Interview: Chagall Guevara

[Image: Interview: Chagall Guevara - Cornerstone Magazine, June(?) 1991 Page 31 Thumbnail]
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[Image: Interview: Chagall Guevara - Cornerstone Magazine, June(?) 1991 Page 37 Thumbnail]
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Cornerstone Magazine Volume 20 Issue 95
June(?) 1991
© 1991 Jesus People USA-Evangelical Covenant Church
Pages 31, 37

When Steve Taylor and a few friends disappeared from the Christian music scene two years ago, rumors surfaced about a "band" of mercenaries fighting in the hills and freeing rebels. Well, revolutionaries they may be, but not in the hills of some obscure country. Indeed, the members of Chagall Guevara are "artistic" revolutionaries right here in the good ol' U.S. of A. and are ready to knock the socks off of anyone with "ears to hear." Band members Steve Taylor and Dave Perkins, hot from recording their first album for MCA, spoke with C-stone--and occasionally were serious.


Steve Taylor

We're looking forward to seeing you at the fest. What was the last year you came out?

Steve: To Cornerstone? '86 or '87. I remember we had those memorial T-shirts printed up.

For the broken leg, right? No worries. We're putting up a fence across the stage for you this year. Seriously, how do you feel about coming out again?

Steve: Actually, I'm really looking forward to it. To me, Cornerstone has always been the one truly "rock" festival of all the festivals I've played in the U.S.

How did the band as a whole feel about it?

Steve: It's the never-ending conversation that goes on in the band, the continuous dialogue of, Where do we fit in? I think what finally clicked in with everybody is the fact that Christians involved in rock'n'roll have this feeling, We're stuck in this subculture. How do we get out? But what you realize when you get to the other side of the fence is every band's playing for some subculture. Once they get successful and become million-sellers they can go after two or three subcultures at once. So we all thought, Hey, let's do it. This'll be fun.

Tell us how Chagall Guevara was formed.

Steve: Our band wasn't five guys just out of high school saying, Gee, I don't want to go to college; let's form a band. Three of the guys have children. There's...I lost track...eight, nine, twelve kids between us. They're everywhere. And so for Dave or Lynn or Mike or Wade to come home one day and say, "Honey, I think we'll be in a rock band," it's a big jump. It's easier for me and my wife because we don't have a lot of obligations. We don't have a mortage to meet and we don't have kids. But for those guys it was a serious leap of faith.

How are you making ends meet?

Steve: It's only by the grace of God because collectively, we've had everything from cars repossessed to people getting kicked out of their places of residence, all that stuff. But, you know, you get together and you decide this is what you're supposed to be doing, so that's what you do. No big deal, bands do it all the time.

This would be a good time to ask about the legendary Taylor honda, the one you always write about in your liner notes. You still drivin' that pup?

Steve: Oh, yeah, while you're praying about other stuff, pray for that Honda. It's got 136,000 miles. The bad thing is it's been bashed so many times now...I'm only missing one dent. I've got one on both sides and one in the back. All I need is one good front-end collision.

How is the album selling?

Steve: It's selling slowly and steadily. We haven't been on a tour yet...

Anything in the works?

Steve: We were supposed to be an opening band for Graham Parker, but he wanted to be an opening band for someone else. Then we were gonna go with the Kinks, and then the Kinks decided they weren't going to tour. We've been left standing at the altar twice. And right about now I think we'd open for Miami Sound Machine if the opportunity came up. But in the meantime we're going out and doing dates in the Southeast, playing in clubs. We've been opening gigs for everybody from The Smithereens, to The Violent Femmes, to The Call. We're gonna be opening for Gene Loves Jezebel. That'll be nice because after opening for them nobody will be able to accuse me of being a poser.

What's the next step for Chagall Guevara?

Steve: We're just gonna keep slugging away. We go to England in August, and the record company is continuing to work the record to alternative radio, and they're doing another single. But it's mostly a matter of getting on the road and getting in front of people. Hopefully they'll like it. If we had a dollar for every good review we've gotten...

Is there a level of success you would need to see in order to carry on with this, or would you go on no matter what?

Steve: At this point, we're in so deep we're probably gonna carry on no matter what, because we've sunk the last couple years of our lives into this, and we're really happy with the record. The idea of Dave and Lynn and me actually being happy with the same record seemed virtually impossible before we started recording. We've decided, Gee, I think we've got something here. We have to make sure that it gets out to the people, and that's why we'll keep plugging away. We've got two firm, and an eight-option deal with MCA, so they've another record due them anyway.

Do you guys have a video coming out?

Steve: We did a video and MTV has not yet played it. Of course, they played right into our hands, 'cause we didn't really want 'em to play it anyway, you know. We wanted to be turned down by MTV. So we're pretty happy about that. We're hoping everything else kind of falls right into place, too. We also have this overall game plan that we never want to show up on any Billboard charts, and so far...they're playing right into our hands, too.

So you write the PR for the band, then.

Steve: That's right. But yeah, we did a video. It was down in a cave about a hundred miles south of Tennessee. You go into this narrow opening and down these sort of narrow tunnels, and it opens up on this huge room with a giant chandelier. So we set up sort of a postapocalyptic feel. We brought all our friends down and had them participating in this violent feasting while we played our hearts out, and they just totally ignore us. It's not a bad video, actually.

Sounds real interesting. Where's the inspiration come from? I mean, what've you been reading lately?

