Diversity has kept Pink Martini together for almost 20 years
|Written by Mark Robins|
|Thursday, 09 August 2012|
The thing about Pink Martini, according to self described fruitcake and front man Thomas Lauderdale, is not that they have a big gay following, but that they have a big following that includes gays, Republicans, Mormons and everything in between.
“Maybe it is the diplomat in me, but I think the great thing about Pink Martini is that whether it is in farm country in Oregon or in Turkey, the band is inclusive. It isn’t mean, although we certainly take positions when they need to be taken, but it is not overtly in your face,” says Lauderdale.
That diplomacy clearly comes from Lauderdale’s own time in politics before he started what he calls his “little orchestra” nearly twenty years ago, a political bug that is obviously still with him today.
“I’m still very politically active and at some point I still want to be Mayor of Portland [Oregon]. I heard once that you could make like a million dollars playing a wedding in the Middle East so maybe we’ll do a couple of those and I can take a hiatus and use the funds to run for office,” he laughed.
For now though the Middle East and his political aspirations will have to take a back seat as Pink Martini embarks on a new tour that will see them play the west coast over the next couple of months, including Vancouver on August 17 as part of MusicFest Vancouver.
Known for a diverse mix of music crossing a wide spectrum of genres and languages, Lauderdale says it is Pink Martini's diversity that continues to be the real reason for the group’s longevity.
“The repertoire for Pink Martini is potentially so vast,” says Lauderdale. “If it was the same repertoire that we had sung year after year the band would certainly have fallen apart by now.”
Lauderdale also points to the large number of artists that Pink Martini has collaborated with over the years. With a list as eclectic as their music, they have performed with the likes of Rufus Wainwright, NPR White House Correspondent Ari Shapiro and Italian actress and songwriter Alba Clemente. But it is their concert with the legendary singer, actor and comedienne Carol Channing that stands out in Lauderdale’s mind.
“It was so unreal. She was at the time 88 years old, and so full of energy that she simply lit up the stage. She is just such a grand person,” he says.
Given his roots in politics it was perhaps inevitable that we talked more seriously about the upcoming United States presidential election too. Apparently not one to mince words when it comes to politics, Lauderdale is frightened by the possibility of Mitt Romney moving into the White House.
“First and foremost I hope that America gets out and votes, but I also truly hope Obama will win again” says Lauderdale. “It would be absolutely dreadful to have a presidency under Mitt Romney. You know this country, the whole world, is in deep trouble right now and we need to figure out how to make it better. Romney and the Republicans are not the answer.”
Of course, we can't let the last words be about anything other than Pink Martini's music. With their last album 1969 now almost a year old, Lauderdale says that in addition to touring, the band is working on a new studio album with the working title of Get Happy. He has also found himself hooked up with some American descendents of the famous Van Trapp family; an experience he says is just like walking into the Sound of Music. For now though enjoy the video from their 2009 hit Splendour in the Grass.
Pink Martini: Shaken and Stirred