Chagall Guevara Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why did Chagall Guevara break up?

The first and easiest answer to the question is that while the album did well critically, it didn't do well commercially.

Second, MCA failed to promote the band. Do you remember hearing about this band in the mainstream rock world?

Luke Yang posted a message to Usenet in 1995 about his experience with MCA when it came to Chagall:

... [T]here were times when I called MCA to find out the release date of Chagall Guevara, [and] the "publicity department" would ask me, "Can you spell that for me?" Enough said.

However, this is only half the story. As Steve once put it, when MCA dropped the ball, the band failed to pick it up. From his Winter 1993 True Tunes News interview:

"I suppose philosophically, my spin on why the band didn't work, I would argue this point to the death: Some of the guys felt that it was the record company that leads the charge. I felt very strongly that the band leads the charge, and the company follows. MCA hadn't broken a rock band in twelve years. It wasn't that they'd never had a decent group. Somehow, fundamentally, they didn't understand what it was about Rock and Roll, and what made it work. In retrospect, I still feel that if we had hit the road running and really gone out and made our case live, it could have happened. Once the record came out we kind of sat back and said, what's everyone gonna do for us. The whole story is what Sock Heaven is really about."

In the same interview, Steve also identified individual band members' obligations as sources of contention:

There's probably a book there. We started it with all the rights ideas. It would be very easy for me to step back from it and say "Oh, it was this, this, and this." We had a good plan and a good direction. There was one 'Achilles' Heel' to the whole thing, and I guess if I had been a little more perceptive I would have recognized it early on. It was simply that some of the guys were not only married, but had children, and lots of them. To start something like that from scratch was no big deal for Deb and me, because we didn't have any kids, and were basically unattached. But for the other guys with families, houses, roots in Nashville, it was quite a bit more difficult. Everyone agreed that we were going to be a touring band, but if I had been a bit wise, I would have realized that my idea of touring, and what was likely to actually happen were two different things.

Chagall Guevara's last performance was most likely at the Mark Heard Memorial Concert in the Massey Auditorium of Belmont University in Nashville, TN, on January 9th, 1993. They performed their cover of Mark Heard's "Treasure of the Broken Land" and "Still Know Your Number By Heart".

Will there ever be a Chagall Guevara reunion?

It is the question of the ages, is it not? The best possible answer for fans is "maybe," but the most likely answer is "no."

In an interview in the Winter 1993 edition of True Tunes News, Steve said:

"I think I would like to do it again, but I'd want to approach it more like a hobby. Like something you do with your friends. To rely on it as my main gig would be pretty foolish."

He repeated this sentiment in a November 1993 interview for The Lighthouse:

"I would love to do some more stuff in the future, but I think I made the comment in the band's last year of existence that it was starting to feel like it was more of a hobby than it was a real band, especially since we weren't playing live much--which was one of the cornerstones of being a band in the first place."

Of course, the optimism in the previous quotes is a decade old now. In 2002, Steve mentioned that the idea of a Chagall reunion gets kicked around every now and then, but that the band members have always been busy with their own individual things these days. Dave Perkins, for example, went on to graduate from divinity school.

The likely deal-killer came at Steve's press conference at Cornerstone 2003, in which he said that he was going out of his way to assure people that he is not doing music anymore and that his pursuit of filmmaking is now his full-time job. In addition, he said that he "managed to burn most music bridges" behind him, which certainly referred to the sequence of events and the players that led to Squint Entertainment's demise.

To sum it all up, if you are a betting person, good money goes on Chagall Guevara being permanently laid to rest. The best we can hope for at this point is that perhaps the unreleased material that exists will finally be put out in some form.

Did Chagall Guevara ever have music videos?

[Photo: Still image from Chagall Guevara 'Violent Blue' video] Chagall Guevara had one music video for the song Violent Blue. The video was shot in the Volcano Room of Cumberland Caverns, a Tennessee state park and U.S. natural landmark. Of note in the video is a cameo by Fleming & John and, of course, Steve's powder blue suit.

