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IKEY OWENS Jesse Carzello MONIQUEA Daiana Feuer

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WILLIAM ALEXANDER Frankie Alvaro

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OPEN MIKE EAGLE D.M. Collins

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ELISA AMBROGIO Rin Kelly

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NIK TURNER of HAWKWIND Jonny Bell and Chris Ziegler

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RED AUNTS Ron Garmon

THEE COMMONS Desi Ambrozak COZZ sweeney kovar THE FLESH EATERS Chris Ziegler IBEYI sweeney kovar

COZZ by GARI ASKEW


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DEBI DEL GRANDE


IKEY OWENS 1974 - 2014

I don’t remember meeting Ikey, though I remember the first conversation we had. It was the early aughts and I was relatively new to Long Beach with a lot of time on my hands and very little money. I was spending a lot of time at Fingerprints Records on 2nd Street at the headphone listening stations, checking out new releases and looking for a bargain.  One afternoon while clacking through the racks of used CDs, something came over the store speakers that caught my interest.  The voice on the recording was very familiar though it seemed particularly raw. This soulful voice was accompanied only by rough, idiosyncratic guitar strumming. I looked behind the counter and knew immediately from his body language that this man had made the selection.  Intrigued, I walked over to him and inquired.  It was then that Ikey told me—in his customarily loud and proud way—that the artist was Lauryn Hill and the recording was an advance of an MTV Unplugged album.  We gushed over Ms. Hill for a few and then I was on my way.  After that initial conversation, we would always be cordial and catch up when I’d see him around town at shows and at the bars.  Occasionally, around last call, I’d give him a ride downtown to the Cooper Arms, where he was staying at the time. I started running to him in L.A. occasionally as well. I would go see Defacto, and later Mars Volta.  One incident in particular that I remember is going to see one of the first Mars Volta shows at Spaceland and running into Ikey in the bathroom line. He took a copy of a Free Moral Agents CD-R—conspicuously tucked inside another band’s cardboard promo sleeve—from his jacket. He told me that he had just finished working on it and to let him know what I thought of it.  I was struck by this gesture. I wasn’t sure why I had gotten one of the few copies and certainly had no idea why he seemed to care about my opinion of it. One night around 2004 or so, he stopped into Alex’s Bar on a night Luke Warm Quartet—my old band—was on stage. After the set he came up and told me that he really enjoyed it and expressed interest in jamming with us.  I assumed it was just bar talk but felt flattered nonetheless.  Mere months later, we were on stage at the Echo performing in L.A. for the first time with Ikey sitting in at a show that he booked for us.   After we finished a somewhat unwieldy set, I was brooding in a corner at one of the tables to the right of the stage, alone with my misgivings. Ikey spotted me, came over and said, ‘Great set, man. Come on—there’s some people I want you to meet.’ And with that Ikey taught to me something that I would see him do firsthand many times over during our career together in Free Moral Agents:  perform vigorously and unabashedly, and when it’s done, always put on your best face.   I remember around this time I got a phone call from Ikey to play the opening night at a club in downtown Long Beach called the Basement Lounge—where the Blind Donkey currently resides. Over the phone he told me the songs we’d be playing: a hip-hop cover, a Miles Davis riff, an early FMA song, etc. I spent the next few days before the show frantically trying to prepare, truly puzzled about why I was recruited for the gig. (I still contend that my willingness to work for cheap in those days may well have been a factor.) I certainly felt in over my head. It was one thing to have Ikey play on songs that I had written, but it was another to be a sideman in someone else’s sphere, something at that point I had very little experience in. But it was too good an opportunity to decline. I was prepared to sink or swim.

