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23 November 2013

Family Name: Pete Escovedo Talk 2 Beautiful Nights



  When Pete Escovedo launched his career nearly 60 years ago, he had no idea he was laying the foundation for a future musical dynasty.
  The renowned percussionist, who specializes in Latin Jazz,  is the patriarch of a illustrious rhythmic family that originally hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. His daughter Sheila, also known as Sheila E. and sons Peter Michael and Juan Escovedo are world-class and in-demand percussionists. His youngest daughter Zina Escovedo, is a dancer, massage therapist, promoter and sells merchandise at family concerts. He has been married to his wife, Juanita Escovedo, for 57 years.
  Escovedo is a self-taught musician and has been a mainstay--first on the Bay Area music scene and later on stages around the world--since the 1950s. He began by playing at small clubs and later formed The Escovedo Brothers Latin Jazz Sextet, along with his brothers Coke and Phil in the 1960s. He toured with Carlos Santana in the 1970s--Coke was also in the band-- and played on the musician's albums Moonflower, Oneness and Inner Secrets, according to his official Web site (
  After leaving that band, he, again with Coke, formed the Latin Jazz band Azteca and the group recorded two albums: Azteca and Pyramid of the Moon. He later went on to work such musical luminaries as George Duke, Herbie Hancock, Tito Puente, Barry White, Anita Baker, Boz Scaggs, Chick Corea, Al Jarreau and many others, the Web site goes on to say.
  He also often performs with his children: in concert as The E Family Orchestra; they also often perform on each other's albums and in the late 1970s, Pete and Sheila recorded two duet albums, Happy Together (1977) and Solo Two (1978).
   In addition, he has a thriving second career as an artist, a vocation that he is equally passionate about. In fact, in high school, he had already laid plans to become a full-time artist before he switched gears and went into the music business. His art work has been featured in shows, at businesses (such as hotels) and have been sold to private owners, including entertainment business luminaries.
  K Nicola Dyes recently conducted a telephone interview with Escovedo where he discussed being the patriarch of a musical family, his biggest concern and some of his regrets:

  Growing up in the Bay Area is one of the best things I've ever done. I was born in Pittsburg, Calif., a small town close to Oakland, and I lived there until I was about 5 or 6 years old.  We moved when my dad got a job working at the army base in Oakland and that's where I really grew up. I went to school there, started my music career there, got married there. All my kids were born in Oakland. That's home base.
  I would say (I've) been living here in Los Angeles for about 13 years. We've totally relocated here, (but), I often go to the Bay Area, as we still have family there. My oldest son Juan still lives in Marin. My wife's relatives (and) some of my relatives are there. Not only do I go back to visit, I also perform. I like performing in the Bay Area.  I celebrate my birthday by playing at Yoshi's Jazz Club in Oakland every year.

   I think that I've been very fortunate in my career that I've been able to perform with a lot of the people that I admired growing up, when I wanted to be a musician. 
  My closest friend and mentor was Tito Puente. I was not only able to perform with him, but, we recorded together. We did a video together. We became very close friends. It was really blessing to know him. 
  Then, of course, (there were) my associations with people like Cal Tjader--  (I) recorded with him and he was also a friend of mine--, Willie Bobo, Mongo Santamaria, Armando Peraza, Ray Barretto-- the great, great drummers.
  I listened to and learned from them, in a sense, because, they were the guys that I watched. I studied them, the way they played and that's how I learned. I didn't have any  professional lessons or anything like that; I'm self taught.
 The instrument that I play now, more than anything, is the timbales.  Of the people that played the timbales, Tito Puente was the best. A lot of people say (to me) “Boy, you might be a Tito Puente.” I say “Well, I will never be as good as him, but, I kind of emulate his style of playing.” That's a good thing. 
  My daughter Sheila and I recorded with Billy Cobham, one of the great jazz fusion drummers.  We recorded with him on a couple of his albums and got to perform with him. (Through that) association, we met other musicians of his caliber that really helped out in our careers. Sheila went on to play with George Duke. I also recorded with George Duke. That association was a highlight. 
  But, the blessing of everything is playing with my kids. They are great, talented (and) we have such a great time playing together. Sheila, of course, really made a name for herself on her own. My son Peter Michael, who is the youngest of the boys, actually works more in television than actually performing with other bands. But, he has toured with Stevie Nicks, Lionel Richie and people like that. My son Juan has been on tour with a lot of different bands including with Lionel Richie (and) Patti LaBelle. They've all accomplished so much ever since they started out as young kids. I never thought, in my wildest dreams, that one day we would all be playing together. That's probably been my greatest thrill. The greatest blessing any father could have is to play music with his kids.
   I would like for them to say “Yeah, I learned (music) from my dad.” I think I had a little something to do with it, but, at the same time, they were around the music so much as little kids.  My brothers and I would rehearse in my living room and the kids were there. They would listen to everything. They would sit there all the time just listening to music. I think their brains just absorbed so much, like sponges. The music was there and they wanted to play. 
  I think the seed was planted, but, they went on to be so professional on their own. I didn't have to stand over them and say  "Don't play this way, play that way.” I wasn't one who said “No, you can't go out and play baseball until you practice your lessons.” I never (did) that. I believe that at some point in everyone's life, God sends you a message as to what he wants you to do. I think this is what he wanted us to do: to play music (and) be a family in music. That's our calling, that's our passion and we so love doing it.

Coke Escovedo, Tito Puente and Pete Escovedo. Courtesy of

 Working with Carlos Santana was probably a step up the ladder for me. I sort of was pounding the pavement, so to speak, with my own band. Things weren't going that well. I wasn't working that much, working in small little clubs and stuff like that.
 My brother Coke Escovedo is the first one who joined Santana. I think they went on tour and when he came back, he came to see me. I was playing at a club and he said “You know what? One of the percussion players in Carlos' band is leaving, so, I recommended you and Carlos said 'Yeah' and for me to come get you and take you to New York.” I said “Great, when do I start?” He said “You start in two days.” I said “What?!” 
  I packed my bag, got on the plane and flew to New York, just him and I. He played the tape of a (previous) show, which I had to listen for five hours while we (flew) to New York. That night we opened up at Madison Square Garden and (played) four nights in a row. That was a big thrill for me. I never knew what it was like to play in front of so many people. Carlos always played in large venues with thousands and thousands of people. I was just used to playing in small clubs, small dives, little jazz clubs. I was just so overwhelmed.
   I stayed with the band for four years. It was quite a learning experience and quite a wonderful thing going to so many different countries. We were on the road so much, it got to the point I was away from the family much too much. I started to think about how I wanted to get back to my own music.
 I was always on the road and I missed being around my family. When you're away that much you miss birthdays, graduations and holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. When you're away in another country, it's Christmas and you're not home, you get homesick. You want to go home. It got to a point for me, where, after four years, I thought it best to just start up my own band again.
  My association with Carlos has always been one of the highlights of my career. Also, in getting a chance to perform with him, I actually got some gold records (laughs). It helped to boost my career and I really owe him a lot of gratitude for that. 

Courtesy of

   I formed the band Azteca in 1972 with my brother Coke. We had been on the road  touring with Santana for a while and when we got back my brother Coke said “Why don't we put a band together and start doing stuff on our own?” I said “Great.”
  We started calling up musicians (and) we had auditions in the Bay Area. We ended up with a pretty large band, but, it was incredible. We really a great time with that band. The musicians brought so much to the table with arrangements, ideas and by writing music.
 We did all styles of music: instead of just Latin Rock, we took it a step further Latin Jazz; Latin Soul and Latin R&B. We did just about everything in that band. We set of pace for what we were doing. That was the most exciting thing about the band. We were able to bring in ideas (and) we put all our ideas together.
   Those two albums, Azteca and Pyramid of the Moon were both (released) on CBS (Records). They're on vinyl  and they're considered collector's items. If you tried to get them on vinyl before, it cost you quite an amount of money. But, now, a company in London bought the rights to both of those (records), so, now they're out as CDs. You can get them at the stores now. 

