Brother Patrick brings us up to speed with...
TAV FALCO’S PANTHER BURNS – 2008 and more
Tav Falco told me that the very first article on Panther Burns’ appeared in the Next Big Thing. So this same mag, er blog, is proud to be the first to celebrate the Panthers Burns 30th years (formed in Feb 1979) and to announce a new album called "CONJURATIONS: Séance for Deranged Lovers". The demos are awesome, they just need a record label now!
Panther Burns were in Paris for two shows recently and I attended the second of those at La Féline, a cool bar in the north of the city. The audience was composed of real fans, maybe 50 maximum! A(nother) shameful turnout for a legend like Tav! Or course as usual, there were no writers from official magazines.
PB V.2008 are an amazing ensemble with a beautiful girl (Giovanna Pizzaro) on drums, wearing a bikini. Other members are Grégoire Cat on guitar and Laurent Lo on bass. Tav played on his small Hoffner violin-shaped guitar..
Considering the shows that I’ve already heard, the set list was far from regular: some blues song (the show began by “Mississipi River Blues”); during “Drop Your Mask”, Tav put his guitar in a corner, combed his hair and then began to dance tango with friend Via Kali (another beautiful girl); some songs by request too and a lot of rockabilly like “Funnel Of Love”, “Fire Of Love”, “She’s The One That’s Got It” (she got what ? .... well, you know ...) and “Train Kept A Rolling”, dedicated to Chris Wilson.
I asked Chris if he was gonna sing a song wih Tav. He answered “maybe”. It didn’t happen, but anyway Mr Wilson, seeing my microphone, shouted in it like he was Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
And at the close, Chris took Grégoire’s guitar to play a few blues notes.
My only regret is that they didn’t play “Tina The Go Go Queen”, but Tav told me that they’ll play it for me next time! Can’t wait. Also, I hope I’d have the chance to hear the original unissued version (acetate) by Sir Mack Rice, one day ...
Tav accepted the request to answer to my questions, more focussed on the present/future than on the past.
Tav: It is preferable to focus on the present and the ever-looming future.
Patrick: What record label will have the honour to release a new Panther Burns album? To celebrate 30 years? Frenzi; Last Call ... I mean we need a new album (here’s hoping).
Tav: For the past 9-years, the Panther Burns and I have been busting like crazy to get our "CONJURATIONS: Séance for Deranged Lovers" album demo produced and released by a proper label. I am convinced that this proposed album of all original songs, composed by Tav Falco, will be the chef d'oeuvre or masterpiece of the PANTHER BURNS because every label that we’ve approached in the US, Canada, Australia and here in Europe has turned it down flat and passed. This is a positive indication that PANTHER BURNS have created a unique album of music that today’s companies do not understand the essence of and don’t know how to handle. Labels proclaim that they want something different but when they are confronted with something different, they don't know what to do with it. Record company people of today are the most conservative, dull-minded people that I know. They're completely unwilling to take a risk of any kind, yet 90% of the groups they choose to release will never be remembered.
Gerard Cosloy at Matador thought he had his Panther Burns with the Blues Explosion; Geffen Records thought they had their Panther Burns with Southern Culture on the Skids; Rough Trade thought they had something of Panther Burns with Morrissey; god knows who thought they had something of Panther Burns with the White Stripes... but it's never going to happen. There is no band like the PANTHER BURNS. I don't care how successful they are or how much money they make. Panther Burns are not in it this for money or for massive record sales. We intend to make music for the people who should be hearing our music. These people know who they are and they know exactly who they’re listening to when they play Panther Burns music. Most record companies are a joke and provide endless amusement for me.
FRENZI Records is the titular band label of the PANTHER BURNS that works with those proper and rare record labels who have at times committed themselves to producing and releasing our music. However, I never use the resources and money of Panther Burns to produce and release our music because I feel that is an act of vanity. If the marketplace/world is not interested in the present decade to demand a production of our music then there will simply be no new music released by us. On these matters and the issue of artistic control, I am uncompromising. Otherwise, I can’t look in the mirror and call myself an artist.
