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Issue 781 December 2016 $9.95 (GST INC) >> NZ $9.95 (GST INC)





Sturgill Simpson Takes On Nashville



Inside the War Over Album Exclusives


True Bruce

You’re Better Than This

Listening Fail #09 “Extreme Pairing Fail”

Listening Fail #28 “Barely Hanging On”

Listening Fail #15 “RCA Jungle”

Listening Fail #30 “Cord Nightmare”

Listening Fail #14 “Mug o’ Bass”

Listen Better at Listening Fail #02 “MacGyver”

Listening Fail #23 “You’ve Got the Left, I’ve Got the Right”

Listen Better at



FEATURES Living Legend: Deborah Conway

Certifiably sane ex-model and Eighties agitator searches for the meaning of life in song. By Michael Dw yer...........................46

Nothing Else Matters

As Metallica prepare to release their 10th studio album, they gather in New York to discuss all. By Rod Yates ........................48

Tkay Maidza: Revenge of the Nerd

Tkay Maidza graduated from school at 16, but her debut album bristles with unfinished business. By Michael Dw yer .......54

True Bruce

Springsteen goes deep on the revelations in his new memoir. By Brian Hiatt ...........................................................................68

Dudes of the Dance

Meet pop’s hottest duo, the Chainsmokers – two ordinary guys with a sick plan for world domination. By Jonah Weiner ....................................................................... 76

Luke’s Best Chance

What happens when the autism generation comes of age? By Paul Solotaroff ................................................................. 80

ROCK & ROLL Sturgill Simpson

Streaming services changed how artists put out music. Will this new reality last?.... 13

Q&A Fred Armisen The actor on meeting Prince and plans for his 50th birthday .... 20

The country trailblazer has found success – but don’t get him started on Nashville. ... 26

The Rolling Stone Live Lodge

Three weeks of mayhem and madness, in photos. .......... 32



Bono dishes it out to Trump, Metallica storm New York, Billy and Miley team up ...... 10

American Honey


Messy, magnificent road movie is blessed with two amazing performances........................ 94

Leonard Cohen


Cohen’s late-career form continues ...............................87

Jim Adkins On punking fans ...................98

ON THE COVER Metallica photographed by Ross Halfin.

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Are Exclusive Albums Bad?

Drew Taggart (left) and Alex Pall of the Chainsmokers, in New York. Page 76

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CORRESPONDENCE LOVE LETTERS & ADVICE it was happening. At least 40 screens were illuminated in just that small section shown in the photo. Come on people, put your damn phones away. Real music fans live in the moment and don’t feel the need to document their entire lives. Nathan Adams Wendouree, Vic

Laura’s Lament l aur a jane gr ace is one hell of an inspiring woman,

Barnesy Opens the Floodgates between reading jimmy Barnes’ biography Working Class Boy and your interview I have even more respect for the man and what he has had to go through in his life. I’m sure he doesn’t want people to feel sorry for him, and I’m sure a lot of his troubles were selfinflicted, but Jesus! How he survived that childhood is beyond me. Hope the next book is a bit more uplifting! Neve Harrington, Gosford, NSW

Phoney Crowd while k an ye’s elevated stage [RS 780] was undeniably cool, it appears a large proportion of the crowd preferred to f ilm it on their phones rather than enjoy it as

Once a Punk... “once a punk, always a punk,” said Billie Joe Armstrong in the Green Day interview in RS 780. If that’s the case, Billie, how do you explain allowing Broadway producers to turn one of your greatest albums, American Idiot, into a frickin’ musical? I can’t think of a less punk move than that. Ellie Buyers Kew, Vic

“I’ve seen ‘Easy Rider’, and Peter Fonda is the last person I’d invite around to my house to take acid with me.” but I can’t help but think t h a t t h i ng s w ou ld h ave been easier for her if she’d never come out so publicly in Rolling Stone four years ago. It seems like in the time since then, her world has fallen apart, and all of the optimism she showed in that original article has fallen away. Here’s hoping this latest confessional interview doesn’t cause her a new round of grief (I flinched when she mused out loud to the interviewer that she was thinking of breaking it off with her current girlfriend). Hush it Laura! Linda Connor, Wyong, NSW

WRITE TO US AND WIN Every letter published will w i n a mone y- c a n’t-buy Rolling Stone t-shirt. Write to us and tell us your thoughts on the magazine or life in general. But please, keep it brief!

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LSD and the Beatles the article on the beatles’ experiments with LSD [RS 780] makes the drug experience sound almost hellish. After their first experience, it seems hard to believe John Lennon and George Harrison would ever go back and do it again, let alone become as reliant on it as they would later for their creative process. Also, I’ve seen Easy Rider, and Peter Fonda is the last person I’d invite around to my house to take acid with me. Dean Harlow, Burwood, NSW

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RS Australia on Facebook Comment, chat, love, hate at

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & PUBLISHER: Mathew Coyte ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER: Emma Vidgen EDITOR: Rod Yates ART DIRECTOR: Cameron Emerson-Elliott CONTRIBUTORS: Michael Adams, Luke Anisimoff, Jaymz Clements, Toby Creswell, Barry Divola, Robyn Doreian, Michael Dwyer, Samuel J. Fell, Dan Findlay, Ed Gibbs, James Jennings, Dan Lander, Darren Levin, Daniel Murphy, Matt Reekie, Henry Rollins, Barnaby Smith, Marcus Teague, Jason Treuen, Jenny Valentish, Doug Wallen, Ian Winwood PHOTOGRAPHERS: Steve Baccon, Dane Beesley, Damian Bennett, Daniel Boud, Stephen Booth, Adrian Cook, Max Doyle, Kelly Rose Hammond, Kane Hibberd, Rod Hunt, Stephen Langdon, Joshua Morris, Tony Mott, Martin Philbey, Wilk, Katie Kaars ILLUSTRATORS: Diego Patiño, WeBuyYourKids, Adi Firth, Andrew Joyner, Sonia Kretschmar, Leo Coyte, Andria Innocent, Anwen Keeling, Eamon Donnelly, Matt Huynh, James Fosdike, Michael Weldon ADVERTISING, SPONSORSHIP & EVENTS MANAGER: Amy Gates: PRODUCTION CONTROLLER: Ian Henn AD PRODUCTION CO-ORDINATOR: Roy, Dominic (02) 9282 8691 BRAND MANAGER: Brony Popp CIRCULATION MANAGER: Charlotte Gray PAPER RIOT PTY LTD CEO: Mathew Coyte GENERAL ENQUIRIES: (02) 8006 9663

ROLLING STONE USA EDITOR & PUBLISHER: Jann S. Wenner MANAGING EDITOR: Jason Fine DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR: Nathan Brackett ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITORS: Sean Woods SENIOR WRITERS: David Fricke, Brian Hiatt, Peter Travers SENIOR EDITOR: Christian Hoard DESIGN DIRECTOR: Joseph Hutchinson CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Jodi Peckman EDITOR AT LARGE: Jason Fine VICE PRESIDENT: Timothy Walsh PUBLISHER: Michael H. Provus HEAD OF DIGITAL: Gus Wenner EDITORIAL OPERATIONS DIRECTOR: John Dragonetti LICENSING & BUSINESS AFFAIRS: Maureen A. Lamberti (Executive Director), Aimee Schecter (Director) US OFFICES: 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104-0298; 212-484-1616

Rolling Stone is published in Australia monthly by Paper Riot Pty Ltd, Suite 4, 5 Wilson St, Newtown, NSW 2042. ABN 9216 6626 526. Enquiries: (02) 8006 9663. Copyright © 2014 by ROLLING STONE LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. The name ROLLING STONE and the logo thereof are registered trademarks of ROLLING STONE LLC, which trademarks have been licensed to Paper Riot Pty Ltd. For subscription inquiries visit, email magshop@magshop. or telephone 136 116 between 8am and 6pm (EST) Monday to Friday. Alternatively, post requests to Magshop, GPO Box 5252, Sydney, NSW 2000. Printed by Bluestar WEB, 83 Derby Street, Silverwater 2128. Distributed in Australia by Gordon & Gotch Australia Pty Ltd. Distributed in New Zealand by Gordon & Gotch (NZ) Ltd, 2 Carr Road, Mt Roskill, Auckland. Phone (09) 625 3000. Rolling Stone does not assume responsibility for unsolicited materials and will return only those accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. ISSN 1320-0615 RALPH J. GLEASON 1917-1975 HUNTER S. THOMPSON 1937-2005

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Frontman of NY post-hardcore band Quicksand stops by our Sydney office for an exclusive solo acoustic performance.

Showrunner Charlie Brooker on the Netflix series’ unsettling new season about the dark side of technology.

As America heads to the polls, we cover the up-to-the-minute action of the wildest presidential contest in history.

From exclusive video and album premieres to our ‘Five for Friday’ spotlight, we profile the best local emerging acts.



Get breaking music news from ROLLING STONE ’s award-winning staff of writers and reporters 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at

Jack White

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From the big, multi-stage events to the off-the-grid boutique parties, we profile the essential upcoming music and pop culture festivals.

Eddie Vedder and Yusuf Islam caught up before playing “Father and Son”. “We’re kindred spirits,” says Islam.

. . . And Metallica for All! “Caring comes in all kinds of volumes!” said James Hetfield when Metallica stormed New York’s Central Park for the Global Citizen Fest, an all-star charity show targeting extreme poverty. The fest – which also included sets by Chris Martin and Eddie Vedder, Rihanna, and Yusuf Islam – was Metallica’s first New York show in three years.

GIRLS’ NIGHT OUT Frances Bean Cobain and mum Courtney Love hit Marc Jacobs’ London Fashion Week bash.

TIGER IN MY PANTS Robbie Williams pulled out all his tricks at the Apple Music Festival in London.

GUITAR-GOD ERUPTION Eddie Van Halen caught up with hero Tony Iommi, whom he calls “the master of riffs”, in Los Angeles.

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BITCH BETTER RAISE SOME MONEY Chris Martin had to keep the crowd occupied because Rihanna showed up late, but she eventually delivered with a 21-song set.


GET ON YOUR BOOTS U2’s set included “Desire” and part of Coldplay’s “Yellow”; they are currently finishing their 14th album.

Liam’s Supersonic Press Conference Liam Gallagher took a brief break from calling out his brother Noel to congratulate Mat Whitecross, the director of Oasis documentary Supersonic.

One More in the Name of Trump U2 played one of their only sets of 2016 at Vegas’ iHeartRadio festival, and made it count: Bono called the U.S. “the best idea the world has ever had”, and showered the crowd with fake Trump trillion-dollar bills reading “Make America Hate Again”.

Billy Idol and Miley Cyrus howled “Rebel Yell”. “She’s fun and can rock!” says Idol.

RED HOT BALLERS The Red Hot Chili Peppers – who just announced a big 2017 tour – kicked off the Rams’ season opener in L.A. WE’RE NOT WORTHY! Comedian Mike Myers and shock rocker Alice Cooper pal up at the recent launch of Shep Gordon’s memoir They Call Me Supermensch in New York City.

SHINING FUTURE Aussie art-pop band Shining Bird made some new fans when they were invited by the Anangu elders of Mutitjulu, N.T. to play a special show. They were welcomed with a sand drawing and bush tucker lesson.

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Inside the War Over Album Exclusives


his year, if you wanted to keep up with new albums by Beyoncé, Drake, Frank Ocean and Kanye West, among many others, you would have had to subscribe to not one but two streaming services. In a strategy that could represent a fundamental shift for the record business, Apple Music and Tidal have sought to pull users from Spotify, the world’s biggest streaming service, with a series of competing exclusive releases. As part of the deals, Apple, in particular, funds superstar artists’ songs and

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Streaming services have changed the way superstars put out albums, but fans are getting left in the cold. Will this new reality last? By Steve Knopper

videos, and showcases them on TV commercials and online radio stations. But over the past few months, a backlash has developed against this new reality. The tipping point may have come in August, when Frank Ocean delivered a video album, Endless, to fulfil the terms of his contract with Def Jam/Universal, then gave a superior album, Blonde, to Apple as part of an exclusive deal. (Blonde sold 276,000 copies in the U.S. in its first week – only Drake and Beyoncé have had bigger debuts this year.) Lucian Grainge, chief ex-

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ROCK&ROLL ecutive of Universal Music, the world’s biggest record label, responded by sending an internal memo banning all Universal artists from making exclusive deals. Then, in September, Lady Gaga became the biggest star yet to come out against exclusives. “I told my label that if they signed those contracts with Apple Music and Tidal, I’d leak all my own new music,” she said in an interview with Apple’s Beats 1 Radio. On Gaga’s side of the streaming debate is Spotify. The service has 100 million users, 40 million of whom pay for premium subscriptions, and an ironclad policy against exclusives. “We think exclusives are bad for artists and bad for fans,” says a source close to the service. Spotify has reportedly gone so far as to retaliate against artists who have accepted exclusive deals with other streaming services, deliberately burying them once the exclusive shows up on Spotify, and keeping them out of top playlists. (Spotify reps have denied this.) The dispute over exclusives comes at a time when streaming has asserted its dominance in the music business. After a postNapster malaise going on nearly two decades, labels finally increased revenues this year, by 8.1 per cent, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. At the same time, labels aren’t the money machines they were in the CD era, and Apple Music gives artists an alternate revenue source. Over the past year, it has funded videos by Taylor Swift, M.I.A. and the Weeknd, and given artists from Drake to DJ Khaled their own Beats 1 shows, not to mention TV advertising. In September, Travis Scott’s Apple Music exclusive, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, became his first album to hit Number One on the charts. Superstar exclusives, in turn, have helped Apple and, to a lesser extent, Tidal generate millions of new customers, intensifying competition with Spotify. Apple, with pop-star-friendly Jimmy Iovine and his staff manning a sort of Record Industry South at the tech giant’s new Los Angeles outpost, has learned that it makes sense to throw money at star power, regardless of what labels think. The exclusives “are working. These are successful,” says Sean Glass, an ex-Apple Music employee. “But I know these don’t contribute to [labels’] bottom lines as much as they would like.” For Universal, at least, exclusives started to look like a dubious business proposition. “They were starting to see diminishing returns,” says a source close to the situation. “By going to a single platform, you’re limiting the audience.” But for now, Universal is the only label taking a stand against exclusives. Tom Corson, president of Sony-owned RCA Records, says that after the success of recent exclusives like Bryson Tiller’s Trapsoul and 14 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

Scorecard: 2016’s biggest exclusives These stars partnered with Apple or Tidal – here’s how it worked out

Drake Views Service: Apple Music Terms: A reported multimillion-dollar deal, including “Hotline Bling” video production and Beats 1 interview First-week sales: 1.04 million Verdict: Apple’s campaign helped Views become the year’s biggest-selling LP so far. “I imagine Apple benefited mightily in newsubscriber trials,” says Larry Miller, a former music exec who directs the music-business program at NYU Steinhardt.

Kanye West The Life of Pablo Service: Tidal Terms: West is a Tidal co-owner with a reported three percent equity in the company. First-week sales: 94,000 Verdict: Great album, messy release, disappointing sales – Kanye said it would be available only on Tidal, then reversed course within a few weeks. “Just massively confusing,” Miller says.

Frank Ocean Blonde Service: Apple Music Terms: Unknown. But by leaving Def Jam, Ocean gets to keep the profits for himself, including what Forbes estimated to be $1 million in the album’s first week. First-week sales: 276,000 Verdict: By fleeing Def Jam/Universal, Ocean made music fans sympathetic to major record labels. “The optics on that were not perfect for him,” Miller says.

Beyoncé Lemonade Service: Tidal Terms: As a partowner of husband Jay Z’s company, Beyoncé earns additional equity when subscriber numbers rise. First-week sales: 653,000 Verdict: Lemonade was a critical and commercial smash (nearly 1.7 million units sold by midyear), and Tidal briefly shot to the top of the iTunes App Store rankings upon its release. “Flawless execution,” Miller says. Sales based on track-equivalent units, including streaming and download numbers, according to “Billboard”

The Get Down soundtrack, the label would consider more if the right deals came along. “They’re very tricky,” he says. “We’ve used them to our advantage here; on the other hand, they do limit the exposure of the music. It’s an ongoing discussion. I don’t think we need an ultimatum or policy at the moment.” Exclusives may be driving a wedge between some artists and their labels. Almost every artist contract has language that allows a label to release an album however it wants – and deny an exclusive if necessary. But, still, if Beyoncé wants to do an exclusive, label execs might not want to disagree. Perhaps equally alarming for labels, Chance the Rapper achieved massive success this year with an assist from an Apple exclusive – and no label whatsoever. Ocean may have represented a worstcase scenario. Usually, an artist can’t leave a contract without a breach-of-contract lawsuit. Reps for Ocean and Universal wouldn’t comment on the split, but musicbusiness sources say the label let him walk into Apple’s arms – a major-label divorce that Prince and Neil Young were never able to achieve. Ocean had been unhappy at Def Jam for years and was looking to quit the label as quickly as possible. “I couldn’t get nobody to pay attention to him,” producer Tricky Stewart, who brought Ocean to Def Jam, told a reporter. Another source with knowledge of the situation believes Ocean’s departure was inevitable. “Frank Ocean is a unique case,” the source says. “He’s an eccentric artist [who] doesn’t want to be affiliated with a label.” What does all this mean for fans? Namely, that they should expect exclusives to continue for the near future. Iovine recently said as much, suggesting that music listeners get used to the idea of having multiple streaming subscriptions, in the same way TV viewers might subscribe to both Netflix and Hulu. The situation partly reflects the vacuum at the heart of the music business – it’s a Wild West where whoever invests the most money could win. But some worry that fans will get lost in the struggle. “Exclusives are terrible for the music industry and fans alike,” says a music-business source. “The industry has traditionally been terrible to consumers. We drove them to piracy from overcharging for CDs with two good songs attached to 13 album cuts. Now, labels and streaming services are making them pay for a subscription service that doesn’t have all of the music they’re looking for. It’s easy for millionaires like Jimmy to say that people will have multiple subscriptions like Net fl ix and Hulu. The reality is that half of the country can barely afford gas for their cars or to eat out more than once a month.”

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ROCK&ROLL him while he was doing it – whew. I felt like the luckiest person in the world.” The remasters were intended for a lavish 17-disc box set to be released that year – until Reed’s condition worsened, and the project was put on hold. Following his death, archivists Don Fleming and Jason Stern worked with Reed’s wife, Laurie Anderson, to complete the set’s accompanying book, an 80-page LP-size hardcover volume full of memorabilia and rare photos (including a priceless one of a grinning Reed leading a vocal group at his high school variety show). The result, out now, is Lou Reed – The RCA & Arista Album Collection. Covering 1972 to 1986, it’s an object lesson in how a record company should treat an artist’s back catalogue. “I’m glad we waited, because it came out better,” says Santos. The set appears to be a prelude to a rarities and outtakes project akin to Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series. There are years’ worth of demos and orphaned songs in

TRANSFORMER Reed in 1974

Lou Reed’s Final Look Back Near the end of his life, the singer-songwriter spent his days reviewing his solo catalogue for a new box set. By Will Hermes


n june 2013, just months before he died, Lou Reed sat down at Masterdisk studios in Manhattan with his friends and co-producers Hal Willner and Rob Santos to work on a project he’d longed to do: remastering his entire RCA and Arista solo catalogue. Reed was an audio obsessive, and despite failing health, he came in day after day, savouring

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and scrutinising his life’s work – marvelling at David Bowie’s vocal arrangement on Transformer’s “Satellite of Love”; pumping his fist to “Lady Day”, from his dark song cycle, Berlin; submerging himself in the binaural sound recording of the space-jazz title track of The Bells. “He took so much joy rediscovering these records,” Willner says. “Being able to sit there in the room with

Reed’s vault, though it’s unclear exactly how much material exists. One starting point could be the wealth of unreleased live material: Santos says there has been talk of an expanded set of recordings from the 1973 show behind the live landmark Rock’n’Roll Animal, and notes that the label “recorded a lot of shows for [the live 1978 set] Take No Prisoners”. There are also two live albums omitted from the new box set, because Reed didn’t consider them part of his catalogue proper: the 1984 import Live in Italy, a ferocious outing with the late guitarist Robert Quine; and the 1975 label cash-grab Lou Reed Live. The RCA & Arista Album Collection, however, appears to be Reed’s final statement. Willner recalls the last day of remastering, after which he and Reed headed to Sirius Studios to record their New York Shuffle radio show. “We would never play Lou’s music on the show,” Willner says. But that day, they had the finished recordings for the box set with them, and their guest on the show, Orange Is the New Black actress Natasha Lyonne, suggested they play some of Reed’s music. (Lyonne was a huge fan of Reed, and Reed was a huge fan of OITNB.) “Lou started saying things like, ‘I can’t believe we’re getting to do this while I’m alive’,” Willner says. Lyonne recalled it as “the heaviest moment in my life”. “It was an incredibly emotional afternoon,” Willner adds wistfully. “I never saw anyone who wanted to live so much.”

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“Lou took so much joy rediscovering these records,” says the box set’s co-producer, Hal Willner.





UK artist Laura Mvula carved her own space in 2013 with the release of her debut album, Sing to the Moon; a fusion of pop, jazz and soul that garnered the singer international acclaim. Mvula’s second record, The Dreaming Room, showcases her musical finesse and emotional depth: “I wanted to make an album that feels sexy in the truest sense of the word, that’s in my own skin – it’s raw.”



Mvula is an apt addition to the 2017 Bluesfest line-up. She notes how The Dreaming Room’s rich textures fill festival stages, whereas Sing to the Moon was suited to intimate venues. “This time it’s big, it’s ethereal, there are a lot of layers to the music. It’s much more enjoyable for me than it was.”

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Coupled with the pressures of writing a second album were Mvula’s own vulnerabilities moving forward as an artist. “People would say, ‘I wonder what she could possibly do next?’ That was the scariest time because I couldn’t answer that question.”





Growing up in a family of musicians, Mvula never considered herself a singer. “I grew up around what I consider to be real singers, in terms of vocal power and range. I was comfortable with my voice as a tool, but I wouldn’t announce myself as a singer.”

Mvula has collaborated with contemporary giants, from Prince to Nile Rodgers. “Sometimes I’ve gotten sad about the fact that I’ve felt somewhat excluded in the mainstream – the Kendrick Lamars of the world, the Beyoncés, the Janelle Monáes – sometimes I feel like nobody knows and nobody cares. Then I’m reminded that the people that champion my stuff have come to be living legends.” LUCY SHANAHAN

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Another Side of Paul Simon An in-depth new biography reveals an artistic genius of endless energy and hard-nosed ambition


n november 22nd, 1957, a m nervous 16-year-old from Forest Hills, Queens, found n: himself in an absurd position singing a cute, Everly Brothers-inspired song he’d written called “Hey, Schoolgirll” on American Bandstand, moments afteer Jerry Lee Lewis had a studio audience full of girls screaming to “Great Balls of o Fire”. Standing next to his pompadour’’d singing d himself hi lf partner, Tom Graph, the kid – who called Jerry Landis – meekly delivered the tune. Then he walked offstage, forked over the payola cash required of some Bandstand performers, and went back to the normal teenage life where everyone knew him as Paul Simon. It would be eight years before Simon and Graph (real name: Arthur Garfunkel) would land another hit, a wilderness period that’s quickly glossed over in most Simon books. But Peter Ames Carlin – known for biographies of Bruce Springsteen and Brian Wilson – devotes nearly 80 pages of his definitive Homeward Bound to these years of struggle, tracing the singer’s journey from his frat-house days at Queens College to his tenure as a C-list Brill Building songwriter to his time as a Dylan-style folkie bumming around mid-1960s England. At the centre of the book is Simon’s endlessly tumultuous relationship with Garfunkel. Carlin traces the drama back to October 1957, when

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Simon went behind Garfunkel’s back to o cut a solo deal. Garfunkel was still grrumbling about it in 1983, when the du uo made a failed attempt at a reunion allbum. “I was 15 years old!” Simon told him. “How can you carry that betrayal fo or 25 years?” Garfunkel (who refused to taalk to Carlin) wouldn’t budge. “You’re sttill the same guy,” he shot back. The porrtrait of Simon that emerges is that of i l genius who learned to hustle at neigha musical bourhood stickball games and never stopped pursuing his goals by any means necessary, whether that meant violating a cultural boycott to make Graceland in apartheid-era South Africa or firing three Broadway directors in just a few months while spending millions of his own dollars to produce his 1997 musical, The Capeman. Simon’s personal life, drug problems and marriages are intimately detailed, and figures from Bob Dylan to Woody Allen make cameos. Carlin meets Simon only once, when the author travels to Emory University to see him deliver a lecture. Arriving early at the hall, Carlin finds himself eyeball-to-eyeball with the man he’d spent years researching. “He didn’t look angry,” Carlin writes. “Stern, maybe. Impassive, definitely. Just above face level, his palm flat and perpendicular to the floor, like a traffic cop saying, ‘Stop!’ ” Instead, Carlin has gone deeper ANDY GREENE than anyone yet.

RADICAL NOTES ON POP FROM A PIONEERING CRITIC Since the 1980s, Greg Tate has written about pop music in a whirlwind flow that’s part African-diaspora street poetry, partt emem bedded reporter and d part barroom confidant. His H early work was com-piled in 1992’s Flyboyy in the Buttermilk. No ow, Flyboy 2 collects more pieces that prove Tate, a ROLLING STONE contributor, hasn’t lo ost a step, with riffs on young artists like Azealia Banks (“a freaky-geeky, eky speed-rapping succubus”) and forebears such as Jimi Hendrix (“one of our most agile and adept freedom fighters”). It’s a dive into what Tate calls “Black Cognition”, a cornerstone of the American mind. WILL HERMES

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BOUND FOR GLORY Simon in 1971

The 2015 N.W.A biopic, Straight Outta Compton, offered a Hollywood gloss on the West Coast hip-hop legends’ sprawling history. Original Gang gstas, from veteran music journalist Ben Westhoff, tells the rest of the story, delving into the early-Eightie es prehistory of L.A. rap p and adding fresh detail to the oft-told stories of its major players. We learn that N.W.A manager Jerry Heller made sure the band kept its guns on one tour bus and its ammo on another; we trail Tupac during the 1992 L.A. riots; and go inside the Nation of Islam’s last-ditch attempts to save Eazy-E from AIDS, which would kill him in 1995. Westhoff is especially sensitive in reporting on Dr. Dre’s many domesticviolence episodes. That cleareyed attitude toward a music that “helped disenfranchised people gain a voice” makes for history that won’t settle for easy heroes or villains.JON DOLAN




We crash a songwriting session at REMI’s House Of Beige and see where they recorded their albums.

When REMI are on stage, you’d be forgiven for thinking they might eschew a solid work ethic in favour of partying and sleeping in. This couldn’t be further from the truth, at least as far as one half of the duo is concerned. When we turn up at drummer/producer Justin “Sensible J” Smith’s house at 10:30 in the morning, the soft-spoken creative force behind REMI is already on the job, digging through music, and listening for potential samples over a morning coffee. “Remi likes his sleep,” chuckles J as he flips vinyl on-and-off dual turntables in his loungeroom. He has the mixer connected to a Sonos Connect streaming to a PLAY:5 smart speaker. When he’s at home, J says he’s never not listening to music. “I think it’d be rare for a musician to say that they prefer silence in their home.” When Remi Kolawole finally rolls in, it’s clear he’s all the better for his extra bit of sleep. The smooth-flowing MC is a ball of energy, dipping between crate-digging with J, flicking through magazines and raiding the contents of J’s kitchen (both seem to eat a lot of bananas). Soon J finds a sample on a Vangelis record that they think is interesting, and they adjourn to the cramped home studio known as the House of Beige, where both of REMI’s hugely successful albums, 2014’s Raw X Infinity and this year’s Top 10 hit Divas & Demons, were created. There’s barely room to move in the spare bedroom, with J’s drumkit facing into his rammed closet, where his T-shirts and sneaker collection soak up

the noise and (mostly) prevent the neighbours from complaining. “This space is fly. I think there’s magic in this house,“ says Kolawole. “All my favourite music that I’ve ever made has always been made in someone’s personal space. Every time I go into a studio I feel weird. It needs to have its own energy, because that inspires me. If I roll in and see a bunch of plaques on the wall, that doesn’t inspire me. But if I roll in and see your favourite band poster on the wall and incense burning, that’s way more exciting.” As J starts mapping out a beat on a drum machine, Remi jumps on a keyboard and starts to create a melody line. Taking a break from the studio, REMI take their tracks outside, streaming them to a PLAY:1 which they move into the courtyard. This is the way REMI work whenever they’re not touring. “When we’re away on tour I miss the ability to write music,” says J. “Playing gigs is fun, but whenever I have an idea, I miss the chance to put it down.” For more info visit and for REMI’s Apple Music playlist.


ong before he was m aking people laugh for a living, Fred Armisen played drums with the Blue Man Group, and also manned the kit for Trenchmouth, a Chicago punk band that released five albums in the Nineties. Armisen’s love for music shines through in the new season of Documentary Now!, where he and fellow Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader parody a series of famous docs – including the classic Talking Heads concert film, Stop Making Sense. Right now, Armisen is shooting the seventh season of his other TV show, Portlandia, which debuts in January. He’s also plotting a comedy tour on which he’ll perform music by fake bands he’s debuted on TV, and trying to brainstorm another television series, this one entirely in Spanish. “I never take days off,” he says. “I love working. I just want to do it in a relentless way, just smash it. Kill it. Burn it, burn it, burn it.” You’re a huge Talking Heads fan. Did that make it easier or harder to spoof Stop Making Sense? I can only parody stuff I love. Being a fan really helped because I didn’t have to research what the songs would sound like or what the stage setup would look like. Talking Heads were a big influence on my comedy. For David Byrne, every album had to be different. With Portlandia, every season has to be different. You gotta reinvent the look, all of it. Did you consider parodying other music documentaries? Music documentaries are tricky because of Spinal Tap. That movie has stood the test of time. We literally sit in the writers’ room and go, “Well, Spinal Tap did that, so we can’t do a thing about a ridiculous musician with some affectation.” Is there any part of you that wishes you had made it as a drummer? No, because I have the best life in the whole world. And it all came together in the most harmonious and crazy way. I still get to play music, but in the way that I feel was meant to be. You used to impersonate Prince on SNL. Did you ever meet him? I often tell the story of how he was eating macaroni and cheese [at an SNL afterparty] and I tried to compliment him, and he just complimented the macaroni and cheese. But I leave out this other part of the story, which is that I met him at SNL. I came up and said, “Hey, I hope it’s OK about me doing this impression of you.” He stepped back and opened his eyes and then rubbed my arm in a friendly way 20 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

Fred Armisen The actor on spoofing Talking Heads, meeting Prince, his favourite drum solos and his strange plans for his 50th birthday By Andy Greene

and said, “Oh, it’s cool.” I was very struck by his posture. He was very male. He was a real guy. What other heroes have you met that left you awestruck? I was most awed meeting Paul McCartney. He made it easy to talk to him so I didn’t feel like an idiot. At the same time, Mick Jones from the Clash was maybe the most for me. The amount I’ve listened to the Clash is just never-ending. You recently shot a movie with Billie Joe Armstrong, Ordinary World. What did you learn from that experience? We have the same roots – we played in the same circles in the early Nineties. He really is the most positive person. He loves punk rock and loves his family, and he approached doing a movie in a way that was like, “Yeah!” What’s your position on drum solos? Everyone knows deep in their hearts that the drums are the coolest instrument, and that a band is only as good as its drummer. So I’m all for drum solos. I’m all for drummers hamming it up. I’m all for drummers standing up and kicking over the kit. What’s your favourite drum solo? The drumbeat to “Dreaming”, by Blondie. It’s not the kind of solo where everyone else stops playing; it’s like a solo all the way through. I also like the drum solos in “Going Mobile”, by the Who. If you listen to Keith Moon, it’s always a solo all the way through. You’ve been criticised for your behaviour in relationships. Does it bother you to Google yourself and see all these articles about how you’re the worst boyfriend in the world? First of all, I don’t Google myself. Secondly, that’s all in the past. I’m not in denial. But I’m not dead, so all those negative things just help my recovery. Every day’s a new day where I can say to myself, “I can become a better person. I’m not perfect. I can be more considerate and less selfish.” You’re turning 50 in December. How does that feel? I’m psyched. For some reason, the person I’ve focused on for turning 50 is Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. He’s still himself and still an innovator. He’s turned the Flaming Lips into an art platform. Turning 50 is great. I’m gonna celebrate in a graveyard. Seriously? Oh, yes. I’ll have a bunch of my friends come together. It’s not a public event, but we’ll be at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. We’ll have some chocolate. J Mascis is gonna play. He just turned 50 too. We’ll play music and celebrate being alive.