Azteca (1973), courtesy of

 The music business has been a blessing for me. I started playing as soon as I left high school and been at it ever since. I've always looked forward and my motto is to never give up. It has taken me so long to reach the point of where I am now in my career. I'm already 78, in my senior “golden” years, they call it, but, there's still so much more to do music wise.
   I always tell young kids “If you're going to do anything in music, if this is what you want to do in your life, you really have to stick to it. You have to be a little selfish, in a sense, because, you have to dedicate most of your time to your craft. You have to learn your instrument, you have to study, you really put the shoulder to the wheel, so to speak.  There (are) so many hurdles to overcome. It's like any other profession: you take one step at a time; you jump over one hurdle at a time; you climb up the ladder step by step. It's not an easy process.
  Granted, there are people who become "overnight" successes, especially a lot of young people who are in the rap business-- people that do their own CDs and can cover all of everything on their own, all by computers. But, if you really want a lasting career, you have to think: how long do they last? There are so many great musicians who have played all the music they wanted to play until they passed away. What better life can you have than that, especially if you can make a living doing it.
  You can play whatever style of music you want and it's important that you are successful at it. So, it's not an easy task. It's not an easy road to travel and the journey is long and hard. But, it's well worth it. I would say that my motto for most everyone when they're young is: “Don't give up. Keep pushing. Keep trying. Just do the best you can."

 I was so excited the first time I saw my wife. Talk about love at first sight--I think I got bit right away (laughs). My friend, who was one of my closest friends, actually introduced me to (my wife's family), because, they were people who lived in a different part of town from where I lived. I was brought up "on the other side of the tracks," so to speak. They, of course, were on the good side of the tracks. 
  My wife comes from New Orleans. Her family's all from New Orleans, they're Creoles and my friend said “Man, you have to meet these people, they're not Black, they're Creole.” I said “What in the world is a Creole?” He said “They're from New Orleans. They're French and they're colored. They're great people and I want you to meet them.” So, he took me over to their house and that's when I first saw her and met her. I said “Boy, she's a little cutie pie. Maybe I could work myself in here.” 
  These were the days when, if you went to the ice cream places and the drug stores-- now this is really gonna mess up your mind-- they always had a (soda) fountain. That's where all the kids met after school. You're talking about going back to the 50s (laughs)! That's how it worked, just like a movie set.
  I would walk to the soda fountain at the drug store, stand outside and watch the girls go by. She happened to keep walking by; she would come there with a friend. We eventually struck up a conversation and, of course, I met her at her house. I finally asked her out. The first time I asked her out, I took her, of all places, to a jam session. It was a jazz place and she knew nothing about that, because, she listened to R&B music. I took her to a jazz session and she thought it was really something.
     We fell in love right away and we dated for about a year. We actually really made up our minds right away that we wanted to get married. The bad part was that she told me I had to ask her father for her hand in marriage. I sure didn't want to do that, because, he looked at me like I was poison. First of all, I was a musician. I didn't have a steady job and he was one of those guys that was a hard worker. He cared for his family by working every day. That's old school, that's where he came from. There I was, a young unemployed musician, trying to find work (and) marry his daughter. Add (to that) the fact that I was Mexican American. In those days, you were supposed to marry within your own race, so, the strikes were against me (laughs).
  But, I stirred up enough courage, asked her dad for her hand (in marriage) and he said okay. After a few years of being married, when I started to get a little more successful, he just loved me to death. We became very close. He was a great man-- a very stern father-- but, a really great man. I admired him, respected him and I think, through the years, he really came to terms with our father-in-law and son-in-law (relationship). It was really nice. 
   After 57 years of marriage, (my wife and I) are  still in love and we're hanging in there. It's been a wonderful blessing.  

Pete and Junita Escovedo on their wedding day. Courtesy of

  My art has been so important to me, because, when I was in school, I actually thought I was going to be a working artist. I didn't think I was going to be a musician. I was very fortunate in my high school years, (because), my art teacher-- a dear old woman, I'll never forget her-- actually started me on my art career. She would let me go in the back room and use paints. oils, whatever I wanted. She gave me freedom in my artwork: she would come in, look at my work, give me ideas and watch over me. 
  She told me when I graduated (that) I could get a scholarship at an art college. She set it all up for me and she also took me to an advertising firm, where I would be one of the illustrators, when I got out of school. I was all hooked up: I had a college to go to (and) a job waiting for me as an apprentice to an illustrator. But, my love for the music took over and I became a musician instead of an artist. 
  I know I still have a ways to go, but, I've finally settled in as to what I create artistically. There are a lot of things in life that I've been through, (things) that I've witnessed, places I've been, things that I've done. Emotional things, happy things, sad things, all the emotions that a human being could go through, I've put on canvas. It could be a happy thing, it could be a terrible thing. I've painted people dying, I've painted people in death, I've painted people happy, I've painted people sad. It's just what my mood is at the time.
  I think it is the emotions within me that create the artwork. I don't look at something and paint it. I envision it within my mind and then I paint. I start and, as I work, it becomes a complete piece. When I stand back and look at my work, I always question it. I say “Wow, where did that come from?” It had to come from something I've experienced, something that I've seen, something that I've witnessed, something that I've done. The artwork is very special to me; it's a part of me.  
  I've gotten older and I know that eventually, playing (music) will end sooner or later. I hope that my artwork will continue, because, I enjoy it so much. I love what I do. I've been fortunate to sell a lot of pieces. There are people in (the) music and television industries who have bought my work and have it in their homes. That's quite a compliment. In fact, I just recently did
print paintings, which are in each room of a hotel in Cupertino, Calif., which is by San Jose. I'm actually doing (artwork for) another hotel, but, it's in a ballroom. I haven't started on that one, because, that's going to be an undertaking for me.
   I just can't believe that my artwork has come full circle. I'm very proud of the fact that I'm able to do it. There are (other) musicians that paint as well. Miles Davis painted. Tony Bennett still paints. It's just something that we have within us. I think it's the artistic sense of us, that we have to create things. If we're not creating music, then we creating artwork. They go hand in hand. I give 100 percent to each one of them, so, it's really something. It's something to behold. 

Invitation to one of Pete Escovedo's art shows. Courtesy of

  I sometimes wonder-- and this is probably the biggest concern I have--but, I often wonder what is going to happen to me when I die. I must say, I am a religious person, I am a Christian, I do believe in God, I believe in Jesus Christ. But, I don't know where I'm going. I don't really know if there is a place that you go. You hear about Heaven and Hell. But,  I don't know anybody who's been there, who've told me they've been there. You know? So, I can't actually visualize that or see it.
   I wonder about what happens after death. I know that in most religions, you're supposed to believe (that) if you're a good person you're going to a good place. In a sense, too, I think when you die, you go to sleep and you never wake up. When this body disappears, what happens after that? I hope your spirit lives. These are the things I hope everybody believes in, but, I wonder, I question, I think— and it drives me crazy.
   I know that we're all going to make that journey. That's the one we can't avoid. In a sense, we're born to die and that's it, but, it's what you do in between.  I feel that in my life, I've not harmed anyone mentally, emotionally or physically-- I hope that I have not.  I hope that I brought some sort of joy to people who've heard my music, some joy to people who see my artwork and, most of all, I hope that I have been a good parent to my kids and a good husband to my wife. Those are some important things to think about.
  I was born and baptized a Catholic, because, that's what most Latin families do. Years ago, I just wanted to be a (non-denominational) Christian and I wanted to go to churches that allowed anyone to go. I don't think of “religion,” I think of being a good human being and a person that believes in important things in life.
   Everybody should think about what they do with their lives. Do you waste it? Or do you make something out of it? I think everyone should, whether you work in a factory or whatever you do in life, just do your best: do the best that you can do; be the best person you can be; be kind to people; be considerate; be nice; don't be angry; don't get mad; don't steal. There is so much out there that is so tempting. It's hard to go the straight and narrow. But it's something you have to do. Amen. We just went to church right there, boy (laughs). Pastor Pops! They call me Pastor Pete.

  At some point, some of your life has to be personal. I've sort of been like an open book. When I do interviews, people ask me questions and I don't say “Well, I can't answer that” or “I prefer not to answer that question.” I've always been a person who doesn't mind people knowing about me: my life, what I've done and what I do.
  But, I think personal things, such as finances, if someone is sick in the family or if someone has a disability,  I think that those are probably personal things that people should not know about. It should be a family affair and it should be within in the family. Other than that, I don't mind what people know about me.

  Music makes me happy. Music makes me live longer. It makes my family stay together. Music makes me love the world, because, I think without it, the world would be such a small thing. I think music reaches so many different kinds of people: white; brown; yellow; black; whatever color, music reaches everyone. I don't think you can say that too much about other things.
   Music is around the world for everyone to appreciate and that's a good thing. You have a choice of what style you want to listen to, what style of music you enjoy and nobody's going to put you down for what style (of music) you like. It's there to be shared. Music can make you happy or sad. You think about a loved one or you think about things you've accomplished. It's just so much apart of being alive. 

  The greatest thrill and blessing that I've had in my whole career and life is performing with my family. We have so much fun when we play together. You can feel the love on the bandstand and I think that love carries into the audience. It not only sends a message of music, but, it sends a message of family and how important family is.
  We are so blessed that, as a family, we're able to play music together. We travel together, we hang out together, we play together and we talk about music. If you could see a video of what goes on backstage: we laugh; we joke around; we tell jokes; we kid each other; we rank each other, it's so much fun. Then, when we get up to play there's that competition--of course, we all want to sound better that the next one. But, at the same time, we create something totally different from what other musicians do, because, it's a family affair. That's what makes it so special.
  I've always tried to use one, some or all of them (on) my CDs. Actually, on some of Sheila CDs, I'm on one song, Juan's on one song or Peter Michael's on one song. Even my wife or my other daughter, Zina, might be on something. We always try to put the family in anything we record. Anytime we record our CDs, the family is in it one way or another. (It) gives us great joy to have each of the family members on our CDs.

  I'm inspired by my kids, because, when I watch them play, it makes me thinks about when I was their age playing music. It just brings back a lot of memories. When I go see them play with their own bands, I just get so inspired by the way they perform, the closeness that they have with their audience and the people that come to see them. I admire them and enjoy what they do.
  I'm definitely inspired by each and every one of them. They carry on this tradition of music in the family. I know that my grandkids and my great-grandkids will, because, they're all in the music business; my nephews, nieces, cousins--all of them are in the music business. The Escovedo name will carry on before I'm gone. I should say long after I'm gone (laughs).

Juanita and Zina Escovedo. Courtesy of Pete Escovedo's Facebook page

   There are some musicians that you meet along the road that you perform with and that you know of. Some become close friends and some are not-- although, friendships are often very important among all musicians, because, we respect and admire what each of us does.
  I was fortunate to meet George Duke in San Francisco, because, that's where he was from. I was playing in a small club called on Disvisadero Street and he happened to come in while we were sound checking that day. He lived in the neighborhood. 
  He came in, we were practicing and we saw that it was George Duke. We said “Hey George, how are you doing?” We met and he sat down at the piano and started to play. (He) said “Let's play something.” I said “Yeah, that would be cool.” So, we played together and we just kept in touch over the years. He moved to Los Angeles and stared doing great by producing and working with a lot of people. His accomplishments were enormous. 
  We always kept in touch. Sheila toured with him in his band for many years. I got to record with him on his CD and he recorded with me on my CD. He's just a guy that was one of those great people that you meet in the music business (and) down to earth. When someone is that talented and they don't have to talk about how talented they are, that's a great thing. He was that way. He would help anyone who asked him for help. He never said "No" to anybody. “George, can you come and play on this song that I'm doing?” (He would say) “Sure man, what time? Where at? I'll be there.” 
  (He) worked hard at his craft and, boy, he was great. (He was) such a great player and great guy. Everyone loved him, because, he was that kind of a person. He'll be missed. He'll definitely be missed.

   I'm basically not a real songwriter and I've always admired the people who write music. When I do my CDs, I like to listen to music and arrangements that people send me. If I write something and I'm happy with it, then I'll use it. I'll have one or two songs that I wrote that will be on the CD, if I'm lucky. A lot of ideas don't go as far as they should; they just become "ideas" and they're not finished. There are people that find it so easy to write (music) and I've never been one of those (people). I find it difficult to write music. But, who knows, maybe I'll get better at it (laughs).
   My daughter Sheila belongs to the National Academy of Recording Artists-- most of us do. When (the album) Live at Stern Grove (was recorded), it was at a time when the Latin Jazz (category) was just being brought back (to the Grammys). It was taken out, but, it was reinstated at this particular time.  She said, “You know, you should submit something in the category.” I said “I havent recorded anything new.” She said “Well, we have a performance that we're doing at Stern Grove in San Francisco, why don't we just record the live show?” 
   I was reluctant to record a live (album), because, I've already done about three live CDs. I didn't want to do another one. But, since we were pressed for time I said “Let's give it a shot.” We recorded the performance at Stern Grove and, to my surprise, it came out okay. We did submit it, although, we didn't get a nomination. But, that's okay, Maybe we'll get one next time. I'm very happy with it.
  When you play live, you don't get a chance to say “Stop, let's go over this, let's try it again" No, you can't do that. It it what it is. When I listen to it, yeah, it definitely is live. There's mistakes and at some point, I could've played better or some of the guys could've played better. It is what it is and that's what live music is about. But, I was very surprised that it turned out well enough that we could put it out on a CD. It's doing okay and it's been on a lot of jazz stations throughout the United States. I can't complain.

Live at Stern Grove album cover

  If I could go back in time, I wish I had been a better father.  Like I said earlier, being a musician is about being selfish and that's what it amounts to.  I wish I could have paid more attention to the kids when they were growing up. I was so involved in trying to make something of myself, my music career and get somewhere. I was giving it so much time and it didn't seem like I spent enough time being a better father.
  I always think about that. I regret that and wish I could go back in time to when they were small. I should've been a better father first, then, tried my career secondly. But, I did it the other way around. That part was not good. If I was to go back in time, I would be a better father.