I arrived at the show for soundcheck, which was also to serve as the band’s only rehearsal. Looking around at the fine cast of players that Ikey had assembled for the event, I felt discernibly out-classed. After getting through one of the five pieces we were hoping to use for a preliminary run-through, the soundman informed us that doors were about to open and our practice time was up. Ikey and I strolled a couple blocks to my place for some refreshments before the show. On the walk back to the venue he blurts out, ‘Forget the set list—we’re just going to improvise.’    We arrive back at the Basement Lounge to a packed house.  Everyone is swilling some then-trendy now-forgotten libation that sponsored the private event. The time came to hit the stage. Ikey told the rest of the band when they took their places to scrap the plan. He asked the bassist, Orlando Greenhill, to just start us off with something in the key of E. Without missing a beat, Orlando is vamping on an insistent groove. The drummer follows suit and I’m right behind him, with some funky chord stabs and some understated staccato riffing.  A bit of relief washes over me as realize I’ve found a comfortable place within this dynamic. Just as I’m settling in, Money Mark makes his way to the stage. He immediately launches into a crowd-inciting organ solo.As Mark is wrapping up, Ikey—never being one to be shown up—unleashes an epic, screaming solo.  After an exhaustive few minutes of unbridled expression, Ikey takes his hands off the keyboard.  The feeling in the room was beyond electric. The crowd, many entering the throes of inebriation due to the unending supply of free booze, was at this point in hysterics. As they thunderously roared, Ikey turned around and shouts over to me, ‘Turn up and solo!’ Up until that moment I had never tried to solo, barring some between-song noodling at rehearsal.   Similarly, when I got the next call from Ikey to play an upcoming Free Moral Agents show, I again wondered why when the city was teeming with more qualified players. Reservations be damned, I show up to practice at an hourly rehearsal spot in Anaheim.  In the room, eight other players—three vocalists, two keyboardists, bassist, drummer, violinist, and myself—begin taking direction from Ikey as we attempt to get the set together. After working with the vocalists for a bit, Ikey turns his attention to me and asks me where my pedals are. It felt ridiculous explaining to him that I didn’t own any, particularly since we had played together several times.  Over the next few months Ikey starts passing pedals to me. I became enthralled by the textural possibilities and my approach to my instrument had been forever changed. I remember the first rehearsal FMA had as a six piece—Ikey, Mendee, Dennis, Ryan, Reid, and myself—at Greenhouse Rehearsal Studios.  At this point the band had seen a few line-ups with varying degrees of viability. As soon as we started to play that day, we all sort of looked at each other and knew that it felt right. From that moment onward—and I say this with only the slightest bit of hyperbole—it’s all been a brilliant flash. I think I can speak for the surviving members of Free Moral Agents when I say that we’ve truly loved and believed in what we have done. Further, I marvel how we have maintained our chemistry and ability to reach those ecstatic heights after so many years of working together.  We all love and miss Ikey dearly.  We’re just beginning to know what life without him is going to be like. Alas, we are grateful for our collective experience and so proud of the work that we have done with our brother Ikey at the helm.   —Jesse Carzello, Thanksgiving Day, 2014

Born Dec. 1, 1974, Isaiah “Ikey” Owens was a Grammy-award winning keyboardist, founding member of the Free Moral Agents, a member of Mars Volta and Jack White’s backing band, and a soughtafter producer and musician. He was an integral member of the Long Beach music community and inspired too many people to count. He passed away on Oct. 14, 2014. He will always be missed.

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MONIQUEA Interview by Daiana Feuer Photography by Ward Robinson

Any given night, downtown Mexican restaurant Señor Fish turns into a funk scene. They’re not there for the music. The stereo bumps endless mainstream radio pop. But the place has become the go-to taco eatery for funk sweetheart Moniquea, her collaborator XL Middleton, his MoFunk label-mate Eddie Funkster, and a crowd of their scene comrades. They all happened to be there lining the bar when Moniquea met up to discuss her new album Yes No Maybe. She’s a cool, funny, down-to-earth lady and we talked some deep subjects—especially love. While we were drinking pre-interview, you mentioned you started rapping in 7th grade. Did you have a rap group? I didn’t have a group per se, but I had a group of friends that would rap together. I was rapping like a madwoman. That’s so cute… You mean: ‘cooool.’ It was cute too—don’t get me wrong—but it was really more than anything just … COOL. Ha! I was always the only girl. That was always fine with me but became interesting as I became older. They accepted you as an equal? Absolutely. Sometimes I’d get embarrassed, in the way that maybe acceptance makes you a little bit embarrassed. Because of the other people around you that aren’t doing it— meaning girls. If we went somewhere that guys were rapping, I was like, ‘I don’t know if the girls will get mad at me if I go start rapping.’ That was the uncomfortable part. But I really loved it. Especially when I went home and thought about the day. Just to pay it forward to my mom—that’s because of her and her band. When I was little I’d sit and watch their rehearsals—mouth wide open. They were called the Roses. It was my mom, her sister, a cousin, and two friends. They did a lot of soul, Aretha Franklin, New Birth, people like that. Once I got around 10th grade, I started remembering why I‘d been drawn to music. When you’re a kid, you’re struck by everything that’s happening. When I got older, I realized they were my source of inspiration the whole time. My mom would always lead ‘Jump To It’ by Aretha and I thought that was her song! What was your first stage performance? If you really want to get technical, I did it at my first school. I was probably in the 4th grade. But when I really, really did it for people to see, I was in 10th grade and it was at Pasadena High School and it was the talent show. There were people from different schools competing. It was the biggest talent show to date that we’ve ever had in Pasadena, and I won. I rapped and sang a song I wrote. When they said I won, it was an out of body experience. It struck something inside of me. It was extreme to me because it was the first big thing I ever done—to be around your peers and to get that acceptance from them saying, ‘We like your type of sound and your type of voice’ I will never forget. On Yes No Maybe you’ve streamlined your sound into funk music, but your first record had a lot more genres on it. Were you still figuring things out then? It was completely different styles. For the