Patrick: May I suggest to you a list of songs that I think would fit perfectly for Panther Burns? You can answer “no”, “why not”, “no way”, “good idea “ (ahahah) but also you can tell us more about the artists or songs mentioned. I’d really like to have your point of view on those songs that I really love. Here’s the list :
Rufus Thomas “Memphis Train” - Too classic.
Jerry Dallman “The Bug” - This one I've already done in performance quite a bit during the early 80s.
Esquerita “Undivided Love” – This one got for sure has an “undivided” Tango beat! Fantastique melody and ethos. The background vocals are very church-like, and the violins extremely tasteful. This is the kind of minimal, yet lavish production that record labels today might not be interested in producing.
Nathaniel Mayer “My Last Dance With You” – This song has exquisite drums and rhythm guitar.
The Poets “Dead” / The Versatones “Bila” : Have to listen to them.
The Musical Linn Twins “Rockin’ Out The Blues” -.Sounds too rockin’ (P :for sure it rocks, Tav; I’ve always wondered what those guys had in mind when they went to the studio to record this. Anyway : I don’t know how they did it, why they did it, but I’m glad they did it !).
Lavern Baker “Jim Dandy” - Brilliant. I like it a lot as a kid and used to whistle it to myself, but no one could ever do it better than Ms. Baker.
Gene La Marr & his Blue Flames “You Don’t Love Me Anymore” - I have not heard anything as loose as this Gene Lamarr song in a long, long time! Really wild and thrown away.
Ben E King “In The Middle Of The Night” - This Ben E. King piece reminds me of my idol - the incomparable and unapproachable vocalist, PJ Proby. There is no better singer.
Mel Dorsey “Little Lil” / The Chimes “Zindy Lou” / The Isley Brothers, a lot possible, well, let’s say “Twistin’ With Linda” - Don't like to do songs named after girls anymore.
Ike & Tina Turner “I Idolize You” - Think I know that one. Brilliant. I saw Ike & Tina with the Ike-ettes in 1964 in Arkansas when they were really hot. Incredible.
The Del-Mars “Snacky Poo”- Sounds sick enough.
Richie Deran “Love and A Hot Rod” - Don't like to do songs about cars anymore.
Eddie Floyd “Big Bird” (Lx Chilton covered that one) - Know that song well. Roland Robinson, a bass player with Eddie Floyd, also played with me on a few gigs & on the "Life Sentence" album. I modelled my original, "Gentleman in Black" after "Big Bird".
Arthur Alexander “Get A Shot Of Rhythm & Blues” - Too jivey.
The Jaynettes “Sally Go ‘Round The Roses” - This song I adore, and used to sing it quite a bit with PB in the late 80s.
The Champs “Train To Nowhere” - Could be perfect.
The Dazzlers “Gee Whiz” - Embarrassing.
The Collins Kids “Whistle Bait”- Too puerile.
Obviously I have done my share of covers. Four or five of them are pretty good. Like Jerry Lee Lewis, I consider myself an 'interpreter' of songs. On the other hand, I have done a number of my own originals. Presently, the Italian pop/rock singer, LILITH, has released a moody version of one of my new album demo tunes entitled, "Secret Rendezvous". Actually I premiered this song with PANTHER BURNS for the first time on stage on the Fête de la Musique, April 20th at Le Fanfaron in Paris.
P: Have you recorded songs that still remain unissued ?
Tav: "Tina, the Go Go Queen", among others.
P: What other songs would you like to cover ? And do you have new material ready ?
Tav: As I have explained, I have a new album demo of original material ready to record. Actually it’s the first demo we’ve ever made in our entire career. I will give you or anyone 10 % minimum off the top for a record deal with a proper label to produce and release the next PANTHER BURNS album. As for covers, I am not so interested in doing new covers other than one I have been drawn to lately which is the uptempo version by my friend, the late Charlie Feathers of Jim Reeves, "He'll Have to Go". I also sang this at La Féline in Paris on the 21st of April.