  I spent my last birthday celebrating at Yoshi's Jazz Club, which I do every year. It's sort of (a) catch-22 day. That date, July 13, is the same day that my younger brother Coke died.
   My younger brother Coke and I were closer than anyone else in the family. We grew up together, most of the time, with my mother. There were six of us at the time that my mom and dad divorced. My mom was a single parent and couldn't afford to really take care of all us, so, two (kids) went to stay with my grandmother, the oldest went into the service and my brother Coke and I lived with my mom until she couldn't afford to take care of us any longer.  We ended up in a home for boys.
  We did everything together. We were inseparable. We spent most of our time together as a band. We were the Escovedo Brothers Band (first) and played music all our lives. I went to Las Vegas to celebrate my birthday (in 1986). I got a call from my family saying Coke was in the hospital and he was very sick. About an hour later he passed away. That birthday was not a happy one.
  It took me a while on each (subsequent) birthday, for me to say “Should I celebrate my birthday or should it be a day of sorrow?" As the years have gone by, I say "I should celebrate my birthday, because, I should celebrate not only my life, but, I should celebrate his life." On my last birthday, instead of doing Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Orchestra, I did Pete Escovedo: Azteca 2013. I performed all the music that my brother and I did on the Azteca albums at Yoshi's Jazz Club and it was incredible. It was so much fun. It had to be one of the best things that I had done in life. I felt so good.

   As I played the music, I could just visualize us playing when we had the band. I could visualize all the guys in the band. We played everything just as it was recorded on our two albums. It was an amazing time for me. That birthday was really special.
    I don't know what I will do for (my) next birthday. I have a project (and) my next CD is going to be an Azteca CD. It'll be a whole different band, with all new music and different people, because, a lot of the original members have passed away, retired or a lot of them don't want to come back and do that stuff anymore. We only recorded two albums, so, I'm going to call it Azteca 3. I hope to have it out before July of next year and if it all gets done, I hope to perform that music on my birthday at Yoshi's Jazz Club in 2014. That's something I'm really looking forward to. I'm going to concentrate on getting the music together and recording the band. It should be great fun.

   I hope that my legacy is for this music to keep going. So many of the great Latin Jazz musicians have passed away and it seems like Latin Jazz has kind of fallen by the wayside-- just like jazz has. 
   All the new music young people are listening to and what (musicians) are doing now is completely different than the music we had years ago. I hope that my legacy would be that I have done the music so many of the great Latin Jazz players have done and it will continue to grow. 
  Some young Latin Jazz players are doing that (and) I hope they continue to respect that style of music. It's always been an underground music to me. It's never been that popular, because, it's hard to get airplay. You don't hear a lot of Latin Jazz on the radio and you don't find a lot of Latin Jazz in the record stores—with record stores being almost completely gone. It's been an awful long struggle trying to get a large audience that listens to Latin Jazz.
  Granted, there is an audience out there for this music. I do appreciate that. I usually get good crowds when I play and people come to listen to the music. But, it has to grow even more. It's got to grow worldwide (and be) more than just home based. That being said, I hope and pray that my legacy is that what I've recorded (and) what I've done musically will live on. I hope other young Latin Jazz players (will) carry on that tradition.

Courtesy of

 The future looks really good for me. I have this project with Azteca and I'm so 
 excited about that. I have some more travelling to do, not only here throughout the (United) states, but, also in Europe and Japan. I'll be going out for concerts playing with my orchestra and I'm looking forward to that.
   I'm 78 (and) I'm blessed with good health (and) I'm still able to perform as best I can. I know that I've slowed down with age. But, I think the music is still there. The Latin Jazz Orchestra sounds really good. I have some really good musicians in the band. 
  The future is really bright for Sheila. She just did a new CD (Icon) and she'll be traveling a lot next year. My son Peter Michael is working on some TV shows and his future looks bright. My son Juan is also recording his own CD, so his future looks bright. The family, as far as the wife and the younger daughter, they're both doing well. Our health is good. I think if we concentrate on staying healthy, spiritually blessed, grateful for what we do and keep our feet ground-- I think the future looks bright. Hopefully, we will continue to do what we do.
  In Jesus' name, amen (laughs).

Stay Beautiful, Kristi

Check out Pete Escovedo's official Web site here


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06 November 2013

New Power Soul: Dru Chen Talks 2 Beautiful Nights


  Dru Chen is teaming up with Beautiful Nights USA and Purple Funk Australia to bring his old-school inspired soulful sounds to a new audience.    
  Chen was recently been added to the lineup of "The Ultim8 Prince Party," an event hosted by Beautiful Nights USA and Purple Funk Australia at 9 p.m. Nov. 22, Room 680, Melbourne, Australia. The night will also be the official CD release party for Heroine December's new album Target Practice-- a band headed by Maya and Nandy McClean, better known as The Twinz. He will serve as the night's opening act and will also be part of the headliners' backing band during their set.
    He has forged a successful career without the backing of a record label. He released his EP Intentions in February and the music video for his first single "You Bring Out the Best in Me," posted on YouTube eight months ago has had more than 19,000 page views. He has also been invited to play at music festivals around the world including Mosaic Music Festival in Singapore. He spent a significant amount of time this year touring Australia and Southeast Asia and will continue playing dates through the end of 2013.
  Chen split his time growing up between Singapore and Australia, which, he said, greatly influenced his musical style. He is a classically-trained musician, plays several instruments (including violin, piano, guitar, bass and drums) and has a degree in music technology, according to his Web site He discovered  R&B, funk and soul music as teen, which, he said, had a tremendous impact on his musical direction.
  K Nicola Dyes did an interview with Chen recently, via e-mail, where he discussed his musical influences, how he became involved with "The Ultim8 Prince Party" and his approach to creating music:

?: How would you say that discovering the R&B, funk and soul genres as a teen changed your musical direction?
  DC: R&B stands for Rhythm and Blues. It gave me "rhythm," which taught me how to be funky and in the pocket. It gave me "blues," which is the feeling in the "blue notes," that gave birth to soul.
  I think every musician should give R&B, funk and soul (music) a try. There's just so much music and culture that came from (those) traditions and (that) lineage: from early Motown (artists) and The Parliaments (Doo Wop) to Sly & The Family Stone and Funkadelic (Psychadelic Soul) to Prince and The Revolution and Michael Jackson (Pop/Rock/Soul) to D'Angelo, (Erykah) Badu, (Raphael) Saadiq, J Dilla and The Soulquarians (Neo-Soul/Hip Hop) and now all the global, soulful cats today like DaM-Funk, Miguel and Frank Ocean who keep pushing and stretching things in all different directions.
  I hope I can, in some way, contribute to this tradition, coming at it from an Asian-Australian background.
  ?: You have managed to make quite an impact without being signed to a record label. What has the been the easiest part of navigating your musical career? The most difficult?
  DC: The easiest part is having the passion and background to help me do what I do. I studied music in school and learned the basic skills to analyze music. From there I studied the "Yodas," all the people I mentioned above, the people who have paved the way and gave me the inspiration to fly my inner funky freak flag.
  I also have friends in the music industry who mentor and guide me in an informal way, whom I can trust, I can be truthful with and who also confide in me. It's a tricky business, but, I am very fortunate to have made some very good friends in it.
  The most difficult part is keeping control, (being) level headed and not letting emotions and impulses influence (my) decisions. Everything takes 10 times longer than you think, which can be a good thing. (It) gives you time to grow as an artist and ruminate on the decisions you have to make.
  ?: What is your approach to songwriting? What inspires you?
  DC: A feeling. A vibe. I think my songwriting gets separated into two categories: "Confessional" and "Muso." "Confessional" is pretty self explanatory. "Trainwrecks" from Intentions EP falls into this category. I have a couple of new songs in this vein, written about my journey in music and in life. 
  "Muso," as I call it, is Australian slang for a "musician's musician." I'll get inspired by a particular musical phrase or production idea by another artist and I'll transform that until I come up with my own thing. A lot of D'Angelo's "Voodoo" was made that way--like the groove from the ending of Prince's "New Position" becoming the basis for the drum pattern on D'Angelo's "Africa."
  My song (and the upcoming single) "Turnaround" from the Intentions EP falls into this "Muso" category. I was listening to some "sloppy" Sly & The Family Stone while looping a J Dilla-esque beat (and) I came up with my own cascading vocal harmony canon that turns around over and over. 
  ?: How did you become involved with "The Ultim8 Prince Party" in Melbourne?
  DC: Marcus Scott, (of Beautiful Nights USA), saw me perform at my CD launch in Melbourne, Australia (earlier this year). We became fast friends and shared a passion for Prince and all things Minneapolis. He asked me if I wanted to be a part of the event. I didn't need to think twice!
  ?: What are you most looking forward to at the party?
  DC: Meeting everybody and making new friends! There's such a wonderful music community here, there and everywhere. For me, it's all about making the connections and getting to know people. I'm excited about working with Maya and Nandy from Heroine December. They're so lovely and down to earth. 

