Spindly and resilient like a saguaro, one might say Al Perry is a desert survivor. He first took up guitar back in junior high. The first tune he wrote? "Shopping Mall Baby," of course. "That was when there was this little magazine a friend did," Perry says. Mallife; I would do collages and write poetry and goofy little essays for it." The fabled Tucson musician, too-often lazily associated with "cowpunk," is a visual artist and longtime KXCI 91.3 FM DJ host of Al Perry's Clambake, which airs Tuesdays 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. That highly listenable show simply continues to evolve, as does his other work.
"I could easily form a band, or do more acoustic gigs," he says. "Over the last year or so, I've been learning audio engineering, computer recording and mixing."
Perry has set up a small bedroom studio and credits his old friend Loren for helping him sort shit out.
"This whole learning to audio engineer deal is a lot of fun, and it made me understand a lot about modern music. Still, Buck Owens, Link Wray, Ennio Morricone, that's my favorite material."
A huge fan of The Beach Boys and ABBA, Perry can't resist an infectious hook. "[I] listen to some of the teen pop things that are on the radio. I don't like all of it, but some of it is really addicting and great. I've gotten hooked on some of this stuff, in particular the K-pop." Here's Perry picks his Top 5 hookfests of the moment:
1. IU "Boo": The K-pop song factory phenomenon is quite interesting. This is the first video I saw of it, an adorable bit of updated, processed sunshine pop made bigger, louder, and brighter, yet still the same as that old girl group stuff. I like Crayon Pop, 9MUSES, and a bunch of others. All of it really.
2. Meghan Trainor "Me Too": Pure white chubby chick rap-lite kitsch. The sliding around bass part grabs my attention and the overall production gets top marks. Very tacky song, yes. But great, and stands up to repeat listens.
3. Kelly Clarkson "Good Goes the Bye": Turns out this was written by some Nashville songwriters and meant to be a country song, until Kelly's manager heard it. She can sometimes over-belt a song, but is more subdued here. Same old chords, etc. but reconfigured and updated.
4. Shakira "Whenever, Wherever": The melody has hooks aplenty, with a light Latin-esque dance groove, sexy vocals with an Andean flute or a pan pipe or whatever that is tossed into the mix. Whoa! Art! Great video too.
5. Nicki Minaj "Beez In the Trap": Big time cheese factor in Nicki's music. Usually I don't care for rap but her material is good comedy. We have here an ode to having too much stuff. She was great as a judge on American Idol as well.
Al Perry performs at Exploded View gallery/microcinema, 197 E. Toole Ave., on Saturday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. It's a celebration of the release of Al in a Box: The Desert Scene a boxed set of 25 limited edition watercolor postcards plus a bonus CD.
Of the postcards, Perry says, "I had this kiddie watercolor paint set and a book of blank watercolor postcards. So one night I just made a bunch and sent them out. People liked them. I can't draw or paint really. I am inspired by children's art and people who are untrained. Art Brut. The art of the insane. Dubuffet. I kept making the cards and then had a big show at this record store downtown. That went well. A year ago I had six paintings in a group show in Philly. One of them actually sold. The paintings are mostly landscapes. Cockroaches, Circle K, saguaros, drones, DeGrazia niños and related desert images make up the subject matter."
Some Al Perry: