David Garver has entertained Taos -- and made us laugh, cry, think and wonder -- since the 1980s. As an actor, his roles over the decades have included the tortured priest in Tennessee Williams' "Night of the Iguana," Caliban in Shakespeare's "The Tempest," painter Mark Rothko in "RED," as well as roles in "Waiting for Godot," "Equus," his original one-man "Sage and Fool" shows and more. He co-wrote, produced and starred in a film, "The Walking Shadow of Danny O'Shea," in addition to being featured in many other films and TV shows. As a singer/guitarist, he has fronted bands from his '80s supergroup, The Boheims, to his most recent incarnation, Bones of Romeo.
We met with Garver recently to find out what he's been up to in the infamous "lockdown" year.
"This year there've been so many wonderful silver linings that I can't say it's been awful. I'm not good being idle, and suddenly I was completely idle and still -- I've never been more creative. We created rituals, daily things as a family, spent so much time swimming in the Río Grande. I discovered that GarageBand was on my computer -- something known to everyone in the world except me apparently, but hey, all of a sudden I was my own band! I bought a keyboard for the computer, and I was given an actual baby grand piano. Suddenly it was a whole 'nother way to hear a song that I've only heard on guitar. Piano may be the best instrument for emotional expression. I've written 13 new songs created on GarageBand. I'm just going to put them on my website and call it Dave's Garage. It's been an amazing year. I've written parts, I'm learning about EQ [equalizer] and mixing. This has been the most creative year of my life. I didn't think about producing anything to sell or present to the public, I just created.
"My father passed in December 2019. I went home to Illinois - I was raised in Illinois, in a farm community. I went for a run. I ran through the cemetery and an old classmate was digging my dad's grave. Can you imagine? He told me amazing stories about my dad that I had never heard. One of the last things my dad told him was, 'You're gonna dig my grave, you know …. ' "
Garver pauses for a moment, then quotes from Hamlet, one of his outstanding roles:
'Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay/ Might stop a hole to keep the wind away. Oh, that that earth, which kept the world in awe/ Should patch a wall t'expel the winter's flaw!'
"I haven't been on social media for two years. A week ago I just accidentally erased seven years of videos and photos, I have to start all over. It was pretty shocking. It was literally just 'bink' and everything was gone. I tried to get it back and couldn't. I realized how attached I was, but at the same time there was something very liberating about it, so I'm exploring. I've been meditating a lot."
What's it been like taking an enforced step back from acting?
"I miss it and then I feel totally free of it -- I don't have to do it, I don't have to try and have a career. Tennessee Williams, Sam Shepard -- if you really commit to taking part in one of their plays, you don't come out unscathed. It's kind of sacrificial on a certain level. Whether it's twisted or not, I can't do it any other way. If not, it feels even more pretentious and indulgent. I have grandchildren now and that's a game-changer. I am 'Paw-Paw' and it's my favorite thing."
We asked when we could expect to hear something new from Bones of Romeo.
"We have an album coming out! Bones of Romeo are recording an album with Gonzalo, we're recording a 10-song album that should be ready by May. The bass and drums and guitar are done, we're just doing vocals now. Gonzalo is one of New Mexico's premier artists and a brilliant producer. People are coming from all over the place to record with him. He is truly amazing, he's a musical genius. Each musician would go in individually to record a track, so it wasn't like the band going into the studio, but Gonzalo made it work really well. He is all about vinyl, we're gonna put out Bones of Romeo on vinyl. We'll have stuff online, download or vinyl, but no CD. It's almost an act of defiance.
"The process has been stop and start, but now we're in a flow. Norm Cutliff is the drummer, everybody wants him. He's a brilliant man with a big mind. Every time I hang and play with him there's a great exchange. Marcus Hall is one of the best guitarists here, and people don't even realize he spent 30 years in and around Hollywood. Sam Lucero is on bass, he's played with Michael Hearne and all the guys, he has an angelic voice and he's the kindest person I know. I think as far as a rock and roll band … I think we're good. I am looking forward to the next time we get to perform, it will mean everything.
"One of my new songs is called 'Take Back Your Mind.' I would love to take back the mind I had before the internet. I found myself reacting to my phone, getting squirrelly. I left all of that, I'm just making my statement and letting people react, and not reacting. No judgment about it. I recorded a Dylan song called 'Things Have Changed,' he wrote it in the '90s. 'People are crazy and times are strange -- I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range -- I used to care, but things have changed.'
I try to be creative everyday, and I find myself saying 'I don't know' a lot and it's actually freeing. Witness your own breath and see what happens … "
Any other plans for the near future?
"I wish I had room to paint. I'm thinking where to put an easel. When we did Rothko, I put up an easel and splashed around, to get the feel of it. I have no education or skill, but I really enjoyed it. So yeah, I'm thinking of converting the shed into an art studio -- you should put that in the paper so my wife will know," he laughed. "I'm going to start painting and smoking cigars, get a really good hat and just declare myself a painter."