  ?: How did splitting your time between Australia and Singapore growing up influence your life and career?
  DC: I lived in Singapore from the ages of 7 to 16. I started playing in cafes and bars at 14. Singapore is so small, with a beautifully supportive and tight music scene, but, I needed to break out and explore the world a bit more. 
  I moved to Brisbane in Australia at 17 to pursue a Bachelor's Degree in Music Technology. The sound and vibe of Australia was so different from Singapore. It took a while to adjust (and) naturally, influences from other local bands began to creep into my music. I was particularly inspired by the DIY (do-it-yourself) work ethic and musicality of a local songwriter/producer Yeo (
  ?: What was the process for putting together your Intentions EP? What inspired it? What do you like about it? In hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently?
  DC: The Intentions EP was created over the period of time when I moved from Brisbane, Queensland, a smaller city to Melbourne, Victoria, a bigger city. A change of scene always inspires me. I guess that's why I crave traveling and touring so much. 
  I created the entire EP largely by myself, producing, arranging, engineering, and mixing everything. This DIY way of making music was inspired by musicians like Yeo, Stevie Wonder and Prince. These musicians have such a clear vision of what the final product will be like. It takes a long time for that to develop properly though and I feel I'm just starting to realize my sound, my vision, my brand, my feel. 
  Collaboration is healthy and, in hindsight, I would have taken more time to bring in more outside collaborators to help me flesh out my ideas. Having said that, I did have some help, primarily on the first single, "You Bring Out The Best In Me" from Graeme Pogson (drummer from legendary local funk act The Bamboos), Josh Bridges (bassist and long time friend, from Mustered Courage) and some wonderful horn players. That definitely brought out the funky vibe of the track.

  ?: You have mentioned artists such as Stevie Wonder, Prince and D'Angelo, among many others, as musical influences. What is it about their music that speaks to you?
  DC: Stevie Wonder (is) the life affirming, quintessential funk and soul singer-songwriter. Stevie's grooves absolutely breathe. (He is) the most natural player. My favorite songs of his would be "Mary Wants To Be A Superwoman" and "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing."
  Prince: (He is) thought provoking with his vision, scope, visuals, stage shows, bombast, precision and skill. Prince just brought it so far left, yet, he still manages to appeal to so many. (He is) the true chameleon. My favorite album of his is "Sign O' The Times."
  D'Angelo: Very, very well crafted and curated discography so far. There's not a single song (of his) I don't like. D'Angelo is a perfectionist to the 100,000th degree. I think he proves that if you take your time and concentrate on the vibe, the results will be far more rewarding. Music is spiritual and so much more than words and notes on a page. D'Angelo's music is testament to that. 
  ?: What other genres of music do you play and enjoy listening to? Who are your favorite artists in those genres?
  DC: Surprisingly, I like folk and acoustic singer-songwriter stuff, too, mostly from the 1960s and 1970s: like Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison. I like the idiosyncrasies of their writing styles and and how personal the music is. 
  I also have a soft --or heavy--spot for Metal. I grew up as a guitarist and I learned through Metallica and Megadeth. The craftsmanship in their songwriting, particularly the melodies, is so great.
  To Paraphrase Miles Davis, "There are only two kinds of music: good and bad." 
  ?: Which artists would you like to collaborate with in the future?
  DC: I would love to work more with Maya and Nandy. I've got a few friends over in L.A. I'd love to work with as well. Shemika Secrest, whom I met on tour in the Philippines, has a truly amazing voice. Kimbra is also a new friend and I'd love to catch up with her. What a funky, talented lady!
  ?: What's in store for your fans as you continue to tour through the end of the year?
  DC: We've been working hard on our music video for "Turnaround," which will be the 2nd single from the Intentions EP. We're going to play some great shows, including a Funk & Soul Christmas Party on Dec. 12 at Ding Dong Lounge in Melbourne.
  ?: Do you have any plans to tour the United States in the near future?
  DC: I am planning to go to L.A. and a few other places in 2014 (and) would love to play some shows.
  ?: What do you hope to achieve in the next five years?
  DC: On the live front, I hope to play more festivals. I feel our funky uplifting sound suits a festival audience. In the studio, I want to really hone in on MY sound. Everything is a learning process and I have learned to take it in my stride and enjoy the journey.
  In the end, I just want to keep making good music and being honest with myself, my fans and fellow musicians. I am in it for the long run, so, I just want to grow and keep working at it. 
  ?: What is your message for all of your fans and people who may now be discovering you in regards to your performance at "The Ultim8 Prince Party" ?
  DC: Thank you for your support. Y'all are funky all the way!

Check out Dru's videos:


"You Bring Out the Best in Me"

To purchase tickets for "The Ultim8 Prince Party" visit

Stay Beautiful, Kristi


All photos courtesy of Dru Chen except where indicated.


Check out the following Web sites for more information:
Official Web site:

22 October 2013

Wherever U Go, Whatever U Do (Part 2): Steve Parke Talks 2 Beautiful Nights


  Steve Parke is a true renaissance man.
  He is best known to Prince fans as the creator of the Grafitti Bridge album cover, designer of the "Glam Slam" music video set and  photographer behind many pictures of Prince and associated artists throughout the 1990s. In addition to photography, Parke has also done acting, graphic design, drawing, painting, has past journalism experience and created graphic novels.
  A chance meeting with Levi Seacer in the late 1980s set Parke on a course of events that culminated with him being hired as art director at Prince's Paisley Park studio complex in Chanhassen, Minn. That opportunity led to various work with artists like Chaka Khan, fDeluxe, Wendy and Lisa and David Bowie, among others.
  More recently, Parke did the photo illustrations for "Psych's Guide to Crime Fighting for the Totally Unqualified," a companion book to the USA Network TV show "Psych," released earlier this year. "Medusa's Daughter," a graphic novel he created with Jonathon Scott Fuqua, is set for wide release in December, and is currently available at He also does freelance photography for corporations and individuals.
  He is currently working with the band fDeluxe (formerly The Family) on artwork for their new covers album which is tentatively set for release at the end of 2013 and a children's book that will come out sometime next year.
  K Nicola Dyes conducted an in-depth interview with Parke last month for "Dyes Got the Answers 2 Ur ?s," where the Baltimore resident discussed his original career path, his childhood in the Washington D.C. area and the chain of events that led to him working for Prince:

Part II

On photography...

  When I capture a moment in time, I'm very aware that moment will never repeat again. I've had a hard time sometimes between being in the moment and capturing the moment. People say "Oh, you didn't bring your camera?" No. I actually just wanted to enjoy myself. 
  I enjoy taking pictures at events, but, honestly, my iPhone camera is the best thing ever. It's quick and it's easy. It allows you to be in the moment, capture the moment and then move on. There's no being in the moment when you've got a couple of cameras, lenses and lights.
  You're waiting for the opportunity to capture something, so, you're really not in the moment at all. I think the big thing is that I realized I'm here now, enjoy it now, because, it's going to change into something else. It will be a different just a moment.

