound. Somehow they talked me into taking percussion. Later they regretted this. I took snare drum lessons for about 6 months and we moved to Tucson. I was thrown in the Doolen Jr. High band in the drum section. People in the section helped learn how to read drum music a bit. I sucked. That was 1962.

SLIT: What were your first drums like?

ML:  My first drum kit was actually bought for me by my father’s best friend back in 1965. He’d heard I’d joined a band and only had a snare drum and—I think—the World’s Largest Shit Ride Cymbal. Anyway, it was a Ludwig “Downbeat” set. Silver sparkle. 4 piece—a 14X20 in. bass drum, 8X12 rack tom, 14X14 floor tom, a 4X14 snare drum—that drum is now referred to as a piccolo snare. I think I got a drum stool, a high-hat (with actual high hat cymbals) and I still had the world’s largest ride cymbal. It was real shit, bought a few years earlier. My dad paid $20 for it from Joe at Chicago Store. If you hit that cymbal super hard, it would invert with the cymbal actually making a shallow bowl around the bell. You had to take it off the stand and pull the cymbal back into the correct shape. It goes without saying that I wish I had that entire kit including the World’s Largest Shit Ride cymbal again. Tom Larkins—a collector—has a “Downbeat” snare or did.

Young Marx, circa 1970, drumming with his band "Supper"
Here's another pic of Marx drumming at a High School dance with "Floating Opera" in 1967 with his first drumset.
Says Marx: "We did a lot of Yardbirds, I remember. We did 'Dont Bring Me Down'  by the Pretty Things'This picture is a snapshot and dated on the bottom. Something-1967. The person portraying Yardbirds' singer Keith Relf is none other than Chuck "Wagon" Maultsby. The bassist is Dave Curtis. I think the guitarist barely shown is Bill Lackey. Note the used status of my rack tom's bottom head!"

SLIT: Are you self taught? How did you practice?

ML: Well, I’m both. I was in the Catalina High School marching band and band and I learned more about reading drum music there from the people in the section. When I was a freshman, I met a guy in PE—Michael Stearns. He knew I was in the band and wondered if I liked rock. (This was 1964.) I’d listened to a lot and he said he was putting a band together and asked if I’d be interested. He told me to go out and listen to The Ventures in Space and learn the songs. I did. I sat on my bed and played on placed pillows—one each for the snare, rack tom and floor tom. I would move my right foot for the bass drum. The first song I learned was “He Never Came Back.” I only did one “gig” with the band—named—yes—The Vandals and I used my mighty snare drum/World’s Largest Shit Ride Cymbal combo. I got canned for a Salpointe kid—Mike Parrott who 1) had a drum set and 2) could play Wipeout. The Vandals became The Breakers—a good local band. Mike Parrott-who went on to a very successful career as a Vegas drummer-- and I became good friends. It was a sad time though. Mike Stearns and I lost touch but I found out that he became some kind of New Age Music superstar. Yeah, well I knew him when he copped Nokie Edwards’s licks—so there, Stearns!
    As for me—over the years, I’ve taken lessons sporadically. But mainly, I listen to stuff I want to learn and muscle through it. I’m a pretty simple no frills player—especially now.

Marx drumming with The Carnivaleros  (photo credit: Elliott --Rialto staff photographer)

SLIT: Have you ever toured with a band? If so, describe what it's like

ML: I’ve toured a bit but not as much as I’d liked to. In 2000 I joined the Mollys and they’d been doing van touring for years, not to mention doing a long tour of Australia. They had it down. I honestly loved it. It really hurt my body, but I loved it. (I was 50 years old and had had heart surgery the year before). Sorry if this is corny but it was very much a life dream come true. I played a few times in Manhattan. I played up in Canada. I played in Italy. It’s cool to do something you love and when you tour basically your day is pointed at that 80 minute set where you have to get over to strangers. Its work, but it’s also fun. The rest of the time is travelling and keeping yourself not bored. One more thing—there is nothing weirder than coming back from, say, the North of Italy where people know the song lyrics and sing along and you’re adored to home where your first gig is sort of “huh—you guys are back huh?” This isn’t an ego thing at all—it’s just jarring. I remember Van Christian saying just this many years ago outside of Nino’s to me right after he’d come back from a European tour.

SLIT: Can you drum reggae style?

