Bleistiftrocker Interview

Check out this interview I did with Bleistiftrocker! Everyone gets a namecheck: The Make-Up, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Les Savy Fav, Cate Le Bon, Amyl & the Sniffers, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Wet Leg, Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen, Dyan Valdés and The California Raisins. You can find the English version below.

Photo by Alison Bell.

In the "Questionnaire" section, artists answer a total of 15 questions on the subject of music. They are also given an additional task: take a music-related photo or draw or write something with a pencil. This time with Nathaniel Fregoso.

First CD: The California Raisins - Sweet, Delicious and Marvelous
The California Raisins were a group of raisin clay figures who made soul and R&B music. They were popular in the 80's and although the music was very white and the concept quite racist, it was this CD that brought me songs like "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and " (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay”. As I got older I discovered Marvin Gaye, James Brown and Otis Redding - all of whom had a huge influence on me and my performing style.

First concert: My father was the manager of a Spanish language radio station in Los Angeles and growing up I went to a lot of concerts. People like Vicente Fernández, José José, and Selena were very famous in Latin American countries and in the Los Angeles community, but as a brown-skinned child of immigrants trying to blend into California culture, they didn't really resonate with me. I think it was this outsider status that drew me to punk when I was in college. The shows that really influenced me were the late 90's indie bands - The Make Up, Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Les Savy Fav and Blonde Redhead. I went to these shows all the time and there I found like-minded people and a sense of community.

Earliest childhood memory related to music: My life in music begins with my father. He was a songwriter in Mexico and wrote a popular standard called "Sabrás Que Te Quiero" as well as many other songs. Music was always playing in my house and he would often rewrite lyrics to make them humorous and sing them in the singer's exaggerated voice. He never gave me songwriting lessons, but he did teach me how to have fun with language and I think that's why I'm so drawn to music today. It's a form of play for me.

Current favorite song: Cate Le Bon - "Harbour"
I love Le Bon's new album "Pompeii" and I keep playing the song "Harbour". The song is about feeling safe in the arms of someone special, but the lyrics remain a bit abstract and I like that. I recently saw her at the Frannz Club in Berlin and was blown away by her performance. The sound reminded me of Iggy Pop's "The Idiot". She comes closest to Bowie and yet is an original.

Most Embarrassing Favorite Song: Kanye West - "Jesus Lord"
Kanye West is a problematic figure in pop culture and I disagree with many of his actions. Apart from that I'm a fan of his music and I think the Donda album is a masterpiece. When Kanye raps, "And if I talk to Christ, can I bring my mother back to life?" / And if I die tonight, will I see her in the afterlife?” I get goosebumps. I'm not a religious person, but I like religious songs because they come from a place of fervent love and devotion.

Own favorite song: Thee Nathaniel Fregoso & the Bountiful Hearts - "Oh Baby!"
I was once engaged to a woman in Los Angeles and I wrote this song for her. I think it illustrates our complicated relationship quite well: "You give me something to live for / You give me someone to kill for / That's what I'm getting my thrills for". We shot the video during a soundcheck at the Columbia Theater in Berlin when we opened for our friends Allah-Las. I'm now happily married with two kids, but sometimes it's fun to listen to this young, angry, and confused guy.

Favorite Song Line: Jay-Z - "Kill Jay-Z"
I like the whole concept of this song - kill your old personality and become someone better, "Cry Jay-Z, we know the pain is real / But you can't heal what you never reveal". If Jay can reflect on his life, see the flaws, open up, and shed a few tears, can't we all?

Best concert: Amyl & the Sniffers at Zukunft am Ostkreuz 
Amy Taylor is rock 'n' roll's greatest frontwoman. She's like a boxer on stage. You can't take your eyes off her and she might just punch you in the eye. As a performer she is very inspirational and I couldn't stop dancing throughout the show.

Worst Concert: I went to Beach House a few years ago and left halfway through the concert because I found it so boring. There was absolutely no energy on stage and every song sounded exactly like it did on the record. Nevertheless, I like their new album "Once Twice Melody" very much. So maybe all is forgiven.

Best Own Concert: In 2007, The Blood Arm opened for Muse in a Roman amphitheater in Nîmes, France. I don't know if it was our best concert, but it was definitely the most exciting.

Vinyl, CD or mp3? Vinyl. I don't have a CD player and mp3s take up too much space on my computer.

Download or stream? Streaming. I remember a time when you couldn't take all your music with you everywhere and I don't miss it.

Club concert or festival? Club concert. I want to be able to touch the singer's hand and feel their sweat on my face.

Three songs that should not be missing from my mixtape: Wet Leg - "Chaise Longue", Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olsen - "Like I Used To", Dyan Valdés - "Fade Away"

Which album I definitely won't take to a desert island: The California Raisins - Sweet, Delicious and Marvelous

About the photo: A few months ago, my in-laws drove my wife's childhood piano from London to Berlin. It's in our living room now and I love playing it and thinking about her taking lessons as a kid. It's also wonderful to see our kids fooling around on it.