Chats With Pamela Torres
About THE CHUBBIES And Her New Solo Career
Last November I got to talk to one of the most prolific songwriters in the psychobilly scene, Jeannette Kantzalis. Once a member of the poppy punk band The Chubbies, she found a new niche as a solo artist through her new alter-ego "A Brokeheart Pro." In this interview you will her her thoughts regarding the music industry as well as the synopsis behind her upcoming album and novel JOSEPHINE AND THE OUTLAW KING.
Punk Globe: Let's start out with a couple of obvious questions: Where did you grow up? And how did you get started in making music?
Anthony: I grew up in the working class suburbs of So Cal, The Inland Empire. Upland, to be exact. I wrote my first song at four. It was over an hour long and I sang it all the way to my Grandma's house, much to the chagrin of my older brother and sister. It's more of a tick than a talent. I've had a weird "career". I started off as a songwriter signed to Peer/ Southern music in Los Angeles. For about two years, all I did was write and record songs in an amazing 16 track studio up in the Hollywood Hills. It was a guest house Buddy Holly lived in when he first got here from Texas! Anyway, before that I did the same thing on a Tascam Porta II Studio 4 track in my bedroom so I was always extremely solo! I was too shy to be in a band, too scared to ask anybody to play with me so I just learned how to do everything myself. The Chubbies was actually just me when I started off. I'd just been dropped by A&M (did one solo album with them under the name Jeannette Katt) and I was still under contract so I couldn't use my name.I called myself The Chubbies an d went back to making demos on my Tascam 388, 8 track. I sent a cassette to Long Gone John (Sympthay For The Record Industry) and he called me within 15 seconds of listening and asked what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to record and album and he said, "Okay". Then I timidly said, "I don't have a band" and he replied, "That's okay. I like what I hear". BUT, I wanted to tour so I recruited the great Christene Kings and we took to the road about 4 weeks after meeting. Our first tour was 2 months long. Neither one of us had ever toured or even been in a band! I don't know if we were just naive, stupid or really, really brave but we found out we loved what we were doing and we were pretty good at it so we kept doing it for about 7-8 years. What I'm doing now started after Christene and I decided to end The Chubbies. We'd released about 25 records, played all over the U.S. and europe and I think we were just done. I came back to Cali and got knocked up with my son Theodore. Something shifted in me. The relationship I'd been in for 12 years with Theo's dad, (Matt of The Phuzz and Squirtgun) was disintegrating. Then a stalker squatted the empty house next door to me. One night I was out in the backyard on my patio, Theo was asleep in his room and the guy came after me with a knife. Suddenly I knew exactly who I was, what I was supposed to do, and how I was going to do it. I'd started the album "The Kitten Next Door" with Bleed On and Dark Red and Loud, Keep This Devil Down before the break up and the attack. The songs were confessions of a woman who ended up right back where she started wondering how she got there and what i t all meant, how I escaped using affairs and gigs. After the attack my writing changed along with everything else. You Don't Know, with the opening line referring to my new lover "you don't know how fucking you has made me feel" was one of the most vulnerable and honest thing's I'd written in a long time. I kept that up. I started writing a blog at the same time (apparently I had a lot of things to express and songs weren't enough) and I called it Josephine The Outlaw King. I'd rattle off a page or two every day and post it to my myspace page. THAT'S when I really knew I'd started doing what I was supposed to be doing. I had about 250,000 hits and when I didn't post, my readers scolded me. I loved it. My style changed as my life changed. I got better at what I did as an artist, braver, more accessible. I still retained my sense of humor, I've never taken myself too seriously but I take what I do and how I live, VERY seriously. I started as a shy but blatant songwriter, then a sarcastic, wild punky thing. Now I'm still all of that and a full blown woman working on the project of a lifetime.
Punk Globe: Which bands or artists influenced your sound, if any?
A: Sometimes the horror and blood and gore simply is what it is, but a lot of times, if you want to dig a little deeper, there are other hidden meanings. For instance, our song “Meat Factory,” though the lyrics are about a guy picking brains out of skulls on an assembly line, the song is actually about working a crappy job. One of our new tunes, “Primordial Times,” is about being a caveman, but it’s also about feeling like a caveman in this rotten modern society we’ve got going.
Punk Globe: Which bands or artists influenced your sound, if any?
