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  • A Note
    Saturday, March 31, 2007
    To quote the wonderful Linda Perry, "hey, hey, hey what's going on?" I'm sure you are wondering about where the updates are, and why things have been a bit quiet around these parts lately. Well, you folks take the time to read, so I figure an update is in order.

    I recently started a wonderful new job as a caseworker for a social services program. It's a great job! I like working with people and helping them out. The experience with interviewing artists really has helped add an element of quality to the work I'm currently performing.

    However, I have spent a lot of time on the road in the last week and a half, and so I just simply haven't had time to update the site or to transcribe quite a few interviews that are waiting transcription. But I should be getting back into that within the next week or so, seeing as how I'm getting into the new-job groove, and once I do that, I'll be quite ready to give you fine readers some quality content.

    Oh, and in case you didn't know, when we changed formats last fall, the change was done at a time when I didn't have a home computer. My transcriptions have all been done by hand and then entered into a computer at the public library at a later time. Kind of a complex way to work, don't you think? The work I've done here has truly been a labor of love for me. I should have a new computer within the next few weeks, and so once that happens...look out world! Awesomeness shall ensue.

    Until then, I thank you for your patience!

    posted by joseph kyle @ 9:11 AM   2 comments
    Wednesday, March 28, 2007

    Grant Henry is Stemage. You'd never know that, though, from listening to the debut Stemage record, Strati. It's a loud, big record that sounds like a band. It also sounds a lot like the late, great Cave In--something you'll read about below. Our conversation is edited a bit, to remove a long discussion of Cave In's greatness--yours truly proved himself to be a total Cave In geek!

    I was a little confused about something--Stemage is a side project for you?

    Well, not really. It sort of came up in the middle of other projects I had my hands into, but I've been putting a lot of focus on it lately. What you asked might have been true at one point, but I'm putting a lot of focus on it now. It's interesting, because I played everything on the record, and I don't exactly have a band, so when people come to check it out, they won't see tour dates on the site. But this is definitely a big project for me; I've got my hands in a lot of different things. I've been in a good list of bands over the years, and I've put out a number of records here and there, but this is my first full-on, all-by-myself type of thing. I've been recording for a number of years, and after talking to a friend of mine, I started thinking, "why don't I do the record all on my own?" I just sat down and emptied out my riff vault. I had all of these ideas of songs that were either already written and some which were almost written yet didn't feel right at the time. I just put all of these things together and I took a lot of time to do it.

    Did you think you could pull it off?

    I'm used to playing, and I'm used to multi-tracking over my stuff, but I didn't know if I would be able to create something cohesive. I know I wanted to experiment with a number of different styles for this record. I wanted to make a record that brought out my love of several different genres. The sound of the record, it travels all the way from ballad tracks to a big epic metal tune smack in the middle of the record. Even though it kind of jumped around in style, I still think it turned out being something that people would listen to all the way through, and that they'd hear something that sounded familiar to them in each song. It does genre-hop. But I wasn't quite sure if I knew what I wanted--I wasn't sure just how long I wanted it to be, I wasn't sure I knew what tracks I wanted to include. And to me, a lot of my previous work had been all instrumental. I hadn't done much vocal work in a long while, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to include any instrumental tracks, other than the brief segues.

    Every person who makes music by themselves always has one element that they are weakest at. Personally, what was the hardest aspect of recording all of the instruments yourself--what gave you the most trouble?

    For me, the most difficult element was probably the rhythm section and the drumming. I like to keep things interesting rhythmically; I will try to venture off into ideas and bring in some wild changes, but ultimately I don't like records that are sloppy with their rhythms. I did a lot of writing where I actually wrote the drums first, before I wrote the melody and the vocals, which was an interesting way to go about things, but it's a complex way to work. There are some songs on the album that are much more rhythm-based than melody-based.

    Are the drums live, are they programmed, or is it a mixture?

    Every drum sound on the record is programmed. I spent so long working on them, I really wanted to come up with something that sounded as realistic as possible. I play drums, so that's part of the reason I was able to pull off some of the realistic-sounding patterns. Because of the gear I was working with, I didn't have enough mics and enough gear to make my drums sound as special as I wanted them to be. I really wanted to pull this off, from writing all the way to mastering. So all the drums you hear are actually programmed, multi-sampled drums, where you use MIDI technology to trigger samples. Everything is samples, but it sounds like a drum kit. It was a great way to create drum tracks. So I'm using real drums, not computer-generated. They're just sampled drums, rearranged into a real-sounding drum line.

    You know, man, I gotta be honest. It's hard to listen to your record and not be reminded of Cave In.

    (Excited) Really?

    Yeah. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? (Laughs)

    Oh, man, that's a wonderful thing. I'm way into the space-rock. I love the big, thick guitar of bands like that. I really love Cave In. I grew up on bands like Failure and Cave In. They're such an interesting band. I love how they evolved from being a hardcore band to a metal band and then into this amazing space-rock band with wild guitar chords and beautiful vocals. They were definitely an inspiration on my writing.

    I could hear a vocal style that's similar to Stephen Brodsky's.

    I really enjoy his voice and his songwriting. I love how he can put such clean vocals over such dense, large music. Hum is another band like that. I like their approach, how there's a wall of sound, and it's really hard and heavy, but the singing, which you'd assume would be aggressive, his voice is really timid, and he's not singing--he's almost talking. It's such a wonderful contrast of sounds. Except on a few songs, I didn't push my voice at all. I wanted to be able to sing clearly, and I wanted my lyrics to come through. I really like that style.

    Many people might not appreciate it, but Cave In was a rather weird band. Their members are all prolific, and they're each into a completely different style of music. Like, recently, I received all three of their post Cave In projects. One of them is--well, Stephen's doing his singer songwriter thing. Another one of them is doing a straight up garage-rock/heavy metal thing, and the third one's doing this weird space/screamo thing--and none of the projects sound like the other! It's amazing to me that one band can produce these distinctively different projects.

    What I think is fascinating is when you have members who are into such radically diverse things, it could easily not work. But they worked really well together. Their style evolved over time, and I'm sure each of their ways of playing and writing did as well. Plus, they'd always take off into one of their many different side projects, and produce something really cool and weird. It's a contradiction that doesn't work for most bands, but it worked for them.

    With you focusing more on Stemage, have you put together a band yet?

    No; I have a lot of musician friends I could approach if I wanted to put together a live incarnation, but at this point, there isn't a real plan to do it yet. It's hard to justify not doing so, though. The music was made to sound like a live band. It's not disguised intentionally as being a one-guy album, but I wanted it to sound like a rock band record. At the same time, really, there's only me on it, but I'm at the place now where I want to decide if I want to do something like this live, or if I just want this record to exist on its own. At this point, I'm just seeing what the reaction is. There is no plan to push this with a tour, but I definitely would like to do that. Though nothing's formally planned right now, I do have some ideas, and yeah, I think this music would sound really great live. So we'll see, man. We'll see! (laughs)

    Stemage's debut, Strati, is available now on Silent Uproar

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 11:16 AM   0 comments
    Monday, March 26, 2007

    Philip Price is as nice as the music on his band Winterpills' new record, The Light Divides. Mixing pop, country, rock, and a little bit of folk, the album is a delightful blend of light and dark, sunny and moody, pretty and disturbing. Talking to Mr. Price, it's easy to get a sense that this fellow loves making music--just one look at his website will inform you that he's been in a lot of bands. Of those, Winterpills is the most exciting, and it's no real surprise that the band's made a critical splash as of late.

    Tell me a little bit about your musical background.

    It goes back a little ways. I've been toiling at music since the late 1980s, when I was fresh out of college. I started a rock band...well, a kinda-rock band. We were all over the map in terms of musical styles. That band lasted a couple of years, too. All of those things were pretty much under the radar. The solo work was much more in a singer-songwriter style. Then, in the early 90s, I started a power-pop band called The Maggies. That lasted until 2002, for four official albums and a bunch of tapes. Then, I went back into the singer/songwriter style for an album. Then that period--well, I grew weary of solo touring and I began playing with my friends in a very casual way, and Winterpills was born out of that.

    Did you come from a musical family?

    Not really. My brother plays guitar. He's actually a really amazing guitar player, though. We went down two different musical paths. I'm the rock guy, band guy, and he's more of a session musician who plays rootsy music.

    Was making music something you had in mind from an early age?

    No--in fact, I was pretty late to the game. I wasn't a musically-obsessed kid who had a band when he was twelve years old--I didn't do any of that. I always played music with my brother Dave; it was something we did, but I went to college to study visual arts. I was a painting and printmaking major. There was music at school, but it wasn't part of my curriculum.

    What drew you to making music on a full-time basis, if it wasn't something you grew up wanting to do?

    I remember getting out of college realizing I was not going to have a career in visual arts. I think it has a lot to do with who I met. I was making music in college, and afterwards with a friend of mine named Tony Widoff, and his brother, Adam. Tony was an electronic music major, and he's actually gone on to do a lot of electronic music programming for people like U2 and David Bowie. At the time, he inspired me to try; he said, "Let me take some of this rough stuff you are doing and we'll record," and he became instrumental in inspiring me. That was the kind of punk-rock band we started, Memorial Garage. I wasn't very commercially-minded about music; I was still trying to do other things. There was a turning point in the 90s, a slow turning around. The Maggies, we were very influenced by bands like the Posies, Teenage Fanclub, Big Star--we wanted to be like them. There was certainly no money in that particular genre, though. (Laughs) It is really hard to make a career in that particular field. It's a small but dedicated fanbase, but that's where we found ourselves in the mid-90s, while Grunge was raging all around us. We tapped into some of that, and we weren't sure how it was going to come off. I just wanted to write good pop songs, and somehow we got tagged as "power-pop." That community is somewhat nerdy kind of community, and I guess I can count myself amongst the nerds. (Laughs) We'd play shows, and our friends would come out, and the power-pop nerds would, too, and I kept thinking, "I'm not sure I fit into their world." (Laugh)

    What happened with The Maggies?

    The Maggies died--and not in a very nice way, though we all get along now. We'd signed to a big label, and then the label folded, and nothing seemed to be working for us at all any more. By that time, I was really happy to go solo. I had a bunch of music that didn't really fit into the rock form, and I wanted to play acoustic guitar again and not strain my vocal chords. I put out two solo albums, and they both come from a singer/songwriter background; I wouldn't say there was much country in them. Well, maybe a little, but certainly less than there is now.

    When you formed Winterpills, did you think, "wow, I've really got something here," and did it click for you instantly? To me, the record sounds like a band whose members have really connected with each other creatively.