ML:  I can fake a one-drop beat okay. Keyword: okay. Reggae as a drum form (and there are more beats than just the one-drop) is a VERY hard groove to play legit. Like all roots music—you can know where all the beats fall and play them correctly but if the feel is off even a little or it’s played stiffly—you’re dead. That includes blues shuffles and country, by the way. Want to hear something amazing? Check out Salsa Celtica. They’re a group from Scotland who moved to Cuba for a couple of years and learned afro-Cuban and the language. They mix in Celtic instruments but VERY subtly and it isn’t a shtick. They’re fantastic and their Spanish is damn good too.

SLIT: How do you hold your sticks?

ML: I’m old. I wish I’d learned matched grip but I play traditional grip. Me, Charley Watts, Stewart Copeland and Stan Lynch against the world!!!

SLIT: Who are your fave drummers? Any particular drum lick that you've gotten from another drummer, which you've incorporated into your repetoire?

ML: Bad question. Currently I’m a freak for the newer stuff coming out of Brazil so I’d have to say those unnamed guys. That shit just sounds so fresh to me. Beyond that? I’m a Ringo defender. Charley Watts is great although he’s a weak jazz player. Most of the great session guys I’ve loved over the years. Steve Gadd is one. I love B.J. Wilson of Procol Harem and he has the one lick I’ve stolen and thrown into about a bazillion songs—his intro lick to A Little Help From My Friends by Joe Cocker. That lick is simple and just kills. I love hearing stuff where Dave Tough played. Tough had no technique whatsoever. He followed Gene Krupa in Benny Goodman’s band and the band threw him a party when he came on board.  He never took solos. He was a total groove machine. Dave is my hero. Too bad, because Dave was a very tragic guy, but man—what a feel. Tony Williams…Elvin Jones…the New Orleans guys. A pretty big list here.

SLIT:  What's your position on drum solos? Tommy Ramone or Stewart Copeland? Charlie Watts or Ringo Starr?

ML: I hate and am bored by most drum solos. Once in a while I’ll hear something pretty short and melodic that I dig. Listen to a song called “What?” by Joey Baron on his Downhome CD. Joey takes a short solo that just fits the tune so well and I love it. Most drum solos devolve into playing faster and more complicated patterns. That’s great. So….that has exactly what to do with the song you’ve been doing? If a drum solo is short and conceptual and/or melodic I’ll listen. If it becomes an Olympic event, I get sleepy. Good solos don’t have to be about chops—they can be total trog and be very cool. Did I mention the short length part? When I do solo—very very rarely-- I like trading 4s or 8s with the band. Maybe 3 times and I’m fine. I hate doing them. Its counter to what drumming itself is for me anyway: drummers are the Offensive Guard of music. They ain’t the star Running Back. Sorry—I’m lecturing.
    Tommy or Stewart? For me, Stewart—hands down, but let me explain. Whatever else Copeland is, he’s just a great all-around drummer with a very distinctive style. Tommy had a distinctive style but he’s kind of like local food joint, El Taco. Is El Taco fantastic Mexican food? Nope. But It’s fantastic El Taco food. That’s Tommy. No one else could have done the Ramones music that way but that guy. But head to head? It’s Mr. Copeland.

SLIT: How do you feel about drum machines? How about syn-drums?

ML: Drum machines are a tool and can be fine. It’s also a skill set that some people have. Syn-drums? I have a cheap electronic kit I use to practice. I wear headphones. That way, if my sister comes over she doesn’t burst into tears or gets traumatized. Um—I guess it depends on how they’re used and where. Again—a tool. No opinion beyond that, I guess.

    Howie—thanks for letting me do this. It was fun and I’m very flattered. Hope whoever reads this enjoys it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

SLIT interview: The Fabulous...MAGGIE GOLSTON!!

SLIT: How did you get interested in music? When did you start playing guitar? Are you self-taught? What kind of guitar do yo play?

MG: I was always obsessed with music. My father actually still had a reel-to-reel, and a hi-fi store client connect. When I was two, three, four there was a nightly ritual of Dad as DJ.  He gave me his LP collection when I was a poor college student, and I am ashamed to say I sold Mesa's Eastside Records a good bit, but I held onto all the staples (lots of 50s-60s jazz, folk, and rock, 50 Monk LPs, all kinds of Beatles, Dylan, The Band etc.).

I always loved to sing, whether or not I was any good at it. I am very lucky to have been raised by a father with excellent taste and a mother who didn't pimp me into any of that overtrained children's singing. I took piano for a few years and am terrible, though at 9 I could play the "Love Boat" theme.

