Extended interview with Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde; Playing Eddie’s January 11th

By Al Kaufman

Concrete Blonde’s “Joey” is the type of song that, when it comes on the radio, people stop what they are doing and listen. If there is a group of people, and they happen to have a few beers in them, they try to hit all the high notes.

Johnette Napolitano, lead singer and bass player of Concrete Blonde, wrote the song based on her relationship with Wall of Voodoo’s Marc Moreland, an alcoholic who died of liver failure in 2002 at the age of 44. Released in 1990 off of the Bloodletting album, it was by far Concrete Blonde’s most popular song, but in many ways it was just a typical song for the band; a passionate vocalist singing personal, poetic lyrics over dynamic instrumentation.  It can be heard on songs like “God Is a Bullet” and “Caroline,” as well as their impassioned covers of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” and Andy Prieboy’s (formerly of Wall of Voodoo) “Tomorrow, Wendy,” about a friend dying of AIDS.

Concrete Blonde probably could have maintained their popularity, but the band members, and Napolitano especially, always followed their own muse.  They pursued a harder edge on 1993’s Mexican Moon. They temporarily broke up before reuniting in 1997 and collaborating with the LA Chicano punk band Los Illegals to release Concrete Blonde y Los Illegals, a primarily Spanish album.  Since then, there have been a couple of albums and compilations, and the occasional one-week tour, but the band is finished.

Napolitano has kept her creative spirit alive with side projects, such as Pretty and Twisted with the aforementioned Marc Moreland, and the unfortunately named semi-improvisational duo, Vowel Movements with Holly Beth Vincent.  In 2013 she released Rough Mix, a book that includes her drawings, essays, memories, and inspirations behind many of her songs. It is a fascinating look inside the mind of a truly creative spirit.  She has released a couple of new songs, “Rosalie” and “I Know the Ghost,” and has been doing acoustic shows one week a month in which she reads from her book, offers up slides of drawings, and sings from her entire catalog.  The tour is in preparation of an impending acoustic release. It brings her to Eddie’s Attic on January 11th.

In addition to all this, Napolitano feeds her soul by caring for horses, sewing, and, most recently, becoming a tattoo artist, all while living in Joshua Tree, California. A true rock and roller, Napolitano follows her passions, not the money. She and her former bandmates have turned down numerous opportunities to take part in 90s-bands retro tours. But when I talked to Napolitano, despite being bedridden with the flu, she animatedly talked about her current projects. Perhaps it was all the garlic soup and vitamin C tablets she was taking, but a simple question about why she decided to write a book sometimes led her to discussing why punk rock was so important to women. And any question might get her going on why Linda Ronstadt is the best thing ever.  Below is her interview in all its stream-of-consciousness glory.

After all these years and all the fun you had in the late 80s, your voice is just as strong as it’s ever been. How have you been able to maintain it?

Thank you. I think ideally no matter what you do you should get better. I think just as an artist, as a singer, I want to get better. I’ve done a lot of stuff, I’ve done a lot of flamenco, I’ve improved my range. Somebody in the record business told me you just learn to use your instrument better, no matter what instrument you play. Whether it’s a voice or a guitar, you should be getting better as you get older, ideally.

So you’ve just continued to study.

Absolutely. I’ve sung all kinds of different things. I’ve pushed myself. I was thinking this morning that I’ve had more fun in the last year doing these shows than I ever had when I was in the band, because then there was a lot of stuff to sing over. There’s only a certain amount you can do with an electric guitar, drums, and all that. And it’s hard to ask people for space because everyone wants to be playing all the time, but now . . . And I started when I was 12 on the acoustic guitar, so now it’s like going back to who I was. And I can be heard, and I can stretch out. It’s a blast, I’m having a blast.

You said that you’ve known for years that you would want to record an acoustic record. I was going to ask what the draw of an acoustic record was for you, but I think you just answered that.

I’ve always wanted to do one, and people have always bugged me to do it, but I didn’t really want to do one just sitting there playing guitar and singing. I think that can be interesting, but it can also be tragically boring. But that’s what I want to do, and the whole point of this show that I’ve been doing all year, was to  . . . well I have projections and I hand illustrate stuff. I wrote a book, Rough Mix, that I’ll be selling at the show. It’s all real cool and that’s all hand illustrated. That’s one of the things I’ve always wanted to do since I was a kid, is be a writer. So I finally got my little book done, and I want the whole thing to be a DVD. I don’t just want it to be a record, I want it to be something you can watch, so I can get the elements of the stage to be interesting with the hand drawings and just reflect the mood and personality of the book. And it all ties together just as one human being, and I really, really like that.

When do you expect a release date?

The first thing I wanted to do was get the show super tight, which has finally happened. It’s taken me all year to get the pacing, because I tell stories between songs, I read from the book, and I want to incorporate all that. Then my next decision was where do I shoot it, because I’m trying to decide whether it will be a closed stage shoot or a live shoot and I’m still not sure how exactly to do that. That’s why it’s been kind of cool to tour all year and just see what venues would be good for that, if I were to do that, or if I want to do a sound stage closed thing with no audience at all, which would be cool with me, too. But the audiences have been so great during this whole tour. The venues have been great. People are actually sitting and listening. I don’t get as many people screaming as I used to, because that would ruin it. So I’m really close to figuring it out. I was going to try to do it in Australia in January and February, but my international agent went somewhere else and I think that hung that up a little bit, which is fine, because right now the idea of having late January and February off sounds really good to me. So I’m going to have a chance to sit down and make some plans. I’ve talked to a couple of directors, but nobody’s really seemed right for it.  My ex-boss for my last day job is a movie producer, and I just hit him up for a DP [Director of Photography] who’s just coming back into LA, and I’m going to try to get with him and I think we’ll be able to work on it really well together. Directors seem to be asking me what do I want to do and I have a pretty clear vision in my head of how I want this to look. And that was my last day job; I was an assistant to a movie producer, so I kind of know how this stuff works. And if I know what I want to see, then all I need is a good DP. So I’m really looking forward to meeting this guy and sitting down with him and getting some kind of point across.

So is this going to be just you on stage, or is there going to be a story to the DVD?

There are a lot of stories. I’m going to be on stage, but I want to get more slide projections. When I have my image on this tour it’s just a static image, a backdrop to the whole thing. But for the DVD I want to get more images going. I want to hand-illustrate a lot of the story. Some of them are also in the book. People have been asking me for years, “What’s “Joey” about?” Well, in the book I tell them and don’t leave anything to the imagination. I’m finally far away enough from this stuff that I feel pretty good talking about it. A lot of people ask me what’s “Mexican Moon” about, and that’s a really good story about a taxi driver in Mexico City. So I tell a lot of this stuff on stage and it’s really taken on a life. It’s really cool. But I want it to be tight. I don’t want it to look like someone shot a live show because they needed the money, you know what I mean? I don’t know about you, but a lot of stuff looks like that to me. If you’re a hard core fan I guess that’s cool, but I want the art to be deeper. I want it to be up another level, so I’m looking forward to meeting the DP when he gets back to LA, sitting down and getting the angles down, and it will probably be just a three camera shoot with some illustrations and there’s some technical stuff I want to work out. I knew it would take a long time to work out because it does. The dynamics of the show, you play a couple of songs, then read from the book, then maybe tell another story . . . I constantly need to make notes and constantly have to revise the set list to see what works and what doesn’t. I don’t want to rely a whole lot on editing. I want it to be a stage thing; a one-woman show kind of thing, which it is. It’s really a fun show. I really have a good time doing it.

In the book, like you were saying, you let people know what the songs mean to you. Your songs already mean a lot to a lot of people, people interpret them their way. . .

Oh yeah, I’ve apparently dated Joey Ramone, who I’ve never met in my life (laughs).

Well you could have named the song “Marc” and a lot of people would have been less confused.

(Laughs) It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?

Were you worried at all about letting people know exactly what a song means to you, in that you were taking away what it means to them?

No, I don’t at all. I mean, how many people are really going to read the book . . . ?

