Friday, November 20

Work in Silence: Jonathan Richman interviewed by Arielle Mae Mullen

Thank you to Arielle Mae Mullen for kind permission to reprint this wonderful interview.  Earlier we heard from Roger Catlin who posted a great review of Jonathan Richman's appearance at the Andy Warhol Museum (read it again)This interview makes a good pairing.


August 23, 2015 
Original can be found here
First published in Synthesis Weekly

 Listen to the audio version (it's really good)

Jonathan Richman

On August 21, 2015 I was afforded the opportunity to interview musician Jonathan Richman in the backyard of his northern California home. I arrived at his house a bit nervous. I’d been wanting to interview him for a long time, and given the fact that he famously doesn’t do interviews, I wasn’t sure how it would go. Adding to my nervousness was the fact that I hadn’t prepared any questions. Normally I would have a list of talking points to hit, with a general outline to guide the conversation. But when I called the number on his business card and asked if he’d be willing to take a meeting with me, I hadn’t expected him to agree, let alone suggest we do it in fifteen minutes.

So there I was: really nervous, fairly unprepared, but mostly just excited. This is my first attempt at offering an audio version of an interview, and I’m so happy to make this one available to all of you. During the interview we sat outside in his backyard. A guitar sat on his lap and his two dogs at his feet. At one point one of them (who happens to be deaf), started barking pretty loudly, but other than that, the audio came out fairly clear. Jonathan graciously agreed to let me interview him, on the condition that I keep his answers unedited. Usually I’d make an effort to edit the transcribed interview for clarity or continuity, but his feelings being what they are about the subject, I felt it important to try to preserve as much of the original conversation as I could.

Jonathan has a gentle air that makes him appear almost cautious, but directly under the surface is a seemingly limitless supply of unfettered joy and creativity. Listening back to this interview, I can definitely hear that come through in his voice and the stories he tells, so I’m really happy to be able to share this with you. With that, please enjoy my interview with Jonathan Richman.

Tuesday, November 17

Monday, November 16

Sunday, November 15

Paris, la ville lumière... Paris, la ville de l’amour...

I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say I hope our Jojofriends in Paris are ok.  We send you our love.

Someone I have never met but greatly admire wrote these words to a group just when I needed to read them.  She has agreed to let me share them here:

as many of us think of the victims, survivors, and their friends and family in france, let us be strong.. let us not lose our humanity and tolerance, nor our determination to create a better and more peaceful world (Venus Vesuvius)

Luke Storms posted this letter on Crashingly Beautiful from Albert Camus:

My Dear,

In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love. In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile. In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm. I realized, through it all, that… In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger - something better, pushing right back.

Truly yours,
Albert Camus

Jessica Duchen of JDCMB posted this video of the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris performing Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem:

People all over the world...

Monday, November 9

Jonathan Plays the Warhol Museum

Jonathan Richman has been known to play some pretty unpredictable shows over the years, but few as unusual as his appearance last Wednesday at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
There, the onetime founder of the Modern Lovers was wrapping up a pretty heady series there featuring bands whose DNA could be traced directly to the band Warhol helped shape, the Velvet Underground. Previous performers in the series included Television and Luna.
Richman, appearing on a stark stage with his longtime percussionist Tommy Larkins, said he met Warhol about a half dozen times when he was a teen, a fan of the Velvets and curious about Warhol’s art.
“I’m afraid I don’t get it,” the young Richman told the pop artist of his work.
“Yes, you do,” Warhol replied.
And so he did, certainly grasping, he says, the colors of the soup cans and Brillo boxes (he marvels at supermarket aisles for product colors too, he said). In the museum, he said he finally understood the floating Mylar pillows in his “Clouds” piece. And though he didn’t understand the films of stationery objects at the time, he says he now gets their textures and subtlety.
Richman says he was spooked by being in the museum amid so much Warhol work — and spooked too about saying he hadn’t seen some of it for half a century. He was also likely rattled by being interviewed by museum staff earlier in the day — he’s not a guy that takes to interviews well.
All of it seemed to affect his concert such that he almost neglected to play an entire song. His long Warhol rap, fascinating as it was, came during a piece that began with him singing “That Summer Feeling,” but never getting close to even beginning that classic song, only its title. Rather, as he strummed guitar and Larkin kept beat, he spun his spoken word tale.
He seemed to snap back during “Egyptian Reggae,” that old instrumental, a hit abroad, but it only seemed to remind him of his European affections. He’d sing one song in Spanish about welcoming you to a party, then another in Italian. All the while, he’d work out his acoustic guitar in Flamenco inspired melodic runs.
There was a whole segment where he’d start a song with one drum pattern, get Larkins to try it with another, and finally get him to start a third, trying to sing a seemingly spontaneous number. And while it never quite coalesced, it was interesting to see him essentially trying to give birth to a song, difficult as it was. The crowd was certainly rapt through it all and encouraging (except one guy who muttered “Heart of Saturday Night” and “Roadrunner” as ignored requests).
Certainly some would have just rather heard even a few of his many great songs. But that is part of the surprise and sometime exasperation of a Jonathan show.
Here he was in a museum that devotes one whole room to the sound of the Velvets in a convincingly reproduced environment of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Still, he didn’t choose to sing his one song on the subject, “The Velvet Underground.”
He preferred to discuss, on the other hand, a Dutch painter from another museum and century, in “No One was Like Vermeer.”
A big chunk of the show seemed to go in and out of his song “Take Me to the Plaza,” extolling the pleasure of playing in a park among people. He eschews barriers between him and the audience and therefore walks away from the microphone frequently to showcase an unamplified voice. He stopped short, though, of jumping into the crowd.
From that song, he jumped into more Flamenco-style workouts, did a bit of dance, and sang more of his Esperanto rock and roll. He also got to rail against computers, all manner of screens, and phones that beep in your pocket without going fully into another newer song he has about the whole subject, “”You Can Have a Cell Phone, That’s OK But Not Me.”
There were some delights emerging from almost finished songs, such as one about how a bonfire changes the atmosphere at a party.
From the Modern Lovers songbook came just one song, “Old World” (and from that, just about one updated verse about the cummerbund).
And to the chagrin of the people from his current Cleveland-based label Blue Arrow Records, he played neither of his new singles, “O Sun”/Wait Wait Wait” nor “Keith,” about the Rolling Stone, backed with “The Door to Bohemia.”
Eventually he got to “Because Her Beauty was Raw and Wild” (some of it) and “Not So Much to be Loved as to Love” and even “Springtime in New York” and “These Bodies That Came to Cavort” at show’s end.
But so many of the songs he’s been usually playing live lately, from “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar” to “Let Her Go Into the Darkness” were missing in action.
It was as if he was learning once more from Warhol after all these years, something about minimalism, to the extreme.