So my parents split (there was a hideous book and record-splitting negotiation to which I was privy that was so Woody Allen), and when I was able to join the school marching band in 6th grade, I asked my dad, kind of pathetically, to choose my instrument. He told me in no uncertain terms that I would learn to play the soprano sax. But when I got to band class and said that I wanted a soprano sax like John Coltrane's, he smirked. He was a smirker.  "We don't have a soprano saxophone section."

According to him, the closest instrument to a soprano was a flute. I could smell bullshit while these boys clinked their braces with their alto reeds, but I was new and scared.

So I play the flute. I kept with it until I was 15 or so, and while I could never be classically proficient, I can eke out a nice "Girl from Ipanema." My dad hates the flute.

Sorry, I'm rambling. Big surprise when my record had 6 songs and was 36 minutes. You can hack the hell out of this if you want to.

The Jewish thing came with a bonus for me. Believe it or not, it was the cantor of Brooklyn Heights Synagogue who recognized that I could sing. The crazy Yiddishe crone representing the temple sisterhood, who told every 13-year-old's career fortune (usually doctor) reached Edith Bunker levels of Brooklynese as she said "I think we found our next cayanntahhh!"

So no fancy private lessons-- or a few, but just for a month or two-- but lots of classical singing. I refused to do any kind of show choir, opting instead to grab to brass ring of the alto solo in the Weber mass. Yeah, I was so goth. Bach Cantatas with creepy recitatives.

Guitar is all self-taught, with a few exceptions: this awesome hippie dude gave me one lesson and said "You have to pick a first song you won't regret." Best advice; we decided on "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Then a creeper offered a free lesson to try to get into my skirts. Naim Amor always shows me cool stuff, most of which I promptly forget.

I play a late 70s Guild D40 and a newish Gretsch Rancher replica. I have two Trace Elliot amps, but they are full of troubling quirks, and with my stage anxiety, it's easier to just go in direct.

SLIT: Do you play any other instruments? Have you considered playing drums?

MG: Oops. Got most of that. I love playing percussion, and I love playing a drum or two, but the kit confounds me. I did a lot of background singing early on in Tucson, and that often involved random percussive duty.

I worship drummers, actually. I mean, Tasha? She is just too right on. And we just lost a great drummer, Aharon Lund (Cadillac Steakhouse), to NYC. They took Amare, and now this--

SLIT:  What was the first song you wrote? What was it about?

MG: Okay, I swear that my mother remembers a toddler favorite called "Busy Bee Was on the Ledge," but the first song I actually wrote and finished all of myself was a song about my friend and mentor, Doug Hopkins (Psalms/Algebra Ranch/Gin Blossoms), and the Guadalupe Graveyard-- it was a country song, but there is always goth. And my song about the graveyard was finished before his, even if his sold a kagillion copies and mine was both precious and maudlin.

SLIT:  What was your first gig?

MG: I sang with The Host at Club Congress. I had strep. For those who don't know, The Host was the project of Tucson's own elf, Charles Ellick, or "Odin." He had a polygamous thing going on with several young women called "Hosties." I have spent decades since convincing all and sundry that, no way, no how was I Family. He did, however, make me wear all white that night and called me his "Valkyrie." He actually wanted my stage name to be Medea.

So speaking of drummers, One of my favorites, Dennis 'Spyder' Rhodes, was the only normal human up ins. It didn't last. But I will absolutely defend the decision to sing with them. If you could get past the whole Spahn Ranch vibe, you would hear some really interesting stuff happening. He put the freak in folk a long time before Devendra Banhart.

SLIT:  How did you first get started with the music scene in Tucson? What's your opinion of it today?

MG: So after The Host, Two Slit hall-of-famers heard me sing The Coventry Carol to harp accompaniment (so that happened--) at a holiday show at Dodajk (now Solar Culture), David Slutes and Gene Ruley. David ended up having me sing on a solo single and then on a Sidewinders record, and taught me a ton about production. Ruley would see me around and say ridiculously kind things to me about my singing (I thought he was our Peter Buck, our Johnny Marr), and we played together a couple of years later briefly, but never publicly, in a proto- version of The Drakes. On the strength of the faith of those two and Doug, I began to try to play guitar and write songs.

