Playwright Richard Montoya rose to fame as part of the acclaimed Chicano performance troupe Culture Clash. He shares the music that has inspired and provoked him throughout his career on his Guest DJ set – from KCRW fave Pepi Ginsberg to LA legends Los Lobos and artist/activist Zack De La Rocha. Montoya's 5th book of plays "Oh Wild West" will be published this spring and his play American Night: The Ballad of Juan Jose comes to the Douglas Theater in February 2012.
For more: http://www.consortiumacademic.com/book.php?isbn=9781559363273&disc=41
Anthony Valadez: Hi, I’m Anthony Valadez and I’m here with playwright Richard Montoya, who is part of the acclaimed Chicano performance troupe, Culture Clash. Today we’re going to play excerpts of songs that he’s selected and that have inspired him over the years, as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Richard, how are you?
Richard Montoya: Man, senor Valadez I am so happy to be here. I never knew so many Latinos worked at KCRW, man- Mario, Raul Campos and yourself. I am just delighted to be here. Gracias!
AV: Awesome. What did you bring for us today?
RM: You know, music that has both inspired and instigated me and challenged me throughout the years. I’ve been in L.A. about 20 years and there’s just a constant soundtrack, always in my head. I live in the East Side, near Dodger Stadium, and I always travel to the West Side and the Valley or even the O.C. or out to the desert. But, also, I’ve found myself in far reaches of places like Chiapas, and Oventic or the wrong side of, you know, downtown Detroit with MC5. And in those outreaches this music has inspired me and comforted me. It can sometimes like to be a political artist is kind of a lonely thing sometimes.
AV: What’s the first record you’re going to pull out of your record bag?
RM: Listen, man, Los Lobos is not just an obligatory must, these are virtuoso musicians. I had the pleasure of touring a bit with them, but when I saw them at House of Blues, they did a tribute to Captain Beefheart and it’s just a small tip of the iceberg of their musical knowledge and walking history that they are, but they’re going to take you on a musical journey of their own. They stand, they deliver. This is “Hold On” From “Town in the City” and it’s very much a part of my movie “Water and Power” based on my play.
Song: Los Lobos – Hold On
RM: The lyric “killing myself to survive” is very much what the movie is about, what the characters are trying to say – “I am going to give up something so that you may survive stronger.” And there’s just something in that that is very much a part of our teaching as political artists- that we must strive not only for ourselves. Our struggle is not our bio. Our struggle is not our headshot. My struggle is not Hispanics in Hollywood. My struggle is those less fortunate than us - those people stuck in the margins and the borders of America and that’s where I found most of our stories. And, where you find a lot of this kind of music, whether it be border music or even Ry Cooder or Los Lobos or Texas music or a Passover song hidden inside Mexican border ballads. That’s the stuff of America. That’s what it’s about for me.
AV: Great, well let’s take a listen. It’s Los Lobos’ “Hold On” from “Town and the City.”
AV: So, what’s next for us?
RM: My boy, Zack de la Rocha, you know, frontman Rage Against the Machine, a wonderful cat, a true son of the City of Angels, really. Beto de la Rocha is a muralist and a painter like my dad. One of Zack’s side projects is One Day as a Lion with Jon Theodore, former drummer of Mars Volta. And, these two cats came together and it’s just the two of them making all this noise, being defiant, being a target, when, you know, we are told to kind of hide and run in the shadows, i.e. border crossers, whatever the case may be.
Here comes Zack roaring, you know, out of the East Side with “Ocean View” and I just really admire Zack.
Song: One Day as a Lion – Ocean View
RM: A tip of the hat for Zack. I’ve seen him in Mexico. I’ve seen him in the Zocalo. I’ve seen him in the mountains of Chiapas. And, when subcommander Marcos said you know, take our message, he knew that people like Zack and myself and other artists would take that pretty seriously and that’s very different than the American Idol culture that we’re in now. We really took that to heart and Marcos knew exactly what he was doing and that was a little bit of a departure from the Cesar Chavez non-violence. That was an armed struggle in Chiapas and you found Zack right at the center of it.
AV: Let’s take a listen. This is Zack de la Rocha with “Ocean View,” from One Day as a Lion.
RM: Hit It.
AV: Richard Montoya, part of the Chicano performance troupe, Culture Clash. What’s next?
RM: Everyone needs to party, even me. You know, I don’t want people to think we’re just uber-serious political artists. There’s always a time to party.
I actually heard Pepi Ginsberg on KCRW. I don’t know which prime selector it was, but I think it was on a weekend. It might have been Miss Litt or Liza or Mr. Schnabel, but it just-- the uncanny ability all of you have, all of you, all the selectors here at KCRW for kind of nailing what our soundtrack is for the moment, whether we’re going to a pitch meeting or we just left an audition where you were rejected or you’re trying to line up outside of The Echo or wherever.
But “The Contortionist,” from “Red”, it’s like an emergency Brooklyn party-mobile has just pulled up in front of your gloomy house in Echo Park and it’s time to party.
It’s a chick rocker and she could be a chanteuse from Berlin in the 30s, but it’s not, it’s Pepi Ginsberg from Brooklyn and she rocks.
Song: Pepi Ginsberg: The Contortionist
AV: That was Pepi Ginsberg with “The Contortionist.” I’m joined by Richard Montoya. Man, he’s dropping gems. What’s next?
RM: Well, man, we gotta keep on with the rollin’ on and the White Stripes out of Detroit.
Jack White. No one asks him, no one tells him, He kind of takes up a kind of struggle for us in terms of immigration and anti immigration hysteria. When a white kid from Detroit picks up the mantle for us, it’s terribly helpful man. It puts a tear in my eye and it just really inspires me. It’s as powerful as 6,000 kids marching on Spring St. in Downtown L.A. Those images can tend to scare people. We don’t care, we’re out here with our flags and we march. But, it’s really helpful when an artist such as Jack points out the contradictions of NAFTA and open markets and world markets and yet the immigrant is as vilified as Al Quaeda or, you know, the Taliban.
Song: White Stripes – Icky Thump
AV: That was the White Stripes with “Icky Thump,” selected by playwright Richard Montoya, who is part of the Chicano performance troupe Culture Clash. So, Richard, what’s your last song?
RM: From Chula Vista, down by San Diego, Imperial Beach, all the way up to Humboldt- I have been in some of California’s most dangerous cantinas and I just love being in those moments because that’s usually when I’m doing most of my writing.
It could be a tough bar in Southie in Boston, it could be a bar on the Lower East Side, the way it used to be, it could be a Mexican bar here in Los Angeles. The cantina, when you walk in, I still hear the guitars, the guitar heroes, the guitar gods. And Tattooed Love Dogs is a small indie band from Sacramento, where there is a great tradition of Papa Roach and Chris Isaaks just down from Stockton. The Highway 99 still has a great integral sound.
The Love Dogs, I’ll say, in the interest of full disclosure, my brother, Vinnie is in the band, but he has been with Culture Clash since we started. He was providing music for us in 1984 in The Mission District in San Francisco, so it’s my bro, but that’s besides the point. This band’s been around as long as Culture Clash and they have about 300 original songs and, ultimately Anthony, like everyone on my list today, they’re great storytellers.
AV: This is Tattooed Love Dogs doing “ Shredded Raw Hide.”
Song: Tattooed Love Dogs – Shredded Raw Hide
AV: Thanks for joining us. We really appreciate this music sharing session.
RM: Rock on, KCRW! And all the prime selectors!