Your biggest fans, the people to whom the songs mean the most.

That’s true, but, like, everyone in Hollywood pretty much knows who Joey is. Even Marc, like I said in the book, we were drinking and he asked if “Joey” was about him. I said, “Yeah,” and he said, “Do you owe me money?” (Laughs) And I said, “No, I don’t think so.” But it’s been fun. I’m 57-years-old and I want to tell my own stories. I’ve had my own identity completely created and misinterpreted and misunderstood and owned, and it’s time for me to own who I am. And a lot of people don’t. My neighbor in LA for the longest time asked me, “What do you do?” and a lot of people ask me that. Well, shit, I’ve been writing songs since I was 12-years-old with a guitar my dad got me for my birthday, so that’s who I am. A good friend of mine that I was in the 6th grade with is Steve Porcaro, from Toto. Steve’s just a child prodigy, we both were. And I love Steve. I’m in touch with him all the time and it’s a blast. I was constantly sending him things way before the punk rock thing. Punk rock was valuable to women in the fact that we were allowed to play instruments. I couldn’t keep anybody in the band as a bass player because we had no money, we had no label, we had no nothing, so I learned to play bass. I said, “Fuck this, I’m going to need to learn to play bass, we need a bass player.” And that was the only reason. I never thought about it. Chicks were only front people then, or back-up singers. And then you had to dress a certain way. You had to sex it up and do all this stuff. Punk rock was very valuable in the fact that – Never mind the music. I still haven’t heard “Anarchy in the UK” all the way through – I mean music’s one thing, and the energy’s one thing, but it really allowed women to go out and do it, and that was not always the case in the “music business.” Women had very specific roles. You had to be a back-up singer or a lead singer. Not the song writer, and not the musician. So punk was very important in that regard.

I think of you as one of the few women, along with say, Patti Smith, who made it in rock without selling yourself as a sex symbol first and a musician second. Was that something that was hard to achieve?

Well I want to be (laughs).

You want to be a sex symbol?

No, but you know, I like to be sexy. What woman doesn’t?  But that’s funny because I remember when the first reviews came out for the first record, and I was compared to Patti Smith. Well, I didn’t know who that was, and I remember my sister and I were in Mexico, and we were sitting there and a friend of mine who was a journalist down there he said, [bad Mexican accent] “You are like Patti Smith.” And me and my sister were like . . . I mean, I listened to musicals and the Rat Pack when I was a kid. My aunt gave me a stack of records from the ‘60s; you know, like Donovan and Linda Ronstadt, who is probably my biggest influence as a singer from when I was in high school. She was just brilliant. I cried like a baby when I found out she has Parkinson’s.  I do a tribute to her in the show, so that’s kind of cool. But thank you for the compliment, because Patti is truly a legend.

Oh yeah, Hall of Famer.

Oh I know who she is well now (laughs).

Was there ever a time when they told you you had to sex it up more, or anything like that?

Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes. But I was a fighter. I was called difficult. I remember I was just telling someone this yesterday, which is a funny memory, when we were on our first tour and the record took off, and the MTV video, “Still in Hollywood,” took off. When we left for the tour we couldn’t get arrested in LA. When we came back we were selling out the Whiskey A Go-Go for two nights, but we were opening for X in Arizona, and it was like 103 degrees, and me and Harry [Rushakoff], our drummer, shaved mohawks into our heads because it was so hot. And we got back to LA and Miles Copeland [Chairman of IRS Records] hit the ceiling. He just hit the ceiling. He was like, [scruffy voice] “What are you doing? The record’s starting to take off and now look at you.” He turned really red. (Laughs) He had such a fit. But I think it’s a personal aesthetic. I do want to be taken seriously as a writer and a singer, and as an artist, and I’m pretty pleased with my guitar playing now as well, because I was always the back seat to Jim [Mankey]with the guitar playing.  I never got to play guitar in Concrete Blonde. I’m just going over some notes for my beautiful fabulous, lawyer; I’m going through tracks, and I did get to play guitar on “Little Sister” and on Mexican Moon on some things, but it was Jim’s gig, so, you’ve got to sit back and let the lead guitarist be the lead guitarist. And we were only a three-piece band and I never wanted to be anything else because I’m a Virgo and I’m very practical and I could see that when a lot of bands went out to tour in the early days, they go out and all of a sudden you’ve got back-up singers and you’ve got a keyboardist and you come back with no fucking money. I just said if we keep it simple like the Police – that’s who Miles compared us to, the Police – and not only for practical reasons, but as an arranger, it was really challenging, because the band was my medium and I would write the songs for the band as a medium, like this part is going to sound great for Jim, so the challenge of coming up with great arrangements and dynamics for three pieces was really fun for me. And I think that’s what we had going for us over a lot of bands. And also, all three of us were very different musically. Jim is older and he has quite a vocabulary. He can play all that Marty Robbins shit and all types of country music that I heard my mom play when I was a kid. Harry was into his metal, and I was into all kinds of things, and basically just into writing. And then Paul [Thompson, drummer for Roxy Music] joined the band. Paul is a legend himself. That was when I really felt like, “Wow, I am a real musician, Paul Thompson’s in my band.” That was really pretty cool. I mean, he played on fucking “Love Is the Drug” man. I’m in touch with Paul as well. I went to see him play with Brian Ferry not too long ago in LA and it was just so great. I love Roxy. I was so into Roxy, so between the three of us we had a lot to pull from. So it would be really cool. It was like, “We’ll do something on this track like so-and-so would do.” We were just a really good band, man, a really good band; one of the best, in either incarnation. With Harry or Paul we were what a band is supposed to be.

In your book you write, “Great rock does not demand literary genius. ‘Tutti Frutti’ may not be poetry to everyone, but it is definitely rock and roll.” Yet, like one of your idols, Leonard Cohen, you write personal songs with a strong literary quality.

Thank you.

Sure. Would it be harder for you to write a ‘Tutti Frutti’ rather than a, say, ‘God Is a Bullet’ or ‘Joey’?

I think the closest I’ve come to that is on the Mojave record that we made. It was a desert record and I just made up a lot of . . . there are a couple of songs on there that just don’t need to make sense. I think Jim would have preferred it if I would have written a lot of things that way. But that’s my only expression, is songwriting, and it tends to come from a personal point of view, and I think he just felt like it was a little too much about me a lot of the time for that reason. I think he would have rather I just had written dumb ass stuff, but that’s just not me. It’s not what I do. It doesn’t make me want to get up in the morning and say, “Yeah, I can’t wait to write some bip bop de bop bam.” It’s just not what I do.

You love to listen to it, but you can’t write it.

Yes, exactly! Absolutely, man. Absolutely. It’s holy. Little Richard’s the king.

Thinking back to the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, the whole Free and Bloodletting time, when Concrete Blonde was on top of the world. Are you glad in any way that you are not still at that level, or do you ever sit back and say, “Man, I wish we were playing 60,000 seat stadiums for the next six weeks.”?