I should say, too, that Al Perry was such a good friend and role model, and singing with him has been always a pleasure indeed, even when I have to learn 4 Carpenters songs in a day and a half and, completely terrified (I have developed significantly more stage fright in the last 10 years or so, and am considering a Jandek exile), but never a girl to avoid an obvious punchline, I introduced myself as "The self-image of Karen Carpenter. It's meta y'all."

I always have love for the current scene. I love the breadth here in terms of genres and sub-genres, and of generations; I love that a real folk band like the Missing Parts play in the underpass, that Amy Rude went electric, that Chris Black and Gabriel Sullivan are concocting hybrids with Salvador that are alchemical. And Howe Gelb, whom I very much admire, but don't know that well, though long. And there's this new band full of young freaky geniuses called God of the Sea screaming away-- I just heard a rough mix of their CD.

And yeah, it's hard for girls, and it's worse for women. Two tears in a bucket. Motherfuck it.

SLIT:  Where did you get your interest in writing? Would you enjoy carrying on a rhyming conversation? Would you ever sing a lecture to your writing students?
I don't know. My mom taught me to read before I could really walk. I was creepy. I always always wrote as a kid. I'm not sure how to answer this question.

I love all rhyming. Rhyming is beautiful. So of course we can rock the iambic abab cdcd efef gg in the halls at Pima. And my students would not bat an eye if I sang to them; the only way I have found to teach the drudgery of rhetorical analysis is playing the Catskills up in there. 3 sets a night, folks!

SLIT:  Does music save souls? How about books?

MG: Yes, music saves people, and books. Kind of obvious. So which of each have saved mine, maybe? Like, for real?  Poets John Berryman and Frank O'Hara. Jerzy Kosinki's "A Painted Bird" Salinger's "Nine Stories." Maugham's "The Razor's Edge." McCullers' "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter." And Lorca. My Pandora station, which I prune like topiary, is called "Duende Radio."

Music is tougher. It's no joke; even in a terrible situation, I would still probably turn some really tragic shit. I know that REM and The Smiths and Dylan and Joy Division got me through high school. Richard Thompson both saved and changed my life. Leonard Cohen all along. And seeing Emmylou live in a small club in Utah in '99 when I was really miserable was a liferaft. Rough gig, grad school in Utah. And Jason Molina (Songs:Ohia, Magnolia Electric Company) saved me in North Carolina. Kristen Hersh (Throwing Muses) was really important to me, still is, as an example of how to be real.

Really, being able to play music, even alone, has saved me plenty.

SLIT: Fave Movies? Any other faves?

MG: Movies: McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Lebowski, Paris, Texas, Coal Miner's Daughter, Days of Heaven. Number: 8. Letter: O. Flowers: Dahlias (currently obsessed). Slushie: Cherry.

SLIT:  What shitty music do you like? What great music do you really not prefer? Is it importantt that people know this?

MG: Like, okay. You know I wanted to be a straight shooter, Howard, and now we're one toke over the line, one exit too far on the pretentiousness turnpike.

Let's say that post-John Waters or post-generic music interview glut or post-Idol or post-whatever you like, there is really no such thing as a "guilty pleasure." I really think it is the most self-conscious moment in the interviews I read, both because it's ubiquitous, and in that it requires one to change subject position, to speculate about what will please. I imagine them briefly considering what would be truly shameful, but most frequently, they default to a hipster inside joke or something really good and not at all odd or bad, like 70s country or Rihanna.

I am too old for the SOBIG [so bad it's good] joke. Mister Waters said it best: "I have no time for irony. I can't afford it."

So I am thinking that what you don't like or understand is more revealing is, of course, if only in its novelty, the converse gesture: the 'shameful displeasure.' There is inevitably great music, really seminal shit, that you don't like. Instead of thinking about what will please, you think about what will, by definition, not please most music people. Your displeasure is normally private; you nod along when your bandmates and internet friends discuss these records you find useless, or at best, historic but  for you unlistenable, like it's biological.

I have been asking friends to think about this lately; some prefer the term 'blind spots.' Necessarily, they are generally accepted as part of the great rock canon; or even more shamefully, they can be jazz legends or country greats. So here, without justification or distracting snark, are some of mine:

Steely Dan
The Ramones
Guided By Voices
Ornette Coleman
Frank Sinatra

SLIT:  Would you rather perform onstage? Or in the center of a crowd?

MG: I would rather hide, usually. But once I get over the fright, I'm fine wherever. I like to sing at my friend Kristen's pool. That's fun.