  I'm terrible at networking, I'm trying to get better at it. I know all these people and I never think to myself "Hey, I wonder if they can use what I do?" I just don't think like that. I think, if they need what I do, they'll call me. But, sometimes, it's just about keeping connections.
  I think things are interconnected. They all lead into each other in ways. They may be small ways, but, they always click together. It's like whatever path you go down, it could lead back to you. I've been not the best at not taking advantage of those things. When I worked at Paisley Park, I met a lot of people and I never thought "I should give them my card." 
I was at a job I enjoyed at that point. Why ask for more work when I could barely do the work I had to do? 
  I didn't take advantage of those opportunities (like) I probably should have. I'm not complaining, because, I continue to get new opportunities. I just have to keep my eyes open and I'm going make sure to take advantage of those opportunities.

  When I take pictures of everyday people, I try to make them look like superstars. I like to give everybody the opportunity to look like a rock star, but, I understand that's not the goal of every photo.
 I find the mindset in photography is that you're "taking pictures." If you're shooting doctors, you're just shooting doctors. You make them look like doctors. I want them to look like "rock-star doctors." I'm not talking about instruments. I want the person to look the best they can and I want them to feel happy with the photo when they get it.
  One thing about shooting people who are not in the media, or don't their picture taken all the time, is that most people hate the way they look. I think a lot of this perception comes from (their) families. Somebody, somewhere, told this woman I'm taking a picture of—who's stunning—that she has a bad smile. I'm like "Really? Let me have you smile for minute and take a quick picture."
   I don't get it. But, people get damaged along the way by little things-- probably just a brother who said "Oh, you shouldn't smile that big, your teeth are gross," or something like that. They might have been five years old and they take it to heart.   
   When I shoot someone, I want to bring out the best in them. I don't like taking "ugly" pictures of people. What I mean by that is that with some photographers, their goal is take a style of photography; the style is more important than the person. 
The photography is great unto itself, (but), to me, the person and having them feel good about themselves in the shot are the important things. 
  I do retouch people (in Photoshop), but, I tell people I retouch them to look like they're having the best day of their lives. I don't alter people, so, it doesn't look like them. I hate that, too. I don't understand how some photography has gotten to the point where people get airbrushed and sliced up to a point where they don't look like human beings anymore. What's the point, unless that is truly your goal-- "I'm going for making people into aliens." Okay, that's cool, I get that. 
  I started off drawing when I was a kid. I drew the actors and musicians that I really liked. I always put them in a positive light. I like to make people look good, but, still look like themselves. Unless you're going for something dramatic, and even then you can fix things up a little bit.
  Stanley Clarke told me, he said, "Man, you make middle-aged people look good." I said "Well, because, at this point I am a middle-aged person." But, I've always had that goal in mind, I don't want someone looking like crap. I see portrait photography, where certain photographers go for a very grungy look. Again, I don't mind doing (that) occasionally if it calls for it, but, as a style, I'm never trying to make people look bad. 
  I had a woman tell me when I was showing her some of my work "You know what I love about your work? Everything is beautiful, what you're shooting, it's all pretty. Even some of the darker stuff, it's got some beauty to it... A lot of people don't think like that anymore." 
  She had previously been an actress and was then married to Art Modell, former owner of the (Baltimore) Ravens, for a long time. Most people don't necessarily share what they think when we're together. I'm not asking them to, but, she did. 
  I hadn't really thought about it until then. I realized that's true. I think it influenced my photography and drawing. I believe that what I listened to, musically, growing up, determined a lot how I think about things in other areas; like (my) personal philosophy and the way I do my work.
 I grew up in a era when the music was very positive, especially R&B. Even when rap initially kicked in, it was positive, because, it was social commentary.  Or rappers talked about how many women they had, how much money they had or how many cars they had. It wasn't just saying how bad things were.

  When I take photographs of women, I'm always amazed at the things they'll say about their looks. I'm sitting with these absolutely beautiful women and they will definitely be picky about how they look. It's so funny to me. But, I think that's society talking a little bit.
 I always say guys could come in there and say "I look great. I look good." They could be just the slobbiest, nastiest guy in the world. The most beautiful woman in the world will look in the mirror and see a small pimple that nobody else will see and say "I cannot go out today." It's an exaggeration, of course, but, it's kind of like that.
  You can't tell someone that their opinion isn't valid. They see themselves as they see themselves. That gets into talking to someone and saying "What do you like and what don't you like about the photo?" and try to look at that when you're shooting. If someone says "I don't like that angle," you don't shoot at that angle. Give them what they think makes them look good. 

   When I'm doing the graphic novels, I end up being a one-man art department: I story board them, I costume them and I work with my writer who helps me cast them. Then when I'm photographing, it's a lot like directing, because, I have to direct people (to) what I'm looking for emotionally. 
  Once I photograph it, I put it all onto your background, then design it on top of that. I end up wearing a lot of hats. I'd like to take that into maybe making small films. I think I could do it. I'm capable as a director. I've worked with people who had no acting skills. They're not actors and I've managed to make them work in the realm of graphic novels. I had to pull a lot of emotion out of them for the stories that I was doing.

On working with musicians...

  I've gotten to meet a lot of people. I shot at a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute in Washington D.C. that Stevie Wonder hosted. Man, I'm telling you: The Pointer Sisters, of course Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Jeffrey Osbourne, Patti LaBelle, I got to meet all those people, it was real cool.

   (I) actually shot Rhonda Smith and Kat Dyson at the same time, in one of their apartments, I don't remember whose. We just set it up, shot (photos) and it was really fun. 
  That's the kind of thing I love sometimes. It's not like you have a whole studio or anything: you set up in somebody's place, you're just shooting and you have no specific use for (the photos). You're just trying to choose any cool shots that you can. That's pretty much what we did.
   They had both been in the music industry for a while, but, were fairly new working with Prince. I don't know if they knew what direction he wanted the photos to go. So, we just tried a lot of stuff.

  I shot David Bowie live (in concert). I (also) did T-shirt artwork for him. (After) doing a T-shirt for Prince, I got the opportunity to do T-shirts for The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Jon Bon Jovi and Bowie's T-shirt for the 
 "Sound and Vision" Tour . It was crazy.
   I (also) shot the show, which was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I sent (the photos) up to the company that (made) the T-shirts and never saw them again. (It) happens that way sometimes. 
  I did a photo shoot (where) I have shots of someone wearing them (the T-shirts). There's some hangers with the shirts hanging on them and I turned the photo black and white, except for the T-shirts, to make them pop a little bit. I think I might have posted it on Facebook, but, it was a while back. I have copy of every shirt I've ever done. 
   (Bowie) signed an album for me, but, I didn't get a chance to meet him. 

  I was going to do a tour shirt for (Paul McCartney). His ideas were very much like (like the work of) the guy who did all The Grateful Dead album covers. In the long run, Paul McCartney figured he could just hire the guy that did The Grateful Dead album covers and that's what he did. 
 One of the nice things for me was I could look at a style and replicate things in that style if I wanted to. It was cool from that perspective. I had the opportunity to show him the drawings. He liked my ideas. It was just "Wait, (I) want it to look a Grateful Dead album cover, I could just hire that guy." 
  Yes he could. He's Paul McCartney.
  Sheila E. and I have still never done a formal photo session.  We want to and what keeps happening is that sometimes I call her and say "Hey, I'm in L.A." and she says "Hey, I'm in Washington D.C." I'm like "What? How does that happen?" 
  We did do a short, fun little shoot when she was performing with the Dave Koz & Friends Christmas show down at the Strathmore (a venue in North Bethesda, Maryland), which is 45 minutes away from me. My son and I went down and shot photos of her in between sets. We actually got some good stuff out of that.
   I still really want to do a straight-up photo session with her. We were thinking of it on this new album she's got coming out. It ended up not working out. She said "Tell me what I should be doing." So, I actually drew it and out, (including the) lighting set up and she actually got someone to take the pictures. That's art direction right there. You say "Here's what I need" and have somebody else do it. 
  I really want to do a shoot with her, she's so much fun as a person. It's funny, she does a lot of serious work, but, she has such a great smile. I really want to work her smile. 
  She knows I want to do pictures with her and she wants to do pictures with me. I think it's just a matter of time.

