Transcript Episode 641: Mayo Thompson (the Red Krayola)

In 1970, Mayo Thompson released his only solo record to date. It's a strange thing to write 50 years later, especially given the Texas-born musician's wildly prolific career as the sole consistent member of the eclectic and enigmatic Red Krayola. Ignored in many circles upon its release, Corky has grown in stature over the decades, which -- much like the Red Krayola -- has achieved the status of cult icon. Thompson has begun playing the album live in recent years, as he chart the course for a potential sequel, half a century later.

Mayo Thompson: Sciatic nerve pain is dreadful. I've seen something advertised on television that you put around right on your leg, just below your knee. That puts pressure on the sciatic nerve and relieves the pain. And so they say.

Brian Heater: The fact that it was advertised on television doesn't give me a lot of faith in the product.

Mayo Thompson: I trust that there might be some, luck involved or something like that. Maybe it's only mild sciatica. Maybe you can't. Two herniated discs. I'm serious. To me, I have l four and fiber collapsed, and, my right thigh has been asleep since 1997.

Brian Heater: I assume, then, those are the common, because. Yeah, my problem is l four and five as well.

Mayo Thompson: Yeah, that's what it is. I mean, if you jump off too many garages when you're a kid, you pay for it.

Brian Heater: Your way was a lot more fun. I was talking to the doctor. There's a Cornell office in Manhattan I went into. Yeah. She asked me how I did. I said, you know, I was at the gym lifting, and she said, we get that all the time. But my way was a little less fun than your way, as I didn't jump off enough garages, I should.

Mayo Thompson: Weight lifting is some lifting. working out with weights is not a bad thing to do if you have proper. Somebody knows what they're doing when they're guiding you. Well, I wish you best of luck with it. Good mending. And quickly.

Brian Heater: You had the show in New York. I know you had the show in LA.

Mayo Thompson: we played in New York. This band, now, the Corky band, we played New York 2019 the first time. And we had a nice evening, sold out show, blah, blah, blah. And then we came out here to LA, and we played the same show at the hammer museum. And then Covid came and we had to cancel a show we had organized in Chicago. We were offered, to think about dates in Europe and all the capitals, blah, blah, blah, all the countries and so on. Covid killed the whole idea. And then lately, a fellow I know in New York who runs the sculpture center named Sorab Mohebi got in touch with us again, and he had organized the first thing at Rouge and, said that they wanted to know if we were interested in playing again. And it seemed that Covid was lightning up, and I'd been vaccinated to the teeth, so I thought we maybe would have a go. So we booked a show. There was a 25th anniversary, or 15th anniversary, some anniversary of theirs. And they wanted us to participate, and we were happy to be invited but then they booked a show in August and in August there's nobody in New York. I'm told it's like Paris apparently. in August. So we pushed the show till what you saw there in December. But in the meantime we had a show. We had booked two other shows, one in San Francisco and one in Los Angeles. And we canceled the San Francisco show for business reasons. But we kept the show here in LA and we played there and on the 31st and I still managed to get Covid. David Thomas of Peregroo invited me to sit with them and sit with him and his new cohort when they were in town playing a show. And I agreed to. And I went there and played with him. Wayne Kramer played and Kirsty. I can't think of her second name at the moment. David bass player. I can't think of her name at the minute either. I believe she had gotten Covid when they played in New York. And I got it and m it said I've been properly vaccinated a lot. And I also was allowed to get Paxlovid, which I warmly recommend. If you ever get Covid, it helps. I also October it was. I don't know, I went and got this new variant. so I felt confident enough to go to New York. I got on an airplane, I wore a mask the whole way and went and played the show, put my mask back on and got on the airplane again and came home and it's like. So there's not much shaking. Although the quirky band is a very fine. I've got some fine players and we're going to make a new album in January called Corky Returns. That's least the tentative and Corky bands infinitely more popular than the red crayole. The Red Crayola is a very evil organization. It seems to be regarded as. And only very unusual people come to those gigs. and small numbers come together. The red quail gigs, we don't do business, but Corky band seems to draw flies. It's okay.

Alan Ravenstein complains that he didn't get paid for solo album

Brian Heater: I had both Wayne and David on the show. and Alan Ravenstein on at 1.2. He's a really interesting guy.

Mayo Thompson: He doesn't care. I don't think very much.

Brian Heater: Oh really?

Mayo Thompson: No. The last time an interview I read with him, I invited him out here to play some shows with us one time some years ago. And In the end of the think it was, I can't even remember exactly where it was. But one of the shows was at the getty and another was with a rock and roll club here in town. And we had a third show lined up in San Francisco. Well, he booked and didn't want to play the third show. So by. And he went home. And then I read somewhere he complained. He said he didn't like the money. And I thought. And, That's interesting comment. And, you booked. Sorry. then there was a magazine put together by, a guy in upstate, in Washington named Alex Parrish, who put together a book about Kangaroo. And he interviewed Ravenstein. And Ravenstein couldn't remember anything that he had done in connection with the record. said there was no point in telling him to do anything because he just did what he did. And he didn't remember who else played on the record. He doesn't remember anything that we ever did together. So I gather that he's don't want to know me. So I'll take this opportunity to say bye bye, Alan.

Brian Heater: M maybe he just has a bad memory. I don't. What's your sense of know? It's this solo album from so long ago. It had very little success at the time. Obviously. It's, grown and drawn, a larger fan base.

Mayo Thompson: Jeff Travis describes it as a cult, as a cult of quirky people, which I think is very interesting. I'm m delighted that people actually are taking to the record. Albert, Illinois, told me that this is the record I'll be remembered for. And, I don't. I mean, people say it's very personal. And, you know, solo records tend to be personal, don't they? Ha. but solo records are personal. The personal part of the red crayola is the politics. Politics. I take politics personally. In the red crayola, we dare say things about these kinds of matters and so on. There's not much politics. There's more psychology today and human relations and stuff like that. I think that people are able to relate to the subject matter a bit better. And maybe the language is a little bit funnier because there's a lot of rather didactic forms used in red crayola. in contrast, for example, I mean, there's not. Didactic is maybe not the right word. I mean, I'm not trying to teach anybody anything, but we do discuss things that have content. everything's got content. Of course, I take that back as well. And I wish I could say that, the red grail is not holistic, but all content is holistic. So it's really difficult. These things are difficult to talk about. So I find it difficult even to describe what the effects consist of, in any mean.