In an interview of the band in a 1991 issue of Cornerstone magazine, Steve indicated that they liked--or, at least, didn't hate--the video:

"...we did a video. It was down in a cave about a hundred miles south of Tennessee. You go into this narrow opening and down these sort of narrow tunnels, and it opens up on this huge room with a giant chandelier. So we set up sort of a postapocalyptic feel. We brought all our friends down and had them participating in this violent feasting while we played our hearts out, and they just totally ignore us. It's not a bad video, actually."

Of course, MCA ultimately rolled over on them, the band didn't take off as they had hoped they would, and things generally just didn't come up roses. With pretense thus out of the way two years later, it turned out that the band did not like the video after all. Steve explained their feelings about it in the Winter 1993 edition of True Tunes News:

"... [T]he band's experience with video wasn't very great. We didn't really like how "Violent Blue" turned out. The lesson was, if you have the tools, do it yourself. It wasn't a huge budget, but they spent way more than they needed to, and we could have done it better ourselves. After that video I said that if I ever got the chance again I was just going to do it on my own."

This, of course, led to Steve, et al, doing it on their own around the world for Squint: Movies from the Soundtrack.

Negative sentiments about the video were reiterated in an April 1996 interview for The Lighthouse Electronic Magazine:

"I really was not into that video. In fact, we were all pretty disappointed with it. That was one of the reasons that I got back into doing it myself. We came up with the idea of setting it in this cave--it was an incredible location--it had this big chandelier and everything like that. We all saw a bunch of director's reels and the guy that we hired is a good director, but I just don't think he was able to make the most of that opportunity. I think primarily it was just the way it was shot. I think, more than anything else, it was a lighting problem--it looked very flat."

As for whether or not it actually received any airplay, I can only personally attest to seeing it once on the Trinity Broadcasting Network's Christian music video show "Real Videos." Another person recalls seeing the video very late at night on MTV circa 1991, which is backed up by Kevin: The Chagall Guevara Newsletter ("We've had reports of numerous sightings of Chagall Guevara's 'Violent Blue' video on MTV between the hours of 2-6 a.m"). It was also shown on Z Music, a satellite Christian music channel, up until at least 1996 according to spotters.

Fans of irony will love to know that the band's name was misspelled "Chagall Guevera" on the label of the promotional VHS.

What non-album Chagall Guevara tracks are available?

Chagall's first track, Tale O' The Twister, is available on the soundtrack to the 1990 movie Pump up the Volume. Some feel that the song is "thin" or "not as fleshed out" when compared to the rest of Chagall's work. Indeed, the track is virtually identical to the version on their demo tape. The two other songs on that demo tape, Murder in the Big House and Escher's World, were punched up quite a bit for the studio album.

There was also a rare B-side called Still Know Your Number By Heart. It was released on the European version of the Violent Blue single. Lots of luck to you if you set out to try to find an original. You can get it on the Loose Ends bootleg when you give up. :-)

Finally, Chagall put together an amazing cover of Treasure of the Broken Land for the 1994 Mark Heard tribute album Strong Hand of Love.

Is there any unreleased Chagall Guevara material? -and-

What are Halcyon Days and A Bullet's Worth A Thousand Words?

This is an old question, but it really flared up when astute web surfers noticed an incorrect track listing for the Now The Truth Can Be Told boxed set on half.com and a few other sites. Besides having a track order wildly different from the actual boxed set, two mysteries were listed near the end: A Bullet's Worth A Thousand Words and Halcyon Days.

According to Steve, the tracks, both of which are "quite good," were recorded for what would have been Chagall's second studio album. They have never seen the light of day, and remain locked away in the vaults until the band decides what to do with them.

Trained Chagall spotter Jerry B. Ray, Jr. dredged his CCM Magazine collection to explain why these tracks, as well as the rare Still Know Your Number By Heart B-side, didn't appear on the Truth boxed set. First, in the July 1994 issue of CCM, on page 13, in Bruce Brown's "Rock/Alternative" news bits column, was the following quote:

"...look for Sparrow's Steve Taylor box set called Now the Truth Can Be Told. This is gonna be some deluxe package! It's tentatively set to feature as many as 37 songs from all phases of Steve's career, including selections from curiosities like The Best We Could Find and Limelight, plus two Chagall Guevara and two Taylor solo demos. A like-titled video compilation is also being prepared."

