The busy year of 2016 is finally coming to a close, but now is not the time to rest – the dedicated staff at the Catskill Mountain Foundation have already been hard at work preparing a new season of top-notch events for 2017! Our first concert is Common Ground on the Mountain, on Saturday, January 14th in the Orpheum Film & Performing Arts Center. Common Ground brings together some incredible musicians – Professor Louie & The Crowmatix, Greg Dayton, Walt Michael, and Aztec Two-Step. I was lucky enough to catch Rex Fowler of Aztec Two-Step for a quick interrogation over the phone, and here’s how it went:
What was the first instrument you learned to play, and what was the first song you played on it?
I know it was a six string guitar, and I believe it was I’ll get you by the Beatles. That was a few years ago (just kidding).
Where did the name “Aztec Two-Step” come from?
The Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem, “A Coney Island of the Mind:”
“See it was like this when we waltz into this place. A couple of papish cats is doing an Aztec two-step And I says Dad let's cut but then this dame comes up behind me see and says you and me could really exist Wow I says Only the next day she has bad teeth and really hates poetry.” - A Coney Island of the Mind, Lawrence Ferlinghetti
You see the Aztec two-step there, and I guess Neal and I are a couple of papish cats, but we didn’t know what that meant. We found out later that it was slang for dysentery along with Montezuma’s revenge, but I don’t think that was the intended meaning in the poem. I always thought it was a dance step! We wanted to be different instead of just using our last names like every other duo at the time (Simon and Garfunkel, etc.), and I was very influenced by the beat poets, especially Jack Kerouac. It just went hand in hand with our persona.
What was your favorite concert that you’ve attended?
The one that stayed with me the longest was The Band. It was in 1975 at Cornell University in the Field House, and we happened to be the opening act. I watched it from the stage; I was sitting on one of their amp cases or something, and heard the whole thing from behind. Even from the back of the stage it was unbelievable.
What was your favorite concert to play?
That’s a hard one. That’s like asking your favorite song! I think it would’ve been opening for America in the mid 70’s or early 80’s, when we performed with our percussionist and bassist and just blew the doors off the place. We went out there and killed it, and probably made them step up and play a little better because of it. I love being the opener because we can go out slay dragons in a short amount of time.
What was the worst concert you’ve ever played?
When we showed up and outnumbered the audience. That was someplace in North Carolina in some little club, but we played a set anyway for the waitress and the bartender.
What’s your biggest inspiration?
As a songwriter it started with Bob Dylan, and then went into Donovan, and eventually John Lennon once I started refining my writing. I loved the Beatles but John Lennon, if I had only one artist to choose from it would be him, regarding my songwriting and what I aspire to.
What’s your favorite song to play, and why?
Probably the Highway Song. It was a seminal song for me as a songwriter. I knew that I was onto something – that I had created something that would allow me to make it in the music business. It turns out that it’s probably the one song that we get the most mail on, and it’s one that people always request from the audience. It ended our first album with a beautiful string arrangement.
How long did it take Neal to get over the girl on MTV?
He’s never gotten over it, he’s still pining away, watching all the MTV re-runs! We actually just had our 30th anniversary of that album, and I’m gonna make him play it, because it really is a lot of fun. It really captured the era. It was about Martha Quinn, the MTV video jock.
Any comments on your upcoming show at the Orpheum?
It’s going to be fun to play with the Crowmatix and the Professor, especially because of Professor Louie’s ties to the Band, and I love the Band. It’s always fun to be a part of these kinds of shows.