P: Your music has a lot of influences, from Memphis where you’re from, to Vienna, where you live now. Don’t you miss Memphis and where’s the best place you’ve ever lived ?
Tav: After living 17-years in Memphis, and in Arkansas before that, I think I can tolerate a change. Memphis will always be a part of me. For that reason I do not miss it. The best quality of life and the most creative environment has without doubt been Vienna. It’s not a R’n’R town. I don't hang out on the rock scene anywhere. Rather, I associate with writers, poets, dancers and artists. The morbid, old world appeals to me now far more than the new world. This part of the Europe is perfect to get lost in. Like Memphis, Vienna is another river town on the border between east and west. I can relate to the split personality of such places.
P: Panther Burns current line up is very classy and sexy. Can you introduce the members?
Tav : Avec plaisir. This is an astonishing formation of the PANTHER BURNS that I have been playing with exclusively for the past 7 years when I relocated to Paris after a stint in Buenos Aires and New York. On drums is Giovanna Pizzorno from Rome, Italy. I have played with her off and on since the ‘80s, during the time when the band was playing in New York. She wanted to learn to play the drums, so we took her back to Memphis and she learned from the best there. On electric guitar, we have the Parisian - Grégoire CAT. There is no better guitar player anywhere. He started his career in Vince Taylor’s band and over the past 7 years he has mastered the complete PANTHER BURNS repertoire. On electric bass we have Laurent LO, the youngest member of the band representing the new generation of Panther Men and Panther Women.
P: You once said that your fave show ever was in Belgrade in 2002. Did something special happen during this show ?
Tav : It was enthralling to play in a communist theatre built in 1953 before an audience of 700 over-excited Serbians who were listeners and followers of the famous underground R’n’R resistance B92 radio. Now my favorite show in terms of artistic merit is the show we did at Fondation Cartier in Paris. The band played with such brilliance, as never before.
P: Your last album ”Panther Phobia” (2000) featured another of my heroes: Jack Oblivian. Do you plan to work with him again?
Tav: In May of this year, I was back in Memphis for a few days doing some book research, and by chance Jack Oblivian walked up to me in a parking lot. Not sure that Jack and I will have the opportunity to play together again. Jack has not yet discovered himself as an artist and all that he can do. The future holds great promise for him.
P: Among other artists you know or work with are (some others of my faves) Lx Chilton, the Cramps and Chris Wilson. Can you tell us anecdotes about them ?
Tav: Often times when I got in trouble on stage, LX would hide behind his amp. The Cramps showed no mercy in the recording studio and treated recording concepts with total disregard as if the studio were a live stage. Chris Wilson, I have come to know recently as a friend and can recount an exclamation of his, "I'm so hungry I could eat a baby's butt through a park bench".
P: You like music, photo and film. If you had to choose just one, which would it be?
Tav : There is no separation between these.
P: From all the films/clips you contributed or shoot, what’s your favorite?
Tav: "Born Too Late" filmed at Club Fézsék in Budapest in 35mm motion picture.
P: “Love’s Last Warning” clip featured Jean-Michel Basquiat (RIP) who was a friend of Andy Warhol. Can you tell us about your relationship with Basquiat ? Did you meet Andy W.?
Tav: Actually, the cameo role in "Love's Last Warning" is played by underground film pioneer, Kenneth Anger (Scorpio Rising, etc.). In the movie, Downtown 81, which was finally released a few years ago in New York and in Cannes, I appear in a cameo role with Jean-Michel Basquiat. Around me he acted as if he had sucked the cock of arrogance. I visited Andy Warhol at his Factory on Union Square and he was far more charming.
P: Tav Falco is a living legend and also a well-kept secret ! What’s your opinion of success ?
Tav: I have no quarrel with success.
P: Is there a question you've never been asked that you'd like to answer ?
Tav: Not really, I’ve already talked to much.
P: It was a real pleasure to talk to you, thanks. My regards to the Panther Burns.
Tav: P.B.F.L. / Panther Burns Forever Lasting
Panther Burns myspace
Thanks to Jacques for the photo from la Féline