    Oh, I agree. It came about because these people, they're my friends. In my other efforts, things weren't quite as solid. The Maggies went through four line-up changes. We had a lot of auditions for people, trying to find a musician who would sound a particular way--it wasn't a band that organically evolved. The Winterpills, these are my good friends, they're my peers, and we've all played music before. We began very slowly; we started hanging out at Dennis, the guitar player's house, and it was during the winter, so we'd sit inside, drinking a lot, playing cover songs, and it became this weekly thing where we'd get together and play. We never thought, "Hey! Let's form a band!" It was more like, "Hey, guys, I'm playing a show, but would you like to come and back me up for three or four songs?" So they would, and it was fun, but it was very casual. When Flora joined, we had a gig that was her debut, and we'd been working on our harmonizing, and we really enjoyed those practices. When we played that show, we had a really good crowd response, and everything just jelled. We all looked at each other and said, "Whoa! We have something here!" And from that point on, it became much more conscious, a decision to make a solid effort to do "The Winterpills." I'd say almost a year had passed before we actually decided to record anything. For our first record, we decided to recored everything we'd been playing live over the past year.

    It sounds like The Maggies was more of an attempt to have a band that was a job or a professional type of thing, whereas the Winterpills was a grass-roots organization, more focused on music than on commerce--at least in comparison.

    Oh, that's totally true--but ironically, we're having way more commercial success with The Winterpills than we ever had with The Maggies.

    Do you think you tried too hard with The Maggies?

    We worked really hard with the Maggies to become successful. We tried to work the business aspect of it as much as we could, especially at the end, when we signed.

    Who had you signed with?

    Garage Band--they were a website that had this concept: "We'll let people listening on the internet be our A&R people, and we'll sign from there." They signed, like, a ton of people. They signed something like 30 bands in the first year. They were run by Tom Zito and Jerry Harrison. It was their baby, but they also had George Martin involved with it, too. It was a high-profile experiment, but the ironic thing was they could never get a distribution deal figured out. I never really understood what happened. They offered us a deal, and we said, "Sure!" We negotiated with them, had the bottle of champagne, and things looked good. We didn't know what would come from this label. They were obviously well-funded. We hoped they were smart about how they would spend their money. Before we could even learn that, we got the message that they were closing up shop, and some of the people who were running the website took over and turned it into what it is now, a place to post your music and show off.

    And how are things different with The Winterpills, in terms of business?

    Well, we signed with a label that's traditionally known as a folk label, but they have some alt.folk artists, and they were looking for something a little bit different--they wanted to branch out somewhat, out into the indie-rock direction. They liked the album we sent them, and they said they'd sign us. They've been really good to us; they're very supportive. We've had much more exposure, a lot more radio play, and a lot more in terms of an audience. We've been playing shows and having a lot more people show up, and now we're able to go out and tour, and we have more resources. We have a European label, too, and will be going to Europe soon. We're doing a lot more stuff now, and we're on the cusp of something bigger. We're excited about this year, and what it has in store--I can't wait to see what happens!

    Winterpills' sophomore album, The Light Divides is out now on Signature Sounds

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 10:05 AM   0 comments
    Willy Mason
    Friday, March 23, 2007

    Rock and roll is filled with road-weary travelers, and Willy Mason is the latest edition. This young man achieved success at a rather young age with his debut album, Where the Humans Eat, and he hit the road. His latest album, If The Ocean Gets Rough, is the chronicle of his life over the past few years, and, as you'd expect from someone who spent nearly two years in constant movement, the record is a collection of songs about weariness, movement, and change. It's also a beautifully understated album as well. If it feels a bit homey, it's for good reason; it was recorded with an open-door policy, with anyone who happened to come in the door more than welcome to join him. When I spoke with Mr. Mason, it was shortly after getting off of an airplane and traveling--how appropriate. He sounded tired, he sounded older than his young age would lead you to think, but I'm glad I had the opportunity to speak with him.

    It's fitting that you're in the midst of traveling right now. Listening to the record, I have to ask: was the album written on the road? I know you've been a bit transient over the last two years.

    Yeah, I'd say about half of it, and some of it was written after I got off the road from all that travel. It was still fresh in my mind.

    Oh, I totally picked up on a travel theme. The songs seem to reflect movement, or they refer to the sea with its constant motion, and, also, they seem to be about seeking rest and respite for a weary traveler. And, from that, it seems like you're seeking community. Is that what led to having open recording sessions?

    I was trying to bring more people in, yeah. I was still a little bit fragile from all that time on the road. It gets to you. I came home to get back to where I started; to get some perspective of a different sort, just by spending time with my family. Having them along for the sessions was an extension of that. Having them around, it kept me honest and it kept me on my toes, and ultimately, it made me feel settled a little bit.

    Do you enjoy spending time on the road? You definitely have over the last few years.

    It's ups and downs, yeah. There are a lot of ups; I love to travel and I love to play for people. It depends, too, on how I'm traveling, and what I'm traveling for. A lot of the travel I do for the record label's sake tends to be less enlightening than travel for the sake for exploration. That can be difficult; fast-paced travel can get lonely and boring, but it is work and it keeps me going. When I'm going alone for my own sake, like for house parties, I'm able to get to know a city or a country, and that is really fascinating to me.

    Was the touring for the last record the first real time you spent on the road?

    Pretty much, yeah. I left home when I was 17, and I settled in New York for a bit, sleeping on couches and that turned into more full-on traveling when I got more gigs and got involved with a label. And that cycle of tour kept me pretty busy and pretty much on the road until I came home to get it together for the second record.

    Was making this record a good experience for you?

    Yeah, it was. All in all, I feel like it made me a lot stronger. It brought me back home, and not just in a physical sense. After the first record's success in England, and the amount of attention I got for it, I felt like something had changed, and that disturbed me. But then to come home and make a record--I realized I was still growing; I was still who I was, and reality is still reality. (Laughs) It was a great release.

    How did you meet up with Roseanne Cash?

    The first time I met Roseanne, we played a show in Virginia. We met there, and we didn't see each other again until I was working on my record in New York. We met up again, and the session fell into place, because she was there and had the time to help me out.

    How was the experience of working with her?

    Oh, it was amazing! It was just her presence, really, that made it special. That song, I'd been singing it live for a while, and on the day of the session, there was just something about it. I felt a million miles away from it; I just wasn't getting it. I was having a hard time singing it, and I was unhappy with the way it was turning out. When she came in to do the harmonies, I didn't have the song finished, so we decided to do it live, and singing it with her in the felt like the song took on its own power, and it became something completely different. Her presence, she made it right.

    It was meant for her. (Laughs) You also worked with several members of your family. Do you come from a musical background?

    Yeah, both my parents were songwriters. They just did stuff on their own. My dad wrote one song in the 60s that ended up getting some radio play in Australia, or so he says, a song called "Girl in a Tree."

    Had you worked with your family on previous records?

    My brother played drums on my last record, but for this one, I had my mom there, too, and my dad as well, and they were more involved. On the first record, I went off by myself and did my thing; on this one, I'd kept in touch with my dad, we'd discuss things about it. Having him there changed it a bit. It made the sessions less mysterious and romantic.

    You reference the ocean quite a bit.

    I grew up on an island, and when I was younger I did a lot of fishing and I spent a lot of time in the ocean and a lot of time close to it. It's what I know, and it was my first experience with nature's power and how to accept your powerlessness in nature. It gives you a certain respect for your place in nature.

    Spending a year and half on the road, I'm sure when you reflected upon it, you saw how not unlike the sea your life had become.

    Yeah, that's so true. You learn, too. You learn how to go with the currents, and how you travel with the current instead of fighting against it. It helps you learn how to keep sane.

    So how do you keep sane?

    I'm not sure! (Laughs) I'm just slowly learning tricks over time. Patience helps. One of the reasons I enjoy traveling is that I think I have the ability to adapt to different situations. I enjoy that, because learning things from spending time in someone else's world, it's great. I'm starting to learn how to hold on to little pieces of what I'm familiar with, to keep a consistency about it.

    Plus, as this was your first bout with touring, I'm sure you're quite prepared for it now.

    Yeah, I'm a lot surer about things now, and I'm ready to take it on. I think it'll be different this time--or, at least, I'll know what to expect.

    With the success of the first album in England and Europe, do you enjoy the experience of going over there and not being in a hand-to-mouth situation, as you've had a little bit of success and you have a bit more comfort when you tour?

    Yeah. I think the best thing about the success is that I have much more of a chance to meet people, and I get to go places I wouldn't be able to go otherwise. I already have a way of connecting with people, thanks to my music, and when I go there, I can actually connect with a place, instead of just going into a city as a visitor. I'm lucky.

    Plus, I'm sure you can now appreciate the music of Jackson Browne and Bob Seger on a completely new label now.

    (Laughs) Yeah, man--they ring a lot stronger now. My favorite's "Take it Easy." (Sings) "Take it easy, don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy." So true. (Laughs) I do my best, you know?

    If the Ocean Gets Rough is available now on Astralwerks

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 10:06 AM   0 comments
    Wednesday, March 21, 2007

    RTX's new album, Western Xterminator, left me asking the question "Neil who?!?!" After the split of Royal Trux, Jennifer Herrema's take on balls-out rock and roll might be seen as a carrying-on of the Trux tradition, but nope--it's better. That's the way I feel about their new album, which is a blast of no-frills rock and roll, with a tight band, killer guitar solos, and some of Herrema's best singing in her long, storied career.

    I'm slightly embarrassed to admit this, but it's totally true. When I received Western Xterminator, I put it in my car stereo. I dug the first track; it was mellow and a bit different from what I was expecting. But let me tell ya--when the opening drums of "Balls to Pass" came in, and those guitars started to wail--man, I was blown away! I was totally playing air drums and air guitar all the way home. It's been years since I've done that!

    (Excited) Really? (Laughs) Wow, that's AWESOME! That's it, man--that's the best thing I could ever hear! That's exactly the way I want it to be received. When we were making it, I could tell. I'd stepped away from it for a little bit, and when I went back and listened to it, I just thought, "Yeah…!"

    Did you spend a lot of time working on it?

    Well, we've got our own studio, and we can work on music whenever. Yeah, it's not like we have to go into somebody else's studio and play for a little bit and pay for blocked-out dates, and then have to go in on a certain day and mix it and finish it all by a deadline. It wasn't like that at all, because we do it ourselves. Over the year, we'd produce records for other bands, and we were working on our own stuff, too. We decided to take our time. We had that luxury. We weren't pressured to write it and play it out real quick.

