Monday, June 22, 2009

Talking Reality With Rodriguez


I'd been wondering what the album of the summer would be for me. I did not expect that it had been recorded in 1969.

Last Friday's Oregonian contained a story I wrote on Rodriguez, who is coming to the northwest this week. The assignment came out of nowhere--I had never heard of Rodriguez--but I was excited to write about him as soon as I heard about his back story. A pair of records he recorded 40 years ago went platinum in South Africa and he didn't know it until much later. As Matt Sullivan of Light in the Attic Records, who has reissued Rodriguez's albums told me, "Hollywood couldn't have written it better."

I talked to Rodriguez on the phone for about 25 minutes. He was tired. It was the third interview he'd done that day, so the conversation was loose and informal. He even wound up playing part of a new song for me. I post it here so you can hear what I heard over the phone. Rodriguez kept saying he was sure "it didn't come through," but I thought it sounded great considering he was in Detroit and I was in Portland. (NOTE: if you've never heard Rodriguez before, don't let this low-quality recording be your first impression. Go here and listen to "Sugar Man".)

Here are some choice bits of the interview that didn't make the paper.

Simmantics: How much success did you hope to achieve when you recorded Cold Fact in 1969?

Rodriguez: I never thought I would tour the world. I was gonna sell some records, do bigger rooms, but I never dreamed that I was gonna get this huge. Really it's overwhelming and I'm not worthy. I went around the world in 3 weeks. I went to Rotterdam and Australia, and here's my synopsis: There's enough for everyone, in fact, too much for anyone.

Simmantics: But I read some stuff about you not being into success, turning your back to the crowd and stuff like that.

Rodriguez: Turning around during a show....I did that, but sometimes it was the room. I had the amp hooked up and I couldn't stand in front of it, so I had to get behind it. They look for answers, but really, I love my audiences.

Simmantics: Are you a pretty social guy? I really like the line you have about making "16 half-hour friendships in the course of an evening."

Rodriguez: I get out there! That's part of the scene. Thanks for picking up on that line. It's very real. I drink with my audience. I work the room. Am I gonna drink with the people? You bet your boots, man. I'm with 'em.

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