Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Interview with Alex Cordovi

Months ago... no scratch that---almost a year ago now, I had wandered into one of those occasions where I pondered the ever enduring question of: "What the hell am I doing here?!?" The reason behind that question was that a group of "friends" had asked me to borrow my PA for their night's set, and I only showed up to find out that they already had one, courtesy of the house (or should I say Churchill's?) and so I found myself just taking up space, to put it mildly. There's nothing worse than filling in time when you can be doing something else, far more worthy of being constructive. That night I bore witness to, or should I say was treated (mostly against my will, that is) to an open mic rendition courtesy of an oddball cast of characters that were strictly not ready for prime time.

I recall seeing this cat that I personally believe was doing his impression of Cat Stevens (or should I say Yusuf Islam?) before he massacred my ear drums with a very bad acoustic guitar performance (strumming away at a classical guitar, by the way, not a steel string... go figure!). Prior to that he pulled out a book of poetry and recited some verses that nobody wanted to hear. I could have sworn I saw some beer cans being thrown his way, and all I can think of was wow! Maybe he shouldn't quit his day job. A little earlier in this set was another cat who eerily resembled an old acquaintance of mine from way back in the daze. Perhaps he is now going by a professional on stage alias with a crazy Spanish accent to boot. This cat was none other than José El Rey. Now this cat rocked for a bit, but the whole performance was somewhat hindered by the fact that he openly admitted he was just doing it to prove to a friend of his that he could play guitar. So even though it was fun to listen to, you just couldn't take it too seriously... and all the while I could only think this could use a bit of polish to be really radio worthy. But then again, I'm not a critic nor am I record talent scout or some shit. So bear with me, I'm only paving the setting for this blog post.

Somewhere in between that musical sandwich (that could have used a little more audio friendly mayo) I spotted this really gorgeous looking gal with a fire bird guitar, which I mistakenly referred to as a thunder bird guitar (which is actually a bass) the next time I would run into her. She played an incredibly loud and slightly out of tune power chord driven set, and yet somehow the beat, which was cleverly masterful and hypnotic was still hidden, woven tightly under the sonic tapestry that she laid upon the audience with a tongue-in-cheek demeanor about her, that was only second to none for all these emu punks and black clothed gothic looking freaks. Somehow the noise she produced on stage didn't match her at all. I couldn't help but think that something was out of place here. Ironically enough, it would be months later that I found out what the deal was. Normally she plays in a band, which would explain the somewhat inexplicable impression that was left upon yours truly that night... which was likened to a sort of: Is that it?!? Is that all you've got? Surely, there's got to be more. Little did I know that there was, and that she was only playing to a barely packed house for the evening, and at an open mic night out of all things! Most of the crowd that night must have been personal friends of hers that she probably hadn't seen in ages; mostly there simply drunk out of their heads, and eager to take a snap shot or two before the moment expired in their fleeting brain cells. These are the same type of pictures that would most likely be put up on their personal web profiles (i.e. MyTube, YourFace, whatever), most likely under the heading of good times, and all that jazz... nothing serious.

However, in the months that followed, she made an appearance at The Only Right Left Night (which is another story all together that can only be likened to a never ending opus). And on that night, the general consensus was that she just killed! The delivery this time around was sharper, deadlier, and well strummed with a more in-your-face enthusiasm and no regrets and/or apologies to follow. The crowd went nuts this time, and they hadn't even finished their first round of drinks for the evening! We spoke outside very briefly to which I asked if she was the one with that Thunderbird guitar (hence my musical faux pas... and I have the nerve to call myself a musician? Hah!) She corrected me, and we got to talking somewhat, which is how I found out about her band called Boy.

I was more surprised to find out that I already had her as a friend on my profile without even knowing it. That's when happens when you FriendBlast to death! Sorry folks, I'm not doing this anymore... promise! Eventually MySpace would lose it's flare for yours truly, and so I wound up with a Facebook profile, which is right around the time I sent out a request to her, which she accepted and then I approached her with the notion of doing an interview for my blog, because after doing some research I found out that she had been in the group Outreviolet, which is actually an earlier inception of The Pretty Please, as well as being the drummer for Noveltype, which included members of The Only Right Left. Yes, my friends, you can almost hear the "It's a Small World After All" theme playing in the background, eh?

Anyways, after a week or two went by (from the time of my sending out these here interview questions, I got a reply with the following message as an opener:

"I know it's taken me a long time to respond to this. I've been quite the hermit this past month and am slowly resurfacing. Let me know if you need anything else. Thanks!"

What follows is a copy and paste (or should I say actual blog piece? {and should I quit with all these desperate attention getting rhetorical questions in parentheses already?!?}) rendition of some insightful words, stemming from the creative genius/musical history book in high heels that is Alex Cordovi. Enjoy!

PS: How long have you been involved in music, how did it start, and at what point did you decide to pursue this passion of yours as a potential career? And more importantly, are you still pursuing it, or is it just a hobby?

