Concrete Blonde vocalist
Johnette Napolitano

FIBM:  What's new, what have you been up to lately and what's in the future?

Johnette:   finishing a couple records and getting back to Spain..your 'real world' comment amuses me; this county is so out of touch with reality it's scary

FIBM:  I could not have dreamed a better voice than yours... How did you discover your voice and how long did it take for you to develop it?

Johnette:   thank you. as long as I can remember. About 8 years old I started, I think.

FIBM:   Who are some of your idols, or people that you admire?

Johnette:   Nikola Tesla, Julia Butterfly-Hill, Leonard Cohen, teachers, and people who work in hospitals and do the day to day social work that go unnoticed.

FIBM:   You have been playing flamenco guitar. What prompted you to begin playing that type of music? How long have you been playing?

Johnette:   no. I dance and sing flamenco. On and off for about 10 years. It's the only music that really moves me anymore and has a long history...which is gypsy history,, generally speaking Flamenco is the music of a persecuted people.

FIBM:  When I contacted you a few weeks ago, you were leaving the next day to Spain, for an intensive flamenco study. What were a few of the highlights from the trip?

Johnette:  many.. Namely a better quality of life. It's nice to be in a country that doesn't consider war it's primary reason for existence.

FIBM:  Who did you study under?

Johnette:  I had many teachers but probably my favorite was Lourdes Recio who was an apprentice to my favorite living female dancer, Eva la Yerbabuena. My teacher is the states is Juan Talavera, who I like very much as he is a man and I like the strength of a male dancer.

FIBM:   Where & when did concrete blonde form? Give a brief description, if you would please,
of your life during that time.

Johnette:   about 1980. I was just working away at dayjobs and watching lots of indie labels start and was inspired by the DIY attitude of the punk labels. We couldn't keep a bass player as we weren't trendy so I had to learn to play bass myself. I taught myself how to record on 2 cassette machines in the bathroom at night and worked my ass off during the day.

FIBM:  How long before the band got picked up by the label? What was happening during that period that got the band signed. Any highlights?

  people wanted me but not the band: I turned down Columbia at the time whose A&R guy loved my singing but didn't think I could write songs and didn't like Jim's guitar playing. We did a demo for Elektra but they wanted us to cover a Credence Clearwater song and I didn't want to be famous for a cover song. We were almost finished recording our first album ourselves when Miles Copeland heard it and wanted us we reminded him of the Police: good songs,, 3 people, low overhead, dying to hit the road.

FIBM:  What was your most fond memory or memories during the recording of the Mexican Moon record.

  misery. We fought the whole time, it was our last record, and everyone had turned into assholes and I wanted a life of my own.

FIBM:  I loved all your records, in their own way, but I truly thought you had written a perfect record with Mexican Moon. How could the band break up after such a wonderful release? Was it the label? Was it the band? Please explain.

Johnette:  the band. They were taking everything very much for granted and attracting parasites and it was basically all on my back and I was damn sick of it. I wanted to further my education and study art, which I did. My planet is not all about rock and roll and never has been.

FIBM:  Did you ever make any money, from record sales, in Concrete Blonde or were you always recouping?

Johnette:  of course I have.

FIBM:  What was a typical royalty rate for a major label, at that time?

Johnette:  who the fuck knows

Johnette in her pre-Concrete Blonde days, that's Johnette with the gypsy head gear
FIBM:   Do you own the publishing for the major label releases? How did your publishing agreement work?

Johnette:  go buy a book on the music business already. I make my own rules; I don't go by what the standard business practices are.

FIBM:  How do signed bands make money? I have heard that they usually don't make money from sales, unless they sell millions, and I have heard they don't make money touring. If that is the case, then how do they make money at all?

Johnette:  jesus dude. I've made money from recording and have made money touring; it's common fucking sense, just keep your overhead low. A lot of bands are a lot more interested in their hair than their books, and are too busy living like the cliched rock star..and if you do get any money invest it IS show biz after all and it's very fickle in general.. real estate is not.

FIBM:  In your opinion, how much of a role does a good producer play?

Johnette:  depends on the artist, depends on the producer.

FIBM:  What producer, current or in the past, did you like the most?

Johnette:  Danny Lohner, hands down.

FIBM:  I noticed that some of your records have been re-released. Did someone license them, or were you able to release them yourself?

Johnette:  they've been re-released and licensed by whatever company owned the masters at the time and typically a label has the right to do that. I've had no part in any of them; I think they're ripping fans off. How many times can you puke up the same shit, for Christ's sake?

FIBM:  How has your view of the music industry changed since the eighties?

Johnette:   not a bit: I've been treated well by both majors and indies; and I've been fucked by majors AND indies, so all this pro-indie shit makes me laugh because people are people and they'll either do a good job or doesn't matter how big or small the company is.

FIBM:  What are your 3 most fond memories / highlights of being in Concrete Blonde?

Johnette:  being able to visit places I never would have otherwise: Peru, Brazil, Europe, Australia. My world is bigger. We're talking to Russia right now and that would be amazing as my grandmother was Russian

FIBM:  Any regrets? Is there anything that you would do differently, if you started over, but lived the same life?

Johnette:   not one. Not a single one   


FIBM:  What is your most disgusting habit?

Johnette:  hmmm. being a bad housekeeper but now that I've
quit smoking pot the place is a lot cleaner most of the time

FIBM:  What is the most masculine thing you do?

Johnette:  probably playing the bass, and I work a lot with hammers and saws and shit.

FIBM:  If there is a God, what is the first question you would ask God when you arrive?

Johnette:   did I do ok? sorry if I fucked up.

FIBM:  Greatest Rock band of all time?

Johnette:  hmmm. probably the Clash...and X would have to be up there.

FIBM:  What were you doing 40 minutes before you sat down to do this interview?

Johnette:  reading a short story by a Chinese writer.

Johnette Napolitano
Kinda punched me in my nuts a few times, but, despite her best efforts, she still managed to share a bit of wisdom... "fuck the hair and buy some real estate, nut sack,".....or something along those lines. Definitely, "keep overhead low, fucker!!" What amazes me is the fact that most bands, after two or three albums, progressively get worse, whether it be lack of interest, running out of ideas, or too wasted to notice. Concrete Blonde already had a full career, beginning in the early eighties. In 1993 they released Mexican Moon and I was completely enthralled with every aspect of that record. It is a masterpiece, a bona fide CLASSIC! Great production, great songs, great vocals, great ideas.

I believe Johnette Napolitano is one of the GREATS, please stand up and help me give her a giant kiss on the mouth...that's opened-mouth, people!! -AI

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