The rec quail is an interesting project to me

The ridicule is an interesting project to me because after Bartholomew and Cunningham and I broke off, it was with five pieces. First it was Rick and I, then it was Rick and Steve and I, and Bonnie Emerson and Danny Shaqt, and then Bonnie Emerson and Danny Shaqt were let go, and it was just Rick and Steve and I. And then looked up, and then it was Rick and Steve and I and the familiar ugly. And then we let the familiar ugly go, and it was just Rick and Steve and I. And then we recorded some music with Fakey in Berkeley in 1967. And then the band. And we got back to Texas, the band was over. And since then the rec quail has come together. It came together again in England when Andrew Lauder of Radar Records made a deal with Leland Rogers for the back catalog of international Artists. Up to them, nothing had happened with know. We claimed that Rick Paiola played on nine gross and conspicuous. But Jesse Chamberlain and I were not the Rick Paolo until Andrew Lauder made a deal with us for soldier talk. And they said to me, mayo, you can go and be a solo. You can go out on your own now, right? Or you can have the band. What would you rather have? I said I'd rather have the band because I wanted to be a solo artist. Right? I know what I can do by myself, and it's not that much fun. It's entertaining enough, but I like to share ideas with other people. That's one of the reasons I like playing music. anyway, the band was reformed in 70, eight in England, that's with Jesse and I. And we had recorded some music with art and language before that, and we just kind of left retrodictively. Okay, we were red, red crayola. But it's just, it was a convenience, that's all. And the always been sort of like me and some version of the familiar ugly. And I've had the good fortune to know fantastic players. John McIntyre on drums, m George Hurley on drums, like epic soundtracks on drums. I've had some good drummers, and now I got Yaya Alkonsa and the Corky band. Somehow when I ask musicians to play, lots of them have said yes, and very good ones. But the red crayola has been a throw together band since Jesse left, and Ravenstein was in it one time. When we threw it back together again, Jesse and Ravenstein and I played some gigs at the Red Crayola, and then Ravenstein played some gigs with Ben Anasley and Chris, taylor and I, as the Red Crayola, we recorded some music like that. Black snakes, we recorded and three songs on a trip to the United States of America, some of that stuff. And then, I dropped it, went and lived in Germany for a while. And then one day I got to meet David Grubbs and we got talking, and eventually we wound up thinking about what was going. He asked me, was I doing anything? And strangely enough, I had done some demos of songs. I'd written six songs. Just thinking about music again for some reason, just thinking about it. And I told him, yeah, I got this demo. He said, what are you going to do? And I told him, I'll probably do what I usually do. I'll go to some record company and ask them to bankroll me to make a record and see if we can make some money together. And he said, well, you go to Warner brothers, you'll get lost. You know how it was, more or less. And he was right about that. Warner brothers, they couldn't sell soldier dog. That didn't work for, so I paid attention. He said, I know some people in Chicago. Would you mind if I play this for them? Go ahead. But he got back to Chicago and he played it for Koretsky and Osborne. Ah, drag city. And then I went to Texas to visit my mother and Koretsky. It was Christmas time, and Koretsky and I spent two days on the telephone, more or less talking to each other. And he had to convince me more or less about what kind of an independent company drag city was because I'm familiar with the ins and outs of independent record industry, as you can well imagine. I worked that side of the street. Worked the other side, too, the mainstream side. But he convinced me. And, sure enough, they turned out to be a very good record company. And we've done lots of stuff together. We've been together. We're going on for. We got to made our first things in 92. Three, we got together. So we've been together now 30 years almost, more or less, and learned a lot about. We've watched the CD become obsolescent, the vinyl make a sort of like, faint return. found out that carriers don't determine who's willing to stream and what does streaming mean? And people like, I mean, you do business with Spotify, right? When Neil young quit Spotify over the Alex Jones, crap, that comes out of that creep's mouth and Spotify making millions off of it and so on. I remember when Neil quit, I quit, too. And I'm talking to you today because I, sensed that things have changed somewhat. But then I saw Elon Musk has rehabilitated this creature from the dark side of hell.

Brian Heater: In terms of deciding to call the quirky record a solo record. Was that a pragmatic decision?

Mayo Thompson: It's what people did in those know. Like when one guy who was in a band goes off and makes a record by himself. And hires people, in to play on the record whom he doesn't know necessarily. I knew one, two. I knew Frank Davis. I knew Rock Romano because I'd worked with Frank. Frank Davis was a mentor to me. He was one of the early people I talked to. We met when he was a folk singer. He sang at the jester. And I would go to this club and hang out there with him and guy Clark. And the two of those guys were very friendly to me. And very encouraging and nurturing, about my musical attitude when I wanted to make a record. After the record fell apart, I got in touch with them. Rock Romano was working at Walt Anders'studio, working on records. Rock was extremely versatile. He could do everything. He can engineer. He can play. He can think like hell.

The lack of sales on Corky affected you personally, but also professionally

And Frank Davis is legendary Houston, legendary figure. He was an inventor. He made some mylar speakers. He made microphone that we used on Corky that you hear on two U. If you put headphones on, listen to two u sometime on the stone stereo with the headphones on. And you'll hear these microphones, because he made it kind of like had a canister of gas that drove piston. That went up like a pipe. That went up like that. And had a pipe, on the end of it. And on the end of each end of the pipe, there was a microphone facing in like that. Or they're facing some way anyway. And then you open this valve and that thing has started going like that, right? And got the horn players, got the euphonium in front, then the saxophone, and then the trumpet in the back. And like that. And then they stand in one line and you hear this music, the record. A lot of interesting technique could we use making that record? And then it went on the shelf. Nobody liked it. The guys that Walt Andrus was partners with, they said, we can't sell crap. You know, as Joe Dugan said, my, voice is an acquired taste. It seems that people are acquiring a taste for this, however quirky it is. And the record is a bit of a mess in some respects. And at the same time, if you don't pay attention too much and just kind of like, get into it, relax and enjoy the way it goes. It grooves. It's got some emotion in it. Some red crayola tunes have emotion in them, but not many.

