photo by Scott Beale
Paul Zollo recently posted a really great interview with San Francisco showman Chicken John on SoundSafe. I’ve known Chicken for 14 years and have heard many of his stories, but there’s still a bunch of stuff in there that I learned about him.
Do you have any advice to offer an artist who comes to San Francisco to live and to work?
No, I don’t want to make it easy for anyone. You have to work for it. Although it’s a place that exists inside America, which is a civic apparatus, the arts community of San Francisco is not a right. You have no right to it. You are judged by what you produce. If you are an artist, a visual artist, or a sound artist; if I were you, I would come to San Francisco, and I would immerse myself in the culture, learn to speak the language and then meet people. [Laughs] If you’re any good, it will work out. And if you’re not, it won’t. And that’s an important thing. If you’re not a cool person, and if your work sucks, then you should not be able to afford to live here. Because you won’t be able to find a cheap room in Chicken John’s warehouse or someone else’s warehouse. You’ll have to pay retail, and retail is not really an option, because it’s fucking expensive. See what I’m saying? When the toilet’s full, what do you do? You flush.
So my advice to people is to commit to their work. And then everything else will work for you. Commit to what you’re passionate about, pour all your resources and energy into it. And there is no other advice.
As far as San Francisco is concerned, there are so many opportunities. There is so much going on, it’s quite easy to get lost. It’s like New York used to be. You can either be the brightest star or just lost in a maelstrom of other stuff. Even to the extent that it’s great stuff. But people will figure it out, they always do.
Here’s the full interview: Chicken John: Showman and “A Man of Possibility”
Thanks to Jean Spinosa for the tip!