 When the fDeluxe (Gaslight album) came around Paul Peterson (the group's co-lead singer) said "Do you want to do this?" I said "If I don't get to do this, I will feel very bad about it." 
  I was one of those people where The Family album was just a great record for me. When I first heard they doing it, I really wanted to be involved. Yet, I was a little hesitant in a way, too. How were they going to make that work? As a fan of the first record I can easily say they made a record as good and in some ways better. I could simply say nothing it this wasn't true.
   I'm taking it from a purely musical standpoint. It's hard to beat the things you grew up with. When you go back and listen to the music you grew up with, you say "Well, maybe on some levels, it wasn't as good as I thought it was. But, it's still what I grew up with. I have a sentimental attachment to it." I definitely had that for that record, so, I was very worried. 
  Those guys are all great. It's hard enough if you've just done a record, then a year later you're trying to do a second record. But, that many years later sometimes can be more difficult.  They really managed to capture it. I'm sure not everybody agrees with that, but, that's how I feel. I felt they did a really great job. I feel like they listened to what they did and grew. 
   Getting an opportunity to do the (album) artwork was great. I really wanted to do something that complimented the last record, but, not try to do black and white specifically, because, I thought that would have been a little cheesy. I liked that, but, I just really felt like if you're trying to involve your (fans) and also pick up new audiences, you're going to have to move your look into something contemporary. You can't just bite off something that's (more than) 25 years old.
  I definitely liked the drama of the initial record, I was trying to capture some of that and do it in color. I wanted to have a "What's going on? What's the story behind this?" picture. One of the things about Susannah (Melvoin, co-lead singer of fDeluxe) being on the cover, is that you can read that facial expression many different ways. I liked the fact that someone who didn't know the band, wouldn't necessarily  know she was the lead singer. 
  I explained it once and it's true: If you put a woman as art men can appreciate it and women can appreciate it.  It's one of the reasons, artistically why female figures have been very popular throughout the ages, because, they appeal more broadly. That's a time-honored thing. I felt like I wanted somebody up there, (so) instead of just trying to promote the band as a band, it was promoting something (where) you didn't know quite what it was.
  You're going have the people who will pick up the record no matter what. But, I wanted people who are maybe on the fence to take a listen to it. That's sort of what I was going for with that particular image. 
  The next album, the covers record, may be completely different, it might not have any people on the cover. We haven't set that in stone, but, I took a lot of photos of different stuff. It might be a little more--I don't know if abstract is the right word. We'll see how that goes, we don't know yet.

  I shot Wendy and Lisa for the Heroes Soundtrack and it was just a fun day of shooting. I had a great time with them. I love both of them.
  I had a really had a good time photographing them. They are really great people and extremely beautiful women inside and out.  It was a nice collaborative thing where I could talk to them about what I wanted to get or what I was looking for. Then they could give me ideas about what they wanted and go for all of those things. It's fun when you get to collaborate with the artist and bounce ideas off each other. You're probably noticing that I like to collaborate and it's funny because, I don't get much opportunity to do it in what I do. But, I really like it. 


  I grew up loving Chaka Khan's music and her voice. (It was) another opportunity to shoot somebody I never thought I would get to shoot-- just like Larry Graham, whom I ended up shooting around the same time. (He was) another one I grew up listening to. It was great. Those were cool gifts for me by way of working for Prince.
  Chaka was funny, because, she had her stylist and all that stuff. She came out, we shot and I showed her the stuff. She said "Yeah, I like it." I said "Do we need to shoot anymore?" She said "I don't know, do we need to shoot anymore?" I said "I'm happy with what I got." She said "Okay. Wow. It took less time to shoot than it took me to get ready."
   I do photograph quickly. I try to move people through their photo shoots quickly, because, I know most people, even if they need to get photos, don't want to spend a bunch of time taking pictures. They want to be done, they have other things to do and some people simply hate the process. 
  I've worked with musicians who really hate that part of it. But, (they) also know an essential part of what they do is to have that "image." That was a case where I made it quick. 

  Getting to shoot (Prince) was really fun. As a kid, I would draw pictures from photographs that other people had taken of him. It's cool, because, I see people drawing pictures of Prince from photos that I've taken of him. He was someone that really moved and he knew how to look at the camera.
  I like the shots I took of him at the Chanhassen Arboretum. They were outdoors and they were a little outside of what you saw out of Prince. Looking back, there are a lot of photos I wish we had done: some rawer photos; more casual; more juxtaposed and things that you would not expect at all: like having him all dressed with his guitar and everything in a cornfield; or standing with his feet in the ocean; or even in a lake out in Minneapolis, just to do something different and take you by surprise
  That's probably the only thing I wish I was more vocal about. But, a lot of times we would shoot very late, at two or three in the morning. You're always thinking in your head: "You know what would be great? Oh, it's dark outside, never mind."

 Victor Wooten actually let me sing on his last record, which was kind of fun. When I was in theater, I did musicals and I actually sing. Once I stopped doing that, I didn't sing for 20 years, except to my kid when he was a little baby. That was kind of fun and a nice experience, too.
 (Wooten) said "You want to sing on this?" I said "Sure, why not." If it sucked, worst case scenario, he could just not use it. I said "If this is terrible, I will not be offended if you don't use it." He (later) said "It came out great and I put it on the record."     
  Opportunity was a huge part of (working with) Prince; Victor Wooten was in that way, too. The big difference between Vic and Prince is that Vic allowed me to express what I wanted a little more. 
 Vic definitely took input, which was cool. If I thought something was cool, he would ask me why I thought so. I won't say he could be talked into it, but, he would see my point of view and be okay with it. It was not all about his perspective. It's a different thing. 
  Prince definitely worked image with his career. Victor really hadn't done that to my knowledge. I remember telling him, how come you don't have posters at your concerts?" He said "Posters of what?" I said "Posters of you." He said "Man, nobody's gonna buy my picture." I said "Let's do a poster and find out." We made 1,000 posters, they sold out in two or three months on tour. He had to get more done. He was surprised. You know, I didn't get that, but, he never worried about the image part. 

On Life...

  Being self employed is difficult. When I was (initially) self employed, it was just me and my wife and that was one thing. When you bring a child into the world, you want to provide for them and make sure you give them the best things that you can. Suddenly, you worry a lot more about the consistency of the money you're making. It kind of puts a fire under your ass, frankly, about making sure you bring in money.
  But, there are definite benefits: I can go pick my son up from school, if he's sick. I had a shoot the other day and (then) didn't have anything until later in the day, so, I went and saw a movie. If I was in an office situation, I wouldn't be doing that. But, I will admit that's pretty rare.
  Self-employed means that if you're not working on a specific project, you're working to know where the next project is coming from. It's like skydiving without a net and sometimes without a parachute. It feels like that. But, I also wouldn't trade it. 
  I'd like to pick up some teaching gigs or something for a little more income and stability. But, in my heart, I would not trade it for a corporate job. If I had a corporate job where I could make a lot of money in a few years-- I call it "dancing the corporate pole"-- I'd do that for a few years, put money away, then I'd go back out on my own.
   The problem with that is, if you take yourself off the market for a while and people can't get you to work for them, all those contacts dry up. That's a tough thing, too.
  In a way, I had that working for Prince, because, I was on salary. I was out of the pool for a while and I did not have time to take on a lot of other work. When I got back in the world of other things, I had to reestablish myself and that's a lot of work. It's almost like coming up with your second career. But, I was fortunate. I lucked into a whole lot of good things after that.