Brian Heater: In what respects would you say? It's a mess.

Mayo Thompson: Oh, I can't sing in key for very long. I mean, I can sing a bit, but I was told, as a know mayo, you couldn't carry a tune in the bucket. And that didn't stop me. As you hear, I've made a lot of vocal records. But after the red crayola collapsed, I made that one more record. And that was when I heard the judgment on that. We can't sell that. I stopped singing until we got to soldiers talking. There was punk, and I can scream just fine.

Brian Heater: But that affected you personally, though?

Mayo Thompson: No, I don't take it personally. The thing is that I worked on my singing over the years, I've worked on it. I haven't taken voice lessons, but I've worked on it. And I can carry a tune to some extent. And I know how to use my voice by now. I know what I'm good at. Sometimes I get carried away and I go for silly effects, but, that's stupidity on my part. We went from playing other people's songs to writing our own stuff and then eventually not playing songs at all. Coconut hotel is all abstract ideas, right? about sounds. And some of them are made musical instruments and some of them wouldn't, weren't. And we even played the Berkeley folk festival. We were playing feedback. And here's a mistake that we made. The last show was July the fourth. We were at the greek theater, height of the Vietnam wall. 67, really thick in it, 5000 people standing there. And we played our freak noise and blah, blah, blah. It was very funny. We should have played war sucks. If we played war sucks, imagine how different my career might have been. Because that first album, nobody complained about the singing on parable of parable.

Brian Heater: When I say, it impacted you personally.

Mayo Thompson: You mean business wise?

Brian Heater: Well, yeah. In terms of the lack of sales, it caused you to make this dramatic, change to your approach.

Mayo Thompson: I stopped playing. I mean, I tried a couple more times. Boston, me and I had a band together for a while. We made one record for Walt again for Texas revolution. We made pig ankle strut was on one side and old Tom Clark on the other. We wrote those two bartholomew, pig ankle strut. And we wrote the old Tom Clark together, wrote the lyric and gave the lyric, gave it to Frank Davis to sing, because again, we didn't. Want to rule it out. And The legend was, and I don't know if this is apocryphal or entirely, but apparently Warner brothers fancied it and sat on the ANR desk for a couple of meetings, a couple of weeks of meetings. But then they passed finally. But Frank was a great singer. He tried out for the monkeys. He got that close to being in the monkeys. He could do anything. I love this man. And Brock Romano as well. Business has always been determining factor in what I've been able to do in music. And I just characterize myself as. I'm a commercial artist. I make commodities. And I don't argue about the political status, the identity relations about this stuff. I know what I'm doing and I know what it amounts to.

Brian Heater: This idea of contextualizing things as commodities. Does that apply to the books? Does that apply to the paintings?

Mayo Thompson: Yeah, they're all commodities. I mean, I think that all of the object relations which are traded for money in the culture industry, as Adorno rejoiced in calling it. Right?

Dietrich: The whole game is 100% asymmetrical

I think that's mean. Not all of it is made for the same know. I grant that one time when I was talking to Diedrich's in Alberta. I'd been to Japan, done an interview in the magazine. They sent me some other questions. They wanted to know, could I tell them what art is? For example, could I tell them what it is to be. And I just. I read these questions. Dietrich said, to be able to answer those questions, we'd have to be able to distinguish between. We'd have to be able to make a distinction between the production of our friends who are neurotic and can't help doing what they do. And other people who are thinking about it. And it's like that. Who knows why anybody does anything? I've been lately thinking to myself, I can't figure out how. I mean, human beings seem to really like music. It's fantastic. But not everybody does. And not everybody likes the same ones, right? And there's something about how you're inculturated that makes a difference. Me, I've been around a long time. And I Used to be in their limited to this. I used to say to myself, I used to say when we were kids, how could anybody do a thing like that? Why would anybody want to make a thing sound like that? Right? I don't say that anymore. I can let some people do things for their own reasons. And I don't have to like it. It doesn't matter. The whole game is 100% asymmetrical, as far as I can tell. And all of the asymmetries are in favor. The privileges belong to the listener. And interpretation, is all transcendent. It transcends the facts. That's just the way it town. I live in LA, right? And in this town, when I got here, I thought, wow, this is amazing place. So much. And I started looking around for action. And slowly it dawned on me. Everybody, there are millions of smart people in this town, very smart, very talented people, chasing a buck and will do whatever it takes to bake one if he can get something going. And I don't blame them. I'm down with that. when I was in Germany, when I lived there, I made advertising music for CNA, a catholic clothing firm from somewhere in Belgium. I think I made decent money there. More money than I'd ever made in the record industry really. Nearby.

There is an element of, I guess, commercially based decision making in your career

Brian Heater: There is an element of, I guess, commercially based decision making in terms of some of the choices that you made along the way.

Mayo Thompson: They mean as cynical as I portray myself, slightly cynically here. The fact of the matter is that, I mean, what I do, and I'm not sitting, know Leland Rogers? When we went to international artists, they wanted us to record gentle on my mind. You remember that?

Brian Heater: Do I do?

Mayo Thompson: Got my bed roll rolled up behind your couch. And we said, no, we weren't going to do that. Another mistake. We should have done that. We would have been in the commercial record business. We'd have had a local hit with, had on the radio station. We'd gotten all the sympathy, all the people. No, we were smart asses. We thought we were going to make an avant garde record. We were going to change the way people thought about pop music. We were crazy, right? And I've learned that it doesn't work like that. You do what you can with what you got and the people that you're going to get around you to work with. Luckily, I've had some great bands, and there's not a record that we've made that I think, oh, I wish we hadn't done that. Not one. And I won't use the word sincerity about what we do, because I think sincerity is hard to gauge without.

Brian Heater: Don't want to give offense, even for yourself.