Two months later, in the same column on page 12 of the September 1994 issue of CCM, there was this update:

"And speaking of Mr. T - Now the truth can be told! (to borrow the title of Taylor's just-released Sparrow retrospective). Plans for some type of Chagall Guevara collection nixed the idea of any unreleased Chagall material appearing on Taylor's package, as previously announced. But you do get one Steve demo, as well as a 'demo salad' Taylor calls 'Shark Sandwich' - a collage of bits of songs you know in a way you haven't heard them before; that, plus 34 other cuts make it a pretty comprehensive package."

This Chagall compilation, of course, never materialized.

With regard to other unreleased Chagall work, there are probably a few more studio tracks besides Bullet and Halcyon Days, and definitely an entire live recording, that never made it out to the world. Quoting Steve from his press conference at Cornerstone 2003:

"There was not a lot of unreleased stuff. There were probably five or six songs that we recorded as we were; we were trying to make demos on a new record at the same time we were trying to get out of our deal with MCA because we didn't see any future there. During that process, we were recording new songs. There are some songs that have never been released. There was a live album that we recorded at a club in Nashville that I think sounds really good, but we've never actually mixed it.

"We've kicked around the idea of putting something together and putting that out, because it was a really good live band. The problem is that that show that was recorded was also videoed, and we've been on the hunt. It was a guy that had done it as a favor, and somewhere, probably in Nashville, Tennessee, in some vault, are three beta tapes of that performance, and we can't find them anywhere. If we ever could find that, we might put out a live DVD, but until that case, I'm not sure."

The unmixed live audio has also been mentioned by Dave Perkins, whom I had the pleasure of meeting by accident at an Over the Rhine performance in Nashville in March of 2003. By all accounts, the audio tapes are safe and sound somewhere.

With regard to the guy with the video tapes that the band was on the hunt for, he was finally tracked down in Los Angeles. Steve corresponded with him and even his friends and associates in order to trace all possible sequences of events that might have led to a third party getting the tapes, and sadly, all investigations have led to dead ends.

When Steve mentioned the missing tapes, I joked that they're probably on eBay, and that I have a few bad VHS copies of Chagall things myself. He responded, "Do ya? No kidding? We'll let's talk. You know, you can do a lot of stuff with digital technology these days." This probably doesn't leave a lot of room for hoping for more material.

Chagall Guevara was a mainstream, "secular" album on the MCA label, but my copy has the Sparrow logo on it. What gives?

Sparrow picked up distribution of the album for the Christian market in September 1991. From the October 1991 issue of CCM:

"Sparrow Records has also agreed, with MCA, to release Chagall Guevera's self-titled debut to the Christian market. The band's rousing mainstage Cornerstone performance in front of thousands of enthusiastic fans would indicate that lots of us are more than ready for music made with this goal in mind: 'We want to make intelligent music and play it like mindless fools.'"

Anecdotal evidence posted to Usenet in January 1995 by Andrew Taylor of QRSTUV provides more detail:

"... [T]he reason it was released on a Christian label was because a bunch of Christian labels went to MCA for distribution rights on the album. MCA asked Chagall what they thought of the idea. They didn't like it but MCA went ahead anyway. Steve said he was glad that it was at least Sparrow that got it because he was familiar with them."

MCA folded in June of 2003, and all of its artists were merged into Geffen records. Does this mean anything for Chagall Guevara?

It means very little, if anything at all. The word from those in the know is that despite the change, it's still a "same company, same people" situation. If the band ever wanted to re-release the album, thereby saving literally hundreds of dozens of people from paying extortionate eBay prices, they would still have to pay up to license the masters.

Was The Wrong George staged?

According to Steve: No. From a pre-concert interview with David Wang in June of 1996:

DW: On the Chagall Guevara album, "The Wrong George," is that actually a real conversation?

ST: Yeah, right. Somebody called--Dave picked up the phone in his basement just as the machine went off upstairs, so it ended up recording the whole conversation.

Also, from Kevin: The Chagall Guevara Newsletter:

The conversation you hear in "The Wrong George" actually took place in the winter of 1989. Dave was playing guitar at unnatural volumes in his basement when he sensed his phone ringing. He picked up the downstairs extension just as the upstairs answering machine began recording, and what you hear is the complete, unedited conversation that ensued, transferred directly from the answering machine tape in all its sonic splendor.