    Some bands that have their own studio can get caught up on working and working, and things can get really self-indulgent.

    Yeah, it's true. It's important to walk away--that's what we did. We'd take a song, we'd go in there, and we'd come out with a song. We'd do basic tracks, and then I'd go in and do something, and then we'd leave it alone. We didn't spend a year working on this one at all. We'd just let it sit. We'd record the basic song, leave it alone for a time, and then come back fresh and make it better. You can totally get obsessed in the studio; you get caught up and don't know when to end it. I sort of have a lot of experience in that, so I have a good bit of discipline when I'm in the studio.

    I went back and listened to RTX's debut, and it's still excellent, but in comparison to the new album, it's a bit different. The new album sounds a lot fuller. At the time of the debut, RTX wasn't the full band it is now?

    At the time of Transmaniacon, there were three. It's interesting. Nadav was a member, but he doesn't play or write. He does engineering and production. He's like RTX's overseer, in a way. When we did the debut, we had a different drummer and a couple of guys. It wasn't really a very cohesive band. But now we've got guitars, drums, bass, and vocals. It's not like Jaimo and I are doing most of it like we did before.

    To me, it sounds like it's a much more collaborative work.

    Yeah, it totally is! Before, it was Jaimo, me and Nadav the facilitator. There are a lot more people involved now. Before--and not to knock the others--but it was something of a fantasy; we weren't quite getting our ideas across the way we thought best.

    Where did you find your amazing new guitarist, Brian McKinley?

    He found me. A few years ago, I heard from a few people about him and his band. So some friends of mine and I went to check him out, and we thought he was great, and we became friends, but he didn't join up until later. He's a totally different kind of guitar player than from what I've worked with, and he's totally amazing.

    It sounds like he comes from a traditional heavy metal background.

    Yeah, he does. But he's really wide open with what he does; he's got an amazing range. He's really good with his style, too--it's what he's played since he began.

    Did finding him change the songwriting scope and the vision of RTX?

    Well, no...hmmm, well…I dunno. When he joined, I felt like now I had more room to move. There are a few songs on Western Xterminator that were written before he came into it, and I kind of wish I'd had him around. My band had an idea of what I wanted, but I didn't have the people to execute it. Once he was in the mix, I could completely let my imagination go, because he was there, and what he had was good.

    You didn't do much touring for Transmaniacon, did you?

    No, not really. We did an American tour. Transmaniacon, when Jaimo, Nadav, and I put it together, we hadn't gone to the task of finding different players who could execute it. I found Brian--on Transmaniacon there are lots of double guitar, so I had Jaimo and Brian both playing guitars live. We had a struggle getting a live band together that could translate those songs live. We had the two guitar players and we found a bass player and a drummer, and we put the band together. We did an American tour, and it was all right, but it didn't feel right. I didn't feel like it was connecting; our chemistry wasn't right. So I moved on, put the bass player out of the picture, put Jaimo on bass, and did a European tour that way. That was cool, but when we got back from Europe I knew that I had to work on the band, as far as getting in some good live players. That's where we are at now. So we didn't do a lot of touring, no. When we started writing this one, we had all the players, and our chemistry was so much better.

    Has the new lineup played many shows yet?

    We played two shows in LA, and we're still getting the whole live scenario down, but it was fun as hell!

    How have people reacted to the new material and the new line-up?

    I think people liked it! (Laughs) I know I liked it. When I looked out, I could see people having a good time. There were a lot of people at the last show. I dunno, though. I can't really read their minds, but I think they were having a good time.

    To me, Western Xterminator seems more geared to just rocking out and having a good time, both for the audience and for RTX.

    Yeah! That's totally what we're working towards. When we played our last show, we were headlining with two other bands opening up--they were these Hollywood hard-rock bands. I realized something, man--we're a weird band! I watched the opening band, and it was totally by-the-book. It's like a metronome on stage! (Laughs) I found myself bored as shit. So, when we went on the stage, I just wanted to fuckin' tear it up. I don't know if the sound was great or anything, but I thought it was incredible. RTX, we're a weird fuckin' band.

    You just want to kick those heavy metal pussy-boys in the ass.

    (Laughs) Something like that! I dunno, I get reactionary. I want there to be something real about music. I want it to be tight. I want it to represent.

    So many of these bands today, they have the ability to sound good, but they lack soul.

    Precisely! That's right on, man, that's how it is. RTX, we've got nothin' if we ain't got soul.

    RTX's Western Xterminator is out now on Drag City

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 9:47 AM   0 comments
    New Ruins
    Monday, March 12, 2007

    Listening to The Sounds They Make, the debut from Champaign-Urbana's New Ruins is like listening to a hazy spring morning on the interstate. The music is very road-trippy, with a lazy, lackadaisical nature that enhances the underlying darkness found within. At the time of recording, the band consisted of two, two friends, Elzie Sexton and J. Caleb Means--two songwriters with two different approaches to songwriting. Means' style is a bit more delicate and poppy, while Sexton's is darker and deeper. Surprisingly, the two styles work well together. Speaking with Sexton shed some light on the band, what the band's doing now and how this excellent debut is simply a snapshot of what the band has now become.

    How did New Ruins come together?

    I've known Caleb for about ten years. We've been playing together since we were 14 or so, playing punk rock. It progressed from there; we got into indie-rock, and then went our separate ways for college. We got together and jammed and recorded during our breaks, and that's how New Ruins got started.

    There are two distinctive songwriting styles; one is very dark and foreboding, the other is poppier.

    Caleb has the really acoustic, drop-tuned stuff; songs like "Nameless" or "Outside"--those kinds of songs are his.

    I was impressed by that; in a way, I was reminded of Uncle Tupelo, if not in sound, just by the way the two styles are so starkly different. When you two write, do you write individually and then bring the songs to the other to work on? (Confirms) Is there any collaborative songwriting?

    No, not really. We pretty much both come up with the main riff and lyrics, and then show it to the other, and then we'll add things here and there. We pretty much collaborate like that.

    Do you guys play out much?

    Locally, we play a lot. We've kind of been working on a new album; we're working on a split seven inch and a few things like that. But we've started playing Chicago, Minneapolis, and the Midwest. We're going to start trying to hit longer distances. We all have jobs, wives, or kids, so it's kind of limiting right now, but we're looking to do more.

    On this record, it was just you and Caleb. Have you formed a live band yet?

    Yeah, we have a band now. Paul Chastain plays bass and Roy Ewing plays drums. Roy was in Braid, and Paul's done quite a few things as well.

    So it's sort of a Champaign/Urbana supergroup.

    (Laughs) Yeah, we got lucky with those guys.

    Has the live band changed the band's style?

    Oh, it's so much better now. We got really lucky; not only are these guys awesome musicians, they're also just really great people; they're really grounded. We all know what we want to accomplish, and it's a lot easier for us to play shows now. People, they want to see a rock band. At least in our town, they're not that interested in seeing guys playing acoustic or one guy playing keyboard. The band has definitely improved things for us. We also have a couple of other people joining us every once in a while; a cellist, for one. We can play with a variety of bands; we don't have to stick with one kind of genre for shows.

    How do the new recordings sound?

    It's a lot more rocking--well, at least my songs. It's more aggressive than the new album, because Roy is a really powerful drummer. We'll be exploiting our rhythm section quite a bit, especially on the new songs of mine. I'm pretty much doing all the vocals, concentrating more on the guitar parts, and it's a lot more complex. It allows us to do so much more, having a rhythm section. When it was live acoustic, we'd have to keep the rhythm and we didn't have a good dynamic to it. There's nothing better to build up your song dynamic than having a really good rhythm section.

    How does Caleb's material sound?

    His stuff...he's still working, experimenting with drop-tuning and things like that, but his song are a lot more driving. They still have the delicate air to the, but they're a lot more pulsing. I think that's due in large part to Roy. With having a full band at our disposal, we have so many new dimensions. We have songs of Caleb's that are really soft, but build up really noisy, and some of mine are the same way. We have a more developed sound; I think the songs are a lot more cohesive together, having a full band. It's definitely an exciting time for us, seeing what we can do, and coming up with things that we might not have done before.

    Since your format and lineup has changed, do you feel a kind of disconnect with your older material?

    When I was writing the songs for the album, I always pictured them as being with a full band. Caleb is the same way. We're still playing those songs, and if anything, I'm enjoying them more now, because I have the freedom to experiment with them. Live, especially, many of the songs have changed, with improved guitar parts. If anything, I'm starting to realize what these songs could be. You can't always get exactly what you want, unless you clone yourself and play all the parts yourself. But things are going well for us now. I'm looking forward to our future.

    New Ruins' debut, The Sound They Make, is available now from A Hidden Agenda

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 11:19 AM   0 comments
    Big Sir
    Friday, March 9, 2007

    What started off as a talk with Lisa Papineau about Big Sir --the project of The Mars Volta's Juan Alderete de la Pena and Lisa Papineau --soon turned into a fascinating, insightful, and deeply wonderful conversation about strength, inner struggle, and dealing with life. I have to say that this is one of my favorite conversations, and though you, dear reader, only get a glimpse at our conversation, suffice to say I came away from this chat feeling refreshed, enlightened, and inspired. How could I not?

    "Und Die Scheiße Ändert Sich Immer?" Interesting title! (Laughs)

    Yeah, we kind of shot ourselves in the foot with that one, for sure. The biggest problem is it has the umlauts and the double-s, so in search engines, it doesn't come up, and people spell it wrong, so it's a disaster in terms of that. (Laughs) At the time, we thought, "Oh, it really won't matter..." but anyway...

    When I saw the title, I thought, "Hmm, this is going to be interesting!"

    We always manage to do that. On every album, we always manage to do some stupid little thing that makes things more challenging and complicated.

    Is it trying to tap into a sense of humor that doesn't necessarily translate very well with others?

    It's a very poetic way of saying what it says. Talking to my German friend, there are other, more direct ways of saying, "And the shit don't change," but this is a very poetic way to say it. It was supposed to be an in-joke, a very private little joke between me and Juan. When we were doing the rough mixes of the album, whenever we would put it on iTunes to listen to it, our songs kept coming up weird. Not only did they come up in German, but they kept coming up in these titles like, "The Death of the Pagan" and "Blood Rage," these crazy, death-metal titles. We thought it was kind of a sign, and we were laughing about it, and we were trying to think of a name for this record. We were playing around, making these fake white-boy ghetto sayings, and then someone said, "The shit just keeps on changing," and we thought, "Let's say that in German!" And then we were like, "OH! We've got it!" (Laughs) We're idiots, that's for sure.

