Takes One To Know One… CROOKED COWBOY > 8/24/12
I was very excited to do this interview as Bron is a friend, and I’m a huge fan of his work. I can’t describe his music any better than to say it breaks my heart. Terribly. But it’s got hope like things of this world we need, have – Amanda Jo Williams interviews The Crooked Cowboy
Crooked Cowboy: Yes. My aunt, Dea Harris. She did ink and paint for Chuck Jones for over 30 years of her life. She lived in Mount Washington. She’d have art shows in Mount Washington. She became famous in her own little way out there.
AJW: 4 generations is a long time.
CC: It is a long time. It means a lot to me to have that root in Los Angeles. But yeah, that’s the really creative side of my family. I love that side.
AJW: You and I did a bit of hanging out at your old place, a converted barn, in Mount Washington. How did you find that place and what did you do in there?
CC: That was my aunt’s place. I bought it off my father. I was the highest bidder by $10, 000. I bought it and I developed Crooked Cowboy for seven years in there.
AJW: That leads to my next question. You took a break from music for 7 years, where you hid away from the world. You turned your phone off and had pretty much no contact with friends. Did you play music during that time? What provoked this?
CC: Yeah, I developed Crooked Cowboy for seven years. I left the music industry after having a number one record with Everlast, “House Of Pain.” I toured two years with Everlast and our last show was Woodstock when the kids rioted and burned down the stage. And I, the next week I threw away my phone, I bought my family’s house with my savings, and I disappeared for seven years. I had very minimal contact with people. I developed my recording skills, my writing skills, all my skills for music. I recorded and did demos for 7 years and that’s the music that’s coming out now, from that 7 years.
AJW: When was this 7 years?
AJW: Why are you so good at tennis?
CC: Because I was a prodigy when I was a kid. A tennis prodigy. Tennis is a very rhythmatic sport. It’s all about rhythm. I ended up winning my first tournament when I was five years old. I had trainers until I was like 12 or 13, something like that.
AJW: Who were the Blue Hawaiians?
CC: We were a surf group in Hollywood. I was in The Blue Hawaiians from like, i think ’92-’97 and we started a club called Lava Lounge. We played every Sunday for five and a half years of my life. Every Sunday. And we ended up doing a lot of shows on the side and that’s how we ended up playing for movie stars like Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Sean Penn.
AJW: You toured with Everlast on guitar? Describe that experience.
CC: I was touring with him playing guitars, steel guitar, homemade basses, samplers. I was the all around guy in that group. I was playing a little bit of everything. You can look it up online on youtube. They have me playing Woodstock in front of 200,000 people. It was totally insane. And I do like this big guitar solo, man. Guitaring out dude. That was pretty crazy. That’s why I left the music industry because it was horrible to play there. The kids burned down Woodstock. It wasn’t handled right. The outhouse situation was terrible. The ATMs were broken. It was like 105 degrees. Kids couldn’t get any water, they couldn’t get money for water. And then while I was playing music there were like 6 rape accusations. And that’s when I left the music industry. That was my last show. Isn’t that just horrible? That’s not why I started playing music. I didn’t play music so women could get raped while I’m playing. It really affected me. I walked away from everything, including huge offers from like Dr. Dre. Many people wanted me. Potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars I walked away from. All so I could do Crooked Cowboy now.
AJW: Do you write songs with a bass or mostly guitar, and how do you choose which one to play when you perform them live?
CC: I’ll write a song with anything. I’ll write a song with drums, or flute, or anything. It comes in so many different forms. Whatever it comes in it comes in ya know? But I mostly play on guitars right now cuz I’m kind of the glue of the band. The guitar’s the glue. I hold the band together playing guitar and bass. If I didn’t have to I wouldn’t do it. I’d much rather be a little bit more of a performer and less of a guitar player while I’m up there. But I’m a goddamn good guitar player so I gotta go do it ya know?
AJW: And what’s up with flatwound strings?
CC: What’s up with flatwound strings? You have to use flatwound strings for 60’s pick bass. That’s what gives it the 60’s orchestral garage sound and the roots country sound. If you have roundwound strings you better go back to the drawing board. If you use roundwound you’re really lame. It sounds like Seinfeld. I hate that Seinfeld sound.
