Urban bytes: Interviews in Pittsburgh and Beyond.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Victor Navarro Jr; Coffeehouse Denizen, Artist at Large, Survivor of the 60's and Muse to the Avant-Garde

photo: J.McClung

Victor Navarro Jr: Coffee House Denizen, Artist at Large, Survivor of the 60"s and Muse to the Avant-Garde. interview 1

Quotable Quote "Anarchy is the Spice of Life through anarchy we learn our Art,
Music and Literature"

Interviewed: in late November 2007, Crazy Mocha Coffee House, Bloomfield Neighborhood, Pittsburgh PA. Posted March 15th 2008.

Note: Victor is an old hand at this...he'd been interviewed for City Paper on more than one occasion, by various college students for a host of term papers, etc. etc. And Victor is always on stage ...not faking it (well OK he exaggerates, but I'm not always sure he knows he's doing it!), but always onstage. He is a person where one could say that he and his art are one, 24/7. Victor is also sort of my brother in law, as he is my significant other's brother. The reader may notice some family-like squabbling from time to time....

Jean: Why do you think it
is that so many people who are in their twenties like to talk to you?

Victor: Well, because they may think because I’m so old that I maybe
have more experience than them. Or, because of what they’re
into, like their art or their music or their writing. I have published
three books, I have done a lot in fine arts since I was thirteen years
old. And I’ve been trained musically from age three on by two professional
pianist that I grew up knowing and took lessons from for twenty years. So
I know quite a bit about those things. Some from my own studies...self taught..... and some from professionally taught professionals like the piano which I
studied for about twenty five years until I was around thirty years old.

Jean: Well but don’t you think it’s more then that though because, I mean
that’s part of it probably..........but

Victor: My accomplishments have something to do with it.

Jean: Yeah, but what else?

Victor: But even if I had no accomplishments, I have definite ideas
about the arts, music and literature which they seem to like, therein,
their artistic ideas. And a lot of these young people who are more
advanced then we were in the sixties, the fringe element of these young
people they are very, very astute and very intelligent, much more
intelligent then the majority of young people today. That’s why I
look in coffee houses and out of the way places to find the, the winners,
instead of the average loser.

Jean: So they, ah, part of it is the fringe element factor............

Victor: These people are on the fringe of society, they have no
money. If they have jobs at all they’re crappy, they do great Art, Music
and Literature and get virtually nothing for it, in fact they lose money
at it. In fact let’s face it, they’re on the fringe they are no-accounts.
That’s the way I always was and I’m happy being that way and I’m happy
having a few people appreciate my work.

Jean: Yeah okay, because part of what I’ve always thought is, part of it
is the connection between like you were a bohemian hippy type and still
are, right?

Victor: I was a rich bohemian when I was younger. When I was{in contrast to} these
people in their twenties, when I was in my twenties, I was very wealthy, I
was a bohemian, there’s no doubt about it.

Jean:(Confused) Now you weren’t very wealthy.

Victor: I was very wealthy and I had a lot of money, what in those
days was a lot of money.

Jean:(tentatively...more confused than ever) Okay..........

Victor: It’s virtually nothing now. The way prices are going up. I
mean in those days I had a ton of money. I mean I was a big investor in
stocks and bonds. I played the ponies, gambled on football. I had money to

Jean: (perplexed) That’s not true.

Victor: That’s not true?

Jean: That’s not true.

Victor: It is true. You didn’t know me in my twenties,

Jean: Well yeah but,{turns tape reorder off, vigorous debate with Victor ensues. Much discussion about what does "very wealthy "mean?we reach a compromise.}

Jean: But okay, well anyway, so you
had more money than they do, now.

Victor: I had more money in my twenties, a lot more money in my
twenties, and a possible chance to become very wealthy as opposed to these
young people I know today, most of them have nothing compared to what I
had. Some of them had nothing growing up compared to what I had. So I feel
that if I were worth millions of dollars I would pay them handsomely to do
their Art, Music, and Literature, so they wouldn’t have to work these
crappy jobs to pay their rent.

Jean: Well okay, you’re not always sitting around talking to them about
Art, Music and Literature right?

Victor: Pretty much am, except for these goof balls who want to talk
about the weather and their dog and all the other shit.

Jean: Okay. Well. Okay, so do you think, not to be too leading of a question
here, but do you think that any part of it is because you’ve kind of
maintained your own individual identity? Do you know what I mean? I mean
you’re not like the typical fifty-nine year old person. I mean you’re
like, you’re sort of your own unique person.

Victor: Well I am, I succeeded in having a small public pretty much
late in life. Into my late forties, and into my early fifties so in that
sense the last ten years I’ve been succeeding more and more as time goes
on. So in a sense I’m about twenty eight years old in terms of my success
rate. I usually start around sixteen or eighteen getting your stuff out
and by the time you’re twenty eight you’re pretty much into it. I’ve only
been getting my stuff out since I was about in my late forties, early

Jean: Yeah.

Victor: So that’s why. Another reason why I hang out with the up and
comers is because I’m still up and coming.

Jean: Okay. Well what you say that, and we’ll get off this subject in a
second here, but what would you say that the twenty something people, what
would you say they would say, they like about you?

Victor: Well they might think I’m entertaining. Verbally I’m a very good communicator.
I kind of spoof language and
I kind of try and be humorous. And I think it’s my humor that is that has
attracted a lot of these young people towards me, my iconoclastic and
artistic humor. Oh these people can all go to hell,but let’s laugh at them
and sit back and enjoy it, rather then be all gung-ho about killing them or
doing damage to them.

Jean: Okay, yeah.
Victor: It’s kind of a non-violent philosophy mixed in with
iconoclasm that really would liked to see everything ripped down, but I
don’t want to be one of the rippers, or one of the rippees either for that

Jean: So what have you read lately that you’ve liked?

Victor: Well I like reading magazines pretty much rather than books.
I subscribe to about five weekly and monthly magazines.

Jean: You do?

Victor: Yeah, I’m pretty well informed. I subscribe to TIME, US News,
New York Magazine, you’re getting me subscription of the New Yorker

Jean: Yeah, I am.

Victor: I appreciate that very much. I used to get that for many
years. And Art Forum.

Jean: How do you get those magazines?

Victor: Subscribe.

Jean: You do? I had thought there was a
problem..... Tony said with like you would get the magazine subscriptions and
you wouldn’t pay them and he’d thought you’d been blacklisted from every
magazine on the planet.

Victor No, absolutely not.

Jean: Okay.

Victor: Now if a friend of mine that writes the books, if I know them
fairly well, or know and like, an acquaintance or friend that I like
writes a book, I would maybe buy or get it for nothing from them and read
that. I’ll read that cover to cover. Like Che Elias wrote all those books,
I read all his books cover to cover. I sold and gave you some of them and
made money for Che and he dropped me as a friend, and back then he was my
friend and I won’t do it for him now but I did then.

Jean: Yeah.

Victor: He’s done nothing for me in over a year and refuses to
publishes anymore books when he said he would publish everything I ever wrote
ever did write in the future. So he lied to me. And that’s why I call him
Che’ liar instead of Che Elias.

Jean: It's too bad you'all had that falling out...you are both pretty sensitive.

Jean: Now you were in New York {City} quite a few times during the sixties.

Victor: I’ve been to New York about ten different times.

Jean: Well you were there a lot in the sixties weren’t you?

