Stephen: Grant Sutherland is a South African who lives in
British Columbia, Canada.
Rodriguez: Yeah, that's just up the road from Detroit.
Stephen: He asks: “What inspired the overall mood of your songs,
and where were you living when you wrote most of your songs?”
Rodriguez: Detroit. I'm based out of Detroit, born and bred
there. I graduated from school there. It took me 10 years to get my
four-year degree. It was something I wanted. I'm self-taught as a
musician. I didn't go to school on a music ticket. I wanted to hear – and
learn. And they keep raising tuition. They keep raising the prices of
books. I mean, how are they going to solve anything if they keep raising
the prices of books? How are they going to get people to even achieve? And
it hasn't changed.
Stephen: So what inspired the overall mood of your songs? Most
of your songs were written in the '60s presumably. How much of the 60s and
what was happening at the time affect the mood of your songs?
Rodriguez: Oh, everything, you know, in every way. I talked to
my close close friend Tammy and she says the mood now is so eerie (as it
was back then). There’s no planes overhead, it’s like when they killed
Kennedy. It’s like that now. It’s the mood of it. But things have changed
a great deal (since then). There’s violence out there, so much of it – who
would have thought?
Waiter: Here you go (serves drinks). It's an honour to meet you.
Rodriguez: Thanks, thanks! Hey, hey, it's a pleasure to meet
Waiter: Any more drinks?
Stephen and Rodriguez: Same again, thanks.
Stephen: Well, Donald McLellan from Melbourne, Australia writes:
“Why did you stop making music?”
Rodriguez: I guess there was nothing happening for me there (in
the US) and I had to get to work, get myself together there. But then,
over here (in South Africa) this is happening. It’s crazy. And they’re so
good to me, they’re so sweet. They give me stuff, they buy me drinks.
Checking out my hair. (Laughs.)
Stephen: So you stopped performing but you never stopped
playing, is that right?
Rodriguez: Yeah, yeah.
Stephen: And you always had a guitar with you, wherever you
Rodriguez: Yeah, always. And it’s been my companion, very much
something that's constant. It’s with you, you feel music, whatever, and
you resolve it. So yeah, I use it.
Stephen: And as Darryl Buckby from Cape Town asks: “Any plans
for a new album?”
Rodriguez: Yeah, I'm working on stuff. I don’t go back and play
that (old) stuff, except when I’m on this tour. I consider myself a
writer, but I want to give something real good. I am disciplined, y’know,
despite all... I know I do a lot of wine, and such and such, I smoke and -
I mean, how do you think I get there? (Laughs.)
I turned down a recording contract because they had a clause in there
that said not only that the song company owns the song but that they wrote
it. I researched that contract, I have a formal education, y’know. But
there's a whole lot (about the music industry and recording contracts)
that you don't learn in school, you know.
Stephen: Roedean says: “It's very hard to believe that your
music’s not popular in the United States.” What’s your explanation?
Rodriguez: At the beginning, they (my record company) said maybe
it was distribution. That was the first product on that label. But we have
a publishing deal happening right now (in the US). Let's see what happens.
Stephen: I just want to add that the label went into financial
difficulties quite quickly, so the album didn’t really flop or not
succeed, it just never really had a chance.
One last question. It's from Ken van Ginkel of Cape Town. He says:
“Fortune has treated me terribly unkindly this past week. It is with deep
regret that I am unable to attend Rodriguez's concerts due to work
commitments. In the late '80s our whole dormitory would listen to his
music before going to the Heidelberg (a pub in Observatory, Cape Town) to
listen to Josh Sithole play cover versions. I am heartbroken that I won't
be able to see Rodriguez perform. Do you have an email address or website
that I can use to apologise to him directly?”
Rodriguez: (Laughs) Well, he's apologised already. What a line!
These guys, you know. (Laughs again.) Keep talking, baby!
Stephen: Okay, the website to use is www.cd.co.za/rodriguez, and anyone who wants to mail Rodriguez
can do so through me, my address being: email@example.com.
By the way, I was working with Jeremy at an Internet company in Cape
Town about five years back when we set up the original South African
website to find you. We tried to do it without one of our bosses finding
out. Eventually we decided just to put it up, then went to our boss and
told him what we'd done, expecting him to go apeshit. To our surprise he
said: "That's really great – put it up!" Within a month of the website
going up, you (Rodriguez) and I had made contact (via email), and Jeremy
and I realised that this is how the Internet actually works. It puts
people in touch with others so easily.
Rodriguez: It's amazing how all this new technology has helped
stimulate interest in music and so many other things, isn't it? The
Internet has become a new market almost. Things are changing, moving.
We're at the start of it, almost. It's great.
Stephen: Any final words to your online world audience?
Rodriguez: (Laughs) Stay real, y'know - stay real! Um, and drive