18 Questions | Michael Espinosa

1. If you were John, and I was Paul, what Beatle’s song do you wish you had written?

Claude: I would have loved to have written A Day In The Life because it is simply immense in its scope. And each of them got their part, allowing you to see the distinct personalities in the song.

2. Have you been to Strawberry fields in New York and what was it like?

Claude: You know? I’ve not gone. There is something really sad about going there for me.

I remember crying on the front steps of my building in NJ when John was shot, and it was as if I’d lost a dear friend who had been with me all my life. Someday I will.

3. What inspires you?

Claude: I am mostly inspired by being around people, observing them and life itself. I actually don’t like the word ‘inspiration’ because it involves waiting for something to happen. For me, it is about living, and taking what you get from those experiences and allowing the art to reflect how it makes you feel. And that said.. I feel transformed by good stories, whether from a book or a conversation. Its a deeply loved experience to have the ability to listen. I want to get better at it.

4. Does the music or lyrics usually come to you first when writing a song?

Claude: It all depends. Sometimes i will hum a melody to myself, and words will flow.. and the arrangement seems to follow this. But other times, a single note on the piano can evoke an entire series of thoughts. I just go with the flow of it. The muse dictates.

5. Truly everything is Automatic, especially these days. What’s your biggest hope, and biggest fear of being
plugged in/online 24/7?

Claude: I learned what the dark side is, and that it does exist. There are bad people out there. I love technology and the togetherness it has brought to the world. At the same time, it has been suggested by my best friend that this is also the new stomping ground for evil, and I can agree with this. We give too much of our privacy away. We are too easily classified and cataloged. I do have a fear that this is only going to get worse. Think about the 2nd World War. What would people like the Nazis have done with something like FB or Twitter? And do you think it could never happen again?

6. What do you think of the band PM Dawn? Have you heard the Bliss album? It’s actually an incredible work of music and art that I think you’d really enjoy. Definitely check it out!

Claude: Loved them! The very first album was on my playlist when I first moved to CA, and it was this version of rap that really got me listening to the genre. But one of my favorite rap albums is Hello Nasty from the Beastie Boys. I love the diversity of the music on that album. It’s got everything.

7. How do you keep your voice in shape and so angelic? In my younger days I could really hit those high notes, but at 42 I’ve lost about 3 octaves.

Claude: Thanks for considering it ‘angelic’ .. It isn’t always, lol. I avoid vibrato and falsetto, because it makes me feel that my throat will get used to it. So I strain myself all the time. I put on records and sing in the car as much as possible. All types of music. This keeps me in shape. I also try, operative word there, to stay healthy in general. I think I’m getting better at doing that.

8. What’s the toughest decision you’ve ever had to make and why?

Claude: Hmm. That is a tough question. Life throws many things at us to decide on. But what may seem tough for one may be easier for another. On a personal level, I can say that this seems to change based on the time period of life. But I would say that anytime I’ve had to practice ‘tough love’ has been the worst of them. I don’t enjoy conflicts, and less so hurting anyone if that is avoidable. Sometimes it cannot be avoided, you know? But I would say that leaving a relationship is probably the most difficult of all decisions in life, whether friend, lover or spouse.. those are the hardest of choices.

9. Did you make it to Las Cruces, New Mexico ever and any stories?

Claude: I drove through there, and one place stood out that I will go back to photograph someday, that was near Tucumcari NM. It was this displaced town that was really out there. I remember there was an upturned school bus, and a sign that read, “Keep driving”…. and in the middle of it all a perfectly new post office. The whole place was empty. Eerie. Surreal. Just like I like it!

10. What do you think happens when we die?

Claude: We return to a form that has no barriers of speed or substance, something eternal. This allows us to do whatever we please.. but we get bored, and we think that maybe we can come back and learn something. After all, to an eternal being, what is another 92 years to learn and experience more stuff as a human?

11. Is organized religion more of a good or bad thing? Have you become more or less religious/spiritual as you’ve gotten older?

Claude: I went through an atheist period, where science was the only answer (in my early twenties). This came about from the idea that when we die everything just stops. I wanted to make peace with that idea, although there was a conflict within me that really did not embrace science as the complete answer. So the period lasted a very short time. I came to the conclusion that there IS a pattern at work, and it is not random. Grand design. Clues are there when you go looking.

As for organized religion? I was raised Catholic. I do go to church at times. I do it because of the solemness of the church itself, not because of the organized part. The rituals of it intrigue me, and I am drawn to the experiences of spirituality. I am a spiritual being. You could say I have had enough experiences to know that there is more to all this than science knows or will admit to right now. Organized religion in of itself has little to do with God in my opinion as a whole. It is fodder for followers and money. God is within and all around us. You don’t need an organization to find her. You leave yourself open, and there she is.

12. What are your thoughts on the band Rush? They’re playing tonight in Seattle, and I’m trying to get tickets to see them. I saw them twice in the 90’s and they’re a great rock n roll band!

Claude: Tom Sawyer.. the lead synth in that was something that intrigued me. I heard sounds like that and wondered, “How the hell did they get the guitar to do that?” I did not even imagine it was a synth. But I gravitated to Pink Floyd.. and then Kraftwerk.. only to discover punk. I’m all screwed up aren’t I?

13. What’s your biggest hope for our world?

Claude: That we truly learn to celebrate the differences, and not treat each other badly for them. We have not solved racial issues, hunger, slavery and such… even with all of this technology we seem so ass backwards as a race. We can put a space shuttle into orbit, or an app that connects us to millions, but half of us live under terrible conditions. Love has not yet prevailed. Love is not all we need, but compassion is. When we are compassionate, we can at least do something. Anything. This in turn allows love to take hold. This will reshape our world.

14. What 3 albums can you not live without?

Claude: Noooo!! Don’t ask me that! I have so many favorites that it will blow my mind thinking about it.. BUT… ok. I will try. Revolver by the Beatles. OK Computer (Radiohead) … and Pink Floyd Relics… with these I could be reminded of what I love about music.

15. Who are 3 “new” artists that have inspired you that you can recommend me to listen to?

Claude: Inspired maybe not.. but I do love… Let’s see… I love Thom York’s stuff. Radiohead (although not new per say). Ladytron. King Krule. Regina Spektor.

16. Where in the world have you not visited yet, somewhere that you really want to go more than anyplace else and why?

Claude: Japan and Italy are on my sights. I’d love to visit Korea and China as well. BUT! The last time I was in my native country of birth, Argentina was when I was 10 years old. I would love to go there and play. That would truly be a dream come true for me above all others with respect to being an artist playing music.

17. Who are 3 of your heroes and why?

Claude: My biggest hero was my grandmother, whose kindness and patience continues to be part of me. I love the Beatles as my heroes (collectively because each one of them taught me a different set of values that I can really lean on), and the Creator of this entire mess. She has the toughest job of all, and gets so little credit for it.

18. What instrumental song/score/composer/ song without words has moved you the most?

Claude: I love listening to Boards of Canada. As instrumentalists, they seem to transcend the barriers of electronic music. And of course I love Beethoven. Who can beat Moonlight Sonata?? I have always been fond of Gustav Holst’s The Planets especially. I really love that.