When I started apogeemag, I had decidedly chosen NOT to interview bands
because, 1. Everyone interviews bands, and 2. I don't have anything to ask
them. I mean, what could I possibly want to know? All I really care about
is that inexplicable thing in musicians that drive them to make music. Why?
Why make music? Glory? Respect? Sex? What the hell is music anyway? Whatever
it is, it exists and it's amazing; it can move us to tears, fill us with
joy, make us move like fools. THANK GOD FOR MUSIC!
All this being said, I had the worst interview EVER with Nick Urata
and Tom Hagerman of DeVotchKa. My beloved tape player of 7 years had just
given up its last breath, the digital camera I had borrowed had dead batteries,
and every question, every angle I took with Nick fell like deflected arrows
on the table between us. It went something like this:
So, you started out in Chicago...can you tell me
a little more about that, give me a little bit of the history?
[Groans] Oh jeese, didn't you do your homework?
Yes, I DID do my homework, I just wanted to hear
it from you.
[Rubs his face exasperatedly, and looks at me]
Ok...You've had a lot of member changes in the the
band...uh.. where did you find Tom?
I found him in a dumpster somewhere in Denver.
Alright then. Well, why do you make music?
[Hunches waaay over rubbing his forehead, nearly laying on the table. He looks up at me sideways from the table top, almost smiles] That's a really hard question to answer....uh Tom, you want to field this one?
And on it went for most of the interview. I can't say the whole thing was a wash though. We watched maggot eaters on the bar tv and the waitress brought us candy flavored shots and slid a rose next to my bourbon. Nick even gave a heartfelt and real answer to my stock apogee question:
What advice can you give a young person who wants
to do what you do?
[paraphrased] Always be yourself; don't ever try to be like anyone else and you will succeed. You can make music out of anything...a can, a stick...
Tom answered this:
[again, absolutely paraphrased] You have to pick and choose through all of the information and advice you're given. Here he talks about different teachers and how some advice is good and some is bad and you, as an individual, have to discern what is truly useful and what is trash.
Tom was much more responsive, helpful and almost sweet. Native Coloradan, he started playing the violin as a youngster, claimed he was forced into it by his parents. He sites Yann Tiersen and Piazolla as influences and dreams of having too many music students to keep track of.
Nick wants to retire on the beach.
And now, for my "homework":
Devotchka. A word coined directly from Anthony Burgess', A Clockwork Orange. Actually, from Russian, it means girl or young girl, which is fitting as most of their shows have great guest performances by buxom belly dancers, fabric dancers, and burlesque troupes.
I have seen countless descriptions of the band, most including "Eastern European" somewhere within, but the best one I have seen is "American Gypsy." It has all the fun and drama of a Jewish wedding. There is usually (but not always and often more): accordion, violin (Tom Hagerman); upright bass, sousaphone (Jeanie Schroder); drums, trumpet (Shawn King); and a debonaire crooner/guitar/banjo/bass mandolin/theramin/song writer/and whatever-the-hell-else-he-comes-up-with man (Nick Urata). They ARE a truly great band. Original, fun and moving. People get so exited at their shows...I have had more than one person actually apologize to ME for getting so damn excited. Funny.
It is best to experience DeVotchKa live, but you can hear some of their songs at www.devotcka.net
Something extra: the word, devotchka, as used in A Clockwork Orange, is
part of a language created by Anthony Burgess which he calls, Nadsat. "The
Nadsat language is English, with a heavy dose of Russian, some Dutch, Malay,
Cockney words and slang features. The word Nadsat is taken from the Russian
particle meaning on/over ten (teen)."* Click HERE
for a fun translation guide to use while reading the book. It makes reading
the book oh so much more fulfilling.
* Quote taken from www.single-serving.com