SLIT:  What inspires you?

MG: My friends. This place. Hoping to fall in love. Desire as production. My dogs with their light bulb heads. My family, especially niece Zoe who is 4 and will freestyle with me. And too, a few ghosts who might be listening.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dust of the Earth, chapter 21

Welcome to the continuing serialized version of Phantom Limbs' bassist Jim Parks' novel, Dust Of The Earth, a Tucson story about Tucson history, mystery, other worlds, desert mojo, forbidden love, and the fledgling Tucson music scene... (c) by Jim Parks, reprinted with permission

When we last left, our narrator was growning anxious being out in the wildness, as the embers of his campfire died out...what dangers lay out there?

Chapter 21
Caveman with bone

I reached and felt the religious medal that Ana Socorro had given me - St. John of God, patron saint of book peddlers and unfettered love. How comical -- and how touching. A.C. had said that the medal would guide me. And indeed, I began to feel my thoughts guided - to earlier in the day, Ana Socorro in her two-piece swim suit, her curves, her smile - not lascivious, just open and receptive. Responding to these images, I reached down and felt myself, wondering if I could squeeze one off without disturbing Ehmet. I decided no. But I felt a little better, lying there thinking of Ana Socorro, imagining that her thoughts were with me at this moment, as mine were with her. I wondered if cavemen on hunting trips had fallen asleep like this, their members in their hands, allaying fears of the night with thoughts of their mates back home - Venus figurines around their necks instead of St. John of God.
I was just beginning to fall asleep when I was startled by a loud noise near our campsite. I had never heard this sound in nature - but anyone who has watched TV commercials for the eponymous motor vehicle would recognize it - it was the roar of a cougar, or mountain lion as we called them.  I heard another roar, this time in a different direction from the first one. I poked my head out of my sleeping bag and looked around. A nearly full moon was illuminating our surroundings with a dim silvery light.

Ehmet was already out of his bag, squatting on his haunches, scanning our perimeter. He tilted his head back and appeared to be sniffing the air. I sat up and started to get out of my bag, but Ehmet motioned to me to stay where I was - I didn't require much convincing. The big Indian bolted off in the direction of the bluffs behind us, and the last I could make out of his form, he was skirting the bluffs, heading uphill towards Thumb Rock. He moved like an animal, quick and graceful.

I felt chills up and down my back, and I began to shiver. Wiggling back down into my sleeping bag, I zipped the top flap over my head. I knew that the bag would provide me no protection - I was lying there like a burrito - but I had reverted to a child-like mentality, hiding under the covers from scary monsters. I tried to master my fears and think the situation through. What did I know about mountain lions?

 To Be Continued....

Thursday, October 21, 2010

RajiWorld's Roggie Baer!!

The Fabulous! The Wonderful! Roggie Baer
Editor's Note: SLIT contacted Roggie asking her to explain how she started RajiWorld booking agency. 
I started as a buyer at the University of Arizona in the late 80’s through SUAB where I led booking for Eat To The Beat (Red Hot Chile Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, Billy Idol) and Spring Fling (Jellyfish, Redd Kross, Posies, Paladins booking at UA), some promoting at Counter Club and Club Congress (I brought the first El Vez show to Tucson, as well as the Ringling Sisters).  I was also KAMP student Radio music director, and made a few trial national bookings for Green On Red and Giant Sand. I then headed the Spring Fling music committee in 1991.

At the time I was a Chemistry major, and going between the chemistry lab and my music office with a lab coat and a Motorola brick cell phone.  My friends thought I was nuts and referred to the whole thing as RajiWorld (even though my name is spelled Roggie)  So it stuck.

My first client was Rosie Flores.  I booked her to play at the U of A, a conference in PHX, and a club show in Tucson.  I worked the door at the club show and part-way through the night the bar owner collected the money so I wouldn’t have to hold it.  I trusted him.  He passed out in the office and never paid us. I withdrew all my savings and gave her what I could.  She later found out about it and asked if I would book her.  I soon added Duane Jarvis and Buddy Miller, who were direct referrals and that was how it started.  I am incredibly grateful.

In 1993 I moved to L.A. and began promoting music in earnest.  I had an opportunity in 1994 to relocate to Austin and work with Joe Ely in the studio, on the road with MCA and his musical called Chippy, which played at Lincoln Center and had a long run in Philly this year, which allowed me to go on the road and meet all the venues and local press which has been invaluable in the 16+ years since.  RajiWorld has been run between L.A. and Austin ever since.

