|
Orion Gazette - Orion, IL
  • For Chuck Prophet, it's only rock 'n' roll

  • For someone who has performed on “Late Show with David Letterman” and released a new album roughly ever other year since 1990, Chuck Prophet sounds a little uncertain about his place in the musical pantheon.

    • email print
  • For someone who has performed on “Late Show with David Letterman” and released a new album roughly ever other year since 1990, Chuck Prophet sounds a little uncertain about his place in the musical pantheon.
    “I’m not so sure I’m making a living. I know I don’t have a job,” the singer/guitarist said during a telephone interview from his San Francisco home.
    Prophet is savvy enough to point out that many articles about him pose some form of the question, “Why isn’t he more famous?” He’s recorded with Jewel and Warren Zevon and worked  with Cake and Kim Carnes, proof that his music career has stretched across multiple decades and genres. And he’s sharp enough to boil down the appeal of the music he’s come to love and perform.
    “It’s rock ‘n’ roll. You don’t need an owner’s manual to get into it,” he said.
    Prophet occupies that hard-to-classify (and consequently hard-to-promote) genre often labeled roots rock. One song might have a strong country influence, the next one might be a blues tune, and another might lean toward the New Wave era.
    Prophet calls it rock ‘n’ roll and he says he feels fortunate to get to record the music he likes.
    “My heroes were always guys like Woody Allen. Here was a guy who was an auteur. He wrote and directed and more often than not acted in his own movies,” Prophet said. “What you saw was his vision on the screen and little meddling (from movie studios). And the real trick is he did it once a year. You look at the credits, it’s always the same font, always in alphabetical order. He managed to make it without six months in the credit committee working on the sequence. He made it to a place where he could do it once a year and do it in a way where his vision wasn’t diluted.
    “Those are my kind of heroes.”
    ‘It’s a buzz’
    Prophet earlier this year released “Temple Beautiful.” It’s a collection of songs about San Francisco, where he’s lived most of his adult life.
    “Part of what San Francisco means to me is it was an education,” he said. “Moving here, after having grown up in a suburban Southern California childhood where my dad and my family is fairly conservative — when I asked for guitar lessons, my dad got me golf lessons — moving to San Francisco was really an education.”
    Temple Beautiful was a punk music club Prophet went to often when he was young — the kind of place where you could see five bands a night, “laying it on the line trying to express themselves,” he said. “That’s what hooked me.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The album “Temple Beautiful” includes songs about places only locals might know about, such as that punk music club, but also topics such as Dan White, the city supervisor who killed mayor George Moscone and fellow city supervisor Harvey Milk; and baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who played most of his career for the San Francisco Giants.
    After working on some songs with a friend, Prophet said he realized he was writing about his adopted city. From there, other songs took shape.
    But even after finding a theme for his latest album — and after releasing a dozen solo albums following a stint in the band Green on Red — Prophet said songwriting remains a mystery to him.
    “The process is you’re playing chords and figuring out some riff and bouncing words off the wall. Suddenly, the words and lines are dueling with each other and forming rhyme schemes … but you really don’t know what you’re doing,” he said.
    “It’s depressing. The only way I can describe songwriting to people is that it’s a buzz. Getting something to lay down there and behave, it’s a buzz. And as soon as you’re done, you wonder where the next one is going to come from.
    “It’s a dream gig for a bipolar, mood-swinging person like myself.”
    Contact Brien Murphy at 217-788-1515.
     
      • calendar