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Empire of the Sun’s Rising Fortunes With new album ‘Two Vines’, the electro-pop duo are finally making waves in America By Rod Yates f you’re after an anecdote as to what Luke Steele’s life has become since co-founding Empire of the Sun in Sydney in 2007, consider this: six or seven months ago he received an e-mail from film director Peter Farrelly, with whom Empire of the Sun had worked on the 2014 movie Dumb and Dumber To. Farrelly was extending a dinner invitation to Steele, and “every time he invites you, you just go – he’s such a genius”. Upon arriving at the designated Greek restaurant in Malibu, Steele was met by Farrelly and his other guests, actors Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson. After the meal, Farrelly suggested they go to a karaoke bar, where the manager pushed the microphone into Steele’s chest as Empire of the Sun’s “Walking on a Dream” started to play. “I know the song back to front, but it was like, you’d better sing this good,” grins Steele. “I had [the others] on second mic, they were doing the back-up vocals. And that finished, and then ‘We Are the People’ [also by EOTS] started. Owen Wilson was like, ‘That was the most fun I’ve had in years!’” Steele tells this anecdote not to boast about his A-list buddies, but to demonstrate a point he’s been making about how when opportunity strikes, you’ve got to be able to take it. “You’ve gotta be able to sing these songs and bring the house down,” he says. “I work hard. Six or seven days a week. Sometimes people go, ‘Oh, it’s who you know.’ Man, if you come to LA I could introduce you to the biggest writers in the world, the biggest film directors, but it really comes down to being good. Because once you get in front of these people it’s like, ‘What have you got?’ You’ve gotta be good.” Steele is sitting in a booth at the Bull & Bear Prime Steakhouse in New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel which, with its wood panelling and wait staff that could qualify for their pension, has the feel of old, moneyed New York. Dressed entirely in black, he arrived in town an hour ago from his Santa Monica home (he’s lived in LA for the past five years) in preparation for Empire of the Sun’s set at the Mead-


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ows Music & Arts Festival in Queens tomorrow evening. Right now, it’s a good time to be Luke Steele. Within seconds of shaking hands he starts enthusing about the new Sleepy Jackson album he’s working on, the long-

awaited follow-up to 2006’s Personality – One Was a Spider, One Was a Bird. Near the end of dinner, he reveals his even longer-gestating project with Daniel Johns is also nearing completion. “This is the third record we’ve done,” he smiles, though

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Steele (kneeling) and Littlemore


none have been released yet. “The first one was when we were really into acoustics, kind of a Beatles, Beach Boys vibe, then we went off that, we went [for] a bit more like a French, Daft Punk thing. And now this is sort of just what we really want to make, electronic punk music in the future. We’re legit a couple of weeks away from finishing.” Top of his priorities for the foreseeable future, though, is Empire of the Sun. Last year they sold out LA’s 17,500-seat Hollywood Bowl, and the band’s 2008 single, “Walking On a Dream”, recently charted in the U.S. for the first time on the back of its use in a Honda commercial. “High and Low”, the first single from the band’s new album, Two Vines, has also been welcomed by radio across the country. You could barely imagine a better set-up for the record, one which, says Nick Littlemore – the other face of the duo – recaptures the “colour and shape and sound and warmth” of 2008’s Walking On a Dream debut album. “I lost the spirit on the second record [2013’s Ice on the Dune],” he offers, sitting in the studio out the back of his home on the edge of West Hollywood. (The house used to belong to Apocalypse Now actor Sam Bottoms.) “We allowed the ‘second album syndrome’ to affect us. It was ridiculous. I think we went to the studio every day for 18 months, and it’s just not healthy. Coming in every day, trying to write ‘Walking On a Dream’ again, it’s not a good idea. I felt we were chasing the chart, or we were chasing what was happening in music.” To avoid similar issues – not to mention the reach of their record company – the band decamped to Hawaii for two eight-day stretches. There Littlemore would go into the jungle at dawn and into caves at night and record percussionists – “we didn’t use a whole lot on the record,” he shrugs – and though little actual producing was done there, Steele considers half the record to have been penned during these getaways. (The majority of the album was recorded in downtown LA, and completed in Hollywood’s Henson Recording Studios.) The overall concept for Two Vines and its artwork came to Littlemore while he and Steele were travelling around Europe promoting Ice on the Dune. “It was a dream I had,” he offers. “The city of the future would be covered in vines.” Littlemore says he often has creative dreams – the title track was inspired by one where “all the light shines out of your

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head and your legs go all the way down to the roots of nature and join them nicely in a little network” – but he says he’s been having a series of bizarre nightmares of late. “About China and Korea, it was pretty full on,” he shudders. “It was like World War III. They were setting up, finding places to put their missiles. It was really full on.” Two Vines features a series of high profile guests, including former Prince collab-

OPPOSITES ATTRACT Top: Steele performing in London on October 13th. Above: Littlemore doesn’t tour with EOTS, instead working on projects such as Cirque du Soleil in 2009.

orator Wendy Melvoin, whom they met at Henson Studios. (Steele also ran into Sir Paul McCartney there, and gave him a vinyl copy of Walking On a Dream. “He said, ‘All the best with your band, mate!’” beams Steele.) The band reached out to Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who, it turns out, was a fan, and contributes guitar to the song “To Her Door”. “He just came in, sat on the couch next to me, and we both had a guitar, and we got a drum loop going, and we’d just jam for five or six hours,” explains Steele.

“It was like, I’m playing with Lego and getting trained by Frank Gehry.” In some ways it’s fitting that Littlemore and Steele are being interviewed on opposite sides of the country, for their experiences over the past few years have differed wildly. While Steele hit the road to tour Ice on the Dune, Littlemore opted to stay at home, working on various projects. He pitched to score an opera in China, and scored an indie film called Free the Nipple. He’s also been working on The 2 Leaves Project, for which he’s recorded around 16 albums’ worth of material with various singers (the first, with Vera Blue, is due shortly). His goal for the project is “to create a week of music, 24 hours a day, seven days a week”, on a “looping radio station”. Perhaps the biggest revelation in his life, however, came in July when he hallucinated while meditating “and Buddha came to [him]”. “I don’t want to call them angels just because I don’t know that’s what they were,” he offers, “but they were things hanging above, and there was an old man blowing a cloud, and Buddha was there, resplendent, with a glow. I don’t believe in organised religion, but it was Buddha. “I felt like I had an awakening,” he adds. “My third eye was awake, and I started to see stuff I couldn’t see before. And I realised that nature is in trouble; it’s a wonderful, beautiful thing that we ignore.” The hour is getting late, and Littlemore has work to do before jumping on a plane to New York in the morning. He doesn’t mention any plans to catch up with Steele, who’ll likely be on his way to Washington for Empire’s next show. “We’ve always had quite a turbulent relationship,” he reflects. “We’re very different people in so many ways. Luke is a very Christian person and a big believer in that and Evangelism. I was raised Church of England, but I never really took it on. And musically, he’s come from really alt-country, and I’ve been at the rave [with Pnau, the dance act Littlemore founded in 1999]. There’s a lot of love there, and a lot of complex feelings too.” Do you keep in touch much? “We e-mail a lot, they’re pretty abstract,” laughs Littlemore. “It’ll be like, ‘Oh, I had this crazy fucking dream!’ We really collide in colour, and we love talking big ideas, dreams, magic, that’s where we gel best. When we’re creating, it’s great. When we’re not, I don’t know if we have anything to say to each other. There’s no small talk going on. I’m not a fan of small talk, I don’t think Luke is either. I’d rather just sit there in my own weird mind.”

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The Resuscitation of Sum 41 How a pop-punk singer fought his way back from a drinking-induced coma to save his life and the band by Andy Greene


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PUNK-ROCK REDEMPTION Above: Whibley (right) and the re-formed Sum 41. Left: Whibley in the hospital.

in my back, so I upped the amount a that I drank. Eventu ually, my whole body sh would shake if I went a few hours without drinking.” The next few years were a blur of touring and hard partying that ended on April 15th, 2014, when he collapsed in his kitchen and his fiancée rushed him to the hospital, where he was put into an induced coma. He awoke in extreme pain, with his liver and kidneys barely functioning. He was bleeding internally and vomiting blood. Worst of all was the pain in his feet caused by severe nerve damage. “It was like walking on hot coals no matter where I stepped,” he says. His body slowly began to heal and he was allowed to go home for short periods of time. He tried to console himself with music, but he’d forgotten how to play guitar. “My whole brain felt like it reset,” he says. “Even speaking was difficult because my motor skills were so fucked up. When I picked up the guitar, I knew where my fingers were supposed to go, but I couldn’t make them do it. It was almost like when I first learned how to play guitar, at 13.” By mid-2015, having relearned his instrument, he booked some low-profile California club shows with some buddies.

“I wasn’t sure if I could stand onstage for more than a few minutes,” he says. “I had no idea if I was going to make it past three songs.” But the shows went well, motivating him to get to work on the next Sum 41 album. From the very beginning, he knew the record would tell the story of his recovery. “It takes the listener on the journey through the whole process,” he says. Sum 41’s new album, 13 Voices – the band’s first in five years – follows Whibley’s story, from collapse (“Goddamn I’m Dead Again”) to recovery (“There Will Be Blood”), ending with the epiphany of its final song, “Twisted by Design”. “That song is about the acceptance of myself,” he says. “I may be sober, but I’m as fucked up as I always have been.” Sum 41 have been touring steadily since the beginning of the year and have dates lined up through December. “I used to worry that we wouldn’t be as good if I played sober,” says Whibley. “I also worried I’d be bored if I didn’t have a buzz, but I actually enjoy it more.” Despite everything that’s happened, Whibley says he has no regrets: “I’m glad I went through something so difficult because it made me a better person. I like where my life is at right now, and it wouldn’t be this good without all that bad shit.”

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n t he day i n 2014 w he n Sum 41 frontman Der yck Whibley came out of a threeday coma at Cedars-Sinai hospital in L.A., the first person he saw was his mother. “I knew something was really bad, because she lives in Toronto,” he says. “Nothing really made sense, but I knew something bad had happened from drinking.” Whibley didn’t know how bad until he fully regained consciousi ned ness. His doctor explain that years of alcohol abusse had left him facing multiple organ failures. “He said to me, ‘You’re barely hanging on’,” says Whibley. “ ‘We’ll know in the next few days if you’re gonna make it.’ ” Whibley had been a drinker since he was 17. bBut it didn’t become a prob lem until Sum 41 hit the roaad in album support of their 2001 debutt album, All Killer No Filler. Their fusion of Beasties-style rhymes and Blink-182 pop punk had produced the hit single “Fat Lip”. Whibley, who was 21 years old when the band took off, found himself playing more than 100 shows a year during the early ’00s. “I was like, ‘Well, I work so hard that I’m allowed to party as hard as I do because that’s my relief’,” he says. “It was normal to drink every night. We had to have some drinks to go onstage. How could you go onstage without a buzz?” Sum 41 stayed on the alt-rock circuit. But Whibley’s life began taking a dark turn around 2009, when his marriage to pop star Avril Lavigne ended in divorce. Less than a year later, while on tour in Japan, he was the victim of an unprovoked attack by three men in a bar. “Somebody recognised me and thought it would be fun to beat the shit out of me,” he says. “It took me off the road for months, and I was in a wheelchair with the worst pain. I was like, ‘Well, I don’t want to become addicted to painkillers, but I do notice when I have a couple of drinks I feel a lot better.’ I had the pain of the divorce and the pain


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of these songs in add another insightful component in understanding and appreciating the musical revolution Bob Dylan ignited some 50 years ago.”

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The Fighting Side of Sturgill Simpson After years of struggle, the country trailblazer has found success on his own terms. But he’s not letting Nashville off the hook By David Browne n a hot nashville latesummer afternoon, 38-yearold Sturgill Simpson sits at a small table and looks me dead in the eye. We’re in the city’s Germantown section, in the writing room he shares with singer-songwriter John Prine. A pool table dominates the space. An antique jukebox stands silent. Down the hallway is the studio where last year Simpson cut his haunting album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth in less than a week. Simpson’s conversational currency is unfiltered sincerity. His humour is built on self-deprecation. “Rolling Stone is doing a long-form exposé on what an asshole I am,” he tells engineer David Fergu-


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son, who drops in at one point. Months earlier, we’d met at a birthday dinner for Shooter Jennings, where Simpson’s intellectual range took me by surprise. Most country stars aren’t intimate with Marcel Proust and Arthur Rimbaud – or, for that matter, Marvin Gaye’s most esoteric recordings. Along with artists like Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton, Simpson has breathed new life into Americana music, heavily indebted to Seventies outlaw country as well as a wide range of other influences, including soul artists like Otis Redding and Bill Withers. But it was in the old-school outlaw tradition that Simpson recently caused a sensation by blasting the Academy of Country Music after it announced the “Merle Haggard Spirit Award”. Simpson accused the organisation and others of trying to “hitch their wagon to his name while knowing full and damn well what he thought about them”. “If the ACM wants to actually celebrate the legacy and music of Merle Haggard,”

Simpson wrote in a thousand-word Facebook post, “they should drop all the formulaic cannon-fodder bullshit they’ve been pumping down rural America’s throat for the last 30 years along with all the high school pageantry, meat parade award show bullshit, and start dedicating their programs to more actual country music.” Simpson’s tirade hit Nashville like a tornado. Reactions varied from shock to outrage to avid support. Simpson predicted he’d be blackballed from the industry. “That’s perfectly fine with me,” he wrote later. “I’m not sure how you can blackball somebody you don’t acknowledge in the first place.” Given the controversy you kicked up, do you have regrets? None. My disgust was so strong I couldn’t hold back. Disgust directed at what? The idea of co-opting the names of dead legends for business purposes. The same way they did with Johnny Cash. They snubbed him on the American Recordings

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he did with Rick Rubin. Nashville also snubbed Loretta Lynn when Jack White produced Van Lear Rose. And everyone knows the story of how they ran Willie Nelson outta town back in the Seventies. Merle is the latest in a long line. Tell me about your coal-mine roots. I was born in Jackson, Kentucky, in the heart of Appalachia. I was the first male in my mother’s family not to work the mines. Mum was a secretary, Dad was a state cop. We lived in a prefab house just off the highway. When I was in second grade, we moved to Versailles, just outside Lexington. When did the music hit you? My papaw got me to loving Merle. Hee Haw got me to loving Jerry Reed and Roy Clark. The only reason I own a black Gibson hollow-body today is because that’s the guitar Roy played. So country came first for you. But rock came roaring right after. In third grade, my older cousin ruined my life good and proper by sticking me in his room with one of those big tower stereos. I heard John Mayall’s “Beano” album, followed by Cream, Hendrix. From there I slipped down into the Chicago and Delta rabbit holes. I soon saw that the heart and soul of American music is the blues. And Sixties soul? My grandmother’s collection of 45s. Sam and Dave. Otis Redding. From Otis, I’ve surmised that there are only two kinds of music: bad music and soul music. You were studious about music. But what about school? Not a great student. My parents divorced when I was in seventh grade, and I numbed out. I worked at McDonald’s but saw a better opportunity selling pot and pills. I also chose to eat acid during my junior year while watching a replay of the Beatles at Shea Stadium. I saw Paul surrounded by a glowing purple aura. Tripping my balls off, I ran home in the rain, crawled into bed with my Walkman and cranked up Sgt. Pepper’s. Did you graduate? Barely. And only because Mum was on a first-name basis with my guidance counsellor. I got busted selling drugs my senior year and went to live with my dad. That same year, before graduation, I’d enlisted in the Navy. Why the Navy? Wanderlust. Aside from hearing the wrong kind of music too young, I also read the wrong books – like the novels of Jack Kerouac, who was a merchant marine. The result was an over-romanti-

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cised view of the world. I wanted to sail the Seven Seas. What were your military years like? Thrilling and monotonous. Thrilling to party in Tokyo, where I was out of control with women, drinking and fighting. But monotonous to be stationed on a frigate where I worked in the Combat Information Center with top-secret clearance. Our job was to closely monitor shipping traffic and report incoming intelligence information. So you became a cop, like your dad. I guess you could say that. I was responsible, but I also saw shocking things in the impoverished pockets in Kuantan, Malaysia, that, as a teenager, shook me to my core. My worldview darkened. When I

HONKY-TONK HEROES Above: Merle Haggard with Simpson last year. Right: Playing live in July.

got out after three years, I hung l t soul. l around the Seattle area, a lost I seated tables at IHOP. Then I came home to Lexington in 1999 and experienced an epiphany: I was driving my pickup when Bill Monroe’s “Wayfaring Stranger” came on. I was transported to childhood. I’d rediscovered my musical heart, and I zeroed in on bluegrass. For the next four years, I immersed myself, from pre-World War II to its pinnacle in the Seventies. I studied the songs and bands of Ralph Stanley and the original masters. That led you to form a bluegrass band? Sunday Valley. Me, a drummer and bassist. We formed in 2004 and were strictly local heroes. We couldn’t travel because the bass player had a great gig with the fire department. So I moved to Nashville. Lived in a shitty cinder-block apartment. And didn’t have the foggiest notion of how to hustle my music. [It] was a total bust. So you gave up music?

Yes, and in 2006 moved to Salt Lake City, where for four years I worked at the railroad, working my way up to an operations manager. The money was good. Back in Lexington, I’d met my future wife, the woman who would become my muse. She came to Utah, where she saw I was drowning in a sea of dark nihilism. My grim attitude said that we’re all just floating around on this fucking mud ball, and someday you die, and it’s like you were never here. So who cares? “You care,” she said. She bought me a four-track and insisted, “You care about music. Pursue your passion.” And that’s when things turned around? That’s when we quit our jobs and moved back to Nashville. This time I had enough decent songs to put together my first album, High Top Mountain. It went nowhere. My second indie record, also self-financed, had more substance: Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. I’d been reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead as well as Emerson’s essay on nature, Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. I took all these lofty ideas and dumbed them down to one simple message: love. But because I don’t write hits, I realised my career would be based on tour t ring. In 2014, just after the b birth of my son, I spent 18 months on the road, pushing Metamodern. I nearly quit. Wasn’t that separation from your son the experience that led to the concept for “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth”? The separation allowed me to see what I really wanted. I wanted w to speak to my son. d the th sea as metaphor. The reI used cord is a love letter to my boy and my wife for having saved me from a life of despair. What’s life like for you these days? Touring behind Sailor’s Guide. I’m excited to be playing theatres. Happy not to be drinking. I’m a cooler person without it. I still smoke weed on the road, but only to kill the boredom. Who of your contemporaries inspires you? Fearless hip-hoppers like Kendrick Lamar, Run the Jewels and Chance. I thought D’Angelo’s record was criminally underrated. I’d like to spend a month at Frank Ocean’s house. After the tour, what’s next? Maybe I’ll do a dance record. Or maybe another song cycle, this time a love story from the Old West. Whichever way I go, I’m trying to learn not to second-guess myself. As long as I put art before business, I’ll just let love lead the way.

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Angel Olsen: Boss Lady How a DIY heroine made an achingly beautiful breakout album and won over Lorde and Miley Under the pretense of studying massage therapy, she relocated to Chicago, where she sang backup on several recordings by indie icon Will Oldham, whose DIY take on traditional folk music was a big influence. She quickly began making her own low-fi home tapes and released her debut album, Half Way Home, in 2012. “Now I write and produce my own songs,” she says. “I direct all my own videos. I’m in control of what the band does and how we’re presented.” She then adds with a smirk, “I’ve become the boss lady.” My Woman is a thesis on Olsen’s self-possession – possession over her work, image and her journey as an artist. After she rolled out the video for the single “Shut Up Kiss Me” – in which she appears on skates and in a silver tinsel wig – fans speculated that Olsen’s glitzier style and production were betraying her outsider status for pop ambition. Olsen shuts down that notion quickly. “I’m not a pop star,” she says. “And I don’t wanna be a pop star.” And as for the wig, “I just didn’t have time to hire someone to do my hair all fancy.” My Woman was co-produced by Justin Raisen, whose résumé includes hits by left-ofcentre pop stars Sky Ferreira and Charli XCX. Says Olsen, “He’d say, ‘Oh, my God, Scorsese’s gonna love this song. He’s gonna want it in his film. You’ll be getting that Scorsese money!’ ” So far, that kind of break hasn’t happened, but her success has impressed her friends in Asheville, North Carolina, where she’s lived for the past couple of years. “They’re not in the music industry at all,” she says. “They’ll look at a photo on Instagram I took of a dog and be like, ‘How are you getting so many likes for that stupid dog photo? It SUZY EXPOSITO wasn’t even that great.’ ”



On paper, it seems a little sketchy: a New York band mixing emo and pop with the prog-rock of Rush and Styx. And yet Crying pull it off on their new LP, Beyond the Fleeting Gales. “I wanted to make an album that the middle-school version of me wishes he had,” says guitarist Ryan Galloway. “Big and cheesy Eighties guitar, J-pop synth sparkle, Motown chord progressions.” Crying formed in 2013 – three college pals in upstate New York who

Fatimah Warner grew up in Chicago listening to her grandparents’ blues records and hanging out in her mum’s bookstore. But she found her own voice on the local poetry scene, where she befriended Chance the Rapper and appeared on his 2013 mixtape Acid Rap. This year, under the moniker Noname, she released her excellent debut mixtape, Telefone, a buoyant reflection on daily life in her hometown. “I wanted it to feel like

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Crying used to convene in drummer Nick Corbo’s basement to craft glitchy pop songs inspired by old-school video games. The jump to wizardly synths wasn’t far. Says singer Elaiza Santos, “If it sounds purple, I’m generally a fan.” S.E .

Noname the first conversation you would have with someone on the phone,” she says. Reflecting Telefone’s acclaim, Noname recently had a “life-changing” experience opening for Lauryn Hill: “I’d adored her art for many years.” RAAZIQ BROWN

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an, you are one sexy audience,” angel olsen tells a packed crowd at New York’s Webster Hall. “Use protection tonight.” Wearing a green shift dress, with her backing band clad in matching slate-grey suits and bolo ties, the 29-year-old singer-guitarist looks like she’s about to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. But her songs (not to mention her stage banter) are full of sharp modern contrasts – psychedelic guitar fury; gritty, confessional indie folk; slow-roil synths – to go with swatches of dreamy Sixties balladry. For two hours, Olsen lords over the crowd like a guttermouthed Lesley Gore. The New York show is something of a victory lap for Olsen, whose third album, My Woman, just debuted in the Top 50 of the U.S. pop charts. It’s drawn raves, including endorsements from celebrity fans like Miley Cyrus, Bethany Cosentino and Lorde – who tweeted some lyrics from “Intern”, a gorgeous standout. Olsen just played The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, something she takes in stride, although her first Late Show appearance, two years ago, was a turning point for her parents. “They had to see me on TV to take this whole thing serien n ously,” she says two days after the concert, between sips of her third cup of coffee at a diner in the East Village. Raised in St. Louis by adoptive parents, Olsen fronted a local rock band called Goodfight as a teenager. “I was a skater girl,” she says, “being all Gwen Stefani, running around in JNCO pants and Skechers.” At 16, she developed a curiosity about the early rock & roll and country music her parents enjoyed and began recording acoustic ballads on a tape deck, doing her best to imitate the styles of Patsy Cline, the Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison.



Darryl McDaniels BY HENRY ROLLINS Our man in the van visits an old friend in a troubled township

FIVE SONGS I LOVED AS A KID The Run-DMC rapper’s new book, Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide, chronicles his struggles with drug addiction and severe depression.


“Walk This Way” I heard it on the radio in the 1970s but didn’t know what the hell it was. It has the illest-sounding breakbeat a DJ could play back in the day.

Led Zeppelin


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“Stairway to Heaven” This is more than a rock song! It’s sensory overload, like a movie! The lyrics are so descriptive, they take you on a journey.

Steve Miller Band

“The Joker” This song is no joke, and that bass line is killer! I originally thought it was a cowboy song. Every time I hear it, I picture Clint Eastwood.


“We Will Rock You” An adrenaline blast of hard rock & roll power. I don’t just apply it to sports. I use it to help me play the game of life.

The Doobie Brothers

“Black Water” To this day, I get chills when I hear this. I didn’t know until recently that Michael McDonald was once in this group. That pushed his cool factor through the roof!

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a st sep t e mber , i wa s i n lawi and Congo. They have built strucAustralia doing shows that took tures above the township on government me all the way from Sydney to owned land, not sanctioned for living. Perth. From there, as I have For several minutes, we trudged up been doing the last few tours, I went to streets and paths, going to parts of the South Africa for two shows in Cape Town township I had never been to before. As and Johannesburg. we walked, the air hung heavy with the Since 2008, I always visit a township smell of sewage. There was an E. coli near Hout Bay, outside of Cape Town, breakout there recently, which, when you called Imizamo Yethu. I was first made look around, is not surprising. aware of the township when I worked Finally, we got up to the top of the on a documentary on HIV and AIDS in township and he pointed to a bunch of South Africa that took me there to interimprovised shacks and shelters. This was view a man who guides visitors through the “new” part of the township. Electrithe winding streets and paths of Imical wires hung precariously from makezamo Yethu. The guide, shift poles. The whole thing a man named Afrika looked like a fire trap waitMonie, is one of the most “As we walked, ing to happen. charismatic and interestIn the case of this particthe air hung ing people I have ever met. ular township, with more I never miss a chance to heavy with the people comes more probvisit with the man. smell of sewage.” lems. In this section, there This time around, Afrihave been problems with ka greeted me at the gate women being assaulted and we took off walking as we have beafter dark. I asked Afrika about a man fore. He was telling me what has changed who lives there named Kenny. I always since the last time I was there. Things visit with him and give him some money are always challenging. The township is to help him keep going. Kenny is HIV at the base of a mountain, so almost impositive. He is on a regimen of antiretromediately, you start walking uphill. It’s a viral drugs to keep his infection in check. visit and a workout all at once. Afrika informed me that Kenny had Afrika is very animated, easily set off passed away. This is life in the township. and extremely serious on all his points. I meet a lot of people. Afrika Monie is When I ask him what’s been happening one of the most amazing. He is so strong, since I was last there in 2012, he scowls so completely rare. Although our visas he talks, sometimes stopping for minits are brief and infrequent, Afrika has utes at a time as he speaks. taught me much. The people of ImizaThe township has experienced a popmo Yethu are lucky to have him and I am ulation explosion of people from Malucky to call him a friend.


The Return of the Lodge The Rolling Stone Live Lodge raged through Melbourne in September and October. We miss it already . . . Yes Sir Noceur

Dallas Frasca



The home of the Live Lodge: The Workers Club

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Divas & Demons for the first time, A.B. Original’s first sold-out show (not to mention the stage invasion by the aptly named “Patriot”), or Luke Million playing his YouTube-breaking Stranger Things theme, 2016’s Lodge was defined by unplanned, or one-off moments. Small touches like Kasey Chambers stopping mid-song to call out a grown man for singing along to “Not Pretty Enough” or Jon Toogood blaming Shihad’s name-change on his absent bandMATT COYTE mates still have us smiling.



hen jimmy barnes stepped up to our Ed-InChief just minutes before heading onstage for his planned Q&A and said, “Let’s just wing it, OK?”, all hope of a civilised chin-wag flew out the window. Instead, the crowd stood transfixed as Barnesy seamlessly flowed between answering audience questions, telling stories and dipping in and out of the songs that inspired him (not to mention the odd Chisel classic). The night was typical of this year’s Live Lodge, with night after night of surprises. Whether it was REMI playing through their new album

Flyying Colours

Photography by Brett Schewitz, Marty Philbey and Darryl Edwards

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Man-Made Mountain



Ecca Vandal

Jon Toogood

Mosé + The FMLY

Fan Girl

Gena Rose Bruce


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Jimmy Barnes

The Only Boys

Kim Salmo on

Pink Tiles

Oh Mercy and friends


RVG Sand Dollars

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A.B. Original and Dan Sultan A.B. Original fans







The Living End’s Chris Cheney and Area-7’s Stevo

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Kingswood’s Alex Laska at the Guitar Masterclass Even’s Ashley Naylor

Ella Hooper

Luke Million

Caroline No Kasey Chambers

Sarah Connor

Lastlings Grizzlee Train The Fauves

Nico Ghost

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In association with

For all event coverage check out


Ian Kenny The Birds of Tokyo and Karnivool singer has a soft spot for Farnesy and Barnesy By Jonny Nail The Song That Made Me Want To Be a Singer

The Song That Reminds Me of Growing Up

John Farnham “You’re the Voice”, 1986

Jimmy Barnes “Working Class Man”, 1985

The Song I’d Like To Cover Pink Floyd “The Wall”, 1982

“I grew up in a house where my mum is a singer and her side of the family are all musicians. So there was always melodic vocal music in the house. Mum would always have Annie Lennox, Aretha Franklin and John Farnham on. These are all serious sort of singers. Weird thing to say, but I remember listening to [John Farnham] from an early age and thinking he’s a belter. An absolute belter. And Farnham still has it. You know [he’s] older, and [he’s] fatter, but he still sings like a motherfucker. ”

The Song That Reminds Me of Touring Band of Horses “Laredo”, 2010

“A band like Birds [of Tokyo] spend a lot of time in touring vans together. We always come across a favourite song. We all listen to our own thing and we have our own loves, but every now and then we strike a song that the whole band is into. It becomes the mascot song for the tour. ‘Laredo’ is attached to a pretty good touring time for the band, a few years back. I think we actually kind of learned it while we were touring and we played it at one show.”

The Song That Puts Me In a Good Mood James Brown “Sex Machine”, 1971

“Pretty much anything by James Brown [puts me in a good mood]. When he’s just in the jam-section part of his live show, and he’s just making up this scat to play off the band, some of the shit he says in there is off the cuff, kind of whack non-sensical shit. Actually try and listen to what he’s saying, [often it] is so random and completely unrelated. It’s probably a lot more about the performance, the delivery, the rhythmical spat. It’s crazy.”

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“I remember being a young kid on Australia Day in Perth and seeing my dad a few beers in dancing to ‘Working Class Man’ under fireworks down at the Swan River. I remember exactly how my suburb felt, how my home felt and what a summer meant to me in Perth at the time. I was only seven or eight years old and we’d only just arrived in Australia. I just remember seeing my dad really happy. This is the start of Australia for us all.”

The Song I Wish I Wrote Radiohead “Karma Police”, 1997 “You get really drawn into that feeling, that curiosity. It’s really well written, but the way it makes you feel at the end, oh man. It all ends quite bleak, [and in the video] there’s a character within that car and you sort of work out why you’re feeling the way they do. At the end, there’s a guy who drops a match, that streaks out like a line of fire, [with] fuel connected to the car, and the car has to retreat. And I believe, from memory, that’s what you actually see, the car disappearing. It just comes together. [It’s] actually a masterpiece. If I ever get close to writing a song like that I’ll be quite happy.”