A: It's hard to say who seeps through but I started off listening to Melanie and Burl Ives and The Beatles when I was in elementary school. By the time I was ten I was VERY into FM radio. American Top 40 was my favorite show. I loved hits. The craft of melody, harmony, voice, rhythm and production all coming together for three minutes and making me feel completely different then I did 5 minutes before the song came on, that was some sort of miracle to me. I used to think that God was talking to me through the radio with songs. It was the only religion I could believe in. Prince, Material Issue, Ryan Adams, Chris Isaak, Luther Vandross, Elvis Costello, The Phuzz, The Knack, The Weakerthans, Nick Cave, Radiohead, Rancid, Tiger Army, Social Distortion, The Ramones, Rooney, The Beach Boys are a few artists that I listen to.
Punk Globe:Tell me a little bit about the origin of the SYMPATHY FOR THE RECORD INDUSTRY label?
Jacqueline: The origin of the label is simple: Long Gone John. He started it with a 7" by The Lazy Cowgirls and he stayed true to his taste in music and art and released some of the greatest artists before anybody knew who they were. The White Stripes, Hole, April March, god, too many to name! His roster is like a who's who of the best songwriter/artists around. I feel honored to be part of SFTRI's history. LGJ even chose The Chubbies to record his infamous 10th Anniversary 7", I Love My Label with original artwork by Mark Ryden. Christene and I are very proud of that release.
Punk Globe: Is the content in the upcoming album/novel JOSEPHINE AND THE OUTLAW KING partially inspired by your own life?
J: Oh yeah, Josephine's a HUGE part of me. The Saint, The Monster, Baby Dagger, Sun Son and Moonface, all of them are very real. Josephine and I share the same basics. We're optimists, born leaders reluctant to bear the weight of crown until the threat of it being taken ramps our courage. We're definitely flawed, sinners but with our conscience still intact. We share the weakness of having a bit of a temper. We love and live a lot. And we kill.
Punk Globe: If there is any musician you dream of collaborating with, who would it be and why?
A: I have a list: Believe it or not, I'd love to do an album with Madonna. An acoustic thing, one where I can get her to write songs about what she's really going through and get her to sing in her natural voice. Can you imagine the stories she has to tell? Well, I can. I'd like to do a soundtrack for Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton. Adding music to even one of their brilliant scenes would be incredible!
Punk Globe: Do you have any favorite authors?
J: I have an obvious one, Anne Rice. Nick Cave is a GREAT writer. He seems to use words for their power inside a rhythm like a preacher but his subject matter is all about sinnin'. That's good reading. Amanda Filiapacci. Katherine Dunne. Funny, dark and surreal yet very relatable.
Punk Globe: What are your opinions regarding today's music industry? For women wanting to make it, is it really nothing more than looks over talent?
A: I LOVE this question. Listen, I've failed at every aspect of this "business": signed songwriter, a major label artist, a major indie artist, and now I'm an artist on my own label. (KND Recordings)I don't think talent or looks or sex have anything to do with whether you succeed or not. It's all hard work, luck, timing, content and tenacity and knowing what your talent is. It's not that simple and nothing ever is.I think it's more important for young artists to know that sometimes dreams don't come true. Sometimes they twist and injure and bruise and kill you a little. And you have to take responsibility for all your successes and failures within the original dream. And maybe start over again and again.Or not. Toting a box or swinging a sword never makes any difference in rock & roll. It's all experience and attitude and conviction.And the music industry, the major labels and such, are gone! It's over. It's rare to see artists scrambling for a "deal". There is no industry anymore. The new "industry" are music supervisors, firms like Chop Shop Records run by Alex Patsavas that place music in movies and tv series that rule the money in music. And the money's NOT the same, either. Music's free, a promotional tool for other products it's attached to. It's fascinating and exciting right now, isn't it? It's like the wild, wild west out here! It's left a lot of artists who grew up with the old system bitter and beaten but I've been waiting for this all of my life. This is most definitely my time.
Punk Globe: What do you want for Christmas?
A: TIME!!! I want more seconds, minutes, hours, days! Figure out how to wrap it and send it over right away!
Punk Globe: Anything you'd like to say to the Punk Globe readers?
J: Rock & Roll's a lifestyle, it's the dark beat of the working class. It's self-educated, street smart and never safe. It takes a special kind of strength and courage to live it with the unconventional grace and style it exudes and reinvents every generation. All hail the beautiful and generous misfits! I'd like to thank you, Pamela for taking the time out to talk to me.