The muse is a fickle beast. Sometimes she presents all her gifts in elegant silks, other times it’s not so easy. For Brian Lopez, he sorta had to listen and make sure that what he was recording for his record, Ultra, was genuine. An in between, with room for interpretation and heavy enough to leave a lasting, timeless impression. Here’s a few words from Lopez, who would have gone to the NBA if he really wanted to, but opted for the musician’s life. Also: the words ‘mentorshipments’, gimmickry and Penny Hardaway.
Smashed Chair: What was the music scene like when you were growing up in Tucson?
Brian Lopez: I was oblivious to any music scene until after I finished college, but I guess the scene was thriving while I was younger – with Calexico and Giant Sand and all their affiliated cronies (Neko Case, Iron + Wine, M. Ward etc) all contributing to the ole’ pueblo.
SC:You listened to a lot of grunge growing up, so I was wondering if your parents were cool with your taste in music?
BL: My parents were okay with my musical taste, I suppose? The first CDs I owned were bought for me by my dad: Patsy Cline: Greatest Hits and Nirvana: Unplugged. I went through a little bit of a Marilyn Manson phase in middle school that had my mom a little worried though.
SC: Did you have any heroes, mentors growing up?
BL: As a kid, when I thought I was still going to play in the NBA at some point (ha!) I really looked up to Jason Kidd. Mentors? My father. As a songwriter, Howe Gelb sure has been a great deal of help. The guy is 25 years into the future. "We're on the same circle, just a different timeline," so to speak. He's done it all and he lives down the street from me - making mentorshipments relatively regular.
SC: What were your favorite basketball shoes growing up? Do shoes really make a big difference on the court?
BL: Yes, they make a HUGE difference! The best shoe a point guard could ever have was the NIKE Jason Kidd's (I forget what they were actually called -- but they were endorsed by KIDD, okay!) They had a weird egg-like cell on the side of the shoe and had ridiculous traction for whatever reason. AND they were relatively cheap! I remember when Penny Hardaway's shoe came out and they were like $180 (in 1997ish), and everybody wanted a pair. Well I got them and they sucked so much ass that I had to take 'em back the next day. They were all looks. So Jason Kidd egg shoes - those were the shit!
SC: How was the recording process like for Ultra?
BL: I wanted to make an album that was filled with my DNA. Not forced or contrived or artificially clever. Something that had a “timeless” quality about it and would endure sea changes. Something that is “forever” as opposed to “of the moment.” And ULTRA is what I came up with - it has been the easiest musical venture I’ve ever taken part in my life, by far. I had been listening to a lot of Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline and Sam Cooke at the time and wanted to emulate some of the “timeless” qualities in their music. We recorded all of the drums, bass, piano, and rhythm guitars live, for example. So there is an organic vibe due to that. Also I made it a point to NOT use any digital instrumentation. No drum samples, no vocoders, midi synth - nothing that you would hear in almost every single modern recording these days. NO! It all had to be analog - All organic. Even the church bells on the album are real. This is something that I felt really strongly about - it is my way of saying, “fuck you” to the current indie rock climate and all of the gimmickry it ensues.
SC: What have been some of your favorite comments from your critics in regards to your music/style?
BL: Press always have to compare me with a more famous name because I'm a relative nobody -- that's just how it works. So, in general, I enjoy comparisons to Roy Orbison (European press does this a lot) rather than the Jeff Buckley ones (USA press does this a lot.) Also, I remember the Rolling Stone Germany headline read (in German) -- "Psychedelic chamber pop with a surrealist edge, a la Dali." I like that one.
SC: Let’s mess around with the Google algorithm here: could you explain your favorite dish and where you first had it?
BL: Tucson has some of the best Mexican food this side of the border. My friends and I have made it a weekly affair to gather for Sunday breakfast at CROSSROADS. Anything on their menu will be sufficient. And your dining experience will be accompanied by a blind one man band playing the best Latin hits on his keyboard.
SC: If you never picked up a guitar and basketball didn’t work out where could you see yourself today? (Sort of a “It’s A Wonderful Life” question).
BL: I would most definitely be teaching. In fact, I am a substitute teacher in between tours and recording sessions etc. Currently I have a temp job teaching "Medical Office Support" at Job Corps. I know right? Scary.
SC: Hopefully this makes sense, if not no worries: When was the last time you had a ‘woah’ moment? (Like the universe is large or the human body is complex.)
BL: When Newt Gingrich actually looked like he could win the GOP nomination.