AJW: Why is tone so important to you?
CC: It evokes the spirit. It opens up spirit so to let the music into your soul. Tone is everything. That’s the opener of the soul so that then you can accept the melody and the lyrics. Tone is like number one. That’s what the person immediately goes towards. Every human being goes toward tone. Then the next is melody and lyrics and arrangement and everything else. For me to have my 50’s and 60’s tone is extremely important. It’s of the utmost importance.
AJW: Is it painful for you when you create music? Is it painful when you perform it?
CC: That’s actually a good question. Yeah, “Annalog and Her Hopeful Diaries” is a pretty tough song to sing because I say I’m the most hated man I’ve ever known, in the song. And that’s not easy to sing. So yeah, there are some songs that are pretty difficult to get through. That was a really low time in my life. Really low. Which I’ve had so many.
AJW: You put together an orchestra a few years ago at the Echoplex. Why did you want to do that? Who was in the orchestra? Was it a lot of work?
CC: There’s so many people that played I couldn’t go through the names. Everybody that I wanted up there on stage was on stage. It was almost 40 people. And I did it because I was playing, I was writing music in about four different scenes of music. Folk scene, rock and roll scene, the spaghetti western scene, the punk scene. I was in all of those scenes, including hip hop. I felt like a jerk cuz I was playing with everybody but everybody wasn’t playing with each other. So I put together an orchestra so everybody was playing with each other. And it involved the entire community. I love when community pulls together and is doing something for a really, really great cause which is music, ya know, to bring us all together. It really makes me so, so happy. It’s one of the reasons I’m living, because of that. And was it a lot of work? Yes, I did all the work myself, one person at a time. I didn’t let anybody help me. No one was allowed to help me. I didn’t want any help from anybody because I didn’t want anyone to screw it up, and if they’d screwed it up I would have been very upset, ya know? So I did it all myself. I’m really proud of that. People were offering to help but i was like I don’t want your help. The orchestra was, right now, the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life. The most important thing, bringing everybody together. Community.
AJW: Are you going to do another one?
CC: I would do another one if it was.. the next thing that I wanted to do was that same type of orchestra of all band people in front of like the L.A. Philharmonic. So it’d be like a hundred plus people onstage. Like 130 or 140. I’d want to arrange all band people sitting down like we did and then have the L.A. Phil behind us and then take that whole thing around the world and play with every major city orchestra around the world. I would do that. I would love to do that. That was definitely a goal I was shooting towards. Would love to do that man. That’d be extraordinary.
AJW: How would you describe the music you play? Your influences?
CC: I describe it as western soundtrack music mixed with songwriting mixed with instrumental compositions that I take from around the world. I consider it to be continental. Intercontinental western music. How bout that one huh? Sounds sexy. Sounds real sexy. I take from everything. Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Polish. Everybody was playing western music at one time in the world. Everybody. Nobody wasn’t. The Vietnamese, the Polacks, the Russians, the Thai’s, all that stuff. I love 60’s Vietnamese lounge music. That’s why Crooked Cowboy is a very wide experience. When you’ve seen the first song you have not seen the last song. At all. It’s really wide. The next song is so different from the one before it.
AJW: I think this album is excellent. I actually think the album is perfect, if there’s such a thing as, if an album can be perfect. I could hear it all in movies and shows. How did this album come together? Why did you choose these songs?
CC: That’s a good question too Amanda. Um, I was working on a record, of a conceptual album based upon a story about two water buffalos, which that has become like my mascot in life, the water buffalo. And I was deep in it, and I was 70 days out from the deadline and it wasn’t working well with the engineer I was working with. Not that I didn’t like him because I do a lot but we weren’t working well together so I had to switch gears and I decided of those 7 years I disappeared, to put together all those songs that I never released, that’d just been sitting there. And most of them are proven ya know. Like two people covered “Annalog”, three people covered “Bumpy Roads”. It’s in three films “Bumpy Roads” is. I decided to put out songs that were proven. I just wanted that to be an effort to get some of these songs out, so they could have their day. It kind of unclogged my spirit a little bit. It feels really bad having good songs sitting there that the world’s never really heard. It feels really bad. I get clogged up. I can’t really function too well. It’s true. I don’t function as well as I could as a human. It was important for me to get them out. It was a last minute decision.