The Song I Never Want To Hear Again Chumbawamba “Tubthumping”, 1997

“It’s probably not so much a song, but it’s probably the name. ‘Chumbawamba’, what the fuck is that? I don’t like gimmick songs, I don’t like gimmick music. I can appreciate hooks in songs and even cheesy themes and cheesy stuff, I probably like that. Who doesn’t love cheeseburgers? We all do, but I don’t like gimmicks in songs. I just can’t connect with that shit.”

“I’ve always thought Birds [of Tokyo] or Karnivool could take on ‘The Wall’. That’s just such a powerful song, and in its entirety there’s three parts to it, [but] I think the middle part speaks the most to me. I think we could do quite an effective version of that. We’d want to honour the progginess of it, but I reckon we would take it bigger if we can.”

The Song That Makes Me Homesick Regina Spektor “Samson”, 2002

“It’s a really beautiful song that makes me quite lonely. I think when I get lonely I really miss home. That’s probably coming from the amount off time we spend away from home and especially when we’re overseas. Some parts of the year [touring] are quite lengthy.”

The Song You Wouldn’t Expect to Find On My iPod Robbie Williams “Come Undone”, 2002

“Mostly for his songwriting, and it’s kinda weird [but] I’m a bit of a closet Robbie Williams fan. It’s a guilty pleasure. Love him or hate him, the guy has written some absolute fucking bangers.”

The Song I Want Played at My Funeral Peter Gabriel “Sledgehammer”, 1986 “Something quite ridiculous for the moment [because] I’ve always felt that, with that whole horns introduction, it feels like a celebratory song. That kinda feels right. I have a pretty skewed view on life and death. I think death can always be a celebration of what was, it doesn’t mean that things have to end.”

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I’m a bit of a closet Robbie Williams fan.”

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The Future Is Now

We profile five of the hottest artists who are climbing the charts, breaking the Internet or just dominating our office stereos . . .


SOUNDS LIKE: Every era of R&B – classic soul to slick Eighties to an EDM-infused modern strain – blended together and lifted higher by a fluid falsetto that would’ve made Prince wince. FOR FANS OF: Frank Ocean, Sam Smith, Prince, Curtis Mayfield WHY YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION: Growing up in Columbia, Maryland, as an introverted kid who nonetheless participated in drama and choir, 24-year-old Christopher Gallant’s musical education came in the most Millennial way possible: by downloading every bit of music his internet connection could handle. Time logged studying music in New York City was followed by a move to Los Angeles where a partnership was formed with Canadian producer Stint, the pair recording debut album Ology in a variety of home studios. After being praised by the likes of Sufjan Stevens (with whom he toured), Elton John and hero Seal, Gallant cemented his status as a live performer with starmaking appearances at Coachella 2016; see him dazzle in the flesh in Australia at Bluesfest in 2017. HE SAYS: “I started making music when I was in junior high, so probably 13 years old. I was a really quiet kid; I didn’t speak a lot to people and I wasn’t that outgoing a person. The way I’d vocalise things was at home alone, writing songs on the computer. I always looked at it as a very meditative process, almost like writing in a journal. I bloomed from the experience of having a lot of time in solitude and allowing myself the space to be able to vomit out these songs.” HEAR FOR YOURSELF: The sensual, seductive future-R&B of debut album Ology. JAMES JENNINGS

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Hideous Sun Demon SOUNDS LIKE: Raucous, psychfuelled garage post-punk that’s so dirty and sweaty you’ll feel like a shower after listening FOR FANS OF: King Gizzard, Pissed Jeans, Mudhoney WHY YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION: Fremantle quartet Hideous Sun Demon knew exactly what they were doing when they called their new album Industry Connections. “We were looking for some label love with it,” explains bassist Jake Suriano. “We hit Melbourne earlier this year and were like, ‘Let’s play

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around and hopefully a label will want to put it out.’ It’s kind of a self-aware title.” The band recorded the album in June last year – line-up changes held up its release – before handing it over to Stu Mackenzie of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard to mix it. “We’re big fans of King Gizzard. I feel like we take similar influences in terms of American West Coast garage stuff,” says vocalist Vincent Buchanan. Suriano and Buchanan began playing together in a “joke band” upon leaving high school, doing

Pixies and Gang Of Four covers. Things got serious for the duo around 2014, however, when Hideous Sun Demon released their debut album, Sweat. Its follow-up is full of “half joking, half serious social commentary” that tackles subjects such as urban sprawl and “the drugparty” lifestyle, and at the time of press the quartet are up for four West Australian Music Awards including Most Popular Live Act and Best Rock Act. THEY SAY: The band’s live shows can be chaotic, sweat-filled

affairs. “On our last Melbourne tour we played three gigs in one day, and between Lee [Napper], Jake and I we broke nine guitar strings, including a low-E bass string,” laughs Buchanan. “You could count that as going out of control.” Adds Suriano: “I hit someone in the head with my bass the other day when he got onstage to crowdsurf. I hope he’s all right. It would’ve hurt. It’s a heavy piece of wood.” HEAR FOR YOURSELF: The undeniable, twisted groove of “Monogamy”. ROD YATES

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Woodes Dua Lipa

SOUNDS LIKE: A sleek and trendy party without an exclusive invite list FOR FANS OF: Amy Winehouse, Nelly Furtado, Jessie Ware WHY YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION: “Hotter Than Hell” and “Be the One” are both recent ARIA Top 40 hits (the latter climbing as high as Number 6), and the Warner Bros.-signed synthpopper is touring with Troye Sivan in the U.S this month. At 15 years old, Dua Lipa moved back to her hometown of London on her own after living with her family in her parents’ hometown of Kosovo. “That was just when I really decided to take my fate into my own hands and was like,

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‘OK, I’m actually going to try and do this’,” she recalls. Thanks to a manager she found through social media, Lipa spent five days a week in the studio in between a job as a restaurant hostess. Now, the 21-year-old is ready for the release of her self-titled debut album in February 2017. “[I remember] being like, ‘I really want to get up on stage and perform these songs.’ Now I’m currently living that and actually doing what I always wanted to do.” SHE SAYS: Lipa’s music fuses together everything from soul to EDM, but there is one genre that has always had her heart. “I’ve always been such a fan of pop music,” she says. “The first album I was given when I was quite young was the Whoa, Nelly! album by Nelly Furtado. After, I also got the Missundaztood album by Pink. That’s when I was like, ‘Oh my god, I want to

SOUNDS LIKE: Winter, set to a soundtrack of synths, skittering beats and beautiful vocals FOR FANS OF: Banks, Lisa Mitchell, the xx WHY YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION: Growing up in Townsville, Elle Graham – AKA Woodes – had something of a revelation when, as a 12-year-old, she heard Imogen Heap. “I was like, ‘Woah, she’s a producer, she’s touring and making this incredible music and soundtracks and collaborating with people, I want to do that.’” The now Melbourne based musician studied Interactive Composition at the Victorian College of Arts, and the first two singles (“The Thaw” and “Daggers & Knives”) from her justreleased debut EP have become staples on Triple J Unearthed, with “The Thaw” also charting in Germany and Norway. SHE SAYS: “I think it embodies strength,” says Graham of her adopted monicker. As for adding the ‘e’? “I think it’s androgynous. It could be a band, or it could be a collective. And also, Woods was taken.” HEAR FOR YOURSELF: The icy, ethereal, swelling dynamics of “The Thaw”. ROD YATES

be just like them!’ I love the way Pink has especially grown in her career. I admire her a lot. I feel like whatever they do or put out, I’m a fan of. I’ll always listen to it. I think because I loved them when I was

so young, that has left such an imprint that really inspired me in what I do right now.” HEAR FOR YOURSELF: “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” is a sassy kissoff. BRITTANY SPANOS

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Robbie Miller SOUNDS LIKE: Sunlight pouring through the window in a country farmhouse, heart not so much on sleeve as it is tattooed onto the skin and laid bare. Vocals-first folk music that for the most part eschews trends in favour of timeless melodies and simple, organic instrumentation. FOR FANS OF: Dustin Tebbutt, The Kite String Tangle, Patrick James, Ainslie Wills, Cat Stevens WHY YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION: Robbie Miller is one of those artists other aspiring musos love to hate, the kind of guy who falls into the biz without really trying. “I made some

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songs with a friend [Nathan Morrison], they kind of sat there for six months, and I was going through my computer and found them,” he says. “I thought, they sound all right, I’ll put them on Unearthed and see what happens.” Winning the Unearthed National Indigenous Music Awards (NIMAs) in 2013 is what happened, including a performance at the award ceremony in front of 4,000 people. “I’d played maybe three or four live shows in front of people before I won Unearthed,” he says. “I felt like I was probably two or three years behind other performing artists

who had 100-200 shows under their belt. I’d only be pushing 100 shows now at 27.” That stat is changing rapidly – he’s since opened for the Kite String Tangle, and in August supported fellow emotive folkie Dustin Tebbutt on his national tour. His debut EP, The Faster the Blood Slows, was released this year, including his Unearthed-winning track “Don’t’ Go Walking Away” and “Sunday”, a song inspired by his grandmother’s tales of her childhood, which won unlikely support in the form of a tweet from raucous party-starters Peking Duk: “Wow. This is incred-

ible. Danke for the Sunday morning eargasm.” HE SAYS: Beat-driven recent single “Road” is a departure from Miller’s usual guitar-and-piano schtick, but it’s a mere flirtation, he says. “I feel like a lot of artists are heading down that path and I don’t want to be in a flooded market, I want my music and my voice in the songs I write to take precedence. I want to kind of sit in my own place if possible and work with what I’ve got.” HEAR FOR YOURSELF: The sweet lullaby lilt of the Cat Stevens-esque “Sunday”.


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DEBORAH CONWAY Certifiably sane ex-model and Eighties agitator searches for the meaning of life in song ✦ By Michael Dwyer ✦ PHOTOGR A PH BY JULI A N K INGM A


eborah conway arches an amused eyebrow as she pops the kettle on. This makes twice she’s been crowned a Living Legend recently, following a tribute at Melbourne’s Gasometer Hotel in June. She’s still tingling from Emily Lubitz’s “Will You Miss Me When You’re Sober?”. Vika Bull made “Take Pity on the Beast” “the song it was meant to be”. She doesn’t mention Paul Kelly’s speech about her pioneering crowdsourcing and house concert ideas. As rain pelts the glass of her renovated triple-storey 1850s home, guitarist Willy Zygier is audible down the hall, accompanying the sweet voice of one of their three daughters. She sips her tea with palpable contentment.

Your father sent you to a shrink for joining a rock band. Music has become your shrink, hasn’t it? That’s a good assessment. The psychiatrist and I decided it was my parents who had the problem and that I was perfectly sane. But when I think about it now, I get it. In my family, there was no precedent for this. Do Re Mi felt more challenging than a lot of bands playing the Eighties pubs. Did you feel like outsiders? We knew we were different. There were two females in the band for starters. But Midnight Oil had gone before us and Hunters and Collectors were contemporaries, and we were all writing stuff that meant something to us. Clearly, the stuff that was being promulgated on Countdown was not what we did. We were all stunned when “Man Overboard” was a hit, more than anything because it didn’t have a chorus. Your first solo turns were in London, with Pete Townshend and Peter Greenaway. Stories, please. Pete Townshend was sweet. I remember him doing impressions of Mick Jagger. There were some fantastic people on that record [The Iron Man, 1989]: Nina Simone, John Lee Hooker . . . though I wasn’t 46 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

in the studio with any of them. I felt a bit disconnected. Peter Greenaway was a very esoteric fellow. [Prospero’s Books] was a very strange film. I was one of the few people on that set that had clothes on. There were 100 extras, breasts and penises akimbo, all painted different colours. It was a magnificent experience and the film is sumptuous. But completely indecipherable. A small part of a mystifying whole. A good metaphor for your time in London? Yes, a wonderful metaphor. We were there to make a third Do Re Mi album,

“It’s Only the Beginning” remains your biggest solo hit. How hard did you pursue chart success? I didn’t engineer any of that. “It’s Only the Beginning” I wrote with a songwriter in LA [Scott Cutler]. It was my lyric, my tune, but we crafted it together and he brought the X-factor that makes hits. When I got together with Willy [Zygier], I just wanted to make good music. Although there was an assumption on my part that I could do anything and radio would play it. Of course I was very, very wrong. You described 2002’s retrospective Only the Bones as an “obituary”. What were you burying? A career that was formalised through record companies. The rebirth was an independent career. That felt really good. I was scared but it felt right. Your ‘Summerware’ tour was ahead of the house concerts curve. What gave you the idea? I was having a shower and I came out and said, “Willy, I think I’ve had a brainwave!” How do you get into people’s living rooms when radio won’t play you? What about you just walk in, like Tupperware? We had incredible success with that. On your new album, Everybody’s Begging, you describe your vocation as a songwriter. “I did it for redemption/I did it for my needs/I’ll be here till I’m bleeding/I’ll be here when you leave.” How will you know when you’ve won? I think you just want to be taken seriously in the pursuit. That Living Legend concert was a magnificent feeling of being affirmed. You do this work; people are responding to it. That feels amazing. And it’s almost enough. Did you really bare your arse for jeans billboards in a former life? Yeah. I was a model. There was a line-up and my bottom won. An excellent conclusion. Yes. Never take yourself too seriously.

WE WERE ALL STUNNED WHEN ‘MAN OVERBOARD’ WAS A HIT, BECAUSE IT DIDN’T HAVE A CHORUS.” then Virgin [Records] said, “You should make a solo record first.” I’m like, “Really? OK.” But I didn’t have a driving vision of what I wanted to do so it was a shocking waste. I was 28 or something. I should’ve known better. So I made a really appalling dance record, which thankfully never saw the light of day. Those years in the wilderness before your debut, String of Pearls . . . what was the obstacle you needed to overcome? I was just very casually working it out. I started recording in LA, in Memphis, New York. It was crazy. Went off to Barcelona for a photo shoot. They spent so much money. I like to say I was the tax deduction for Phil Collins’ success. I was sitting around this flat in Portobello Road with all this time on my hands, so I’m starting to compose, finding my authorial voice. By the time Virgin dropped me and I returned to Melbourne via LA, I had an album of material.

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NOTHING ELSE MATTERS As Metallica prepare to release their 10th studio album, they gather in New York to discuss the past, present and future, and what they’ve lost along the way BY ROD YATES


he long-haired twentysomething walking forlornly along the queue outside New York City’s Webster Hall holds in his hands a sign: “I need a miracle”. He is but one in a parade of punters combing the queue for anyone who might have in their possession a spare ticket to tonight’s fanclub-only show by Metallica, the tickets to which were solely available through the band’s website at a cost of $25, with all proceeds going to City Harvest, which rescues food for New York’s hungry. To borrow a line from the quartet’s recent single “Hardwired”, however, tonight that guy is shit outta luck – as the queue starts to snake its way through the doors of the venue, where security guards wave metal detectors and reserve the right to frisk, he can be seen skulking off, ticketless, into the distance. (He was always up against it – not even the offer of $400 from another punter could convince anyone to part with their ticket.) ♦ Metallica have been in town for the past eight days to kick start promotional duties for their upcoming 10th album, Hardwired . . . To Self-Destruct. Yesterday they started the working week on Howard Stern’s radio show, and the hours before and since have been spent parading in front of journalists, attending to photo shoots, performing at the Global Citizen festival in Central Park, filming videos and doing whatever else

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HARDWIRED From left: HetďŹ eld, Hammett, Ulrich and Trujillo

METALLICA is needed to feed the Metallica promotional machine. Their duties will end in a few nights’ time with an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, after which each member will return to their respective homes – Colorado for frontman James Hetfield, San Francisco’s Bay Area for drummer Lars Ulrich, Los Angeles for bassist Robert Trujillo and Honolulu for guitarist Kirk Hammett. But right now, on this relatively warm Tuesday evening in New York City’s East Village, their focus is solely on the fans pouring into this 1200-capacity venue, which, when Trujillo last played here in 1989 as a member of LA crossover punks Suicidal Tendencies, was called The Ritz. Inside, the band’s advertised 8pm stage time comes and goes, as punters nod their heads to the sounds pumping out of the PA – Disturbed, Stone Sour and Slipknot; hell, there’s even a Megadeth song in the mix – neck $10 beers and check out the new line of merch (popular item: a black shirt with the words ‘We’re So Fucked’ in bold yellow on the front, and ‘Shit Out Of Luck’ in white on the back, a nod to the apocalyptic lyrics of “Hardwired”). As each song ends, yelps of excitement fill the air, followed quickly by disappointment as another song blares out of the PA. At 8.45pm, Metallica catch everyone off guard by simply ambling onstage, one of the rare occasions their presence isn’t announced by their traditional intro music, Ennio Morricone’s “The Ecstasy Of Gold”. They detonate with a cover of “Breadfan” by Welsh rockers Budgie and, as you’d expect of a band at home in venues 50 times this size, convert the room into a mass of flailing bodies. In the upstairs balcony, VIP guests such as filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, DJ Eddie Trunk, former Anthrax (and now Volbeat) guitarist Rob Caggiano and Metal Blade supremo Brian Slagel (the first man to ever release a note of Metallica music via the 1982 compilation Metal Massacre) survey the madness, as for 100 minutes the band romp through a set that leans heavily on classics such as “Master Of Puppets”, “Harvester Of Sorrow”, “Enter Sandman”, “Fade To Black”, “One” and “Sad But True”, but sees them debut new single “Moth Into Flame” live for the first time ever. That the hardthrashing “Hardwired” is greeted like an old favourite speaks volumes about the feeling in the room. As the show comes to an end and each member takes a turn to address the audience, a heavy NYPD presence gathers out-

side, suggesting trouble is afoot. The prevailing mood as fans spill out onto East 11th Street is, however, one of joy. Joe Burns, a 40-year-old fan from Philadelphia in a black Slayer shirt, estimates he’s seen Metallica “over 100 times”, but still regards tonight’s performance as “mindblowing”. (“It was high energy, start to finish. The new songs are thrash as hell!”) A fan since he was “a kid”, he puts his loyalty down to one thing: “They took my soul,” he smiles, “and they still have it.”

t one o’clock the following afternoon, Lars Ulrich, 52, is pacing around an upstairs room at Electric Lady Studios. Located on a leafy street in Greenwich Village, its plain glass doors offer little indication of the treasure trove

Peter Mensch and asking, “Is there anything else I should say?” He faces the journalists again. “I feel as awkward as you,” he laughs. He motions to leave, but stands at the back of the room as the playback begins. “I wanna know how it sounds,” he says, before commanding, “Turn it up!” If Ulrich was a ball of energy yesterday, today he is slightly – only slightly – more reserved. He was out until 3am this morning, celebrating and pressing the f lesh after the Webster Hall show and, to be honest, looks like it. Dressed in a black Vneck shirt, blue jeans, white ankle socks (his sneakers lie discarded nearby) and a black cap, a toothpick protruding from the corner of his mouth, it is, he says, sipping from a can of Perrier mineral water, an exciting period. “We don’t exactly put records out every six months, so when you do put a record out, the difference now is when people tell you how awesome the record is, or how awesome the show is, you actually pause long enough to take it in,” he says. “And I don’t remember doing that a lot in my twenties. We put a lot of work and effort and time into this record, and the fact people are digging it is really cool. You never know, especially anymore, ’cause it’s such an unpredictable, wild west atmosphere in the music world now. So the fact that people are responding to this and kind of embracing it is cool.” Ulrich is one of those rare entities – a drummer whose profile is equal to that of the frontman. It was he who co-founded the band with James Hetfield in Los Angeles in 1981 after placing a ‘musicians wanted’ ad in local paper the Recycler, and it is he who Trujillo will at one point today refer to as “the boss”. In the summer of 2014, Ulrich was handed an iPod that had “1500 or 1600 ideas on it”, a byproduct of the fact that every note Metallica play is recorded, be it in soundcheck or in the ‘Tuning Room’ backstage where they warm up before a show. He spent the better part of that summer systematically listening to the riffs, most of which had emanated from Hetfield’s guitar, earmarking 50 he thought worthy of a new Metallica album. He likens the band’s songwriting process to “landing planes – move this [riff ] over here, move this one over here. It’s an unusual way of doing it, but that’s our way of doing it.” Do you ever worry that, while wading through all those ideas, you’ve missed something amazing? “I always worry that I’ve missed something amazing!” he splutters. “But what I increasingly hang my hat on is there is such a wealth of material that even if I

“My relationship with Lars, we’ve been friends for a long time,” says Hetfield. “We hate each other, we love each other, but at the end of the day we realise, this works.”

Editor Rod Yates wrote the Amity Affliction cover story in RS 779. 50 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

of rock & roll history contained within. At the base of the stairs leading to Studio A, the wall is lined with framed covers of a selection of the albums recorded here: AC/DC’s Back In Black; Kiss’s Destroyer; Patti Smith’s Horses; David Bowie’s Young Americans; the Clash’s Combat Rock; Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book. Later in the afternoon, someone will put Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland on the turntable in the lounge area – the guitarist founded the studio in 1970 – and Trujillo will spend minutes staring longingly at the record’s cover. If these walls could talk, they would surely sing. This time yesterday Ulrich was addressing a group of 40 journalists in Studio A, who were about to be played Hardwired . . . To Self-Destruct in full. “I think there’s more people in this room hearing it [now] than have heard it to this point,” he offered, bouncing into the room and immediately ingratiating himself by shaking hands and conducting a snap poll of where each journalist is from. The album was, he explains, finished 13 days ago, “so it’s freshly baked”, but beyond the most basic details – it was recorded by producer Greg Fidelman, who engineered 2008’s Death Magnetic and has been working with the band ever since; it was recorded solely at the band’s HQ in San Francisco – that’s about all he really wants to impart, looking to co-manager

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miss something amazing, there’s something else amazing right next to it. James Hetfield is so unbelievably prolific.” “I’ll just keep writing, whether we do an album or not,” says Hetfield, 53, a few hours later, sipping a cup of tea in the lounge area connected to Studio A. “OK, now I’ve got 5,000 riffs. But who cares? Is any of that good? Is any of that relevant? That’s the most important question, I think. But Lars is very adamant about documenting everything. He’s like our sec-

Self-Destruct will be released, and through which they began their campaign of re-releases earlier this year with lavish reissues of 1983’s Kill ’Em All and 1984’s Ride the Lightning; in 2013 they became the first band in the world to perform on every continent after playing a gig in Antarctica; and in the same year they released a movie, Through the Never, which was part concert film, part fictional drama, and all financial disaster. “Through the Never was a wild journey that obviously cost a lot of m money, and we took a little bit of a b beating in that whole experience,” ssays Trujillo, 51, reclining on a couch iin Studio C in a Thrasher shirt, blue


METAL MILITIA Above: Ulrich (left) and Hetfield (right) with bassist Cliff Burton in 1984. 2016 marks 30 years since Burton was killed while on tour in Sweden. Right: In December 2013, Metallica performed their ‘Freeze ’Em All’ show in Antarctica.

retary, man,” cackles the singer. “He writes down everything, and when I’m warming up, listening to the sound [of the guitar] he’s like, ‘Hey! What was that? You recorded that, right? That’s going to be a great riff !’ Oh my god, where does this end?! [He’s] a hoarder! [He’s] a riff hoarder!” For Hetfield, the path to Hardwired . . . To Self-Destruct began in earnest after the “Lords of Summer” single was released in 2014 to accompany their ‘Metallica By Request’ tour of South America and Europe. “It was like, ‘Hey, we can write a song. We haven’t forgotten, and this feels good to play a new song, let’s get in there and continue that.’” That the realisation they could still write a song sounds like something of a revelation is in part due to the fact that in the years since wrapping up their Death Magnetic world tour in Melbourne in late2010, Metallica seemed to do anything they could to avoid writing a new record. In 2011 they collaborated with Lou Reed on the much-maligned Lulu; in 2012 they founded their own festival, Orion Music + More, which was shelved after 2013’s event for financial reasons; in 2012 they founded their own record label, Blackened Recordings, on which Hardwired . . . To D e c e m b e r , 2 016

denim jacket, black Cons and black jeans. He speaks with a So-Cal drawl, his eyes darting around the room, only meeting yours when he arrives at the conclusion of his point. “But I believe that with Metallica you take chances, and sometimes you’re humbled by the chances you take, and you bounce back. And in bouncing back you become stronger and get more fuel for the fire.” “We have to keep changing it up, and doing things in order to not feel that we’re stuck in a status quo,” says Ulrich. “Back in the day we’d make a record, go on tour, and then disappear for two years. The last time we disappeared was 2005, we shut down for almost a year. But we haven’t shut down for the better part of 10 or 12 years. We’ll play some shows, play some festivals, work on some songs, we’ll do a movie, play some more festivals, go to the Antarctic, do different shit and mix it up. That’s fun.” On the rare occasion that Metallica do close up shop, odds are it will be shortlived, and based around school holidays. Recording sessions for Hardwired . . . also made concessions to school schedules. “We made a conscious decision to make this record at home, in our own building

and studio, and that was great, but with being at home comes domestic responsibilities,” reasons Ulrich. “At 2.45 when I have to go to school pick-up and we’re in the middle of some super cool thing, it’s not easy to walk out of the studio. But you still do it. It’s severely important for us to keep our domestic responsibilities intact.” That was famously a big bone of contention between yourself and James around the making of ‘St. Anger’. You seem much more at peace with it now? “Listen, you’re 35 years into your career, there’s obviously going to be bumps in the road, so obviously that was a pretty significant bump, and we dealt with it for a couple of years and worked our way out of it. And all that’s a distant memory, that’s 15 years ago. “It takes effort, trust me, to preserve the wellbeing of the collective. But we prioritise that wellbeing almost more than anything, and I think that’s part of the reason we’re still functioning so well.” When Robert Trujillo first joined Suicidal Tendencies in 1989, he’d go jogging while listening to Ride the Lightning and Slayer’s Reign In Blood on his Walkman, and today says that “to be able to join [Metallica] and be a part of that tribe is really special”. Though he joined the band in 2003 in time to tour behind that year’s St. Anger, he regards Hardwired . . . as his second proper record with the band, Death Magnetic being his first. He concedes that while that album was very much a collaborative effort between all four members, Hardwired . . . “is more centred around James’s riffs and supporting those riffs”. It’s an album, he says, that taught him about “simplicity” with his playing, “something I never really thought about before, in terms of heavy music”. It’s also a record, he believes, that has set Metallica up for the future. “We didn’t blow our wad on this album,” he smiles. “There’s still more wad to blow.”

ome time ago, james hetfield started noticing two fans in the crowd who had become regulars at Metallica shows. At each gig, they held in their hands a poster of a girl, and when Hetfield got the opportunity to meet them he asked why. “[The guy] said, ‘My wife and I weren’t fans of the band, but we are now. Because our daughter was a big fan, and she got killed by a drunk driver.’” He sighs. “She was young. How could you not be pissed off ? How could you not want to go after somebody? But what they chose to

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do was embrace the music she loved and get to know her through the music and connect that way instead. They continue to show up at shows, which I love. We’re friends now. And they’ve gotten through something that I don’t think I could get through.” The experience informed the lyrics to “Here Comes Revenge”, one of 12 songs on Hardwired . . . To Self-Destruct that sees Hetfield tackle an array of topics, some focused inward – “Am I Savage?” is about the “realisation that there’s a beast in me, and there’s a beauty in me too . . . that I can go from being super nice to some fucked up beast that has no real filter or common sense” – others taking in events such as the death of Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister, to whom “Murder One” is something of a tribute. His passing brought Hetfield’s own mortality into clearer focus. “Absolutely. No one is immune from death. Lemmy was a huge influence on our band, as a musician, as an attitude. Lemmy was grounded, humble, hilarious and really strong. And to know that he too is mortal, that rocked our world.” Also under the microscope are Hetfield’s myriad relationships with those around him, including Ulrich. 52 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

HIT THE LIGHTS Metallica at Webster Hall on September 27th. “[Playing] ‘Orion’ was a very emotional moment for me,” says Hammett.

“Lars is, ‘I have to do everything, or else it’s wrong.’ He’s got the weight of so much on him. And ‘Atlas, Rise!’ started out as a, ‘Here, let me help you with that. You don’t need to carry all that, brother.’ And then it morphed into more – and this is not specifically him, but I’m plugging him into this – I think he likes that. There’s a drama that makes him work, and we all have a bit of that. He wants the control but he doesn’t really have control. The illusion of control, and then the ability to complain about how you have to do everything yourself, and then you still do it.” He chuckles. “There’s some ‘Psych 101’. But relationships, my God, every day I learn something, and relationships are teaching me about what’s important. I went through a lot of stuff in 2001 [as captured in the Some Kind Of Monster documentary], that was kind of my freak-out period, realising my life is not working how it is now. And it took a huge bottom to realise that. And I think everyone in the band has hit their bottom in a certain way, a different

way, over the past 10 years. There’s been some realisations. It’s just the age – between 45 and 55. Fifties. That’s a number where you think, what the fuck am I doing? [Life’s] more than half over! But the relationship with Lars, we’ve been friends for a long time, it’s lasted longer than all the marriages in the band. God, we hate each other, and we love each other, and it morphs, it changes, but at the end of the day we realise, this works. And we’re a good team, man. Trusting him: ‘Yeah, I’ve got 800 riffs, and here they are. You edit them, you pick out the good stuff.’” Once upon a time would that not have happened? “Hell no!” Earlier in the afternoon, Trujillo related a story about a conversation he had with Hetfield after the Webster Hall show. “I was talking to James and he was saying, ‘I can’t believe there’s so much excitement around this album.’ Not to say we don’t believe in the album, just because as you get older and make music, you never know what the reception’s going to be like.” If there’s one member of Metallica who’s felt the barbs of public opinion a little more acutely than the rest, it may well be guitarist Kirk Hammett. Today the 53-year-old is sitting underneath a painting of a naked D e c e m b e r , 2 016

woman in a dimly-lit room attached to Studio A, dressed in black jeans and shoes, a white collared shirt with patterns of blue flowers unbuttoned over a black singlet. His trademark black curls are peppered with grey, and when he gets animated he speaks with a slightly exaggerated flamboyance that is as intense as it is endearing. He’s proud of his playing on the new album because he didn’t work out his solos in advance, and instead “wanted to capture the moment, the raw spontaneity, the raw emotion, whatever I was feeling at that moment while I was in the studio”. Whatever the fan reaction, though, he’s unlikely to see it, having sworn off reading online comments some time ago. “It’s hard to walk away and say, this just glides off me, it’s not the case,” he explains. “My attitude, the healthy one that I’ve adopted is, I made the best fucking album I could make at the time, I played the very best that I could at this point in time, and I’m pleased with the results. And that’s all that really fucking matters. And the perfect example for that is Lulu. I think it’s some of the best stuff we’ve ever done. I think it’s a real fucking piece of art, we really went out on a limb. It means so much to me I’m just going to hold it close to my heart. And I’m going to draw a boundary around it to protect my thoughts and my feelings about the album.” He smiles. “Can you tell I’ve had a lot of therapy? My shrink would be so happy right now, he’d be jumping up and down saying, ‘Tell ’em, Kirk!’” What have you had therapy for? “Dealing with my own interpretations of my own fucking brain. I need a lot of therapy. I’m broken. My theory is that Lars, James, Rob and I were broken very, very early in life, and that’s why we became musicians, and the kind of musicians we are. A lot of anger and frustration, and needing a way to express and channel that. And I like to think that’s why we found each other, that’s why we were initially attracted, because we all had that in our personalities, and more importantly, when we pick up our instruments, the stuff that comes up is all congruent because we all come from the same sort of brokenness. “And I like using ‘broken’ as a term. It’s James’s term; if I had to use a different [one] I’d say we all came from really bad upbringings, we all had our challenges and had things happen to us that impacted us negatively in our life. But I also think that, fuck, man, that was done for a reason. It was done so we can do what we do and do it in a way that might help anyone else that’s going through some fucking shit. I know to no small extent that we’ve

all gone to music as a therapeutic device. I think that’s why we’re so wrapped up in all this. It’s so intertwined in our make-up.”

hen metallica took the stage at Webster Hall last night, they did so knowing it was 30 years to the day since the death of bassist Cliff Burton, who was killed when the band’s tour bus crashed in Sweden in the early hours of September 27th, 1986. Their performance of “Orion” – the Burton-co-penned instrumental from Master of Puppets that in many ways has become the bassist’s musical signature – concluded with Hetfield looking upwards and saying, “Love you, Cliff.” “I knew it was Cliff’s death day yesterday,” sighs Hammett. “John Marshall, who

going, ‘It can go this way, it can go that way, we can make it faster or we can make it slower, we can make it heavier we can make it lighter.’ Nowadays it’s like everything is a fork in the road. And back then everything was instinct. When we wrote Master of Puppets there were 20 ideas and 15 of them were used in the songs. Now there’s 1600 ideas. Everything’s so fucking overwhelming these days.” “What have we lost?” ponders Hetfield. “The ease, maybe. The ease of just showing up. Playing a show like we did last night reminds me of how fun it was in the clubs, how on the Monsters of Rock tours we’d show up early and play our set and then we’d get to hang out and watch the other bands. I miss that part. Not being the headliner. But I don’t want to jinx that either!” These days there are reminders of Metallica’s past at every turn. 2016 may be the year the band release their 10th studio album, but it also marks 35 years since they formed; 30 years since Master of Puppets and the passing of Burton; 25 since the Black album; 20 since Load. And with all the rights to their catalogue now in the hands of Blackened Recordings (“Our managers were very anticipatory back in the day and negotiated some things where all that just ended up in our lap,” says Ulrich), and with the process of reissuing those albums already under way, Metallica now walk that fine line between being a relevant act producing new music and one with an eye on curating and dictating their own legacy. “Those aren’t maybe the choices of words that are . . .” starts Ulrich. “The word legacy is not something . . .” He pauses. “It’s obviously to a degree what your fans want, so it’s about finding the balance between what you’re willing to share. And if you don’t do it yourself, other people will do it instead. It’s almost like there’s a responsibility to get some of it done yourself.” “I’m always looking for the next thing,” says Hetfield. “I’m a ‘moreaholic’. I want the next great thing, and it’s usually the next great riff, the next great guitar sound, the next great lyric. The next one will be better. The next album will be better. And I just have faith in that. I would never look back, ’cause I might get lazy or rest on [my] laurels.” “I think we’re doing damned good for a bunch of old fuckers,” adds Hammett. “But we’re still fucking angry, and we’re still motivated, and we still have a lot of fucking ideas, and there’s still a lot of shit we want to do. And the passion’s still there. So I don’t think we’re going to be going anywhere soon.”


