Interview with Alt-Country Player Al Perry

Posted: March 27, 2017 in Interviews, Music
Tags: , , , , , ,

Sharp & Pointed: You grew up in Phoenix, but I can’t imagine you as a shitkicker. What kind of music were you listening to back then?

Al Perry: I don’t know about that. I have some definite shitkicker elements. I’m an intellectual redneck! (Someone else called me that). So it was country around the house, like Marty Robbins and Eddy Arnold. Spent a lot of time in my room with a little transistor radio listening to the AM top 40 of the Sixties, and what was considered oldies back then.

Sharp & Pointed: Who were some of your favorite bands and solo artists then?

Al Perry: I started out with the Beatles, like many of us that age. Then went to Cream, Airplane, Hendrix, and such.

Sharp & Pointed: Has your opinion of them changed over time? If so, how and why?

Al Perry: I don’t like hippie or psychedelic stuff so much any more. Hendrix is still good though I didn’t listen to him for many years. Some of the Cream stuff is too self indulgent for me now. Still like the Beatles, though now I don’t pay as much attention to them as I did. You could not escape them then. They were on the radio all the time. Same with the Beach Boys, who I’ve loved for a long, long time. I don’t even listen to hardly any rock anymore. Bores me. I got through the Seventies on jazz and blues. Parker, Coltrane, Dolphy, Muddy, Clifton, and the like.

Sharp & Pointed: When did you start playing music? What instrument(s)? What styles were you playing?

Al Perry: Had piano lessons for a short time, then guitar. Like this was in third grade. Glad I had them though, they really helped out later. But really, it was well after high school before I became interested enough in playing to take it up. By that time I was sick of rock and was starting to explore blues and jazz. Seventies Rock got REALLY stale. ‘Til the Pistols shook everything up and got me interested again.

Sharp & Pointed: When did you start playing in bands?

Al Perry: In college.

Sharp & Pointed: What kind of music?

Al Perry: My first band was the Subterranean Blues Band here in Tucson. We did OK for the short time we were together. Played parties then later got some great opening slots: Roy Buchanan, John Cougar, Blasters, Fabulous Thunderbirds, maybe more. Don’t remember. Then I was in the Hecklers, a sort of “roots punk band” that was very loud and pretty fun, we were reviewed in Maximum Rock n’ Roll, and Jello Biafra was a fan. I’ve known him for decades now. The Hecklers morphed into the Cattle.

Sharp & Pointed: Who were some of the bands and musicians you were playing with then?

Al Perry: George Howard was vocals and drums in the Subs. Also the late Pat McAndrews on guitar. My buddy Lee Poole. We are still in touch a lot. Same with George.

Sharp & Pointed: Did you do vocals when you started playing in bands, or did that come later? If so, when?

Al Perry: After the Subs I played bass for a couple months in a Southern Rock Band. We actually did an album. Whoa! My first record. Highly prized collectable now. Not. I was only meant to be temporary and left. Lack of interest in that stuff. Then it was the Hecklers. I sang a little in that and wrote all the songs. That morphed into Al Perry and the Cattle.

Sharp & Pointed: You moved from Phoenix to Tucson ages ago. When and why?

Al Perry: I moved away at the first available opportunity, which was school. Had to get out. Hated it in Phoenix.

Sharp & Pointed: Why didn’t you ever move back to Phoenix? Why not?

Al Perry: Haven’t you ever been there? It’s HORRIBLE. Even when I go up I come back as soon as I can. I still have many great friends there though. It’s gotten better there, but I would not want to actually live there. 

Sharp & Pointed: When did you start playing cowpunk (alt-country? whatever)? Why?

Al Perry: I guess that was the Hecklers and then Cattle. Both bands explored roots type music, doing that stuff but with a modern energy. Punk was happening and that injected some fresh whatever into rock. I did not really think that mixing stuff up inappropriately was unusual. It was just what you did. I didn’t try to do anything, it just sort of happened. I guess I was an early inventor of “cowpunk” or at least it’s fun to frame it that way. HAW!

Sharp & Pointed: What’s the best experience you’ve ever had playing music?

Al Perry: Too many to mention, my friend.

Sharp & Pointed: What’s the worst experience you’ve ever had playing music?

Al Perry: WAY too many to mention! HA!

Sharp & Pointed: You play both in bands and as a solo performer. Which do you prefer, and why?

Al Perry: I like bands of course. It is fun to hear your songs fleshed out. It’s also like a gang. I only do solo because I am so lazy anymore.

Sharp & Pointed: What do you like about playing in bands?

Al Perry: Fuckin’ rockin’ out LOUD dude.

Sharp & Pointed: What do you dislike about playing in bands?

Al Perry: Guys messing up my vision. Idiots who don’t have musicianship. It is important to play for the song, not for yourself. Some clowns don’t get that.

Sharp & Pointed: What do you like about solo performing?

Al Perry: The only thing I like about it is that it’s ME and me only that is responsible for the success or failure of any given performance.

Sharp & Pointed: You’re a prolific songwriter. What’s your songwriting process? Or is there more than one?

Al Perry: I am absolutely not prolific, unless you count these instrumentals and stuff, that I just consider thrown together. To me, songwriting is really a vocal, lyrics, verse chorus kind of thing.

Sharp & Pointed: How has the music biz changed over the years?

Al Perry: No one is interested anymore and there are way way way too many people in bands.

Sharp & Pointed: Is it harder or easier to make a living playing music now than it was 20 or 30 years ago? Why?

Al Perry: Much harder. People are not interested.

Sharp & Pointed: Has American pop music (everything from jazz to rock to country) been getting better or worse during your lifetime? Why?

Al Perry: Worse, of course. But I am interested in so many things, there is always something new to discover.

Sharp & Pointed: Are there any aspects of current American pop that you particularly hate?

Al Perry: I actually like some current pop stuff. That comes as a surprise to a lot of people. Kelly Clarkson, Meghan Trainor. Super cheese factor stuff.

Sharp & Pointed: Among relatively recent American bands and musicians, are there any that you particularly like? Why?

Al Perry: I mostly like the groups of my friends. As I said I’m not so interested in rock anymore.

Sharp & Pointed: You have a Youtube channel. What’s its name and what kind of stuff are you putting up on it?

Al Perry: It is alperryism. I put up these dumb little videos I make on imovie. I do some instrumental soundtracks, those are fun.

Sharp & Pointed: What are your musical plans over the next year or two?

Al Perry: I’m officially old now. I find my interest is declining.

Sharp & Pointed: Do you have any advice for young musicians? If so, what?

Al Perry: Buy some drywall tools and learn how to use them, because you are never going to make a living with music. Go into real estate. You are in for a lot of heartbreak and frustration otherwise. Unless you have a trust fund.

Sharp & Pointed: You also do artwork in addition to music. When did you start doing that?

Al Perry: I have always dabbled in it. But in the last few years I started doing these watercolors. It’s actually gone pretty well, and I have even sold some. I was part of a group show at the Fleicher/Ollman gallery in Philadelphia, an established gallery, and it was quite an honor.

Sharp & Pointed: Where can people see some of your artwork?

Al Perry: I think you can look around online. Or get hold of me. I’ll mail you a postcard.

Sharp & Pointed: Other than music and art, what are your other interests?

Al Perry: Drugs, alcohol, contempt, boredom. What kind of question is that? Music and art? Hello! What else is there?

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