In the late 1970s, along with The Cramps and The Gun Club, reverb-favoring Philadelphia-born, Memphis-reared Tav Falco and his group The Panther Burns were among the few bands keeping rockabilly alive, though he and guitarist Alex Chilton called their sound “art damage.” The esoteric approach caught on in Europe, where he eventually moved — first to Paris, then to Vienna — and published history books, novels and photography collections. He began acting in short and feature films, then began directing his own, including 2014’s “Urania Descending.” Along the way, he helped revive faded careers of elder statesmen (and women) such as Charlie Feathers, Van Zula Hunt and Cordell Jackson. He still continued to record, too. His latest, “Cabaret of Daggers,” was released in 2018.
You live in Vienna now. I’m picturing you hearthside, with pipe and smoking jacket, reading the paper wth a wolfhound at your feet. How far am I off?
Well, I’m actually just sitting here reading a satirical Austrian magazine, the definitive one of the era at the end of the monarchy in the 1920s. It’s fascinating. And at my feet is an Italian greyhound, not a borzoi. Which will do quite nicely for me. And I spend some time in Italy, but but mainly I’m here in the theater district of Vienna, and I just feel magically situated in this little pied a terre. And of course I wrote a song on the new album about the city, “Red Vienna,” all about its history.
How did you end up there?
I’ll give you the short version. On a European tour, I was invited there to produce a record, and then I was contacted by Vienna radio, who wanted to do an interview. So I took a train over did an hourlong interview, and they were so excited about our music on national radio, they said, “How would you like to have your own show here, your own radio program?” And I thought, “Well, why not?” So I came up with “Tav Falco’s Wild and Exotic World of Motion Picture Soundtracks.” So I once a month I had a spot on an Austrian show called “Music Box” that broadcast in English, and it paid pretty well.
But you stayed.
Yeah. The show itself took a month to put together, which kept me busy as I was couch-surfing across Vienna, and I started really picking up on the art and culture of Europe. I began to see America in a new perspective. And that was the mission of The Panther Burns from the beginning: to look at your culture, your environment, in a way that others don’t see.
IF YOU GO
Tav Falco & The Panther Burns
Where: Thee Parkside, 1600 17th St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Thursday
Contact: (415) 252-1330, www.theeparkside.com