    In referencing the loose vibe of the record, I went back and listened to your solo album and compared the two. In comparison, the Big Sir record seems to be much looser, almost based on improvisation, much less structured than your solo work.

    Oh, very much so, and especially on this album. Juan and I don't have the same kind of time together to sit down and intricately sculpt a song down to the last detail, so the approach we took is definitely more reflective of how it came about instinctively. That doesn't happen on my solo album; there's a lot more thinking involved about arrangements. That's kind of fun, though. I like that there are two different approaches. With every album you do, even if you're doing the same thing with the same people, the approach is always going to be somewhat different each time around. It just depends on where you are in life and how together you are within those circumstances. For Big Sir, going back to the title, even though it's a rather silly title, it's quite apt. This past year has been a really rough one for me. I was diagnosed with MS, and I've essentially gone from being a hyper, too-much-energy, bouncing off the walls type of person to a person who...I can't really walk. So, you know, a lot of the songs, whether lyrically or just emotively, are expressing some of that Hence the title. I mean, what am I supposed to call it, "I have MS, feel sorry for me?" No. (Pause) That was a very long answer to a question you didn't ask. Sorry. (Laughs)

    When you do Big Sir--with you living in France--do you do it a la The Postal Service?

    When I was here in America a lot more, there was an intensive time where we'd be in a studio or in a room, writing. From that, sometimes we'd mail stuff back and forth from each other and work on it that way. I'm also here in LA about half of the time, so I'll try to schedule time to work on things with Juan when he is off the road. He's been really busy, but when we get together, we'll run in and do what needs to be done. Not all of it has been emailing files back and forth; all of it has had a bit of urgency to it. In terms of when we have time, it's so limited that we really turn it on when we get together--we have to, because we don't have a lot of time. That's definitely a color to the tone of the album. The next album, we're hoping to do it much more quickly; we're really hoping to get together for a week with some of the pieces we've started writing, and then spend a week recording it so it won't be so spread out like it has been for the first album and for this album. We'd like it to be a very tight, decisive recording process. We'll see how that goes, though.

    What I like about it is the quickness; there's a definite feeling of spontaneity to the record.

    Here's a good example of how it works for us. We'll have written something maybe five years ago, just some little piece, and we didn't actually record it until the day before we finished the record. So in a way, it's like they're already written. It's not like (improvises a melody) "Hey, let's do THIS idea!" They're more like little pustules of ideas that are waiting to burst. The first song on the album, the intro/interlude, it was something we kept holding off on finishing. We felt like there might be another part to make it a whole song. Finally, the last day of recording came, and I said, "I want to do this song," and I thought it was what it was. It was meant to be an intro, and it is complete unto itself. So we put it down, and, to me, it's so right-on. It's one of those moments where it feels 100% all-natural. Not all songs feel that way; some of them you really struggle with, and it takes time to get them right. This one, once we started recording, it just fell into place. It was sublime.

    Did you enjoy making this record?

    I did, but there were some times that were really frustrating. A couple of years ago, when we went into recording, we got set up and ready to go, but we had a lot of problems and we didn't get a lot done. And that's rather frustrating when you've come into town specifically to work and there's so little time, and then everything goes wrong. The last recording sessions and mixing, which was last spring, went beautifully. Everything just felt right; the right people came together, and it was wonderful. It's always been that way with us. Whichever friends are in town, they'll come down to the studio and play. The group of people who came down for those few days of recording--it was just magical. It reminds you of why you go through the trouble of making a record. To end on that kind of note, it was wonderful, and it's been nothing but good since then. To have that kind of support, it's nice. The album was supposed to come out in November, but it doesn't officially come out until February, but we feel alive again.

    Looking at your website, I can see you're going to be busy this year.

    (Laughs) Yup. Juan is going to be working on a new Mars Volta record, and I'm going to be working on some things, too. I'm already working on a new solo record. We're hoping to do a new Big Sir record, only this time writing and recording it over a very short period of time, so it won't be spread out over the decade (Laughs). I'm going to be doing a record some of the guys I've made music with for a long time. I just finished some songs with a Japanese composer, and I'm pretty much finished with that project, though I may be doing some more lyric writing for him. Then I believe I'm going to be recording a live album with a band called Crooked Cowboys, who I'm going to be doing some shows with soon. It is spaghetti western meets Japanese music meets Europop, amongst other things. (Laughs) It's beautiful. It's epic. That's more vocalizing than singing. It's more about being an instrument. Those are the things I have lined up for now. Oh, and I’m going to start an experimental mime group. (Laughs) It sounds like something that will be fun, don't you think?

    You seem like the kind of person who has to keep busy doing something artistic.

    (Laughs) Oh, I don't know about that. Whether it's artistic or not, it's not important. I enjoy learning and doing new things. I'd like to think most people are that way. I'm in my element when I'm a little bit lost and overwhelmed with either something I don't understand and I have to learn how to do it, or a project that was supposed to be done yesterday and I have to get it done immediately. I think I have to learn a different way to work, though, having gotten sick. That method's just not going to fly any more. I definitely need to learn how to adjust. That's going to be a learning project for me now--how to do the things I want without getting sicker. That's a really big deal for me. Learning to say "no" to something--saying no is the hardest thing for me to do.

    I'm sure you feel like you're betraying your muse.

    Yeah. It's that, but as I'm sure you know, whenever you do a musical project, there are ten million other little duties that go along with it that aren't musical. There's so much paperwork, there's so many other things besides writing and recording and playing live, and that stuff is just--I want to say "yes" to every project, but hand in hand with every project is all of that other stuff. I'm going to try and learn how to micromanage that a bit. And right now I’m talking to me, but I do want to talk about Juan, too. We hope to do a record as quickly as possible. It feels like we just got started; when we finished that last session, it went so well, I felt like we were only starting.

    With the struggles you're going through now, do you find yourself in a different place creatively than you were before?

    Oh yes, for sure. Physically, emotionally, everything. My voice, it sounds different now. My voice, it's still my voice, but because my body is changing, my voice is changing in ways, too. Even in terms of my writing; the sounds I hear in my head, the kind of songs that I write--they're changing. Whether you're sick or not, we're all dying. (Laughs) As people, we have to learn how to get through life, and once you do that, you come to an understanding about what you are doing in life. Every day is a constant cycle of growth and understanding, and it's a never-ending cycle. It's very...overwhelming...if you spend a lot of time thinking about it.

    It's very humbling.

    It is humbling. But if it doesn't humble you, then you are not really understanding your place, that you are a vessel, that you are a part of a whole, a very small part of the eventual and never-ending whole. When you get there and you start to understand that, once you're humbled, and you appreciate where you are, that's the sweet spot. That's when you start to appreciate life and enjoy what you have.

    Big Sir's newest album is available now on GSL

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 10:16 AM   0 comments
    Wednesday, March 7, 2007

    I first heard Lovedrug's debut, Pretend You're Alive, at a friend's house a few years ago, and I thought, "This is an interesting band." Slightly melancholy, slightly rock, but all in all, an impressive debut for a young band from Ohio. Little did I know that this band was skirting with mainstream success; like former label mates Copeland, Lovedrug took the heart and the souls of young America by storm, partially due to their sensitive, intelligent songwriting. Their newest record, Everything Starts Where It Ends, is a much more lush, pretty affair. Though it continues along the path laid down by their debut, this album sounds like a band ready for the spotlight, with songs that could easily reach and connect with a larger audience. Lead singer Michael Shepard is a quiet, thoughtful young man, as you'll read below, and it's hard not to wish him the best success with his new record. I ended my conversation with the impression that if he could spend some time recording and writing songs for himself, by himself, he'd be more than content.

    Your first album was a critical success and a commercial one as well--an impressive feat for an unknown band from Ohio. Did the album's success take you by surprise?

    Yeah, we were really surprised. When we released the album, we had no expectations. It was our first record, and like you said, we were an unknown band, to some extent. We didn't really have much of a plan. We put it out, and it was a record I felt represented what I felt at a certain time. I wasn't trying to cater to anyone, and I didn't really have an audience to consider. So yeah, for those reasons I was really surprised that it caught on.

    That's natural, though. It seems like artists disconnect from their album; from the completion of the record to the time it is released, they have an idea of what they'd like to happen, but they have no way of knowing what will. The music on the new record, it's much more lush and meticulous than the debut. Did you want to make a record that was bigger and less raw than the debut?

    As things progress, songwriting matures, and for me, personally, I wanted to accomplish something different. I wanted to spend more time on my songs. I wanted to make them sound better, so a lot more time and energy was spent on making it, focusing on the technical end of things. With Pretend You're Alive, that was a situation where I had all of these songs, and the band rehearsed them, then we rushed into the studio, the band knocked them out, and we were done in a week. There's absolutely nothing wrong with working like that; that's a great way to accomplish things, and certainly some classic, eternal music has been created that way. You definitely get a specific type of aura in a recording when you do something like that. With this album, it was much more orchestrated. And I wanted it to be that way. I had something very specific I wanted to come across on this record, that didn't come across on the first record. These albums, they're two very different things. I feel like there were elements of ambiguity on the first record that I wanted to erase, I wanted this album to be a little more clear and specific.

    With you having a desire to make this record in a different fashion than before, how was the experience of making this record?

    There were some hardships. Probably the hardest thing for us to deal with was that we were in the middle of touring so much for the first record, as we were attempting to start writing and recordings our second record. There were situations where we'd go up to the studio for a month, and we'd spend time trying to iron things out and start tracking and then when we'd get ready for that, we'd realize, "Oh, we have to go out and play shows," and then we'd leave the studio, load up our gear, come back two weeks later, and it turned into a hodgepodge of sorts, with pockets of time in the studio to work on new material. It was really disorienting in a way, but I think in the end it turned out to be a real blessing, because it gave us a little more of a clear-headed view of what was going on, because we would have time away from what we'd just done. We could walk away, come back, and hear things in a different way, in a way we simply couldn't have if we'd been in the studio constantly. It was a good thing, eventually.

    To me, the first record sounds rushed--there's an immediacy to it, and it sort of feels like a live recording, which isn't surprising, considering the way you described the recording process. There's immediacy to the new material, but it's different; it doesn't feel as rushed. Did you spend any time on performing these songs live before you recorded them, in hopes of making them stronger?