  I listened to music as kid, I was in theater (and) all these things that happened in my life. I was able to walk into a situation like Paisley Park and do a whole bunch of different things. I know I did some things better  than others, but, that's just the way it is. I would not have had the capacity to deal with that stuff had I not had all those other experiences.
  I think sometimes people focus on one thing and say "If I focus on one thing, that's a good thing." Well, if you're a musician, you've got to practice, but, does that mean you should sit around, talk music to somebody all day and that's all you do?
   If you don't sort of spread yourself out a little bit, so. that you can understand other experiences, you can't communicate.  When I'm talking to musicians, I have to put something to them in a way that makes sense to their brain about music. I always get this: "Well, I don't know how much effort I want to put into my CD package." I say, "Well, do you want people to be attracted to your product? Let's look at it like this: you put all this effort into your album, (and) you've made it really great. Now all people are going to do is put it on terrible 1960s car speakers. Suddenly, all that effort you put into it will just go away, because, they didn't listen to it the way it should have been (listened to)."
  This is what it comes down to, especially when you're trying to do something creative or artistic. You have to put it into their area of expertise, so they can equate (it) to something they already know instead of trying to learn a whole new language.

  The worst trap you can fall into is negative thinking. My son's behind me saying "No, it's not." He said the worst trap you can fall into involves fire ants, slugs and crocodiles. That's a pretty bad trap. That, however, is a one-time trap.

   The best advice is to live life as hard as you can. Just invest in it. (When) I say live hard, I mean do the things you want to; don't hold back. 
 I think people second guess themselves—I certainly know I have. But, I've also found that through sheer persistence of will, I've gotten to do what I wanted to do, even if it all comes around kind of oddly, (and) maybe it's not a straight shot.
 I think some people say "If I think positively, I'll have a straight shot, because, that's what my goals are."  But, sometimes your goals aren't the right goals. Sometimes what happens to you shows you where you should be-- as far as positive things. I don't want to say somebody should be in a gutter, somewhere, if they end up like that. They should not be in a gutter. What I'm saying is, I think if you live like there's no tomorrow and pursue things as hard as you can-- really put your best foot forward-- it's going work out for you. Like I said, it may not be the way you expected.
  When I was in college, I truly expected (to be) doing Broadway shows, be on television or whatever. That's what my goals were at the time. But, life revealed to me, that's not really where (I was) supposed to be and I still ended up doing really, really good things. 
  Something in the universe said "No, no, not that. Come over here." I believe that you can learn from failure. Failure is relative. (When) people say they failed at something, did they fail? Or did they come in at 20 percent of what they wanted? It's not a failure if you learn things. That's a win, because, you learned something now that you can apply later on. I think people forget that. 
  The second part of living life hard... is staying connected with people, staying connected with family and friends. Don't lose that connection. I see a lot people who find themselves being very lonely, (for) no reason at all, except for the fact they got very myopic on whatever they were doing. 
  You want to live life hard, but, include every part of it. Don't just do the job hard. You (also) have to do the family connection, friend connection (and) love connection. One day you'll say "What happened to the last twenty years of my life?" It's true.

On life now and in the future...
  (I live) in Baltimore, now, which I enjoy. I never thought I'd live in a more city type of environment. When I first got into Baltimore, it was like when you see apocalyptic movies: you saw the Waterfront and I was just waiting for the radioactive creatures to come out. That was probably what Baltimore was like when I moved here.
  It's a blue collar town and there (was) a lot of industry that (was) very polluting. I don't think anybody knew that at the time. When you start to see people in white Hazmat suits and full headgear cleaning the water of all the green stuff floating around in it, you know there were some problems. We actually had that, it was actually like some weird science fiction movie. I will say (that) Baltimore has moved past that. It's a different city.


  Medusa's Daughter... my friend Johnathon Scott Fuqua and I came up with (the concept) in 2008. We wanted to do a book that was available in multiple formats, because, kids read in different ways.
  (The books) all have the same basic story, which is about a girl who finds herself in a side show in the 1970s, who can manipulate her hair and make it move. She has been in the sideshow since she was a kid, but, she becomes a teenager and finds out she other powers. She's trying to figure out who she is, where she came from and what her real background is. The guy who owns the sideshow has basically told her lies from birth.
   Teenagers go through this: Who am I? What do I do? Things are changing for them and they don't know how to handle it. (The story) is sort of a corollary between adolescence, but, in a superhuman, or unusual, format. It's something that's slightly outside the norm and more interesting. But, it really deals with issues that teenagers go through. We felt very strongly about a strong female lead character. We wanted to create a strong female character that has bizarre abilities, which would attract boys.
  We designed a prose novel, which is just like a straight novel with no pictures. Then, there's a graphic novel, which, of course, has lots of photos and is treated in a somewhat comic book style-- but, I'm doing photography instead of drawing. Then we have a book that looks more like it's painted. It's for kids with dyslexia and reading issues, so, there are individual pages of painting and less words.  
  We felt (that) what happens to a lot of kids at that age is that they slip through the cracks, because, they have to read down several grades. What happens is the subject matter of the book is not interesting to them at all. But, they are given those books, because, it's at their reading level. It's kind of screwed up. 
     You're in 8th grade or 9th Grade and you're reading something for a 5th grader. You're not going to want to read.  No matter what level you read at, you can read this book. Then, you can discuss it with your friends. It levels the playing field a little bit.
  If a librarian has these books, he or she can target the kids: "Oh, I know this kid likes to read Harry Potter, so, I can give him this prose book, no problem" or "This kid I know, he reads Batman, Superman or Spiderman (comic books). So, he or she might like this."
  If a kid who has reading issues, reads through the first book, a librarian can say to them "The other two books are basically the same idea, but, there's different information about each of the characters in each of the formats." You can tell more of the story or different parts of the story, just by virtue of the type of book it is. 
  We're hoping a kid who has reading issues might challenge themselves by then going to the graphic novel. It has a lot of photos and images in it. It's an easier read. If they get through that, then they can try and read the novel. We made the novel small on purpose, so, it doesn't look so daunting. The trick is that the type is small, so, there's actually a lot of words in there. We want kids to go through it and feel a sense of accomplishment in their reading. 
  On top of that, we simply wanted to make a story that people read and enjoy. It tries to serve some educational purposes without being an educational book.

   In the future, I hope to do more book projects. I hope to see some of the book projects and graphic novels, take off into movies, games or whatever. Multimedia all derives from stories and that's what I'm doing. I'm coming up with all these stories. It's just a matter of finding the time to get them done. I don't have to hold on to them myself. I'll be happy to find someone who wants to run with a story idea and actually make it happen, rather than just do it myself.
   I'd love to keep working with music. The hard part is, what does art for music look like in an era where more things are going digital? You still have to have a cover, but, you don't necessarily need the rest of it. I do think that stuff is going to survive, especially, because, kids are getting into vinyl and things like that. So, there will still be some of that kind of work. I'd like to keep a hand in that, too.

Stay beautiful, Kristi
Check out Steve Parke's official Web site here.
All photos courtesy of Steve Parke Photography Facebook Page. Check it out here.

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