longest time I had been trying to figure out someone to understand my voice and the music I like. The person that actually found that inside of me is XL Middleton. I am still proud of that 2011 Moniquea album. It was something that I had to get out. My childhood friend Teddy Bear produced it. It will always mean a lot to me. I was always running into people telling me to sing like this or that: ‘Can you do Mariah Carey on this? Toni Braxton on that?’ But I kinda wanted to be doing the Moniquea the whole time. As cliché as it might sound, it’s true. That album I wrote, I loved it—but I was still searching for someone to find me musically. How did you and XL Middleton link up? We’re from the same town, Pasadena. I knew of him and he didn’t know me. He’s been doing his thing for quite some time, and I have too but we never had the chance to connect. We met one night at a local Pasadena show that we both happened to be booked for. He’d heard one song on the Moniquea album—‘Can’t Let You Go’—and it was funky to him. He liked it. We ended up connecting on that song. It was history from there. I’m not a runner—I don’t run all over to sing. I’m a straight singer. I feel a certain way when I sing and it’s a funky sound that might hit you like Cherrelle or Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King. I have the straight sound like they have. I’ve always been this way and I’d been looking for something to accompany that sound. My voice has always lent itself to the funk. Finally someone gets me and can produce me. Are you a couple? No—ha ha! Everyone always thinks that. It’s probably that video you made (‘You Can’t Train Me’) where you pretended to be a couple. That’s the operative word, isn’t it! But that was the introduction of him and I musically. It’s great to find people who speak your language. It’s incredible. And I can say the same for Eddie Funkster. Him understanding the voice that I had—that meant a lot to me too. XL and I had been working together prior to meeting up with Eddie Funkster. Since we all came together it has been like an apple. An apple? SOLID. You know how it grows? That’s what we’ve been. I’m having the most fun in these last three years that I’ve ever had and I wouldn’t trade it. I saw a live video from 2012 for ‘Secret,’ which is on your new album. Is that a song

you wrote before starting to work with XL? That song is one I wrote before XL. It was initially produced by another guy. XL liked it and wanted to do his version. I was excited because it’s one of the closest songs to my life. I thought it’d be way different from everything else on the new album, but he was into it. I like that. It stood out for that reason. A lot of people have said they liked it actually. Also it’s got a lot of words. It’s got a lot of words because I felt a lot of ways when I wrote it. What was happening? What was happening is something that continues happening. When people, they don’t know you and they speculate on what you’re doing and how you might be doing it and with whom you’re doing it. By that do you mean sex? I mean sex, where you live, how do you make money, where do you spend it? I’m pretty private so when people don’t know that’s when they start to wonder or come up with their own ideas. It was—for lack of a better word—liberating to put that into a song and get it out without spilling too much. So ‘I got a secret and guess what? I’m not going to tell you but I’m going to sing about it. And still you won’t know but I’m telling you how I feel.’ It’s for people judging who I’m hanging out with, what kind of music I do, how I’m living. From family to friends—just stop. Let me live and let you live. That’s how that song was born. I’m glad it’s on the album. I didn’t see it coming. Have you figured out how to fully play the album live? It’s an interesting thing about funk shows. Maybe they happen in tighter spaces but performers use minimal instruments. You’re right about that. We have not been able to play it with a full band live. That would be spectacular. We have played with these guys the South Bay All-Stars. This was before the album dropped but we had a full band, drummer, lead guitar, bass guitar, XL on keys, myself singing. ‘Secret’ is crazy live. The energy was skin-crawling when I got to do that song with a full live band. We’ve done a few songs live here and there but the opportunity doesn’t always present itself in the places we go. In the meantime we have a new guy—David Z—playing keys with us along with XL. Then we have the backing track but I always give the vocals live. It’s a must. Or I would just quit. Right—because what’s the point? I know, but people are doing that. And it’s like … fine. But me, personally, I got to sing it out. 9