In 1998, Bill Elm (of Friends of Dean Martin) and I married, and he put out many great records which enabled us to work in the field we loved, as we became parents in 1999.  I feel very blessed to have long working relationships with some of the bands I was first a fan of, like Danny & Chuck, Howe, The Fleshtones, Rosie Flores.  I often mention that I was in the right place at the right time with what came out of Tucson.

I started in fashion as a teen, modeling, designing, retail and wholesale.  I have a degree in Fashion Merchandising, and I love that world.  I went back to school to study Chemistry as a frustrated animal rights activist / makeup artist.  Chemistry led to a degree, although I do not use it (except in the kitchen).  I had a desire to mix up my 21 unit school day with a fun student activity (which is how I got to booking for UA and student radio. 

I have recently come full circle by creating World Beauty, which reps fashion designers, hair and make-up artists and photographers and videographers for events like music festivals and awards shows.  My first client was SXSW 2010 Music Awards.  Later this year I am partnering with a dear friend to combine this with her full service travel, transportation and tour managing services to form SPECTRUM, a full-service turn-key company.

This article originally appeared in the print edition of SLIT 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

SLIT interview: The Extraordinary...GENE ARMSTRONG!!

Creator of the "Villainous Alien Zurn"!

SLIT:  How did you get your interest in writing? Was there an "aha" moment? Have you always wanted to be a writer?

GA:  My interest in writing developed from a lifelong love of reading. I was always at the library as a child, at least when I wasn’t listening to records and the radio or practicing martial arts. Those were my three passions as a kid. I remember being really excited when I got my first bike because I could then travel by myself to the Woods Memorial Branch library on North First Avenue.
I cannot remember when I first began reading, nor can I remember when I first began writing in earnest – well, there was one really bad science fiction story in junior high school about the heroic space explorer Montrose (name borrowed from the also-ran rock ’n’ roller Ronnie Montrose) and the villainous alien Zurn (which was the brand name on the drain in the school restroom). Suffice to say I realized at a young age that even though I couldn’t write fiction, I could put words together in ways that sounded right. Maybe not beautiful, or brilliant or revelatory, but to this day I find that I can simply write in a manner that is correct – not too many grammatical errors, not too many typos. Not too many red marks.
I started writing journalism when I was on the newspaper staff at Salpointe Catholic High School. Later, I fancied that I would become a poet and make all the girls fall in love with me, so I majored in creative writing at the University of Arizona. Eventually got a degree in it, but not before I returned to journalism, taking a job at the campus paper in 1983 – I have been writing professionally, either on a full- or a part-time basis, ever since.  I have written about music, movies, dance, theater, visual arts and books, as well as general assignment features and a little news. I spent almost 15 years at the Arizona Daily Star before extricating myself from what had become a sorry mess. Now, I write on a freelance-only basis, and for the past seven years have been a contributor to the Tucson Weekly, and sometimes to other small alt-weeklies around the country. I am willing to consider any writing assignment. Call me.

SLIT:  Where'd you get your interest in music?

GA: My parents always played music at home, mostly LPs, the occasional 78 and some reel-to-reel tapes. Then I remember the first day my dad brought home an exciting new piece of technology -- the cassette tape player. I thought it was the coolest thing ever! Eventually on my trips to the library, I would borrow cassettes and LPs to make crude dub copies at home. I didn’t even know what copyright laws were. I first discovered Patti Smith’s Horses by checking it from the Woods library. Now I couldn’t live without it.
My mother liked mariachi music and Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and all the ‘50s rockers. From my father I inherited a deep love of jazz and other cool artists such as Sandy Bull and Bud & Travis; he also liked playing Gregorian chants for some reason. After my parents divorced and each respectively remarried, my stepfather moved in with his record collection. It contained several albums that heavily influenced my tastes to this day, such as the Allman Brothers Band’s Eat a Peach, Who’s Next by The Who, the first Crosby, Stills & Nash record and my two favorite albums: John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things and The Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed. My first 45 single was “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies, and my first album was one by The Partridge Family.

