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18 Jul 2016

The Lucky 13: James Montenegro, bassist for Venus and the Traps

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Venus and the Traps have continued to dazzle local-music audiences at places from house parties in Coachella, to The Hood Bar and Pizza, to even the McCallum Theatre, as part of the East Valley Voices Out Loud showcase. The band’s sound combines punk, psychedelia and surf rock. Playing bass for Venus and the Traps is James Montenegro. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/venusandthetraps. James was kind enough to recently answer The Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

It must’ve been at the Date Festival. When I was a kid, my parents took me to see some band like Foghat or something. I don’t remember much in terms of music, but I do remember a lot of middle-aged drunk dudes dancing around like fools and falling into the folding chairs. It was great. Being a kid, I was more in tune with the slapstick side of life, and found that to be more amusing than the music at hand.

What was the first album you owned?

Metallica’s Kill ’Em All. It was a burned copy a friend gave me in middle school. We didn’t listen to that kind of music in my household, so I would listen to it late at night when everyone was asleep, with my headphones plugged in to the family radio.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I’m listening to a lot of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, NickCave and the Bad Seeds, Roy Orbison, Bobby Fuller, and Sam Cooke.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

I don’t get pop music in general. It’s redundant, so much so, in fact, that attempting to listen to it is almost a meta-experience in figuring out (who) the artist is explicitly ripping off. I’m talking about the Lady Gagas of the world, who probably have a team of writers who could give her some substantial material, but instead hand her a reworking of a Madonna hit.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

I would love, LOVE, to see Devo perform live, and I think that’s a very easy thing to do. I just don’t have the funds or the time.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Cajun music. Enough said.

What’s your favorite music venue?

I never gave any consideration to this. Offhand, I’d say in a very localized sense that The Hood is pretty tops, because they bring in a band I’d love to see play at least once a month, and I make it a point to attend. Bring in Devo!

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

I can dismiss song lyrics very easily, but for the past two days, a lyric will enter my head from time to time, because I’ve listened to the song so much recently: “All the tired horses in the sun, how am I supposed to get any riding done?” from Bob Dylan, “All the Tired Horses.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

The Clash changed my life immensely when I first listened to them. I must’ve stolen London Calling from Borders, now closed, when I was in high school. Reading the lyrics, I was taken aback. These were four guys playing some real intense music, with a lot of intellect, and they told stories as well. It was like the pop-punk equivalent of folk music, which makes sense, because punk is basically the extension of what the Beats had established in the 1950s—punk in terms of politics and philosophy, the working class, nihilism, the whole thing.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I’d ask Joe Strummer of the Clash: “How do you give off the appearance of never having to make a compromise, and still achieve radio-play status?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“In Dreams,” by Roy Orbison.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Combat Rock, The Clash.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“(Working on the) Chain Gang,” by Sam Cooke. Do it with friends, and have them do the “oohs” and the “ahhs” in the background. Have a few stiff drinks, then do it again. (Scroll down to hear it.)

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