    It's interesting how it played out. Almost all of the songs, except for one or two of them, were written in the past. I'd say from over the past two or three years--since even before Pretend You're Alive. Many of these songs had been collected from when I'd work on them whenever I had a free moment to work on them. What it turned out to be was almost like a musical journey over the course of the past few years, and we got to the point where we had all of these songs collected, but then we went through a period of transition. Our drummer and bass player at the time decided to leave, so when we went into the studio, it was the first time the full band was together in the studio. We sat down together, said "here's the new material, let's just jam on it." We worked with our producer to iron things out live in the studio, and then we took it from there.

    With a new rhythm section, did you hit it off immediately, and did you get the feeling that thanks to them, Lovedrug's sound would be changing?

    It didn't feel like a change, really--which is pretty weird. I think I was surprised by that. Yet I felt like it was going to work. I didn't get the feeling that the band would explode because of them, which was a pretty good indication that it would work. So no, it wasn't a difficult transition for us.

    Some bands spend a lot of time in the studio, but when they go on the road, the music takes on a new dimension, and it feels like two bands exist: the live band and the studio band. With your music taking on new textures for the new record, do you see any duality like that developing for Lovedrug, or do you think that with the new album, the two elements are coming together?

    Hmm...good question. It's interesting; in the past, I felt very much in tune with trying to make the live show sound as close to the album as possible, but not in such a way that it's...I mean, I hate it when people come out to see a show, and then they'll say, (cynically), "Why did I spend my money to come to see this? I could have just popped my CD in at home and heard the same thing!" Then again, I was always striving to try and be technically perfect on stage, performing everything exactly like it was on the record. But as time went on, and as we progressed and grew, I think we took on a new mentality, and even recently, as we have started to play some of these new songs live, we've had a new take on the live show. We're kind of letting loose a little bit more, letting the live show be something more of an interpretation of what we've done in the studio. We try to incorporate as much as possible. Honestly, if we had tons of money, I'd bring a string section with me, and extra musicians to pull it off. That's not feasible for us now, though.

    You do the best you can. You try to be respectful of your recordings, to uphold the quality of the studio work.

    Absolutely! That's the beauty of a live show. When you're in the studio, you record your guitar parts, and if you mess up one little nuance, you can redo it a hundred times to make it better. At the live show, you're playing it, and if you screw up, you screw up, you move on, and you live with it. That's the beauty of playing live: you're running with something; you respect what you're doing, because you can't change it midway or alter it on a whim. It's almost as if it's a living, breathing thing on its own.

    With the success of the first LP, and the downtime between now and the album's release, do you feel like it's the calm before the storm? Are you prepared for the possibility that this record's success might be ten, twenty, or a hundred times greater than what you experienced the first time?

    I feel like I'm ready for that. I'm not the last record, I don't really have any expectations, because the success of the first record was a hundred-fold of what I'd expected. I want as many people as possible to hear the music we're creating, not just for our own success, but because I feel like when we sit down and write a song, we're not writing a song simply because it's what we think "the kids" want or because it sounds popular or because I want to change the trends or anything like that. I wish to get back to a place of a little more honesty. Like, "hey, this is us; this is our personality, if you like it, that's great!" That's all we're wanting. Music could change again and get back to a place of more variety. If I could get to be a part of something like that, and make music interesting, I'd be content.

    Everything Starts Where It Ends is out now on The Militia Group

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 11:35 AM   0 comments
    The Higher
    Monday, March 5, 2007

    When labels make a reputation for pursuing and promoting a particular sound or genre, any band that differs radically from the chosen style often shocks the listener and fans of the label. As such, it was quite a shock to hear a straight-up, unironic pop record (not pop-punk, mind you, but pop) on legendary punk label Epitaph. After the initial shock of hearing The Higher's Epitaph debut, On Fire, I slowly came to understand why a label would sign them--they're an amazingly good band. This band of Nevada youngsters have made a record that, well, could be programmed between any of the biggest selling pop records of the late 90s, and you'd never know the difference. Of's hard to deny that such a band would be anything less than divisive among Epitaph fans, as guitarist/vocalist Tom Oakes and I discussed. But still, it was nice to have a conversation with a talented young man, and I do wish them success with their record.

    I went online and heard some samples from your first album, and I was really struck by the difference, in terms of both sound and style--it seems like you were going for something completely different with On Fire.

    After our old guitar player quit, and Reggie, our new guitar player joined, it seemed like we gained a whole new outlook. We got off our old label, and we were free to do whatever we wanted to do. We've all been influenced by pop music all our lives and we just wanted to incorporate it into our music. We all love Justin Timberlake, we love Maroon 5, we love Third Eye Blind, and we don't want to be a "scene" band a tall. We really felt like we could do whatever we wanted. We had the power to do anything we wanted to do musically. So we said to ourselves, Let's just write songs that we would like to hear. Let's write songs we'd love to hear on the radio. Let's write songs that we could tell our friends, 'Hey, this is our song, sung by Justin Timberlake.'. We wanted to be that band for ourselves. Not that we were never writing music for ourselves before, but we had a new opportunity to do whatever we wanted to do. When so many bands release records, they're just doing the same thing over and over again, with three songs coming off of the album for radio play, and loading an album down with not so good material. We felt we could do better than that, and as pop is in our blood, we felt like jamming out some good pop songs. Reggie's a large part of that factor; he's a total pop/R&B kid, and that came out a lot.

    It definitely comes out. In listening to the debut, it sounds so much of its time, an emo-minded, and, if I may, slightly generic-sounding record. With you re-recording a few songs from it, I wonder: are you happy with how the first record came out?

    At the time? Definitely. It was our first record, so yeah, of course. But at the same time, we recorded it so fast; we recorded it in about three weeks. Comparatively speaking, for On Fire, we had ten weeks. But that album, it's definitely our first work and it's where we came from. It's like an old girlfriend; you had fun, but now you've moved on.

    When I first listened to On Fire, my first reaction was, "Wow, these guys are on Epitaph?" What made you choose them?

    We knew we'd be a standout. Plus, they are all such amazing people. We met with tons and tons of labels, and Brett, the owner and president of Epitaph, he's such an amazing man and a historic figure in independent music. Brett, he knows what he's doing. We could have signed to a major, but we knew that by being on Epitaph, we wouldn't be thrown into some lame major label category. You know how majors, they have categories, like "This is our emo band" or "This is a Drive-Thru band," "This is our blah blah blah blah band." We knew that with Epitaph, we wouldn't be thrown into any categories. If anything, you're left thinking, "How is this band on Epitaph?" We want that. Because Epitaph is known for punk rock, and we're nothing near that, we think it's going to give us a broader audience. People will hear about us, and they wouldn't have heard about us any other way, simply because we're on Epitaph. Kids will check it out and say, "Why are these pop kids on Epitaph?" And they wouldn't have even cared about us either way if we had been on a major label. So I think going with Epitaph was a wise decision and the smartest choice. They've shown us a lot of love and gave us a lot of support, and that's so important. Hell, we'd have signed to a metal label if they'd been that supportive.

    I'm sure you're prepared for this, but some people are going to absolutely hate you and your music.

    Oh yeah, definitely. I can't wait! (Laughs) Everyone's always going to have an opinion. Some people are going to go, "You changed your style, blah blah blah." Whatever. None of us really care. If people don't like our band, then they don't like our band. As long as people give us a chance, that's all we want. Kids who don't give us a chance, I think are stupid. Kids are kids; they have their own opinion and can do what they want and react however they want. That's true with any band. You'll have haters and you'll have lovers. With our band, we realize you're either going to really hate it or you're going to really love it. We really don't think there's going to be any in-between. People will call us pansies, blah blah blah, whatever. Kids do this. I know a lot of girls are going to love our record. We've always talked about this, and if the girls love our record, the guys will follow, so I think we'll be all right.

    How was the recording process for you?

    It was great! We stayed in a little apartment in Beverley Hills, and we got to hang out and have fun. We had so much time to work, and it wasn't rushed at all. Everything was relaxed and comfortable. The studio was right down the road from where we lived, so we had a comfortable, close environment. We spent a lot of hours on it every day. It was fun, man! It was a long process, but it's crazy to think that it's been over for three months now. I feel like I've just come home. But it was a lot of fun. It was a good experience. Having to not worry about money and having the ability to spend time on the record, it was really important for us to get it right, and to get the most out of it. We wanted to concentrate on the record, and we wanted to nail down what we wanted, and we really got the chance to nail down every option. I think we've succeeded, and we made a great record.

    The Higher's Epitaph debut, On Fire, is out Tuesday

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 9:55 AM   0 comments
    Stupid Saturday Surveys: The Weird Weeds' Nick Hennies
    Saturday, March 3, 2007

    Nick Hennies is the inimitable, hilarious drummer of Austin's wonderful The Weird Weeds. He's also played with Jandek, was a member of the very first band signed and released on Temporary Residence, Ltd, and currently, he has formed an interesting experimental duo with Brian Sookram. (I highly recommend checking out their three recordings found on that link.) He also takes care of the hippest dog in Austin.

    What was your first taste of Rock and Roll?

    When I was six a fifth grader on the bus was blasting "You Give Love a Bad Name" and I thought to myself, "Yes. This is for me." Before that it was just mom's oldies radio.

    What was the last song you downloaded?

    Radu Malfatti - "Zeitschatten" (electronic realisation) I guess that doesn't really qualify as a "song".

    Ever courted someone via mixtape? Did it work? Is there one song that you'd always include for wooing purposes?

    Many times, and it never worked. I once made a completely unromantic mix tape that included such charmers as Storm & Stress and 26. We are still married.

    What's your favorite Will Oldham song, and why?

    "Three Questions" - the most perfect song perfectly placed (2nd to last) on the most perfect album.

    What song do you really want to cover next?

    I don't know if I've ever had a really strong desire to cover anything except "Mr. Roboto", which I did in 1997. There's talk of a Weird Weeds Neil Young cover. If I had a nickel for every time we suggested covering something but never did it...

    Last book you read?

    I'm illiterate.

    How do you like your eggs?

    Scrambled with jalapenos, tortilla chips, tomatoes, cheese, and salsa. These crazy Texans call it "migas". It is the food of gods.

    Socks--cotton or silk?

    They make silk socks?

    The one TV show you can't miss?

    If I had cable and if those idiots at Adult Swim hadn't cancelled it, "Home Movies".

    Favorite quote?

    "I had a vision of a teenage daughter who's growin' up naked in the afternoon."

    Who's the one person you'd love to have brunch with, and what would you talk about?

    I live with my wife and two dogs. We have many meals together, sometimes even brunch. The dogs have floppy ears. Color me content.

    What's currently in your fridge?

    A bunch of delicious organic vegetables delivered to my doorstep yesterday afternoon. Support local farms - . This has been an unpaid advertisement.

