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Black Fortress of Opium

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Ajda the Turkish Queen and Tony Savarino of Black Fortress of Opium From 2008

This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 3 at

Where are you from and how has that affected your songwriting?

Ajda the Turkish Queen - Well I live in Boston now, for 12 years.  I sometimes write about local places, i.e. "Model Cafe" - about a real place of the same name...

Who is in your ultimate super group?

Ajda the Turkish Queen - Nick Cave, Isabella Rossellini, John Coltrane, Lou Reed, John Cale, Nico, Keith Moon, Keith Richards, Bach, Scarlatti, PJ Harvey

Tony Savarino – Elvis Presely and Pattsy Cline on vocals, Frank Zappa on lead guitar, Tony Williams on drums, Ludwig Van Beethoven on keys, Ben Orr on bass with Robert Smith writing all their songs.

What's the greatest thing that's ever been said about your music?

Ajda the Turkish Queen - The truest thing, really - that it is philosophical and tender.

Tony Savarino – Someone”s actually said something about my music? Just joking.. I guess it would be that I am diverse.

Who do you see as your musical influences?

Ajda the Turkish Queen - Turkish muezzins, Kristin Hersh, Alison Goldfrapp, Ute Lemper, Siouxsie Sioux, PJ Harvey, Nico, Bach, Chopin, Bartok

Tony Savarino – James Honymoon Scott, Scotty Anderson, Jason Becker, James Burton, Jimmy Scoppa, Kevin Barry, Tommy Stuart, Red Simpson, Grant Green, Johnny Burnette and The Rock 'n' Roll Trio, The Spurs, The Coachmen, The Fathoms, James Carr, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Elvis Presley, Mel Torme, Pink Floyd, The Stones, The Beatles, The Who, The Stooges, MC5, Iggy Pop, Prince, Frank Zappa, Grant Green, George Benson, The Flaming Lips, Blur, John Prine, Mink Deville, Chet Atkins, Hank Williams, Buck Owens, PJ Harvey, Creation, Radiohead, Delays, Don Burdick, Ike and Tina, Booker T and The MG's, Aretha Franklin, Tom Waits, The Elevator Drops, Sleep La Beef, Nrbq, The Swans, George Jones The Cure, Bauhaus, Brent Mason, Ministry, Yngwie Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert, Steve Vai, Alan Holdsworth, Skinny Puppy, The Smiths, Jimi Hendrix, Cheap Trick, Pat Martino, Miles Davis, Van Halen, Michael Shenker, Duke Levine, Lefty Frizzell, The Ramones, Johnny Cash, Gabriella Ferri, Brian Eno, Roxy Music, David Bowie, Janes Addiction, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Syd Barret, Steve Earl, Coltrane, Todd Rundgren and on and on and on....

What's the song you're most proud of writing?

Ajda the Turkish Queen - “Ari”

Tony Savarino – Off the Black Fortress album: “Black Rope Burns” (I co-wrote)

What's the last album you bought that you're enjoying?

Ajda the Turkish Queen - Russian Orthodox Chants (Harmonia Mundi Records)

Tony Savarino – Duke Levine's Beneath the Blue

What was the first album you ever bought?

Ajda the Turkish Queen -  I think it might have been Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Tony Savarino –  Devo Are We not Men


What's your favorite artist and album?

Ajda the Turkish Queen - Too hard to say, but I'm really digging the Twilight Singers lately.

Tony Savarino     I don't know it's my favorite but an album that lived in my CD player for a while (two years) was PJ Harvey’s Songs by the City Songs By the Sea


Have you seen any great live shows lately?

Ajda the Turkish Queen - About two weeks ago I saw a concert in a bell tower, where they played music on the only complete set of Russian bells in the US.

Tony Savarino – Dennnis Brennan at The Lizard Lounge, Chris Cote with Duke Levine and Kevin Barry at Atwoods, The Cure

What was the first concert you ever attended?

Ajda the Turkish Queen -  Bon Jovi

Tony Savarino –   Talking Heads and The Psychedelic Furs (Remain in Light tour '81)


What is your guilty pleasure band?

Ajda the Turkish Queen - I don’t know, Metallica or something like that. Don't own any though...

Tony Savarino – Oasis

If you could create your own fantasy music festival, who would the top 6 headliners be?

Ajda the Turkish Queen - Pain Teens, Saint Etienne, Sneaker Pimps, Bach, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave

Tony Savarino – Black Fortress Of Opium, Joy Division, Elvis Presley, Primal Scream, Jane’s Addiction, The Cure

What is your favorite movie?

Ajda the Turkish Queen -  Shadows by Cassavettes

Tony Savarino     Blade Runner


Do you write books, short stories, poems or a blog?

Ajda the Turkish Queen - Yes, mostly couplets, prose, and blogs.

Tony Savarino – Yes to blogs..

Have you ever illegally downloaded music?

Ajda the Turkish Queen - I don't support doing that, unless you're somewhere where you can't get it. Not everything is available on iTunes, etc...

Tony Savarino – I can neither confirm nor deny this. Having said this I must maintain a plausible level of deniability

What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

Ajda the Turkish Queen - Trying to find where the bass player went after the gig

Tony Savarino – What happens on the road stays on the road.... Lead singer of a band I played with on tour (who shall remain nameless) sent back her eggs with cheese because they were the wrong color. She wanted the yellow cheese not the white!

The major labels have said that downloading of music is at the heart of the problems they are having with lower sales - do you think downloading is a help or a hindrance?

Ajda the Turkish Queen - Hindrance - Even harder now to make money off music. Many people are still making CDs, but when people upload your music without permission and make it free, consumers don't care about paying for this intellectual property. It worries me. Then again it can help artists spread their music like wildfire. But I wonder whether there is a price to be paid for that kind of speed, because you just as easily can be forgotten when the next big fad pops up. I think the ease of downloading detracts in some way, yes.

Tony Savarino – Everybody is so down on the downloader.. I want to know who the a**hole is who started uploading in the first place!

How do you feel about fans recording and trading shows?

Ajda the Turkish Queen - I have absolutely no problem with that. Go for it. It's a lovely energy exchange.

Tony Savarino – Scared, happy, sad, and blissful
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