Victor: I was there three or four times in the sixties, yes.

Jean: What do you remember about it, anything interesting?

Victor: Well in the sixties when I was in New York, I was kind of a
hotel baby. I stayed around my hotel room and just kind of went out as if
I lived in the hotel and had lived there for years. I was familiar with it
by sixty nine when I went. I stayed a month and I kind of didn’t go to too
much music or art or anything like that. I kind of stuck to the, well, the
strip places that kind of thing.

Jean: What hotel was it?

Victor: The New Yorker.

Jean: Where was that?

Victor: Thirty fourth and eighth avenue.

Jean: Was it a dive?

Victor: No, just antiquated. It was very clean, antiquated, very
inexpensive. In sixty nine it was like twenty dollars a night. Now it’s
probably two, three hundred easily.

Jean: What was Pittsburgh like during that period of time?

Victor: Pittsburgh in the late sixties? Oh the acid, grass, I was
into speed which was a really a rare thing for people to be in to, but
there was some people who loved to speed and sped with me and we did speed
all the time, and smoked grass on the speed, did very little acid.
But some people were heavily into acid and downers like, what are they.....
Phenobarbital and heroin and stuff like that. I never got into that. I
was only into speed. Dexedrine,methamphetamine , that kind

Jean: Okay. There were more than just drugs on the scene I assume?

Victor: Yes, that’s evident in my novel, Victorious Delusions. All that
speed taking is very nicely cataloged in that novel that I wrote
Victoria’s Delusions, which I think should be in area because I’d like
people to order a copy of it from Borders, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon.

Jean: I thought it was out of print?

Victor: It’s not out of print. Borders can get you copies regular
price....it's a hundred dollars on Amazon.

Jean: Oh, really.

Victor: {Leans into tape recorder and speaks loudly and distinctly}Go to a Borders bookstore and order it.

Jean: You’re so subtle.

Victor: It’ll tell you all about the sixties in Pittsburgh, it had
nothing to do with activism, the Vietnam War.

Jean: Oh, come on.

Victor: Nothing to do with that, the book.{that is} All it has to do is with
the speed, acid, and artistic pursuits of people then and the love
interest. That’s it. A life style, not anything political, or social.

Jean: Okay. Well so let’s see. Now was, Andy Warhol was long gone I guess?

Victor: I was never a fan of Andy Warhol until ninety one. Then I
got into him heavily, read everything, read everything he ever wrote, and
read maybe twenty, thirty books about him or about his work. Critiques and
artistic critics writing books. And I found that in the years
up until Warhol was shot, { shot but not killed by Valerie Solanas
} the film making and the artistic pursuits and music making {in NYC}were similar to what happened in Pittsburgh with
us except it was on a much, much more in larger scale with a much larger

Jean: So would Warhol have made you a superstar if he had known you?

Victor: He might have. I don’t know. I don’t know if I have this kind
of persona back then. I was kind of, there’s so many like me, in the
background. I wasn’t a great star back in the sixties, but I was friends
with many of them.

Jean: You mean you were introverted then?

Victor: Yeah I was more introverted then, I kind of was in the
background. They ask for my opinion, they gauged how they were going by
what I thought of it. But other than that I was just another creep who was
making the scene.

Jean: So what got you to starting, I know it’s a different name now, but
the Delusionals?

Victor: The Delusionals was my first band 2003, Paul Teacher, The Preacher, Wynne
Lanros and I started it in summer of 2003. We did about thirty gigs as the
Delusionals, thirty music events, performances and then, we broke up.
The new group is the Anonymous Schizoids and we have done one gig.

Jean: I thought you were the Psycho Phonics? What happened to the Psycho.....?

Jean: No the Schizo Phonics, but there’s another group with that name so
we had to change it.

Jean: Wow. Okay, well what moved you to start doing the Delusionals to
begin with?

Victor: The Delusionals was Paul Teacher, The Preacher and I. I got him an
Irish tin whistle. I had already been playing it for a while, and got him
a harmonica, and he showed me tremendous talent on both of them. And I was
developing my harmonica style and we decided to do a weird band where we
just had wind instruments. Flute, Irish Whistle, harmonica, and
incorporate Wynne Lanros in with violin. That was, we three were
the original Delusionals.

Jean: Well and you had Tony (Navarro, Victor's brother) in the very beginning?

Victor: Tony, Tony did solo, with the Delusionals. He did not do
group ensemble. So The preacher, The Preacher was also solo.

Jean: Well I remember,for maybe your very first performance there was a message on Tony’s answering machine from you saying, "Dude, dude, you have to come tonight. You’re the only one who actually knows how to play an instrument."

Victor: Yeah, right. {Victor notes he was also afraid not enough of the players would show up...other people, Wynne for eaxmple, is professionally trained}}
Victor Continues:Well I know keyboard, but I don’t like keyboard.
I don’t think I’m that good on keyboard, compared to the keyboardist, we
have four keyboardist in our group now, me, Nathan, Eric and Jessica, and
any one of us can go on for fifteen or twenty minutes but I think Eric
and, Eric, Nathan and Jessica are far superior to what I am on keyboard,
which is why I don’t play it too much anymore. Our group now, we record
one or two albums or every month. We come out with one or two CD’s every
month now.

Jean: What?

Victor: Yeah, starting this December {2007}. Yeah, we’re going to be coming
out with one or two CD’s every month. Our own burning, we’re going to burn
the CD’s about ten, twenty copies, and whoever wants to buy them, can come
to Crazy Mocha Dreaming Ant, in Bloomfield, and purchase one from either
me or Nathan, they’ll be ten dollars if you want to purchase one. They’ll
be new ones every month. You can have a whole set of them if you want. If
you’re a good customer I’ll reduce the price eventually.

Jean: You’re starting to sound like
your uncle Hugo.

Victor: Yeah well I worked with my uncle Hugo in advertising and PR
for about ten years and the PR is getting free public relations. Free
advertisement is very important for an up and coming artist, musician, or
writer, very important, very important. Otherwise you’re not going to make
any money.

Jean: Well you guys{the Navarro family and uncle Hugo Iacovetti} had various people come to the house right? Performers who were in town?

Victor: Oh yeah. Tony Bennett had dinner at Hugo’s many of
times, he was a good friend of Hugo’s.

Jean: Tony Bennett did?

Victor: And Phyllis Diller.

Jean: Phyllis Diller, Tony told me.

Victor: Rodney Dangerfield, Hugo even knew Bob Hope on a first name
basis. I didn’t know Bob Hope though, but I met Tony Bennett, Frankie
Lane, Phyllis Diller, Tiny Tim. I knew them all.

{Shifting Gears}

Victor: First of all there are quite a few anarchists in my little
scene here in my little, it’s a real big clique. It involves maybe ten or
twenty small cliques and then one, but it’s all like one big clique, people
knowing each other as acquaintances and knowing who they are. And there
are quite a few anarchists involved in it. And quite a few who are anything
but anarchistic, but they all seem to interact and be doing the same things
which are, art, music, literature, film making that kind of thing.
And I really think that the scene is fruitful for seeing how people go about
getting some support. Whether it’s an audience or actual financial support
for their work,
I’ve known some people who’ve gotten grants from Sprout
Fund to do murals and have made a little bit of cash. And they’re mural
is going to stand there for a long time. These are really, these people
have turned on other people to it and they’ve been successful because they
knew those people, they’ve started becoming successes at their art. Now
art is a more, art is a more lasting thing then music or writing, because
it will be there to be seen you know if it’s a mural it’s going to be
there. It’s right in front of a lot of people.
But I think that music and
writing can get you a much bigger audience nationally then art ever will
and that’s not why I like music and writing better, I just think I’m
better at music and writing.

