11 a.m., Oct. 17
RIYL: The Dragons
- "Last Exile on Kettner?" · Jan. 3, 2014
- "Hip to Shop" · April 10, 2013
- "Mario Escovedo on Balboa Park, Moths, and Mowgli" · June 13, 2012
- Blurt: "Mario's New Hat" · Feb. 24, 2010
Former Chula Vista Spartans quarterback Mario Escovedo went on to spend over a decade playing guitar and fronting the Dragons. “We made seven CDs and toured the U.S. a half dozen times and went to Japan as well.”
He might never have gone the musical route, had it not been for one pivotal event, right in his own backyard. “At the California Theatre downtown, circa the mid-’80s, Iggy Pop played the Raw Power tour and had Andy McCoy from Hanoi Rocks on guitar. He’s my favorite guitar player, along with Johnny Thunders. If that wasn’t cool enough, a metal band called Accept played, and everyone was standing on the seats and pumping their fists in unison. It was just fun and captivating, and it made me want to play rock and roll.”
Since 2008, Escovedo has spent most of his time working offstage, behind the scenes, operating Requiemme Management and Music.
Why the name? “The regular spelling of requiem,” he says, “means a song of mourning performed as a memorial or for a dead person. It reminds me to keep the past the past and to keep moving forward, plus it sounds cool and gives you the impression that there’s some big corporate office downtown and not some guy working on his home computer somewhere in Normal Heights.”
Escovedo started Requiemme in 2008 with one band and grew into an eclectic roster of bands old and new, soul and rock, punk, and indie. Consider the Dogs, the Zeros, Mad Juana, Lady Dottie and the Diamonds, Darlings of Chelsea, and Maren Parusel.
“One thing I don’t want to have,” he says, “is a punk roster or a rock roster. I have to love the music. My roster has gone along the lines of my taste, which is very different.”
For example, Lady Dottie and the Diamonds.
“When they were just starting out and you’d walk into the Tower Bar, it felt like the real deal. It was a special thing to be around that music.” The result, he says, is that her blues became an unlikely hit with the indie-rock crowd, and he’s okay with that.
The Escovedo surname represents a small dynasty of music-industry eclecticism. Was Mario Escovedo’s music career a given?
“No. Actually, there was pressure for me to not go into music,” he says. He got a late start. He didn’t buy his first guitar until he was in college. And after the Dragons — his most successful band — was finished, so was he. Escovedo sold his amp and guitar and with the exception of a few reunion shows, he hasn’t performed since.
“Now,” he says, “I get something back out of seeing musicians further themselves.”
In 2011, he performed on a Shiela E. album alongside several other members of the musical Escovedo family. At the SXSW music fest in Austin during March 2012, his management company hosted two local-centric events: March 16 at Jackelopes with Alejandro Escovedo, Maren Parusel, and the Beautiful View, plus March 17 at the Whiskey Room with the Biters, Tommy Stinson, Transfer, Maren Parusel, and the Beautiful View.
Speaking of beautiful views, in 2012 Escovedo moved near Balboa Park. “On any given weekend or afternoon I can find something new there, from just walking around to people-watching. Somehow the mix of tourists, locals, and homeless people seems to work in this beautiful surrounding.”
He hasn’t ruled out performing altogether. “For fun, I still play every once and a while in the Mario Escovedo Experience, or MEX, as we call it. It’s a five-piece band where I play all my favorite country and Tex-Mex songs, from Waylon Jennings to Ritchie Valens, Merle Haggard, Los Lobos, Freddy Fender, and Flaco Jimenez.”
In March 2013, his Requiemme Mgmt company hosted SXSW showcases in Austin, Texas featuring locals El Vez, Hills Like Elephants, the Creepy Creeps, Tijuana Panthers, and others on March 15 at the Jackalope and March 16 at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room.
Several Requiemme acts, including Maren Parusel and Hills Like Elephants, have had songs licensed for use by PlayNetwork, a Seattle-area company that produces in-store music and video messaging for a variety of retailers, including Macy’s, Urban Outfitters, Victoria’s Secret, Old Navy, and Holiday Inn.
“MAC Cosmetics executives heard Maren Parusel’s song ‘Dear Love,’ and they said they wanted that song playing in their stores, says Escovedo.” “At first, I didn’t want to be any part of their service.” But he says he researched the company and learned their first client was Starbuck’s, “and they did a good job for them. PlayNetwork models background store music for younger markets.” Escovedo says that instore soundtracks are programmed to fit each subscriber company’s individual demographics, which is a long way from the elevator music of old.
Following talks with PlayNetwork, Escovedo says he agreed to not only license some of Parusel’s tracks, but he agreed to put selections from other artists signed to his San Diego–based catalog into their system as well.