By: Christi J. Schwanbeck

When I called Joe King Carrasco for an interview, it was two minutes into the call before he realized who was actually calling. He mistook me for someone else. After some confusing conversation, and realizing that I didn't know who Peanut was, he caught on. It was a funny way to begin, but it got us into a great conversation.

This guy is a trip, to say the least! He lives a ways outside of Austin near Llano and while we were talking, he was under a tornado alert, just staring at this massive cloud of black above him. Luckily, it eventually blew over. It would not be a good thing if the King of "tequila reggae" and Tex-Mex Rock & Roll was swept away in Mother Nature's fury, especially in the middle of my interview!

Joe King has been exceptionally busy this year. In addition to a heavy concert schedule on the road, he acted in two movies and has been auditioning for numerous other roles. On the music side of things, his main gig of course, he's recorded several songs for two different movie soundtracks and has a new album in the can on which he's putting the finishing touches. Hay Te Guacho Cucaracho (GoodbyeCock-roach) features lots of new material from Joe King Carrasco, drawing influence from various Mexican bands. It's more of a Rock & Roll album, blending in a couple reggae songs and a little bit of his older stuff from the 80's. Joe King says his band is basically patterned after Question Mark & Mysterians, Sir Douglas Quintet (featuring Doug Sahm) and Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs all combined together. It was interesting to learn from Joe King that Question Mark & Mysterians, of the hit "96 tears," are actually from my own hometown, Bay City, Michigan. The band's guitarist played with Carrasco for four years and always referred to my birthplace as "Bay Shitty." Gee, Thanks! The guys from the band have been trying to get him up there to do some rehearsing and hanging out. He compliments "Michigan is a cool rock-n-roll state... it's a cool place to be from." So, maybe we'll take a road trip together! Question Mark is actually a big influence on Joe King's stage persona. “Every night you can pretend you're somebody... or be yourself. I like to go up there and pretend I'm Question Mark!"

Joe King's ambition on stage “is to get people dancing. I played in a lot of Mexican bands and what I learned is when you're playing a Mexican dance, you're supposed to get people dancing. So, if they're not dancing, then something's wrong!" Okay, so not like this would ever happen with Joe King Carrasco on stage, but what if people aren't dancing? “Then, I have to become more animated and physical on stage. When I play, I try to make it a thing where you dance and it's a party, and I go out there and party with you. I go into the audience a lot." With a chuckle he says, “There can be all kinds of parties! Weird parties and normal parties... scary parties. I just believe in movement, that music is supposed to move you." He promised to someday tell me about the "other" parties he's been to. Every kind of party I can imagine. But, I'm sure there are many that I can't imagine as well!

Speaking of party, the night before I talked with Joe King, he received some disappointing news. Party on the Plaza, held in Jones Plaza, which we all know as our Thursday night hangout during season, is expected to terminate in May. "To me, Party on the Plazas were great. They played a real instrumental part in my life. Some of the most amazing challenges I've ever taken in my life were at Party on the Plaza doing flips off the stage!" With a laugh he comments, "I'm just glad to be alive!" On a more serious note, Joe King says he hates to see it end, it's almost like a friend dying. "It's real sad for me, because I had a lot of good times." Despite the end of the Party on the Plaza era, you can still catch a great performance by Joe King Carrasco almost everywhere.

He covers the globe, and then some. And he surely has a storage bin of song ideas to keep the music coming. I was amazed at the fact that he has about 150 90-minute cassettes with different song ideas he's captured over the years. Most, he's never done anything more with. "Ca Ru Cu Pa," featured on his latest album Hot Sun, evolved from a verse he wrote more than twenty years ago. He added a verse to it last year and recorded it. Where does this endless stream of creative craziness come from? Everywhere, really. He writes a good amount of songs in his car. He'll hear a melody in his head or even wake up from a dream with an idea. Years ago, he used to get up at 4:45 a.m. and play guitar for a couple hours, writing songs while he watched the sun come up. "When I travel, I try to go to really remote places where I don't see a lot of people. I used to travel to Mexico a lot. We'd spend two or three days in each town and try to write songs. Then we'd get burned out and go to another town and try to start over again... lookin' for that magic song." Well, he must have been looking in the right places, because he's found plenty of them!

But, Joe King isn't the only talented one in the house. His Jack Russell Terrier, Anaconda sings "La Bamba!" She's been on several radio and TV shows, received bundles of attention at the Sundance Film Festival and is featured in an upcoming Texas Monthly issue as one of 100 musicians in Texas. Is this a natural talent of hers or what? "It developed from me playing guitar around her. She started chiming when I was singing my stuff." Looks like musical talent runs in the family! Anaconda gave birth to a puppy four months ago, Peanut. Joe King's other dog is a ten-year-old Doberman named Peso. A man after my own heart.

But where does he keep all these little furry friends? He's been building an adobe home with his own two hands on his patch of land o'er yonder. When I called, he had just gotten through working on the bathroom. The quirky thing about this is that despite the days and weeks he spends on the road and in hotel rooms, he bought lots of accessories for his adobe from old Embassy Suites Hotels! Crazy, but I like it.

If you've got a craving for this crazy King of Tex-Mex, go directly to the source, It's just about the only place you can buy his music these days, and he's happy about that. "That's been really, really good for me, because it goes directly from me to the person buying it. I think anybody that's playing music now can just work off their websites... that's where it's going now. The whole industry, film and music, is changing through the Internet. It's unbelievable.”

There you have it; hopefully a little bit about Joe King Carrasco that you didn't know. He was such an entertaining guy to talk to. It was a pleasure. Don't miss him when he comes to town in May! He will be on the Houston Headline Stage at Clay and Crawford at the Houston Downtown Street Festival on May 6th at 8:00pm, and also playing an after party at Woodrow’s on the corner of Chimney Rock and Richmond. so live by his motto and "Be there or be square!"

Christi J. Schwanbeck