Jean: Well your art {The interviewer is specifically referring to painting here}is pretty darn good.

Victor: Art’s my main love, I like painting and sculpture but it’s
just very difficult to get much of an interest in that especially when
you’re self-taught.

Jean: Well, but yeah like you were saying, people having a community is
really important and that’s part of why
artists tend to congregate in urban areas because then there’s this
support, I mean of other people at least and a chance to talk about

Victor: Musicians too, musicians thrive in urban areas because they
can get love, they can sell CD’s and get gigs for maybe fifty or a hundred
bucks a week. But you know that old maxim starving artist will let their
art go cheap. It’s so true because most of them are in a sense starving.
They’re starving for a public that they’re probably never going to have
but you have to give them credit for keeping up and going it anyway. And I
do it for the sake of doing it. I don’t do it for some kind of big reward
down the road.

Jean: And a lot of people, well not a lot, but a fair number of people
come to think of it that you know aren’t artists though right. I mean
they’re people who......

Victor: Well there’s a few people I know that aren’t doing something
artistic or creative but they’re really rare in this particular life style
that I’ve had the last seven, or eight years.

Jean: Oh?

Victor: I mean you, Tony you’re all creative in musical, art for you,
music for him

Jean: Right.

Victor: I mean Al is the only one that does nothing, and Shannon does
nothing, the rest of them were artist at one time.

Jean: Candice? Does Candice do anything like that?

Victor: Candice was a musician, a singer.

Jean: She was, oh I didn’t know that. What about uh, she had the dreds and she cut them? I can't believe I can't remember....

Victor: Hillary. Hillary brought herself a banjo a year ago and she wants to
be a musician with a banjo. She’s going to be a school teacher, but she’s
still wants to play banjo. She’d like maybe to be in a group some day.
There’s nothing wrong with that.

Jean: And Andrew writes some right?

Victor: Oh, and Andrew is a musician.

Jean: Oh he is?

Victor: Yeah. He has a band, Hot Dog. Andrew McKeon from City Paper.

Jean: And I guess in a way Dean, well Dean does the film thing, in terms
of the, he has the film store {Dreaming Ant}

Victor: Well he was interested in making films about three years ago
but he’s been so busy with his two stores, he kind of, he had me doing his
pod cast on the internet. I did about six pod cast and we haven’t done one
in over a year. But he has dipped into that, he’s dipped into the creative
element of it. He’s a pretty good director of film, he knows how to direct
the film and knows how to make a digital film. Yeah I know a lot of
filmmakers. There are a lot of filmmakers around here in Bloomfield,
Friendship area, Garfield.

Jean: Well, I see what you mean! Ofcourse You know Jae {Ruberto}did photographs of
you and then well at least several people............{Victor interrupts, but I was going to say have made movies with Victor in the film, or drawn Victor and incorporated him into their artwork. Ladyboy, a Pittsburgh artist, has done some great images of Victor.}

Victor: Jae was a, Jae started out when I knew him, he was an artist
and filmmaker. Now he’s a photographer full time. But he originally was a
filmmaker. Jay Ruberto, the photographer, he originally was a filmmaker
and I appeared in several of his films. Some of them short films, some of
them full length feature length. So in a sense I started out my whole
thing with this particular crowd here as an actor in film. Which I’m
really not into, but I happen to publish the books already and anything
else. So I still, I broadened out into a fourth dimension music, art,
literature and film acting. So I don’t know.

Jean: One thing too, I think one would say that also when they talk about
somebody’s life being their art, you can kind of say your life is your art
because it’s sort of all.

Victor: My life is not my art, the art is what I do. If somebody does
something that has nothing to do with their daily activities, they go out
and seek materials or seek a pen and a pencil to do it, that’s something
they are doing, that’s what this remains. But on my lifestyle might be a
little different then being the lifestyle of an artist, musician, or
writer it’s more of a critic. A walking critic. One who criticizes the
life of the society, one who criticizes the money interest in America and
the world that kind of thing.

Jean: Yeah that’s true and that might be, a good thing for us to......

Victor: And I’m especially sharp as a critic, a critic of art. Not
necessarily a painter painting, but a critic of painting I feel I’m on the
mark. And a lot of artists will agree with me I am. A critic of literature,
a writer of books but also a critic of literature. A critic of music, I
mean I’m not just a musician I also am a promoter of music and a critic of
music. Almost more of that then I am an actual performer. So far anyway.

Jean: Yes.

Victor: And I already know I couldn’t get any where doing art, music
or literature so I never got anywhere at it. I’m an example, if you want to
wind up like me, then abandon it for something else. Get into science or

Jean: Yeah, although you certainly though do have a lot of independence

Victor: I have a lot of independence. What I can do for others I’m
limited too, I don’t have the financing. These people need money to pay
their rent and everything like that. They can’t, I mean, I’m retirement
age, I got an income. But some of these people have to work, work like
dogs to make as much as I do. I feel bad about it.

Jean: So back to, what were you saying {before the tape went on}about Van Morrison, Dylan outpaces Van

Victor: No Van Morrison is greater than Dylan and Dylan is greater
then Donovan and Donovan is greater than Lucinda Williams and Iris Dement
is greater then all of them.

Jean: Who?

Victor: Iris Dement.

Jean: Who’s that?

Victor: I-R-I-S D-E-M-E-N-T. Iris Dement. Excellent singer
songwriter, alternative country, turn it off so I can....

Jean: Okay, who’s that?

Victor: So you’ll have to do some extrapolation.

Jean: Extrapolate.

Victor: Anarchy is the Spice of Life through anarchy we learn our art,
music and literature. I’m not an activist at all. I don’t protest, I’m not
against or for the Iraq War. I think that most of the world and most of
the people in this country are complete fools and idiots. I just have no
hope for them, but these young people some of them, I believe they’ll get
through it all and go on to a greater life and greater things and if they
don’t their grandchildren or descendants will and that’s my political,
that’s my social stance right there. I don’t, it’s like Dylan said in that
one song, "My debutante gives me what I need, you give me what I want."

Jean: Do you have any kind of regrets that you haven’t had a more
conventional sort of life?

Victor: No, none at all.

Jean: Well how so?

Victor: I had conventional growing up with, and I turned against
convention. I rebelled against conventional at age 16 – 17. I went the way
of poetry and literature.

Victor: Of course I did nothing most of my adult life.

Jean: Nothing?

Victor: No, I did nothing until the last five or six years.

Jean: What do you mean by nothing?

Victor: Nothing musically, nothing writing, nothing writing
artistically, I had no success at all with it.

Jean: But some of the paintings you did are older then that, aren’t they?

Victor: Yeah I did paintings and wrote books, but to no avail. I got
no, I had no public. Now I have a public. Small public, but a public all
the same. Maybe a few hundred people know about it. That makes a pretty
big public, compared to some pople have no public at all.

Jean: Well that’s true. But You do have a public, you do have a public now.

Victor: But I’d like to be known nationally, maybe even all over the
earth as a decent writer or musician or artist.

