Thursday, November 4, 2010

SLIT Interview: The Awesome...Caitlin von Schmidt!!

SLIT:  When did you learn to play bass?  Do you play any other instruments?  Have you always been "musical"?

CV: I never learned how to play bass, can't you tell?  Seriously, I really wish I'd taken lessons cos I think it would've made things so much easier.  I look at people like Little Dave Roads & Jim Parks & I am so envious.  Anyway, when Chris Holiman asked me if I wanted to start a band with him (the River Roses), I couldn't play much of anything, just a few folk chords on guitar, so of course I played bass.  He had a bass with only two strings on it & I remember I played it that way for a while before we even added the other two strings.  Ah, the '80s!

I finally learned to play bar chords on guitar, and I can pound out some chords on piano (and have written a few songs that way) but that's about it.  My poor father, he gave me so many instruments (like throwing spaghetti against the wall & hoping it will stick) - guitar, banjo, mandolin - but I never really learned any of them properly.  What I did learn, growing up around so much music (my father was a musician and my mother was house mother for musicians at the Newport Folk & Jazz Festivals in the summer), was how to hear harmonies.  I think that actually helped when I was writing bass lines.

SLIT:  Where did you learn to sing? (You have a nice voice!)

CV: Same thing.  I just opened my mouth, and I was encouraged.  Did a lot of singing at my father's parties, though I may not have had the nerve to sing loud enough for anyone to hear till I was in bands.  And harmonies, I just hear them in my head.

SLIT:  How did you get started with the River Roses?  What other bands have you been in?  Have you ever toured with a band?

CV: Well, I dated Chris Holiman for a little while in the early '80s, and after we broke up, he asked if I wanted to start a band with him.  Now, as a general rule, I don't recommend that ANYONE start a band with someone with whom they've recently broken up, but I'm glad I did.  If it wasn't for Chris asking me to do the River Roses, I may not have ever been in bands.  After the River Roses had been around for a bit, I was also in an all-girl band, Ortho28, with Tina Evans (The Johnies), Linda Andes (Los Hamsters), & Nell (last name?).  Ortho28 was a blast, cos I had kind of an alter-ego for shows (I remember thinking of Vanity 6), and we all just picked favorite songs to cover, or did songs we'd written that the other bands we were in didn't want to play.

Later, after I left the River Roses & moved away to New York, I came back & had Caitlin & the Stickponies.  Having my own band let me play so many of the songs we didn't have room for in the Roses.  Julia Mueller (now LaTray) & I would sit around with guitars, our feet in a pool, learning harmonies; it was a great way to spend evenings in Tucson!  There were a lot of Stickpony line-ups but I have to say - playing with Julia, Sean Murphy, & Peter Catalanotte was nirvana, just sheer joy.  Oh, and Julia & I did a duo thing for a while, which was also a blast.

Never toured.  The Roses toured a little after I left, but the most I ever did was make it to Phoenix &, a couple of times, to SXSW.

SLIT:   How did you get started as an artist?  How would you describe your artwork?  Who are your fave artists?

CV: My father & grandfather were both artists, and my father (and mother, for that matter) was really encouraging.  We always had tons of art supplies and art was valued as a vocation.  I just always drew.  For a long time, the subject was mainly horses (very girly of me!); I could draw a killer horse for a while.

When I went to the U of A, however, it was for racetrack management and my father was thrilled!  Finally someone in the family will make money, he told people.  (He must've been referring to himself - my grandfather was actually a very successful illustrator.)  But after a couple of years, I drifted into graphic design, figuring I'd go into a moneymaking branch of art.  I wasn't up to the rigors of graphic design though; I was way too messy.  If computer graphics existed then, I might've stuck it out.  Instead, I drifted into painting, and finally got my BFA.  I went to grad school around the turn of the century, in artisanry with a concentration in metals, but my thesis show was all mixed-media, no metal in sight, and now I can't even remember how to solder.

My artwork is all over the map, I'd say, but always representational.  I haven't done much of anything for a while - it's amazing how much time a three-year-old boy eats up - but I look forward to getting back to doing something.  These days I mainly do flash websites, and the occasional odd project, like the posters for the Congress 20th, 21st, and 25th celebrations.  I'm trying to get my own website up finally (cobbler's children go without shoes, so they say) & people will be able to see some of my past work if they have such an inclination., for those of you patient enough to keep checking.

Favorite artists?  That's a brutal question, as bad as asking for your favorite records, books, or movies of all time.  Um, Eakins, Velasquez, Hopper, Joseph Cornell, Geo. Herriman, Windsor McKay, Maurice Sendak, Yoshitomo Nara, Ronald Searle, Lynda Barry, WeeGee, Diane Arbus (yes, I'm putting photographers in there - they're artists!).  Really, the list could go on & on so I'm forcing myself to stop!

SLIT:  Any fave books?  Movies?

CV: See above - brutal question!  I'm a big fan of Ray Bradbury & Phillip K. Dick.  I still love The Shining & Dead Zone.  Dickens.  But honestly, I hardly ever have time to read these days.  I'm afraid our tv-watching schedule really cuts into reading time.  God, my brain must be melting.

Movies - The Butcher Boy, Brazil, The Quiet Man, Uncle Buck, My Neighbor Totoro & Spirited many great movies.

SLIT:  Have you ever drawn comics? If you were a superhero, what would your superhero powers be?

CV: I did a couple of comics for you, for Slit, back in the day!  But never really superhero comics.  I think mine would've been more like Harvey Pekar, or maybe Love & Rockets, in terms of subject matter, I mean.  Which isn't to say I never read superhero comics; I was a big fan of Spiderman, Batman, & Swamp Thing.  If I were a superhero, my superpower would be not worrying about how I looked in my costume.  And turning stuff into marshmallow.  Mmmmm, marshmallow...

SLIT: If Toulouse Lautrec were alive today, and he asked you to model for him, would you do it?

CV: Who on earth WOULDN'T do it?

SLIT: What are some milestones in your artistic/musical/creative life?

CV: Joining my first band (the Roses); performing with my father at the Newport Folk Festival; getting to the Winnipeg Folk Fest to sing with my father & finding out I'd been put on a bunch of panels, ALONE, & having to actually do it; having Bruce McGrew for a prof at the U of A; seeing Camper Van Beethoven for the first time, at Nino's...this is a tough question!  The real milestone, the one that changed everything, was reading a paragraph item in a horse magazine about the racetrack management program at the U of A.  Without that, I never would've moved to Tucson.  Just a few lines of type.  Crazy!

SLIT:   What inspires you?

CV: People.  People in their infinite variety & weirdness inspire me.  People never cease to amaze me.


  1. All I gots is praise! AWESOME!!!

  2. Very kind words about Tucson and the Roses. We are lucky you made it to Tucson too. Now go paint something (and not the house). -Chris H