Continuing our celebration of Great Weather’s release of Puma Perl‘s new poetry collection Retrograde and the Book Launch Spectacular for it at the Parkside Lounge on Tuesday June 3rd starting at 8PM, we have our next spotlight interview with a member of Puma’s band, who help enhance her poems’ kick ass-ness. It’s tenor saxman, DANNY RAY:
David Lawton: Danny, you get a great, muscular sound out of your horn. Who are the tenor players you listened to who helped inspire that sound?
Danny Ray: When I was a kid, I’d stay up listening to the AM radio rock and roll disc jockeys on a transistor radio, under the covers so my parents wouldn’t hear. They didn’t have a lot of R&B artists in their rotation lists. But, they’d play the great R&B sax players behind them as they’d speak between song plays. I loved the expressive, rich, organic wailing! It was guys like Big Jay McNeely, David Fathead Newman, Earl Bostic, Jimmy Forrest, Eddie Cleanhead Vinson, Hal Cornbread Singer, Jr. Walker, Paul Bascomb, Rusty Bryant, Sam the man Taylor, Bill Doggett, Fred Wesley, Paul Allen, King Curtis… But, it also came from playing with all the great rabid guitar players I watched and got to play with.
DL: That’s an impressive list. You had the opportunity to play with the New York Dolls, a band who possess the swagger and sense of humor of a Puma Perl poem. What are your memories of that experience?
DR: Yeah, it was a hoot! Years ago I was in bands with my friend Sylvain Sylvain, Jerry Nolan and Johnny, from time to time. So when I got to sit in with the Dolls I was one with the program, I just shot from the hip. But, it was like being three feet off the ground.
DL: One of the bands that you have had a long-time association with is called Mad Juana. It seems uncategorizeable, but definitely has poetic influences. Would you mind telling us about it?
DR: Mad Juana is my great love! And I know it is with each and every one of us. It’s an ongoing, alchemical, globalista love fest. We all come from hard-driven music backgrounds and it’s always been a vehicle to take that rabid and spiritual intent, mix it with sounds and concepts from other worldwide music traditions, stick them in a blender and splatter Mom’s kitchen. Always a joyous occasion! Currently Mad Juana is made up of Sami Yaffa, Karmen Guy, Marni Rice, Mal Stein, Rain Bermudez, George DeVoe, Indofunk Satish and myself. I hope I didn’t forget anyone.
DL: You have a very recognizable and stylish hat that you have worn onstage for years. Where does it come from, and what does it mean to you?
DR: I always dug wearing hats. Every hat gives a different sense of character and some have a very definite charm. When i started playing with Sami Yaffa, his love of a good cap or hat kind of woke up my old interest. I always thought the muses took my popping on a good hat as an offering and a tribute to their generosity.
DL: With the number of rock clubs shrinking and the competitive nature of the business, what advice would you give players starting out to help them survive?
DR: DIY. If you can’t find enough venues at the moment…make ‘em. NYC’s always had that ethic, amongst artists. It’s still going on, though you can’t always see it, if you’re not in on it. The young upcoming Brooklyn music and art scene is active with cooperative efforts to find temporary venues, party spaces and so on. I read a book by Hakim Bey years ago, called “Immediatism”. He considered the idea to create your own space, your own events, where you are, with what you’ve got, however it works, a radical and revolutionary perspective. The problem with media today, any media, is it’s owned and private. The immediate can’t be touched; it’s free of control outside those who are partaking in it. Immediate thought makes way for creative expression. It’s a good way of thinking about art spaces, quality food distribution and other controlled and limited sources of human need. If a scene doesn’t exist, get together with a few other people, bands, people with common needs and make your own. There were no punk clubs in the mid-‘70s. They were created by artists who needed to express themselves.
It’s the way,Puma Perl began looking at things, a while back. She decided to take her poetry and advance it into places where it hadn’t existed before. Started going up to musicians and asked if she could do a performance while they were setting up their stages. It was a different way of thinking about how you should do things. It went over really well. Next she got some of us to perform to her poetry as an extension of what she was saying. It’s created something fresh and interesting and attracted a whole new audience. The same goes with all art. If things aren’t the way you’d like…make something different. A very poignant truth that gets co-opted and distorted in a very disturbing way in this culture, is that there are no rules. None. It’s your choice to sit and take things as they are. Or, you can go out and create what you need and want.
DL: Has your experience backing Puma’s poetry changed your playing in any way?
DR: Yeah sure. I hadn’t had a chance in years to play strictly improvising with no real format. Trying to get behind Puma’s lyrics and the experiences, the feelings, that they’re expressing, with Walter Steding, Joff Wilson—and the rest of those beautiful troublemakers—is a colorful gnarly ride. I love playing and developing ideas, on the fly, like we do. It’s definitely opened me up in directions I haven’t explored in years.
DL: Thanks for your time, Danny!