Mayo Thompson: I don't know. to be frank with you, I'm one of those people who sees both sides of things. I go to a japanese restaurant, they come with a little bowl of fruit after the meal. It's got a fruit fork in it. These two little things like that. Like a pitchfork, right? And I go, isn't this nice? And then I go like that. I don't want to jam m back of my hand. And, I think about it. I don't do it, but I think about things like that all the time. I always think of one of the reasons I mentioned Adorno, one of the things I admired about Adorno. I was really glad to find out that he negates the negations too. He's a super dialectician, and I'm with him on that. I don't think that.

Brian Heater: I think you're describing what they call intrusive thoughts in, therapy.

Mayo Thompson: Called what?

Brian Heater: Intrusive thoughts. It's part of, obsessive compulsive disorder. Actually, that's the, compulsive part.

Mayo Thompson: I can believe that I have some compulsive disorders and that I came along at a certain time and I was able to cope with them and deal with my shortcoming back to those kinds of things, dealing with structures and so on like that. I got one of those iqs that I can turn things over in my mind. And I have a good memory. I'm sure it's faulty on a lot of things and details, but I see images from my past and youth and I have an identic memory, I think they call it. It's official. And although I'm not like Bob Nettelkoff, who has, I asked him when he's talked to him, he's an expert on the Kennedy assassination and first edition books and stuff. We're talking one time and he's going on. And I said, robert, are you reading from something? He said, no, male. I said, would you photograph? No, no. I just remember, know there are people like that. Thank you for mentioning the compulsive, disorder because it's certainly the case that I have been afflicted by these kinds of years. I asked my wife as a molecular biologist, and I asked her about fossil DNA, thinking to myself, I'm, the product of an awful lot of people who came before me, right? I do the 23 andme and I get notice. You have x, you know, have. By now I must have 1000 or 2003rd cousins and fourth cousins. We have great great grandparents in common and we'll never meet. And, the dna that I really wish that I could get a real, an ironclad association, which is the one m my wife ridicules me for, which is like a tiny little drop above outer Mongolia.

Brian Heater: There's some number that effectively, like everyone on earth, is related to Genghis Khan in some way or another.

Mayo Thompson: That's the thing. I always say that I belong to the mongrel lord when it comes to this kind of stuff. But I can't complain. I've also been extremely fortunate in my life. I'm really lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky. Here I am at the, I'll be 80 in February, and I can't complain. My father used to ask, are you bragging or complaining when he would say something? Right. It's one of those things. Yeah.

As you approach 80, are you thinking about what you can do next

Brian Heater: Both round numbers are tough for a lot of people when it comes to aging. As you approach that number, are you thinking about the things you can do with the time you have left? I mean, touring, for example, is something that people can't do forever.

Mayo Thompson: I don't know. There's one thing I say to myself every day. Mail. You've got to get organized. I have half of my, archives. Makes sense. The other half is a lot of stuff I just haven't processed. Because I do get busy. Those books, for example, a long time to write the first 1 second one. It took me a long time to think of what I could do with the second one. Once I got going, it didn't take as m much as long because it was like wrapping up. I had introduced all these characters. Okay. On the b side, I'm going to account for what happened to them and what they were thinking. And I'm going to take them to court. Because my father's a lawyer. I should have been a lawyer. I should have been a lawyer. If you're thinking about missed opportunities. He was on federal trade commission. Nixon appointed. And, I was hoping he was going to get to be vice president. But he used to go play golf. And he said, I wish you would change your name. I said, why? What's the, matter? And he said, I go there in my golfing, my own home. My circle of squares, as he used to call them. They asked me, hey, how's your marxist rock band, Mayo? Stuff like that, right? That must have gone down a storm in Texas.

Brian Heater: is that the red aspect of.

Mayo Thompson: That? No, actually, in the first instance, Penningham is a catholic. Bartholomew was raised catholic. So was I. I don't know what Bartholomew is. I'm not anything anymore. In fact, I'm a little unkind about that school of thought. Those schools of thought. Cunningham, I think, is still, practicing catholic. And the red crayola was about r. C. Roman catholic. Roman catholic. That kind of Bartholomew made the name up and I just went, oh, yeah, that sounds cool. Because red and also crayola. It made perfect sense to me. What did they give a kid when they wanted the kid to stop smearing things with their fingers and hands? They give them a crayola, right? They start drawing. We had lots of ideas. my father lived to 88. His mom lived to be 97. Her sister went 100. I got my genetic material, a lot of it, from that side of the family, because my mother's side of the family, a little bit more debilitated. But my mom was, lived to 74, but she died of alzheimer's disease. Right. But I have done my DNA profile with the medical side of it, and I don't have a liability for alzheimer's. Blessedly, I do forget things. Don't, get me m wrong, I don't remember everything I was supposed to. some of that's willful, but I think I can go on for a while. We're going to make this new record in january. Quirky returns. and we've got 1516 tunes. I went back and found I've got tons of material on tape, and I've run into some guys out here who can dub it on, make digital files out of it. So, I'm thinking I'm going to leave a bunch of stuff with drag city, and I intend to haunt this planet even when I'm not here anymore.

Brian Heater: Why not circa, 2018 or 2019? What is it specifically that brought you.

One thing missing that I would like to say grace over is the political

Mayo Thompson: Back to Corky sorab mohebi, the guy I told you about, who runs the sculpture center. When I started making, working in visual art, what happened was I got invited to be in the whitney biennial in 2012, right by Jay Sanders and Elizabeth Sussman. And I thought, wow, this is interesting. So then, after that, Carol Green had a gallery in New York, and she invited me. She offered me a show, thinking, I suppose, that we could do some business because people would come by, I guess Bob Dylan must sell a picture or.

Brian Heater: Know it's a safe guess, I would say.

