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Pyzow Keeps a Firm Grip on Strings

October 30, 1987|RANDY LEWIS | Times Staff Writer

Sitting in the funereally quiet media services room in the basement of the Huntington Beach Library, singer-songwriter Nick Pyzow was far removed from the darkly lit stages of local nightclubs where he spends many a night honing his music.

But his task there earlier this week--using the library's computer printer to address postcards for his extensive mailing list to inform fans of his upcoming performances and other career developments--is every bit as important to the Anaheim resident as checking a sound system before a show.

Even if it means spending an afternoon watching a stack of postcards pile up, when it comes to detail work Pyzow is ready to handle "all of it--because I like to control what's going on. I don't do everything myself, but I'm involved in everything."

That includes all aspects of the Nick Pyzow Band's new seven-song mini-LP, "The Dancers Let Me Down," just released on Pyzow's own AsFab Records.

"When the album was being being made, I made sure I knew what was happening every step of the way," Pyzow, 27, said. "I just like to be sure that since my name is going to be on it, that it's going to be top drawer. . . . I don't want to put something out and then have to make excuses for it later."

The new album is Pyzow's second, coming somewhat less than hot-on-the-heels of his 1983 debut, "Right at Night." The new work is fuller-bodied, mainly because Pyzow has formed a band since recording "Right at Night" as a solo folk singer and guitarist.

In several songs from "Dancers," Pyzow again demonstrates his skills as a lyricist of the Dylan-cum-Springsteen school of rhyme and imagery--skills that earned him an American Song Festival songwriting award for "Tears of Rage" in 1984.

In the new album's title song, he even pokes a little fun at the comparisons often drawn between his style and that of Asbury Park's favorite son:

"As the word is passed eyes move fast

Left stranded in the heat

Seems some boy got caught just dreamin' about racin' in the street. . . .

You know that girl they never listen to

She was pleading 'Lord have mercy on that poor boy

He lives his life by that singer born in Jersey . ' "

Pyzow cited a number of reasons--No. 1 being money--for the long gap between the two albums and insisted that he is not trying to parallel Springsteen's leisurely productivity pace.

"When you're doing it yourself, the financing isn't always there. I had the financing to start it in '85 and got halfway into it, and then the financing fell through."

And, despite regular queries from fans about the record's progress, Pyzow held it up because of his desire to get it right.

"I knew there weren't millions of people waiting for this; that there wouldn't be a furor if I waited another six months to do it right," he said with a characteristically matter-of-fact tone. "But I'm happy with it, and I think it is representative of where I am now, as much as any record can be."

After "Right at Night" came out, Pyzow dove headlong into the business of promoting an independent record, and learned how tough it is to win the attention of major record labels.

He says he strived not to let commercial considerations affect artistic decisions during the making of the new record. But, he admitted, "You can't help but think about that stuff: maybe if we put strings in here, it would make it a hit.

"In the end, you just have be true to yourself. I just hope people see this as an honest work and that when someone plunks down their money, they get what they want out of it."

Pyzow continues to play regularly in Orange County, where he started out years ago playing the Top 40 circuit before he got the nerve to sing his compositions. As a solo act, he's playing Tuesday nights this month at the Wild Boar Cafe in Costa Mesa. With the Nick Pyzow Band--lead guitarist William Barkley, bassist Rick Staples and drummer Mando Gutierrez--he will be in Orange County again Nov. 20-21 at Silky Sullivan's in Fountain Valley.

Meanwhile, several elements seem to be coming together to help give Pyzow some national exposure. The new album is picking up air play on several commercial and college stations around the country, and his video for "Tomorrow Night," a single he recorded in 1986, will be aired nationally on MTV's "Basement Tapes" show Thursday at 9 p.m. (Viewers vote on their favorites via "900" telephone numbers, and the winner receives a month on MTV's video play list.)

Ironically, Pyzow said the national activity has come easier than landing performances in Los Angeles clubs where, he said: "It's a Catch-22. You can't get bookings until (club operators) see you perform, but they can't see you perform until you get booked somewhere."

He contrasted that with the relatively short road to getting his video accepted by MTV: "We sent the tape in; seven weeks later they called us back and said, 'You're on.' It was that difficult. It's nice for a change to create something that can stand on its own like that.

"At least it's the chance to be heard," Pyzow said. "It's sort of like the bumblebee. The bumblebee doesn't know it's not supposed to be able to fly, so it just goes ahead and flies anyway."

LIVE ACTION: Tickets go on sale Sunday for the Love & Rockets-Jane's Addiction concert Dec. 5 at the Bren Events Center at UC Irvine. . . . Peter Case will play Cal State Fullerton's Pub on Nov. 6. . . . John Lee Hooker will be at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Nov. 7. Dave Alvin & the All-nighters return to the Coach House on Nov. 28.

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