AJW: Remember that time we were driving around in my mini-van and we heard a scream-we drove up to the scream to find a woman having her purse ripped from her body by a guy who then jumped into a car, and they sped away? We then gave chase, flew onto the highway, and I called the cops while you drove near 100? Was that fun?
CC: That was fun. Yeah, that was a lot of fun. We were being reckless. We were being really crazy. I have to slow that down now because of my heart attack. You should probably ask me about my heart attack.
AJW: I’m going to. It’s my next question. You suffered a major heart attack a few months back. Please describe that event and if it has changed the way you look at and treat life. Also, tell us about the medical fund you’ve set up.
CC: At 12:30 at night I had my first of a series of heart attacks. It hit me pretty quick and hard, but I thought it was some major chest congestion. And I was definitely not feeling well and then I went back to sleep and then woke at about 5:15 in the morning having a massive heart attack. It was a long heart attack. My arteries were clogging. It was a three artery cardiac arrest. So one of them was shut down a 100 percent and the other two were 95 percent shut down. So basically I was dying. And um, that was just fucking horrible. And the reason I set up the fundraiser was because the disability for the state has not kicked in. My doctors’ visits are extraordinary, like no one’s paying for them, and they can go upwards of $600 because ultrasounds, the doctor’s visit, EKG, and if he prescribes more medication, and the medications are about $370 a month. And the state has not kicked in. Disability has not kicked in. Nothing has kicked in. They’re dragging their heels on it. So they saved my life for $160,000. That’s what the surgeries cost. I didn’t do any follow up for my condition after the surgery for five months until the fundraiser allowed me to do that. That’s when I had my first check up. The nurses were like you’re crazy, you should have had a check up a week after you were out of the hospital. And I was like I didn’t have any money to afford this until my friends had a fundraiser. Thank god man. A lot of fucking money man. I don’t know about you but I don’t have that kind of money and I’m trying to live off being a musician. The fundraiser helped, but it was gone quick. I appreciated what everybody did. It was really kind and moving.
AJW: So did having a heart attack change the way you look at, or treat life?
CC: Yeah. There’s an urgency. It’s another reason I released those songs that I released. There’s an urgency to my life now. I’m not sure what’s going to happen in my life now as far as future heart attacks and things like that. And, I wanna get all my music out now. I want all my music and my art , i wanna get it out now, because I really don’t know if I’ll be around in the next year. Or next month. Or next week. Ever since the heart attack, I’ve had some problems with it. A lot of problems. I’m really worried if I’m going to be alive or not so I want all my material done.
AJW: Anything you would like to add?
CC: I’m in the middle of my next release, a single with Ariel Pink. That’s going to be released in the next few months through Origami Records. And I’m working on a current ep of current material that I play in my set. That’s half way through right now. I’m going in to mix a live album that I made also, to get that out to whatever company wants to put it out, and The Cinefamily has asked me to re-edit and rescore 1972 West World. Remade Westworld by the Crooked Cowboy. That’s really exciting. The Cinefamily has backed me, written my grants. That’s a big deal. That’s the biggest thing I’ve ever tried to do in my life that’s bigger than the orchestra. I’m shaking in my boots on that one. But I’m going for it. I believe in high goals for myself. I set high goals man. I’m really excited. That should be in the spring of next year, as well as touring and all that.
AJW: Oh yeah, what are your songs mostly about?
CC: Every song is for either a person or a group of people. Different people within the song. I never write songs for myself. I never have. I’ve never written one song in my life for me. For other people. They’re usually about love, loneliness, loss of love, and loss of people in my life. I’ve lost so many that are still living because I’ve had a really tumultuous life. I’ve lost a lot of people including my family and friends. And I made myself go through really rough times. Nobody did that but me. I did it all myself. I take full responsibility man. I don’t blame anybody. Yeah. It’s all me.