Wendy Gadzuk – Andalusia Rose

Wendy Gadzuk
Andalusia Rose
Interview by Lucky

These are exciting times for Andalusia Rose. Just back from a successful west coast tour, the band is slated to enter the studio this week for what we here at SugarBuzz hope will be a follow up to their astounding self-titled debut release. Their music is best described by the band themselves, “Dirty sweet haunting crimson blues, written by saints, played by sinners.” Wanting to get in on the action, I reached out to Wendy Gadzuk, who graciously agreed to an interview. The following is what transpired.

1) How old were you when you discovered you were smitten with rock and roll? Please discuss your earliest rock memories, your first venture into the world of music and your proudest musical achievement thus far.

Smitten happened at about age 10. I was proudly a “Disco Kid” before that. I even had a black satin bodysuit with those words emblazoned in silver glitter letters on the front that I wore as often as I could. Saturday Night Fever, Bee Gees, Donna Summer. Then one day my friend Katie Thornton played me AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds,” and it was all downhill from there. I also acquired Heart’s “Dog & Butterfly” around the same time. Those two records are singlehandedly responsible for my transition from Disco Kid to selling my soul for rock and roll! Kiss, Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Judas Priest, Nazareth, Ted Nugent, UFO. My first concert was Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle” tour, in 1983. Damn, I wish I still had that shirt! Joe Perry became a huge influence and inspiration.

Proudest musical achievement…hmmmm. That’s a tough one. My ego wants to think about the coolest bands I’ve shared the bill with, awards I’ve won, etc. over the years. But what I am really proud of at this moment is the fact that I somehow, after years of being on hiatus and moving to a new city where I barely knew anyone, mustered up enough faith and courage to make this record on my own. Throughout this hiatus, I was always writing. I jammed with many, many people over a 3-year period, and nothing stuck. I believed in my music enough to finally make the call to my friend and producer Brent Woods in LA and start recording, with or without a band. The recording was done by me, Brent and a session drummer, and a couple other friends who added their chops on a few songs. That was the beginning of Andalusia Rose. So really, my proudest musical achievement thus far is the fact that I am still doing it. This record led me to a couple of amazing guys that I can call my friends and bandmates today who are now doing it with me.

2) How immersed in Blues, R & B, Soul and other roots music were you while growing up? What other musical genres did you enjoy? What artists did you cut your teeth on as it were?

Well, as I mentioned above, disco and soul were what I really cut my teeth on as a kid. Then I shifted into the rock’n roll thing. There was a big division between the two at the time…disco vs. rock. One or the other. All the older kids with long hair were wearing “Disco Sucks” t-shirts, and things like that. The more I got into bands like AC/DC and Aersosmith, the more I realized all this music really came from the same place…the blues. Rock and soul had the same roots. I didn’t have brothers or sisters, and my dad listened to mainly classical and opera, while my mom was into classical and a bit of new-agey stuff. I was exposed to a little bit of folk from both of them…Joan Baez, Peter, Paul & Mary, that type of stuff. But I really had to dig in on my own to find the music that spoke to me. I was a teenager in the 80’s, so Aerosmith and the Stones led to Motley Crue, Ratt, Cinderella (all who are laughing at that, I challenge you to listen again!), and then Guns’n Roses. It wasn’t until later that I really started listening to the old stuff…Howlin’ Wolf, Leadbelly, Fred McDowell, Bessie Smith, and some Chicago blues like Robert Nighthawk. And of course, Ike and Tina Turner, who really bridged that gap between rock and soul. The world just didn’t realize it at the time. Or maybe it was just me.

3) Would you consider your childhood “normal” or were you subjected to traumatic surroundings and events?

Ha! I challenge you to define “normal!” I certainly didn’t feel normal. There was a lot of upheaval, but like everyone else, I had it better than a lot, worse than some. I was an only child, my parents split when I was 5, so I felt very isolated and alone as a kid. I was. I spent a lot of time home alone. They had joint custody, so I pretty much spent my childhood living out of a suitcase, which probably prepared me well for being on the road! There was no horrible abuse…I brought that on myself later, and put myself in many situations that I was lucky to come out of as unscathed as I did. Some of them certainly left their mark. I was fortunate to have done a lot of traveling with my dad at a young age. He was a physicist and had meetings and lectures all over Europe and was able to take me along a lot of the time. I saw and did a lot of things that most kids don’t get to experience. Warsaw, Communist East Germany, pieces of history. Of course, I didn’t fully appreciate that at the time, but I do now.

4) Are you a self taught musician, or must you pay homage to instructors and mentors?

I started taking piano lessons at the age of 4, the Suzuki method. I continued taking lessons for about 8 years, with a brief interlude of violin lessons in there somewhere. My parents were very musical, also. My mom was a piano teacher for a while, and my dad played some classical guitar and has always been involved in some type of chorus. He sings in the Montgomery County Masterworks Chorus, which is, I suppose, kind of a big deal in those circles! I sang the Carmina Burana with him in the children’s chorus when I was 7. I really learned to play by ear from an early age…I would go to sleep at night with one of those endless tapes…remember those?…of whatever song I was learning at the time looping over and over. That helped me out tremendously, I’m sure, with my ability to pick up songs quickly. I took guitar lessons for a few months when I was about 15, and then I stopped. I couldn’t get over the hump. I picked up bass when I was about 20. My roommate kept bitching about not having a bass player, so finally I just told him to let me play his bass, I would do it, just to shut him up. And I did. After a few years of that, I decided it was time to pick up the guitar again. I made the decision to be a guitar player and just played every day and listened to guitar players I liked…at the time it was Chuck Berry, Johnny Thunders, Angus Young. Studied their licks and learned them as best as I could. I remember meeting Ruyter Suys on Nashville Pussy’s first tour, which was around the time I was transitioning from bass to guitar, and she was very encouraging. She smoked on guitar. After their set, we talked for a while and she said all I needed to know was how to play barre chords and the blues scale. Sweet! I can do this! I think I wrote my first 440s song that night. So I guess the answer to your question is a little of both. I had a foundation, but I really developed as a musician on my own.

5) Please fill us in on the identities of the other members of Andalusia Rose. How did the band come about and how long have you know or worked with said members?

Andalusia Rose is myself, of course, on vocals and guitar, Jeff Vengeance on bass and sometimes baritone guitar and percussion, and Paul Hopkins on drums. They both sing back-up vox as well. We’ve all been doing this for a long time and have played in several bands…Paul played in Skinlab, Jeff played with the Flesheaters, and I played in The 440s as well as many others…my last band before this “hiatus” was Suckerstar, with Blaire from Betty Blowtorch, and later Sharon, who I think you know. The three of us (Andalusia Rose) have been working together for about a year and a half now, though Jeff and I were playing for a few months before we met Paul. It was love at first listen with him! We’ve had other members as well…it was never my intention to be a 3-piece. I really like working with another guitar player. Justin Caucutt played guitar with us for a while in the beginning, but he became toowendy.mr busy with his other band. Then Paul brought in his old bandmate from Skinlab, Snake Green on guitar, who introduced us to his friend Rob who began playing keys with us. There were 5 of us! It had it’s perks, but ultimately we decided we would be more powerful if we stripped it down to the bare essentials and let the songs speak for themselves. I felt strongly from the beginning with this band that I didn’t want it to become a big volume war. I wanted to be able to really sing, not shout just to be heard. I wanted it to be about the songs. The 3-piece has really allowed that to happen, and I feel like we are all now able to shine in our own true unique individual ways.

6) Just what does “Andalusia Rose” mean to you?

Andalusia Rose is a made-up patron saint….she was born Madelyne Black and was unable to bear children. Through her tears she brought to life thousands of magical rose bushes around the world. She was thus named Andalusia Rose, which is an actual rose varietal. The story goes that she is my muse, I am her channel. The songs come from her, filtered through me. It is really about giving form to these ideas and parts of ourselves that exist on another plane, giving a name and a voice to the glimmers and whispers that haunt our unconscious mind.

7) Aside from your outstanding musical abilities, you also are known for creating some amazing art pieces. Where do you draw inspiration for their design? Are they representative of your surroundings? What correlation to your music do you feel exists? Are your creations available to the public?

Why thank you! I suppose you would say I draw my inspiration from life, though that is quite vague. My work is mainly mixed media assemblage. I create what some would call “altars.” I collect “things.” I love to see the beauty in the mundane…to imagine how an ordinary object can be transformed into something beautiful that tells a story. I believe there is energy in everything. I suppose it is a type of alchemy, combining these energies together in new and unexpected ways and giving new life to those things that have been discarded. I use doll parts, bones, old jewelry, fabric scraps, fan parts, auto parts, whatever I have. People give me boxes of random stuff to use in my art and I love it! I am trained in jewelry and metalsmithing, so if I don’t have what I need on hand, I generally have the skills to make it if necessary. My work is intimate. Just like my music, while the themes are universal…I fully believe in the idea of a collective unconscious…I use my art, whatever medium it may be, to illustrate what is simmering in the quiet corners of my mind. I used to think there was a distinct separation between the two (music and art). It used to really cause me a lot of grief. But I have learned that the inspiration for all that I do really comes from the same place. I have just chosen to hone many different skill sets in order to express this inspiration in many different forms. Some may think it is wiser to just focus on one, but I have learned over the years that it is necessary for me to do both in order to feel fulfilled…in order to truly express who I am in the purest way possible. And I really think that is why we are all here. I used one of my pieces on the cover of the debut Andalusia Rose cd, and that really made me feel happy that I could physically combine these two outlets of expression together in a tangible way. It was the first time I had done that, and I’m not really sure why I have never felt I could do that before. I look forward to delving deeper into creating more of a connection between the two, and I feel blessed that I have bandmates who support that! Jeff is a painter, as well, and we have talked about trying to do a collaboration involving all three of us for some album art at some point.

Yes, they certainly are available to the public! I have a website here: www.wendyleegadzuk.com

And my Facebook art page, which, obviously is a little more interactive: www.facebook.com/wendyleegadzukart

You can always message me if you see something you can’t live without. I am working on a commission piece right now, which came about after someone saw a piece I didpostdil.wen for the Dwarves on Facebook.

I have been involved in several group shows recently at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco. They are a really great gallery run by two artists who are very supportive of getting exposure for new artists, as well as showcasing works by established artists. If you check their website, there may be something of mine available there, depending on when you are reading this! www.moderneden.com

8) How important is rock journalism to today’s music scene? Does it still generate interest / sales as in the days of old, or is it generally ignored? Has it been replaced by social networks or perhaps enhanced? Are there any music publications either in print or on-line that you check out from time to time?

I really have no idea any more! Things have changed drastically since the time I was really doing the band thing full-throttle, and now I’m trying to figure out how to get back in the game…but all the players are different! I feel slightly at a loss as to how to promote, who to send music to for reviews, etc. I’m not really sure who is reading what these days. The internet has allowed us access to so many different things, which is great, but when you are an independent musician or artist, it can be quite overwhelming trying to navigate through this information superhighway. It’s hard to figure out what is legit, what is a scam, what is a waste of time, what is a really helpful tool. Of course you can Google everything and read reviews, but then that becomes a full-time job in itself. I really want to stay focused on creating good music. So we need help! I’m starting to familiarize myself with more online music publications to stay current. Classic Rock and Big Takeover are two I check out periodically, and, of course, Sugarbuzz! We are trying to do more research to see if we can get a better idea as to where we fit into this whole pie!

9) If I was to tell you that you had to pay for a review or interview, what would that do to my credibility and the credibility of SugarBuzz Magazine as a whole?

Hahahaha! That’s the unfortunate thing. While doing some of this “research,” I came across a handful of zines and blogspaul.mr who asked just that. They said it would cost $5 per song for them to review our record. Others said that buying an ad would greatly increase the chances of a favorable review. It made me not take their content seriously. It stops being “journalism” at that point. Any blog or zine that requires payment from people who are providing content just becomes glorified ad space with very little credibility. So thank you for not asking for money! If you’re lucky, though (with a lower case “l”) I may make you cookies someday!

10) Care to mention/recommend any new bands that have caught your attention?

I just saw an amazing band last night, actually…Strange Vine from Fresno, CA. One of the most moving performances I have seen in a long time. Two-piece folky, noisy blues. Amazing musicians…the drummer plays a Rhodes while drumming and singing flawlessly, while the guitar player sings and rips on a home-made cigar box guitar, among others. I really dig the Civil Wars and White Hills too. There is a San Francisco band called Wild Eyes, who our old guitar player Justin used to play with, and they are pretty powerful. The singer, Janiece Gonzalez, is probably one of the most naturally gifted frontwomen I have seen, or certainly known personally. The Janis Joplin of stoner rock. Also, my friend Mike’s band, The Black Marquee, who you missed with us at Cafe Nela, are really good, high energy rock with a unique sound…kinda like Devo meets the Cult. Two AZ bands, Battered Suitcases and Musk Hog are worth mentioning as well. And yes, I am a Lorde fan.

11) Do you have a preferred format for releasing and/or purchasing music these days? (Vinyl, CD, Digital Download) Do you own a turntable? If applicable, how extensive is your music collection?

I’m a little ashamed to admit that I haven’t purchased a lot of new music recently. I have never yet paid for a download, though I do see that happening in the near future! I really dislike cd’s, and I love vinyl, but the reality is that I will listen to a cdjeff.mr more than vinyl, so I buy them more often than I would like. Yes, I own a turntable. Our next recording, which we are beginning next week, will be available on 12” vinyl and for downloads only. No cd’s!! I have a moderately extensive music collection…my vinyl collection goes way back to those Saturday Night Fever and Donna Summer records! Jeff is the real record nerd of the band. He’s got hundreds, if not thousands of records.

12) Please describe the songwriting process for Andalusia Rose.  How much input do your band mates contribute to the finished product? Do you write all the music and lyrics yourself? Or are there other collaborators at work?

Well, the band started with a large collection of songs that I had already written. We are still working on some of those. But it is beginning to be a more collective effort. I think we work well together, because we all seem to have our own distinct roles and don’t step on each other’s toes too much. So far, I am the main songwriter, but Paul has a good ear for picking up on parts that I may just throw in as a passing musical phrase, and really making them more a part of the song. Some of my arrangements tend to be a little predictable, and Jeff will sometimes want to throw in an unexpected  chord to give the song more of a twist, which is cool. So I look forward to seeing how this will evolve. I write the lyrics, but sometimes the guys will think I am singing something different than I am and I realize I like their version better! There is a song that Jeff wrote a long time ago that we are working on as well. We’ve been doing some jamming that Jeff records and it is great to hear something back and realize that it is the perfect missing part for a song we are working on.

13) Please mention three people that have had an amazing impact on your life. A short scenario of why would be cool.

So many people have impacted my life it is hard to choose! Besides my parents, of course, I can think of 3 teachers who have been a huge positive influence on my life. The first is Sally Eller, a special high school teacher who had a lot to do with changing the self-destructive path that I was on. They say you can’t bullshit a bullshitter, and she saw right through everything and helped me out of the fog. The second is Sharon Church, a jewelry/metalsmithing teacher in college. I somehow really bonded with her and, as much as it can be taught, she taught me how to be an artist… how to nurture and protect and honor my creative energy and vision. She led by example. Her husband was killed in a bicycle accident right after I graduated and I saw her resilience and it was inspiring. The third would be Phuoc Phan, my old Kung Fu teacher from Philadelphia. He grew up in Vietnam and is about my size, and a lethal weapon. He is a painter as well. He was put in political prison in Vietnam for refusing to do political works. I can’t imagine what he went through there. He told stories about his family coming across the ocean in small boats. He is a very kind, gentle man with a young innocent soul. He has been through so much, yet he is not bitter. He reminds me that channeling our energy in a positive way will make the world a better place. He used to call me up on a Saturday afternoon and say, “Hey, Winnie, let’s go to Chinatown in New York for lunch.” And I would go. I loved his child-like energy. But he was serious when it came to Kung Fu. I did things I had no idea my body was capable of. Body, mind and spirit. But, alas, after about 6 years of training I had to stop because I started touring more regularly and I couldn’t commit.

14) Let’s talk equipment.  What would you say is your weapon of choice? Do you use the same guitars on stage as in the studio, or do you have others reserved for recording? How about amplification? What types of amps do you   prefer and are they modified or stock?

I just bought a new guitar that I am completely in love with. It’s a “heather poly” Les Paul Custom Shop…basically a ’57 reissue that is a light purple color with the sheen of a Gold Top and plays like heaven. It has the push/pull pots so I can get a single coil sound out of it if I like as well as the humbucker sound. I can’t stop playing it! I look forward to recording with it next week. I also have a Groves guitar, custom made for me by my friend Gordon Groves in Tucson, who does beautiful work. I have this one set up for slide right now. It has just one P-90 pickup in it, with a toggle switch. He did some intricate vine inlay work on the fretboard, too. I have many other guitars, but those are my two main ones for now. Seems like every band I’m in has it’s own guitar. I play through two amps, linked with an AB box. A ’71 Fender Super Reverb and a smaller Fender Blues Junior Deluxe. I bought the Super Reverb in Philly around 1996 when The 440s started, and then I bought a Marshall JCM 800, which I still have. I eventually sold the Super Reverb to a friend in Tucson. Years later, when I started playing these songs, I was really wishing I still had that amp. I tracked her down with the help of my ex-husband (who I used to play with) and she wasn’t really playing guitar anymore and sold it back to me at the same price I sold it to her. Score! I will never sell it again. They are both stock. They sound great the way they are. I usually keep the Super Reverb clean and the Junior slightly dirtier. And, yes, I have a pedal board now, something I never thought I would do! But I made it myself and it looks cool! I have a Cry Baby Wah, a Fulltone Fulldrive distortion pedal, an Angry Troll that I use to boost leads, and a tuner and the AB box. God, I sound like a gear nerd, but I’m really not. I don’t know that much about it, but I’ve always managed to get good stuff. I know enough to get the sound I like.

15) Due to the shit ass flu, I missed your last visit to the City of Angels. Any plans to return here soon? Are there any other road trips in the works, and if so, what cities will be blessed with a visitation?

So many people did, it was crazy!! I’m glad you have recovered. I was lucky to be healthy for our little tour, but it sure got me when we got back! Yes, we are planning on coming back down that way in the next couple of months, but nothing concrete as of yet. But I will be sure to let you know! And of course, you can always check our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/andalusiaroseband

16) At the end of the day, would you say you suffer for arts sake, or has it been just an amazing fucking joyride?

Um, is that a joke?