Oh no. I have a life and I like it, and I didn’t then. Everybody was having a good time but me. I’d be out there for seven months straight. I’m lucky I lived through that, I really am. I don’t mind the sizes of the audiences. I think that’s great. There’s nothing like playing for a crowd. I loved doing that. But I’m really happy with where I am now, and I would like to build it up again, but it has to be on my terms, and with my stuff. I don’t want to go out and be a retro act. We used to get a lot of shit like that. European promoters wanted to send us out with ‘80s bands and I don’t want to do that. I’ve had a great life since the ‘80s and have grown by leaps and bounds as a human being. I’ve worked with Danny [Lohner] from Nine Inch Nails and I’ve worked with the Talking Heads. There’s no way for me not to grow when you’re working with musicians like this. Nothing will depress me more – well I don’t get too depressed about it – but when somebody’s 50 and they say, “You know, man, those were the best days of my life.” I’m like, “Fuck, dude, you’re not dead.” I have a friend who’s well into her 90s, and when I turned 50 I said, “Delores, I’m 50,” and she said, “You’re a baby. It starts getting good now.” And she’s right. She’s absolutely right. Because you just don’t give a fuck. Also, when you’ve done what you’ve done for a long time, it gives you confidence about doing it. I had a lot of problems with confidence in the old days because I didn’t really know how to play. So I’d be really nervous, I’d be looking down at that set list thinking oh my God. I’d be singing one song worried about the next song because I’d have a hard part with a certain note, and I’d have a hard time learning to play and sing at the same time, and it just threw me in the water and I learned to swim. But now it’s just what I do. If I can’t have confidence now, after doing this for almost 50 years, then I never will, so I might as well. (Laughs) And I’m a better player than I used to be because I’m playing guitar. And there are people who don’t know that I can really do that. And I do study guitar. I do flamenco, and I actually can play. I write all the songs on guitar. I used to write some stuff on the bass. I can tell the difference. It’s pretty groovy writing stuff on bass because you’ve got your groove down and your beat down. I’ve got my own drums here. I can pick up a different instrument and never get stuck writing. And that’s another thing, I never feel like I have to get up and write every day. I can sit back and enjoy the huge catalogue. I’m going over this catalogue for my lawyer. I’m like, “Fuck, I don’t even remember that song. I don’t remember writing it.” It’s crazy, there’s just so much stuff. There are just hundreds and hundreds of songs. And I can sit back and enjoy. I can do a whole new set next year with nothing that I’m playing this time. So I’m kind of just sitting back and enjoying the songs like I’m hearing them for the first time, because I don’t have to worry about playing them (laughs). I really used to worry about that. And we we’re moving so fast in the old days. It’s was manic. I mean it was cool, but it wasn’t really healthy all the time. There’s a time in your life when you really should be just enjoying things more and slowing down a little bit. That’s what my dad said. And I don’t want to try and keep up with my 30-year-old self. So I try and play a week out of the month and it makes me happy. I have a good time, I’m balanced because I’m home enough. It’s just great. I have a friend from Ireland who comes over and sits with my dogs and my horse and my goat. And she takes care of everything in my house while I’m gone, and it makes me more secure about being out there and away from home. And I enjoy it because it’s only a week. So I can just have fun, and it’s great because it’s only a week. It’s not great if it’s 12 weeks. I need more grounding than that. I’m not in my 20s. I’ve seen it. I did enjoy taking a little guy on the road who had never seen America before. I’m like, “Louis, wake up, it’s the New York skyline, man.” He’s like, “Ooh.” I love that. I don’t have kids, but I’m a good mom, basically. I’m evil Aunt Johnette that you can have fun with. But you won’t get me to a town to go running around anymore because I live at 3,000 feet in the Mojave desert. This is a voice, not a guitar string. I can’t change it at the last minute. I’ve got to pay attention to humidity and stuff. I don’t kiss my voice’s ass or anything, I don’t have to. But I’ve got to mind altitude. I’ve got to fly and that can be real tough. It’s a more delicate, physical situation at this point in time than it was when I was younger, and that’s just a physical fact. I can’t smoke weed on the road anymore, which is a real drag because that’s the way I’d start my day. It was like, let’s finish up that tequila from last night, smoke a joint and let’s go. There’s no way I could do that now. No way.

What’s the state of Concrete Blonde right now?

We’re done. We had a good run, but we’re done. I haven’t even seen Jim [Mankey] in a couple of years, so I’m just off doing my own thing, and I know that he is too. His dad passed away a few years ago and I think he’s felt like he needs to be home with his mom more, so he hasn’t had the best time. That last tour we did [2012] was the last gig we did and we just said we’re done. If we’re not having a good time and getting along, why are we doing this? So I just said there was too much stuff I wanted to do, and I’m just happy to be in the place I’m at. Gabriel [Ramirez], who has been our drummer for 12 years — he was our drummer for longer than Harry or Paul — he’s in a band with his brothers. They’re very happy doing that. He’s got his kids and all. So I’m pretty grateful for the way things have worked out. I’ve got someone pretty reliable to take care of the house, which is hard to find because I live so far out here. It’s been pretty hard to get people to come out here to do the horse feeding and all that stuff. And it used to really bum me out when I was out on the road the last couple of years. But now I’ve got my Irish friend, Rosaline, and she’s just like, (in a Gaelic accent) “I just want to see the fucking sun.”