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Whatever’s gotta come out, it’s gonna come out. You’re gonna hear it coming from me. What’s your dream? When I’m 89 I want to still be singing, even if it’s a little ditty on a cruise ship or Las Vegas. If I can still sing songs from Yes No Maybe and future people can shake a shoulder to it. All I want in life is to be able to live and not worry about anything but singing, the mortgage, the dog, my family. I don’t need more than I know what to do with. But I want to sing for a complete living for a complete lifetime. When that happens I will be complete. What’s your writing process? Does XL give you music and then you write lyrics? The majority of the time it’s like that but I come to him with lyrics and melodies sometimes and he builds tracks around them. Why do you make so many love songs? Because I love LOVE. I’m in love with love. Most women probably are. I’m really infatuated with it. Wanting to see what the total outcome of it can be is my dream. When a song puts love on a pedestal, do you think that kind of love is real? Or is that just a fairytale? I think it exists. It has not been heavily discovered by most people. But I do still believe it exists. Once I figured out about love and relationships in real life—not just some like ‘ooh, a boyfriend’—I realized that people are supposed to feel this way. It’s supposed to be for real. It’s not just a fairytale, like a movie you can watch and maybe dream about it but it’s not real. I really believe in it. And until it happens, which I believe it will, I will always look for it to come to me. How close have you been to that? I think I’ve been close. I think I’ll know when I’m there. I think it’s tangible. It’s better to believe that. When I see people who have been together 20 or 30 years and then it’s over, that’s alright to me because the two of them have lived a lifetime together—gone through all of the emotions. If it gets to a point where that’s it, I can’t be upset about that. I look forward to doing time with someone, whether it lasts forever or not. After that take me to Vegas, take me on a cruise, I’ll be that old lady just cruisin’. And then when he’s 72 and has a 40-year-old new wife, that will be fine too. I’ll treat her like a daughter. HA! But yeah—I want to love and experience love on the level of which I can’t even imagine. If you’re not experiencing that kind of love, are you definitely with the wrong person? I’ve been with a lot of not-the-right-persons. I haven’t had ten boyfriends but I’ve always been somebody’s girlfriend since I was 16. There’s only one time where I thought I might get married. It didn’t happen but it was the first time I felt like I had looked into the sky and imagined us married with kids. But it wasn’t the time for me. I wouldn’t be here having this conversation or making my album if it had happened right then. I’ve always planned my life to be an older mature mother where I’m not looking to get out and get going: ‘Mom, can you watch the baby because I wanna go out.’ I never wanted to be that girl. I strategically planned to not be—excuse me—a baby’s mama. I don’t mind for those that do. I have known a lot of friends with kids and they’re not married and the kids are great but I INTERVIEW

