Scene Magazine Publisher Erin d’Quincy MacLeod Chats Yet Again With
Noted Monterey Curmudgeon Reinaldo García
We’re back at the scene of last year’s interview, in the behind-home-plate bleachers of Monterey, California's Sollecito Field, adjacent to Denis the Menace Park and Lake Estero, where Reinaldo and his baseball team The Lumber Company have just lost a 4-3 playoff heartbreaker in the bottom of the ninth inning, eliminating them from contention.
Scene: Boy, what a change from last year, huh? Your current team rocks! Oh, and by the way, you look terrific.
RG: After last season, many members of that pathetic team The Second Basemen told the league office that we would never take the field again under the leadership of the Captain Ahab wannabe who guided us to an 0-12 season in 2010. I was one of them, and this year I was assigned to The Lumber Company by the league office. Other ex-teammates weren’t so lucky.
Reinaldo García, third from left, front row.
Scene: What’s so special about this bunch?
RG: They're kind, articulate, knowledgeable, and skilled. Some of them were drafted by professional baseball teams and have great stories to tell. We've got a fifth grade teacher, a carpenter, an architect, a manual laborer, a financial consultant, a hospital chef, a Pebble Beach golf caddy, a resort doorman, a health spa executive...and we're led by a commander of the Seaside Police Department.
Scene: Drafted by professional baseball teams?
RG: This is an Over-30 baseball league, and the overall talent level is extremely high. At 61 years of age, I faced pitchers who a couple of years ago were striving to make the major leagues. And yet the sense of fraternity across the league continues to surprise me. The games are very intense, very pressurized, until the final pitch, when everyone shakes hands and we rake the field level again for the next game.
Scene: The next game’s about to start.
RG Yes, there are two single elimination contests today. We just lost to the 11-1 Twins, and the Expos and Seals are warming up. I favor the Seals, against whom we were 1:-1 this season. I have a personal friend, John Franklin, on the Seals. He’s kind of a local legend, and currently coaches girls' softball teams to annual championships. Two years ago, I hired John to personally coach my rookie daughter in a series of one-on-one sessions.
[The game begins.]
Scene: So, to your new CD.
RG: It's called Resurrection Machine. It’s a “concept album,” and--
Scene: Oh, gawd, not another “concept album.” Dreary, preachy tunes, linked by stale ideas...
RG: This one tells the story of a man and a woman who emerge from a volatile domestic period only to face death when radical Muslims set off a series of bombs across America. It investigates the incipient tensions between Islam and Christianity.
Scene: Hmmm...sounds positively...academic.
RG: These things rise and fall on the strength of the songs, and I think the songs are pretty good.
Scene: Do tell.
RG: Naco Basura of Bremerton, Washington, along with his lovely wife Sally, hosted my daughter Victoria and me for two weeks last June. Naco has a little attic studio where he works his magic. The first night there, we drove to a bar and watched Knucklehead, Naco's rock trio, blast out hits by Hendrix, The Who, Led Zeppelin, and others. He’s a very talented guitarist. And, as it turns out, a skilled arranger who set my songs like diamonds in his great sonic settings.
Scene: The opening song is called “Real True Man.”
RG: It's a series of aphorisms about disappearing manhood and life on earth, set in an Americana arrangement.
Scene: Which leads into “Blue Hotel.” That one’s got kind of a Pink Floyd feeling.
RG: Sung from the point-of-view of a sexual deviant. The next chapter in the domestic saga is “That's How It Goes.” The cuckolded husband is fed up with his wife's degradations, and the song has a nice reveal at the end: The deviant “lover” shoots himself in the head.
Scene: The husband is very forgiving. The next song, “I Still Love You,” is an absolute change-of-pace.
RG: I don’t think there are enough songs about long term relationships. Long term relationships fascinate me. They're like a secret journey, conducted inside the larger society. The ability to forgive is essential, as is a desire to allow the other party to be who they are, to experiment, to fail, to grow. Pop songs are all about the sizzle, not the steak.