You get a little of that in Arizona. That must be a bit of a culture clash going from Ireland to Arizona.

Oh, she loves the desert big time. She thinks it’s great. And she had never been to America before. I met her in Dublin when I played Dublin and we became really good friends, and I was just like, “Well shit, I’ll bring you over if you want to come.” And she was just like, “Oh, yeah.” She’s been over here twice in the last six months, and she’s coming over again in a couple of weeks, and she just loves it. She just has a ball with the animals and she likes to do stuff around the house. She’s really good with a lot of ranch maintenance that’s hard for me to do, because I’ll go out and do the ranch maintenance and then I’ll think, “I should be writing songs. I should be playing.” And I hate to feel like it’s a job, so I just let it roll now, because it keeps me happy and healthy doing all the ranch chores, and playing with my horse, and working with her. It’s a good balance. I’m really, really grateful.

In addition to taking care of the ranch, doing the music, making art, writing books, that’s not enough for you. You’re also a tattoo artist now.

Yeah I got my license. I went to school.


That was a real experience because here I am the old lady in class, and my two classmates were in their early 20s, and they had both tattooed before and I never had, and I turned out to be pretty damn good at it. I have a waiting list like crazy. My aesthetic is very different though. You’re not going to see any skulls and flames out of me. I’m heavily influenced by the desert, by nature, and especially by putting something on somebody’s body. I’m really into body placement because you can have the best tattoo in the world, but if it isn’t on the right place on your body it’s going to look like shit. So I’m very into that and, as a dancer, I’m aware of how a body moves and I’m very into making somebody look good. So I think I have an aesthetic of my own. It’s a fine line because you want to do what the client wants, but I’m not going to do what I don’t want to do. I’m not going to sit around and set up and wait because you want a mushroom on your ass. I want it to be something custom. I like to do custom work. It’s cool. I don’t get to do it very often because of the touring. That takes me away from a lot of stuff I’d like to be doing. Sewing; I’m looking at a lot of sewing stuff right now that I’ve got to finish. I’ve been designing clothes since I was a kid. I’m a big Project Runway freak. I’ve been laying in bed catching up on all the Project Runway episodes.

That just doesn’t seem like it fits with your personality.

Oh it does. I like cooking, I love sewing. My dad was Italian. My mom was a housewife, so it was all about cooking and sewing. She made all our clothes when we were little. They still taught homemaking when I was in school. The boys took shop and the girls took homemaking. I’m a very domestic person.

I just can’t see you watching Project Runway.

Oh, dude, please. I’m a freak. It’s like when my dad used to watch the Dodgers and the Dodgers would lose, he go, “Fuck, why didn’t you catch that?” and I’m going, “Fuck, that zipper’s terrible!” (Laughs) I’m the worst. Me and my friend will be, “Did you see that? Oh my God, what were they thinking with that hem line? It wasn’t even finished.” Yeah, we can get pretty into it. (Laughs) And now I want to do the things I want to do. They’re things I’ve always loved to do but I had to put aside for a long time because of the band and because of the rock and roll thing. Everybody wants you all over the place. It’s really cool because we played China a couple of years ago, and that’s a really huge accomplishment to me, because we didn’t know anyone else who had played China, and it was just a brilliant experience and I was just so proud of what we’d done and where we’d been. I got to see the world. And even when I was a kid I knew I had to see a lot of the world. I didn’t know how I was going to do that unless I was in a band. And sure enough, we did it.

Where do you think Concrete Blonde ranks among the bands? Do you think you’re Hall of Fame material?