    You have the floor--is there anything you want to say?

    Don't get your dog from a breeder.

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 10:44 AM   1 comments
    Paul Burch
    Friday, March 2, 2007

    Listening to the music of Paul Burch is like taking a small step back in time without ever having to leave the comforts of the present. For years, he's made excellent, unassuming, unpretentious Country music; his music is with the music of the past sixty years, yet his songs never sound overly indebted to the past. When he's not delivering his own beautiful music, he's working with talented folk; some of this list includes Vic Chestnutt, Bobby Bare (both senior and junior), Candi Staton, and, most notably, Lambchop. His latest release, East to West, continues this trend, and includes such notable guests as Dr. Ralph Stanley and Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler, who not only appears on the album, but also allowed Burch to record part of his album at his studio. But like his humble music, Burch is an interesting fellow, and I have to say that this is one of my favorite interviews of all time.

    I implore you to visit his Myspace and check out some of his music. You'll be glad you did.

    Listen To: Montreal

    Compared to your previous records, when it came time to write and record East to West, was it a difficult record for you to make?

    No, not at all. The writing is a little bit different every time, as are the mechanics of where I do it or how it comes out, but no, it wasn't harder to write. In a way, things get easier—I'm not sure why it gets easier; the worrying about it never ends—but there are less things I need to get out of my system. In some ways, it's getting a little bit easier, and it's a little bit more fun, because I'm less and less attached to forms that I am really interested in than when I started writing. I'm less inclined to try to write a rocker or try to write a ballad. The writing directs me more and more, and the writing tends to almost tell me or suggest instruments and rhythms. So it's always kind of exciting, and I'm not actually referencing other kinds of music.

    How old are you, by the way?

    I’m 40.

    So by this time, you've found your sound and you've found your direction. It's just more natural for you to write songs.

    Yeah…well, in away that's true and in a way that's not true. I never…that almost sounds like it's putting the older stuff in a different light…but it's all real life to me. I think the best way to put it is I hear my favorite music a lot differently than I used to. I almost hear it now the way I did when I was a little kid. Even though my hearing acuity has really improved and I can kind of tell sometimes what kind of equipment is being used, I try to avoid that and I try to listen to things on a more emotional level. Like when you're twenties, you start getting a little bit intellectual about things. You start thinking, "I don't want my life to not be like this" or "I want my music to not be like this. I want to avoid selling out." Or "I want to have a sound that's as cool or as exciting as this kind of artist I like." Hopefully you move on, and it seems to have worked for me. I know I still love Howlin' Wolf and Charley Patton and the early George Jones records, but I'm not always thinking about them. So what happens is that when I do hear them, I get a kind of a rush of excitement like I got the first time I heard them. You know, a lot of the great records I love, they were really quite strange the first time I listened to them. It's hard to get back to that point. One nice thing about playing music for a while is that if you continue, you get more sensitive and it becomes something that's much more personal.

    The reason I asked that was because in reading your letter in East to West's bio, it seemed like you were dealing with personal frustrations about music and making music and about wondering if anybody was going to listen to it at all.

    I think it was kind of time to get my ticket validated. It's like, every few years you have to get a new driver's license or a new library card, and you fire your hairdresser. It was kind of my time to do something. It wasn't that I didn't want to make music or write anymore, but I guess I had just reached a point I didn't know I was going to reach, where I just needed a different peer group to talk to, because a lot of the people I started out making music with, they simply weren't making music any more. They were so passionate about it once, but maybe they became more popular and it became a different kind of passion, but it was difficult for me to relate to it, relate to it on their level. There are some artists, like Laura Cantrell or Jon Langford, both good friends of mine, we have similar outlooks about how to do it, but it's funky when you're dealing with someone your age sometimes. I had this opportunity to put myself on the hot-spot with Ralph, and singing eyeball to eyeball with him and perform live, and after that went so well, it's just—validation is a big word, but it was sort of like he stamped my ticket and I could go on with the next run of Monopoly. (Laughs) It just made it a little bit easier; it was a nice pat on the back I didn't expect. Mr. Knopfler was the same way. He's interested in new music and he made a really nice gesture, but for me, it was like, "Hey, these guys are really good," and they've handled themselves really good, and in the big picture, many years from now, you can take anything from any of their records, and you're going to find something that's good, that might stop you in your tracks when you don't expect it.. So even if I never make a record that sounds like theirs or never includes them again, I know that we musically communicated once and from a professional level, that's pretty cool!

    Today's music is so commodified. Musicians must be this and this and this and gets put into different pigeonholes. I've discovered in my last few interviews with people in their late 30s and early 40s—they all have a common thread, where at some point they wonder why they make music any more, since the music world is so geared to younger audiences. It seems the older you get, the room becomes smaller.

    The business? I know very little of the business. It's like a shotgun; it's really scattershot, and sometimes the pellets hit me, and it enables some success in some ways. It's really, really strange. It is like a hall of mirrors, because things that seem big really aren't that big, and things that seem small are huge. Tom Waits just came through here on a little tour of the south, and his concert sold out in six minutes, (Amazed) for a 2500-seat venue. Probably you'd have met one in twenty people on the street who'd have heard of him, but yet…His picture in the paper was real fuzzy, whereas everyone else's photos are super professional! (Laughs) And I just thought it was great! For me, the excitement of seeing somebody like that—I didn't know what his stage was going to look like. I was interested in everything his show was going to give me, because his records are really interesting. It might as well have been like going to see Charley Patton or Howlin' Wolf or Robert Johnson in concert. There was such denseness to it that it was really like going to a show. If I went to see something that was a little more doctored, I could have probably guessed the setlist ahead of time and would have known what I was getting into and it wouldn't have been as fun. That's the long way of saying that it's always a tender time when you're in your forties. You either take another step, to make your profession really interesting to you, or, you know, a lot of people just burn out, or they split up from their wives or they do something that kind of falls apart. Luckily, I got through with a real passion to mix up my music a little bit more. But it does get a little bit lonely. It can be, sometimes, because the only other people who are in the position of making records are usually out on the road, so it's really nice when they dip out of the clouds and play some music for a little bit. You just can't meet people every day on the street who make a record, unfortunately. Not even in Nashville! (Laughs) Which is okay, too…

    Nashville could use fewer musicians?

    Nashville can really put people in a bind. I was really lucky because I just wanted to make records and in my age I grew up in the era where records were a great thing! It was like writing a book; it was something that was really exciting. If you have the passion to do one, then you'll have the passion to do two or three, if you could keep it going. But there are a lot of people who come here and they're just at wit's end. They have nothing else. For them, the idea of success is playing on a record, or touring, or something like that. It's almost like a drug. They're constantly chasing something that's just out of sight, that's just on over the hill. My ignorance was a large part of my success, because I had just one thing that I really wanted to do, and for me, that kind of lighted my way. I've done a lot of those things that people want to come to Nashville for, so, in that sense, I'm a "success," I guess. For a lot of people, it's like a little Hollywood. You can come here, and the first people you meet here are kind of the bottom-feeders. The first clubs you can get into are, too, and it's really tough, so if you don't have an idea, if it doesn't seem simple to you, it seems complicated, then your life becomes complicated as you move things around in your life to accommodate this wish, this desire you have to make it. You can see that in country music now. There are a lot of acts who definitely have talent and they can sing, but they're desperately trying to keep up with something that was never really there in the first place.

    I was watching the news this morning, and they were announcing the CMA nominations, and they were playing some of the nominated music, and most of it didn't even register as "country" to me.

    Yeah, that's a total, total mystery. And it's selling, you know. I'm really confused by it! (Laughs) But I never really considered myself…almost to be a country musician today, you're doing something that's kind of a commodity, and in a way, country music has set itself up to do that all the time. It's been trying to sell itself out since the 1940s. They brought Roy Acuff and Hank Williams to New York, trying to get them to play at Carnegie Hall, and to play at the top of the Four Seasons hotel, and it just never quite worked. There's always been somebody who's brought the music back down to its folk roots and its Southern roots, and I guess there will have to be somebody to do that again. It has just got to play out. Enough people around the world find a lot of inspiration in classic country music precisely because it was fumbling around and didn't know what was going to work. Hank Williams was considered a throwback and he was about to give it all up, too, when he had a hit with a vaudeville song ("Lovesick Blues") and if it hadn't been for that, he might have just died in Alabama, instead of in the back of a limousine.

    I live close to Shreveport, and I grew up listening to KWKH AM 1130. It's living history, and even though I'm not a country person in terms of the music I listen to, I recently rediscovered the station. They play "classic country" now and it's just really amazing to hear the music from the 60s and 70s, and it still sounds just as fresh and exciting and interesting.

    Yeah! Waylon and Willie probably had a lot to do with that, and people like Don Williams and Charlie Rich, there were some good people then. I guess it's kind of tied up in the South. In the 70s it seemed like country music had gotten to the point of being clichéd, but there was a lot of great music being made at the time. I enjoy some of that stuff much more now than I did then.

    Yeah, me too, definitely. I was with my father recently and we were listening to the radio, and we turned it to KWKH, and we were just naming songs and talking about remember seeing them when I was a little boy being sung on Hee-Haw.

    That was such a great show.

    It really was. Sure, it seemed hokey at the time, but when you look back at it, it's hard not to think, "Dang, I wish there was something like that NOW!"

    I wish there was, too! It comes across as being very sweet. It seems like everyone respected each other for being musicians—you don't get that same sense of camaraderie today. I think it's like publicist eat publicist eat publicist dog right now. (Laughs) It's pretty tough, and some of that cordiality, I'm not sure it's there right now. It might be, but it's not something that's touched me so much.

    Do you think that sense of camaraderie from working with Ralph Stanley and Mark Knopfler helped improve East to West and your outlook on making music?

    It invigorated my outlook on making music, yes. The songs would have been written; the songs were written almost in a fever dream. The writing didn't change because of them, but having them along—on previous records, I've always asked someone I admire to be on the record, because that kind of mixes up the sounds—but these guys were just so supportive. What was most inspiring to me was how they conducted themselves with me, with the musicians, and just how they dealt with their lives, you know. Just how they surrounded themselves with music and how they had handled their good fortune that came from a lot of hard work and a lot of time on the road. They were healthy, they were sharp, they were funny, and they were patient. They were not above giving me some advice, and they were not above giving me the benefit of the doubt. I'd say, "Let's try this," and they'd say, "Yeah! Sure!" (Laughing) Even if they had been jerks I'd have still appreciated where they were coming from, but the fact that they were so, so pleasant and had interesting things to say and were genuinely interested in what I was doing. Sure, it was invigorating! It's like, "Hey, my luck! Wow, I just did a session with Ralph Stanley!" Other people could have taken a session with Ralph, and he could have thrown a pen and said, "Well, it's not going to work today." Which, if that had been the case, it would have been all right, but it didn't! (Laughs) Yeah, you know, it's great! Like I said, my passport got stamped by some people who have been in Customs for a long time.