Scene: What follows is a gorgeous voice/guitar thing called “Just a Moment in Time.”
RG: We recorded a great version in Naco’s studio, but there were too many technical flaws in the recording to use it. So I re-did it down here in Monterey. I wanted a quiet, naked piece of music to end the first half of the record, before the more politicized portion begins.
Scene: So you went from the personal to the political. From the micro to the macro.
Our Worthy Opponents
RG: The jazzy “What Maria Saw” opens the second half. A jihadist sneaks into Los Angeles with a bomb and blows up thousands of Angelenos. That brings us to the “Muslim at the Door.”
Scene: Was that a difficult concept to pull off?
RG: Yes. I wanted to split the song's verses into two halves, linked by the chorus. The first half of each verse would be from the point-of-view of America's children, playing in the streets, and then forced to shoot sleeper cell jihadists. The second half of each verse would depict the Muslims' situation. Naco did a great job of producing a Eurotech arrangement, and the song has a nice dreamy feel to it.
Scene: Which brings us to “Like Lightning From Heaven.”
RG: Every night I listen to sermons by Pastor Timothy Keller of the Church of the Redeemer in New York City. I have about 60 of them, on CDs, and listen on a rotational basis. One night he quoted some Biblical passage about someone seeing “Satan fall like lightning from Heaven,” and I fell in love with the image.
Scene: The devil has fascinated you for a long time. Your 2009 screenplay Harvesters had a demon as a central character.
RG: I see Lucifer as the archetypal tragic figure, victimized by vanity, envy and ambition. He’s embraced by rebellious teen-aged boys all over the world, for good reason. Rebellion against the father and the Order of Things is analogous to Satan's revolt against God.
Scene: You set the song in an inner city church.
RG: My Mexican wife has been singing with a largely African-American gospel choir, and she loves those people.
Scene: After that comes “Morning.”
RG: In my story, after the Muslim revolt and the gathering in the church, the man and his family set out on foot across the blighted landscape, seeking community with fellow refugees. I based the song, somewhat, on Cormac McCarthy's terrifying novel The Road.
Scene: I like the pulsating cellos.
RG: Naco came up with those, and immediately doubted them as being “too Enya.” Victoria and I found them enchanting, and I love having differing sonic textures on my CDs. So the cellos stayed. I like this song very much.
Scene: Oh look! John Franklin's at bat! [Pause] Ouch! That must hurt!
RG: Notice he’s not rubbing it. And now the Seals have another man on base. You know what?
RG: One of John Franklin’s favorite phrases, when he wants to compliment a student, is “Now you're lookin’ like a ballplayer!” See how he casually tossed the bat aside and trotted to first base as though getting hit by a pitch is no big deal? That’s lookin’ like a ballplayer!
Scene: The next song has an interesting title. And it sounds like something Johnny Cash would've sung well
RG: Yeah, Naco's a huge Johnny Cash fan. “Resurrection Machine” has a nice tension between the idea of “resurrection” and “machine.” Naco joked that it had to be some kind of mechanized sex toy, a la “Rez-Erection Machine.” But for me it’s a nice frisson because I believe Americans are enamored of finger-snapping solutions to problems, and being strapped to a device that ensures eternal life would be pretty inviting. Like purchasing an “E” ticket for a Disneyland ride, and walking out “saved.”
Scene: Does Disneyland still classify their rides by letters of the alphabet?
RG: Don't know. Haven't been there since 1970.
Scene: Next up, “Tear-Stained Truth.”
RG: That's another one gleaned from Timothy Keller. He says something to the effect that one can't encounter the truth without shedding tears. I assume the tears are the residue of some deeply held illusion being shattered.
Scene: Who is Ibelisse?
RG: I had a Facebook friend named Ibelisse Sanchez, a professed devout Christian who lives in Chicago. We've never met. Before I wrote the song, I requested permission to use her name. She granted it. I wrote the song, sent her the lyric, and was warmed by her praise of it on her Facebook page. Shortly thereafter, her boyfriend, now her husband, accused me of “stalking” her, right before I was “de-friended.” What I was after, on this album, was a song that would balance the previous song's celebration of Christ, with an ode to the healing feminine spirit. Naco set the song in a T. Rex arrangement, and I love it.
