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The Mexican Elvis (continued)

El Vez (continued from preceding page)

Don Charles: For those who don't speak Spanish, please explain what the name "El Vez" means.

Robert López: In a real loose translation, El Vez could mean "the time" . . . It could be romantically taken, too, as "this time (making love)," but it really means nothing! It just sounds like Elvis.

Don Charles: Do you consider yourself a performance artist?

Robert López: I don't mind that title. I think "entertainer" works better for me, but it can be taken as performance art, I think.

Don Charles: How has the Chicano community responded to El Vez?

Robert López: They like it a lot! I think it goes over biggest in the southwest, the California-Arizona-New Mexico-Texas area, because that's where heavy Latino populations are. But it works wherever we go. Lots of times, Latino kids will say, "Oh, you're singing about us!" But here all these white people are singing say it loud, I'm brown and I'm proud . . . they wanna be like us." It's a nice thing. It's a pride thing!

Don Charles: Have you performed in México?

Robert López: I would like to. I've VJ'd some (Mexican) television shows, and did (other) television stuff, but I haven't done real live performance there yet. We have an eleven-person crew, and we couldn't do just one show. There aren't that many places between Los Angeles and Mexico City to play. There might be small nightclubs, but no one that could afford to pay for eleven people's transportation, hotel rooms, and food, and equipment, and all that stuff. So not yet, but hopefully . . .

Don Charles: How does your background in punk rock bands influence what you do onstage as El Vez?

Robert López: I guess it's the do-it-yourself attitude. The whole idea of El Vez is kind of, "you, too, can be king!" Which is a punk idea, you know, that you, too, can be a rock n roll star (even though) you don't have all the tools . . . that kind of idea. Growing up with punk rock aesthetics, I think it stays with you. We do some really punky songs, also, using Patti Smith (songs), the Ramones-meet-José Feliciano version of "Felíz Navidad" . . . stuff like that.

Don Charles: Is there one show that really stands out in your mind?

Robert López: We opened for David Bowie once in Denmark. We were playing in front of 30,000 people. It was a great stage, a really good show, one of those times when everything clicked very well. I guess my other (favorite show) was my first time in Europe. We did a show at the Rothskilde Festival, this big summer festival they have right outside of Copenhagen. We played in front of 15,000, and it was the very first time I had my own full band. Really great lighting, great sound, and the audience went crazy! I thought they (weren't) gonna understand all the southern California rhetoric, but it went over really well.

Don Charles: What's the wildest thing thats ever happened at an El Vez show?

Robert López: I've had underwear thrown onstage. I've had people come after me with scissors, trying to clip my hair! I've had people (in the audience) take off their clothes. But none of that seems wild to me, it seems pretty normal after a while!

Don Charles: Has anyone ever tried to take your clothes off while you were onstage?

Robert López: I do it myself, so I guess they feel they don't have to!

Robert Lopez as El Vez

Don Charles: The El-Vettes are great singers! Have they been with you from the start?

Robert López: The very first shows, back in '88, did not have El-Vettes. Then, soon after that, we had auditions. We've had many different El-Vettes, just because they all have different schedules or different projects they're working on. So were always auditioning new girls and always changing the line-up. I think they add a lot to the show. They make it a bigger presentation, and yeah, they sing really well! (Note: The current El-Vettes are Chris Guerrero, Lisa Hockley and Tyler Greentree.)

Don Charles: There was a male El-Vette on stage when you played Kansas City!

Robert López: That's Esteban Bravo. He usually is the stage manager, (and) he catches the clothes. You know, Morris Day (of the R & B group The Time) had a guy named Jerome, and Elvis had a guy named Charlie Hodge to hand him towels and be there to catch him when he fell. We added him to this show cause he can sing, too, so that gave us four-part harmony. It made a fuller "choir" sound for that gospel effect. He's been with us a couple of years, but this was his first time onstage as an El-Vette!

Don Charles: Who are the Memphis Mariachis, and where did you find them?

Robert López: Jon Conway is on keyboards. I found him via a mutual friend who was a bass player and suggested him. Garrett Ray is the drummer. He was suggested by a former El-Vette, Lisa Flores. Victor Peñalosa is the brother of the bass player of The Zeros. I've known him since I was a kid. All three of those (guys), this was their first time to be on tour with us. Pierre Smith is the guitarist, and he's been with me for a while - at least six years, I think. Again, people's schedules kind of dictate the band sometimes, so I'm always moving that around, too.

Don Charles: Who designs your costumes?

Robert López: That's me! I have a woman named Barbara Kaminsky who sews them, but I design them, (choose) what kind of fabrics to use, and come up with ideas. I decide what will break away or turn into what, (like my) Aztec costume, which is like striptease in reverse!

Don Charles: You've put out albums (a dozen, at last count) on several indie labels. Do you have any desire to go "big time" with a major label like Sony or BMG?

Robert López: I wouldn't mind it, but I haven't actually pursued that. Usually, when you work with those kinds of big companies, you have to work under different conditions. Everything I do now is my choice. My production, my direction, and my decision. I like the control I have over it, I suppose.

Don Charles: Elvis Presley was a big movie star. Do you have any plans to conquer the silver screen?

Robert López: No direct plans to do movies, (but) I just did a film with HBO last year (Americanos) that got a really good response . . . and a woman made a documentary on El Vez last year, also, that we've been selling at the shows. And I did a film with Alison Anders called Mi Vida Loca, Im in that a little bit . . . I guess I'm just always busy on the road, but if I was looking to do movie stuff, I would. With time, I guess.

Don Charles: What about nude scenes? Would you show your nalgas if the role called for it?

El Vez: I probably would, if the part was good enough! (Note: Nena, you heard it here!)

Don Charles: Everybody knows what Elvis Presleys favorite foods were (peanut butter and banana sandwiches, etc). What does El Vez crave?

Robert López: El Vez craves chips and salsa! That's his favorite. And there's a spicier version of Elvis peanut butter and banana sandwich, using the chunky peanut butter and jalapeño bits! It mixes up with the peanut butter and the banana, and almost tastes like a Thai food kind of thing.

Don Charles: What's next for El Vez? What exciting new concept are you preparing to spring on your public?

Robert López: I'm always changing my musical direction and the media that I'm working with. I just did a one-man show in July, and we might take it around to colleges. Kind of monologues and music as the character of El Vez. A woman has been talking to us about bringing it off-Broadway, so it might end up like a Hedwig and The Angry Inch kind of thing, but as more of a monologue. I'm always trying new things . . . theres always some new idea I can steal and paint a moustache on!



Artículo y entrevista hecho par Don Charles. Artículo y entrevista hecho par Don Charles.

Artículo y entrevista hecho par Don Charles.Artículo y entrevista hecho par Don Charles. Muchísimas gracias a Robert López y Dana Countryman.

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