Headliners: ? and the Mysterians

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Many rock stars are cold and distant during interviews, coughing up one-sentence answers like "Yeah, sure" and "I guess so" while sounding exasperated that someone would subject them to such a torturous process.

? is not one of those rock stars.

The brains behind ? and the Mysterians, the Latino garage-rock group best known for their 1966 No. 1 hit "96 Tears," was quite talkative during an interview last Friday - so talkative, in fact, that the musician formerly known as Rudy Martinez spoke for about 40 minutes between the first and second questions.

Below, ? opines on everything from losing all his material possessions to Bob Seger and American Idol. For more nuggets of wisdom, strike up a conversation with him Friday at Rumba Cafe, where ? and the Mysterians will play after an opening set from Vegas 66.

On overcoming adversity after a fire destroyed his home and possessions, including his Gold Record for "96 Tears": It's all about survival. That's the way I look at life. When you think you have it bad, somebody has it worse. If you lost an arm, somebody lost two.

On Pete Townshend's poor fiscal responsibility: I hated the moment when The Who came out and they were destroying their equipment on stage. ... Our instruments are precious when you don't have no money.

On American Idol: David Cook, I knew he was going to win. I voted for him. Just to see. 'Cause it is rigged.

On his aspirations to appear on American Bandstand: When I saw American Bandstand, my goal was to go on American Bandstand and show the world how to dance. I mean, these people were stiff. They were so stiff, they were like zombies.

On drugs and music: I never did drugs. And I've been saying this to every generation that comes in. They didn't know the difference. When we were around, we didn't know what grass was. We didn't smoke cigarettes, and we didn't drink.

So I tell people, whatever you're doing, you ought to do it without any substance because then you know who you really are and what you're really capable of doing. ... A lot of people get misinformed because of other people we look up to. If you're going to be a writer: "Oh, I can't write unless I can drink like Tennessee Williams, right?"

On the first recording he ever made: Comic books used to come out that said "Make your own recording" for $7.49. But I was so poor, I could never get that, until one year I got it. I just wanted to record my voice. Not to make a record or nothing. It was never about making a record. I just wanted to do it because I had music in my head, and I couldn't play an instrument.

The way I got it, I shoveled snow, raked leaves, went out in the field picking and all that. There was a friend that I met, and his grandfather sold produce from door to door. That's how I made the extra dollar.

On meeting Ray Charles: Ray wanted to meet me. He requested to see me. I tell people, "Don't look up to anybody." If you know you belong there, then they're the ones who're going to talk about you. Don't talk about them!

On pumping the positivity: Bob Seger makes a song called "Turn the Page." I hate that song. I love the stage. I love the hotels. I love performing. I don't know what he's talking about. He said, "Here I go again." But he paints such a bleak picture! I'm a positive person. I may start out with a negative thing because it's so easy to write negative songs, but it's more of a challenge, "OK, how can I turn this around and make it more positive?"

For more music coverage, click to the Sensory Overload blog at ColumbusAlive.com

Headliners: ? and the Mysterians

When: 7 p.m. Friday, April 10

Where: Rumba Cafe, Campus

Web: columbusrumbacafe.com