Concrete Blonde grew out of the LA post-punk scene, and from 1987 to the present, they released eight albums of philosophically intense, richly textured—and sometimes morose—songs that occasionally chart yet are always brilliant. Lead singer/bassist/band founder Johnette Napolitano is one of the most prolific songwriters of the past two decades.
But who cares? Johnette and her band are playing on goddamned Valentine's Day! Pink hearts and doily cards fill the air! We want to know what she has to offer cooing, candy-ass lovers on this oh-so pukey day.
OC Weekly: Well?
Johnette Napolitano: Being the dark souls that we are, we actually wanted to do a "We Hate Valentine's Day" show, where people could get a discount for bringing in pictures of their exes. People should use that night to break up with somebody, serve divorce papers and definitely screw it up all the way around. We hate it.
What's the weirdest thing you've ever received on Valentine's Day? Maybe from an anonymous fan?
Oh, God, if you want to start there—Jesus! They send me all kinds of stuff. There was this guy in Ohio, 10 years ago, who had a tattoo of my face on his chest! He showed up at a show one night. And he turned out to be a really nice guy—and he still has my face tattooed on his chest, and it's not aging.
Immortalized! Which look did he get?
It was the "Walking in London"/Wednesday Addams thing.
Oh, good—that's a timeless look.
Exactly! If he meets a chick or something, he can just tell her it's Louisa May Alcott.
I was looking through my Concrete Blonde albums, trying to find love songs, but it was hard.
We have love songs all over the place! We have some on the album we just finished last night. So, you don't have any favorite relationship songs of ours?
I love "Someday," and "Make Me Cry" off your first album, which is a sad comment, really.
[Laughs] I know, it is! It's horrible when somebody has that kind of power over you. It's something you can't intellectualize. You can run around and drink and do everything in the world to get away from it, but it doesn't go away.
One of the love-type songs you do have is "Ghost of a Texas Ladies' Man," which is, at least, about having good sex with a poltergeist. Has that happened to you?
It happened to me in New Orleans—I could have sworn someone was crawling into bed with me, and I was too scared to open my eyes. The host ghost with the most in Texas was just horny. He only went after women; he didn't really bother men—once in a while, he'd slap a drink out of somebody's hand. I just love that concept. If everybody knew there was sex after death, it would change everybody's outlook completely.
And if you have to be in some ethereal limbo . . .
That's the kind of ghost to be! You know, I own The Ghost and Mrs. Muir! That is my grand Valentine's Day statement to you—I own that movie!
Oh, my God—you're mushy inside!
[Laughs] I swear, I never get tired of it! And [Gene Tierney] is perfectly happy with the ghost! I mean, she does go out with that dildo guy, but [the ghost, Captain Gregg] is so handsome—I mean, who needs anybody else? I'll start crying just thinking of it now.
So which would you prefer, a spiritual lover or a real one . . . or polyurethane?
[Laughs] I hear they're really realistic now! I was thinking of getting one to sit in my car so I can drive in that fucking car-pool lane. But for the first time in my life—ever—I'm interested in a real person. I tend to be romantic to the point of impossibility. I've been the kind of person that if something doesn't work out for me, I jump on a plane and go somewhere or tour. I tend to run. I cannot express myself at all. The real hard shit I cannot say. I can only say it if I write it in song. Which is wonderful, but you can't live your whole life that way. You have to learn at some point. I haven't been very social in the romantic sense for quite a long time. I'm kinda just getting the hang of it.
With anyone in particular?
Oh, Benicio del Toro! [Laughs] But try not to let that out of the bag! We don't want to wind up like J-Lo and Ben.
Oh, yes, you guys would be JUST LIKE THEM!
He could get me a giant skull ring! But relationships? I don't know. Real life is a nice place when there's someone actually in it who fits. And then you have to keep your personal demons somewhat at bay. And I don't want those demons around much anymore. At this point, it's wonderful that I have this career, but if my whole identity as an artist is tragic—and apparently it is, especially during the "Bloodletting" years, when people were like, "Don't kill yourself!"—well, that's not how I really am. I mean, I haven't had the easiest time, but other people have had it harder. One of the worst things for me is that I meet people traveling. I met a great Scottish guy in Paris, and he came to live in LA, and it was like taking a lily and trying to plant it in the desert. It just did not work out. It was wonderful in Paris with 16 bottles of wine a day, but what wouldn't be? It's unrealistic.
The old movies lied?
Yeah! I was even listening to Dr. Laura the other day, and she said how she thought the 1950s were such a wonderful time. And I'm thinking, "You're such a cunt, you would." You know? "You would think it was a fucking great time when everybody was in the closet and black people knew not to shit in the same toilet as you." Jesus, yeah, that was a great fucking time!
Okay. So let's say you meet this guy who really does it for you . . .
Okay, talk me through this . . .
And it's perfect, and, say, he has a job he can do from anywhere, and he can relocate and doesn't feel emasculated by your fame . . .
That is SO important!
You have this guy, and you have to buy one of these three Valentine's Day gifts—and you CAN'T choose death as a way to get out of it.
A "Bear Hugs" custom mug with "an adorable bear couple caught in a loving embrace" wrapped around a mug that says, "Love Grows When Two Hearts Share". . .
That makes me sick.
A "beautifully sculpted keepsake Lucite block" that says, "All I Need" with "beveled edges and a heart mosaic design surrounding a loving, poetic verse" . . .
You're going to hell.
Or a "Message in a Bottle at Sea—a creative and romantic vessel that carries your heartfelt thoughts to your special someone in a 7 1/2-inch bottle."
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This is so gross. I guess I would have to take the heart-shaped Lucite block.
And your loving inscription?
"Hurt Me, And I'll Kill You in Your Sleep."
Concrete Blonde perform at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600. Sat., 8 p.m. $29.50. All ages.