Jean: But when did you write Victorious Delusions? {One of several books he has written, and my favorite}

Victor: 1987.

Jean: Well I thought so. I thought it had been a while. The Smoker, the
painting of Smoker when did you do that?

Victor: Smoker was done ’90 oh I say it was done about ’86, or
Jean: Okay that’s a while. So it’s just you didn’t have an audience but
you were doing............................

Victor: No. I was in programs for the mentally ill, they didn’t help
at all with writing, art, nothing. She even said none of you will ever be
published. We do this writing just to keep you busy. She can eat crow now
because I’ve been published three times. I don’t know. It’s just, these
organizations that are out to help you, they don’t do any harm. They don’t
help and they don’t do any harm. They waste your time. They’re a waste of
time. Group therapy and outpatient renaissance center it’s a waste of
time. It’s a fuck off place. It’s a place for you to go and fuck off.

Jean: OK.

Victor: They key to great writing is to sit down and write your
story, poem or book or essay or biography, to write it, to stick to a
topic and to finish it. I have no problem sticking to the topic. I have no
problem writing, I can’t finish a damn thing, that’s why I’ve abandoned
writing. But art, I can finish a painting, I can finish a sculpture, I can
finish a song I’ve written for music. I can finish a performance, I can
finish an album that’s why I’m sticking to painting sculpture and music as
opposed to writing, even though I began as a writer.

Jean: You know recently.....what did you say, "I’m not nearly as
great as I say I am." I’m not sure what that was in reference too, but ...... {I was going to say, but Victor interrupted me, that one never knows what he will say}

Victor: I think my music is great, my writing is average, and my art
is below average.

Jean: I don’t think so................

Victor: My music is on the great level, my writing is average among
writers, and my art, my painting and sculpture is below the, below the
norm of the artists I know.

Jean: I don’t think, I don’t think so..............

Victor: Well that’s just the way I see it Jean. I’m sorry and I’m
quite a critic remember.

Jean: Who are visual artists you like?

Victor: I don’t know too many visual artists except the locals here.
I like Jae Ruberto, I like Eric Hauser my keyboard player, realistic
artist, does beautiful art. I like the Preacher’s water colors. Michael
Antonopolos, his water colors and I like your art Jean, I like the newest
installations. Jen Bechak is a good installation artist here in
Pittsburgh. Jennifer Bechak B-E-C-H-A-K, Kate, her sister Kate is a very
good artist. She’s also an architect. Tommy, Lady Boy is a good artist.
Carolyn a friend of mine, twenty one year old Carolyn she did a fine work
of art for me. I can show you that at my apartment a beautiful thing, bird
of paradise a very good art. Laura Borrasso my friend here she’s an artist.

Jean: Oh you are too? {Victor is referring to a young woman who at that moment was sweeping the floor at Crazy Mocha, sort of provingVictor's earlier poinnt about struggling artists}

Victor: She sticks to drawing but she does great illustration, great
drawings. They’re a bunch of them, I can go on and name.

Jean: What about some of the famous people? I just got this great
biography of Pollock, I never saw it before. It’s like nine hundred pages
long. It won a Pulitzer Prize, I had never even heard of it. What do you think
of Pollock?

Victor: Oh I thought it was good. He was definitely creative,
original, now it’s passé now what he did. I think the one that’s still
living on today even though years ago fifties is Willem Dekooning.

Jean: De Kooning , yeah.

Victor: I think De Kooning, I’ve seen his realistic work before he did
that weird shit and he was a hell of an artist. A hell of a painter, yet
he did this creative stuff and it really comes across, it’s greater then
Pollock in my view. Pollock was great but De Kooning was one of the greatest
of all the abstract expressionists in my opinion. Wassily Kandinsky the
originator of it {abstractionism} Can’t be touched. Unbelievable.
Jean: Yeah, I agree. I agree. Did you ever read any of his stuff about art?
Victor: Yeah "Concerning the Spiritual in Art."
Jean: Yeah, isn’t that a great book?
Victor: Yeah.
Victor: Well I don’t know, we should close this out Jean for a while.
Jean: Okay that’s good.

NOTE: THE ANONYMOUS SCHIZOIDS will be appearing SUNDAY MARCH 30th, 2008, at Howlers, Liberty Ave. Bloomfield, Pittsburgh. 9 pmLinks:
The Anonymous Schizoids are: Victor Navarro Jr.,Wynne Lanros, Nathan Kukulski, Eric Hauser, Richard Jarik, and Jessica Trinlath.

Images of Victor by Ladyboy



Dreaming Ant: A great video store. Unbelievable range. Now with 2 locations. AND
Victor has been employee of the month....and employee of the year.........


Photos by Jae Ruberto


Victor's coffee house of choice these days is : Crazy Mocha in Bloomfield


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Barbara Garcia Bernardo: The Brains and Beauty Behind Get Hip Records

Barbara Garcia Bernardo :
The Brains and Beauty Behind Get Hip Records

Quotable quote"Okay you know what he probably has to take some steroids to make those jumps up and down, right?"

Interview Date: 10/21/07 Interview post :3/14/08

Pittsburgh often seems like the land of hidden hippness (some of it is not so hidden)....that is it's there, but you just have to know where to find it. For example...Get Hip Records, an indie music label and distributor based on the North Side. Get Hip is run by Greg of The Cynics fame , and his wife Barbara Garcia-Bernardo. Here, Barbara talks about Spain (her first, and now second home), The Cynics, the music business, why American culture is so popular,and also the aging of rock and roll musicians.

Spain: From Franco's repression to one of the freest societies in Europe.

Jean:.you were telling me at dinner that gay marriage {ie civil unions} are legal in Spain. This is totally astounding to me because the last time I ws there (a long time ago), it was so unbelievably repressive there. I know Spain has become very different, but this is quite a change. Actually Franco was still in power when I was there.

Barbara: That’s not that long ago when you think about it, well yeah ’75, but it’s still, it’s not really that long for a big change.

Jean: Well, for example,couples couldnt kiss in public. Pretty amazing. And I mean just kiss, period.

Barbara: Well yeah, that’s the kind of culture that we have.

Jean: But not now...? Well you mean, you’re losing me. In Spain, in Madrid.

Barbara: That was part of the censorship then, there were all kinds of things, there were so many things you couldn’t do.

Jean:This something I was planning on asking you about in this interview, actually {the changes in Spanish culture} And the gay marriage thing puts a whole other spin on it.{ie how the society went from so much less liberal than the USA to more liberal than the USA}
Jean continues: When I was there the thing that I remember and is that people seemed depressed, downtrodden. And I didn’t know if people really were depressed or they just seemed like they were to me. The few people that I met when I was there,who didn't seem miserable were college students who were home for the summer. They were like going to school in Paris, or France or out of the country to go to college so they didn’t get drafted or something. They were reasonably happy except they were back there during the summer and not happy about that. At all.

Barbara: Yes, thats the way it was. There’s several reasons for that. One is when the US instituted the Marshall Plan in Europe they skipped over Spain, because obviously Spain was not part of the war. They stayed out of the war, but they were Hitler sympathizers. So Spain was depressed because of the war, {and the effects of it} but they didn’t get any help. So that carried on through the sixties and the seventies, that and being isolated. So really the way you saw Spain in the seventies it was closer to like the fifties. There was the {political }oppression you know, as well. But there was like, it was hard times in general for people and there were a lot of things going on. The people from the country would migrate to the city trying to get jobs, And it wasn’t happening. Things like I always remember, what I can recall from the Franco days. Everything was just gray it’s not even black and white. And also, because we only had black and white TV, but I recall it was like a gray time. Everything was very gray.