just made a choice that it wasn’t for me. You only have one life and it’s okay to decide how you want it to go. Eventually I want someone to take care of and we take care of each other and say ‘Hey, where’s my BenGay…’ Then they rub it on your butt for you. Rub it on my butt until I fall asleep. I’m not sure that’s where BenGay goes, actually. I don’t care. Just rub it on my butt. Even if it’s my foot that’s hurting. So the album is about love in so many ways. Yes. The album is Yes No Maybe because it’s the uncertainty of love but still believing in it. That’s why a lot of the songs talk about it. It’s scary though. You don’t want to fall in love with the wrong person. That’s a waste of time. But sometimes you don’t know if you’re wasting your time while it’s happening. That’s where ‘NO’ comes in, but it’s too late because you already did it. And then you realize too late: ‘Now it’s no, huh?’ But Yes No Maybe is not a title that means ‘that’s it, nevermind, forget it.’ There’s hope. I sing of hope and I sing of love, past love, and what I think might be love right now. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. It’s all carried off with confidence, which makes the songs uplifting. It’s like you’re not sure about the guy but you’re sure about yourself. Oh, you’re good. That’s exactly what that is. Which is why people compare your music to 1980s upbeat funky R&B jams. Those songs about being a self-assured woman who knows she’s attractive but she wants to find love—she wants to find it on the dance floor tonight while the DJ is playing. Don’t you think that’s what makes those songs last? Because the feeling is really good? Yes, that feeling is real! I may interpret it differently in 2014 but I like the way they said it then. I connect to the language. I felt it then and I feel it right now. That’s why those songs have lasted. They’re saying it in this way that makes you want to, I don’t know … Put on your lipstick and go! Go get it whatever it is! It’s making me cry what you’re saying. It’s true. Just go, yes, with your lipstick on! They said it how they really meant it and the sophistication of that whole thing turned me on as a youth and growing into a young woman because I am always about getting my point across in the most non-abrasive way. Saying, ‘This is how I feel about it but I don’t need to knock you down with my words.’ Words are serious. You’ve got to choose them in a certain way. Whether I’m hurting or don’t like how I’m being treated, or if I love the way I’m being treated and everything’s great. In my writing style I don’t want to knock anybody down or make anybody uncomfortable. I have a particular way of describing it that I like. It’s strategic but I’m very much real about it. I feel this way and I’m this person that lives this way beyond the song in real life. ‘I Don’t Want To Get Used To It’ seems like it sums up the Yes No Maybe theme and this attitude we’re talking about. That’s a prime example. It’s a real song about a real person. We were having fun. It was great. He was picking me up, taking me out. But

because of the kind of person he was, I didn’t want to get used to this going out and chillin’ because at any moment it could snap off and he would be gone. We weren’t together. We were ‘hanging out.’ I was scared of the inevitable but at the same time, it was so much fun and I wanted to keep doing it. It was too much fun and too temporary. I couldn’t look into the sky and see it as something real but I was starting to like him too much. I cut it off. That choice is harder than it seems. It was hard, and we can go back to where ‘Secret’ began. I decided early in life what I wouldn’t become … but people expect you to be something ‘by now’—by now you should be married, by now you should have children. Fuck ‘by now.’ That’s what I said. But then speculation was born from my decision. It was hard to live with, but after I got over the fear of what somebody thought of me or what I should have by now, I wrote ‘Secret.’ At first I was like, ‘Maybe I should be married, maybe I should already have some kids, maybe I should have someone shack up in my house and drive my car everyday and I don’t know where they are, sure.’ No. I can’t do that. So I never did. But a lot of people I know did that, and they couldn’t do what they wanted to do for themselves. You can’t give up all yourself to be a mom or wife until you’ve fulfilled what you think you need to do or found someone who supports you in doing it. There, you’ve said it. I want those things. I love those things. But I have a plan and I’m sticking to it. I’m not going to do something because somebody thinks its time. Being a young black woman, those expectations in our culture reaches a pivotal point. ‘She still ain’t got no babies. She still ain’t got no real man.’ I’m like, ‘I could do that for you. I could pop out a baby. But I don’t want it like that.’ I want to try it when I want to try it, down the line. I want to get married and then have kids, not the other way around. Some people think you should be doing it any way possible, unmarried or with the first person interested in you. There’s cultural standards, family standards. Each one has prescribed ideas about what a woman should be doing at a certain part of her life. Don’t you think it’s crazy there’s more people in the world than the ones you already know? And every one of them has some thing going on—some rules or ideals they’re juggling to determine what to do? There’s a different perspective. Think of people in Russia! I forgot about them! They exist! Or in the highlands of Guatemala. If I run into one of those guys, I’m not going to be surprised by what they’re doing. There’s so many people that we don’t even know! We’re just so into our things and our immediate world. Maybe I’m living like there’s a whole lot going on. Don’t focus so much on what your friends that you’ve known forever are doing if it’s different. Don’t worry about it. Because guess what? There’s somebody you don’t know doing something crazy as hell somewhere. Somewhere, some guy might be giving birth to a giraffe on a waterfall, I don’t know. Out his butt! With BenGay all over it. And the giraffe comes out with baby bangs. So why do you care what I’m doing!