“When we wrote ‘Master of Puppets’, there were 20 ideas and 15 of them were used,” says Ulrich. “Now there’s 1600 ideas. Everything’s so overwhelming.”

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was my guitar tech during the Master of Puppets tour, texted me early yesterday morning just one word: ‘Cliff ’. And that sent a fucking huge lump to my throat, and I thought, well, this is one of the fucking rare occasions where we’re actually playing a show on his death day, let’s play ‘Orion’ as a tribute to him. It was a very emotional moment for me last night.” His voice breaks. “I still get emotional talking about Cliff. As time goes on I miss him more. I just long for his presence.” The last years of Burton’s life are commemorated in Metallica: Back to the Front, the recently released visual history of the making of 1986’s Master of Puppets and subsequent tour. In a YouTube video of Ulrich flipping through the book, he pauses on a page and remarks, “What happened to all that innocence?” It’s a reminder that for all that Metallica have gained over the past three-and-a-half decades, they’ve lost plenty along the way too. “Brain cells. Hair,” laughs Ulrich. “But the thing I miss the most is, when I think back to those early years, I felt that our decision making process was way more instinctive, in terms of musical choices. Nowadays we’re really, really good at what we do, and with that and the amount of material we have, there’s so many choices, you almost get bogged down. When I think back and we were writing Ride the Lightning, I don’t remember sitting there

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Tkay Maidza: Revenge of the Nerd Rising hip-hop star Tkay Maidza graduated from school at 16 but her debut album bristles with unfinished business By Michael Dwyer


t first glance, you might think it’s a big car for such a compact driver. But the girl with masses of black hair spilling past the seat of her brown corduroy dungarees owns it in every sense of the term. Besides, actually, she doesn’t much care what you think. She does a hasty sweep of the passenger seat, dumps the odd takeaway container in the back and hits the ignition. She presses a Doc Marten boot to the accelerator and the red-and-white probationary plate starts jiggling conspicuously from the windscreen. “I woulda been off my Ps by now,” Tkay Maidza says, “but I got done for speeding. Sixty-five in a 60 zone.” She glances sideways with a hint of injustice as she steers the


wide crimson Jeep through the suburban roundabouts of the late afternoon. “I did all my driving lessons in these streets. Ah, good times,” she chuckles. We pass the tennis club where she played “all through high school” – which actually amounts to just three years of an unsettled childhood bouncing from Zimbabwe via Perth, Kalgoorlie and Whyalla. But it was here in Adelaide that she’d make her mark. The proof is painted on a wall of St Michael’s College, the co-ed Catholic high where she graduated at the tender age of 16, five short years ago. Crimson beast parked, we stroll through iron gates, past the semi-circular façade of the art department, and left into a secluded courtyard dominated by a recently commissioned pop-art portrait of a dark-skinned girl with deep brown eyes.

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TK AY MAIDZA How does it feel? “Pretty strange,” she concedes, standing in front of her stylised self, spray-painted in cartoon colours on larger-than-life panels by local street artist Vans the Omega. “I did a lot of art in my last year of high school,” she says, snooping in windows in the hope of recognising a former teacher. “My goal was to be dux for art. I really wanted to be the top art student. I came second ’cause I was moderated down. So sad! But it was OK. I’m fine with it now.” Revenge, after all, is a dish best served cold. In a sense, that’s what Tkay is: a debut album on a major international label by a 20-year-old rapper with a sweet smile and a playful middle finger to a world where she never quite belonged. “Yes, I’m a selfmade disaster/But there won’t be anyone after/They’ll look up my name/And they will see my reign was/Hard work to experience rapture.” In classic hip-hop style, there might be a syllable or two of hyperbole in the album’s opening proclamation of all-time supremacy – especially from one who acknowledges with a wink in the following track, “I’m still kinda young”. In truth, her three-year rise from Triple J’s Unearthed surprise pile to a guest rap from Killer Mike, via a Twitter commercial for Pope Francis (nope, not kidding), has seemed more effortless than ball-breaking. The “self-made” part, though, is pretty much the story of Takudzwa Maidza’s life. “I moved to Australia in 2001,” she begins, seated now at a café window overlooking the beach she barely visited while growing up in the surrounding streets. “We were in Perth for six or eight months and that was when my parents were flying in and flying out to [Port] Hedland and other [mining] towns up there. “I’d be staying with family friends because my parents were never home. I was like five, six years old.” Hmm, sounds like a lifelong separation anxiety complex in the making. “Not really,” she smiles. “I think when you’re five you’re just excited to stay with your friends all the time.” Her parents’ mining boom credentials – she a metallurgist, he an industrial chemist – ensured a life of “constantly moving, ever since I was born”, Maidza says. “Even when we were in Zimbabwe, we were always moving between our home, our grandparents’ home and our aunties’ and uncles’.” Moves to Kalgoorlie in 2002, then Whyalla in 2005, were unencumbered by strings of any kind. “I wasn’t really attached to anyone, so one day my mum said, ‘Do you wanna move away from Kalgoorlie?’ I was just like, ‘Sure’. It was strange sometimes, because I felt like an outsider for a lot of the time. But I learned to use that as an adSenior writer Michael Dw y er wrote about Kim Salmon in RS 780. 56 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

vantage. When I was misunderstood it was like, ‘Oh, they don’t know me anyway, so whatever.’ I probably had the idea that I was always going to leave soon anyway.” With hindsight, she traces that attitude of self-reliance to her mother, Jenet. “She encouraged me to focus on what I wanted to do and stay true to myself and not feel bad for not being close to people, ’cause when you move on, people fall off anyway. It wasn’t really a bad thing. Nothing personal,” she says with a slightly wicked chuckle. Music, however, was more of a blood relation than a fleeting acquaintance. Tkay’s uncles include Andy Brown, the outspoken Harare folk legend who passed in 2012; and Teboho Maidza, no stranger to the art of rap via his ongoing tenure in South African ska outfit the Rudimentals. Her father, Munya, is also a musician. He taught her guitar for a short while in Whyalla, until young Tkay decided she pre-

“I felt like an outsider,” says Maidza of her childhood. “I learned to use that as an advantage.” ferred tennis (“I’m in this alone, these posers think they win but don’t,” she boasts on “Tennies”). School friend Ethan Schmitt remembers her prowess on the court – and also a burgeoning love of R&B kickstarted by Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok”. “She was always on top of the newest upcoming artists,” he says. “But as far as recording her own stuff goes, I never had any idea she was into that until she moved to Adelaide and started posting things on YouTube and Facebook. I guess I was surprised, but she was always very artistic; very expressive.” It was in a house just a stone’s throw from this café that Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy offered her a place she could move into and make her own. “I really liked the song ‘Power’, so that was my first remix,” she says. “I ripped the song off YouTube, just an instrumental, recorded my voice to it and then cut his vo-

cals into random parts. I rewrote the lyrics and restructured the song to suit myself and made a video of me performing it. I put it on YouTube just as a joke.” The video is long deleted, she says without regret. “I think I was just reinterpreting what he was saying. It was the beginning of me expressing my anger towards friends and whatever, non-friends. It was the first time I’ve ever written anything and recorded it. I would just talk about cats and dogs and . . . just a teenager being silly. But realising I can rhyme words.” And fast. “Yeah. I think that was always there. Busta Rhymes’ ‘Look At Me Now’ [with Chris Brown] came out around that time too, and just the ability to rhyme fast was amusing to everyone so I was like, ‘Oh, this is fun. I wonder how many words I can fit into a sentence?’ My parents would take me to parties and sometimes I’d be entertainment. My dad would be playing the same night as well, and I’d just be playing all these covers. Whenever I rhymed fast it was like, ‘Oh, that’s amazing.’ It wasn’t like they knew what I was saying but they were amused because it was so fast.” It was two long bus rides north, in the outer working class suburb of Elizabeth, that Maidza began to formalise her hiphop education. Northern Sound System is a community resource centre where “they teach kids how to write and record pop music”, she explains. “I would just attend. I wouldn’t record anything. I’d just stay back and watch people.” Project officer Nick O’Connor remembers a slightly more forward newcomer arriving with her mother to sign up to the facility’s artist development program. “She was always super confident, as a person and as a vocalist,” he says, “really free-flowing with her lyric writing process.” One day she laid down a couple of verses in the recording studio and “it was killer”, he recalls with a laugh. “A bit more killer than average.” He started sending her raw rhymes to a local producer, Bad Cop, and the tracks that came back – “Handle My Ego” and “Brontosaurus” – surprised nobody more than the rapper herself. “I was confused because I didn’t really understand dubstep,” Maidza says. “I just liked pop and R&B music so . . . it might have been just a little bit too strange for me. But I had all these people encouraging me to upload it to Unearthed, so . . .” A few spins on Triple J’s breakfast show had the phones ringing and DJs, booking agents, managers and record labels suddenly circling a 16-year-old tennis enthusiast from nobody-quite-knew-where. “That was straight after I finished high school,” she recalls. “My dad knew what Triple J was and he thought it was really amazing because I think he’d been uploading songs to UnD e c e m b e r , 2 016


The Big Stage (1) Maidza performing at Splendour in the Grass in Byron Bay on July 24th last year. (2) In Zimbabwe around the age of three or four. Maidza moved with her family to Australia in 2001. (3) With Vans the Omega’s portrait of Maidza at St Michael’s College in Henley Beach, Adelaide.



earthed himself. I told my mum I was going to take a gap year and that I wanted to be a musician and she said, ‘What? How?’ I didn’t really have a plan so she said, ‘Well, you better go to university.’” As it happened, the architecture degree at Adelaide Uni didn’t occupy too much of her time. In 2013, she made a splash at the Bigsound music biz gathering in Brisbane, signed to Universal Music under the Dew Process umbrella, and even jumped the commercial radio divide with a debut EP, Switch Tape. Tracks like “Switch Lanes” and “M.O.B.” (“money over bitches”) crackled with the personality of a lifelong outsider who, well, kinda liked it that way. “I don’t know why they think we’re alike,” she sings in the former. “I don’t know why they think we’re the same. They link it up but I know I’ll switch lanes.” The air of the staunchly self-determined lone traveller is thicker still on the Tkay album. Its recording was a protracted process spanning Adelaide to Los Angeles, another change of landscape she took in her stride – but this time without the perennial assurance of the family home. D e c e m b e r , 2 016

“Sometimes I felt really lonely, but the more I went there the more I realised what being an adult was,” she says. “It was great to have that independence and the confidence to think, ‘OK. I need to travel from Venice Beach to Hollywood and it’s midnight after a session’, but it was fine.” The grown-up world may have been dawning on the horizon, but as far as her writing was concerned, there was plenty of unfinished business in the rearview mirror. “It’s sort of meant to be a day in the life of a schoolgirl,” she says of the album’s narrative, which comprises an ongoing conversation with some undefined schoolyard hassle she can’t wait to leave behind, a firm and not always polite kiss-off to some perceived nemesis. “Doubters, opposition,” she elaborates with a wave of her hand. “People who are trying to prove that they can do something better than me. It might not even be people. It might be, like, a group of things in my head that are trying to tell me what I can’t do. It’s the other little evil Tkay telling me, ‘No, that’s not right.’” She laughs at the image laid bare. Hardly the hip-hop hell-raiser, she recalls her years at St Michael’s as focused primarily on academic achievement and tennis, obsessions she used to cocoon herself from the adolescent politics of the schoolyard.

“I find it weirdly hard to socialise with people my own age,” she shrugs. “I can communicate with people older than me a lot better. I don’t know why.” Maybe the simple fact of being a slightly more worldly stranger in the belly of the insular white Aussie middleclass played some part in that? “I remember I definitely did have kids bullying me,” she concedes. “There were days when I’d get chased all the way home, but as soon as I was home I’d just forget about it and I didn’t tell my parents anything. It just felt normal for me to forget about it and move onto something else. I think I just focused on other positives.” Hey, no artist ever went far without something to kick against. “Yeah, ’cause it pushes you to do better. For me it does. Especially playing sport, you always have to beat someone. Even if it’s only yourself. “ W hen I f in ished t he album,” she grins, “I had lots of people saying, ‘Wow, this is really great’, but there’s always something in the back of my head saying, ‘They’re lying.’ I’ll always think someone hates me even if lots of people like me.” She laughs like she really, honestly couldn’t care less. 3


e f or e w e s a y goodbye to the old neighbourhood, there’s one last stop Maidza wants to make. We drive a couple of kilometres north, and pull up at a two-storey house opposite a vacant lot just inside the sand dunes. This is the first house she lived in when her family arrived from Whyalla. The one where she recorded her own voice on that Kanye West track. The first rap of the rest of her life. For a more sentimental person, it might be a moment to savour. But we’re back in the Jeep within a minute. “My ultimate,” she says, “would be to be like Rihanna and to live somewhere on an island where no one can find me and I can just make songs and I don’t have to show anyone and I’m just happy. Just to have that freedom and not have to worry about what people think of you but to be doing what you want to do at the same time . . . I’d like that. To be able to work with the best people and everyone’s like, ‘She can do whatever she wants ’cause she’s Tkay.’” An oncoming car momentarily blocks our way. “You know what?” she says to nobody in particular, then bounces the Jeep up, over the curb, across the traffic island and down the other side into a more accommodating lane. The P plate sways helplessly on the windscreen.

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KEEP IT SIMPLE Morrison onstage in Glasgow, 2015.

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Van Morrison The Rolling Stone Interview By DAVID FRICKE


h e a ns w er is qu ick , blu n t and impatient. “Yeah, yeah, I agree,” Van Morrison says, responding to a question about a song on his new album, Keep Me Singing. There is a brief silence. “What’s next?” ¶ I had asked him about the first lines on the record, which sum up Morrison’s life in music over five decades: “Put another coin in the wishing well/Tell everybody got to go to hell.” Pressed for additional comment, Morrison, 71, curtly declines. “No, you got it,” he says in his low brogue. “There’s no need to explain it any further.” ¶ It is a beautiful latesummer day in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where George Ivan Morrison was born on August 31st, 1945, the son of a shipyard electrician. Morrison now lives on the outskirts of the city, after years in America, England and Ireland. We are speaking in a hotel not far from his office, and just a short drive from Cyprus Avenue, a street he celebrated on his 1968 masterpiece, Astral Weeks. Across the River Lagan, in central Belfast, there is a commemorative plate marking the site of the city’s first R&B club, co-founded by Morrison as he launched his band Them. “I didn’t even know there was a plaque there,” says Morrison. “I should go and have a look at it.” ¶ It’s a rare admission of nostalgia during a conversation in which he often shows weariness with questions about his classic Sixties and Seventies records, and practically explodes with frustration over how his recent work is taken for

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Van Morrison granted. But the singer, wearing a lightblue shirt, a brown leather cap and tinted glasses, also smiles and laughs with surprising frequency. He said it was “exhilarating” to receive an honorary knighthood from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace in February. And Morrison can turn reflective when you least expect it – like when he’s asked if there was a real-life inspiration for the 1964 garage-rock anthem “Gloria”. “I had a cousin called Gloria,” he says. “She was 13 years older than me. So it was her name. It wasn’t about her.” There is another pause. “But that’s old history,” Morrison adds quickly, ready to move on. When did you first realise you had a voice – something unique as a singer? I don’t remember the exact date [grins]. I was a teenager – singing for myself, just learning. My father had a Grundig reel-toreel tape recorder. I was singing Leadbelly songs, and my father and uncle used to play harmonica. My father recorded some stuff. We played it back, and I was like, “Wow, I’ve definitely got a voice.” What did it sound like to you? It sounded like me trying to do Leadbelly songs. But I knew it was good. What inspired you to start a rhythm & blues club? You were 18 when you co-founded one at the Maritime Hotel and first played there with Them. I just wanted to play blues – that’s it. There was nothing here. There was a small group of people who were into blues and jazz. My father was one of them. That’s how I discovered it, through him and a guy named Solly Lipsitz, who had a record shop on High Street. My father took me there as a kid. It was called Atlantic Records, believe it or not. Solly’s sister lived in New York, and she got the records shipped over. What did you hear in American blues that touched you? It was working-class music. Workingclass would be different here. In America, working-class was more like middle class [for us]. Here it was getting by on nothing. I related to the lyrics in Chicago blues and the stuff I heard by John Lee Hooker, not from their point of view – it was from my point of view. It was the same with Hank Williams. He was a voice. Muddy Waters was a voice. They were both blues singers to me. . . . And a lot of people who immigrated to the

Southern states came from this area, here and Scotland. It’s genetic. How did Bob Dylan inspire you as a songwriter? You first covered “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” when you were in Them. I did something totally different with that song. My version – I owned it. I didn’t really connect with Dylan as a songwriter. I connected with what he was doing with the songs. My influences were black. I learned to write songs from Sam Cooke – the slow stuff – and the guys who were writing for Bobby “Blue” Bland. There’s this standard scenario: Everything here started with the Beatles [laughs]. I started way before that, mixing black influences with Jack Kerouac – On the Road, The Dharma Bums. That was my starting point, the Beats putting poetry – spoken word – and jazz together. What about Irish literature – writers like W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde? You’ve cited and drawn from it over the years. Were you reading them in school? No. I was reading Allen Ginsberg. But I was definitely influenced by William Blake – more Blake than Yeats. Blake was, in a lot of respects, a British nationalist. But he was beyond that as well in imagination and spirituality. You can’t get much more blues than “Let the Slave” [Morrison’s 1985 adaptation of a Blake poem]. I once saw Ginsberg do a gig at the Troubadour in L.A. He was doing Blake stuff. I thought, “This all connects.” You often write about Belfast, going back to “Cyprus Avenue”. On “Keep Me Singing”, in the blues “Going Down to Bangor”, you mention the local spots Cave Hill and Pickie Pool. It’s not about the actual place. It’s a satire, the whole thing – tongue-in-cheek. But I don’t analyse this. The words are there. If I had to explain them, I’d be somebody else. I would be . . . a critic. If you listen to the music, you get the sense. But songs are make-y up-y. It’s called poetic license. You add stuff, subtract stuff. Someone once called it “faction” – I still use that. That’s how it works. You lived in Northern California in the Seventies. Another new song, “In Tiburon”, is set in the Bay Area, with references to City Lights bookstore and seeing trumpeter Chet Baker at jazz clubs there. How true is that? That’s not about me. That’s about a certain era – the Beat poets, North Beach. I met Lawrence Ferlinghetti way back. I met Chet Baker much later in London. But it

“You get tired of the myths and don’t want to stay in the game. When you are famous you see the lies.”

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started with an idea. I was in this house in Tiburon, and this guy was showing me around. He was talking about this woman: “She likes to listen to your music and look out the window, and nobody can touch her.” I go, “This is a fucking song.” I didn’t start writing it until last year. But that had to be a song: She sits up here in the Bay and no one can touch her. It couldn’t be anything else. What were your first impressions of America when you toured with Them in 1966? I was just a kid. That was a three-month trip. I know we played in Portland, Oregon. We went to Hawaii for a couple of days, and there were gigs in the Bay Area. But it was mainly at the Whisky [in L.A.], playing there. When I came back as a solo artist, there was one hit [1967’s “Brown Eyed Girl”]. And there were no more hits after that [chuckles]. It was, “Who are you?” I got an award a couple of months ago. Somebody introduced me and said, “He was part of the British Invasion.” I got up and said, “Matter of fact, I was never part of the British Invasion. Because when I went to America as a solo artist, I couldn’t get arrested” – which was true. I had to go through several years of struggling and being blacklisted, all this crap that nobody writes about at all. That’s real history. Why were you blacklisted? Well, what do you think? I don’t actually understand why. You’re a singer. Well, you’re very naive. You shouldn’t be in the business you’re in. Because I didn’t go along with their program, that’s why. That’s the only reason why anybody’s blacklisted. Because you don’t want to be a fucking slave, right? They didn’t want anybody who wasn’t going to bend over for them. You’re not complying – and they want you to comply. All this bullshit about rebels and all that crap – they’re all establishment and complying all the time. All these so-called rebels, rock & roll bullshit – they’re all conformists. Real rebels are people like Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent. They were the real rebels, not these pretenders. You have a drive to do this – writing, recording, touring – your own way. It’s not a drive. It’s what I do. It’s like Robbie Robertson said to me: “It’s like breathing.” I’ve been doing a lot of touring in the past several years because I need the money. I was running out of money, paying for a lot of stuff. I had to go out there again. How do you write songs now? On the run – when I’m travelling or just driving. I pull over. I don’t do it like I used to. Now I’m running a fucking empire. And it’s a drag because I don’t get time to do what I really want to do. When do you feel like an album is taking shape? D e c e m b e r , 2 016


INTO THE MYSTIC Morrison and Dylan in 1984 (above). “I didn’t really connect with Dylan as a songwriter,” says Morrison. “I learned to write songs from Sam Cooke.” Left: Morrison circa 1971. “I was never part of the British Invasion. When I went to America as a solo artist, I couldn’t get arrested.”

It’s just what makes sense. You don’t analyse it. It’s whatever feels right at the time. There is recording going on all the time, whenever I can get the time to do it. Back when I was recording in the Seventies, people would think that if you put out an album, that was your life – that it was about that year in your life. But that’s not all that’s going on. There’s a lot more than what you’re hearing. I have so much unreleased stuff it makes my head spin. Back in the day, James Brown was putting out six albums a year, and two of them were instrumentals. You couldn’t do that now. People wouldn’t even know what that is. This is the thing: I have hundreds and hundreds of songs on recordings. There’s a lot of stuff people don’t write about. When they talk about the history, it’s the history from way back. What about the history after that? [Laughs] That’s the real hisD e c e m b e r , 2 016

tory, the stuff people don’t know. Get into that. If you want to know me, get into that. OK – what parts of your catalogue in the past 35 years do people need to know? Where do you want to start? Let’s start with this century. “Talk Is Cheap” [2002]; “Keep Mediocrity at Bay” [2005]; “Goldfish Bowl”, “Get On With the Show”, “Too Many Myths” [all from 2003] – “Too many myths/People just assuming things that aren’t true/ There’s too many myths/Coming between me and you.” Somebody said to me, “Why are you saying that? You’ve got everything. You’re at the top.” I’m like, “You’re not listening to the song” – “There’s just too many myths/Can’t you see I’m just trying to stay in the game?” That’s the reality of it. You get tired of the myths, so you don’t want to stay in the game. People don’t see that. They see you’re successful. You’re “sir” this and “sir” that, and everything’s great. That’s the lie. When you’re famous, you see the lies. If you knew then, as a young man, what you know now about the music business, would you have become a singer?

I have no idea. I didn’t have any choice. There was no Internet, no DIY, no makeyour-own-CDs. People didn’t have anything here. Like you Americans say, they didn’t have a thin dime. And we had even less than that. They owned the game, and basically they owned you. So I don’t know. That is speculation. But speculation is a luxury for people who haven’t had anything bad happen to them – yet. I didn’t have that luxury. I had to tote that barge, lift that bale and do what the boss man said. Do you feel in control now? More in control. But that has to be fought for, lest you become complacent. The minute you start getting comfortable, that’s it. [He mimes smacking himself on the side of the head] So you never get comfortable. Because people will take advantage. That’s the way of the world. What goes through your head now when you’re onstage? What state of mind are you in as you sing? It’s Zen. You can’t have all these thoughts, because you’re focused on doing it. You’re not thinking, “Did I do my laundry?” You don’t have time to think. If you start thinking, you get lost. You have to be there. You perform with intense concentration, whereas many singers express themselves physically, like James Brown and his leg splits. But that’s James Brown [laughs]. I just stand still. When I started out, I was doing all this crazy stuff. But then other people came on TV; they were doing that. So when I went out, people thought, “Oh, you’re copying so-and-so.” They didn’t know I was doing it before. So I just stopped doing it. I thought, “Fuck you, I’m just going to stand still.” I’m doing vocal gymnastics. What are your future plans? I understand you are writing a memoir. I’ve been compiling stuff over the last 40 years, just talking into a tape recorder. There’s stuff I’ve had typed up over the years. But it’s not something that has been consistent. It’s been very inconsistent, as a matter of fact. I’ve got a lot of unreleased music I need to get out, from all periods. And I’ve got loads of really good live stuff from the last 10 years. It’s just getting an outlet. I’m not going to do it through a major label. I’m just going to do it independently – websites or whatever. Do you listen to music online? No, unless I’m working on a project. I’ll get it on the iPod to listen to. I don’t listen to a lot of music. But what do you turn to, for medicine and comfort? Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, the Modern Jazz Quartet – any kind of good jazz. I always go back to that.

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OUTSIDE THE BOX Ingels’ first major project, the VM Houses, is a public residential complex in Denmark.