Jean: Physically, Madrid was so beautiful.. The city was beautiful {ie the architecture}and also w there were vegetables, fruits, markets everywhere. But then the people just looked like unhappy. What you’re saying because the whole oppression......

Barbara: One of the things I recall when there, when Franco died I was like seven or eight years old. Up until then, We only had one hour of TV, of children's TV a day. So I remember with my brothers we’d be watching the black screen like this now, waiting for a half hour of cartoons, and then bad programs. And there was nothing very exciting in black and white like that. And that was it you know. So that’s one of the differences and I think I had no idea like how things were in the US. Because we were pretty isolated. And then I’m just realized, the kids in the US we were watching all of these great cartoons in color for hours. Just if you look at that in perspective from an eight year old that is what was going on really. You know for everything............

Jean: Was it because there wasn’t the money to put the programs on? Or was it a censorship thing?

Barbara: No, no, it was a censorship in general. There was only one channel. It was controlled by the government and they would have like these few things. We always had some American shows..... News or something really clean cut like Bonanza. That was kind of like how it was with everything. Everything was just controlled and a lot of censorship, and you know a lot of things like that. Of course I was in a military family so it was not that bad.{ie the family wasn't seen as suspect} But for somebody that was like liberal more the oppression was a lot bigger. I mean you couldn’t have a party in your house it was considered, what was it the word?

Jean: You’re kidding me?

Barbara: Yeah like too many people together you know they could come into your house and say that you were having a meeting.

Jean: Or some kind of a demonstration?

Barbara: Exactly unless it was like a family thing, if you had some kind of group of people in your house. The police came over. I mean you could expect that.
Barbara continues: I mean there was like for example, music there was no Rock n Roll. everything in music had to be Spanish, and it had to be controlled and censored by the government.Of course there was music. But in Spain it was only like the richer people that would travel to, say, London, and see what the music scene like was there and kind of copy it and bring it back. And they would do versions of American or British hits in Spanish. But otherwise there was absolutely no Rock n Roll music played in Spain at all. I mean like in the sixties people didn’t know much about the Beatles for example and it was a phenomenon and in Spain nobody knew who they were at the time cause that’s how isolated Franco made the country.

Jean: Thats really fascinating. I think of Russia {before glasnost}
Jean continues: So how did it because some how I have a feeling, okay if it was the United States and the United States was like this at a certain point in time and then thirty years later I couldn’t imagine they could go from that to the Spain of today. . I was surprised enough to here about the all night partying scene that sounds like a 7 day a week thing.

Barbara: But that’s the thing about in Spain. There was this underlying culture of people that would go outside {of the conventions and the rules}and still know about what was going on outside Spain. When Franco died the whole change was very fast and also very peaceful and very smooth. And that’s what I’m proud of being Spanish, because I’m like "look at it".
You go from a dictatorship to a full on democracy in no time peacefully and happily and that is what I think makes Spain really unique.

I’m Spanish, I tell everybody Spain is one of the best countries in the world. But a lot of people I know, a lot of American people when they go to Spain they tell me you’re right and everybody that has gone there tells me it’s really one of the best places in the world. If you get the right experience, some people just happen to have a bad experience and that can ruin the whole thing.

But as far as the change, I remember right after Franco in Spain there was a thing called Movida Madrilena, which was a like an art and music movement. And it was really fast, really creative and really, really avant-garde. I mean it was so avant-garde that everybody in Europe was looking at Madrid for that. And this happened three or four years after Franco died. Just like that. And then it was like everything was very liberal. Everybody was out in the street, there were all these bars.

All the people and it happened really fast. And a lot of people tell you that it didn’t and I’m like" no, it was". And I remember watching programs on TV that, to this day, there isnt anything like that, in public or national TV anywhere that I know of, I mean in Europe. And in America it would be impossible. It was a program that had really advant-garde arts stuff and that was in 1980. And that’s really early.

It was right after Franco, and I remember watching this punk rock band and I was a little kid and I was like, a really full on punk rock band with Mohawks,an all girl band. Now you’re talking 1980, all girl punk rock band and the song was called I Like to be a Whore. Why it’s so liberating to be a whore. Now you tell me like anywhere in the world where you can see that on TV, you can, not with national TV. And that’s how the level of openness that happened right after and still to this day, it’s a very open country. For example, know the thing about nudity and the Spain it’s like normal we don’t care much about it.

Jean: Oh really, well yeah that’s very different from here.

Barbara: Compared to America, I’ve gotten used to it. Cause in Spain oh a nude person. Go to the beach and see topless people. It’s normal. We don’t think much of it. I don’t even want to go there, it’s so ridiculous. And that’s a problem I have. It’s some people, I’ve gotten used to it but I had such a huge problem with it and how, a lot of liberal friends that I have here, they have that sort of prudery over nudity especially. And it shocks me.

Jean: So your introduction to Punk music, when you were eight years old?

Barbara: Punk music, oh yeah when I was little, I see these three girls with the Mohawks singing "I want to be a whore".

Jean: That’s wild. Do you know what the group was?

Barbara: The Vulpes, Las Vulpes..

Jean: Oh wow, and they were a Spanish group?

Barbara: Yes. I still know about them. If we see a record, I tell Greg get that record.......... That’s a very good record. Cause he still buys, and then there was a few other punk bands and I still have their music, they’re still playing.

Jean: So what does that mean? Las Vulpes translated into English what would it be?

Barbara: I have no idea. I think it was made up name.

Note: Barbara later found a video of the group on youtube! ..........."and here's the TV show I was telling you about with them. Now I realize that they basically copied the Stooges "I I wanna be your dog" changing the lyrics to Spanish" There is a link to this at the end of the interview

Get Hip REcordings : indie label and distributor, based in Pittsburgh

Jean:So with Get Hip, how many artist do you have now? Well I guess currently have?

Barbara: Active artists........... I’m not sure, probably like seven or eight really active that I’m in touch with every day.. Eight of them and then we have put on music for, I try to keep it down to so many that I can really be in touch with. We kind of extend a little bit more beyond our means. I don’t know we’re like too optimistic.

Jean: So the seven or eight people you’re, or ten or whatever are the ones you’re doing recordings of or the ones you’re touring.

Barbara: Yeah exactly. They’re actually doing touring or doing something and we do promotions for and they just play. Some of them play more then others.

Jean: Are any of them from Pittsburgh?

Barbara: Well actually the Cynics are the only one, well the other one that is from Pittsburgh is Break Up Society which is Ed Masley but he moved to Arizona. So now he’s not really from Pittsburgh. He had to go there for work, but he considers himself from Pittsburgh. He’s having a record release party on November 10, so he’s flying up for it. And of course he’s having a record release party in Pittsburgh because that’s important for him. And that’s the only two bands. Oh and I have Highway 13 and they are from Pittsburgh too. And they’re still here, they’re active right now, they weren’t for a few years.

Jean: Come to think of it actually how did that all start? Okay cause Greg then was in the Cynics and he was doing.