What do these views say about you? I think they make me an individual making her own choices. I don’t have any problem with choices other people make. It’s been a problem for me that people were having problems with the choices I make. I don’t think that’s necessarily feminist. I’m making my life for me. It means I’m living like I know about the guy with the giraffe baby. Everybody’s got their own to choose. If you don’t hurt anybody, it’s not hurting anything. People don’t realize they hurt you by the things they think you should be doing. It doesn’t hurt so much anymore, but when I run into people from the old days, it’s like they are disappointed in you. Like you’ve failed in some way. Their whole spirit has been dropped beneath them and got pierced. It’s probably also that they had to build a way of seeing what they’ve done as right and what they should be doing. That changes their outlook. Girl, I have to close my eyes for a minute and take that in. You just said something there. And you’re right. And maybe they’re acting that way because of what you said. But then again should I feel bad about not being in that position? I would never make someone feel bad for their life. On a lighter note, I wish you hadn’t told me the story about your stepmom at church before we started recording. Can I tell you the story about telling you the story? You said that whatever city your family visits, they always go to church. They come from New Orleans. I come from Los Angeles and we end up meeting in frikkin Florida in Orlando, where all the tourists are. My stepmother always has to go to every Catholic church wherever she’s at. She’s a Catholic woman from New Orleans, after all. We went to the ‘Disney’ church—in this Disney area where all the Disney people go. It was so whimsical—the entire neighborhood was Disney. There were twiddling birds. It was manicured, and the church was all grand. We walk into church and we’re the only black people there. Plus, how we grew up, you wore a dress to church and here half the people were in casual clothes. So the church is full, and these three black women in their finest just walk right to the front. It was my stepmom and my sister, and myself a few steps behind them. I stopped at like the fourth row from the front, but they just kept on walking, over the threshold, and sat down with the choir. The people scooted down for me, and I’m looking at my family, thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re sitting with the choir!’ My stepmother kept trying to shoo me over to them. I could not believe it. Every time the choir stood up to sing, she stood up and sang the songs loud as if she knew them. People could not keep their eyes off this woman that walked right in and sat with the choir like she belonged there. My sister, she was just looking so sad in her eyes. But she wasn’t about to leave my stepmom there alone. So they sang with the choir, took communion, oh boy. We leave church and my stepmom acts like nothing even happened. We’re like the Griswolds. MONIQUEA’S YES NO MAYBE IS AVAILABLE FROM MOFUNK. VISIT MONIQUEA AT MONIQUEA.COM. 11


THEECOMMONS Interview by Desi Ambrozak Photography by FUNAKI

Thee Commons has the rhythm that makes you want to move: part cumbia, part psych, part surf and all about keeping you up and keeping on your feet. They come from East Los Angeles with a sound that’s raw and full of energy. (Which explains how they pull off all their guerilla-style generator shows.) The pots and pans they used as drums when they were kids in their parents’ garage are as much of who they as politics and literature, and they don’t worry about fitting into any genre—they just want to express themselves honestly. Their coming release Rock Is Dead: Long Live Paper and Scissors is a compilation of their best work to date from their recent monthly EP series—now up to Vol. VIII—and I sat with members David, René, and José on a warm November evening in Long Beach to talk about their music and what makes them so unique. How’d you guys get started? David Pacheco (guitar/lead vocals): René and I are siblings and when we were little kids we went to all kinds of backyard shows. Like quinceañeras and stuff. A lot of that music was cumbias and rancheras. René Pacheco (drums/vocals): A lot of NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, and … their name escapes me but that song that goes ‘MMMBop.’ D: That was our soundtrack as kids. R: Very diverse. D: One of our uncles would come over and he would play rancheras and drink beer with my dad. And this one day he gave me one of his acoustic guitars. I started playing—but I didn’t know how to do anything. I didn’t know how to tune it. So René and I were at our grandma’s house at a party. We were in the garage with a bunch of pots and the guitar. I was 14 and he was like what? 11? It was super cute. Actual pots and pans? R: Well, they had a pretty cool sound. They were like old school. Like, out of aluminum. They were a lot more fragile. They had a good bang. We would play a song [and play along]. He would strum and I’d keep a beat. D: We thought, ‘It kinda does match.’ We told our parents we knew how to play and put on the track and started making noise. Then my dad said, ‘Try it without the track playing.’ It sounded like shit—ha! R: We were just having a good time. D: That’s when we started playing. I kept playing guitar, René kept playing the drums. He played in another band and I played in my own band too. 12

