STREET POETRY Maust and Maziar

Cold War Kids’ bassist and pal peer through the lens.

BY CRYSTAL K. WIEBE

 

A rock ‘n’ roll band should expand upon Paul G. Maziar and
Matt Maust’s idea and compile a bunch of photos and journal entries from a tour
into a book. Maust is the bass player for the Cold War Kids, so presumably he
caught some of the black and white images he contributes to What It Is: What It Is (Write Bloody; www.writebloody.com) on the road. Some
of them even seem like they may have been shot from the passenger side of a
tour bus. Maziar, Maust’s best friend and collaborator, is not a rock dude. But
his poetry and prose is spawned from a sort of life tour. Maziar writes like a
Beatnik, recording his experiences walking, drinking, thinking and watching the
Cold War Kids in American cities. Through Long Beach,
Hollywood, Brooklyn and Las Vegas, Maziar collects bits of overheard
conversations and the stories he elicits from panhandlers and bums. Lifted
straight from his post-adolescent journals – “yr” substituted for “your”
throughout – the young author’s words are as unrefined as the cities and street
people in which he sees “diamonds.”

 

Although they appear on the same pages, the photographer’s
and the writer’s specific urban observations did not occur simultaneously. Maust
offers shot after shot of crusty buildings and people waiting for the train;
Maziar ruminates over the interactions of homeless blues musicians. But Maust’s
gritty subway and urinal shots do complement Maziar’s street scenes. Both of
the young men seem inspired by mundane and ugly-but-beautiful moments in life.

 

BLURT: What feelings
do you want your book to inspire?

PAUL MAZIAR: The way that most people have heard the words
in the book were from me doing readings. And one thing that people have said
over and over again is that after the reading, like the next day or so, strange
images that I depicted from the book will pop into their heads, or like cause
them to have funny dreams. I think there was one part of the book that was
about Long beach
and described how there was a lot of amputees and people in wheelchairs there.
With those kinds of images, I want people to have more sensitivity. So if it
comes through in a haunting kind of a way, that’s a reaction that I’m fine
with.

 

How often do you see
Matt Maust?

Oh my god, like not enough. I used to see him all the time.
Now I only see him when the Cold War Kids come and play. I come up and they
always are so sweet to put me on the list. And we just catch up right where we
left off. That’s always been the sign of true friendship to me.

 

How did your
friendship begin?

Right when we met each other, we were laughing our asses off
right away. We didn’t really talk about a lot except for Tom Waits and Bob Dylan
and punk rock and stuff. Once we realized that we just loved all the same sorts
of things, even if it’s odd little peculiar things that we came across, it just
kept getting more and more fun.

 

Does this book
represent a coming of age for you?

I think so. I guess so. But I’m not like a wise man or
anything like that, you know. I’m gonna keep writing and I’m gonna get better.
I can’t possibly right now sit down and write the novel that I eventually will.
But I guess maybe coming of age could be true. A lot of the stuff in there is
old, old writing that came from a very confused time — like I had a lot of
contempt in my head for some things, like for my growing up and stuff like that
— and so in that process, the writing was just exorcising a lot of that stuff.

 

There are portraits
of several American cities in your book – which is your favorite?

Brooklyn – but it’s one of
those things where you get to some place that’s amazing and you can’t imagine
going some place better. So, it’s scary. And I’m not going to settle down. I’m
going to be going someplace else and now I’m like wow, ‘What’s gonna be cooler
than this?’ Maybe I’ll just wanna be bored again.

 

Do you consider
yourself a sort of street poet?

Maybe, maybe like in style. Yeah, I think so. Maybe, and I
guess sometimes, maybe I’m a bit of drunk. And today I smell bad, so that might
also be synonymous with that… (pauses)
I think I’m gonna start just like pulling out the book on the subway and reading
it. And then maybe I really will be a street poet.

 

[Photo courtesy Maust:
Globe & Guitar]

 

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