    And it certainly must be exciting for someone who loves music so.

    Absolutely! Those little moments are great. I mean, for them, they probably have those little moments all day long when they run into people, but you never forget someone who treats you nicely and you get something out of the meeting that you didn't expect, which is usually coming from yourself. Their music is going to last for a long, long time. And now I realize I hear Sultans of Swing everywhere! And I think to myself, "Well, Mark, he just made another dollar!" (Laughing) But that's pretty cool! If you take apart his songs even if you've heard them a thousand times, when you pick it apart you'll definitely find things about it that you hadn't noticed. Then, when you see these guys live, you'll realize they really handle themselves great on stage, and they're among two of the best people I've ever seen perform.

    Do you plan on working with them in the future?

    I don't not plan it, but you never know. I certainly try, but we'll have to see what happens. There's nothing official on the table right now.

    Did you have any input on the new Lambchop record?

    I was not, no. I love those guys, and I enjoy playing with them, but after Nixon they kind of just became a different band, personnel-wise, and they went from not touring to touring all the time. Although I think I've been on the last two, I haven't really played with them in years and years and years. That's just the fortunes of war, you know. They've had to be so busy, and I wouldn't have been able to play my music. I kind of was never a full member. I'd record and perform with them on occasion, but it was kind of a time when we were not that busy and it was a lot easier to just go over to the house and play some music. It's like a family. Since then, Kurt and I both have become more serious and impassioned about making records. But, unfortunately, you can't serve two masters.

    Plus, it seems like Lambchop has always centered around Kurt.

    I think everybody in the band has added quite a bit. The record I had a lot on and I remember most is Nixon, because Paul Niehaus, the pedal steel player, and I were playing a lot of R&B. WE had a little band where we'd play Booker T & the MG's and things like that. That's an example of how the musicians around you are doing something that influences what you do. Nixon's a great record, and I have fond memories of it, because I know it probably wouldn’t have sounded the same had we not been playing R&B on the side.

    So what are you working on now?

    What's next? I don't know. I've been talking about making a record…well, Jon Langford and I have been working on a new record for the Waco Brothers, and it's almost done, which we hope to be one of the twenty best rock records ever made. We thought that gives us enough room. (Laughs) And I'd like to help him make a record. I think he's a very busy writer and has a lot to offer, but I'd like to slow him down a bit and help him make one. He's done a lot of spoken word things and he's got a lot of stuff that doesn't quite fit with Rock & Roll, so I've got some new ideas for some new sounds on how to deconstruct what we both do, so I might use him as my guinea pig in my quest to make some Industrial-Country music! (Laughs)

    Well, um…that sounds…interesting! (Laughs)

    Yeah, we'll see! We'll see if you call back then! (Laughs)

    Are you going to do any touring?

    Yeah, you know, whenever anybody calls and tells me to go somewhere. I've done a little bit, and I wish I could do more. The records been really well-received so far, and I'm just hoping it'll be the little engine that could, that'll creep along for a while.

    Considering how East to West came together, you might just be surprised.

    I hope so! Maybe Oprah will call. That'd be fun! (Laughing)

    One last question: in your liner notes, you tell people to listen to the Grand Old Opry. Have you ever played the Ryman Auditorium?

    I have played the Ryman. I actually sang with Ralph at one of his concerts, but it went by so fast that I sometimes forget I played there. I've never been on the Opry, but the Ryman's a great theater. It's where I saw Wings, and I've seen a lot of great shows there.

    So when you stepped on the stage, were you overwhelmed by the magic and the history of the place?

    Honestly, I was so worried about remembering all the lines, and I think Ralph was, too. In fact we both skipped to the same verse and went to the same wrong verse at the same time, so we were both quite pleased with that. (Laughs) He doesn't sing "Little Glass of Wine" all the time, and we had decided, like, maybe a half-hour before that I was going to sing it with him. But it looks really good from that stage. I'd like another crack at it.

    Maybe you'll get it thanks to East to West.

    I hope so!

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 9:53 AM   0 comments
    Tub Ring
    Thursday, March 1, 2007
    Ahhhhh…Tub Ring! These guys from Chicago are insane, they’re intense, they’re nuts, they’re…wonderful. Their style is a style that encompasses punk, pop and experimental music, and they mix it up in such a way that will leave you gasping for air. I know that when I heard their recent release, Zoo Hypothesis, I was totally, utterly blown away. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and it’s totally, utterly Tub Ring. Live…they’re…insane…and I’m being quite modest. Just watch keyboard player Rob Kleiner, and you’ll soon witness the definition of ‘insanity.’ Sean and I had a great time, even though the night looked to be a disaster, thanks to a double booking at the club which prompted a last-minute venue change and two reviewers who wanted to see both shows. (We did, and Tub Ring was clearly the winner of the night.)

    JK: So, how long have you been with Tub Ring? Too long?

    Yeah. (laughs) Too long. Well, Tub Ring started when the singer and the bassist were in high school. It was a punk rock band, but it has nothing to do with the music we’re doing now. I think I joined in ‘98. That’s kinda when it took the shape that it is now. It’s been six years…which is kinda disgusting, but I was little then.

    JK: Do you feel as if your presence added a new set of influences that contributed to where the band’s music is now?

    What’s funny is that they were a punk band when I was in high school, and I was in a metal band. We were both in the Chicago scene, but my band had been plugging along for about two years with zero fans. Tub Ring came along and were, like, funny pop-punk…and overnight, they had all these fans. There were kids in my high school wearing their T-shirts…so I was like, “Fuck Tub Ring! I wanna kill those guys! (everyone laughs) How come MY band doesn’t have kids wearing our T-shirts?” I hated them, and I refused to go see their shows…but I became friends with Kevin the singer and, years and years later --- maybe around ’97 --- we became friends AGAIN. We used to follow Mr. Bungle around the country and see their shows.

    JK: You know, that wipes out my next 10 questions. (everyone laughs) You can’t listen to the last two Tub Ring records and NOT think “Mr. Bungle”…or, at least, I know that I can’t.

    Like I said, I’ve listened to them since I was little. Before I heard them, I was into Whitesnake and Poison. I think that every person has a band that kinda breaks them into good taste.

    SP: (laughs) A gateway band?

    Exactly! You’re listening to shit…and one day you hear this band
    that you don’t think you like at first…

    JK: “What the hell is THAT??!?”

    Yeah! You think, “What the hell is that?” It doesn’t make any sense to you for the first 10 listens, but for some reason you keep listening anyway. It’s like an epiphany, and then you enter into good taste. (everyone laughs) I think Mr. Bungle was that for me. I’ve always felt a close bond to them for what they did for me. They were definitely a huge influence. I don’t think I’ve popped one of their CDs in for years, but it’s still deep-rooted.

    SP: When a band’s music is deeply rooted inside of you, you don’t necessarily have to listen to them all the time. My “gateway band” was
    My Bloody Valentine, and I know their “Loveless” album from back to front even though I haven’t listened to it in about seven or eight months. Rob: Yeah, and until the day you die you’ll give them credit. Even though you might not listen to them for three decades, someone will bring them up and you’ll say, “Hey, that was a good band.”

    JK: Once you hear “Stub-a-dub” you’ll never forget it anyway! That
    record’s just fucking amazing…

    That first one? Yeah.

    JK: …and I guess that Tub Ring’s progression is a bit like Mr.Bungle’s in that they were a band in the ‘80s that started out as regular punk, and then came out with the one that Mike Patton did with them.

    He’s been in the band from the beginning, but I know what you
    mean. They did “OU818” and things started getting crazy. When I joined, they wanted to do more experimental stuff. They didn’t want to be a punk band anymore. At that point, we should have just changed the name of the band so that it wouldn’t have anything to do with the high school punk band that it was. In Chicago, there are a lot of people that still think that that’s what it is. For a while, we couldn’t get booked at certain places, or people would dismiss us right away.

    JK: Are the two bands you’re playing with tonight straight-up punk?

    I’d say that the experimentalism of Tub Ring is to punk rock what
    Dog Fashion Disco is to metal. Bad Acid Trip is a little coarser. They’re definitely metal and insane, but the insanity fueled by rage more than it is by experimentalism.

    SP: Are all three bands touring together right now?


    Have you been getting good responses?

    It’s been an amazing tour. Houston on a Wednesday night is pretty rough, but most of the shows --- NYC, Chicago, Tampa, Indianapolis,
    Baltimore --- they’ve been huge. Every night’s been huge. Even on the smaller nights, there are at least a good 30 or 40 people, which is a nice turnout if you’re doing experimental shit.

    JK: One thing I’m looking forward to seeing tonight is the showmanship. One word that came to my mind when listening to Zoo Psychology was “showmanship.” Is that a big part of your live act? I get the feeling that when Tub Ring is on stage, they want to put on a good show.

    SP: Yeah, the music sounds very theatrical on record. It’s almost as if you can visualize the singer jumping out at you during the screaming parts.

    Just wait. You’ll see. (everyone laughs) Everybody always told us before this record that the live shows were a trillion times better.
    “You don’t translate very well on record, but I love your live show!” I think that the new album closes the gap. It’s definitely more equal now. If you’ve never seen a Tub Ring show, your question will be answered by the end of the show.

    JK: There’s another band that you guys remind me of, who I wanted to ask you about…Tripping Daisy.

    I read that in your review. Who are they exactly? Is that the singer of the Polyphonic Spree? What was the single?

    JK: (sings) “I got a girl who lives with me…”

    I like them, and I REALLY like the Polyphonic Spree, but I wouldn’t consider them an influence.

    JK: When they were doing their thing live back in the ‘90s, they were insane. They were big on showmanship and multimedia. When I saw them, they had 10-foot films behind them, beside them and all around them, all going on at once. They were really big into improvisation. They’d even have sets in which they said, “We’re not gonna play any songs that you know,” and just wing it from that point on. It was awesome! Do you guys do a lot of improv in your sets?

    No. You go through phases in which your musical tastes grow and change and modify themselves. For a long time, I really liked improvisation, but now I’m firmly anti-improv. I don’t believe in improv at all.

    JK: “Play the set list!”