R: It was just two members. His drummer for the band he was in was such an active musician and always wanted to do stuff. He had his own little project that he decided to pick up again. The bassist was in this new band. David was singing. Then the drummer was playing bass and has asked if I’d play drums. He started teaching me how to get comfortable with it— how to use it, set it up, put it away. All that good stuff. It began from there. After that was over David and I just went from there. D: We started our first band. R: ‘The Anti-Party.’ D: No, no—‘Hello My Name is Red.’ R: I just thought I’d mention ‘Anti’! What kind of music was it? R: It was very rock ‘n’ roll. A lot of people would say we were rockabilly. Then we started listening to surf and tripped out 50s stuff. D: I started listening to a lot of chicha. It’s music from Peru. It’s a style of playing that’s surfy guitar with organs, R: With psychedelic guitar riffs. Like Los Saicos? D: Los Saicos is more like the garage stuff. The other bands that did cumbias but instead of an accordion they had an organ and guitars to. So it gave it like a crazy cool sound. R: It’s its own thing. It’s not like rock ‘n’ roll except the guitar. There’s so many different kinds of cumbias. The southern cumbias use and orchestra with winds or brass. They all have percussion but the southern cumbias have trippy guitars and the riffs are very melodic. José Cruz (bass/vocals): It sounds like if you took a cumbia band and took the 60s music in America and England and combined it.


D: But the rhythm is its own thing. R: The rhythm is what makes it cumbia. When did you start listening to chicha? D: In 2012. Shortly after we discovered that kind of sound we knew exactly what we wanted to do. R: I didn’t know anyone our age who liked the stuff. I didn’t think people would be into it but everyone seemed to be having a good time. Before that, when you were doing rock, was your style more American or Latin? Did you sing in Spanish? R: More American. We were already starting to think that we should do stuff that was more like what we grew up with when we heard chicha— D: Chicha was the sound that we really thought was cool—ha! R: Not only the Peruvian scene—our parents were from Pueblo. When did thee Commons become a thing? D: 2012 in March—right after Hello My Name is Red. We were starting to get more political. R: We were just starting to go back to college and becoming aware or certain things. It hits you pretty quickly. Music is our way of coping because it can be pretty traumatizing you know. What specifically was it that hit you? R: It wasn’t specific so much as just social awareness of things that when you’re a kid you don’t notice. D: It’s like when you discover Nietzsche for the first time, maybe like in your adolescence. It has a profoundness to it. One of our songs was about the protesters at Occupy. Me and René did a generator show with them. Basically get power by plugging into a car battery and just played music for them. It was a lot of fun. But I think at that point it was more of a political thing and we thought, ‘Let’s change it up and make it about music.’ R: That’s the purpose of music. It’s liberating and not in a cheesy way. It’s a way of coping. I never knew there was a cage in the world. All the sudden I realized there is a cage. Music is a way of saying, ‘There is no cage. What cage? What you talking about?’ That’s why cumbias are so dope because they involve so much about celebrating life. That’s why I like music so much. There’s a lot you can say behind it. There’s a lot of responsibility that you have as a person to celebrate this life we have and this togetherness. So it’s different. There is that responsibility—it’s there but it’s different. It’s not such an important one. D: I think that non-mainstream music has always been—and cumbia included—music of resistance in a sense and a way to say something that hasn’t been said. It’s creating it’s own outlet. That’s part of my inspiration to make this sound happen. It’s a metaphor. It’s a symbol. Thee Commons represents this limited space where life happens with two sides to it. A side where you can’t cope with it and the side where you do what you can and that’s where we come into play. It’s very existential. Some of the lyrics in Spanish are about choices you make and dealing with the consequences. Are there any issues specifically that you are trying cope with? 14

