Light and darkness, sound and silence, yin and yang. Duality manifests and coalesces to make up the universe, both the physical and the metaphysical, and Andy Stanford exists somewhere in between.
He recites a poem of his from the Telepoem Booth, now in New Mexico, called “War of the Wasts.” Stanford wrote it just after the events of 9/11, which he subsequently wrote music to and performed on his first album, Autonoir. When he recites it now he does so from memory, and he speaks with a dry Southern tenor, his billowing white beard, shaved meticulously at the chin, floating around with each word he enunciates; out loud, right in the middle of the west side Tacos los Altos with some construction workers drinking beer on their lunch break and a soccer game to which nobody seems to be paying attention.
It’s a poem about the dangers of revenge, how violence begets violence, and how forgiveness can lead to peace. A little before talking about the poem, Stanford was throwing chips and salsa in his mouth, talking about the metaphysical nature of the universe and how faith—not necessarily faith in God, but in a higher power beyond our control—has led him to a more peaceful, non-judgmental life.
“So if you’re stung, we think it’s best, forgive that wast, and all the rest,” he says in his Southern poet’s voice, after which he laughs and snags another bite of his taco.
Stanford has always lived like two sides of the same coin. One moment he’s sharing spiritual philosophies and the next he’s laughing at a crude joke about the difference between Americans and Russians. And for most of his life, Stanford says he’s done two things: guns and music.
“I got into guns the same way somebody would get into cars. I was good at it. Once I got into competitions, one thing led to another. And I do believe that each of us is like a flower that’s designed to bloom a certain way, and that’s just how I happened to bloom.”
Stanford started participating in combat pistol competitions at 15. He was pretty good at it, too, says it gave him focus and determination, and in 1994 he took first place in the National Tactical Invitational Shooting Competition. Later he moved to Florida where he became a full-time combat small arms trainer.
When he quit, it was abrupt, and, ultimately, for the better, because since then his focus has been on peace and music. In 2015, he released Autonoir under the name Andy Stanford, et al, an eclectic mix of songs about everything from his time working with the Marine Corps as an analyst to songs about cops.
Now he’s releasing something entirely new. The album is called “Postcard From America,” a satire and calling out of America’s far-right, far-gone and far-too-nationalistic tendencies. Dressed in traditional Americana and country flair, Stanford’s latest album comes under a persona 10 years in development: Whitey Winchester y Sus Compañeros, with Stanford as the titular Whitey Winchester. Postcard From America, is a narrative, meant to be listened to from start to finish, “preferably either drunk or stoned,” says Stanford.
The album art features Whitey singing in the mountains, with the back cover featuring shotgun and a dynamite blasting plunger box. And the music captures a charming down-south, traditional country feel, with steel guitars, accordions, banjos and duets. But with most things Stanford does, it’s not always what it seems.
“A lot of the stuff is a bait and switch. Somebody on the right of the political spectrum might go, ‘Oh, I like this.’ Generally, I don’t kick people in the nuts, although sometimes I do, musically and lyrically, but it’s to make people think. ‘What is that? Is this guy serious? Is he kidding?’”
Most of the time he is, and his new persona, although derived from years of experience working with guns and gun nuts and backwards behaviors—Whitey, in his all-black attire, an accordion in his hands and his shrill Southern voice (he calls himself the “chainsaw tenor” despite his classical operatic training) cooing on about women and guns and murder—is just a character, and not an entirely likable one at that. Stanford appears to revel in the confusion and controversy he might stir.
“Most of what I do is a disguise. I’m an infiltrator,” he says. “When I introduce myself [as Whitey], I like to say, ‘Hi, I’m Whitey. I’m the official spokesperson for the entire white race.’”
Stanford laughs at the joke of a persona he’s created, but every joke bears a bit of truth. And the truth is something about Stanford’s time working with the United States Marine Corps and as a firearms instructor carries over into his creative life. In addition to all the hands he taught how to fire a gun, he spent 10 years working as an analyst for the Department of Defense. Postcard From America has a largely anti-Imperialism message, and it’s with regard to Stanford’s past life because, in some ways, he feels responsible for participating in the system that he is battling against.
“When Eisenhower left office, he gave the warning about the military industrial complex, and it’s come through in spades. It’s like, nobody is going to stop a war as long as they’re making money off of it,” he says.
Recorded at Clear Creek Recording in Keene, California, and Dug’z Digz in Flagstaff, the 11-track album, Stanford’s second, took a little more than a year to produce and a lot of help from family, friends, mentors and hired guns. Constant production battles, which typically ended in Stanford’s favor, slowed down the recording process, but in the end, Stanford says he’s learned a few things and that he’s “happy as hell with the album.”
But don’t be on the lookout for a new Whitey Winchester album anytime soon. Stanford says he has no plans for anything after this. Why? Because he’s said what he needed to say.
“I know what the next one would be over the top, and I don’t need to be obnoxious,” Stanford says. “I mean, I have ideas for songs, but it would just be crazy shit. There’s shit I’d rather do than that.”
Poetry, music, video production, anti-Imperialism, philosophy, history. Stanford’s next project is who-knows-what. He’s interested in it all. You would think it’s guided by some desire to bestow truth and power to the people, to enlighten and enliven the masses to a deeper, more profound method of thinking. Perhaps it is, but Stanford has a simpler answer.
“I think I’m just easily bored.”
Another crunch of chips and salsa, and it’s on to the next thing.
Whitey Winchester (Andy Stanford) will perform at the Museum Club, 3404 E. Route 66, on Saturday, Dec. 8, for the Postcard From America album release party, with openers Miss Yum Yum, Rayband, Doc Bobcat, Katoomba and special guests Greenlaw. Visit the Museum Club on Facebook for more information.