Inside the hyperactive life – and controversial success – of Bjarke Ingels, the world’s hottest architect




he con voy of buses depar ted from the Pa la z zo on a cloudless spring morning, rolling onto a muted Las Vegas Strip and toward the Nevada desert. The buses carried a group of tech journalists, venture capitalists, curious engineers and startup-culture hype merchants – along with, not incidentally, one of the world’s most celebrated architects, Bjarke Ingels – passing sere mountain ranges and spiky yucca trees and a shimmering field of solar panels before finally arriving, after nearly an hour, at their destination: a compound of trailers and shipping containers surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. Someone made a nuclear-test-site joke. We’d come to witness the first-ever public demonstration of a new super sonic transportation venture called Hyperloop One. Tech billionaire Elon Musk had roughed out the concept in 2013 and given his blessing to the founders, though he wasn’t directly involved himself. Essentially, the plan was for Hyperloop to revolutionise freight and passenger travel by shooting pods through pressurised tubes at speeds of more than 1,100 kph – faster than a commercial airplane! – using a zeroemission electric-propulsion system. This could mean half-hour trips from Canberra to Melbourne. The test run, an early trial of the propulsion system, occurred without a hitch. After a Cape Canaveral-style countdown, a railed sled blasted off from a resting state to 186 kph in just over one second, sending up a roostertail of sand on the back end. The crowd cheered, despite the somewhat anticlimactic brevity of the spectacle. Amid the excitement in the grandstand, very few people took notice of the handsome, stocky Dane in the sleek black windbreaker, a boxy, retro camera hanging from a strap around his neck. At 41, Bjarke Ingels could be fairly described as architect-famous, meaning people outside of his profession might be able to finger one of the buildings he’s designed, but not the man himself. In person, he exudes a boyish charisma that one minute suggests a Silicon Valley wunderkind and the next a president of a frat house. He speaks basically flawless English and often seems amused by the world around him, especially if there’s a hurried or chaotic element to the scene – a mood he’ll signal with a roguish grin, as if he’s revelling This is contributing editor Mark Binelli’s first feature for RS Australia. 64 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

in everyone else sweating it. His most dis- ian assignments into dazzling, visionary tinctive features are his eyes, which are structures. His first major buildings were such dark pools you can practically see affordable-housing complexes in Copenhayour own twin reflections in them. Though gen, one of which wrapped around its twin not today: Here in the desert, he’s wearing courtyards in the shape of a gigantic figa pair of aviator sunglasses with lenses so ure eight. (A sloping bike path traced the flat that to look upon them feels disorient- perimeter, allowing residents to cycle all ing, like staring at the surface of a glass of- the way up the building’s 10 stories.) Later, fice tower designed to repel birds and bul- he was tapped by the city of Copenhagen lets and building-scaling human flies. to design a waste-to-energy plant – a garIngels has come to Las Vegas because bage incinerator. For that project, currenthis firm, the Bjarke Ingels Group, a.k.a. ly under construction and set to fully open BIG – he possesses a fatal weakness for in 2018, Ingels decided to transform the lame puns – has partnered with Hy- slanted roof into a seven-and-a-half-acre perloop to design its pods and stations. ski slope. To remind citizens of their carNoting that the Danish word for design, bon footprint, the plant will also feature formgivning, translates literally as “form- a towering chimney that will emit enorgiving”, Ingels is particularly excited about mous, perfectly circular “smoke” rings (acthe Hyperloop project because, he tells me, tually made of steam) each time the plant “This is the first time we’ve really been able pumps a ton of carbon dioxide into the atto do it – to give a form to something com- mosphere. pletely new.” When Ingels started out, he had a single The ecstatic, futuristic sensibility pres- partner; they worked and lived together in ent in all of Ingels’ work makes him a the same apartment. Today, BIG has 100 perfect fit with Hyperloop. The render- employees in Copenhagen and 150 in New ings in BIG’s two monoYork, with 40 different graphs, Yes Is More – see projects in the works what I mean about the worldwide, all showcasIngels rejects puns? – and Hot to Cold, ing BIG’s overriding aesthe “puritan could easily adorn a City thetic, a blend of an inof Tomorrow pavilion at clusive, at times madcap concept” of a world’s fair. But Hyperplayfulness with a serisacrifice for loop is just one of a dizous devotion to sustainsustainability. zying number of highability and innovation. “Instead of profile, extraordinarily A new stadium for trying to ambitious commissions the Washington RedBIG is presently juggling. skins will be surroundchange The list also includes the ed by a moat instead of people,” he new Googleplex, a full a fence, where tailgaters says, “change redesign of the compawill be able to kayak or the world.” ny’s 60-acre Mountain hang out on a man-made View, California, headbeach. The Google headquarters; the Big U, a quarters, a joint project sea wall girding Lower with the British archiManhattan as flood protect Thomas Heathertection from sea-levwick, will be composed el rise, for which Ingels of a series of glass-canowas awarded $335 milpied “microclimates”; inlion to design; a $2 billion reworking of side, modular office spaces will be stacked the Southern Campus of the Smithson- and shuffled on-demand by crabots. (Yes, ian Institution in Washington, D.C.; and robot cranes.) A pavilion designed by In2 World Trade Center, the final of the new gels for London’s Serpentine Galleries, untowers scheduled to rise from Ground veiled this European summer, is made of Zero, a 3 million-square-foot building that open-ended fiberglass boxes that Ingels looks like a stack of seven children’s blocks himself, in an Instagram post, compared – in profile, a staircase, with each of the to the building blocks from Minecraft; his “steps” sporting a rooftop garden inspired Lego museum, currently under construcby a different climate. tion in Denmark, looks as if it’s made out Because of the prohibitive costs in- of gargantuan Lego bricks. volved, it’s highly unusual for an archiThe 35-floor VIA 57 West in New York, tect as young as Ingels to be snagging such Ingels’ first completed residential buildcoveted assignments; most of the world’s ing in North America – and his first comnoted “starchitects” – Frank Gehry, Dan- pleted skyscraper anywhere – is a gleamiel Libeskind, Richard Meier, Jean Nou- ing pyramid overlooking the Hudson vel – are at least a generation or two older. River. From across the river in New JerIn fact, Ingels’ international fame is a rel- sey, it could almost pass for the sail of an atively recent development, having come enormous ship. Between VIA 57 West, after he turned a series of rather quotid- the Big U and 2 WTC (along with proposD e c e m b e r , 2 016

BUILDING MASTER As a child in Denmark, Ingels and his dad built “Fort Bjarke” in the backyard (right). He’s now heading 40 designs worldwide. Below: Ingels sketching ideas for the Hyperloop, a high-speed transport system, with then-project CTO BamBrogan.


that’s why we can also explain it. The fact that something is actually understandable and relatable doesn’t mean that it’s unsophisticated or banal. It just means that it’s crystal-clear. And if you can’t explain it, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s so brilliant that ordinary mortals can’t fathom it. It might just mean that it makes no sense.” als for a skyscraper at the north end of the High Line and a reinvented building exterior near Penn Station), Ingels could be poised to reshape the look of Manhattan like no other architect in recent memory. Writing in Vanity Fair, the venerable architecture critic Paul Goldberger described Ingels’ proposed 2 World Trade Center as “one of the more provocative and notable towers of the last generation”. And Aaron Betsky, the dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, has written for the blog Dezeen that Ingels “is the architect my students love more than any other designer working today”. That said, there’s often a slightly patronising quality to the praise Ingels receives, a scepticism of a messenger so adept at popularising a profession as theory-bound as architecture. I met Ingels for the first time the day after he’d been the subject of a largely laudatory 60 Minutes segment, and he felt the piece portrayed him as a “salesman”. Later, he elaborated, “I think the biggest backhanded criticism-compliment I get is that I’m ‘good at communicating’. Which implies that you’re bad at doing. To me, it’s a strength that there’s clarity. We know what we’re doing, and D e c e m b e r , 2 016

he day before the desert test, Hyperloop made its initial presentation in a Gehry-designed event centre in downtown Las Vegas. Ingels, who’d only just flown in from New York, where he now lives, arrived late, sliding into his seat in time to hear Brogan BamBrogan, the co-founder of Hyperloop, describe him as “fucking rad” from the stage. As a product of Silicon Valley, Hyperloop, which has raised $100 million in startup capital, was selling itself to potential investors by using the language of both utopian science fiction and P.T. Barnum. To that end, we weren’t being introduced to some mundane tweak on an old concept like high-speed rail; no, Hyperloop, per its website, was “reinventing transportation to eliminate barriers of time and distance”. BIG’s own sensibility, drawing as it does from startup culture’s tech-friendly optimism and careful eye for storytelling, feels thoroughly compatible with BamBrogan’s pitch. “Our cities are not polluted or congested because they have to be,” Ingels writes in Yes Is More. “They are what they are because that’s how we made them.” Later in the book, he makes the case

for what he calls “hedonistic sustainability” – a sustainability that, through smarter design and technology, rejects the old “puritan concept where you’re not supposed to take long warm showers or take long-distance flights for holidays”, and essentially allows people to get exactly what they want without making any sacrifices in aesthetics or comfort. “Instead of trying to change people,” Ingels insists, “we could change the world.” After the presentation, Ingels makes his way to the open bar and orders a vodka and soda. “I’ve been an architect for 20 years, and it’s been annoying to me that the engine of the economy has been immaterial,” he says. He’s referring to the Internet, and says he sees ventures like Hyperloop as a happy development for his profession. Someone asks Ingels about other projects he’s working on. He mentions a smaller one: a panda habitat for the Copenhagen Zoo. “Pandas have very specific needs,” Ingels says. “They’re a demanding client! My job is much more interesting when the client is demanding. And you can’t be more demanding than being a different species.” Ingels orders another vodka-soda. BamBrogan wanders over to say hello. He is a fascinating character: A former engineer at SpaceX, Musk’s spaceflight startup, BamBrogan was born Kevin Brogan, but then he married a woman named Bambi and they decided to merge their names into a new surname, BamBrogan. And then he changed his first name from Kevin to Brogan. BamBrogan is tall and lanky, with a f lamboyant, porn-y moustache; this afternoon, he’s wearing torn jeans, sneakers and a white dress shirt unbuttoned to the middle of his chest, and, like a villain in a Bond movie set entirely in Southern California, he’s carrying and petting his Chihuahua, Toby. Ingels points at BamBrogan and says, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but . . . Nicolas Cage!” BamBrogan seems confused. Ingels explains that he has a habit of seeing people’s celebrity doubles. “I don’t mean Nicolas Cage now,” he clarifies. “I mean Nicolas Cage in Wild at Heart. ‘Did I ever tell you that this here jacket represents a symbol of my individuality and my belief in personal freedom?’ ” BamBrogan chuckles. Ingels turns to a young venture capitalist and shouts, “Edward Snowden!” The venture capitalist does not seem amused. There’s another round of drinks. BamBrogan is becoming more animated. “I’m big into ‘This is the 21st century, yo!’ ” he declaims loudly. “The gear-and-grease age is over. We have to change the future. These other pussies won’t do it! Who else will?” Ingels nods and recommends a book about speed by the French cultural theorist Paul Virilio. Later, BamBrogan says, “I’m trying to think of a travel experience

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BJARKE INGELS that I have where it’s like, ‘God, that’s awesome.’ Uber’s probably the closest example, because it’s convenient. Like, that’s the best I can say about travel.” Ingels gives a slight smile and says, “I disagree. Go to the lobby of one of these buildings and take the stairs up to the top floor.” BamBrogan nods. “OK, OK. I can see that,” he says. “An elevator is a pretty good experience.” Someone asks Colin Rhys, Hyperloop’s “Director of Experience Design”, about the beads adorning the nails of his pinky fingers, and he explains the look dates back to his days playing in a band. “I have the same



s w i t h m a n y br i l liant people who have a fondness for speaking aphoristically, it’s hard to know when to take Ingels seriously. His spiels flow with such fluidity, but what’s the precise ratio of sincerity to cynicism? Of eloquence to sophistry? Of uninhibited imagination to TED Talks bullshit? Or maybe these questions are cynical, and the surface enthusiasm of Ingels the guileless futurist is a true expression of his inner self. Ingels grew up in a small, singlestorey house in a suburb north of Copen-


obsessed with, the work of the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and decided to put his drawing skills to different use. After graduating, he landed a job in the Rotterdam office of Koolhaas’ firm, OMA – where he had interned during college – to work on one of its biggest projects, a $165 million redesign of the central branch of the Seattle Public Library. In 2001, he left OMA with another young colleague, Julien De Smedt, and returned to Copenhagen, where they started their own firm, PLOT; five years later, the pair had split up and Ingels formed BIG. From the beginning, Ingels acknowledges, he had a knack for generating buzz.


thing,” Ingels mutters, deadpan, “except it’s on my dickhead.” While waiting for a taxi, Ingels wanders off to pee in the bushes. A security guard catches him and points out the surveillance camera he’s urinating in front of, but otherwise leaves him to it. In the cab, Ingels nods at his favourite building in Las Vegas, the Luxor pyramid. “It’s such a pure idea,” he says. “Though it’s quite nasty inside.” Later, I ask Ingels if there’s a city he’s drawn the most inspiration from. He considers the question, but then, instead, brings up a recent camping trip he took in Iceland. “When you’re in a city, everything is so proscribed,” he says. “You walk on the sidewalk, and you stop at the red lights, and you walk into a lobby and take an elevator. You can only do what you’re supposed to do. Whereas, what I like about being in the wild is, you can climb a hill, you can cross a creek with your bare feet. It’s a world of possibility, like a playground for grown-ups. And you can still remember how to play. In most of our projects, we try to make the city a little bit more like that. We try to create more possibilities than just the things you’re supposed to do.” 66 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

hagen, the middle of three siblings, both parents professionals (father an engineer, mother a dentist), the spectacular Danish coast just minutes away. It all sounds fairly idyllic, especially considering the off-thecharts ways in which Scandinavian countries tend to score on various quality-of-life and personal-happiness indexes. But Ingels found himself chafing at what he saw as the constraints of Danish socialism. There’s a Danish word for elevating the collective over the individual, janteloven, which Ingels says “basically means everyone is the same”. Kaspar Astrup Schröder, a Danish documentary filmmaker who has spent the past several years working on a feature film about Ingels, tells me, “Bjarke felt like he wasn’t getting recognition in Denmark, because they don’t like people standing out. So he left.” As a kid, Ingels spent hours in his own head, compulsively filling notebooks with drawings. When he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Arts in Copenhagen, he had dreams of becoming a graphic novelist (Yes Is More, BIG’s first monograph, is actually written in the form of a comic), but Ingels eventually discovered, and became

His firms were some of the first, he says, to put everything on their websites – contest entries, rejected proposals, whatever fantastical designs they might showcase – because at that point, with very few completed buildings in their portfolios, they had nothing else to upload. There was the zeroemission island resort designed for Azerbaijan, shaped like the peaks of the country’s seven most famous mountains, with its own self-contained ecosystem powered by wind and solar; the majestic, star-shaped “Superharbour”, an artificial island port in the Baltic Sea meant to free up prime waterfront real estate throughout Denmark; and the 3,000 terraced affordable-housing units built into an undulating “Great Wall” that would surround a plot of untouchable parkland in the centre of Copenhagen. None of these projects were ultimately built. But that hardly mattered in the end, because the boldness and ingenuity of BIG’s designs – even for budget-conscious and decidedly unsexy projects like garbage incinerators and affordable-housing complexes – had made potential clients take notice. In 2006, Douglas Durst, one of the largest real-estate developers in New York, D e c e m b e r , 2 016


NEW WAVE (1) VIA 57 West in New York, Ingels’ first completed high-rise; (2) the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London; and renderings of the Washington Redskins stadium (3) in D.C. and 2 World Trade Center (4) in Lower Manhattan, both of which are in progress.

gave a lecture in Copenhagen, after which Ingels introduced himself by asking, “Why do all your buildings look like buildings?” Intrigued, Durst continued to follow Ingels’ career; in 2010, he hired BIG to design VIA 57 West, the residential skyscraper in an underdeveloped section of Hell’s Kitchen, which has become Ingels’ largest and most expensive completed project to date. Durst had been trying to develop that plot of land for more than a decade, originally as a data-storage site. (That plan was scrapped after 9/11.) “We saw a wonderful waterfront location, with views of the river,” says Ingels, “but it was also right on the West Side Highway and next to a sanitation garage and a power plant. So we came up with this idea of a courtyard – an oasis that would be a shelter from the surrounding noise of the city.” But how to build a courtyard within the density of a skyscraper? “In Europe,” Ingels notes, “courtyards work because the buildings are five storeys tall. When they become 40 storeys tall, it suddenly becomes not so nice to be in this dark pit.” Which is how the building’s asymmetrical pyramid shape developed, the sloping sides maximising the amount of sunlight and the number of choice Hudson River views. “You try to make a virtue out of necessity,” Ingels says. “So rather than trying to impose our will, it’s more like trying to really see what’s there, and then the will that we insert is in the editing and the articulation of the things that want to happen anyway. Traditionally, you would say that all of those constraints are something that paralyses the creativity of the artist. But I actually think some of our wildest projects have been conceived not for a competition – when you are theoretically free to propose whatever you want – but in direct collaborations with clients.” Thus, for example, the proposed Redskins stadium, for which BIG had to take into account a variety of factors, some of them existential – like how to make live football appealing to fans when the televised experience is getting better and better and so much of the stadium experience is already dominated by screens of its own. “Stadiums are just a total dinosaur,” Ingels says. “It’s the same three or four global offices that have designed all the stadiums. And then it becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy, where you have to be a stadium designer to design a stadium. And that means they’re all the same.” Ingels decided to focus on the part of the live football experience that’s not replicable at home – the communal aspect of attending a game, in particular the tailgating. Rather than a flat ocean of concrete, the parking lot would be tiered and seeded with grass that’s grown in fiberglassreinforced soil, making it more pleasant for picnics but also able to withstand heavy veD e c e m b e r , 2 016

hicles; replacing the security fence with a its Danish Web address is “Who moat, “the world’s simplest invention,” en- doesn’t like a big dick?” he asked over dinhanced with beaches, kayaks and a perpet- ner in Las Vegas. “Men like it, women like ual surf wave, would make the stadium an it!” (This was right around the time of the off-season summer destination as well; and evening when he began to refer to me exmodifying the shape of the stadium’s bowl clusively as “Captain”.) One afternoon in New York, we meet from an oval pill to a “rather nice Pringle” in the lobby of VIA 57 West. The building doubled the number of 50-yard-line seats. Once described by the design magazine had been voted the 2016 Best Tall BuildSurface as “architecture’s swinging bach- ing in the Americas by the Council on Tall elor-prince”, Ingels now has a serious girl- Buildings and Urban Habitat, which is friend, Ruth Otero, a Spanish architect the skyscraper equivalent of being nomhe met at Burning Man, and bought an inated for Best Picture. Tenants had alapartment in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neigh- ready started moving in, but Ingels, spotbourhood last year (he believes the high ting a few missing panels in the lobby ceiling, grimaces, mutlevels of taxation in Dentering, “It’s always just mark stifle innovation). superannoying to show As a sort of raspberry “Our critics something that is still at janteloven, one of the not, like, fully finished.” first things he did when dismiss what And yet, despite Inhe moved to New York we do as gels’ complaints, the was buy a Porsche, paycartoonish, building is a stunner, a ing, he told me, “a ridicbecause pyramid built by space ulous price by Danish literally we aliens. The lush courtstandards. Over there, yard does, indeed, feel taxes and gas prices are made a like an oasis, completeso high, no one would cartoon. But, ly muting the noise of buy one.” But he couldn’t you know, the the highway traffic just quite shake his inner haters will below. One-third of the Northern European sohate, right?” units have recessed balcialist: After his first conies, making parts of frustrating commute to the facade look like some Harvard, where he was kind of circuit board. teaching a class at the “You end up getting all time, he almost ditched these little textures, a vathe car in Boston. After riety of light and shadow that, he took the train. and ref lections,” Ingels ngels’ sav v y communication says. He chose bead-blasted stainless steel skills, his ability to sell potential- for the roof panels, both because “it’s essenly transformative design concepts tially the most indestructible material you like he’s pitching a roomful of first- can find” and, rather than reflecting direct round investors on a new app that’s light, “it actually glows a little bit”. Whergoing to totally disrupt going to the ever you’re standing – on the sidewalk, in dentist, has cut both ways when it comes to the courtyard, three blocks away – it’s diffiBIG’s reputation. “Bjarke is the undisputed cult to stop your eyes from being drawn up. king of the architectural one-liner,” says Seeing the building so beautifully reOliver Wainwright, the architecture critic alised makes you want to believe all of Inof The Guardian, “but it sometimes leaves gels’ loftier talk about “hedonistic sustainyou wanting more to chew on. Most archi- ability” is possible, that the secular faith tects will reach for much more profound in technology and design embodied by the metaphors. They’re reluctant, I think, to cult of Steve Jobs might be a worthy one. spell out their process in such a direct and Who knows, maybe Hyperloop will reintransparent and, yeah, childish way.” vent transportation to eliminate barriers Looking back at Yes Is More, Ingels says, of time and distance? “I think we did ourselves a little bit of a disUnfortunately, since the desert test, Hyservice. I mean, it was actually quite well- perloop has hit a few bumps in the road, or received, but I think it made it a little bit whatever the pneumatic-tube version of easy for our critics to dismiss what we do that would be. BamBrogan left the comas cartoonish, because literally we made pany after a very public and ugly split with a cartoon. But, you know, the haters will his co-founder, Shervin Pishevar, a venhate, right?” ture capitalist who had previously invested If the comic came off as a bit goofy and in companies like Uber. Along with three unserious, Ingels’ own habit of behaving other former executives, BamBrogan filed as if he’s auditioning for an architecture- suit against the company, alleging, among themed show on Viceland has done little other things, financial impropriety by Pito help his cause. It wasn’t enough to name shevar and threatening behaviour by Pihis company BIG; he revels in the fact that shevar’s brother (who was [Cont. on 97]

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True Bruce Springsteen goes deep on the revelations in his new memoir – from his childhood trauma to the future of E Street By


Ph otog raph s b y


True Bruce

nter bruce springsteen, whistling. He’s cradling a couple of leather jackets for a photo shoot and looks a touch tired, probably because he was just on a stadium stage outside Boston 36 hours ago, wrapping up the last in a series of four-hour-plus concerts with the E Street Band. A week before his 67th birthday, Springsteen is back on his farm in New Jersey’s Monmouth County, on a cloudless mid-September afternoon lovely enough to justify allegiance to his oftmaligned home state. He has a grey shadow of a goatee, and is dressed as you’d expect him to be dressed: black T-shirt, slightly stretched at the neck; dark jeans; boots. ¶ He’s just trekked over from his actual home to his home studio, housed in a garagelike structure made of pristine blond-on-blond wood. It is, overall, a long way from the four-track cassette machine he used to record Nebraska. ¶ The main lounge is filled with memorabilia, most of it devoted to Elvis Presley or Springsteen himself (the couch has a Greetings From Asbury Park pillow, and there are Bruceand-Clarence outtakes from the Born to Run photo shoot on the wall). The room is overflowing with books, many of them music-themed, from Chuck Berry’s autobiography to Gerri Hirshey’s soul history Nowhere to Run to When We Were Good, a study of the Sixties folk revival. Springsteen just wrote a perfect addition to this collection: his lucid, earthy, anecdote-stuffed autobiography, Born to Run. Along with rock & roll tales (no drugs, some sex, precisely one smashed guitar), it offers a psychological recipe for the creation of a self-flagellating superstar: overly worshipful grandmother; withholding dad who turns out to have been mentally ill rather than just a hardhat hardass; indefatigable mum who adheres to an “ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive” ethos. In a sunny sitting room where windows overlook the green sprawl of his property, Springsteen discusses the genesis of the book, his struggles with depression, the future of his career and much more, staying silent on only one topic. When I mention my horror at the sight of Donald Trump-endorsing New Jersey governor Chris Christie pumping his fist and singing along to the lines “poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king” at a recent concert in Brooklyn, Springsteen laughs until he turns red. When he catches his breath, he says, “I have no comment.” Senior writer Bria n Hiatt wrote the Green Day story in RS 780. 70 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

So why do an autobiography? It kind of happened by accident. I didn’t think of it initially as a book. I was writing to pass the time, and I felt if I didn’t do anything with it, maybe my kids would like to have it. I wrote quite a bit for about two or three weeks. When I went back and read it, I said, “This feels pretty good.” I’d write longhand in some notepads, and then I’d put it away for months. I’d dictate it to Mary Mac, my assistant, and then rewrite it until it felt nice and tight and concise. It just became a project I was working on. When we’d tour, I’d put it away for the entire tour, a year and a half. When I finished what became the first of the three sections, I said, “Well, there’s a tale going on there that might be interesting to people.” So you wrote it in chronological order? I did. I let the third section sit for quite a while. It’s the most difficult one, because you’re writing about your current life and

“If you don’t start unpacking your baggage, it gets heavier as you move along. The weight becomes impossible to carry, and it can get pretty messy.”

the people that are currently in your life. There’s just a lot of different kinds of judgments to make. You didn’t hesitate to put in facts of your life that were halo-puncturing. Did you want to shatter your aura of saintliness a little? Yeah, that part of my thing has always annoyed me. It’s too much, you know. So any dent in it I can make, I’m pleased to do. I mean, it wasn’t something I was intent on doing. It was just writing about a life, and all of its many aspects. But I also decided that it was a book about my music first, and about my life kind of secondarily. If I didn’t want to write about something, I didn’t write about it. I didn’t have any rules, except I wanted what was in the book to relate back to my music. So the revelations I made about my family or my own inner workings, I felt that could be central to understanding where some of my music came from. I didn’t write all about myself. Plenty of things, I held back. At a 1990 concert, a guy shouted, “We love you!” And you said, “But you don’t really know me!” Does this book get us closer to really knowing you? You know, I would say so. But once again, it’s a creation. It’s a story that I drew from my story. It’s one of the stories I drew from my story. You use the word “misogyny” to describe your attitudes toward women as a young man. That’s a striking self-evaluation. You have to wear the shoe that fits. I was an internal rager. So I had to look back at some of my attitudes when I was young, and that’s the only way I can describe it. What do you know about women now that you didn’t understand then? [Laughs] What do I know about women that I didn’t understand when I was a young man? Oh, Jesus [laughs, pauses]. When Mama is happy, everybody is happy. When Mama ain’t happy, nobody is happy. Did you give anyone in your life veto power over the final section of the book? Patti [Scialfa], particularly? I did have to open up parts of our life. She’s an artist, she understands that part of our job. But it was still a really strong and generous thing on her part that I’m deeply thankful for. To go back to the question you asked – what I do know about women, I have learned from Patti. It was knowledge that I was searching for, and she came into my life and just provided me with an enormous amount of vision and love and security that I never had previously. She’s the love of my life. There have been other books written about you. What do you think of them? I haven’t followed them that closely. I mean, I read Dave Marsh’s book [Born to Run] a long time ago, in the Seventies. And Peter Ames Carlin’s book [Bruce] D e c e m b e r , 2 016

that came out recently. They’re all good, if you’re interested in different sides of me and different parts of my story. I thought it was sort of hilarious that you name-drop your first manager Mike Appel’s book, “Down Thunder Road”, which is pretty negative. I mean, if you’re interested in that, that’s there too. I don’t have a problem with all the different portrayals of me. I looked at that book again. There’s a caption, “Bruce in 1989. Too old to rock.” [Laughs] I love that. You used to say onstage that your mum wanted you to be an author. True? Yes. She did when I was young. Your talents weren’t recognised in school, so what did she see in you that suggested that direction? I did start to write the songs when I was very young. I was 15 and I was already scribbling some things down, and I suppose to her it was a respectable way to be a writer of some sort. I happened to be good at it. While I wasn’t very good at much else in school, in my creative-writing classes or when we had to do some writing in my English classes, I tended to do better at it. You’ve had what seems like a pretty serious and rigorous self-education. How did that work for you? It came very naturally. I never set out to hit the books or anything. I was always curious, but I was too young in school to D e c e m b e r , 2 016

H U M A N TOUCH Springsteen at his home studio in New Jersey. “I happened to be good at writing. I wasn't very good at much else in school.”

take advantage of it, and things were presented a little dryly. When I met Jon [Landau], he was a conduit into film and books, and I started to read things that touched my soul. A lot of them were by noir writers – James M. Cain, Jim Thompson, Flannery O’Connor. And then I started to read history books. I was curious about the big story. I read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States and one by Henry Steele Commager [A Pocket History of the United States]. One thing led to another, and I became quite a self-educator. These days, I actually find myself more missing college. I missed the chance to live in the world of ideas when I would’ve been ripe to take advantage of it. A few years ago, my friend Robert Coles had a class at Harvard about Walker Percy, and I sat in. It was fun and I felt very at home. Made me wish I went to college! What writers shaped the voice you found for the book? Everything I’ve absorbed led to finding a voice I was comfortable with. I love all the Elmore Leonard books, for instance. But you can’t copy it if you’re trying to do something original.

Your paternal grandparents loom large in your story, but you wrote just one, never-released song about them – “Randolph Street (Master of Electricity)”. That was it. I probably don’t think the song was very good. But it did capture some of the intensity I felt about them. It didn’t enter my mind to write other songs about it, and I work from the inside out. I don’t take a topic and decide to write about it. I write about what grows out of me. You’ve said that “Nebraska” connected back to your childhood in some spiritual and emotional way. I would say that it did. If you were looking for a record that connected to my grandparents, that’s the record. It’s just setting the tone of the time in our household. Did the emotions stirred up by “Nebraska” open the door to the depression that hit right after you made it? It could be. I was 32 at the time. I had just fi nished Nebraska, literally. I don’t think it was out yet. And that was a pretty lonely record. It may have struck home. But my own biological clock may have been ticking toward that point. You carry your baggage, and if you don’t start unpacking, your bags get heavier as you move along. So at some point, the weight becomes impossible to carry and you look for some way to unpack those bags. And it can get pretty messy. That’s what happened to me.

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True Bruce Where do you see the depressive side of your nature in your songs? In my songs? Every other record, probably [laughs]. And obviously, you look at The Ghost of Tom Joad and Nebraska and there’s plenty of it in Tunnel of Love. I address it on Tunnel of Love, in the song “Two Faces”. It’s something I addressed as I’ve gone along by seesawing between what might be considered band records and what might be considered solo records. If you go to Darkness on the Edge of Town, there’s plenty of it there. The other side of it is that the dark material helps us believe the lighter stuff. That was part of making a good song. You got to have friction and tension, something to push up against. Every writer needs that. I think it was Tom Stoppard who once said he envied Václav Havel. Right, talk about something to push up against. So if the triumphant part of the song was going to feel real and not just hacked out, I had to have something I was pushing up against. I just understood that balance. It comes out of gospel music, which is the music of transcendence. I wanted my music to be a music of transcendence. When you sing, “I believe in the faith that can save me”, maybe we believe you because it feels like it’s coming from someone who might not have believed it the day before. Yeah! Or maybe barely believing right now, you know? Interestingly, one of the only concerts that you describe in detail in the book is the overhyped Hammersmith Odeon show that was so rough for you in 1975, your first trip to England. Something heavy to push up against. It was a nightmare of a mind-fuck, so it remained with me for a long time. These days, I think you go onstage with a lot of confidence, because you’ve had so many years behind you. And I tend to try to move to that place every night, to that moment where suddenly it’s just you and the audience; everything else has kind of fallen away, time, space. Some nights it’s easier than other nights. But I pretty much always get there. You’re just in this very kind of lovely place where you’re really communicating. But it’s always something you have to do on a nightly basis. Even after all the years, you still have to. You talk about being able to control time onstage. How does that work for you? You’re doing a lot of things. You’re compressing time in your music. You’re compressing years into moments, an enormous amount of experience into just a few minutes. You’re shifting between youth and maturity, so time gets warped and flipped around a lot during the evening. People are going back and forth in their lives. Time ceases inside of any creative piece. It creates its own time and space. 72 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

The depression you write about suffering in your early sixties, how did it affect your working life? Not very much. I couldn’t give you an answer to why that is. But I’d be way out on a limb and then I’d come into the studio and I’d just go to work. I’d write, record. How often have you toured while you were in that state? I had it come up on tours on occasion. And generally, it doesn’t affect me onstage or the choices I make, but it may affect me offstage a little bit. I may feel down or confused at a certain moment. It’s very rare, because touring is so emotionally and physically cathartic. If you work yourself physically to the point of near exhaustion, you’re too tired to be depressed, and that may be one of the reasons I’ve done it my whole life. Your mind is not on overdrive – it doesn’t have the energy to start looking for trouble in the weeds. Instead it’s a very mind-clearing, centring experience, and you don’t have the kind of space that depression thrives in. You used to have an element of self-punishment in those long shows. I was a good Catholic boy. So there was an element of the purification ritual. But have you come around to where now you’re doing the same thing from a healthier place? I’m not sure myself [laughs]. Why does a man play four hours a night? I’m still not exactly sure, you know. And I would have to say it still hearkens back to some of those original impulses and the fact that I need to go all the way, all the time. There’s a passage where you describe dinner with your mum’s family in terms that sound just like your concerts. There would often be a level of hysteria that perhaps is not uncommon in Italian families, and mine was certainly no different. People were shouting and yelling. But

“The republic is under siege by a moron. Without overstating it, it’s a tragedy for our democracy. The ideas [Trump] is moving to the mainstream are all very dangerous.”

also, there was a tremendous amount of joy and this unusual excitement about life – over nothing, except living itself. You mention a dream where you say to your dad, “That guy onstage, that’s how I see you.” What does that mean? They say that those you can’t get close to, you emulate. So I was basically a bum who never worked outside of scratching on my guitar. But when I went to work, I put on the clothes of my father and I slipped into his roles in a lot of ways, in order to be close to him, in order to understand him. I didn’t realise this till much later. So that dream was just me trying to explain to my dad, “Look, this is where all this took us. This is where you took me, and it’s how I see you in my heart of hearts.” You chose to universalise your dad’s story into something it wasn’t. Was the reality too messy for a rock & roll song? Perhaps. Or perhaps I was just influenced by East of Eden and those kinds of archetypes, and I cast the two of us in those roles. That’s why in the book I say I was a little unfair to my dad, ’cause our lives were much more complex. You write that you were kind of traumatised by what was going on at home. It was enough to make me a nervous wreck and it wasn’t just what my father was doing, either. It was the nature of my relationship with my grandparents, which was very intense, perhaps incredibly anxietyprovoking. I didn’t have any release for it. So I just chewed my knuckles until they were rocks, or blinked uncontrollably. You describe yourself around the age of eight as a “sissy” and a “weirdo”. Totally. How did you make the journey from there to being a very conventionally masculine rock star, especially in the Eighties? It was an obvious reaction, I think, to my childhood – and I look back on it and it appears one-dimensional. My dad, to me, was a very conventionally masculine man. He worked physically. He was a big and beefy kind of guy. And again, you emulate. I believe that’s how I got there. But he himself had that dichotomy. I believe he was similar to me when he was young. He was soft inside. And in the Forties and Fifties, you couldn’t survive like that. As a child, he hadn’t been provided with the confidence to be himself, to be fully masculine, and I don’t mean that in a one-dimensional or conventional sense. So I had to sort my way through all this stuff myself, and what did I use to do it? I used my music and did the best I could. What have you tried to teach your sons about what it means to be a man? I try to emphasise the softer side of myself, and that there’s no need to feel ashamed of or misunderstand this part of yourself. Just as you’ve got to be comfortable with the other side. D e c e m b e r , 2 016


LO C A L HERO (1) Springsteen performing with Pete Seeger at the ‘We Are One’ inaugural celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on January 18th, 2009. (2) In Los Angeles in 1975 to promote Born To Run. (3) Springsteen’s mother, Adele, watching her son perform at the Molinon stadium in Spain on June 26th, 2013.