AC: My earliest memory of somewhat properly using an instrument was when I was in second grade. My parents got me this toy keyboard and I would figure out really fundamental songs on my own. I didn't really "reconnect" with an instrument until I was fifteen when I got my first drum set and eventually moved onto guitar when I was nineteen. Music is a hobby for me, although the word hobby doesn't really do music any justice. It's my therapy and it's how I bond with a lot of other musicians. I'm not really looking to get signed, but if it ever falls on my lap it's definitely something I would go for.

PS: What artists, be they literary, visual, musical, and/or otherwise would you say have the most profound influence on you as a musician?

AC: Musically, in no specific order, PJ Harvey, Cat Power, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine and Fugazi have had and continue to have the greatest influence on my music. Photographically, I would say that Barbara Ess, Mario Testino's personal work (not anything he's done for Vogue), Joel Sternfeld, and Nan Goldin.


PS: Are you originally from Miami? If so, can you tell us what your opinion is about the local music scene down here in general is like? What would you say are its strengths and weaknesses from the point of view of a working musician?

AC: I am originally from Miami - made, born, and raised. I don't really know where to begin on describing Miami's music scene. The only music in Miami I'm familiar with is the indie, punk, and hardcore scenes. I think that there's a lack of community and a low level of consideration as far as getting people interested. Miami is just more of a club scene and that's just the reality of it. I'm not trying to denounce Miami's music; I think there are plenty of talented musicians and bands. It's hard to change an entire culture that's been around for decades.

PS: How many bands have you played with prior to the formation of your music group Boy? And how different would you say that the sound produced in those groups (i.e. Outre Violet, Noveltype) were compared to what you're doing now?

AC: Outreviolet, Mariel, and Noveltype are the only other projects I've been involved with. Noveltype was my introduction to performing live and really gave me a sense of what it's like to play someone else's music and not your own. I think it was a good first experience and I learned a lot from it. It also lead me to play with Outreviolet. Outreviolet (formerly Devotchka) was a completely different sound from Noveltype. It was more pop-influenced, but still had a rock element to it, and sounded like female rock. As unintentional as it was, it just turned out that way. We came together with no specific "sound" in mind and let it develop on it's own. For some background on the name, Devotchka was the original name of the band. We broke up for about a year and reunited as Outreviolet. Mariel developed when Devotchka broke up. It was kind of like shoegaze meets post-hardcore meets noise. It was an experiment for everyone involved; we all had such musical differences which gave the band its own personality and eventual demise. Although, the music I thought was kind of smart and simplistic with a lot of layers and interesting sounds. boy started a few month before Devotchka broke up. It's gone through a lot of different paths. The music started off shy, sad, simplistic, unstructured, and emotional. Then it evolved into a more structured and droney feel and later angry and now it's just a combination of all that... one big ball.

PS: How do you see yourself more as... a musician, or a music artist? And what would you say makes the distinction between the two?

AC: This is kind of a hard question. I don't really think of myself as either. I just play what I think sounds like an expression of how I feel or want to feel.

The definition of both musician and music artist depends on what you consider to be music and what you consider to be art. Personally, I feel that any sound, including silence, is music, whether it be the trees rustling in the wind or someone honking their horn on 49th street. It's an expression and it's movement being expressed through sound naturally, instinctively, systematically, and purposefully. Music is a form of art, and art is any form of expression of yourself, including your values and morals, emotions, perceptions, how you perceive other people's emotions or anything. I may even go as far to say that someone flicking you off in traffic on 49th street is art, or maybe I'm just way in over my head and full of shit. So, to answer your question, I really don't have a definitive answer.


PS: Can you describe to us what the creative process is like for you when it comes to writing a piece of music? Do the words come to you first, is it the music, or both?

AC: Typically the music comes before the words, but I have done it the other way around as well. I usually have to be feeling an extreme emotion, like anger or sadness, for a song to come out of me, or be jamming with other people that take a jam session to where I feel inspired. I'm not easily inspired, so when I am I indulge and marinate and let what's supposed to happen happen.

PS: Where do you see your career heading towards in 2010?

AC: Currently, I'm in NYC in grad school studying Urban Policy and am not working. I do have to do an internship, so I guess I'll end up doing some work involving art policy or development. I plan on doing music and photography on my spare time, so we'll see where all this takes me.

PS: Are you of the opinion that online social network sites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, etc. is necessary for a band to make a name for themselves in this day and age or it all just hype?

AC: I think it depends on how you go about things. We definitely are in a point in time where we're extremely dependent on technology, and all those social networking sites and definitely blogs are necessary if any band wants to make themselves known. There's other ways of getting your name out there, like playing everywhere and anywhere and advertising/marketing yourself by word of mouth and what not. But you definitely need all these things if you want to have your fifteen minutes or more.

PS: If not for music, what else would you see yourself doing for a living?

AC: I'm torn between the political world and the art world, and I think they definitely go hand in hand and are both extremely influential. Maybe I'll end up doing both. Maybe I'll "sell out" and be a politician or work for one, or maybe I won't "sell out" and work for a grassroots organization on getting more rights and benefits for artists or humans in general. I'm letting life determine that for me.

This has been Dr. Gonzo XXVII (or P.S. Elliott for short) reporting for the disassociated press, that is... (and will always be) The Gnoyze Guitar Mods & More Web Blog.

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