3 Questions

3 Questions with Saxophonist Tim Cappello

Just to get it out of the way—yes, saxophonist Tim Cappello is that sexy, oily “I Still Believe” guy from 1987 cult fave The Lost Boys, but he’s also an accomplished saxophonist who played with Tina Turner for 15 years and has appeared on albums from bands like British synthwave group Gunship. However you know him, he’s been enjoying a little bit of success on the convention and performance circuits of late, even releasing his first solo record in 2018. Next week, Cappello brings a bit of sax and stories to Santa Fe’s Palace Prime (6 pm Wednesday, May 25. $10-$12. 142 W Palace Ave., (505) 919-9935) alongside DJs Christina Swilley and Punky Brewster’s Bastard Kid dropping the hits of the ‘80s and more. (Alex De Vore)

We don’t see so many sax players anymore, and you were the only one I could conjure by name. How did you come to the instrument, and was it challenging to carve out a niche as a notable sax player?

When I started playing, there were a million sax players. Every band, right? Huey Lewis had a guy, everybody that had a band had a sax player. That was the ‘80s and the ‘70s, and we weren’t what you’d call sax players, we were utility players. Everybody had to know how to play keyboards, a bit of acoustic guitar; you had to know how to play harmonica, blues harp—in other words, they all had to fill in all those sounds, and for some reason it was the woodwind players that got that chore. When I was a kid, my father had a music school, so I would go to his music school and I would play the drums and take lessons, play the piano. All of those things were just part of my every day. Y’know, when the guys coming up didn’t know how to play those other instruments, they probably wouldn’t get the gig.

Someone told me, “Tim Cappello has the best sax tone of all time!” I’m curious about the development of that tone and whether it’s a lifelong pursuit?

You have no choice. Everybody’s voice is different. It’s like, Tina Turner couldn’t sing like somebody else! It’s the shape of your throat and your sinuses, the shape of your tongue and the way you generally speak is also going to be the way you sing. In other words, there’s no way…you could try to imitate somebody, and I do know people who try to imitate other sax players like Junior Walker or David Sanborn. It never works.

I’m a tenor player. For awhile, I owned soprano saxophone, baritone, alto, so I could work more, but then I just thought, forget about this, I’m not interested in this stuff, I can’t. I knew size-wise, [the tenor sax] fit me. I feel funny playing an alto sax, it’s too small. Baritone sax was fine, I enjoyed it, but I just didn’t feel like I could get the variety of sounds that I could get with tenor saxophone. For me, that’s really…it’s like, you could try to change your sound, change your mouthpiece, your reed, you could just try, but it’s never gonna happen. Think about your sinuses, your cheekbones, your trachea. How are you gonna change that? It has nothing to do with me. I practice every day, but that’s really to just keep what I have in shape. If you go around your lips with your index finger, that’s hundreds of tiny muscles, and if those muscles don’t say strong and stay in shape, you’re screwed. With a saxophone, if you don’t practice enough to keep yourself together, the muscles around your lips are gonna give way and you’ll be screwed.

You released your first solo record, Blood on the Reed, in 2018. Obviously you’re busy with touring, fan conventions and so on, but do you think you’ve got another album or tour in you after this one?

I honestly don’t know. I really don’t know. Because the only way that I can make this work is to do it all by myself. I don’t want to have a roadie in the next seat that I’ve got to make conversation with for these long drives. I don’t want anybody setting up anything wrong. I’m my own agent as well, because anytime I haven’t spoken personally to a club owner or booker, it has been a disaster. It took me a little while to figure that out. I have to develop a relationship.

There’s a new Gunship album coming out I’m really excited about. They’re making a new record, and this time I’m going to be on about half of the tracks rather than just one. That’s exciting for me, because it’s really good stuff that gave me a chance to sort of spread out and play a little differently.

I just turned 67, and I kind of feel like I’ve been almost all around the country, I may do it another time, but [releasing an album] is not exactly what you call...look, I’m going to be honest—if I do a meet and greet and I have...8x10 [photos], they cost about 69 cents apiece, and I sell them for $20. And I don’t want to do a show that’s not as good as the show I’m doing now. The US is a big place, so you can hit every city in the US and then go back again, and I may do it another time, and I think people could take another time, but probably after that I’d have to hang it up.

Get tickets here.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at]sfreporter.com. Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.