glimpses at poets and pubs dubbed underground

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sayeth the Panda to the Rock Star

Frank Vazzano cooks, cleans and among other things hides out playing guitar for Cleveland's own Cobra Verde.  here is a vid of Frank (on the right) playing >>.  

Bree: were you a good boy coming up?

Frank: Frank: My answer is yes, but by my own standards...I was always rebellious, and  hated authority with a passion. But does that mean I wasn't "good"? Because whose concepts of "good" and "bad" should one value? Society's? Not if the people who run it have no respect for those poor souls who happen to be "beneath" them. GENUINE COMPASSION FOR OTHERS is what makes someone good, not following a bunch of stupid, meaningless rules. Look around...every single person on this planet is either a prisoner or a guard. What kind of morally corrupt asshole wants to be a guard?

Bree: why stay in Cleveland?

Frank:I like Cleveland. I feel at home here. The air might be lousy, but at least I can BREATHE. Where do people go when they want to "get out of Cleveland"? L.A.? New York? Those are two of the biggest shit holes on the planet, if you ask me. Two distinctly different types of shit holes, granted, but both pretentious, overpopulated shit holes nonetheless. 
Everybody everywhere is SOME kind of phony...some much more so than others, obviously... but anyone who feels they gotta leave Cleveland in order to wave their phoniness flag, or to be an "artist," or whatever, takes their shit way too seriously. 

Any real artist--or anyone with any real soul at all, for that matter--can and will be WHO THEY ARE from a  sewer in Youngstown or a stinky, muddy ditch in Lodi. It comes from WITHIN, not from without. 
Now one might argue the following: "What about gaining life experience and meeting interesting people?" To this I would say, have you ever left your familiar digs and actually EXPLORED Cleveland? I've been all over the country, and I have never encountered so many full-tilt cosmic weirdos anywhere like I have in Cleveland. (Well, maybe Memphis.) 

Or, one might say "I want to go somewhere where I can make my art my career." To this I would simply say: think about what you just fucking said.

Bree: were you born into this?

Was I born into it? Je ne comprend pas. Born into what?

you told me you are always writing, working on a song. who do you like to read?

Frank: I used to dig poetry, especially Dylan Thomas, Walt Whitman, John Keats. The French Symbolists, too. Social outcasts, you know what I mean? Poets who were too aware of the truth to be anything BUT poets. One time Dylan Thomas made me laugh and cry within the same hour, and then I realized he was just putting me on anyway. And isn't that REALLY the point...REALLY the truth? We laugh, we cry, it's beautiful, it's devastating,'s bullshit. What did it matter? But just for one fleeting, meaningless moment, you GOT it. You got IT. Then you open your eyes, maybe drink, and move on. I'm in a phase in my life now (a temporary phase, but a very real one for the time being) where good poetry clashes with my survival instincts. So I read cooking magazines.  

Bree: have you been tempted to put down your art?

Frank: I'll throw my art out there, and if people wanna put it down, I won't take it personally.

Bree: what are you doing with your music right now?

Frank: The same thing I've always done, which is have fun. Now, that's not as simple as it sounds. On one level, fun is having a great laugh and, as the British say, "taking the piss out of" everything. That's one thing making music does. Puts things in perspective...everything is ridiculous anyway, so why not create your own soundtrack for it all? Complete with angst!

On another level, it's catharsis. Ever been beaten down emotionally and found a way to turn those emotions into a cool song? It's FUN. It's like getting knocked out cold but still winning the match. But if by "what are you doing with your music right now?" you mean do I have anything current to promote, the answer is no not really.

Bree: one song in your head lately?

Frank: "Shake Your Booty" by KC and the Sunshine Band. And I'm not joking, either.
Bree: why do you think we're here?

Frank: Would it sound like a copout to say no reason whatsoever? Because within the vast scope of time and the universe, I really believe that to be true. I don't see a real point. The Earth itself is fleeting...temporary. So what, ultimately, is the human race? The question becomes more complex, I think, when we view Earth and the human race as our personal universe, which is almost impossible NOT to do, right? Especially in Western thought/philosophy.

Anyway, we're just here to carve out an existence within a vast sea of meaninglessness. But within that context, be good to your neighbor, treat him like you want to be treated, and...if you've got it in your soul...leave him and future generations some kick ass art to groove on. If you got it in ya, put it down.

Bree: what makes you a good teacher?

Frank: Being a good actor.

Bree: ive had fun cooking with you at the grocer’s these last months. will you keep cooking?

Frank: Of course. I'm at peace when I'm cooking, especially if I'm not getting paid for it.

Bree: What is the point in reading existentialism?

Bree: (Just kidding).

Frank: Well, what is the point in NOT reading existentialism? (Not kidding).  If you think about it long enough, you realize the answer is the same.
Bree: what's a moment u had when u realized life rocks? 

Frank: It happens every time a record I've loved already for years hits me in a whole new way. One time I listened to ASTRAL WEEKS by Van Morrison, which I'd been a fan of for years, and it pummeled me with a sadness so deep and intense that it opened the gates to a whole new kind of that cannot be defined by any conventional definition or concept of "joy." Couldn't even be defined by words. Too sad. 

Bree: any unsung heroes?

Frank: Vic Chesntutt and Ernie Davis.

Bree: do you believe in damnation? 

Frank: I believe that what you give is ultimately what you get. It may take years or even decades, but eventually you will either be saved or damned. The choice is up to you. It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the laws of action and reaction.

Bree: what drives you in the dark?

Frank: Nothing drives me and it's always dark.


so Frank gave the Panda a bio bone:

Ok, I was born in either East Berlin or Zurich; I don't remember. Come to think of it, it may have been Bowling Green, Ohio. Doesn't matter. Parents both came from total blue collar, "working class"  backgrounds, to the point where my father still wears it on his sleeve even though he went on to become a history professor. Psychologists and poets could have a field day studying the dynamics of my relationship with my father. I'll leave it at that.
Grew up hating rules, questioning authority, etc., blah blah blah, but did it relatively quietly while throwing myself headfirst into that alternate universe (with its strange language) known as MUSIC. Life's mysteries were all accounted for, even if the answers were elusive (as they should and will always be). Dylan, Coltrane, Miles Davis, the Sex Pistols, Robert Johnson, the Stones, you know. A world where existntialism SWAGGERS.

Learned guitar, slogged my way through high school, wrote songs, played in rock and roll bands, went to college (majored in English), wrote more songs, played in more rock and roll bands, picked up some degrees, played in more rock and roll bands, worked jobs to support my rock and roll "career" and eventually found myself in culinary school. Oh yeah, I also teach a class at Cleveland State University called "Roots of Rock and Soul." Since 2002. Love music and cooking. The cooking inspiration came from my late great-aunt, a Sicilian immigrant (an overlooked saint and amazing cook), and the music inspiration came from Johnny Cash, whose television variety show clobbered me like a ton of bricks at age three.

So I cook and play music. If I am alive at 80 I will cook and play music, even though there's a world out there. Can't figure out whether to embrace it or recoil. So I will do neither, just observe. I loathe chaos, but can't live without it. 

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