    Yeah, I’m not saying that it shouldn’t sound different from the record, but I like everything to be precise, neat and calculated. I love calculation, where you have blueprints of how you want something executed, and then you go and execute it…(snaps fingers)…to a T.

    SP: I’m not shocked at all.

    JK: I thought you guys were teetering on the edge of falling apart…not necessarily loose musically, but…

    SP: …because there are so many shifts.

    JK: …you reach track five or six, and by then the album just becomes
    one long song!

    The way it’s mixed together, it kinda does. In a sentence: I don’t mind it sounding like it’s unplanned and improvised, but in fact…the blueprints are all there. I like it to be deceptive so that you don’t know whether we meant to do stuff or not, but I don’t believe in improv at all…at least not with this project.

    JK: Do you have other projects?

    Yeah, I do but nothing…(trails off)

    JK: …worth mentioning?

    Well, it’s ALL worth mentioning, but nothing that anyone’s going to read about for a year or two.

    JK: In other words, you’ve got your plans in the basement. What about the other guys? Do they do anything outside of Tub Ring? I mean, who’s the real musical driving force behind the band?

    The singer and I. I do keyboards and write most of the music, and the singer writes most of the lyrics. It’s mainly the two of us. You know, back in Chicago he and I do music for TV commercials. I’ve done a couple things on soundtracks and TV shows. I think Kevin sang in Coors Lite commercial, and I’ve played in a couple commercials. There is gonna be more stuff, but it’s just starting now. I’m teetering with two ideas right now. I want to have a 12-piece orchestra to tour with, and then I also want to have a pop band with me and, like…six chicks playing in the background. (everyone laughs)

    JK: Robert Palmer style!

    Yeah, exactly! That’s the only thing I can compare it to, but that’s
    what I want it to be: hot chicks and then me.

    SP: Except that your chicks will actually be able to play instruments and not look bored while doing so.

    That’s the problem…finding THAT. (everyone laughs)

    SP: You just said that you and the singer do music for commercials.
    I’ve heard from other people who do commercials that the process is very, very precise. You have to get it one or two takes, and it’s done very quickly and in a regimented style. Do you think that that way of working informs what Tub Ring does as well?

    I’ve never thought of that…that’s a really good question. I’d have to say yes. Looking at the broader picture, though, I’d say that’s what all indie-rock is --- not just Tub Ring. Indie-rock is music that needs to be brilliant, but also costs next to nothing to make…’cause nobody has any money to make the music. (everyone laughs) It’s coming out of the artist’s pockets, or out of the pocket of a true fan who wants to start a label. They need to make it sound amazing, and they’ve gotta go into a studio and crank out…fucking GENIUS in no time flat. I mean, a Britney Spears single can sound fucking awesome, but they can work on it for a month with an unlimited budget. I’m not trying to rip on Britney Spears; I love the production on a lot of pop music…but indie music has to compete with multimillion-dollar corporate music, and it has to do so on a budget…

    SP: …with one hundredth of the resources.

    Exactly! What you’re saying --- that it has to be done within one or two takes --- is probably conducive to ALL indie-rock, not just Tub Ring. I think that’s an excellent point, though, and it’s totally valid.

    JK: Where do you think that Tub Ring fits in the scope of indie-rock? It seems like you’re somewhat of an enigma no matter where you go. You’ve got these elements of screamo punk, and then you turn around and have really poppy moments. Do you ever find it really difficult to simply exist on your own?

    Well, a lot of people won’t give anything outside the set box a chance, but screw all them. I’m not gonna play stuff I don’t wanna play to make other people happy. I think that’s another really good point. I’ve been reading a lot of good quotes from people who write music reviews while looking for Tub Ring reviews. I don’t normally read a lot of record reviews, unless they’re about a record that I’m interested in buying.
    My philosophy has always been that the people who are making the best music today are the people with the best record collections. People that have the best stuff coming into their ears are going to have the best stuff coming out of them in their music. I read a really interesting review of Clinic that said, essentially, “These guys must have an awesome record collection.”

    I don’t know if anyone else would understand it, but it really spoke
    to me. That’s a really great compliment to give someone. You’re saying that everything in Tub Ring skips around so much, and I think that it’s because we love so many different types of music that it would be a disservice to just play pop or punk. That would get so fucking boring to me…or even to play beautiful Beach Boys shit all the time, or bad-ass grind-punk. I mean, it’s cool on its own, but there’s so much good stuff out there, so experiment with all of it!

    JK: It’s too bad that you guys couldn’t get on a bill with Black Dice (band playing across the street that night, along with Animal Collective), because that’s almost exactly what their philosophy is. When they started out, they were releasing 7-inches with 12 songs on one side. Everyone got used to them being this wild, screaming band…but now they’re doing 15-minute ambient pieces that still contain the elements of what they first started out with.

    Well, you’ve given a good endorsement of what they’re doing, ‘cause I’m already sold. I’m excited to hear what they’re doing.

    JK: At the same time, the lead singer of Black Dice band is interested in things that his audience wouldn’t expect. He’s also in this twee indie-pop band called the Ninjas.


    SP: I agree that the best music is often a filter of everything that the artist hears. The finished product doesn’t end up sounding like seven or eight things awkwardly stitched together, but instead it’s very nebulous. It never fits into any sort of genre at any given time, even as it’s hopping across genres. You can’t say, “This is the punk moment,” or “This is the Beach Boys moment” because everything fits together well.

    I’ve heard it the other way too, where it sounds really forced. I think that’s an excellent compliment when you say that a band can sound smooth and cohesive even when they’re trying to sound un-cohesive.

    JK: Has Tub Ring personally been enjoying this tour?

    Yeah. It’s really cool. I think that when you get a package of good bands to tour together, it’s way better than just going out on your own.

    JK: Who’s the first band up tonight?

    Rob: Bad Acid Trip. Do you know System of a Down? (we nod our heads) The lead singer, Serj, has a record label called Serjical Strike and Bad Acid Trip are his main flagship band.

    JK: So it’s more metallic?

    It’s metal, but it’s weird metal. It doesn’t have the keyboard element that the other two bands on the bill have, but they’re just as spastic and weird. They just did a tour with GWAR.

    JK: Have they been around for a while?

    Yeah, but they haven’t left California until recently. They got a lot of exposure touring with GWAR, and they did a tour with Motoraider.
    The System of a Down guy’s been talking them up a lot.

    JK: For some reason, when I see the name Dog Fashion Disco I think of the Butthole Surfers.

    Nah…like I said, Dog Fashion Disco is to metal what Tub Ring is to
    punk. They have a lot of different genre collisions total.

    JK: Well, “punk” isn’t an adjective I would come up when listening to your record.

    Really? Well, I think that it’s BASED on punk. You know what I mean? There was some idiot a couple of weeks ago in New York who was trying to say that Amadeus was punk, because to him it was more of an attitude thing than a musical thing…to which I say, “Yeah, but…no.” I think that the attitude of recklessness mixed with a good amount of the songs having a bit of punk rock in them…I would still call Tub Ring punk. It’s interesting to hear you say that you wouldn’t…and I guess that I wouldn’t either, but if someone asked you to describe Tub Ring in a sentence, the quickest shit I could say would be “punk.” It isn’t necessarily the most accurate thing…

    SP: …but it’s the biggest signifier that would draw people in.

    Yeah. I would tell people “experimental punk,” or spastic punk.

    JK: I know that this is kind of a smaller venue. Do you have any sort of multimedia presentation along with the show?

    Nope. When you see us, you’ll know that there’s no need for multimedia. We all spazz out and break things. We break ourselves. (everyone laughs) There’s all kinds of breaking and freaking out.

    JK: You’re doing the …Trail of Dead thing.

    Yeah. You’ll see. It’s freaky.

    JK: When Sean saw them at SXSW, somebody had stolen a car and put it on the train track behind the club after the show.

    SP: The train ran into it, and that was the finale of the show…and that was already after the near-riot that Trail of Dead started with the sound men by handing pieces of their drum kit to the audience. That was in 2001, but they suck live now. They played at the Siren Fest this summer and they were terrible.

    Well, we don’t have a label that puts any money or does anything for us. All of our fans and all of our notoriety comes from our live show.
    We’re not on the radio or on MTV. This is it. It’s just word of mouth
    from our live show…

    SP: …which is the best and most organic way to gain a fan base anyway. When a band puts on a good live show, you can see the real talent on display.

    JK: That’s how Tripping Daisy made their fan base, and that’s pretty much how the Polyphonic Spree did it too. You don’t have a label deal, so you just go out and play everywhere all the time. You have a really whacked out live show. Then again, I guess that’s true with all of the great bands. They worry about the live show first, because if the shows are good, people will buy your records at the shows. I think I was going somewhere with this…

    SP: When you’re a good live band, you don’t have as much of a need for a publicist because the people who see you live will publicize it for you.

    Yeah, word of mouth is the best…

    JK: …and that’s total punk rock.

    It’s human nature. If a friend tells you about something and gives it a good recommendation, it means way more than some PR guy going, “Here’s the new thing. This is so cool. You need this.” That works on kids and basic consumers, but people that are out there looking for good music? It’s word of mouth.

    JK: Yeah, PR gets old. I hate hearing about how a band is awesome…

    SP: …and you’re hearing it from magazine writers who are regurgitating press releases.

    JK: …or from publicists who review their own records in big magazines. See, that shit pisses me off.

    It’s the nature of the beast, though. I was just having a
    conversation inside with our merch guy, Alfredo. I don’t ever want to badmouth any other artist, and I’m not trying to do that by bringing this up…but I was asking Alfredo, “How old do you think the guys in Blink 182 are?” He replied, “Probably in their 30s.” They’re still doing pop/punk. I’ve got nothing against pop/punk, and I’ve got nothing against doing music for money either, if that’s what you’re setting out to do…but at that point, that’s what they’re doing it for. They’re doing it to make money. They’re doing it to provide themselves and their families with food, shelter, and luxuries. Do you think that they actually LISTEN to pop/punk? If they do, then they’re deprived. What artist at the age of 35 hasn’t matured out of pop/punk?

    SP: They’re singing about emotions and experiences that haven’t been
    their own for at least 15 years.

    Exactly! That’s my theory!

    JK: That makes perfect sense.

    There’s a pop/punk band from my hometown that I see selling about the same amount of records as us. I wonder how long they’re gonna do that for. They’re all around my age.

    SP: It’s arrested development.

    …and then, when it IS all over, are they gonna be able to look back and say, “Wow…we made some significant art.” I don’t think so.

    This interview ran in Mundane Sounds in November, 2004

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