I also studied violin for much of my childhood, but drifted away from it before becoming proficient. When I was a teen-ager, my best friend, David Slutes, convinced me to take my very expensive violin to the swamp meet and trade it for an el cheapo bass because we were going to form a band. He doesn’t like me to discuss this publicly, but the band was called Billy Bowel and the Movements, and we never learned how to play our instruments; he created flyers and album covers for us, though. Later, David went on to have a real career in music.

By the way, I have to give David a lot of credit because from junior high through college, and often since, we bonded over music – we went to gigs and shows constantly, from the legendary Fleetwood Mac concert in the UA football stadium to seeing the Serfers, Pills and Giant Sandworms at Tumbleweeds. We continue to share an abiding love for Cat Stevens, Blue Oyster Cult, Steely Dan, Tommy Bolin, Roxy Music, David Bowie and the immortal Golden Earring song “Radar Love.”

SLIT:  How would you characterize your style of interviewing and writing?

GA: I have resigned myself to the fact that when I interview someone – whether or not they are involved in music – I am without question clumsy and awkward, but maybe in a little bit of an endearing way. Every day and in almost every way, I feel like a geek. I used to care that the subject of the interview thought I was cool and informed and clever and world-wise. Now, I just don’t. Most of the time, that is. Sometimes, I catch myself during or just after an interview, and I’ll notice that it had a little too much “look at me, I am the big-shot music critic deigning to interview you” in it rather than being purely focused on the subject or person at hand. Most of the time,  I am not afraid to sound stupid in an interview as long as I get some good material from the interviewee. I don’t envy interviewers on radio and TV, when the audience has to hear them asking questions.

My style of writing is usually, I hope, simple, to the point and unself-conscious. I would rather draw attention to the content rather than the style. I don’t want to bowl the reader over with wit and virtuosity. I don’t want you to read my stuff and think, “Wow, what a good writer!” I want you to read my work and think, “That was interesting and it kept my attention, and it didn’t have too many errors in it.”

SLIT: How did you get involved in Tucson's music scene as a journalist?

GA: I just loved listening to music, hanging out with musicians, going to gigs and all that comes with that. Since I was writing movie reviews for the campus paper, I started doing a few music reviews, as well. I think my first record review was Madonna’s first album. One of my first band interviews was The Johnies – one of the bands that almost regrouped at this year’s 25th anniversary bash at Club Congress.

SLIT:  Have you ever written a song? Do you play an instrument? Is writing text like making music?

 GA: I have never successfully learned an instrument. I have never written a song. I don’t think writing text is at all like writing music, but, frankly, I wouldn’t know.

SLIT:  Do you prefer writing on a typewriter, or on a computer? Why?

GA: I am no traditionalist. For the past four  years, I have worked a day job as a computer technician, so I embrace technology. I mean, duh. It makes me feel old to be able to compare computers to typewriters as if it that issue weren’t already settled. I learned to type in high-school typing class, and we had these monster manual typewriters that forced you to pound down heavily on each key, so even today I still sort of pound loudly on the computer keyboard.

SLIT:  Who are your favorite authors? Music writers? Bands? Movies?

GA: My favorite authors are too numerous to list in full. A few of them are Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, Hammett, Chandler, Heinlein, Tolkien, Hemingway, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Andrew Vacchs, Harry Crews, Roald Dahl, Chuck Palahniuk, Mark Helprin, Philip K. Dick, Harvey Pekar, Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore. Thanks to my two ex-wives, I also have a healthy appreciation for the works of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. I bow before legendary music critics such as Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Robert Christgau and Dave Marsh, and in terms of contemporary music writers, Jon Pareles, David Fricke and Neil Strauss are among my favorites.

My favorite movie is Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, but also special for me are Down by Law, Rear Window, Small Change, Slacker, A Christmas Story, Seven Samurai, The Big Lebowski, The Lady From Shanghai, Blade Runner, The Conversation, Blow UpThe Sting, The Thin Man and anything by Preston Sturges, Tom Tykwer and David Lynch. I also have a soft spot in my heart for classic movie musicals.
Don’t even get me started about music I love.

SLIT: Is music the best artform?

GA: No, not the best. It is one plank in the platform of the arts – I like all the other artforms, but I pay most attention to music.

SLIT:  Have you considered reviewing or writing about moments of silence?

GA:  Shhh. I am now reviewing some silence. But the result also is silence. Oh, do you mean like John Cage’s composition 4’33’’? I have never heard it performed.

SLIT:  What are some milestones in your career as a writer/journalist?

