Concrete Blonde's desert life 

She had walked past the rattlesnake several times, recalls Johnette Napolitano, before she finally recognized it, coiled up and ready to strike, blending in with the floorboards of her Joshua Tree house.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t catch and release it.

“I am way too far from a hospital to mess with that,” says the singer, who stumbled upon the reptile — the fourth she’s found on her secluded property — a few weeks ago, as she was preparing to go on tour with her old 1980s combo Concrete Blonde, reformed for the 20th-anniversary reissue of its definitive “Bloodletting” album.

“So I looked him in the eye and said ‘I’m really sorry, and I know I’m going to pay for this,’ and I picked up a mic stand and took him out, chopped him into three pieces.”

The next morning, Napolitano — who brings Concrete Blonde to The City on Saturday — awoke to find one of her dogs, Frieda, dead beside her. “And it wasn’t from a bite, either — she’d been going for a little while,” she says. “So the desert will always win, and when you live there you have to respect it.”

Why did she move there from Hollywood 10 years ago? Easy, she replies: “I’d rather look at a snake than deal with some of the bulls--- in the music business. With a rattler, I know what he wants. And he knows what I want.”

Ironically, Napolitano, 52, credits the high desert with saving her life. “Now I have five acres, I’m off a dirt road, and it’s just awesome,” says this Renaissance woman, who built an adjacent barn to house the collection of antique sewing machines she employs in her latest craft, dressmaking.

“So it’s a healthier life — the air’s cleaner, my car insurance dropped, and I can sit out there and create art and support myself without stress, because I don’t have a high overhead.”

Napolitano just home-recorded her latest Gothic-blues solo set, “Sketchbook 3,” and undertook a religious-themed multi-media installation called “Saints and Crosses.”

She also sculpts clay into elaborate rosaries, and just published “Rough Mix,” her hand-illustrated book of poems, essays and lyrical reflections.

She agreed to the “Bloodletting” tour to honor her late biker father. “He always loved the band, and he would’ve said, ‘Do it!’” she says.

As someone who enjoys utilizing found objects in her artwork, did Napolitano at least put that rattler’s tail to aesthetic use? “Dig this,” she says. “Rattlesnakes are actually losing their rattles, evolving out of them! So if you think you’re going to get a warning from one, you can forget it!”


IF YOU GO
Concrete Blonde

Where:
The Regency Ballroom, 1290 Sutter St., San Francisco
When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $30 to $32
Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.goldenvoice.com

About The Author

Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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