Barbara: Greg started a label because there was no other label that he could do the job as he wanted to do it for his own band. So he started the label to put his own records with the band. And because all the bands were telling him the same thing. And just because he was interested in every part of the music business. It would be a natural progression for him to get into the business.

Jean: So were you and he already? That was before you...............

Barbara: He started the label a couple of years before I met him. Probably six years or so, I met him in 1990, he already had that. With the band he already had three albums, and the label started

Jean: So he, but you were already doing something in Spain right?

Barbara: I was actually working with the promoter over there that brought the band over. I was doing free lance work. Promoting, helping with the store, go to all his shows. I was a very good customer at the store. I was trying to get into it actually and I would posters for parties and things and DJ’ing with one of the guys that he’s the promoter’s best friend who worked at the store. He had a DJ gig, and I was his substitute when he couldn’t make it or he had breaks then I would fill in. That was a very, very popular bar in Madrid. And when Cynics made it over I met him because I used to always meet all of the bands. Okay let’s go take them here, that them to dinner here, and to the bars and show them around and all that stuff. I used to meet a lot of people that way. Really liked it.

And the person the promoter, worked with me too, that’s really nice.{ie we worked well together}. We had our up and downs. He would always think that I would want to go to somebody else. I’m like why would I? Unless you die, I don’t want to go to anybody else. We always work with you and I consider you a personal friend, more then a friend, almost like family. I like to look at the business in that sense. Friends and family. Cause the music business other wise can be really brutal and ugly.

Jean: If you don’t have that kind of relationship ..................

Barbara: I try to make it to be friendly and just have a personal relationship with them because I don’t want to be like, because let’s face it both Greg and I are in this because we love it. Not because we think it’s a money making kind of business. Maybe it was at one point, but right now for some people but you have to be cut throat, very cut throat. That’s not what I care to be.

Jean: The people that are on the sampler recording that I have from a couple of years ago{note to reader...which is terrific by the way ...titled "grass is Always Greener (on the Other Side)"} that’s from some of those people you still have or some of them are,

Barbara: Right that’s right I have the really like very close friends with, five I think, then there’s a few that longer on the label but they’re still friends. I keep in touch with. And then a couple I just completely cut off. I can tell you like, it’s two that I don’t care to know. They’re that type of people,

Jean: You don’t want to hear about them.........

Barbara: That I feel like, just the kind of people that use you to go to the next level. One of them we had actually an argument with, just to kind of talk. But it’s just one of those things where you can not go back, it’s something bad happened. But for the most part I either we’re friends with and we work with or we’re on friendly terms. But they move on to something else.

Jean: You know and actually that brings me to one of my written questions. How, from having, for a while, quite a while actually I was the president of this artist group, Group A, in Pittsburgh and then I was working with the administrative part of it before that. And it was and is a small group. It wasn’t that hard to keep people doing what they were supposed to be doing but it wasn’t easy at times. Artists. The expression "herding cats" comes to mind. So how do you keep musicians?

Barbara: I don’t know. It’s incredibly hard. First of all when you deal with artists, you deal with egos. I have an ego. So then you kind of have to deal with with musicians, I don’t know I think with musicians it’s bigger. A different breed of people. To me sometimes it’s hard. If I just really cared for somebody you have to, it’s not that I have to watch what I say but you kind of like be like in this straight kind of mind so you don’t get miss understanding or get the ego crushed or anything like that. And sometimes to balance that is very hard. I find myself sometimes trying to find the right moment to tell somebody something. Which is not the greatest thing in the world but. I feel it’s necessary to do.

Jean: Well like what kind of stuff?

Barbara: For example if I have a good plan, a touring idea, or some kind of recording idea, how maybe that’s not such a good idea. And somehow I feel like, you have to put it like it comes from them not from you. Because I don’t think that.

Jean: I see what you mean.

Barbara: I don’t think that artist in general like to be told what to do. I mean I know I don’t like to be told what to do personally. So you have to always try to balance, how to tell somebody what to do without sounding like you’re telling them what to do. And some people as a manager, okay you do this now, you do that now. But a lot of times it’s like well I don’t want to sound that way. I just want to sound like, maybe we should do this because it’s the best thing. And it’s like, a very small line there that you have to make sure you don’t cross. And as far as telling people what to do or how to balance what you said. If it works out fine, if not fine too.
That’s why a lot of times people it’s a revolving door, people come and go. I know one thing it’s a small world and I believe that the world in general is very small. And like a music world or like a genre music or a niche market, which is what we are is even smaller. And it’s like a revolving door. And people if they’re going to go out they’re going to come back and I know it. And somebody I might not like or something I know I will see them again. So I try to stay on good terms with everybody on a level. So you can always go back to that.

Jean: Because you don’t want.........

Barbara: I believe you can solve almost anything. And I don’t want not talking to somebody and just find that person in a public place or something can be very awkward. That has happened to me, in the worst of times. When I find somebody I just had an argument with and I see them in a place with tons of people and an argument happened. And that’s the worst feeling. It’s really bad and I just realized, you know what that’s not necessary I’m going to try to avoid it at all costs.

Jean: You mean an argument in public.

Barbara: Yeah. I had an argument, a huge festival in New York with somebody and that was the worst thing. That was really bad. And I was like I don’t want that to happen again.

Jean: So that’s how you keep artists, and musicians.

Barbara: I don’t want to be the hip hop scene where I go to those awards show and they start shooting each other.

The world's love affair with American Pop Culture ...... and America in general..or maybe I should say the world's love/hate relationship with America

Jean: Which actually brings me to another thing. The cause the thing that I always read and I hear from people I’ve had young people here tell me is about how music the people like in Europe is different then here. Because here at least supposedly I don’t know if it’s actually the case, but supposedly it’s kind of really rap not even hip hop I guess so much, really rap kind of rules.

Barbara: Well I’m not sure about that. There’s rap and hip hop every where including Europe as well. Of course if you think about it, there’s the whole hip hop culture, and there’s black people here that’s been here a lot longer. Like in Spain it just kind of like a migration thing recently. But I mean it’s just growing just as fast, and also among the white color poor neighborhoods, it’s huge culture. And then of course we have all kinds of South American immigrants bring their own type of hip hop culture with them which is very unique and huge.

Jean: They value it. Cause the thing that I’ve heard, is that music that’s more traditionally Rock n Roll derived is more popular in Europe.

Barbara: Yes.

Jean: Then it is here? Is it because it’s American? or is it. I mean if you were like a Danish Rock n Roll player would you be popular as an American?

Barbara: They just look at it kind of, I don’t know a lot of time, you idolize. You watch a movie, you watch Memphis anywhere in the US and you see the highway, the typical American highway. Which to us, when I got here I was like well you know, over there it looks glamorous like driving on some deserted highway with some crummy diner. And it’s because something about the, it has to do a lot with the movies. It has to do with that.

Jean: Like in the forties, fifties, sixties ?

Barbara: Anything.

Jean: Isn’t that something.

Barbara: It is. That whole thing. And you just think about it, Johnny Cash, Rock n Roll the movies, Hollywood movies all that is American stuff. Burgers, baseball caps, baseball all that stuff, that is American. And in Europe it’s glamorous, and as much as {European} people like to say how they condemn a lot of things about America and not liking the McDonalds and that, I mean everybody there wears New York Yankees baseball caps, it’s the cool thing to do. And a lot of things, it’s like that dichotomy sometimes, loving a lot of things about America and not liking American politics. But it has nothing to do, and the thing is American culture is just fascinating. I mean lets face it, is. There’s nothing like it in the rest of the world. I mean that you can compare,

Jean: No it’s true I supposed, I never thought of it that way actually.