GA: I haven’t encountered them yet.  I do not enter journalism or writing contests, probably because I hate to lose. And whenever I went through a change, like a promotion or a reassignment, or quitting when a situation became untenable, these moments were always just sort of the next small step in an evolving reality. I simply consider myself a journeyman writer, like a carpenter or a plumber or even a computer technician. I am a reliable, consistent craftsman. For me, it has never been about reaching milestones, but just taking the next step.

SLIT: What inspires you?

GA: Deadlines. Fear of failure. The desire to overcome self-loathing. Hunger. The need to feed and care for my dog and cat. The satisfaction of writing a decent sentence. And caffeine. I am also a master procrasinator in that I hate hate hate writing, until I sit down and do it, at which point I remember how much I love it.

SLIT: What's your opinion of electronic media?

GA:  A woman I talked to the other night said she doesn’t allow TV or the Internet into her home. Well, bully for her! But she’s not being realistic, is she? I don’t think she has her head in the sand; it’s fully up her ass. But, at the same time, I agree that we must be discerning consumers of electronic media, as we must be of any product, or we would become totally inundated by the potential avalanche of information. Fortunately, humans have become adept at picking and choosing and sifting through what we want from media. The members of our generation – and those that have followed us – are remarkable in many ways, not least for the development of extremely sophisticated bullshit filters.
Thanks much for the interview!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Amazing Artist Alert! ...Mel Dominguez

SLIT: When did you know that you wanted to be an artist? Was there an "aha!" moment?

MD:  I knew I wanted to be an artist in the first grade. It was because I used to wake up early when my grandfather was going to work, he would put on POPEYE.  Back then there was a man who would introduce the cartoon by sketching out a little something of Popeye's. I saw him do it and I knew then I was going to do THAT when I grew up.

SLIT:  Who's art do you prefer: Picasso or George Herriman (creator of "Krazy Kat")?

MD: BOTH, cause I feel a little like the both of them

SLIT: Who are your artistic influences? Have you always been interested in art? Does it come naturally for you?

MD: my grandfather would oil paint. I thought it was amazing. It comes naturally. I knew at an early age we had no money for school so I would exercise myself by copying or imitating other artists trying to get the same results. It helped

SLIT:  How does Tucson compare to Los Angeles for you? Has living in Tucson caused a change in your artwork?

MD: Tucson is smaller. The art community even smaller! Living here in Tucson has changed my art. I was working in Los Angeles for other people. Here in Tucson, I work for feels good.

Mel painting a blacklight mural

SLIT:  Do you play an instrument? Have you ever been in a band?

MD: I used to play they xylophone. It reminded me of my two favorite things: piano and drums. No band. Just late drunk nights with the family singing "we all live in the yellow submarine!"

SLIT:  Do you need music to create?

MD: I don't need music to create, BUT it helps. It's like voodoo
"Venus de Melo"

SLIT:  Have you ever created a comic book? (if so, please describe)

MD: I have created short stories....comic strips. The ideas come from real life situations that I find funny. I recently created some images in honor of the New Yorker's event on Oct 3rd. The images are of a Mexican crossing the border on a bicycle during "El Tour de Tucson".  They are currently being shown @ My Addiction Gallery inside the 6th & 6th corridor

SLIT:  How has your work changed over time?

MD: My work is more focused and complete.  I'm learning to edit the ideas.  Listen to what people dig :) Then I give it to them.

SLIT: Do you have favorite colors? Mediums?

MD: I love blue and white. Mediums......acrylic, spray paint, oils. Most of all my BIC pen for sick iLLustrations
"Tiki Unveiling"

SLIT:  Do work from sketches, or are you more spontaneous?

MD: Big time spontaneous. It makes it adventurous for me as an artist and I think people have fun watching magic happen. I call it freestyle, but it aint for free.

SLIT:  Favorite artists? books? movies?

MD:  Bob Ross, Picasso, Dali, Von Bode.....because they jumped off the edge. Bob Ross cause of the fro. Books: Bible, Secret Societies, Ulysses Guide to the Los Angeles River. Movies:  Good Fellas, Wizards, Willy Wonka

SLIT:  What inspires you?

MD: Everything inspires me:  words, sounds, questions, people, scenes, riding the public limousine, only having two weeks to complete a solo show, opportunity, almost died. You name it I can be inspired by it.  This exercise taught me to be my own sales rep, manager, pr.

Thanks for choosing me to be the interviewee. peace Howard

Visit Mel's website: