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ON THE WINGS OF A CHOLO
Fresno Famous: For those at home who may not know, what is in a tamale?
Tomas Medrano: Everything that's good in the world. I guess a tamale is whatever the filling is. Like pork with a red sauce, or whatever it is, and you get the cornhusk and you put masa in it, cornmeal that's been mixed with chili powder and manteca and you mix it together, and you put that on the corn husk and you ladle in a little bit of the filling and then you fold it over. And then you take a bunch of them when they are done and you put them in these big pots, these steamers, and the steam cooks the masa. And when you're done you just peal the husk off. We do simple ones we don't go crazy and do weird stuff. We're doing chicken, beef and pork. We're probably going to bring like four dozen.
FF: You think that's enough?
TM: It better be because I am not bringing anymore. That's a lot of tamales. Four dozen tamales.
FF: Are you gonna have plastic forks and stuff?
TM: Usually I take paper plates and napkins and forks, because I don't want Toshi [one of the owners of Tokyo Gardens] to deal with cleaning up. But he's pretty excited about it, he's like, "Oh, tamales." He gets pretty stoked.
FF: How many piñatas are you going to have at the show?
TM: I don't know, I haven't counted them yet. There's a lot. The first year we gave them all away, because at the end of the show everyone was like, "Oh, good show." And we'd be like "Yay! Take a piñata," not realizing that we were going to do the thing again the next year. So last year I saved some and gave a few of them away. I still have over half the ones from last year. I bought a bunch more this year to.
FF: Who's bringing the baseball bats?
TM: Oh no. You're not allowed to bring weapons to Tokyo Gardens. Piñata sticks and drunk people don't go well together.
FF: Well, how do you plan on breaking open the piñatas?
TM: It'll be a free for all.
FF: Sounds very primal.
TM: I guess I'm gonna put some candy in one, but than I am just going to take some and throw it at people. It's easier.
FF: Where did you get the idea for the show?
TM: Three years ago we had a show on my birthday, December 9th, and we had a show that landed right on my birthday and we were making tamales that same day and I thought, everybody like tamales. Than I thought, "I can decorate the whole place in piñatas." It was that simple.
FF: How long has Gypsy Cab been together?
TM: Three years in spring. It used to be me, Mike Kennedy, and Sean Aldretti and we used to be Cholo-A-Go-Go. Then Sean went to the New School and he'd go and he'd come back in the summer and we'd play and then Mike found his new career, which is flying airplanes. He always wanted to be a pilot and on a whim he called a flight school and he thought it would be too late, that he'd be to old, but the flight school people said, "No, no, you're the perfect age." They know that a guy his age is going to take it seriously. So within a year and a half he got married, became a pilot and had a baby. All the tunes that I had written for Cholo-A-Go-Go that we didn't get to play, I recorded them and then I thought, "I really want to play them out now!" So I put together a band around those songs. That's where Gypsy Cab came from.
Since then we've had two different guitar players, four different bass players, and then it's been me and Sean for a long time.
FF: When's your next recording coming out?
FF: You were in the paper a couple days ago; the Bee quoted something you said about the Fulton Bar scene
TM: They quoted me wrong. Mike Oz called me up and was like, "I'm doing this article on Earlimart and I heard you know Aaron Espinoza, do you mind if ask you a few questions about them? What kind of guy he was, he is?" And in my mind I flash forwarded into "Behind the Music" on VH1 and I'm the old guy who knew him when, but nobody knows who the fuck I am. Anyways, Mike Oz asked me some questions and he took what I said and basically synopsized our conversation, but he put it up in quotes that I said "Aaron always makes a point to say he's from Fresno" and I don't think I really said that. I kind of see where he drew that from ... but he did some other things to. He wrote about how Jim [Fairchild] and Aaron started the Ship, which is totally wrong. I thought, fuck, that's totally wrong.
FF: Set the record straight then, who really started the Ship?
TM: I remember when Aaron moved down there right after the Fulton closed and it was Aaron, Ashod was already living up there, and it was Aaron, Bryan Thornell, Marc Wooten, the Pine Marten guys. There was a mass exodus, right after that everything here changed in like six months, I don't mean to sound cliché, but that was one of those "end of an era" sort of things, everyone moved to LA and I moved to Brazil for six months. It was all those guys that I thought started the Ship. Back then, the Fulton had a really cool scene, it was a real underground local music scene, you weren't exactly getting college kids going down there. It was pretty much hardcore local musicians and that's where I met those guys. There was a little bit of a scene, a scene that was at the same time non-existent.
FF: Why didn't you keep the name Cholo-A-Go-Go?
TM: We started to hate it. Mike Kennedy really hated it at the end. He was like, "We're not a Go-Go show, none of us are cholos, so why the fuck are we Cholo-A-Go-Go?"
FF: I can imagine how you might get tired of it.
TM: We had this bet that one of us was going to get a tattoo, because the first album was supposed to be called "Cholo-A-Go-Go, On The Wings Of A Cholo" and one of us was going to get a tattoo on our back of a pair of wings. That never happened. We couldn't keep that name.
FF: Good thing no one got that tattoo then.
TM: Oh. Well, I've got to talk to Mike. He's the one who has to get the wings tattoo now, because he is the one flying planes.
FF: I guess that's appropriate.
TM: He's truly flying on the wings of a cholo.