Cholo Magazine Interview #2: Abraham Levitan
We are posting interviews with featured Cholos from Cholo Magazine. ( Lumpen Magazine 120 ) You can download the issue by clicking this link. Please enjoy our short Q and A with Abraham Levitan.
Abraham Levitan is the founder of Piano Power, a group of music teachers that teach kids music using songs they love. He’s a former member of the rock group Baby Teeth and a co-host/pianist on the live monthly musical comedy game show Shame That Tune. Levitan’s role? Turning local celebrities’ embarrassing stories into wacky Weird Al-esque pop covers.
Lumpen: How did you start improvising songs?
Abraham: I started off doing improvised response songs for The Dollar Store, a short-story reading series that ran at The Hideout in the mid-to-late ’00s. The stories ranged from funny to tragic. The tragic ones were harder to do the response songs for…. sometimes it would feel a little tasteless. But, I had a job to do!
What story would you tell if you were a contestant on “Shame that Tune?”
Well, we’re really trying to cut back on bodily-fluid stories, so most of my knee-jerk choices would be out. Probably something involving PE class.
When you’re listening to a person tell their story, what sorts of things make great material for the songs you make?
Abraham: A lot of times it’s just a case of the musical category fitting the story in an amazing way. During one of our first shows, the category was Metallica, and the story involved someone repeatedly writing the motto “Taste death, live life”, in his junior-high diary. That just made such perfect sense as a fake Metallica lyric…. it was uncanny. So yeah, sometimes you just get lucky.
What is “Piano Power?”
Abraham: Piano Power is a group of music teachers that I head up. We give music lessons in the homes of our students and are now working with over 250 kids. It’s super fun — we emphasize doing original compositions, playing pop songs, and generally having as much fun with music as I did when I was a wee lad.
What is your favorite/least favorite style to play a song in?
Abraham: My favorite style is definitely huge, slightly goofy, 70’s piano ballads — ELO, Todd Rundgren, Elton John, Wings, early Lou Reed solo albums, etc. I could do that all day, especially if there are some weird chord changes for me to wrap my head around. As for a least favorite style… I dunno. One of the great things about Shame That Tune is that it’s required me to pretty much be down for whatever. I think I just love/hate all bad music equally at this point. All genres are my frenemies.