THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE WORLD MUSIC QUESTIONNAIRE: John Convertino of Calexico

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THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE WORLD MUSIC QUESTIONNAIRE: John Convertino of Calexico

Elsewhere has interviewed Joey Burns of Tucson's Calexico previously, but now with the band coming to this year's Womad (see dates below) we thought it timely to flick our Famous Elsewhere World Music Questionnaire to John Covertino, the other permanent member of this flexible ensemble.

Calexico marry the sound of borderland Spanish horns with various kinds of pumped up folk and rock, a smattering of alt.country and some vigorous Western country.

They've been to New Zeaand previously and played to rock audiences, but they are equally at home at a world music festival.

So John . . . 

The first musician whose music really affected you was . . .

My father, he was a piano player but also tuned pianos, when I was really little he would take me on piano tunings, after he would tune the piano, he would play it. I was amazed. One day at my grandfathers house he played the accordion, I'll never forget it, he knew all the tricks with the bellows and different stops to get create a vast variety of sounds and dynamics.

Your first appearance on stage before an audience was . . . (And you were how old?)

1977 was my first paid gig, I was around 14 years old. I was playing in a top forty dance band at the Elks Lounge in Stillwater, OK for a sorority party. I remember playing Tush by ZZ Top, the people were jumping up and down so much the floor was bouncing my drums all over the place.

If music was denied you, your other career choice would be . . .

I would have loved to be an architect.

The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear because they are so emotionally moving are . . .

Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk

Wild Horses the Rolling Stones

Inner Flame by Rainer Ptacek

The most unusual place you have performed would be . . .?

The Friends of Dean Martinez got flown in by helicopter to play on top of a mesa somewhere in Utah. I was playing a marimba up there, sounded great.

The most important book you have read is . . .? And why?

The Grapes of Wrath, gave me somewhat of an understanding of how after the industrial revolution man lost touch with mother earth, and continues to do so, hence so much depression, despair and self-loathing amongst the humans.

If you could get on stage with anyone it would be . . . (And you would play?)

Arthur Rubinstein, and I would be playing concert bass in the orchestra performing Rachmaninoff piano concerto no. 2.

The three films you'd like anybody watch because they might understand you better are . . .

The Bicycle Thief

Breakfast at Tiffany's

The Hustler 

The last CD, vinyl album or download you bought was . . .

Blue by Joni Mitchell vinyl reissue 

When you travel, what is it you most miss about your home country?

Really good chips and salsa.

The artist you most admire would be . . .

Art Blakey, such a distinct voice through all of the recordings he made, and then on top of that, a great teacher to so many of the great jazz artists of that time.

960Your favourite meal to share with friends would be . . .? (Care to share a simple recipe?)

a simple pasta dish my father taught me to make. Fresh broccoli with garlic, olive oil and red chili peppers, he always made it with linguini, but I think the original dish from Puligia uses orecchiette, Puligia, that's where my grandparents were from.

Do you practice every day, and if so for how long?

I really wish I could play drums every day, I crave it, believe me. But it's hard at home because of family duties and privacy. There have been long stretches of time when I've been able to play everyday.....but recently we have been moving a lot, and touring a lot, so I don't have a studio space established to play in yet, it's been great though touring and performing a lot over this past year. I would rarely ever practice over three hours after I got past my teens and 20's.

David Bowie sang, “Five years, that's all we've got . . .” If that were true, you would spend them where, doing . . .?

Somewhere sunny and warm, with lots of good food, wine, and space and music.....sounds like Italy to me.....or Texas.

And finally, do you have any unrealised goals in music?

I've spent my whole life accompanying other musicians, I would love to be able to sit at the piano and play the accompaniment and the melody at the same time.....I can a little, and just enough to want to be able to do more.....but then I'm off playing drums again.

For more on other artists coming to the New Zealand Womad in Taranaki in 2016 go here.

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