Mayo Thompson: I would imagine there are some people who want some object of his, something, some artifact. I've been drawing. My mother taught art and English when I was a kid. She was a high school teacher. So I've been drawing my whole life, and I continue to draw. But I took up painting for the first time, and I really enjoyed it. Painting first. I worked with acrylic, and carol Green gave me a show of drawings first. She couldn't do much business with it, though, really couldn't get it going. She asked me one day, she mentioned the name of some artist whom m. I know we don't speak to each other very much anymore. And she said, what if he wants one of your pictures? Can I sell him one? I said, please sell pictures to all of my enemies and, that kind of thing, right. So I'm still in that game as well, still doing some paintings. I've had some shows with bookholds gallery in Germany, in Berlin, a couple of shows, one of, drawings and one of paintings. And I continue to do this kind of stuff, so I'll go on doing that as well. I don't know. The one thing that's missing that I would like to be able to be able to say grace over would be the political. Some political activity, some political to be involved. Because I was involved, and I lived in New York in the 70s, and got to go some places that I wouldn't have otherwise got to go and meet some people I wouldn't otherwise have had the chance to meet. Because of the politics. Because of the political question. I have my opinions about politics. I don't have any solutions to our great problems. But, this eliminativist thing I was telling you about a minute ago, right. I really do believe, live and let live. I think that's where I'm now. I don't eat meat anymore, because I realize when human beings deny being animals, I want to jump on them and bite them on the throat. No, I'm teasing. Not really dangerous. I want an animal. You know what I mean? Come on. Or lick them or something. Come on. It's pathetic. You realize how complex these problems are. And that's the one thing I wouldn't mind being able to do something about a little bit. But there are. Chomsky, makes sense to me as anarchists. and I characterize myself these days. My political limits, more or less, could be described as anarcho syndicalist. I would syndicate if there's something to go for. But otherwise, do I misunderstand something? I didn't live in America for 16 years, and when I got back to these, there are these right wing libertarians, like this Kentucky, senator, the eye doctor, what's his name?

Brian Heater: Paul.

Mayo Thompson: His father was a Texas lawman. What do you call it? Representative Ron Paul. Ron Paul. Strange dude. His appearance in the Borat movie.

Brian Heater: Even beyond that. Even beyond that. I know that, Alex Jones was a huge fan of his. Who is Alex Jones?

Mayo Thompson: Is he really?

Brian Heater: Yeah. He used to have him on the show loved him because he was the one openly libertarian, national politician at the time.

Mayo Thompson: He's the one libertarian. I thought to myself, maybe some of these right wing libertarians are not completely insane, but his son is.

I very much relate to what you say about being involved in politics

Brian Heater: Anarcho capitalism is another thing entirely, because to me, there's a very. I very much relate to what you say about being involved in politics. And recently it dawned on me, this is very obvious in hindsight, but, the easiest way to affect some change that I found, I started, volunteering at a food pantry, in my neighborhood, because I'm somebody I consider myself to be a compassionate person. I would say I do like a lot of what Chomsky espouses, but at the end of the day, I tend to be a little more socialist in my thinking, because I think the starting point is effectively just making sure that, people have food to eat and a place to live, and then everything else we could figure out.

Mayo Thompson: I'm with you. This country has got the level of poverty, 41% crime. It's criminal. It really is. And, what I didn't understand before was voting matters and why. And I learned that since I gotten back to the states. When I was living in Edinburgh, my wife had her lab there for a while. We were living in Scotland, and one day we had lunch with some people she knew and from Austria. She's from Austria, these people. And they had little boys with them, three little boys. And the old eldest of the little boys said to me, he said, who do you vote for? He was like, 1213 years old. And I said, I don't vote. He said, oh, you should vote. Well, when I got back to America, that rang in my ears and rang in my ears. Rang in my ears. And I voted for Obama. And that was easy. And I voted for Clinton. That was not, know, but I voted for. And I was on my way to have a show opening in Berlin. The day that Trump was made, the day that the electoral college handed him the keys, where he was made queen for a day. That infuriated me. So more and more, I really think public work, social work, I think that that's great. Among the politicians that I see here, I see Bernie Sanders, he makes.

Brian Heater: I'm a fan.

Mayo Thompson: I'm a fan, too. And, some of the things Ms. Warren says, she has a reasonable critique of intellect of some of the speakers, but the progressive wing of the Democrat party seems to be up to their eyeballs and identity relation problems. And, that seems to be what's going on. And politically I don't have anything to contribute to the identity question.

Brian Heater: As an 80 year old white, man, you don't have anything to add to the conversation.

Mayo Thompson: I can apologize for doing too well. but that's about as far as it gets. it's a disgrace. I mean, you know, growing up in Texas, and when I see what's going on in Texas with his abortion, and Ted Cruz has been a boogeyman in Texas for a long time. My father was a conservative, white, but he was also born again Christian, my father, where we parted company, among other places, politically as well. But he was an astute observer of the situation, and he knew what was going on. And one time he was annoyed that Texas a m. Was going to, this was Perry was governor, and he was going to nominate some guy to be the head of the president of Texas a m universe within the governor's gift to name the president of Texas A. M. University. And my father was furious about this candidate. And he said, I'm going to call his office and tell him I'm voting for Cruz. So Cruz is a kind of like boogeyman that conservative Republicans and conservative democrats, Texas Democrats, all would. I'm going to get you with this guy. Right? And I'm hoping that Colin Allred destroys him in the next election.

You had said earlier that maybe one of your regrets was not playing protest song

Brian Heater: You had said earlier that maybe one of your regrets, in hindsight, was, not playing effectively a protest song live in that instance. And you also alluded to some of the politics that have permeated throughout the red crayola Canon. Do you find yourself wanting to be more political on record?

Mayo Thompson: I have found what I think are the measures in which it is possible for me to say something sensible without trying, appearing to volunteer for a job I am not qualified to do. And, I'm a strong believer in that principle, the one that people rise to the level of their incompetence. I'm, fighting this temptations to be, like, to be dean of, the art school at such and such a university, for example. Some people talk to me about that some years ago. Artists I know who worked in this school now.

Brian Heater: Yeah, you taught for a while.