Scene: Which leads us to the final chapter, “Build That Bridge.”
RG: I try to design my CDs as going from darkness to light. Saint Augustine's Confessions are a paradigm I favor.
Scene: But nobody listens to CDs beginning-to-end anymore.
RG: Yes, and isn't that sad? During the late 60s and early 70s, I could only love an album that took me four or five listens to comprehend what the artists were doing. I'd happily lie down in bed, throw on the headphones, and be taken on a 40 minute journey. I particularly loved the point when I knew the songs well enough to anticipate them, and still discover fresh nuances. Resurrection Machine is meant to be listened to in that way. And if I'm going to ask a listener for 48 minutes of their time (including the two bonus cuts!), I'd better guarantee the time won't be wasted.
“Build That Bridge” is a nice coda. The man and his family are re-building their lives with a “bridge of light.” When the man rests, his wife and daughter bring him food. Also, Naco provided a very special arrangement, devoid of all cliches.
Scene: And the bonus cuts?
RG: Andrew Parker, now a freshman at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, co-writes about a song a year with me. In 2010, he set my lyrics “Better Than This” to a melody, and then played all of the stringed instruments, including bass, on the recording. Tim Burke, now at San Jose State, played drums, and Richard Bryant supplied the vocals. I imagine the song would be a good vehicle for someone like Justin Timberlake, telling his girlfriend she's “better than this.”
Scene: Andrew did a wonderful job with “Yours to Love (Not to Keep)”, the final song.
RG: What a beautiful song! If only I were a better vocalist! Michael Chatfield played bass, and Jamey DeMaria sat in on drums. Young phenom Michael Martinez wrote the string arrangements and played piano. It's a perfect way to end the album.
Scene: Any other projects in the works?
RG: I’m halfway through a science fiction screenplay called Singularity, about a genius scientist who merges with a self-conscious computer he's created in order to resurrect his dead father. I’m shooting for that blend of science and spirituality that I first experienced in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
And I’ve written half-a-dozen new songs since completing Resurrection Machine.
Scene: Do you write every day?
RG: Yes. “Use it or lose it” is my philosophy.
Scene: Who, really, is Naco Basura?
RG: Naco is a volatile blend of angel and devil who used to be a member of the 1980s “New Wave” group The Motels. I won’t reveal his legal name unless he tells me to. “Naco Basura” is Spanish for “vulgar trash.”
Scene: And the great cover image?
RG: So much of this CD is due to Facebook connections. After Naco had “liked” and actually praised my serial song posts, I asked him if he’d like to produce my next CD. He said yes, and we first met the night Victoria and I saw Knucklehead perform.
I play acoustic guitar on a couple of the songs. Naco played all of the other instruments heard on Resurrection Machine.
Victoria and Reinaldo, Casa Basura
By the way, Naco was brutally critical of my singing, after urging me to stop using other vocalists on my songs. I’ve begun voice training with the vocal coach once used by Christina Aguilera, Sheryl Crow, and others. Robert Edwards lives in nearby Carmel, and he's wonderful. Bob records each session, which students can use in their home while practicing alone. I learned about Bob via Facebook, when a local singer praised him.
Canadian artist Andrea Matus is another Facebook friend. She and her partner Michael DeMeng do these great diabolical works of art, and I spent three months begging Andrea to let me use that awesome image for my CD cover. Just before my deadline, she granted permission
Scene: Thank you, Reinaldo. Resurrection Machine is your tenth CD. Scene Magazine wishes many more for you.
RG: Thank you, Erin. I certainly don’t lack for songs. I've got nearly 1,000 now.
[The Monterey Seals beat the Expos 10-4. On Saturday, November 19th, weather permitting, they'll meet the Twins for the league championship.]
Sollecito Field Monterey, California November 12th, 2011