Oh, I don’t think so. I’ve just been lobbying for Cheap Trick. I’ve been doing some work with Tom [bassist for Cheap Trick] and Alison Petersson. They have a project called Rock Your Speech, because their son, Liam, is autistic. And I have a little autistic friend, too. I get along good with autistic kids for some reason. If I were in school as a kid now they would label me that in a heartbeat. So they came up with this great record and I sang five songs on it, and I’m going back to do some interviews for them, and I’d be loving for them to be in the Hall of Fame, but I don’t know. I don’t think we were ever on that level. I guess it depends on who you talk to. Some people think we were one hit wonders, or everyone has their own interpretation of where we fit in the universe. I’m not quite sure. I never really thought about that. It’s like what Linda Ronstadt said, “I never really thought about that. It wasn’t why I was doing it.” And I think she summed it up perfectly. There was one point in time where some mangers sat me down and I could tell I was being felt out whether I should be nominated for a Grammy or not. I can’t remember what it was for. But I could tell that I didn’t answer the questions right. And I could just see their faces go, “Okay, no.” You know what they asked me? It was really funny. They said, “What did you think when Marlon Brando won his Oscar and put the Indian up to take it?” I said, “I thought that was awesome.” And that was it. It was all over.

We can’t put you on stage.

Exactly. We can’t trust you. You’re a loose cannon. And that’s fine with me, man. I don’t do it for any of that, just like Linda said. And don’t tell me she shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame, because she got the fucking Presidential Inaugural Award. So screw the Hall of Fame, the President just hung a medal around my neck. So that’s really cool. She always been an inspiration to me in everything that she’s done. The way she’s handled her career; she did the Canciones record [of traditional Mexican folk songs], the Nelson Riddle records, she’s always pushed herself as a singer as well. And I read she had the same insecurities that I did. When she was the biggest female rock star in the world, and she would always come off stage and be throwing up and worrying that she wasn’t good enough. And that’s exactly the way the whole Concrete Blonde experience was with me. And I was always thinking why can’t I enjoy this as much as everyone else is? I’m only remembering the few notes that I screwed up in the third song, and nobody else seems to notice. So that was some place I had to find in my head that was making me do that. And now I’m like,”‘Oh, I made a mistake. Chances are nobody knows that anyway.” And I learned that from doing flamenco, too, because I work with a lot of flamencos. And they make choreography mistakes and everything, but nobody knows it. So it just kind of depends on your attitude about it. I’m much more self-forgiving now than I ever have been. I used to be so concerned about what people thought. Now I’m turning into your typical “I’m 57 and I don’t give a fuck.”

Art’s not supposed to be perfect.


I think you’ll like Eddie’s Attic. It’s a little, folky club.

Yeah, I hear it’s really cool. And make sure to see Laurie [Sargent], too. You know who Laurie is, right? She’s . . .

I grew up in Boston. I remember when she was in Face to Face, with songs like “10, 9, 8 . . .”. Then she worked with the guys from Morphine after Mark Sandman died.

Yeah, I just saw Billy [Conway, of Morphine] during the last run of New England that we did. Laurie is just brilliant. I’ve known her for a long time and I’m just really pleased to see her working this way. I just told her I needed an opening act and I was wondering if she would come along and she just said yes. She didn’t even hesitate. We’re like Ab Fab on the road. It’s ridiculous. There’s no crew, it’s just me and her driving around, and we just have so many haunting, weird experiences on that run. It’s just a blast to be with her. She’s a good friend and she knows horses because she’s on a ranch in Montana half the time. So while we’re driving along we can talk about horse stuff, and that’s really important to me, too. I just want to be with people I get along with and just have fun with my friends, and this is the way to do it. And she’s an artist I respect, so she’s just been great. Her singing is great.

I imagine if the two of you duet, you might shatter a window or two.

Well, we have a little number we do. It’s a secret. And it’s real cool. The reason it came out this way – I won’t give too much away – but we were supposed to start with something else, but on the first show of the last run Laurie’s violin broke, so at the last minute of the first show we had to have a plan B because I really wanted her to do something with me. So we ended up changing it all around and I love what we did. It’s really cool on a lot of levels. So things happen for a reason.

Johnette Napolitano plays with Laurie Sargent at Eddie’s Attic on Sunday, January 11th.




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