Chagall Guevara

[Image: Chagall Guevara - The Metro: The Mid-South's Music Monthly, February 1991 Cover Thumbnail]

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[Image: Chagall Guevara - The Metro: The Mid-South's Music Monthly, February 1991 Page 12 Thumbnail]
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The Metro: The Mid-South's Music Monthly
February 1991, Volume 7, Issue 79
© 1991 The Metro Magazine
Cover story, Pages 3, 12
Thanks to Rev. Keith A. Gordon

By Keith A. Gordon

A lot has been said, some of it good, some of it not so good, about Nashville's so-called "alternative" music scene. Although it's true that the Music City has produced a number of talents, among them Jason & The Scorchers, The Questionnaires, Bill Lloyd, Aashid Himmons and Raging Fire, to name but a few, the majority of the hundred and one bands plying their trade on the streets and in the clubs of our fair city rigidly fall into a handful of tired stylistic genres of Rock and Roll.

True "alternatives" are few and far between, and are often shunned by the close-knit and elitist local music cliques. Every now and then, however, a band will come along whose fresh style, musical integrity and brash originality defies categorization and cuts across any such artificial boundaries to appeal to a cross-section of local music fans. Chagall Guevara is just such a band...

The story of Chagall Guevara is that of an "overnight-success" that only took the members a lifetime to accomplish. "We have all been kicking around the music business since the day it began," states Chagall guitarist Dave Perkins. "We've all played various, sundry roles within it which have little or no bearing on what we do today."

Chagall Guevara was formed when the members, says Perkins, "met in California working on different projects and became buds, buddies...comrades, if you will, and we'd threatened or joked with each other about putting a band together. As it turned out, we all came to a juncture, a point in time where we were all available. We found ourselves by the road, hitchhiking in the same direciton, so we said, 'let's see if we can catch a ride together.'" "No one would pick us up, by the way," adds guitarist Lynn Nichols, laughingly, "so it was a long walk."

The embryonic band decided to base themselves in Nashville, for a variety of reasons. Says Perkins, "I had moved from New York back to Nashville, where I had lived before I had gone to New York. I had a recording studio in my house here. So the plan unfolded that we would do it in Nashville for that and some other reasons."

Adds Nichols, we felt like this was a good place to be outside of the music industry, away from New York and Los Angeles. Steve and I were already living in L.A. and didn't feel that it was a good environment to be's not a great place to develop as a band. You're too close to the marketing aspects of the industry and many of the bands out there are affected by that."

The band had done some writing together in L.A. before moving here in February 1989, but once arriving, quickly began the task of forging a credible live band. "We wanted to play live," says Steve Taylor, the main voice behind Chagall Guevara. "Before anybody had seen us we wanted to have played a fair number of times, we wanted to feel like a live band. We weren't really interested in record company types coming to see us until we felt that the band was really together live." Another benefit was Nashville's club scene and the city's proximity to the center of the country. "In L.A.," says Steve, "where do you play unless your uncle has a thousand bucks to put the money up to play the Roxy? From Nashville, within four hours or so you have eight to ten major cities you can play in, and we felt that was important for a new band."

Chagall Guevara's first shows were in Bowling Green, Kentcuky and in Nashville; they soon branched out into the Mid-South area, opening for various bands and building a loyal following of their own. "We tried to open up for a lot of bands that we thought were great bands," says Perkins, "and we got in front of some of their people and, I don't necessarily know all of the reasons, but the word just seemed to grow."

"One of the things that helped," Perkins continues, "was that the second night that we played in town, we were offered a record deal. I think that created a buzz within Music Row, and I think that, if you're a band on the street, once the labels come sniffin' around, I think that people naturally get curious and come out to see what's going on." Chagall's show-stealing appearance at the Nashville Entertainment Association's 1990 Extravaganza helped to further interest in the band.

Chagall Guevara signed with MCA Records in March of 1990. "We went through the signing thing," says Perkins, "and we got three solid offers and one that was real interested, but we told them that it was too late. We went through the agonizing roll of the dice of who to sign with and went with MCA primarily because of the people that we met there, and we felt that they didn't have anybody like us and we felt that they had their sights set on breaking bands."

The result is Chagall's recently released self-titled debut. Perkins, Nichols and Taylor, along with bassist Wade Jaynes and drummer Mike Mead, recorded the disc at Franklin's Bennett House studio. "We wanted to record the record in Nashville because we wanted to be a part of the scene, we felt it was important as a contribution from our belief in the music scene here that we taked a stand to do the record here."

"Our approach on the record," says Taylor, "was to take the sonic ambiance of that house...there's a lot of big rooms, a victorian-styled mansion, and to not use the same set of digital boxes which tend to get used no matter what kind of record that you're making. So even though this is a five piece band, we did it on all forty-eight tracks in order to catch all of these different ambiances. When we actually mixed the record, we didn't use any digital reverbs at all, to try to give the record a different sound."

"It's gotten to the point where everyone uses the same tools in the recording process," says Perkins. "You listen to a really good Country record, it sounds just like a good-sounding Rock record, which sounds like a good-sounding Jazz record, texturally and spatially. What we wanted to do, we worked really hard on the creation of our songs, nit-picking and pulling them apart, and we wanted to carry this over into the recording of them."

CHAGALL GUEVARA, the record, is a solid, sizzling slab o' sound, as unique in its musical dynamics as it is in its style and substance. Sounding perfectly at home incorporating disparate elements of jazz, funk and soul into their compelling Rock and Roll maelstorm, Chagall Guevara have created a sincere and exciting debut, a disc which is totally unlike anything the Music City has ever produced.

"We wanted to put something that was honestly us on tape," states Nichols. "So many bands are disappointed when they make their first record...coming out of the studio saying, 'well, it's not quite what we are live.' That happens more often than not. Since we place such a premium on playing live, we are a live band, not a computer band or a band on paper, we have the same energy, not a record that was overproduced and layered with overdubs."

The band succeeded in their goal, delivering a disc which captures the experience that is Chagall Guevara live, that is, an inspired and individualistic sound that offers the listener a choice of thirty years of musical styling. "There's a lot of different styles on the record," says Perkins. "I guess we have unspoken boundaries...I don't know that we've ever said, stylistically, that too much of that is not enough...the point is, that in describing the songs, we tried not to paint ourselves into a corner." Every song is a three-way collaboration between Perkins, Taylor and Nichols, thus drawing upon the talent, experience and the knowledge of all three musicians.

The band will be touring in support of the disc, with a Nashville appearance on February 8th at the 328 Performance Hall being one of their first shows since the disc's release. Early response to the recording has been positive and encouraging, and a video for the disc's first single, "Violent Blue" was recently shot in a large cavern near McMinville. In attempting to be the first band to really break out of Nashville on a national scale, Chagall Guevara have a very good opportunity to capture the brass ring which has eluded so many other local artists. They did it their own way, with no compromises, and they did it by offering something that was completely different from anything Nashville had ever heard before...

...encouraging, isn't it? Check out Chagall Guevara before the rest of the world discovers what the local music scene already knows.

photo credit: Michael Lavine