Steve: Everybody feeds on all kinds of stuff...what a question. I just read The Brothers Karamazov and John Irving's book A Prayer for Owen Meany. Liked both of those a lot. I just read a biography of Django Reinhardt and I've always got a C.S. Lewis book going. Right now I'm in the Book of Acts. So I'm juggling all those. Dave just read a biography of Allen Ginsberg. When we get together and talk literature, it's usually pretty lively. It's fun, 'cause we always fight fair, y'know. Really, we get into all kinds of arguments. One of the recent ones was whether rap was the new punk or the new disco. We were at Denny's and I didn't actually get on the table, but I came close. People give us dirty looks if we keep coming into their restaurant or coffee shop, because they don't want us to disturb the other customers.

When you guys play the fest, are you gonna be able to walk around at all, say hi to everybody?

Steve: Well, I hope so. We don't have any delusions that we can't walk around. We'll be nice, you know, but even at that, I have a hard time borrowing money.

But the way, Steve, with the fest being so far out in the boonies this year we're not gonna bother with electricity. So make sure to bring your megaphones.

Steve: We could probably get ahold of a Peavey vocal master or some such. It'll be great! It's good talking to you. Give Dave a call in the morning and get the real facts from him.

Dave Perkins

Chagall Guevara's being touted as "the band without an agenda." I guess this is a loaded question, but what is it you hope to accomplish by not having an agenda?

Dave: We were going through...I think I would best call it a season--a season of wondering--certainly not of disbelief, but a season of wondering and sorting through a variety of questions, suspicions, and observations on the structural religious community in the United States. And to come up with a credo, even if it was real, would have been very, very difficult. Of course we each brought along personal baggage, personal agendas, feelings, beliefs, hopes, and dreams. All levels of experience--financial, artistic, spiritual--were brought in. We just found ourselves in a place in time where it wasn't possible for us to come up with an agenda.

Do you have any thoughts or feelings about playing Cornerstone?

Dave: I'm glad we're playing, because the thing to us is people, and the reason that we want to play is to get in front of people. Whether you catch us at Cornerstone or at The Bottom Line in New York, it's all about people. Definitely.

What is a Chagall Guevara concert like?

Dave: We draw a lot of...carnival people. A lot of gypsies. And in and among that number, I'd say there's a fair number of preachers' children.


Dave: Yeah. Carnies, gypsies, and preachers' kids.

What's your show like? What happens first?

Dave: Well, the show is still in the developmental stage. Right now, what one gets when they come to see us is five different entities, five different energy types, certainly five different physical types. People think the music is eclectic even thought it hangs together and sounds like the same band. Of course, you know what Steve does--he does what he always did and more.

We really liked your new album--especially Lynn bringing in his own psychedelic sound. On a more personal level, how's it going for you? You have a wife and kids--are you making ends meet?

Dave: It's really difficult. Basically, it's the beginning, our name, Chagall Guevara, didn't necessarily mean a darn thing. However, one aspect of it ironically rung true. Che Guevara was a young man who gave up his career as an established physician to go and fight in the jungle for the ideals he felt would benefit his country. I'm not saying that he was right or wrong. But basically we've had to walk away from where we had established ourselves, and give everything up just when it was starting to get comfortable, even fun. This has meant turning away from just about every other source of income to be able to do this.

What's that like on a daily level?

Dave: First off, there is provision. It's not...ham and stuffed Spam, but there is provision. The one thing about the band is that we're walking the same path, and we're walking with our arms linked. Not only have I linked myself artistically, but I've linked my family to Steve's, Lynn's, Mike's, Wade's families. And we kind of love and die together on a day-by-day basis. The band has been a tremendous growing experience for all of us. We've all been changed foundationally by having to deal with each other.

What was the best concert you guys have done?

Dave: The best one I thought we've done was at a place called the Top Cafe in Huntsville, Alabama. Half the floor was like clumps of dirt. We had press flying in from all over the country so we had to sharpen up a little bit. We went down and played the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and then the agency said they had this other date in Huntsville. Our contract read 8:00. We were finished setting up about 7:15, and by the time we did our sound check it was 7:50. We thought we'd start ten minutes early, you know--there were only five or six people in the club. And so we did the whole show minus three songs, and this big, old doorman comes up to us and says, "Boys, that's the longest sound check I've ever heard." I said, "Sound check! This is the show!" He said, "Man, nobody starts around here till 11:00." I said, "Well, our contract says 8:00." He says, "We don't read no contracts." So we came back and did the regular show, and it was great. The band arced that night. We've been a different band on a musicality level ever since.

What if the big breakthrough never comes? What if the two-album option runs out and you're still wondering where to go, what to do?

Dave: I think at that point we would ask ourselves a lot of questions. That would only be natural. But for myself, I seem to be in a season of release, where you work at it and you chase it because you feel that it's a good thing to be doing with your life. You go on. I think anybody that steps to the plate for their time at bat has to count on the fact that either they're gonna strike out or they're gonna get walked, which means they're gonna at least get on base, but it may not be spectacular, it might not be a home run. I think that unfortunately for a lot of people, it's either a strikeout or a home run, like a base hit isn't good enough. And I hope I'm not speaking prophetically about the band, 'cause we want a home run. But it's a very difficult think to get anymore. For a band like us it takes a long time.

Well, we're prayin' for you.

Dave: Thanks.

Great guys, great music. Pray for them and their families as they eke out a living and trust the Lord to provide. And oh, yeah...pray for Steve's Honda.