There were so many times you came close to total failure. Is there a universe where you went back to Jersey and were just the greatest bar-band leader anyone ever saw? You can be very, very good and miss. But do I personally envision a scenario where that could have happened? No [laughs]. Or maybe I just prefer not to. I was a lion in pursuit of the things that I needed. And as I travelled around, I don’t see that many people that are better than me. I’ve seen some, you know. Now of course you were very isolated in New Jersey at that time. Sometimes some sort of B-level rock star passing through town catches your band and says, “Oh, man”, but nothing happens. And sometimes they slept with your girlfriend, apparently. Unfortunately. That part is true too [laughs]. So I knew what it was like to miss. The song “Backstreets” seems to capture that time in your life. Where did that song come from? Just youth, the beach, the night, friendships, the feeling of being an outcast and kind of living far away from things in this little outpost in New Jersey. It’s also about D e c e m b e r , 2 016


a place of personal refuge. It wasn’t a specific relationship or anything that brought the song into being. You mentioned the election onstage the other night. What do you make of the Trump phenomenon? Well, you know, the republic is under siege by a moron, basically. The whole thing is tragic. Without overstating it, it’s a tragedy for our democracy. When you start talking about elections being rigged, you’re pushing people beyond democratic governance. And it’s a very, very dangerous thing to do. Once you let those genies out of the bottle, they don’t go back in so easy, if they go back in at all. The ideas he’s moving to the mainstream are all very dangerous ideas – white nationalism and the altright movement. The outrageous things that he’s done – not immediately disavowing David Duke? These are things that are obviously beyond the pale for any previous

political candidate. It would sink your candidacy immediately. I believe that there’s a price being paid for not addressing the real cost of the deindustrialisation and globalisation that has occurred in the United States for the past 35, 40 years, and how it’s deeply affected people’s lives and deeply hurt people to where they want someone who says they have a solution. And Trump’s thing is simple answers to very complex problems. Fallacious answers to very complex problems. And that can be very appealing. “The New York Times” found the guy you wrote the song “Youngstown” about, and he’s a Trump supporter. What do you make of that? Does it surprise you? Not really. Not if you see the history of Youngstown and what happened. If people there are pushed to the edge, and reaching for a metaphorical gun in the form of Trump, it’s the same anger you’ve written about. Yeah. I mean, I started writing about this stuff 30 years ago or whenever it was. What do you think of Black Lives Matter? Well, it’s all chickens coming home to roost. These are issues that have been ignored or hidden, and due to modern technology and the availability of cellphone cameras and constant video feed, these things are coming to the surface. Black Lives Matter is a natural outgrowth and response to the injustices that have been occurring for a very long time in the United States. Why is it so hard for so many white people to grapple with? Why the backlash? Nobody likes being told they’re wrong. What do you think of Colin Kaepernick’s protests and the reaction to it? Athletics is a difficult place to make political statements. There was the Olympics in the Sixties, and obviously Muhammad Ali. But sports is such an escapist field. I think when politics or personal expression is injected, it rankles people more than in other fields. But we’re in a time where there isn’t any place where these issues can be excluded. I admire Kaepernick, but it’s a very difficult field to be outspoken in. As was music, maybe, at times. In the Eighties, you tried to disassociate yourself from Reagan. But you didn’t go nearly as far as you went later. Why? Maybe I didn’t have the confidence. You haven’t chosen to do anything for the campaign this year. Have you lost faith in whatever power you might have to affect these things? I don’t know. I think you have a limited amount of impact as an entertainer, performer or musician. I feel what I’ve done was certainly worth doing. And I did it at the time because I felt the country was in crisis, which it certainly is right now. I don’t

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True Bruce know if we’ve been approached or not to do anything at the moment. If so, I would take it into consideration and see where it goes. No, I haven’t really lost faith in what I consider to be the small amount of impact that somebody in rock music might be able to have. I don’t think people go to musicians for their political points of view. I think your political point of view is circumstances, and then how you were nurtured and brought up. But it’s worth giving it a shot when it’s the only thing you have. Is there a lack of enthusiasm for Hillary on your own part? No. I like Hillary. I think she would be a very, very good president. Where do you see the upper limits of performing live? We have Paul McCartney, who is, what, 76? Seventy-four. Seventy-four. You’re keeping track! He’s playing three-hour shows. But how does it work for you going forward? At my age, life is day-to-day. Depending upon your health, you can be at a very different point in your life at the age that I’m at. So it’s how you’re feeling and the shape you’re in and how you feel emotionally and spiritually inside and what you’re up for and what kind of effort and commitment you still want to bring to what you’re doing. I’m still firing on all eights. I’m completely committed like I was when I was 16 or 21 years old. I can still do it with no problem. But life as you get older is more like, “What a great day today is. And let me see, what am I going to do? What am I going to do in the next six months or the next year?” But there’s no real answer to that question, because it’s just where you’re at right now. You realise there’s a finiteness to it. So that changes your nightly experience. You can look out ahead and go, “OK, I’m 67. In 10 years I’m 77. Maybe that’s four tours away, or five tours.” You can do that and go, “Wow.” You can speculate, but that’s all. You said onstage that the older you get, the more it means. Is that the finiteness? It’s the finiteness. The intensity that the audience brings to the show now – they experience the finiteness also. You can appreciate it a little more. And the whole experience gets heightened. The next few years and beyond: Is the idea to just move between the different modes you have – E Street, solo, archival releases? Yeah. All of the above, you know. At this point, my plan is to do everything that I do and at different intervals. I’d love to tour solo again. I look forward to playing with the band again. We’re going to play in Australia this [U.S.] winter. And whatever else comes my way, whatever projects come my way. I don’t have any five- or six-year plan, outside of having whatever music I’m making now and getting out and just continuing my work life. 74 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

You’ve said you have an album done that’s influenced by Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb’s collaborations. I don’t want to overemphasise the influences too much, because people may hear it and go, “What’s that got to do with that?” But it was sort of a place where I found some inspiration. Is that a different record than the one you almost finished before “Wrecking Ball”? It’s the record I wrote before Wrecking Ball but could not finish, and in attempting to finish it, I wrote Wrecking Ball. So the roots of the record go back quite a ways. Sometimes you have to wait for these puzzles to sort themselves out, and it can take years. I mean, I have a record that I’ve been working on that’s 20 years old. That’s just the way the process is working at the moment. What’s the pace of your songwriting now, compared with the 2000s, when you were extremely prolific? Well, Wrecking Ball came, I would say, easily. The albums and songs have been coming along for quite a while. But I haven’t written in a while right now, outside of the record that I have ready. What would you have said to Elvis when you hopped the fence at Graceland in the Seventies, if he had been there? I had a song I was probably trying to sell him, “Fire”. Outside of that, I truly have no idea. I’m not sure what I was looking for. Has fat Elvis haunted you – perhaps as a fitness inspiration and as an example of exactly where you didn’t want to end up? I don’t know. I saw Elvis shortly before he died and I remember enjoying the show tremendously. Everybody makes their maps, and people will look at the one I wrote and there will be things they’ll want to follow and things they won’t want to follow. I got so much from Elvis as an inspiration, and I admire that voice so deeply right until the end. And everybody struggles. At the same time, you have a “stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive” kind of counterphilosophy.

“At my age, life is day-to-day . . . I’m still firing on all eights. I’m completely committed like I was when I was 16 or 21 years old. I can still do it.”

There are a lot of distractions along the way and a lot of places you can lose yourself. I was very aware of that, thanks to the people that came before me. And I worked very hard to avoid some of those pitfalls, and still do. You write that the E Street Band was hitting its stride in the studio with “The River”. But after one more album with them, you waited 18 years for the next. In the abstract, doesn’t that seem a little odd? It’s just the way it played out. I think we learned how to record finally with The River, even though we made somewhat of a mess of it. But we were making the kind of sound we wanted to make, and that continued into Born in the U.S.A. But Born in the U.S.A. was such a transformative event that after it I didn’t really know where to go with the band. So I went in a different direction. Also, I wanted to immediately downsize, because I didn’t want to play the game of “You have to top this and top these sales.” I don’t want to get into being that kind of artist. That said, how did you feel about the commercial underperformance of “Human Touch” and “Lucky Town” in 1992 – which ran straight into grunge? I think Nirvana hit at the moment those albums came out. I remember Jon, at the time, was nervous that the records hadn’t done as well as he’d hoped or we’d hoped. We had a conversation: “Jon, it’s just not our time. We’ll have other times.” And if you have a long life and a long work life, you’re going to go through that. Sometimes it’s just not your time. It was somebody else’s. You write about 1995’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad” as a pivot point back to writing about the larger world – how do you understand your avoidance of topical songwriting for so many years? You’re always in a box, and you’re an escape artist if you do what I do – or if you’re a creative person, period. You build your box and then you escape from it. You build another one and you escape from it. That’s ongoing. And you may at some point escape enough boxes where you find yourself back around to the first one again and you go, “Oh, I didn’t think I had any more to say about these things. Wait a minute, yes, I do. I’ve got a lot more to say about these things!” How do you balance the magic that happens with the E Street Band with the quotidian realities of being the boss? You have to accept the fact that along the way it becomes a business – if you don’t accept it, everything is going to get fucked up very deeply. So you’re doing everyone a service by acknowledging that’s a part of your relationship and negotiating your way through it as friends and as adults. You write that you needed disciples rather than employees early on. Did that mean [Cont. on 97] total dedication? D e c e m b e r , 2 016

DUDES OF THE DANCE Meet pop ’s hottest d uo, the Chainsm – two ordokers guys with inary a plan for w sick o dominati rld on By Jona h Weine r PH OTOGRAP JASON NO H BY CITO 76 | Rol l i

ng Sto ne

Taggart (l and Pall eft) in Manhatt a Chinato n’s wn in Septem ber


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der”. Taggart tells the crowd that when he was writing it, “we were on our tour bus, thinking about Blink-182 and Dashboard Confessional – how their music was so personal. We said, ‘Let’s write a song like that.’” Taggart says he wanted to sing lyrics like the ones he adored as a self-described emo kid growing up in Maine, but it’s also part of the Chainsmokers’ bigger plan. “We hope this moment lasts,” Taggart says, “but if it’s short, we want to have a connection with our fans that will outlive it.” To that end, they cultivate unabashedly goodtimey personas and don’t mind if you call them “bros”. “Honestly, we’re two white guys that like to be friendly, we make stupid jokes and like funny movies, and we like to party – but so does everybody,” says Taggart. In the crowd, shirtless dudes are flailing in what Pall later laughingly calls “frat-boy ballet”. Confetti cannons rain down pastel hellfire. In less than an hour, the show is over. Pall and Taggart clear out. Previous anxiety about their bare-bones production has dissipated, and Pall, feeling good, has just the dick joke for the moment: “I guess it’s true,” he says. “Size doesn’t matter!”


aggart and pall hop into a chauffeured SUV bound for a Salt Lake steakhouse where the radio station is footing the bill. Pall orders a bottle of pinot noir, to be followed rapidly by a second, then scans the menu. “Oh, shit – they have a seafood tower!” he says. Pall spent his early childhood on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where his dad was a fine-art dealer. “We had Picassos and Lichtensteins on our walls,” Pall recalls. In middle school, he was classmates with Alex Soros, son of billionaire philanthropist George. Later, he attended a private school “for fuck-ups” in Westchester, where he enjoyed fuck-uppish pursuits like “smoking weed and eating shrooms with friends”. When he got to NYU, studying art history and business, he decided to “game college. I’d learn the professor – like, what do they want you to say?” The first couple of months of every semester, Pall scanned course syllabi and got as much work done as possible ahead of time – freeing up hours to “put on shows and parties with my friends”. Pall has a New Yorker’s wryness, whereas Taggart, who fell in love with EDM during


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lex pall had lfriend the other the studio jamming with Chris Martin, so he had to stand her up. It’s not the kind of thing Pall does often, he says, because he likes to make music in the daylight hours, clocking out before sundown. “I treat it like a job,” he says. “I’ve had rappers be like, ‘Let’s meet up at 10 p.m.’ And I’m like, ‘Uh, no!’ I can’t understand that way of working.” But on this one night, hunkered down with Martin in Malibu, “like, a $300 UberX ride from my place in Hollywood”, Pall made an exception, because the Coldplay frontman “wanted to start after he put his kids to bed” – and, well, because it was Martin and Coldplay are “the fucking greatest, dude”. So the Chainsmokers cooked up what Pall says was “one of the dopest songs we’ve ever written” – and he even managed to smooth things over with his girlfriend, thanks to Martin, who serenaded her on Pall’s smartphone, blaming himself for the scheduling mishap. “When Alex and I got into the car afterward,” says Pall’s partner, Drew Taggart, “we were freaking out, like, ‘Whaaaa?!’ ” The Chainsmokers have had lots of “Whaaaa?!” moments recently. They are America’s hottest pop duo, scoring three singles in the Top 10 this year; their biggest hit – currently perched at Number One for six weeks (nine in Australia) and counting – is “Closer”, a duet between Taggart and Halsey. When performing it with Halsey at the MTV Video Music Awards, they looked out and “there was Kanye, right there watching”, says Taggart. Not only have they beaten Calvin Harris’ record for the most Number Ones notched on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic songs chart, they also hung out with Harris “and basically brain-raped him”, as Pall puts it, “asking him all these questions.” Perhaps craziest of all: Not long before the Martin session, they got word from Ryan Tedder that Bono liked their stuff too. And so

it happened that Bono “rolled up to our studio, all by himself”, Taggart says, “and played us some new U2 music. We played him some of our new stuff, and with this one song, he was like, ‘That’s great – will you send that to me?’ Which was so sick.” Right now, they’re backstage at a cinder-block events centre in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, about to headline an outdoor concert for “basically no money”, says Pall, as a favour to a local radio station. It’s a fun vibe, but a long way from chilling with Bono: One of the main sponsors is a personal-injury legal service with an 800 number in its name. The act currently onstage is a DJ spinning EDM alongside a live drummer in a gorilla mask. (“This is a tribute to Harambe,” the DJ cries out. “Dicks out for Harambe, everybody!”) In their dressing room, Pall, 31, trades his shorts for a pair of dirty Ksubi jeans – his onstage look; Taggart, 26, drinks coconut water. “Sorry it’s . . . this,” Pall says, indicating the less-than-baller environs. “Would you like some room-temperature lunch meat?” Workaday promo shows like this one are all over the Chainsmokers’ calendar, wedged among Vegas club gigs, major festivals and corporate events. Small fee or no, the Chainsmokers aren’t exactly hurting for money. They even get paid for shows they don’t play: Adobe, the software giant, booked them for a party, cancelled and had to fork over their $80,000 fee anyway. “That’s the wildest shit to me,” Pall says. “I used to work in an art gallery, eating shit and getting paid $500 a week – and, for doing nothing, Adobe paid me what it took two years to make back then.” It’s showtime. The Chainsmokers’ stage setup is stripped down today – there are a few LED screens and a picnic table laid across some road cases – which bummed them out at first. But they make the most of it, mixing from their own songs into Skrillex, A$AP Ferg and Eurythmics, and mouthing along goofily with the music, fixing their hair constantly. Their best originals are understated compared w ith a lot of mainstream EDM, and tinged w ith melancholy. On “Closer”, Taggart steps out from the table with a mic, singing about a booty call that begins in “the backseat of your Rover that I know you can’t afford” – the last five words draining the glitz from the line – and continues onto “the mattress that you stole from your roommate back in Boul-

a high-school-exchange stint in Argentina, is more earnest. He uses tech-world buzzwords like “disrupt” and “iterate” frequently, asking how Rolling Stone’s “reach” compares to that of the Chainsmokers, wondering aloud about the return-oninvestment for participating in this article. He loves to cook, bragging, “I can make any vegetable – Brussels sprouts, asparagus – taste dank.” He’s wearing a Rolex but says that he comes “from a really frugal family” and inherited that disposition: He just bought an ultramodern five-bedroom West Hollywood home for $3.3 million, but has-

Halsey and Tove Lo on it way before anyone really knew who they were”. The duo like collaborating with undervalued talent, which jibes with their “disruption” ethos. When Rihanna rejected their demo for the song “Don’t Let Me Down”, it was OK, Pall says, “because young unknown artists have this hunger – they’re willing to work really hard”. They put out the track with up-andcomer Daya, and it went to Number Three. The Chainsmokers are more ambivalent about their breakthrough 2014 hit, “#Selfie”, a deeply goofy house track that heavy-handedly pokes fun at social-me-


SMOKIN’ Taggart (left) and Pall at California’s Kaaboo festival in September

tens to point out that it came with a “twoyear warranty in case anything needs to be fixed”. The pair met in New York around 2012. Pall was trying to establish himself on the local DJ circuit, and Taggart was an aspiring producer, making EDM with the software program Ableton on his MacBook Pro. Partnering up, they settled on a division of labour that persists today: Pall is something like the A&R man, he says, finding guest singers for their tracks and helping to steer Taggart’s aesthetic. “Alex listens to so much music, so when I play stuff, he’ll be like, ‘That’s fresh’, or ‘That’s not fresh’,” Taggart says. Pall says he hears about 300 new songs a day. He’ll fire up a SoundCloud track, listen to a few seconds, skip ahead 30 seconds, then move on. “I can tell really quickly if it’s any good,” he says. He keeps running lists on his computer – influential bloggers and their tastes; fledgling singers. He says that the latter list, which he’s been compiling for several years, “had people like D e c e m b e r , 2 016

dia-era self-obsession. It earned them a major-label deal and introduced them to the world as a novelty act. Today, they leave the song out of their sets. “No one is like, ‘ “#Selfie” is my favourite song’,” Pall says. “But it taught us so much about the music business and ourselves – what type of artists we wanted to be.” He acknowledges early “missteps”, such as an appearance on American Idol, playing the track while snapping pics with Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. – a stunt Pall concedes was “just lame”, and which inspired resentment from other dance acts. Most prominent was Deadmau5, who tweeted, “The only thing @TheChainsmokers and pop EDM have in common is probably cancer.” Taggart, who says Deadmau5 was one of his heroes, was hurt. “It was the first time anyone cared enough to shit on us,” he says. “At that point, I fell out of love with his music. Now his brand is less about his music and more about his personality, which is being a dick.”

For all their success, the duo still talk about fellow musicians with the ardour – and candour – of fans. They envy acts with fully realised aesthetics: 21 Pilots, Stromae, Die Antwoord. At the steakhouse, a label rep asks what they think about Lady Gaga’s single “Perfect Illusion”. “It sucks,” Pall says. Taggart, more diplomatic, says, “She’s a great artist – like, Jeff Koons made a sculpture of her. . . .” “I agree,” Pall says. “And a lot of talented people worked on that song. But . . .” he trails off, scrunching up his nose like something’s gone rancid on the seafood tower. They’re booked on a 9:57 p.m. Delta flight back to L.A., so we head to the airport. The Chainsmokers fly private extremely sparingly, they say – this connects to their awareness that pop dominance isn’t guaranteed to last. “I was once in the last row of a flight and Dame Dash came and sat in the middle seat!” Pall says. “I was like, ‘Dude, last time I saw you, you were throwing money in a girl’s face in a video. What happened?’ ” They take their coach seats and withdraw. It’s important to give each other space. “We met in order to work together, but we’ve gotten close,” Pall says. “We’ve fought like, one time, in Mexico, about I don’t remember what. We’d just been at a strip club and we beat each other up in the back of a cab. We have a photo we took of ourselves all bloody afterward! It was just a moment of tequila-driven madness.” He adds, “When we both moved to L.A., we were like, ‘Should we get a sick house together?’ And it was like, ‘Let’s each have this one place apart from each other.’ ” The next morning, they’re at their Hollywood studio, futzing with a simple marimba riff that Taggart tapped out on a MIDI keyboard, adding reverb and distortion so that it takes on a sombre grandeur. “This was me basically trying to do something like ‘The Scientist’ by Coldplay,” he says. He writes a lot on piano, and their plan for the future is to incorporate that musicianship more legibly into live shows. “We can do so much more than just DJ,” Taggart says. “We look at Beyoncé and we’re like, ‘I want to build a live show that’s talked about and respected as much as hers, or Kanye’s.’ We want to add performance elements.” “Like, if Drew wants to do an a cappella version of ‘Closer’, he could,” Pall says. “And we want to add, like, musicaltheatre elements,” Taggart notes. “We definitely have a plan,” Pall says. They know it’ll take a lot of work, and a lot of luck – but, dude, if they can pull it off ? It’ll be so sick!

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My son is one of more than a million children in America on the autism spectrum. As he approaches adulthood, he faces life in an institution. So I, like so many parents, am racing to find a better option. What happens when the autism generation comes of age? By PAUL SOLOTAROFF

Luke’s Best Chance

luke greets me in the hallway, thrusting a book in my direction, then snatches it back and darts into his room. It’s been two weeks since I’ve seen him, and what I desperately want to do is grab him up and hug him till he howls. But because it’s been two weeks – and because he is autistic – I must begin again, from the start line, with my son. ¶ His bedroom, per usual, is a hot mess. The floor is a Slip ’N Slide of books he’s pulled down, most of them in greasy tatters. Clifford’s First School Day; Clifford and the Big Storm – whatever that brave dog is put through by his author is nothing compared with the carnage he suffers at the hands of this rabid boy. The huge stuffed Clifford my fiancee bought for Luke is splayed on his back, paws up; he is draped in laundry that appears to have been folded by someone without patience – or fingers. ¶ Washing his own clothes, then putting them in drawers, are among the “goals” set forth for him by the ever-changing staff at the


Luke’s Best Chance residential school he now inhabits. But in the two years since he left the separate dwellings of his divorced parents and moved to an institution on Long Island, he has taken just the most incremental steps on the path to self-maintenance. At 17, he still requires someone to bathe him and wipe up after he toilets; to cut his food into chewable pieces and see that he eats with a fork, not his fingers; and to hold him with two hands while crossing the street on outings to the movies or museums. Luke is as much a threat now to dash into traffic as he was as a headstrong child back in grade school. But he’s grown half a foot since we moved him here and checks in at almost five-nine; anyone daft enough to restrain him one-handed is playing with kitchen matches at Fukushima. His back to me, Luke hands up Clifford’s Family with a oneword injunction: Veed! (Translation: Read till I say stop.) This is step one in the wooing I must do to get back in his better graces. Anytime my job takes me away for a stretch, I pay for it in his baleful disregard. Since the time he was six, he has come to know his father as a man who loves him and leaves him. There was no way to explain then why I had to move out when his mother and I split in 2005, both of us pushed to the breaking point by his 2 a.m. wake-ups and the constant siege of crises he presented. No one can prepare you for the fatigue of a first child. But when that child gags constantly on fistfuls of food; when his eyes roll back in a vacant haze that will belatedly be treated as seizures; and when, for the umpteenth time, he breaks a new DVD player the instant you look away – well, that isn’t fatigue, it’s slow death. As much as I craved our tactile closeness – the softness of his cheeks when I pelted him with kisses; his post-bath scent while we snuggled, watching Elmo – it was do-or-die for me by the time I left. At great personal cost, I saved my own neck, and lost some part of him that I’ll never quite recover. I sit and read to Luke now in the semidark, going slowly so he can pipe in words he knows. They often keep the blinds drawn in this newly built complex, though my ex-wife Elaine and I have urged the staff to raise them every morning. We also ask repeatedly why these kids are stuck indoors on a crisp, dazzling day in early spring. “There’s a farm down the block,” says Elaine, “where he could learn to plant seeds and water crops.” Maybe that would happen if the school could retain its workers, but in a high-stress job, dependent on Medicaid funding, the turnover here is constant. This is hard on the managers, who must constantly find replacements, but harder by far on the children who live here and keep trying to trust adults who disappear. Meanwhile, Clifford’s working his juju on Luke. As I read, he bounces on his bed for joy. Snatching the book away, he hands me another – then, two pages in, yet another. This is my boy: an ebullient toddler who’s three months shy of voting age. With his energy and sweetness, he charms everyone who meets him, then drives them up a wall with his global needs. I change him out of the pants he’s in to a new pair that actually fits; for four hours, he’ll trade the monotony of this place for lunch at the meatball parlour he loves, then an afternoon of bowling and bookstore shopping. I live for those hours, and I dread them, too. By the end of the visit, I’ll be whipsawed by feelings

that carve old ruts in my heart. There’s the guilt of dropping him back off, after he’s warmed up enough to let me kiss him. There’s the grief I must work through over his painfully small progress, and the doubts that we were right to send him away. And overhanging those are my master emotions: the panic and confusion about what’s next. Three autumns from now, Luke will age out of school and go hurtling off the cliff called “transition”. The day he turns 21, he will lose his legal mandate to the government-funded care for disabled kids. Something will replace this – a shared room in a state-run group home, or a terrifying arrangement in which a flat is rented for him and his staffer leaves the moment Luke’s off to sleep. And so – the clock ticking – I set out last winter to seek a third way for him: a place or a program for profoundly impaired kids that provides them more than shelter and hot meals. The search, however selfish, had a messianic bent. There are more than 1 million children in America with autism, and 3 million more with other intellectual or developmental disabilities. Many, if not all, of their mothers and fathers are kept awake nights by two worries: How can I give my child a life worth having, and where will she/he live when I’m dead? There is no peace for us till we’ve settled those questions, not an inch of separation from the gnawing dread that we’ll leave them alone and undefended. Happily, after much hunting, I found precisely the place for Luke and kids like him: a thriving community of young adults who’ve evolved beyond their parents’ wildest dreams. Set on the North Shore of Massachusetts, it’s close enough to me that I could drive there in four hours; it houses adults for tens of thousands less than what a group home would cost, and can quickly be copied in other states. Having seen it, I’ll accept no substitute: It is there that Luke’s life and learning can begin. But to get it, I’ll have to move heaven and earth, fighting a vast bureaucracy that functions to deny parents the one decent choice they have.

To save my son, I will have to fight a vast bureaucracy that functions to deny parents the one decent choice they have.

This is contributing editor Paul Solotaroff’s first feature for Rolling Stone Australia. 82 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |


n the mid-1980s, the r ate of kids with autism was roughly one in 2,000. Thirty years later, it is one in 68, per the Centers for Disease Control. Experts agree that improvements in diagnoses account for some of that surge, as does the expansion of the term “autistic” to “autism-spectrum disorder”, which includes behaviours once called something else. At that point, though, consensus stops. A study published last year by clinicians at Penn State declared that the radical increase in reported cases was almost entirely an accounting issue. But researchers in Seattle and Denmark dispute that, saying semantics are only part of the story. “There is this portion of an increase that is not accounted for” by diagnostics, Annette Estes, director of the University of Washington’s Autism Center, has said. Stefan Hansen, who co-authored the Danish study, found that 40 per cent of new cases aren’t explained by “administrative decisions”. That split is an apt snapshot of where things stand in the third decade of the Age of Autism: We can’t even agree on the size of the problem, let alone tease out its causes. “Our current theory is that autism is many disorders and will turn out to have hundreds of triggers,” says professor David Mandell of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, the country’s go-to researcher in autism services. Asked how far we D e c e m b e r , 2 016

are from a working grasp on how, when and why the syndrome happens, Mandell was both hopeful and vague: “If the finish line is imagining techniques that let us see it at the cellular level, we’re in lap 250 of 500. But not all laps are driven the same, and the one we’re in now is long and slow.” Forty per cent of autistic children never learn to speak. Roughly half engage in aggressive behaviours, either against their caregivers or themselves. These aren’t likely to be among the 10 per

long. In New York, that list is 12,000 deep. “There are almost 5 million adults with intellectual disorders, and barely 20 per cent get any funding [for residential support],” says Kameka. “They just sit around, regressing and getting sicker.” Had my son been born to a different mother and father, that might have been his lot too. He has Fragile X syndrome (FXS), a genetic disorder that affects brain development in about one in 4,000 boys; like roughly half those boys, he is also diagnosed with autism. FXS is a condition that rings all the symptom bells, wreaking severe cognitive damage, chronic mood and sleep dysfunctions, and extreme sensitivity to light and noise. While his moods have stabilised on an antipsychotic (Abilify), there’s no effective drug for his sensory overwhelm and severe attention disorder. For what it’s worth to us, we’ll never know his IQ. He’s incapable of the focus and patience required to sit for an hour exam. Still, because we fought for him at every turn – badgering the board of education for every treatment he was owed; beating the bushes for a socialwork firm that got him Medicaid after a five-year struggle; and suing for a seat in private school, then placement, two years later, at this campus – our son has certain rarefied Grown Up rights upon his graduation. He is one of the lucky few with a The author at home reading to son Luke. At 17, Luke is a few years from aging out of his residential school, but still unable to care for himself. His parents are desperate to find him a suitable home. Medicaid waiver, which entitles him to a menu of funded services for the rest of his life. cent with so-called savant gifts who go on to do great things in The most important of those is housing support, though in arts, science and engineering. Nor are they the fraction, substanNew York, that’s, at best, a mixed blessing. Unlike in other states, tially larger though uncounted, whose high-end functioning alwhere there’s an array of options for the fraction of adults who lows them to work and find their own way in the world. These get waivers, Luke has essentially two choices. He can live in a are the other kids, the sizable percentage who don’t make sudden group home, or an Individualised Residential Alternative (IRA), strides or outgrow symptoms. They are the boom generation of as the state now prefers to call them, with two other severely imthe cognitively disabled: kids like mine, who are taught, at great paired adults, and spend his weekends and evenings doing what expense, to fold a towel and eventually tie their shoes. he does now: watching Clifford videos alone in his bedroom. That And then they turn 21 and an odd thing happens: Collectivepath is wasteful in every sense of the word. It costs New York ly – poof – they disappear. “Kids have federal rights to ‘a free and around $120,000 a year to house a child like mine in a group appropriate education’, but no mandate to anything after that,” home, and another $26,000 for a day-hab program, where he’d says Desiree Kameka, the national coordinator of the Coalition sit in a church basement doing puzzles all morning while whinfor Community Choice, a matrix of housing and service providers ing for his Kindle Fire. There are 35,000 adults in group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disorders. “Fifty in the state, or about one-sixth the total number in the country. thousand autistic kids are ageing out a year now, and the great Small wonder New York spends almost $11 billion each year on majority go home and get no support: no job training, therapy its disabled clients, which is 40 per cent more than California, or socialisation.” the next-most profligate state. As adults, they must apply to their states for help and clear a For obvious reasons, then, the state has begun pushing a secseries of tall hurdles to get it. State agencies are supposed to assess ond, less prohibitive option. Self-Direction is a newish, personthem while they’re still students for the care they’ll need as adults, centred plan that allows a family or a support agency to build but often fail to do so or set the bar so high that few qualify for a program around a child. For about half the outlay for groupMedicaid-funded help. That’s because it costs at least $2 million home/day-hab, the state routes money to parents, through a broto support an autistic person with intellectual disabilities over a ker, to rent their child a small apartment (or a room in a shared lifetime, and states are responsible for roughly half the tab for any house); to hire staff to be with him throughout the day and/or adult they support. (The other half is paid by federal Medicaid.) help him find part-time work. But this kind of parent-run SelfWithout calling it such, states quietly ration care by placing the Direction, now in its fifth year, is still tiny: Only 3,000 families mentally impaired on waiting lists. In states like Texas, Ohio and have opted in, of the 80,000 getting some funding. “I can tell Florida, the wait period for a Medicaid slot can be several decades you firsthand why no one’s doing this: It’s the end of your life as Photograph by Gillia n L aub

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Luke’s Best Chance you know it,” says Christine Reel Brander, sitting on the terrace of her tiny row house in the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn. “In the five years that we’ve done it, we’ve both aged 20 years. I can’t wait till we leave New York. We’re just . . . done.” Christine, a registered nurse, and her husband, Matt, a detective with the NYPD, are talking to me with one eye trained on their 27-year-old autistic daughter, Kimmy. She is having a good day, sitting peaceably with her iPad, rocking softly in her chaise and occasionally giving out a happy squeal. But there are wraps on both her ankles, and she can barely walk, having had a bad reaction to her diabetes meds. Maintained since her teens on a cocktail of antipsychotics, she is 20 kilos overweight and disposed to manic fits, during which she’s kicked and punched holes in her bedroom walls. Self-Direction pays most of the rent for her apartment nearby and a staffer to supervise her during the day; it doesn’t, however, pay for someone to watch her after she goes to sleep. And so her mother runs over after work to feed and bathe her daughter, then sleeps on a pullout couch there Sunday through Thursday. “My husband and I are ships in the night; we’ve barely seen each other the last five years,” says Christine. “I bring her back over here Friday through Sunday and Matt’s great at helping out then, but when was the last time we got a break?” Matt, nursing a beer, gives a bitter laugh: “It’s been 10 years since we even had a weekend.” When she aged out of school, Kimmy had some language; now, it’s all but gone. Lonely and bored, she rarely leaves her house during the week. When a staffer calls in sick or has an emergency, Kimmy’s care lands on her mother. “Six years ago, they promised us a group home; six years later, we’re still waiting for them to build it,” says her mother. If that doesn’t come to pass, the family will pull up stakes and buy a tiny farm in North Carolina. They’ll forfeit Kimmy’s funding – Medicaid waivers aren’t portable – and go to the end of their new state’s waiting list. “But at this point, I’ve stopped caring,” says Christine. “If we don’t move, we’ll both have heart attacks – and she’ll wind up in a nursing home.” At the other end of Brooklyn, Mary Clancy follows me into her cramped apartment in Carroll Gardens. Like Kimmy’s parents, she has the hangdog pallor of the chronically underslept and overburdened. Mary, a painter, and her husband, Richard, a laid-off lawyer, have sold everything they owned, including their loft in Soho, to pay for their autistic son’s treatments. It worked, to a point: Eric, 24, can speak after a fashion and is a graphic artist whose work sometimes hangs in galleries. But his sentences don’t always connect, and he can’t be left alone for more than an hour or so. “He could turn on the stove and wander away – he spends hours in our yard, just pacing and humming,” says Mary. Medicaid pays for his daily art class in Manhattan, and Self-Direction covers his chaperone there and back. But there’s no room in his funding for both the classes and an apartment, and his parents are so financially burdened that they can’t afford a night out, let alone pay a second rent. The toll of being home with him has essentially broken his mother. “I’m not even 60, and all my systems have fallen apart,” she says. “I have had over 20 surgeries and take eight medications a day.” “Her doctors agree it’s stress-related, essentially PTSD,” says Richard. “We know so many parents who are chronically ill. They work all day, then come home to these kids. The strain and the worry, it never stops.”