Barbara: You’re in it, you grew up on it. And that’s what you know, that’s your life. But if you like take it out of context, just think about it and it’s pretty amazing. And Superman and Batman you go on and on and on. It’s so much and so creative and so colorful.

Jean: Well, that’s true I suppose.

Barbara: It is. It is. I mean you talk about people like the Danish and the Dutch, they’re kind of dull. I mean you think about Danish.

Jean: Well of course they {in Europe} had two world wars though on their soil, too. That didn’t help come to think of it.

Barbara: Well the US had it too.

Jean: But not on their soil.

Barbara: Yeah but I think the difference about the American, the resilience, it’s an immigrant country and everybody that came here had to be resilient. It’s something about resourcefulness. And resilient and reinventive,

Jean: Reinventing, that I can see. That I can see. Because people had to come and ...............

Barbara: And resourcefulness, when you’re dealing with people, you have an immigrant population and some Polish and some Irish and so how the heck can you live with each other. And you have to find a common ground.

Jean: That’s true.

Barbara: Something comes out of it. And that’s just so embedded in American culture.
Barbara continues: Certain countries and you think about other people that came to live here, escaping from the war. And you’re talking about like the worst of the worst situation when you come with absolutely nothing, and that shapes up a person and anything around, like I mean I wouldn’t, I don’t want to know how can that be. I know, you come here, coming from escaping a concentration camp. You can become a movie mogul for example. And the how you go from there to there, now that’s the United States period. That’s what shapes this country to everybody else.

Jean: Well somebody that I knew from Britain, I know that he had said and he was a little older then I am but not by much. So it’s around the same generation. He had said that Britain still, I don’t know if still right this year, but this was not too long ago we had this discussion. He was saying still there’s really a class structure in Britain for example. Where you know, there’s it’s not impossible but there are very definite restrictions. Definite things you do not have access to.

Barbara: Absolutely, look at how many, for example. Look at India now, people of Indian origin in Europe. They’ve been there for a long time, and India hasn’t been a colony for a long, long time, and those people have migrated like a very good relation with Britain. Take a look and see how many people of Indian origin you see in politics or running a big company? Do you see a lot in England? No. Do you see they voted this Indian, really young guy governor of Louisiana? I’m like.....

Jean: Of Louisiana?

Barbara: Yes. I can’t remember his name.. This thirty six year old guy.

Jean: Well good for Louisiana, cause Louisiana has not always been at the forefront of the...........

Barbara: Not only is he the youngest governor of the country but he’s like from India. I’m like I’d like to see that in England. They have a lot to give.

Now in Spain it’s different. Anybody can be anything.

Jean: Anyone can be anything?

Barbara: I mean we have terrorist in Congress..he was voted in. And of course the guy says, you’re a convicted terrorists, I’m sorry even you were voted you can’t be in congress.

Jean: So they didn’t let the person in?

Barbara: I mean he’s in jail. They guy’s a convict. And he got voted.....

Jean: Okay well that’s pretty interesting.

Barbara: Italy where they voted a porno star.

Jean: She married an American artist eventually. Yeah so.

Barbara: But I think, you’re talking Italy. I think Italian people are pretty amazing. I mean look at them, they come over here, the influence of Italy in the United States is so huge and all over, like South America and Argentina for example. So I like, Spanish and Italian people are kind of similar, you go and now you bring your very strong culture that you just sort of take over. Spanish in this country no body wants to acknowledge it but it’s this bilingual country. And nobody wants to acknowledge it. So they don’t want to make it Spanish a second language, but yet I got to the store and everything is in Spanish and English.

Jean: I know well it drives me a little bit carzy sometimes {that people aren't more accepting of immigrants} of course you know they had ancestors that came here from other countries, because everyone here did.

Barbara: It’s a natural thing. It’s just like English is the international language and it will be. They tried to change it like internet and each country should have. I’m like come on internet, that’s an English word to begin with. All of it, any technology thing is English is just natural. So you can’t complain about that. So now what Spanish now is taking over. I’d say we’d just start learning Chinese because we better.

Jean: Probably yeah.

Rock and Roll and Age

Jean: So when did the Cynics get started?I don’t really know that much about the Cynics. I mean Tony’s told me and then I forget....

Barbara: Cynics oh they started in the Middle Ages, no I’m just kidding.

Jean: We’ll edit that out.

Barbara: They started in 1984.

Jean: That’s not that long ago, well I guess it is.

Barbara: Oh my god, I’ve got this friend from New York and she’s in her forties, that sounds so scary. And they’re still touring, though, so that’s good.

Jean: Well that was actually, and then we’ll got back to the Cynics, that was one of my other questions. Do you think given this past couple of years I say the Rolling Stones, who of course however old they are, they’re pretty old. We saw, you were there too, Patty Smith who is sixty isn’t she?
Barbara: If you look at Jazz and Blues musicians, they’re old.

Jean: Right, they can be really old.

Barbara: Well Rock n Roll is based on Blues so I think it’s a natural, the Rolling Stones they were accecpted by Blues people. when the Rolling Stones started their idols were in their fifties. Joe Cocker, Chuck Berry, they were already old by then. They were popular in the fifties, and some of them a little bit older. Or like jazz musicians you know. And Rock n Roll is the next thing. In the beginning you started wondering on the Rock n Roll, they’re pretty old, sure you’re not going to jump up and down that much. I don’t think they should.

Jean: Well they do actually. Mick Jagger

Barbara: Okay you know he probably has to take some steroids to make those jumps up and down right?

Jean: That’s a good point.

Barbara: No they do.

Jean: Really?

Barbara: No, they do. I know. And they just shoot his knees with some kind of like steroid.

Jean: Oh they did.

Barbara: Yep.

Jean: Okay that’s interesting okay.

Barbara: And some people just have natural energy. I’ve seen people over eighty years old...... my mother for example she’s a very natural person. She’s pretty old, but I’ll tell you what she’s more active than anybody. She goes up and down those steps like fifty times a day and she’s fine and dandy. So it depends on the person. If you’re young at heart if you feel like doing that. If that’s all you know how to do. What makes it safe, you should stop at a certain age you know. Keep going. The thing right now, is that this is new. Rock n Roll just started in the fifties, sixties, so therefore now you start seeing older people because it didn’t exist anymore.

Jean: Well and of course with Blues and Jazz I guess you could say there wasn’t as much of a sexuality thing, you know where as Rock n Roll

Barbara: Oh you think?

Jean: Yeah.

Barbara: Ooo you ever heard Blues lyrics?

Jean: Well you’re right ...................but what am I thinking of? I guess I’m thinking of the performance aspect of it.

Barbara: Blues, the performance yeah.

Jean: Like the physicality,

Barbara: The physicality part. The music it’s self I don’t think it’s much different. To me I like the music. I look at the music, if something really moves me I don’t care how the person looks like. I’ve seen, Junior Wells when they were in their eighties with Johnny Copeland I thought it was unbelievable. A lot of Blues people I saw and they were very old. And I thought it was, or BB King you know. And I never really cared much, if somebody is good to look at, well that’s better, that’s like a plus. But I never really bothered me. I saw Thaddeus Monk I was like he’s pretty old and for a moment I would think about it, but I was just enjoy the music. Me I like music. you know I don’t like being the jury of it.