Mayo Thompson: I don't call it teaching. I would go up the hill in the daytime going like this. Oh, God. Oh, God. And then come down. I survived. It was like that kind of a thing. but what I did was, I would discuss. It was easy. It was an art school, an art college in Pasadena. And it was easy because they had art students and would be artists in graduate school. They all had the same problems that I had been dealing with for years already. And I understand something about production, and having read marks, I understand that any discussion there, you might well want to discuss distribution as well. that kind of stuff. And so that's the kind of thing I provided a kind of service, a reference service. Plus, over the years, I've read a lot of philosophy books and, a lot of philosophers and so on. I could discuss philosophy when it was necessary. Plus, I know some artists and some writers, and so I was able to carry on a conversation with a lot of these young people who are processing lots of the same kind of material that we're talking about today and be qualified to be on your show in the future. Right. Because they will all have the same kind of problems we're discussing. And these are real issues for people who are what they call, used to call cultural workers. Right. break a sweat making culture on.

Brian Heater: The music side, especially. just as an aside, I'll cut this out, but I would recommend Damien, Krakowski of Galaxy 500 has a newsletter, and he talks a lot about unionizing and music and, Spotify royalties and things like that. I think you would enjoy it. I can send it to you.

Mayo Thompson: They covered victory Gordon. Galaxy 500 covered victory Gordon. God bless. And I've talked to that dude. Nice people. Jeff Tweedy is a nice man, and he does political things. He runs a festival which has got social aspect there in Massachusetts someplace. I can't do that. That's, beyond me. Some political aspect comes into it. And, the red crayola is not finished. if offered work, I might well take it. And I can put together a red crayola, like with a couple of phone calls, and be on an airplane in an hour and that kind of thing, if there's something in it. somebody lately mentioned to me a trio possibility in Mexico City. I thought, that sounds fun. And I got a buddy who works for Reuters down there. It'd be fun to see him. And the drummer from the corky band also lives in Mexico City. So I think something down like that would be fun. And that's an interesting. I love Mexico, but it's a scary place. Wow. That's life and death real fast down there. Texas, too, though. You can get dead for nothing in Texas.

Brian Heater: Part of the reason why I brought up Damon's newsletter is Spotify is getting worse when it comes to the royalty situation. I don't know how up on that you are, but they effectively are cutting out.

Mayo Thompson: They won't say anything. They're now going to say, we'll play your records, but we won't give you anything because they don't make any. I understand. And, you know, general Rourke has been very wise. He will not let anybody stream his music, and he has a perfectly good reason. Streaming is crap. And until you improve on the delivery system and make the sound where I hear my music over that thing. No. And he has a good. And I don't think. It's not an excuse. It's also double threat because he's also telling know you're taking money on false premises. That's not the music. Right. It doesn't sound like that. And that's true. Quincy Jones is able to make a record that sounds good on anything, but he's one of the few people on.

Brian Heater: Earth, that was famously, it was either Quincy Jones or Brian Wilson. I've heard it attributed to both. But they would go to sit in a car with the worst possible stereo to listen to it on.

Mayo Thompson: Yeah, yeah, we all did that as well. But the difference between us and those two guys was we couldn't tell the difference. We kind of liked the way it sounded. Busted, right? It was. I like that.

Working with art and language is where my politicization began to take shape

Where are you?

Brian Heater: I'm in Queens.

Mayo Thompson: Queens.

Brian Heater: I'm from California originally, but, I'm from the bay area.

Mayo Thompson: That's pretty up there.

Brian Heater: It is.

Mayo Thompson: I mean, I like it down here. LA and Houston, remind me, Houston is sort of like a flattened out La life. By appointment. You got to drive everywhere, et cetera, et cetera. Traffic jams and restaurants are closed at ten because it's a company town. Right. And they want you up early. It's like London, only certain classes get to do anything after certain hours there. And, everybody else has got to be at work in the morning. England was interesting to live in. and working with art and language, that's where my politicization began to take some real shape. My first political thing that happened to me was when I was working in Texas as a dj, on the local, Pacifica station. And I had a radio show four nights a week, and I played a lot of jazz. And one night this latino dude called me up and we got talking about jazz. Over time, we developed the conversation. He was really interested in Freddie Hubbard, and I was a mild guy. We chat about trumpet plants while playing records. And then one night he said to me, that station, you're up there, he said, y'all say, that it's a listener sponsored station. That's right. And it's an open microphone, you say? And I said, yeah, that's what they say here. And that's what's claimed. And he said, not. I said, what do you mean? He said, what's not an open microphone? What I hear on there is a bunch of kids I went to high school with, white kids who are, like, experts on this. That and the other thing have interesting hobbies, but I don't hear anything that speaks to anything that I do with my life. Like, you and I, we talk about jazz, but what's that? Jazz. Right? Cool. But else you've got a political agenda there. So eventually, this guy is politicizing me. We're going on and telling me what kind of a job I'm involved in doing. And I get to thinking about it. I'm thinking, gee, this guy's right about this. So I go to the headquarters, and I tell them, listen, I have been taken to task by one of our listeners who sponsors this radio station that, we don't have an open microphone here, and I think we should do something about it. So, well, the guy said, yo. Oh, manager, of the station. And then they called New York, and then New York sent a guy down, who was involved in Vietnam war, anti Vietnam war, protests. So an organizer, effectively working for the. And worked for them, involved in Bai and the whole Pacifica thing, which is an interesting, obviously a strange one, built on the money by the guy who invented Xerox. Right? Anyway, they sent this guy, and this guy came down from the organ. He said, mayo, look, you should just resign, and then we'll deal with this thing, right? Because I was protesting. He said, you resign. So I said, okay, I resigned. He said, give me your key. And I was locked out, and they didn't do anything about it. They never said a word about it. So that's when I started thinking. So it's like debt and more treachery everywhere. And then, I got going in, and I started thinking and started reading, thinking about. Started thinking about Karl Marx, who might. I knew that he had done some things. So I read the manifesto, and I started reading some other kind of stuff. One time, I was in the hospital, my mother was ill, and she wasn't having a procedure. And I ran into one of my great uncles, who's electrician, and he was sitting downstairs, and we have a coffee, and he said to me, have you ever read the communist manifesto? Yeah, I have. He said, that's a great book. He said, but there's no way to make it happen. Not here, not with what we got. Right. And it's not with what we got, I thought. Yeah, right. They're going to have to be some kind of, like, we're going to have to not be afraid of revolution. So I. For that stuff, seriously, when I got to New York and when I got to know art and language, it got more and more serious because Marx and, I mean, it's such a strange, it's ironic, it's paradoxical, it's a complete mess. It's a joke, it's contradictory. Maoism, Marxism saved the paperback book industry in the 70s in the United States during that time. Then also the art world, the Vietnam war, when it came to an end, a lot of artists who had been involved in protesting about that got focused on some local domestic issues, about what museums were discriminating against blacks and Latinos and Asians and women and so on. So an organization came together to meet that requirement, that we're going to artist meeting for cultural change. I got involved with that, and I was involved with art and language, and the language was all drifting in this left direction. A lot of, talk about art for social purpose was there right then there we parted company. I don't think that you can make custom make art for social purpose. You can make propaganda, don't get me wrong. But I don't think it should be called art. I think should be treated for what it is. although there's an art to it, of course. But anyway, I got involved in that. But the long, short of it was I kept getting deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper into the whole sort of thing involved in this thing, to the point that when we finally did wind up going to the Whitney and protesting what this organization chose to call a boycott. Wasn't a boycot. But never mind. People get terminology wrong, but with the best of intentions. But it wasn't boycot. But anyway, we're walking up and down front of the thing during the opening, and people are coming up and cadillacs and going in and berating us, cluttering the sidewalk. Well, up came some people from an organization called the Congress of African Peoples, which was an organization run by Amiri Baraka and his wife.