The Clancys also have a daughter, a high-achieving teen in her last year of high school. In a year, she’ll be off to college, and Mary hopes to leave the city and follow her artist friends to the Hudson Valley. But even a rented house in an affordable town like Newburgh won’t solve the Eric problem. “Too ‘high-functioning’ to get into a group home, and too low-functioning to live alone – basically, we’ve got him till we die,” she says. “How is that fair to anyone, least of all him? He’s the loneliest kid I know, and it breaks my heart.” If she lived in a nearby state, she’d have a path forward: a rapidly growing program called Shared Living. It recruits and trains providers – usually families or empty-nesters – to house autistic youths as long-term lodgers. It pays them well, covers most of the youths’ expenses and connects them with a therapeutic job site. New York has a stripped-down version called Family Care, but only serves 1,900 of the 38,000 New Yorkers currently using some form of residential support. Vermont has moved a third of its eligible adults into Shared Living homes; in New Hampshire, the number is 40 per cent. Neither do it as well, though, as Essex County in Massachusetts. There, one woman has perfected the model and created a human greenhouse for these kids. Daniela Morse takes youths like mine, plants them in fresh soil and adds just the right mixture of staff and nutrients to coax growth from kids who no one thought would bloom. I would pull up stakes tomorrow and eagerly entrust our son to Morse’s care. But Medicaid won’t allow that; his waiver can’t cross state lines. It is the honey trap countless families find themselves ensnared by: Stay in a place where your child hasn’t thrived, or move someplace where he might and go bankrupt.

“50,000 autistic kids are ageing out a year, and the great majority get no support: no job training, therapy or socialisation.”

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n a chapped, snow-blow n morning in January this year, I stood in the doorway of a barn in Massachusetts, watching young adults with autism and other impairments tend the horses and donkeys. Wearing ski gloves and snowsuits, they kibitzed with each other as they mucked the stalls and laid down mats of bedding. There were a dozen or so guys trundling in and out of the stables. At some point, each of them stopped what he was doing to come over, shake hands and say hi. As we fumbled with small talk, I felt my throat thicken: Not once in his life has my child greeted me as I walked through the door. “You’re looking at guys who were terrified of strangers,” says Daniela Morse, her barn coat flapping open. “Many of them barely talked when they came to us. Now, just try to make them stop!” Morse, 53, is a tall, jut-jawed blonde with an outdoorswoman’s indifference to the cold. Nine years ago, she started a firm called the Shared Living Collaborative (SLC) out of her garage in Merrimac, Massachusetts. Having worked for two decades with a variety of kids in crisis, Morse set out to serve the ones otherwise bound for institutions: those with extreme behaviours, multiple diagnoses and psych-med regimens reaching back to grade school. “These aren’t scary kids, they’re kids who are deathly scared; they’ve been traumatised over and over,” she says. “We don’t try to fix them, we try to fi x their environment. If you manage that, then the behaviours can fi x themselves.” D e c e m b e r , 2 016

For the first several years, she eked out a living matching youths with providers in the area. Some kids were autistic; others had unspecified intellectual disorders, with complicated histories of abuse. Morse gave extensive training in managing behaviour and solving crises to the families that took them in, and offered the youths’ parents a broad choice of households, looking to make a match that might last decades. She connected a caseworker to every home, checked in often and gave the providers ample time off to travel with their families and recharge. The local disability office sent her more kids, delighted with the gains her

downtown, where her clients cook the produce from her farms to serve crews and staffers wholesome lunches every day. On the same block in Merrimac, she morphed an office into a studio that trains dozens of clients to design and weave textiles that they sell at local fairs. She opened a co-op studio to teach ballroom dancing, and recently added two new farms. At each of these sites, I caught glimpses of Luke: boys with his horsy, loping gait and his furtive, sidelong smile. My heart skipped to think of him working beside them, absorbed for a couple of hours in honest labour. “We’re training guys to handle money and talk to shoppers – that’s the integration I believe in,” Morse says. “You can’t send autistic guys to eat at McDonald’s and expect them to make friends with the other diners. But if you bring the community here and offer them something of value, that’s how you start to build connections.”



hat word – “integr ation” – is a stealth missile these days. It’s being used by executives in state and federal governments to champion the rights of autistic people while defunding their programs and housing options. Till recently, clients with Medicaid could live and work together in “intentional communities” for the disabled. Those places, often founded by handfuls of parents as alternatives to group-home placement, looked and felt a lot like Morse’s program. They were typically set on farmsteads or gated compounds, gave the residents jobs that also happened Honest Work to be therapeutic, and allowed them to make the At the Shared Living kinds of lasting friendships they’d never formed at Collaborative in Massachuhome or in school. Over time, the roots they sank setts, kids otherwise bound there let the parents exhale, confident their kids for institutions are given would be safe and cared for after they passed away. shelter and tasked with meaningful farm work, all But in 2014, the central Medicaid office in Baltiof which has led clients like more launched a strike on intentional communities. Ryan (left) to improve their Saying that farms and compounds “segregated” reslanguage and behaviour. idents from taking part in the world at large, it issued a “final rule” that will effectively cut off funding for communities unless they make massive changes. Parents across the country were shocked and outcharges were making – and the tens of thousands of dollars she raged to learn that their housing choices may be quashed. “The was saving a year on average, per client, on a group-home bed. government we thought was our partner is now acting like our Morse rented a bigger office and began adding staff. She soon enemy,” says Alison Singer, the co-founder and president of the noticed, however, that her workplace was crowded with youths Autism Science Foundation, whose daughter is nearing her agesuspended from their job sites for acting out. “They were bored out date. “This is all about money, not ‘freedom’,” says Jill Escher, out of their minds, and who could blame them?” she says. “Would president of the Autism Society San Francisco Bay Area, who has you want to be stuck at a table all day, stuffing envelopes?” two profoundly disabled children. “They took a look at their budget A friend of a friend mentioned he had a small farm to lease, costs and said, ‘To hell with them. Let’s cut their spending now.’ ” with a couple of riding horses and some chickens. Morse drove But Morse, through some combination of luck and foreto Amesbury, the next town over, and felt a sense of peace while sight, fashioned a program exempt from the final rule. None of walking the spread. She started planting crops there in the sumher 90 adults live in a group. Typically, they share a house with mer of 2010 and taught her clients to ride in the outdoor ring. As their provider families and one other impaired adult in their age the kids cribbed the basics of animal care and woodwork, their range. Most of the providers have experience working with peolanguage improved and their meltdowns diminished; they began ple with disabilities – special-ed teachers, group-home managmaking friends with one another. By 2012, Morse’s client list had ers. They genuinely like this population and often earn more looktripled, and suddenly she had the wherewithal to buy her own ing after them than they did at their day jobs. (The state pays farm – then a second one. Virtually everything on those farms exthem $30,000 to $60,000 a year, per client.) I visited several of cept the offices has been razed, rebuilt and restored by her crews. these houses and found them warm, beckoning places where the The paddocks, chicken coops and greenhouses: all of it done by youths seem more like nephews than boarders. They eat dinner men and women who no one thought capable of focused physiwith their hosts and join them on family outings. “My guys love cal labour and carpentry. dinner theatres,” says Donna Cavagnac, a former case manager These days, Morse is managing 90 clients, plus 50 adults who of a substance-abuse program who now cares for two SLC adults work there but live at home or in supportive housing, and growin her home. “If I didn’t have them with me, I’d be lonely. They’ve [Cont. on 96] ing her full-time staff to 70 workers. She opened up the Share Cafe given me so much more than I give them.” D e c e m b e r , 2 016

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Leonard Cohen’s LateNight Serenade An octogenarian lady’s man seduces the eternal with grim, spiritual beauty

Leonard Cohen You Want It Darker Sony



On his signature classic, “Hallelujah”, Leonard Cohen sings about meeting “the Lord of Song”. But on the title track of his new LP, the third in a lategame rally that’s been as startlingly brilliant as Bob Dylan’s, Cohen takes that imagined reckoning with the Almighty deeper, intoning “Hineni”, a Hebrew term for addressing God that translates as “Here I am”. The punchline, aside from the title’s cheeky challenge – true Cohen fans always want it darker – is that with his cantorial delivery, the famous lady’s man makes the phrase sound kinda like “hey, baby”. In fact, an unlikely EDM remix of “You Want It Darker”, by DJ Paul Kalkbrenner, turns the phrase into a dance-floor chant – more proof of how much modern lifeblood still flows through Cohen’s voice after five decades on the job. Illustration by Rory Kurtz

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REVIEWS MUSIC This is Cohen’s gift to music lovers: a realistically grim, spiritually radiant and deeply poetic worldview, spiked with a romantic thrum and an existential wink. Following a string of records that have each felt like a swan song, You Want It Darker may be Cohen’s most haunting LP – and at 82, it might also be his last. “I’m angry and I’m tired all the time,” he sings on “Treaty”, a stately parlour march to piano and strings that blooms from breakup lament into meditations on the fool’s errand of religion. The Brylcreem-scented slow dance “Leaving the Table” similarly flickers between romantic and spiritual resignation, Bill Bottrell’s electric guitar and steel fills flickering like mirror-ball beams as the famous rake ruefully insists, “I don’t need a lover/The wretched beast is tame” – as sure a sign of the End Times as Arctic melt. As on Cohen’s 2014 Popular Problems, blues define the vibe. But other colours deepen

‘You Want It Darker’ is the sound of a master soundtracking his exit. the narrative. The Congregation Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir, who billow across the title track, recall Cohen’s Jewish upbringing in Montreal; “Traveling Light” conjures his halcyon years in Greece in the early Sixties with his late muse Marianne Ihlen, the subject of “So Long, Marianne”, who died in late July. “Good night, my fallen star . . . ,” Cohen sings in a near-whisper amid bouzouki notes, like a man dancing in an empty taverna after closing time. Like David Bowie’s Blackstar and Dylan’s long goodbye, You Want It Darker is the sound of a master soundtracking his exit, with advice for those left behind. “Steer your way through the ruins of the Altar and the Mall,” he sings near the album’s end, against a gently bouncing bluegrass fiddle, his son Adam’s subtle guitar and Alison Krauss’ angelic backing vocals. It’s what he’s always done, helping the rest of us do the same, as best we can. KEY TRACKS: “Treaty”, “So Long, Marianne”, “Traveling Light”


Pretenders Alone Liberator


Chrissie Hynde gets the band back together

Kings of Leon’s Buffed-Up Garage Rock

“It’s just a name,” Chrissie Hynde shrugs. It’s a shame her own didn’t raise much interest on Stockholm, her 2014 “solo” debut with Björn Yttling. That had more intriguing intentions than Dan Auerbach’s matt-finish approach to this first Pretenders album since 2008. Opener “Alone” is a Lou Reed street-speak kiss-off that would have fit the band’s debut album. Raw-boned twangers “Never Be Together” and “Chord Lord” come from a similar vintage place, heart-stopping vocal throb and all. Shreds of Hynde’s later country leanings flavour “Let’s Get Lost” and the southof-the-border seduction of “Blue Eyed Sky”. They’re all highlights of a return that’s more reliable than remarkable. MICHAEL DWYER

Followill boys reach for pop grandeur without losing their guitar-slinging potency


Kings of Leon WALLS RCA ★★★ “Like in a mainstream melody/Oh, I want to take you in!” sings Caleb Followill on “Wild”, a pop-rock rhinestone delivering said melody with bell-toned guitars and a singalong chorus. Sure enough, after a sleevesup recommitment to Southern garage-ish roots on 2013’s Mechanical Bull, Kings of Leon try to parse what “mainstream” means right now for a bunch of true-to-theirschool guitar-slingers on their seventh LP. The result is radio-buff rock & roll that could spoon between One Republic’s genre-splicing power moves KEY TRACKS: and the Head and the Heart’s folk-pop “Wild”, uplift. “Muchacho” Producer Markus Dravs (Coldplay, Mumford & Sons) does an admirable job of translating Followill’s signature slurred delivery and the band’s muscular jangle into thicker arrangements, though the result can feel generic: “Reverend” resembles the proforma rock Nashville now markets as “country”, while the anthemic “whoa-ooh”s in “Waste a Moment” – mirroring the Kings’ megahit “Use Somebody” – have a whiff of old stadium hotdogs. Encouragingly, the best bits are less predictable. The homeboy requiem “Muchacho” echoes the drum-machine cha-cha revival seeded by D.R.A.M. and Drake’s “Hotline Bling” with a Roy Orbison delivery (remix!). And the title track is a slow-build power ballad suggesting the Kings can be more potent and distinctive WILL HERMES when they dial it back.

★★★★★ Classic | ★★★★ Excellent | ★★★ Good | ★★ Fair | ★ Poor

Ghosts of the Social Dead Dinner for Wolves ★★★½ Melburnians reactivate to make nu-metal great again

Twelve years after being relegated to the nu-metal scrapheap, Superheist are back with new singer Ezekiel Ox (Mammal, Full Scale) and drummer Benny Clark in the fold. Mainstay guitarist DW Norton and bassist Drew Dedman retain the band’s downtuned trademarks, however the dated synths have gone the way of the wallet chain, replaced with more maturesounding string and piano flourishes. Rapping like Zeke de la Rocha, Ox’s rhymes might feel forced at times, but his political rage is potent (“Back to Base”), and he shows off his impressive range on several soaring choruses, the most effective being “Wolves in Your Headspace” and “The GAVIN BRITTON Deepend”.

Ratings are supervised by the editors of R OLLING S TONE .

Rapid Fire Rap Star Hip-hop star in the making delivers impressively diverse debut

Agnes Obel

Tkay Maidza Tkay Dew Process/Universal


Citizen of Glass PIAS


There’s a lot of expectation riding on the shoulders of young Tkay Maidza. Over the past two years, the Zimbabwean-born, Adelaideraised 20-year-old has been impressing crowds and cognoscenti at home and overseas with a string of impressive singles and a mini-EP, blessedly obfuscating the memory of one Iggy Azalea and instead earning comparisons to the far more talented Azealia Banks (in talent, not attitude – anyone who’s seen Maidza perform live knows the girl is pure sunshine). By now, she’s had enough smoke blown up her arse to know that she’s a bit of all right, and it shows in the steady-eyed, unapologetic swagger of tracks KEY TRACKS: “Carry On”, that, while not as incendi- “Monochrome”, ary as the likes of “M.O.B.” “Tennies” or “Switch Lanes”, hold your attention as Maidza ducks and weaves through grime, garage, straight-up hip-hop and electroballads in frenetic three-minute bursts. She’s got Killer Mike backing her on the sing-songy

Sleigh Bells

Jessica Rabbit Remote Control ★★½

New York duo throw the kitchen sink into the mix

“Pop rocks and coke make your head explode!” squeals Alexis Krauss in “Rule Number One”. Your head may well do the same during the duo’s fourth album. Derek Miller still shreds like the hardcore guitarist he used to be, but they’ve gone for a maximalist pop approach that can grate, sometimes sounding like they’re playing three or four mismatched songs at once – digitally diced and sliced beats are tossed against jibbering Eighties synths and random blasts of metallic guitar. “Torn Clean” provides some brooding respite from the ADD approach and “I Can’t Stand You Anymore” is one of their more catchy moments, but when Krauss exclaims “I’m manic and breathless, it’s exhausting”, one can only agree. BARRY DIVOLA D e c e m b e r , 2 016

More cosy attic dreams from Danish piano whisperer

“Carry On”, borrowing brat-Brit from fellow firespitter Charli XCX; is sweetly aspirational on “Simulation”, coming over all Tove Lo; and channels M.I.A. on the glitchy “Tennies”, an ode to her tennis shoes. High school themes abound, but there’s nothing childish about some of these explicit lyrics and tracks like “Monochrome”, setting a bloated, bouncing bassline to snarling verse. “The winner you’ll be seeing is me,” she ANNABEL ROSS spits. Highly likely.

Paul Kelly & Charlie Owen Death’s Dateless Night Gawd Aggie/ Universal


Melbourne troubadours lightly carry the weight of the world

Paul Kelly’s specialty as a song and dance man, as many have noted, has something to do with balancing life itself on the head of a pin. These 12 funeral songs – as requested of him and/or guitarist Charlie Owen over many years – carry the greatest weight of all with the lightness of an airy room, courtesy of J Walker’s unobtrusive production, ringing with just one or two guitars and occasional keys. Hymnal farewells (“Parting Glass”, “Let It Be”) are unremarkable in their selection but land with striking intent, while odes to full-blooded life (“Pallet On Your Floor”, “Don’t Fence Me In”, “Good Things”) refuse the simplicity of sadness in favour of more profound M.D. emotion.

Big Smoke

Time Is Golden Remote Control


Melbourne folk-rock outfit honour late singer on debut

This f irst album from Big Smoke comes after frontman and songwriter Adrian Slattery died earlier this year following a protracted battle with cancer. Indeed, the album was recorded as he underwent treatment, and it is a testament to Slattery’s resilience that Time Is Golden is mostly an uplifting collection, benefitting from production similar to the Tom Petty-inf luenced sound of Ryan Adams’ self-titled LP of 2014. With arrangements and song structures echoing Okkervil River and Springsteen, the eight-minute “When You Dance” is a fine example of Slattery’s songwriting gifts, as is the gospel-infused bluster of “Kiss Me Once”. A moving farewell from a muchloved local hero. BARNABY SMITH

There’s always been something kinda glassy about Agnes Obel’s albums, glistening as they do like ice crystals at attic windows. The hushed, folk-classical singer-pianist from Denmark has a grander concept for her third inward journey, but an alleged theme of privacy vs. transparency is (ahem) opaque at best, as glacial keys and slithering strings sculpt her cosy snowbound inner world. “Stretch Your Eyes” serves notice of occasional robust rhythms, and her pitchshifted vocal on “Familiar” is the most startling example of a wider range of sonic elements, but the enveloping steam bath destination typified by the instrumental “Grasshopper” reM.D. mains her main allure.

The Dillinger Escape Plan Dissociation

Party Smasher Inc/Cooking Vinyl


Metalcore’s most restless band go big on pre-hiatus LP

After announcing that Dissociation will be their last album before going on an extended hiatus, the Dillinger Escape Plan deliver up a frantic slab of jazz-infused metalcore (“Limerent Death”) that briefly pays homage to the band’s first record before forging new melodic directions. The record shifts gears with a honey-smooth Greg Puciato vocal on “Symptom Of Terminal Illness”, and from there it yo-yos between prog-experimentation and frenetic, jackhammer riffery. It’s a winning combination of every direction DEP have taken throughout their career, creating a powerful full-stop if this is indeed the last entry in their MATT COYTE discography.

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Client Liaison

Haley Bonar

Diplomatic Immunity Dot Dash/Remote Control

Impossible Dream Cooking Vinyl ★★★½


Wry, confident power-pop from Minnesotan indie darling

Melbourne duo’s long-awaited synth-pop debut is terrific fun

Four years after Client Liaison dropped their first single “End of the Earth”, the album is finally here, and it sees vocalist Monte Morgan and producer Harvey Miller continue their ridiculous romp through Eighties-era excess – see the George Michael grunt of “Off White Limousine” and sublime electro-ballad “Hotel Stay” – in a vibrant Ken Done canvas of Prince-inspired pop, Eurobeats and the odd didgeridoo. “Canberra Won’t Be Calling Tonight”, an ode to diplomatic immunity, looks set to become the unlikely refrain of the summer, and Tina Arena makes an inspired cameo with a wink at the Sorrento moon. At once irresistibly stupid and very, very clever, it’s well worth the wait. ANNABEL ROSS

Tove Lo: Part op Star, Part Perfect Disaster Swedish singer works the dark side of dancepop on messed-up second LP

The Finks

Middling Milk!

Tove Lo Lady Wood Island ★★★½

Melbourne home recorder shines through his melancholy

Swedish singer Tove Lo works a killer pop paradox: her songs sleek and sheer, her rawboned lyrics delivered with chill concision. But her world is a mess of bleary late nights, stifl ing doubt and confessional abandon: “Give zero fucks about it,” she sings on “True Disaster”, from her second LP. “I know I’m gonna get hurt.” Lucky for us, she gives as good as she gets. Tove Lo got her start working in Max Martin’s Top 40 laboratory, and there are elements of crash-test Britney Spears and Robyn’s KEY TRACKS: “Cool Girl”, introspective dance pop in her sound. “Vibes”, “WTF She’s especially good at making odd, Love Is” even uncomfortable phrases seem as natural as hip-hop bons mots: “[You] give me lady wood,” she notes effortlessly on the title track. Lady Wood doesn’t have anything that hits quite as hard as “Habits (Stay High)” and “Talking Body”, standout singles from her 2014 debut. But its minimalist tech-house sound has a darkly textured allure; “Cool Girl” builds a noirishly predatory thumper out of a reference to a line from the novel Gone Girl, and “Vibes” deploys spidery acoustic guitar and creepy low-end blurps as she sings, “I want you to lick my wounds.” Whether she’s high as fuck (“Influence”) or stranded on the dance floor (“WTF Love Is”), she thrives on the power of losing yourself in sounds you can dominate and emotions you’ll never JON DOLAN contain.


“I’m not ahead of my time, I’m behind it,” quips Oliver Mestitz to open the fifth release from his revolving-cast ensemble the Finks. He’s a natural at such self-deprecation (see the album title), and he’s also got enough deadpan charm and attention to lyrical detail to rival his pal Courtney Barnett. As for the music, it dabbles in low-key guests and alternately creaky and luminous guitar melodies against a home-recorded intimacy that’s perfect for Mestitz’s tender wordplay. Songs like “Old Life” and the harmonica-rustled “How Long Is Too Long?” are achingly slow and crushingly beautiful, both in the tale and in the telling. “I measure my words,” sings Mestitz, and that kind of understatement is a rare gift. D.W. 90 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

Discovered by Low’s Alan Sparhawk in 2001, Haley Bonar’s career now spans seven albums of quite uncategorisable pop. Impossible Dream sways between a dreaminess resulting from her reverb-heavy vocals and the immediacy of her melodies, and an underbelly of punk/noise with rough guitars, befitting lyrics that vent personal frustration and lambast suburbia. At moments she’s reminiscent of early St Vincent, while a certain vulnerability in Bonar’s singing hints at Cat Power on “Better Than Me”. While the catchiness is among the chief attractions, some more complex songwriting turns may have added a further dimension, but it’s hard not to be charmed by such wit and self-awareness. BARNABY SMITH


Outer Polydor ★★½

British electronic duo broaden reach but come up short

This London duo occupy a strange position between cheese and class. Opener “All We Ever Needed” starts out all stadium-scything synths, recalling the worst of Above & Beyond, before a fulsome female house vocal performs CPR. “Tiers” is decent, mainly because it sounds like a George FitzGerald track, while “Trough” could be a fine Dr. Who theme update. The boys can do grime (the Wiley-featuring “Sort it Out Sharon”), and capably nod to the Nineties with the Orbital-esque “Ingrid Is a Hybrid”. Mostly though, Outer feels like Dusky are trying to please rather than push the envelope, politely referencing their inf luences without saying anything we haven’t A.R. heard before. D e c e m b e r , 2 016

Sting’s Rock Return


Dead To the World Sony


Sting holds stick shift in hand on pop-rock victory lap

Alt-metal heroes stop taking themselves too seriously

Sting 57th & 9th Universal


“Dear leaders please do something quick/Time is up, the planet’s sick.” That’s the worst of Sting’s surprise rock return after a decade of Renaissance lutes, stage musical autobiography and other un-danceable shenanigans. But the listless climate change rumination of “One Fine Day” is far from the only clanger here. “50,000”, a half-spoken musing about rock & roll immortality, plays just as clumsily into the hands that would paint KEY TRACK: “I him as a pompous pranny Can’t Stop Thinkintoning his humble wisdom ing About You” in a deep, thespian rasp that Russell Crowe might deem a tad ponderous. The lead track and single, “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You”, is much more clever, casting elusive inspiration as a lover lost in the snow

Hat Fitz & Cara

After the Rain MGM ★★½

Irish-Australian couple deliver fourth album of rough blues

There’s an argument to be made that a musical partnership between a husband and wife – particularly in the folk and country realm – can have a problem accessing what we might call ‘edge’. Often, the energy born of restlessness and friction is dulled by domestic contentment. Hat Fitz & Cara operate somewhere on the brink. The duo’s percussive, gutsy blues can produce a brooding intensity, as on “Try”, whereas elsewhere the more upbeat boogie-woogie comes to grate. Cara’s vocals are as powerful as ever in a conventional kind of way, while her husband’s growl, like a less raspy Seasick Steve, is the LP’s most soulful ingredient. An accomplished, if unremarkable, B.S. addition to their oeuvre. D e c e m b e r , 2 016

with a melody and attack that would have fit the Police’s Synchronicity like, well, an OK B-side. That familiar brash electric twang cut with extended jazz chords is all over “Down, Down, Down” and the more raucous “Petrol Head”, which recalls that unfortunate yogic sex incident with its squirmy juxtaposition of “burning bush” and “stick shift in my hand”. Even given the rich folk tradition of crossdressing battle songs, “Pretty Young Soldier” is the most bizarre of the lilting acoustic tunes. Thematically, the anxious parent’s modern world lament, “Inshallah”, seems to sum up a general acquiescence to fate, which is anything but inMICHAEL DWYER spiring.


So Long Forever Fiction/Caroline ★★½ A gauzy blend of Coldplay and Jeff Buckley

They say one of their major influences is Wu Lyf, the shortlived Manchester band better remembered for the hype than the music. But in reality, this English quartet take more from early Coldplay, along with the overt Jeff Buckley affectations of “It’s Over” and “Family”. Everything in Palace jangles, trickles and tinkles, underpinned by skittery drum patterns, with reverb whacked on top to give it all plenty of echo and space. Singer-guitarist Leo Wyndham sounds like he’s singing everything with big puppy dog eyes, crooning earnest lines such as “trust yourself, it’s harsh out there” in a f lighty tenor over trebly guitars that stutter and spark without really catching fire. BARRY DIVOLA


Love Songs: Part Two ★★★½

Ever since Helmet’s 1997 LP Aftertaste, Page Hamilton has been struggling to rediscover that ‘special sauce’ that made his band such a cornerstone of Nineties alt-metal. He’s tried going back to their first producer, he’s tweaked the lineup, gone intentionally lo-fi, anything to recapture the magic. On Dead To the World, Hamilton sounds like he’s decided to just enjoy himself, resulting in Helmet’s best album in years. Touches of the melody that made ’94’s Betty such a smash come through in tracks like “Red Scare”, while the jackhammer riffing of Meantime is still front and centre. Now that Hamilton is looking forward again, it’s exciting to see what Helmet will come MATT COYTE up with.

Kadhja Bonet Inertia

Producer finds the odd revelation on love-themed LP

UK electronic producer and musician Romare (born Archie Fairhurst) proves his adeptness at taking disparate elements – vocal samples, monophonic synthesizers, thumping dance beats – and repurposing them into something all his own. Fairhurst has a flair for morphing simple, repetitive grooves into something much fuller and enticing (the pulsing “Je T’aime”; the blues-influenced disco-funk of “All Night”, which recalls Play-era Moby), although the technique doesn’t always pay-off (“Don’t Stop”, which is as relentless as the title suggests). When it all comes together – as on joyous houseinf lected centrepiece “Who Loves You?” – Love Songs hits the amorous dancefloor highs J.J. it sets out to achieve.

The Visitor Fat Possum/Inertia


A richly conceived debut that broadcasts a bold future

L.A. multi-hyphenate Kadhja Bonet wrote and arranged almost everything on her selfproduced debut. Expanded from an initial EP version, this eight-track incarnation is all sumptuous sweep, weaving together the cosmic jazz vibes of Flying Lotus with the wispy film soundtracks of greats like Krzysztof Komeda. Against much layered synth, harp and orchestral f lourishes, Bonet bends her voice from Erykah Badu-esque f lutters (“Fairweather Friend”) to pure harmonising (“Nobody Other”). The striking “Honeycomb” flirts with Tame Impala’s drum sound, while the title track wows with heady vocal effects. It’s all so fully realised, yet there’s a sense that Bonet is D.W. only getting started.

