Dave Alvin first received acclaim in L.A. roots rockers The Blasters, for which he was the primary songwriter, and whose revved up take on rhythm and blues won favor in the early-1980s punk rock scene and beyond. After a short stint with country-punkers The Knitters and punk-rockers X, Alvin launched a highly regarded solo career that continues to this day. His latest album, Eleven Eleven, came out in 2011.
Dave Alvin & The Guilty Ones will be performing Wednesday night at the Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez, as part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the Tales from the Tavern series. Click here for tickets.
The following is from a phone interview with Alvin. Click here for the full interview..
Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at your upcoming concert at the Maverick Saloon?
Dave Alvin: The greatest live show you’ve ever seen [laughs]. Kind of a little bit of everything — old songs, new songs, in-between songs. It’ll be a little loud, and it’ll be a little quiet at times. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll, blues, folky kind of thing.
JM: I know you’ve performed as part of Tales from the Tavern several times before, and this is now their 10th anniversary. As an artist, what is special to you about Tales from the Tavern?
DA: Well, part of it is Ron Colone and his sister, Carole Ann. They’re great people, and they’ve always made me feel very much at home and welcome there. I know that that’s true for other artists that I’ve talked to that’ve played for that. You’re just at ease there, more than at some other places.
JM: I saw you perform last October at the Lobero Theatre, the scene of the crime if you will. There’s the story of The Blasters playing there and the crowd getting out of control. Can you give a quick synopsis of what happened there?
DA: Long story short, they didn’t have enough security. I think maybe they had one security guy there, and he kind of disappeared when things started getting out of hand. Our road crew had to get involved in keeping revelers off the stage. It was a time and place thing.
But the thing about The Blasters was that we were just playing our version of old rhythm and blues, all hopped up and fast, but that’s all there was. It struck a chord that night, and several other nights in several other cities we were banned from [laughs]. It wasn’t like we were calling for people to burn down the city, you know. We were just playing our songs. Our attitude was always that when these things happened we didn’t stop playing, because we weren’t going to let that stop us from playing.
Our job as musicians is to play. And your job as a promoter, this that and the other, is to make sure these things don’t happen. Whether that’s the right attitude or not, that was our attitude.
JM: When you started your solo career, what kind of goals did you have in mind, and do you think you were successful with that?
DA: Well, the goals I had in mind ... I didn’t really have any, except that I wanted to be a better songwriter, and continue being a songwriter. It was difficult in The Blasters because I wrote the songs for my brother to sing. And you run out of things that you share after some point. There’s less and less. You know, “We both like this, so I wrote a song about this. Now you like that, and I hate that, so I’m not gonna write a song about that. I like this, and you hate this, and I feel like ...” You know what I mean?
Also, when you’re in a band situation you can only play songs that a band wants to play. You bring in a waltz or a polka, and if it’s a band like The Blasters they’re just going to look at you like, “What, are you nuts?” So I just wanted to kind of have the songs dictate my life, as opposed to a band dictate my life.
Over the years, more and more, when I go to the studio, whether it’s recording acoustically or electrically, I let the song decide what the song’s gonna be. The songs will tell you. They’ll say, “I’m an
acoustic song,” or “I’m an electric song,” or “I’m either one, what’s your mood today?” I tend to follow that.
JM: How would you compare the experiences of performing live vs. recording in the studio?
DA: It depends on what kind of recording you’re doing. But I live to play live. That’s my favorite thing to do. That’s where the transcendental communication happens between the artist and the audience. And when you’re playing oddball music like I play, the fact that my weird little songs touch people and they give that back to me, they show me that songs that I think are weirdly esoteric and whatever mean something to them, is a big addiction. If I could get two nights off a week to eat well and do laundry, yeah, I could spend five nights a week on the road for the rest of my life.
JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future? Any new albums in the works?
DA: There’s always albums in my brain. But my plan is to play the next gig. That’s the extent of my career planning, always has been. Songs will come when they come, and you write them down and you record them. But again, like I said earlier, playing live, that’s my deal.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.