Mohebi and Amiri started anti-imperial cultural union

And Amiri had been Leroy Jones earlier, right? Anyway, so I got involved with them, and they started something called the anti imperialist cultural union.

Brian Heater: And I had to get my,

Mayo Thompson: Hold it closer, blues people by Leroy Jones.

Brian Heater: I actually was in. I can't find it here. But, yeah, I picked up another one of his. I love the music writing that he did.

Mayo Thompson: As an aside, the guy could. They made a record, which I had a copy of it, and I don't know what happened to it. It's one of the two records that I've lost that I really kicked myself for losing. I've lost lots of records, but these two, one of them was legendary stardust Cowboy, paralyzed, and who's making knocking at my door. And the other one was the Congress of african people's, band. They were called, can't remember what, the industrial workers or something like that. And it was Marxism Leninism, mao seitung thought. And, you know, like, you've been dancing while you've been dancing, you should have been studying modern cinema's, funky, funny, funny, funny piece of business. And that's when we were making corrective slogans as this. So back to why did Corky come out, mohebby? Carol Green wrote me one time and said, meet Mohebby, mohebi. I met Mohebi. And he said, I want you to do corrected slogans. And he was working at the Red Cat as an assistant curator at the time. Red Cat's a theater, run by, or I don't know who owns it, but attached to Cal arts, right? And he was working. I said, oh, okay, we would do. And so we played there and the thing sold out. That was like, wow. And it was corrected slogan. So then sometime later, then in 2019, he came to me and he said, how about Corky at, Lapoison Rouge? And I said, corky, band. Who's going to play? And he happened to have had a band when he was in. He's from Tehran, and he had a band there called the one two seven band. And they used to get in trouble with the revolutionary guard for distilling their own vodka and playing punk rock, I guess, or something like that. And they all migrated. Three of them migrated to the states, and they live here now. The drummer is in Mexico City, but Sorab is in New York, and his mate Salmock lives a little bit up from York City. And so they formed the core of this band. And with them came two other players, Lena Tolgren and Doug Tuttle, who is a guitar player who wanted to play bass. And he's not the first guitar player who said, if you ever play that record, I want to play bass. so anyway, these people are all great players. And the other player who was in the band is Tom Watson, who has played with me and Red Crayola for years, right? And with whom I worked on a couple of records of his, which was always fun and it worked out. But Tom, lately, Tom's health had some health issues and he wasn't able to join us in New York. So we have another guitar player now, a guy named Connor Gallagher. And again, we played this most recent show there again, because Mohebby called me after four years and said, I've heard from the rouge, they have an anniversary show. Would you like to play? So this guy keeps pulling me back in. And, I love him and I trust him, so I will always try to take up the invitation where possible. He's a very smart dude. He's a curator on the Carnegie international. The most recent one that was opened in September.

Brian Heater: I just remember he was one of those people. There have been a handful of people where I was slightly intimidated before I talked to him. And then once we started talking, it went great.

Mayo Thompson: He can, if he will, he won't always.

Brian Heater: I either lucked out or I, just am able to get good stuff out of him. But yeah, it was a good conversation.

Mayo Thompson: I've, spilled my gut to you, old chap. thanks for bothering to ask me.

Stanay: I will write some lyrics about political topics

Brian Heater: My ears perked up when you mentioned that you're working on another quirky record. And 50 or so years after the original came out, what shape does a follow up take?

Mayo Thompson: What I did was I went back and found some guitar tracks, that I had recorded in 81, which is only eleven years out. Right. And those guitar tracks will form the basis, basic, track will embellish those tracks. And I will write some lyrics. And the lyrics will be the question, how do I deal with it? I have thought about this a lot of times because like I said, when I wrote art mystery, I read certain issues, like questions about what makes something an icon and that kind of stuff. And some serious art questions were incorporated in that text, and tried to build some fun for them to occur and so on like that. And then felt it was all hanging. So I felt like I had to explain that a little bit about what happened to the people. And so I wrote the second book. So I keep thinking to myself, maybe I need to explain some of the things that happened in Corky. Pick up the story, so to speak. So that's one possibility I may pick up like, dear Betty, baby, I finally got off that boat and I was in some strange town. And then I can talk about colonialism, a little bit, perhaps, for example, which would an interesting topic at one time and continues to be interestingly enough. But although the whole question is transmuted now, it's patronage. The Chinese are busy helping Africa realize itself. And, the Belgians no longer persecute the Congolese.

Brian Heater: There are obviously still a lot of repercussions from what happened hundreds of years ago.