Jean: Cause I know with the last, well the last Rolling Stones tour is just over because it was long, long, but Mick Jagger, it was a little insane. Did you see the last, he was unbelievable. I mean you don’t know how he could, it’s hard to imagine, for someone young to do it. He wasn’t just singing and walking they said this in the New York Times and they were absolutely right. He wasn’t just singing and walking fast, he was like running. It was insane.

Barbara: What was the headline..........

Jean: And it was good too but, it was just mind boggling.

Barbara: There was a headline in Spain, I can’t remember right now.

Jean: Oh you mean it was critical kind of......

Barbara: Yeah. What was it.........

Jean: Maybe he was worn out by Spain.

Barbara: It was something actually you couldn’t understand in English. And it was not good, like dinosaur or something like that.

Jean: But now you’re making me wonder about steroids. Maybe that’s how he does it. Yeah I can’t understand how he’s still going.

Barbara: Did you hear about that thing that he snorts some of his father’s ashes?

Jean: Keith Richards....oh yeah but then they said that wasn’t true.

Barbara: Oh yeah. It was true.

Jean: It was true?

Barbara: Well, what they did was .....they recalled the thing because you can’t say that. I’m like "the guy said it.' He said it and then his publicist pulled it.

Jean: I bet his publicist pulled it after his publicist had a heart attack. Can you imagine, I mean it’s one thing to have an "on the edge image". But it’s another thing to say...........................

Barbara: Snorting your father’s ashes, I’m like okay. I believe that. I’m mean you’re talking about somebody that’s been putting all kinds of junk into his body. Hey let’s see how this feels like. I honestly I can see that happening. And that’s why I believe it, you know.

Jean: Yeah I can see it too. I remember years and years ago. This might’ve been the seventies or early eightie. I read this long Rolling Stone profile about Keith Richards and they were following him for few a few days. And he didn’t sleep all that time. I don’t know if he was doing speed then or heroin. But it was just crazy. So how he can even be walking around........

Barbara: . In Spanish we say it’s bad weeds never die.

Jean: That’s a very good expression.
Jean continues: So you should write that to him. He would like that.

Barbara: Bad weeds never die. I’m sure they know that.


Jean: Okay back to the Cynics. They have how many records now? Records, CD’s?

Barbara: Eight, eight studio records and two live records.

Jean: And they tour in Europe a lot?

Barbara: This last trip they’re on right now. This is the sixth time they went to Europe this year so far.

Jean: Oh, that’s great.

Barbara: We’re making the airlines rich.

Jean: Do they tour in the United States much or not?

Barbara: Touring in the United States is really tough. So what we do is we do trips. We just went to New York. We did a show in Brooklyn, and one in New Jersey and a radio show. And been to Austin a few times. Right now the problem is they don’t have a rhythm section here in Pittsburgh.

Jean: The don’t have a what?

Barbara: A rhythm section, a base player and drummer. They have guys in Austin play with them. So of course we can go to Austin and all that. And the next trip I’m planning is like a Seattle, like a Washington trip for a weekend. And in January (08)we’re going to Mexico City for two shows.

Jean: Oh really?

Barbara: That’s about it, we’re not doing a whole lot here.

Mexico City and Frida Kahlo

Jean: Have you done Mexico City before?

Barbara: Three times in and one time with another band. It’s because I have really good friends there who don’t mind Rock n Roll. They actually used to own a record store and then when they had the crisis the economic crisis in Mexico they had to close the store but they’re still involved in things. So they do stuff. And I just kind of convince them to do it and they really, really love the Cynics and they really like us.
So we do something there once in a while. Mexico City is a huge city but there’s not like a huge Rock n Roll scene. There’s not a whole lot of bands that tour there. And I find that hard to believe because it’s an amazing place. I know from big bands that I know and a few Spanish bands that get to play there. American bands I don’t know that many. REM is the only one that I know. but its a straight jacket But I love it, it’s unbelievable.

Jean: What Mexico City like?

Barbara: It’s too big. I used to stay there in the center area, and go there to the Frida Kahlo neighborhood. Really cool and the museums. I got there every time. Just kind of nice to go.

Jean So kind of the neighborhood has her home and .........

Barbara: The house museum, Diego Rivera and then we would stay usually in the centers. They have these gardens in the fine arts museum, they have this special museum for Diego Rivera with some of his paintings that are related to that area with the park and stuff. That was amazing. And then in the same area there’s like this big square, this humongous square called Pocalo and that’s where the ministries are. The government office, and that’s where they have the murals. And that is just gorgeous. The murals are so beautiful. They’re pretty amazing actually. Just being there and you just feel like really great. But Frida Kahlo’s house is actually spooky.

Jean: It’s spooky?

Barbara: Yeah. Well the one thing that is spooky is that they have her bed and you know the whole crippled thing and how much she suffered, and she was this is the bed and I was like I don’t know. It looked very spooky. With the canopy and they had the mirror. It’s like the way that it was.

Jean: The mirror?

Barbara: They had a mirror because of course she couldn’t move. So she had the mirror so she could see around and she could see herself.

Jean: This is when she was recovering from the accident?

Barbara: Yeah that’s when she was recovering from the accident.{The artist Frida Kahlo was in an almost fatal bus accident at age 18. She suffered from her injuries for the rest of her life} So you see the bed and I don’t know I thought it was very spooky. And then they had the wheel chair and it was really very, very hard to maneuver wheel chair. And you’re like oh my god.

Jean: She was like that for a couple of years or something?

Barbara: She suffered with that through her whole life really. But she was very young and then she was bed-ridden. For years so and they actually have a lot of her pieces and her jewelry. It feels very real, and they have the gardens. You see that whole park and then you see the bedroom and, and you’re like, "ooh". And then you see the studio of the wheel chair and then you see the garden, "ah". So you can see actually she probably felt so good going into the garden because it was really pretty and all that. I don’t know to me it was the whole experience it was so vivid. It was great. I just love it. I want to go again.

Jean: That would be a hard thing to recover from even in this day and age.

Barbara: Back then, yes exactly because it was having your back totally messed up. I think in this day and age, they drug you so you don’t notice anything. I don’t want to think how much pain she had. Feel so intense about it.

Winding down and Changing Gears....

Jean: My fluff question, is where do you get your boots? Do you buy them in the United States or do you buy them...........

Barbara: My boots?

Jean: Yes you have great boots.

Barbara: I buy some in Spain.

Jean: Spain is big on leather.

Barbara: Spain is big on shoes. But here.... this girl that used to live in Austin {told me about} and she’s really into flea markets and Austin so great for that. Specials here, and I like to go buy things in Spain. The way that you can buy in the US in variety at that price, you can’t do that. That whole thing where you can buy brand names like at the Marshall’s someday out of the blue you can find a pair of boots for ten dollars. I like boots.

Jean: Yes I know, that’s why I’m asking.

Barbara: All year round, I’m like summer I’m going to boots.

The year in local rock: Cynics waited till their 40s to release best yet

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Photos and Review: Frida Kahlo

Note: A retrospective: Frida Kahlo is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street, Philadelphia, (215) 763-8100, through May 18. It travels to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, June 14 to Sept. 28.