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Raised in the Los Angeles suburb of Whittier, Chuck Prophet went on the road as a musician straight out of high school, eventually going solo after a stint with the psychedelic rock band Green on Red.

He settled in San Francisco early in his career, and remains a loyal resident of the city to this day, with frequent forays up to Sonoma County, where he has performed live at the HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol and the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma, and on Santa Rosa's KRSH Radio.

Evolving into a potent singer and songwriter who can be plausibly placed in the same general category as Tom Petty, Tom Waits and even Bob Dylan, Prophet, at 40, is just as direct and incisive in his conversation as he is in his lyrics.

With a return engagement coming up this weekend at Sebastopol's HopMonk Tavern, Prophet took time to talk about his music and career:

<strong>Q: You just had a big national and international concert tour this past spring, right?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> We criss-crossed North America and Europe a couple of times for our last record, "Temple Beautiful."

<strong>Q: Are you planning to come out with another album early next year?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> I've got a lot of songs that I'm trying to wrestle to the ground. I don't really know what I'm doing. I don't have that kind of Chairman Mao sort of plan. I wish I was that organized, but you know, I'm not.

<strong>Q: Do you see a shift in your own songwriting over the years? Are you going in different directions now?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> Every record is different, in terms of songwriting. I realized that every record is a reaction to the one I had before. That's how I'm able to get up and be interested in what I'm doing every morning. Whatever I can do to keep myself interested, that's what I do.

<strong>Q: The imagery in your lyrics is very rich. You have religious images, a lot of pop culture and a little bit of doo-wop music. Is that a conscious choice?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> I don't know. You get some chords and you start singing stuff, and you hear it bounce back off the walls. It's like honking your horn in a tunnel. If it sounds cool, you keep doing it. If you write a good song, it's a great feeling. It's usually followed by depression, because you wonder where the next one's coming from.

<strong>Q: You're deeply rooted in San Francisco, but you've performed in Sonoma County a lot over the years. What brings you back?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> We just enjoy that area up there. We played in the Cloverdale Plaza last summer for some people who had seen us before, and we took some new prisoners, as well. It's really great for us to go play and then come home and sleep in our own beds.

<strong>Q: Is live performance especially important to you?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> I like playing live. I like having a great rhythm section, and I like leaning back into the rhythm, playing guitar and singing the songs. When it's all clicking, there's really nothing better.

<strong>Q: It's interesting how eclectic your lyrics and music can be, yet you always have that straight-ahead beat. Does that make your music more accessible?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> Well, like I tell people: you shouldn't need an owner's manual to enjoy the record.

<strong>Q: What keeps you in San Francisco?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> San Francisco is my home, but it's also been an education. There so much culture here. There's filmmakers and poets and the gay community.

<strong>Q: How has living in San Francisco affected your work?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> It really opened my eyes to a lot of things. The city is a deep well, and I can dip my bucket down there any time I want.

<strong>Q: What shaped your career during your early years in San Francisco?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> I used to play guitar for an underground comedian when I was 17, working the clubs. That's how I learned to handle a crowd, in terms of touring the world, and going to England and getting hostile crowds. I got that from hanging out in the comedy clubs.

<strong>Q: Why was England hostile?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> They don't have guns over there, so people say anything they want. If they don't like the colors you're wearing or what football team you support, they'll grind a pint glass into your face. That wouldn't happen in a bar in America, because there's too many guns.

<strong>Q: What's up next for you?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> I'm looking forward to playing gigs, and we're going to do some shows around the world with a string section, and I'm writing songs and enjoying being in San Francisco. It's cold, and it's a good time to cook butternut squash.

<strong>Q: Is there anything you want to say to your following in Sonoma County?</strong>

<strong> A:</strong> Do what you want, and keep it weird.

<em>You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. See his ARTS blog at arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.</em>