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Ben Lee

Freedom, Love and the Recuperation of the Human Mind ABC ★★★ Indie-pop wunderkind goes for acoustic rumination on 11th LP

Ben Lee walks a blurred line of dewey-eyed idealistic optimism and insufferable pretension, but his transition from precocious pop maestro to folksy ‘adult’ pop has been quietly impressive. Lee built a career delivering glorious pop tunes with the odd experimental concept record (2013’s Ayahuasca), but Freedom, Love… is an intimate acoustic meditation on the nature of spirituality, the self and searching for higher meaning. Amid the quiet, gentle folky pop of “Simple Gospel”, “Two Questions” and “Bigger Than Me”, Lee infuses the whole record with an insular, earnest agreeableness. But even so, musically it lacks Lee’s usual vitality, and its message sorely needs it. JAYMZ CLEMENTS

France’s Lords of the Dance Parisian pranksters mellow out on rewarding disco odyssey

Justice Woman Ed Banger/Because ★★★½ Justice, the Parisian duo of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay, landed in 2007 with an ebullient up-yours to the dance music establishment - † was French touch with the dial turned way up, distorted, and overlaid with mincing rock riffs. Follow-up Audio, Video, Disco eschewed † mark II for dalliances with prog-rock, and while diverting, there was nothing quite as visceral as say, “Genesis”. Five years later, Justice have shifted shapes again – Woman is a disco album, as performed by an acid-loving lothario in a gold glitter g-string. Saturated in slap bass, “Safe and Sound” curls around psychedelic synth bursts and “D.A.N.C.E.”style vocals, while “Pleasure” might be a Hair soundtrack offcut, the ensemble KEY TRACKS: harmonising on “Use imagination as a “Safe and Sound”, “Alakadestination.” “Alakazam!” is a Moroder- zam!” esque rocket ride with crunching guitars, “Stop”, featuring Johnny Blake from Zoot Woman, is a Discovery-era Daft Punk slowie. Things get weirder in the back end with “Chorus”, a lyric-free epic with ghostly synths, while “Heavy Metal” recalls some of M83’s recent baroque experiments. And the dreamy outro pairing of “Love S.O.S.” and “Close Call” is Justice at their most sentimental yet. It’s not the seismic statement † was, but Woman sounds like a band maturing with style, without ever making the ANNABEL ROSS mistake of taking themselves too seriously.

Jamie Lidell

Building a Beginning Kobalt


Neo-soul family man returns with prodigious sixth LP

Lidell’s first post-Warp Records outing is emblematic of his singular trajectory: from one-time electro experimenter/Prince idolater to bona fide soul-crooner. Satin-smooth opener “Building a Beginning” finds the singer at his expressive best, while hymn to fatherhood “Julian” pairs a classic funk rhythm section with the peculiar mannerisms that make Lidell the innovative producer-composer he is. Flowing with impressive ease through sensuous devotionals, sweltering funk (“Nothing’s Gonna Change”) and brooding electro-soul (“Believe In Me”), Lidell rarely succumbs to the kind of crate-digging erudition that defines the work of so many contemporary soul peers. His sound is all his own. G.H.

Frank Iero and the Patience

Birds of Tokyo


Melodic rockers feel the weight of the world on fifth album

Parachutes Cooking Vinyl

Frank Iero changes things up on second solo offering

Frank Iero has shaken off his old band name to explore new sounds on his second album. Operating under the guise of Frank Iero and the Patience (rather than the previous “andthe Cellabration”), the former My Chemical Romance guitarist ventures beyond his usual sonic parameters. Coproduced by Ross Robinson (Slipknot), Iero channels Johnny Cash on “Miss Me”, fires up unapologetic punk angst on first single “I’m a Mess” and mixes melodic alt-rock on “Oceans”. The album closes with “September 6th”, a heartbreakingly raw song about Iero’s late grandfather. A mixed bag of styles, Parachutes is Iero finding himself. SALLY MCMULLEN 92 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

Brace EMI ★★★½

Hats off to Birds of Tokyo – given the success they’ve had with radio-friendly fodder such as “Lanterns”, they could have been forgiven for riding that wave into a well-funded retirement. Instead, for Brace they enlisted producer David Bottrill (Tool) and made an album as dark as the times in which it was written. “Harlequin” sees them embrace their inner Muse, a reference that rears its head perhaps a little too frequently (“Gods”, “Brace”), while the brooding “Pilot” finds Ian Kenny asking, “If I had to drown myself in gasoline would you carry the match for me?”. Clearly not an album for your next party, it is, however, one that requires – and rewards – ROD YATES full immersion. D e c e m b e r , 2 016

Bring the Noise

Martha Wainwright Goodnight City Inertia ★★★½

Thrash legends prove they’ve still got it on 10th studio album

Force of nature finds sheltered harbour


Hardwired . . . To Self-Destruct Blackened Recordings/EMI


Few bands are subjected to the kind of scrutiny when releasing a new album as Metallica. But that’s what happens when your first five records – from 1983’s Kill ’Em All to 1991’s ‘Black Album’ – are regarded as metal classics. Of course, it doesn’t help that the past few decades have yielded more ups and downs than a stock market, testing the patience of even the most ardent fan, whether it be the perceived sell-out of 1996’s Load, St. KEY TRACKS: Anger’s songless din or the “Hardwired”, “Am much maligned collaboration I Savage?”, “Halo On Fire” with Lou Reed, 2011’s Lulu. If, as many believe, Metallica righted the ship with 2008’s Death Magnetic, the 12 tracks spread across this double album continue that trajectory. There are nods to the band’s thrash past – “Hardwired”, the brilliantly-

Jimmy Eat World Integrity Blues Sony ★★★½

Arizona quartet feel the emotional blues on ninth LP

If the song “Pass the Baby” is any indication, Jimmy Eat World clearly don’t prescribe to the saying you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. Featuring a hushed Jim Adkins vocal, and atmospherics Trent Reznor would approve of, it concludes with a slab of almost stoneresque riffing quite unlike anything the Arizona rockers have ever attempted. The sombre, orchestral title-track also pushes their sonic boundaries, but elsewhere Jimmy Eat World’s ninth studio LP plays pretty much to type, albeit with a distinctly downbeat feel. “Sure and Certain”, “You With Me” and “It Matters”, however, are reminders that few pull off heartfelt emo-indie-whatever rock as S.J. well as Adkins and Co. D e c e m b e r , 2 016

titled “Spit Out the Bone” – and such is the riffing and attitude of “Atlas, Rise!” that it could have been plucked off their Kill ’Em All debut. Primarily, though, this is an album of grooves, and some of them are monsters (“Am I Savage?”, “Dream No More”). On occasion the band overthink things and trip themselves up (“ManUNkind”), and there would have been some merit in shaving a few songs off the tracklist to make an even 10. But when that’s the biggest complaint of an album by a band 35 years into their career – a band with a catalogue as rich as Metallica’s, no less – it’s clear they’re doing much more than just treading water. Instead they’re shouting at the top SIMON JONES of their lungs, “We ain’t done yet!”

Seasick Steve

Keepin’ the Horse Between Me and the Ground Universal


His identity may have been mythical, but his music prevails

Seasick Steve’s eighth album coincides with the publication of a biography (Matthew Wright’s Seasick Steve: Ramblin’ Man) that debunks Seasick’s self-constructed myth of freight train-hopping hobo hitting the big time. That Steve Leach never really lived the outsider’s life he sings about shouldn’t really matter, however, if his music continues to convince. And it does. This double album of unhurried blues is less raucous than his early work, but 20 tracks is overkill, particularly given that four covers are included (including a chilling version of Love’s “Signed D.C.”). Yet that grizzled howl is still compelling, romantic backstory or not. BARNABY SMITH

It’s comforting to hear from a confessional songwriter you can trust. No crafty masks or unreliable narrators, just blood and guts and skeletons laid bare. The family allusions and brazen revelations continue on Martha Wainwright’s best album in years (“I used to do a lot of blow/ Now I only do the show”) but the plot thickens with songs written by her brother Rufus, Beth Orton, Glen Hansard and more. There’s an ease of delivery in the mostly live recording with a chamber jazz combo capable of the grinding rock of “So Down” and nocturnal elegance of “Piano Music”. As always, her astounding voice is a force unto itself, but rarely has it felt quite so sure of its MICHAEL DWYER purpose.

Empire of the Sun




Two Vines EMI/Virgin

Don’t Look Down EMI

Duo hit a comfortable groove on slick third LP

The charm of Empire of the Sun’s 2008 debut was a sense that the two musicians involved – the Sleepy Jackson’s Luke Steele and Pnau’s Nick Littlemore – were pushing themselves out of their comfort zone. On Two Vines, the pair have honed in on a definable EOTS “sound”: big, glossy pop songs designed to bring euphoria to big festival crowds. At points it plays too much like sticking to a tried and tested formula, but when they ease back on the maximalist production (the Eighties pop-referencing “First Crush”, “ZZZ” and Lindsey Buckingham-featuring “To Her Door”) there’s a sense that their strengths may not necessarily lie solely in songs designed to move the swaying masses. J.J.

MC releases long-awaited follow-up to 2008 debut

Eight years is a decent wait for a follow-up record, but as Pez takes time to explain on Don’t Look Down, his second set has had a tough genesis. Immediately after his debut the emcee faced a long period of illness, and while he discusses the self-doubt and challenges he faced during the creation of this album, his still-familiar laidback flow lends things an easy charm. It’s the guests who add welcome variety: Paul Kelly, 360, Hailey Cramer and Paul Dempsey deliver strong contributions, with Kelly particularly memorable on the haunting “Livin’ On”. Maybe not the breezy follow-up fans expected years ago, but Don’t Look Down rewards those who’ve grown up DANIEL FINDLAY too.

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Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough in American Honey.

On the Road Again

Messy, magnificent road movie is blessed with two amazing performances By Peter Travers American Honey

Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf Directed by Andrea Arnold


“st e a dy a s a pr e ach e r , free as a weed,” goes the Lady Antebellum tune that gives filmmaker Andrea Arnold’s teenage-island-of-misfit-toys road movie its title. You can see why those two things might be aspirations for Star (newcomer Sasha Lane), the teenager we first meet digging through the trash for food, grubby kid siblings in tow. Stability and liberation aren’t things she comes across a lot. Her life is a wreck, her residence is a parody of Southern trashiness (ants on the counter, handsy stepdad in the living room) and this podunk town offers her nothing but poverty and pain. So why wouldn’t that guy (Shia LaBeouf) making eyes at her in a passing minivan attract her attention? And when this 94

Romeo with a rattail – his name is Jake – offers her a job selling magazines in red-state America alongside fellow miscreants and fuck-ups, why wouldn’t Star take up with underage scam-artist pirates? Kerouac and his companions zigged and zagged across the U.S. to a soundtrack of hard bop. These 21st-century free spirits prefer trap music, booty bass and country-fried pop. The song of the open highway, however, remains the same. For many folks, one look at this unruly, Juggalo-like band of gypsies would be enough to have them running for the hills. For Arnold, a British filmmaker who’s never met a lyrical outsider story she didn’t love, these kids are the Great American Forgotten, and it’s to the film’s credit that by the end of this nearly three-hour gutterpunk odyssey, you view them as something like conquering heroes. She presents a

view of the U.S. that’s part Robert Frank portfolio, part Harmony Korine freak-out. Every trip through interchangeable Middle American burgs and hormonal exchange between the leads is given a grungy-butgorgeous reverie treatment. This land is their land. She’s also a great director of professional and nonprofessional actors, and the performance Arnold coaxes out of Lane – a college student who Arnold discovered running around a Florida beach during spring break – couldn’t be more raw, or more righton. The 20-year-old brings an untamed screen presence that somehow grounds the proceedings even as she threatens to go rogue at any second. Whether you’re watching Lane trade war stories, get fed Mezcal shots by a trio of cowboys – the embodiment of white-male-privilege menace – or get hot and heavy with LaBeouf’s mondo

★★★★★ Classic | ★★★★ Excellent | ★★★ Good | ★★ Fair | ★ Poor

sleazy manboy, you’re genuinely afraid to look away for fear of missing something. And speaking of the tainted movie star-cum-performance artist: This is the best work he’s done in years. You feel like he’s finally found a director who not only knows how to use that oddball crazysexycool vibe but who actually creatively gets him; while the suffix needs to be retired, we’re comfortable saying that some sort of Shianaissance may now be in effect. Like a lot of road trips, American Honey goes on a little too long and takes a few too many detours; by the time Star finds herself giving a pitiful afterhours handjob to an oil-rig worker, you start hoping you arrive at your final destination sooner rather than later. But what Arnold and her cast pull off here in this wonderfully messy teenage-wasteland travelogue feels like a reclamation of sorts. D e c e m b e r , 2 016

More Money More Problems Guilty pleasure morphs into something more compelling By Michael Adams Billions

Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, Maggie Siff, Malin Akerman Cr. by Brian Koppelman, David Levien et al


Straight out of the gate, Billions is an unapologetic dick-swinging contest that offers two macho character actors masticating the scenery relentlessly. What surprises most is that over the course of its 12-episode first season, the show transforms from guilty pleasure to genuinely compelling drama. Paul Giamatti is obsessed New York district attorney Charles “Chuck” Rhoades, who’s hell-bent on jailing Damian Lewis’s charismatic and corrupt hedge fund billionaire Bobby “Axe” Axelrod. As much as we want to see Wall Street get its comeuppance for pillaging Main Street, our lawman is as much of a rogue egomaniac as his adversary. Moves and countermoves

SU TS R l a at s ess lli ns ns..

play out in various corridors of power and elite playgrounds until the scene’s set for a killer second season. While the male stars have a ball with their balls-out characters, Billions has less to offer its female stars. As Chuck’s psychologist wife Wendy, Maggie Siff is all class, smarts and grit but, as her character is also Axe’s corporate therapist, she’s compromised by TV’s dumbest conflict of

interests. As Axe’s wife Lara, Malin Akerman simmers away like a white-trash Lady Macbeth, but she doesn’t quite have enough to do. Despite such uneveness, Billions is a lot of fun and somehow also perfect in an election year when a self-serving populist’s attacks on Wall Street interests only seemed to prove the cure was worse than the disease.

Jason Bourne

Game Of Thrones S6

Bad Moms

Directed by Paul Greengrass

Cr. by David Benioff, D.B. Weiss

Dir. Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Matt Damon, Julia Stiles


A decade ago the Jason Bourne trilogy came close to thriller perfection. But like those sinister villains of the CIA, Universal just couldn’t leave him be and so Matt Damon is back in a cookie-cutter plot about a new assassination program with a side-serving of ubersurveillance. With Bourne no longer coming up with wickedly clever ways to outsmart his enemies, and the set-piece chase and action scenes dragging on interminably, this one’s more Jason Snorin’. Silliest of all: our amnesiac has to find truth about his father, like some black-ops Luke Skywalker. D e c e m b e r , 2 016

Emilia Clarke


S6 gets off to an underwhelming start, with Jon Snow’s resurrection a drawn-out fait accompli. From there much of the season, while solidly entertaining, feels like it’s biding its time (Bren) or running in circles (Arya), as if showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff are unsure where to go now they’ve outpaced George R. R. Martin’s source novels. But all is forgiven as GoT comes home strong, delivering some of its bloodiest and most thrilling sequences in its final two episodes. With extraneous elements stripped and new levels of ruthlessness attained, roll on Season Seven.

Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Zac Efron, Aubrey Plaza


Directed by Jake Szymanski

Miscast Mila Kunis is the always-busy career gal, dutiful wife and loving mum of two tweens who goes rogue when her nerd boss makes too many demands, her hubby cheats and she’s hassled by the PTA’s queen bitch. Wild drinking ensues with other rebelling mums, followed by wild sex with a conveniently widowed Hot Dad and a witless plot about taking over the PTA. A promising idea – overcommitted and undervalued suburban women in revolt – is largely wasted on weary raunch-com that can’t even deliver the mild laughs of Mike and Dave’s badgirl shtick.

This comedy would be utterly standard if not for its role reversal: that titular bros Mike and Dave are outdone in their bad-boy behaviour by the girlsgone-wild duo they pay to be parent pleasers at their sister’s wedding. The movie is fitfully amusing thanks to the crass energy of Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick systematically fucking shit up for the similarly game Zac Efron and Adam Devine. Shame that the girlpower vibe is diluted by sentimentality – and that in a few years the of-the-now script will be as dated as I Can Has Cheezburger memes.


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LUKE’S BEST CHANCE [Cont. from 85] Sitting next to her at a table at the Share Cafe is a hugely thankful mother named Linée Baird. Four years ago, her son, Ryan, moved to SLC from a staffintensive residential campus. Since the age of nine, when he’d been sent away to school by his heartsick, end-of-their-rope parents, he’d known nothing but the locked-door, vigilant care of the New England Center for Children (NECC), a residential setting for autistic kids with histories of severe behaviours. Over time, Ryan learned to curb his tantrums there – but only around people he knew. “He would lose his mind when someone visited our house – the lamps and tables would start flying,” says Baird. “And forget about taking him to the store for a quart of milk – there was no going anywhere with him.” On his 22nd birthday, June 14th, 2012, Ryan moved from the NECC to the Amesbury home of Martha Dowse and her adult son Matthew, a staffer at SLC. Days later, Dowse put in a distress call to Morse. “Ryan was out of control, dragging things out of his room and throwing them – really hard – down the hall,” says Dowse, a petite but unsinkable woman who’s worked for nearly 30 years with foster-care kids and dementia patients. Morse’s staffers showed up quickly, but Ryan raged for hours, breaking his new furniture to bits. Some time before 5 a.m., Hurricane Ryan blew over. That morning, when he woke, the staffers said nothing about the carnage. Bashfully, he helped sweep up the debris. For months, everyone walked on eggshells around Ryan. He refused to leave the car when staffers drove him to the farms, and he staged other throwing fits, though shorter in length. “I’ve never given up on a client,” says Morse, “and we’d have found an alternative house for Ryan. But Martha refused to quit on him. She said, ‘I know this guy can do it; just give me time.’ ” A psychiatrist (whose FXS son takes part in the program) switched him to the drug my son is on. Bit by bit, his anxiety eased; his mood shifts were less hair-trigger. And then, without notice, several remarkable things happened. Ryan got out of the car and took a tour of the stables; a month later, he was loading sacks of grain off the truck before the rest of the work crew arrived. He’d always had some language, but now it began to evolve. He began to tell Martha that he loved her and that he’d “be right back” when he left to spend the weekend with his parents. Fast-forward to the morning when I toured the farm with Morse. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ryan go by, carrying a sack of birdseed in his arms. Though the wind was fierce enough to make a snow globe of the sky, he calmly unscrewed the

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bird-feed tubes and fi lled them up with seed. His aide hovered behind him, rocking to keep warm, but Ryan would not be rushed. The birds, said Morse, depend on him to eat. Returning to the barn, he stopped and put his hand out. “I’m Ryan,” he said, briefly meeting my gaze, then picked up the sack and walked on. ll w eek long, i met you ths like Ryan, which is to say, youths like my son. Boys who’d joined the program with minimal language came over to tell me which rappers they liked. Young women talked about the boys they found cute, and showboated for me on horseback. How had Morse succeeded where others before her failed, releasing these kids from the lockbox of their symptoms to become their bravest selves? “All those years they’re being told what to do: ‘Sit still. Match shapes’,” she says. “But when you give them real options and show them that you mean it – well, that’s when they find out who they are.” It begins with placing them in homes that feel like sanctums. Morse helps to personalise their bedrooms – colours, fabrics, bedding – to create a womb to retreat to at day’s end. She eases the kids into the program slowly: maybe 10 minutes in the barn, then a 20-minute walk to burn off anxiety and start again. Once they’re comfortable at the stables, she might add an hour at the cafe, then the studio and the greenhouse, observing closely. “They’ll show you pretty quickly what they like to do, though I’ll always try to add choices. I’m looking to buy a carwash and maybe a laundromat; those are great sensory jobs that give them face time with the public, but in small doses they can handle.” The kids’ typical workweek ranges from eight to 25 hours; for that, they’re paid the minimum wage, something very few programs do. Then there’s the piece that no other agency offers: a nightlife for these kids and their new friends. Morse hosts them at the Horizon Club, where dozens of young adults come to boogie and mingle, and take their first steps toward dating. There are movie and bowling nights, and Wednesday and Thursday there are ballroom-dancing classes. Autistic kids terrified of being embraced slowly draw together over weeks and months till they’re fine in a ballroom hold. “It normalises the experience of being touched,” says Morse, “and these are kids starved for human contact.” The development she’s kindled has outstripped her wildest hopes. The program has spawned several long-term couples, including two who’ve left Shared Living households and taken apartments together. “I’ve never met a kid, no matter how impaired, who wasn’t a social creature,” Morse says. “My next task


is to figure out how to start them sooner. Why wait till they’re 21 to begin their lives?” t bears saying that morse’s isn’t the only game in town when it comes to Shared Living options. Her state has several firms that do some version of the model, including agencies in Boston and Worcester. “We don’t have the farming piece, but the rest of it, yes,” says Jeff Keilson, senior vice president of Advocates Inc., whose outfit has 50 clients in scattered sites. “There are folks who need a group home and I’m the first to say so, but the guys we’ve taken out of there are so much happier. They have jobs they like going to, make friends, and have providers they really bond with long-term. The motto we all go by is, ‘A life like any other’ – and that’s what we offer people here.” When its costs are added up, the annual bill for a Shared Living slot comes to about $80,000, including day-hab. That isn’t a small sum, but consider the alternative. For the average group-home bed, Massachusetts spends $120,000 a year – and considerably more for kids with Ryan’s behaviours. Add the cost of day-hab, and the state spends almost double what it pays to firms like Keilson’s and Morse’s. In 2013, only five per cent of Americans with disabilities were living with provider families, but the trend line is going up. In New Mexico, it’s 50 per cent; in Texas, 25. Morse sees a tomorrow in which Shared Living is the standard provision: “We can’t keep building group homes; it’ll collapse the economy, and we’ll run out of staffers in five years.” But the focus also has to be on the factors that make the Massachusetts model so special – nurturing job sites and an avid social life – which forge a way forward for stalled kids. “This is the future,” Morse says, “and the future is starting today.” Back at Luke’s school, I sit with him again, needing another dose of my son before we part. As we rote-read the text of Clifford’s Family, I find myself floating off to Morse’s farm, picturing this sweet child in her stables. How would she get a kid so addicted to indoor pleasures – his books, his laptop, his woodblock puzzles – to put on a snowsuit and feed the chickens? I can scarcely dream it – but nothing will stop me from making it so. Changing Medicaid rules, drastic program cuts – Elaine and I will fight to the death for the future of our child. He’s spent almost 18 years behind locked doors. We owe him no less than a life worth having. “Kiss!” I say now. “Daddy’s got to go.” He tilts his head and shoulders in my direction. Though I’ve got him in a bear hug, I can feel his eyes swivel, looking for his justfixed Kindle Fire. As I release him, murmuring “love you, love you, love you”, he freezes me with a gaze and says, “Home.”


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TRUE BRUCE [Cont. from 74] Yeah, it did. I made unreasonable demands and then perhaps things were unreasonably demanded of me in return [laughs]. But that was who we were at the time. I was an insecure young man. So my need for total dedication from the people I was working with was very great. Those things were tempered as time passed by. There’s still an enormous amount of dedication, but we have healthy boundaries now that we didn’t have when we were younger. In the studio, you deliberately played Steve Van Zandt off Jon. Where did the instinct come from to do something as— As devious as that? [Laughs] I was going to say maybe sophisticated, Machiavellian, but let’s go with that. It came very naturally out of that part of me that is ruthless in the pursuit of my song. And they joined a team, so they’re in for the whole ride, and we’re all big boys. You write that you and Clarence Clemons couldn’t hang out because it would have ruined your life. Clarence was a wild liver, and it was fabulous. But don’t think you can do it at home, kids. He was a hearty soul. So you have deep friendships that aren’t hanging-out type of friendships? Of course. I’ve got plenty of them. As you get older, you’re involved in your family. It’s

BJARKE INGELS [Cont. from 67] caught by surveillance cameras apparently leaving a noose on BamBrogan’s office chair); Hyperloop responded with a countersuit alleging BamBrogan and his co-litigants had been conspiring to form a rival company. Both suits are still pending. “I thought those Hyperloop boys seemed a bit unstable,” Ingels says with a chuckle when we meet at VIA 57 West. Still, BIG remains contracted as the project’s architect. In Vegas, Ingels had been fixated on how the stations might look, using New York’s Penn Station as “a benchmark of the exact thing that we don’t want – a claustrophobic, labyrinthine shopping mall. It’s so bad that one of America’s greatest architects, Louis Kahn, died on the toilet there!” Another of the main design challenges is psychological: How do you make the passenger experience of being shot through a tube at incredibly high speeds not completely terrifying? Windows, to make the pods less claustrophobic and coffinlike, would be the obvious solution, if not for the problem of the tube itself. Jakob Lange, a BIG partner, had come up with an elegant solution: If you cut 10-centimetre holes in the tube every 10 meters, and if you also

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a great joy when I’m with, say, Steve. We don’t hang out that much. So it’s a tremendous joy when I am with him. It was a great joy being with Clarence. He was hilarious. One of the funniest guys on the planet, and someone who enlivened you when you were around him. And then what you did together was so deep. So you never questioned your friendship or your allegiance to one another. It doesn’t mean you’re going to have dinner every day. You write that Steve’s opinions could be destabilising in the band. How so? He’s a powerful man, so his opinions count greatly. He’s also more free-swinging than I am. If you’re at the head of an organisation and you’re trying to give it continuity and collective power, a strong personality can be disruptive. But that’s been a part of our relationship our whole lives. I believe I’ve played the same role in his life, and I need somebody who will do that. You expected “Wrecking Ball” to make a bigger splash, and you concluded that people aren’t looking to rock for that kind of statement anymore. Rock, at the moment, it’s not the prime vehicle for communicating those particular ideas. There’s a sort of mixture of pop and hip-hop that dominates the airways and is the current carrier for cultural comment. How do you feel about that? It’s just the lay of the land. Pop always moves on and transforms itself. There’s

great music being made now. Kanye West makes terrific records. Kendrick Lamar is incredible. You wouldn’t want things to remain static or to have a lasting hegemony on cultural comment. But there’s somebody in a garage right now with a guitar, probably, figuring out some different way to reinvent it, some different place to take it. That’s always going on. With the benefit of hindsight, why was rock & roll so powerful a transformational force in your life – and in the world at large? There was an explosion of the id that had been repressed, first of all, previously to a great degree. So when you had Little Richard and Chuck Berry and Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, there was this thing that had been contained suddenly exploding onto the airways, into the world, giving you permission to live with part of your spirit and your body that had been in many ways denied previously. It also came along at a time when people were questioning religion. So there was a secular-spiritual side to it, based in bliss and joy and a personal transcendence of circumstances. It was caught up in the dead centre of the American dream, the dream of success and fulfilment. So it was just a powerful, explosive force that came along at a time when history almost demanded it. And when you needed it too. I was born at the right time.

cut windows in the pod, and if the pod was moving at 300 metres per second, the images from the outside world would register with the passenger at 30 frames per second – the speed of a film. “It would be seamless,” Ingels said. “Like peeking through a keyhole in your door.” Whatever happens with Hyperloop, Ingels remains perpetually on the move. Between our meetings in Las Vegas and New York, he’d spent much of his summer in Europe: Venice, for the Architectural Biennale; London, for the opening of his Serpentine Galleries pavilion; Copenhagen, visiting his family (and also, impulsively, buying a houseboat). Though he fled Copenhagen because it felt stifling, he finds comfort in returning to a place where “your entire gene pool is within 10 kilometres”. In the courtyard of VIA 57 West, Ingels looks around at the sloping garden paths and says, “I think this is going to take hold quite well. Two months ago, there was nothing here. Over the next couple of years, coming back is going to be more and more fun.” Pulling out his smartphone, he calls up the trailer for Marvel’s upcoming Doctor Strange movie, in which his building is featured prominently in the opening shot. He smiles, and then he talks about various little tweaks he’d been forced to make over the

course of the design and construction process, how “as soon as you change one little ingredient, you have this cascade of consequences that you have to deal with”, like the butterfly effect, but for Ingels also a means “to escape the status quo”. “Do you know Philip K. Dick’s definition of science fiction?” he asks. “He says science fiction is not a space opera, although it often happens in space, and it’s not a story from the future, although it often happens in the future. He says science fiction is a story where the plot is triggered by some form of innovation. Often it’s technological innovation, but it can be political, social, whatever. And the story is a narrative exploration of the potential of that innovation, of that idea. And not only the writer but the reader can actually think along and imagine how would our world be different if this one thing is different. “So you can say that science fiction is the medium where you do that in a narrative way,” Ingels continues. “But architecture is a discipline where you have the possibility to actually do it. All of Hell’s Kitchen is the way it is. The whole world is the way it is. And we do this one thing different.” Ingels raises his hand with a conductor’s flourish. “And what are the consequences for everything around us?”

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Jim Adkins, Jimmy Eat World The guitar-toting frontman loves punking fans and celebrities alike By Jonny Nail The last time I was mistaken for someone else People sometimes think I look like the singer from Jimmy Eat World [laughs]. It’s funny when they’re not sure. And I don’t let them off the hook [laughs]. They’ve gotta struggle with it for a little bit, and it’s sort of entertaining. “You’re that guy, right?” I dunno, there’s a lot of guys out there. The last record I bought Probably the new Beach Slang record [A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings]. I got into them last year, and they’re just amazing. I got to see them play at their record release gig in New York and it was one of the funnest shows I’ve been to in years. The last time I heard a song and thought, “I wish I wrote that” [The] Chainsmokers’ “Closer”, because then I could buy a really big house. I mean, how loaded would you be if you wrote that? [Laughs] The last time I was physically sick I do still get allergies sometimes. In Arizona there’s a lot of citrus, which might seem odd, because I think most people envision it as being this arid desert. But in the greater Phoenix area it was once completely citrus. There’s still a lot of those trees around now and when they bloom, it smells amazing, but that’s just particles that will just destroy your ear-nose-throat zone. It’s a mixed kinda feeling. The last time I did something I regretted Last night I dug into ice cream kinda late at night. I regret it. It’s sort of like, “Do every song. But I’ve [also] kinda given up I really need that?” Probably not. But once trying to predict what’ll be a hit or what it hits your lips, it just tastes too good. isn’t going to be a hit. I think, if I feel reThe last time I asked someone for their ally excited about showing other people, autograph then I know it’s basically the same thing. I don’t remember the I feel that about any of the last time, but one time that songs on the Integrity Blues OUT NOW sticks out was when I was a album that we’re just about kid and I went and saw the to put out. Gin Blossoms play. I didn’t When I show one of my have one of their records, friends, or someone that we but I brought along one of work with, new material, it’s my copies of [Slayer’s] Reign always interesting. It’s never In Blood and had them how I expect them to respond sign that. Which I thought and everyone always picks Integrity Blues was kinda funny, and they a different favourite song, Arizona rockers Jimmy thought it was sorta funny which is always encouraging. Eat World released too. The last time I swore at the their ninth LP, Integrity Blues – featuring the The last song I wrote and telly single “Sure and thought, “That’s a hit” It definitely wasn’t anyCertain” – last month. I think if you’re doing it thing with sports. I’m a pretright, you think that about ty fair-weather sports guy. I 98 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

Any time I don’t have a wall of rock band behind me I feel a bit self-conscious.”

like sports, I just don’t live to argue, so it takes a lot of the enjoyment away from it. Actually, maybe watching Stranger Things, and swearing at the TV for the characters not to go into the creepy spot. The last time I was starstruck I ran into Dave Grohl over this summer. We’ve opened up for the Foo Fighters before and we’ve hung out with them, but still that guy definitely has this huge aura around him. He’s just a dude who plays in a rock band, but he’s the real deal. The last time I felt out of my depth I’ve tried to put myself in situations where I feel that often, because I feel that’s where you really have an opportunity to grow. Public speaking is definitely one of those moments. Any time I don’t have a wall of rock band behind me to cover up that, I definitely feel a little bit more selfconscious. Solo acoustic gigs are definitely like that. Just because it’s on you. D e c e m b e r , 2 016
















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