I reviewed Tijuana Hercules album Mudslod And The Singles earlier in the week but musician and cartoonist John Vernon Forbes has given us the opportunity to premier the video for the single ‘Chilanta’ for all discerning Joyzine readers.
To listen to ‘Chilanta’ is to ride on an inflatable Cadillac, floating down a Louisiana river with a crate of beer, a bottle of fine bourbon and maybe a Cuban cigar or two. It feels loose but pulses with a hypnotic backbeat and crackles with guitar crunch and harmonica beamed in from the Twilight Zone. Prepare to find yourself unable to resist the desire to frug, stroll or do the shag round your house.
The video is drawn from Forbes’ 50s style cartoons. There’s a three-eyed alien playing a two-Frankenstein-headed stand-up bass, a fish in high heels, an imp with a whip, a half-bird, half-harmonica creature and another Dodo-esque bird with a singing arse. It’s a neon-coloured delight that Dr. Freud would have more to say about than Dr. Seuss but, whatever eyes mean to Forbes, the song and video are a joyously-weird and hugely enjoyable match.
I am also re-posting the amazing interview with John Vernon Forbes from earlier in the week. And, as if we weren’t giving you enough already, there’s a 4-track album sampler below the interview.
Joyzine’s interview with Tijuana Hercules’ John Vernon Forbes:
Joyzine: Who came up with the tag ‘Hillbilly Trance’? It’s such a cracking description for your music.
JVF: I have narrowed this down to two people: One a high Potentate of unquestionable conviviality; a person that knows how to pair good alcohol with crap food. The other is an ill-reputed loudmouth. On a thorough assessment of IQ and wit, I give the honors to the Potentate.
Joyzine: How did you arrive at this hypnotic variation on blues? Who were your influences when you started out making music?
JVF: I’ve always liked the sound of a maraca shaking in the subconscious and using sensory deprivation to roll in the darkness. And how we got there goes like this: We were doing a show and these two country women (by country I mean from out in the boondocks) came to check us out. They worked as welders and they weren’t dainty. In fact, they were revelling in their undaintiness. One of the women was Black and the other was White. They were hardened comrades. The Black woman asked me if we played “Proud Mary” because she wanted to sit in and sing “Proud Mary.” I told her that we did not play “Proud Mary,” but if she thinks she hears something that sounds like it, she can grab a microphone and let rip to her heart’s content. As we started our set, I played a guitar chord to see if I was in tune with myself. She took this as her opening, jumped on a mic, and started chanting, “Go, Gus, Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!” We rolled with it and played a groove behind her for an hour. It felt glorious and was a breakthrough in playing.
When I started out, a tune that got me was Don Gardner and Dee Dee Ford’s “I Need Your Loving.” It had me frozen in time and hypnotized. It’s three minutes of one swinging riff. No chord changes. Just a pulse. A vocal group sings a diminished harmony that contains three words for the whole song, while Don Gardner erupts like a wordless volcano. It’s wallowed in reverb that came from another planet. Pure lascivious spiritual distillment!
Joyzine: Who or what is Tijuana Hercules?
JVF: It’s one of several things. A homage to the Tijuana Bible comic books. A salute to the city on Mexico’s north-western border. A tribute to a friend that jumped the mortal coil, but inspired me mightily by being the most “true to thine own self,” pants down.
Joyzine: What’s a Tijuana Hercules gig like, I can imagine it being quite a transcendent experience?
JVF: We try to get into our heads and vibrate. Some people look like they’re high, with their eyes half-closed. They’re moanin’ and groanin’ and twistin’. Others are wide-eyed and look like they are on the warpath. Then there are others that feel very fertile afterwards and are ready to tell it on the mountain.
Joyzine: I see there’s a limited edition of the album with original artwork. Is there any difference in how your approach drawing versus making music (to me, your drawings look like they could come alive and start moving to TH’s music)?
JVF: I’m glad you saw it that way. I try to keep it all in the same circle for congruency’s sake.
Joyzine: What current bands you are listening to you and think the Joyzine readers should check out?
JVF: I’ve lost the concept of past, present, and future. It’s all the same from where I’m at. The dead are still with us. But to get back on track and answer the question; pre-COVID, I liked catching Jaimie Branch, Bitchin Bajas, or Bill MacKay. Since COVID, I have seen Bill play a solo show at a socially distanced gallery. Lately if I have something that requires concentration, I’ll listen to Psychic Graveyard on headphones. They pull it off in close quarters. When I’m the free-and-easy family type, I go to gutbucket blues and jazz; mournful classical music; or something from someplace where the diets are different from mine.
Joyzine: Any plans for coming to the UK to play post-COVID?
JVF: If there’s a will, there’s a way. I’d like to bring a troop of musicians over to have a levitating moment.
Review by Paul F Cook