Mayo Thompson: When I worked at rough trade, I had the pleasure of meeting stuart hall. And I worked with a guy in Germany who was related to when I was involved with Mary Baraka's crew. And that stuff. My reading picked up quite a lot. I mean, I read a lot. Fran Spanon and, read african thinkers. And when I lived in England, I also got to know the ANC, Joe Slovo and his wife. Joe Slovo was the minister of. He was a white guy. They were a white couple. And he was the minister of defense for the ANC. And his wife was killed by. Boss was the afrikaana secret service. Right. They blew her up. She succeeded in her. In assassinating her. I met their daughter, anyway, in London. And I've had the luck to know those kind of people. I got to know Robert Wyatt, who is one of the few card carry in commies in the music business. you know, Roger Waters being Robert. Robert is very political. And his place. One time when there was talk about a rough trade. And there were some other people talking about putting together a journal. Ah. and, what was his name? Duncan. Writing about Ireland all the time was all the trouble going on. So, all of this exposure to politics and so on like that, the politics in this country. I don't know quite what to do, what I can contribute, but I will embrace some political topics. I don't know if you've heard the album that we made. It's got. I'm so blase on it. It's called Hazel. And the song goes, I'm so blase. Yes, I'm blase. Nothing really touches me. I'm so blase, everything passes over me. Go ahead on and cry, baby. I say to myself, cry, baby, cry. I'm consoling myself for having nothing to cry about. But lately I got an introduction to it which cooked up when we played. And Yahya reminded me of it. And it goes like life or life. mine has been sublimely sweet, dealing in quiet days and cliche up on easy street. But my life's not perfect by any means there are flies in my ointment I have come to realize that my happiness depends no small measure on others disappointment. Oblasay m so Stan Bobberson. Crap irony, bad jokes spiritually, at least.

This, I guess, would qualify as another solo record

Brian Heater: This, I guess, would qualify as another solo record, or at least sort of in the lineage of the first solo record. And you mentioned how that solo record was much more personal than the red crayola stuff, which tended to be more political. Does that mean that, there's a sense in which this is also going to be a very personal record for you?

Mayo Thompson: It will be. When I say personal, I mean something really simple. When it comes to pronoun indexicalities, I means me in corky. I don't mean me in red crayola. It means m, like some first person speaker, some subject. right. And you, doesn't mean. It means whoever hears that, referent is there, the you part of it. But there will be personal. Yeah. Rosalind Krause was famous in the. Having said the personal is political, she was ready to argue about. Right. And I invert this slogan. I just say the political is personal. I take it personally. And, so I want to try to do some things about it, and I don't really know quite what it would be. I'm careful with it because I get calls, to participate in political things and to endorse stuff. And one time, Joel Wax, who was on the city council out here, he was running for mayor. And, the red crayola was asked to play, a little party kind of event, a fundraiser party in an art gallery in Beverly Hills. And I said, the red crayola do not play for political parties. We were invited one time by the basque separatists also to play. But I don't endorse political parties. I wouldn't play rock against racism because I don't think that I have any business standing up as a white man and telling people, don't be racist, in that direct speech. That's something else. And maybe in private.

Brian Heater: Don't underestimate the importance of being an ally, though.

Mayo Thompson: No, I don't. I want to be as much as possible, but I'm careful what I say because I don't want to taint them with my reputation. Like I told you, my father's golf cronies, they knew that I'd read Karl Marx. People lived in England and subscribed to two newspapers when we lived there, the Daily Telegraph, which is the Tory newspaper, and the Morning Star, which was the communist party newspaper. And the Daily Telegraph was a better newspaper by a country mile. They actually understood something about the theories. Ah, that morning glory was taking for granted, it seemed, and the music critic was better, and the theater so I have an open mind about, political ideas. When people in the republican party characterize themselves as conservatives, it really makes me furious. From my understanding of a conservative is somebody who backs up the institutions, which.

Brian Heater: Is the opposite of libertarianism, really.

Mayo Thompson: I wouldn't characterize what I do as libertarian by any stretch of the imagination. It is probably related a bit to anarchy. I expect the government to pick up the trash and keep us safe and that kind of stuff. And I also expect them eventually to clean the freaking air out. Right. that's something I could well get interested in. We're going to convert this house and put, as soon as we raise enough g, we're going to put solar panels up, slowly getting out of all of those nasty, affiliations as much as possible, withdraw from capitalist material relations into more social relations. Like you said, socialism. My wife, she's from Vienna, they have a strong social history there. They also got some crazy right wingers in power.

Brian Heater: Austria has an, ah, interesting record with, raising politicians.

Mayo Thompson: Let's just say that Adolf Hitler and Krisky, when I was a kid, Christkey was a socialist and he was the president of Austria. When we first played there in 1981, we went out and played there and I thought that was the farthest east I've ever been. And it was really obvious. You could see that the Soviet Union had really left their mark on the place. And we were walking around and we walked into the big square and they were shooting a movie. I didn't realize it, but I looked up on the balcony where Hitler had made his famous anschlow speech. And my God, there was a freaking swastika on a red banner hanging there. And I swear my heart jumped, because like all good white and american boys, I was indoctrinated to hate the Germans. I found that out when my father and I went to see Private Ryan together in the scene on the beach in Normandy. My guts started to churn. I grabbed the arms of the chair, I started. It's like the end of 1984, I realized I loved big brother. It was.

Brian Heater: the lesser of two evils. I guess. At the end of the day I'm, subjective about a lot of things, but, Nazi Germany is not one of them.

Mayo Thompson: No, me either. That was all bad. All bad. Nothing good about it. And these sympathizers who hang with Trump, trump rump queen for a mean, I've been thinking about doing. But at the same time I'm thinking about making some political posters where you get a picture of Trump and then dress him up to look like a queen. But then you're making fun of cross dressers, and that's. No, can't do that.

Brian Heater: I've heard people describe him as a queen in that sense, in terms of, like, and the things that. The gossip and everything else that he concerns himself with. And what I will say is, I think that, again, we're getting into probably not your place to do it, but, there's a sense in which I feel like that comparison is fair because of how poorly he's treated the trans community, for instance.

Mayo Thompson: I think you can explain these things. Some of these things can be explained. You can say, yeah, I can understand you feeling offended. I'm not so good, but bear me out. Here's how I meant that, and try to count for it.