R: Not really any more. At one point it was. But now it’s evolved to where it’s really just all about music. I really love being in a band that’s cool—that has a vision for innovation and using rhythms that just grab you. D: We’ve been pushing to stay creative right now. It’s pretty impressive that you guys are able to put out new music every month. D: It’s a lot of work, though—a lot of work. R: We keep ourselves motivated. If you’re not motivating yourself then you have to pay someone else to keep you motivated. How old are you guys now? D: I’m 26, René is 23, José is 21. And you’ve literally been playing music since you were kids. R: Yeah, never accurately or anything—but little stuff. I starting fucking around with a keyboard and the musical guys at school came and asked me to join. I signed up wanting to play the violin or the flute but they put me on trombone. I got trombone because I had big arms. They were like, ‘No kid can play this except you—you have the arms for it.’ I had a trombone solo with a little pause: ‘Baaa … ba.’ Do you have any songs that have horns in them now? R: I’ve always wanted to. It hasn’t worked out. J: I feel like a lot of the guitar that we put together is done in the place of horns that we wish we had. But what we come with in terms of rhythm and phrasing is because we’re missing a horn section. A lot of the stabs and riffs and the parts that David and I link up. R: I just don’t think it would work with horns. I think a three piece is what’s up. D: When you get a fourth member it can get really muddy. José’s been playing with us for four or five months now. How did you guys all meet? R: We’re twins! He tried to eat me and then we started playing together. We’ll need to expand on that one. R: It’s not quite clear. It’s all from a dream in the womb. One of us would squeal then the other would squeal back then we’d start harmonizing. D: René’s always been super energetic and always causing trouble like at parties and getting us kicked out of restaurants. I remember this one time at McDonald’s in one of those playplaces. We got the idea to use the food trays to go superfast down the slide. Then one kid got hurt and we had to go back to our parents. We were like 7—like still little enough to be cute. We weren’t trying to harm anybody. We were just big enough to be able to handle it but other kids got hurt. What’s the worst trouble that you got in? D: There was one that was pretty bad. It wasn’t really trouble because It was an accident when we were playing catch. R: If we’re going to talk about my scars… I’ve got a bunch of those. Not emotion scars, physical scars. So what happened? R: You’re not supposed to play catch in the dark. D: We were at the park and I threw it to you and I guess you didn’t see it. R: I was like ‘I got it.’ It was a baseball. I was 8 and I was like, ‘Fuck it. That didn’t even hurt’.

Then I went to massage it and ooked at my hand and it was completely red. D: It was pretty nauseating to see it. R: My parents were having this conversation with other people and I go in like ‘AHHH!’ ‘What the fuck?’ Everything happened so quickly. We went straight to the restroom. They’re like, ‘You’re lucky to be alive.’ D: So René and I are siblings and José—how long have you been playing music again? J: I’ve been playing since I was like 14 or so. I was playing bass a lot for my church and that gave me a foundation. D: Then he got kicked out! He got kicked out of the choir. J: I got kicked out from playing. I hadn’t been going to church all my life. I started when I was 11. I already had a good sense of rock ‘n’ roll and 60s music and music that you’re not supposed to listen to because it’s the devil’s music. But I found the church to be a good opportunity to play in front of people and to get a good foundation playing a lot of songs. Church music gives you a lot of songs to learn and puts you on a schedule. Like Tuesday, Friday, Sunday services with practice on Thursday. Basically, I did that for three years and built a good foundation to pick up songs really quick. But at that point I started getting more into the songs and playing more rock, more riffs, more solo. One of the churches I was going to said I need to turn myself down. I was headbanging at church! Then I got busted with these guys. The very first show I ever played with them I realized it doesn’t go well with cumbias. You got kicked out for headbanging? J: Not kicked out. I was asked not to do that anymore and I just left because I found it too confining. So I started doing my own stuff called the Kings. Right before we broke up I started playing with Casadegas and my singer Eddie—or a lot of people in L.A. call him Lalo—he started going to thee Commons shows and when they needed a fill-in for this big show, they needed a hired gun … they reached out to him and reached out to me. D: Our old bassist had to go to jail. So he happened to pick the weekend that we had three shows. We got José and showed him the chords that I was playing. He figured it out. How many volumes of EPs do you have? D: We have seven volumes—eight’s coming out Saturday. It’s all recorded. [Out now— ed.!] When did you get the first one? D: March. The vinyl was last year—its own separate thing. That’s where I realized the power of collective thought. One night we came from the shows and we were like … on multiple substances and we went like, ‘Damn, man, we should set a goal!’ ‘What should it be?’ ‘Let’s do a vinyl!’ We all agreed on it, so that whole year of 2012, we raised the funds and in by like October we managed to get it to print. It took months. We got it by March. It was cool having that. Right now we don’t have a main consistent goal other than making really fucking good music. J: For many years, we had the goal of being … fucking badass! And now your goal is a new EP release every month?

D: I think it’s a realization for us to talk about it and discuss it—we did have the goal of putting all the volumes out, and now that we’re getting close to the end— J: —what’s next? R: I’d want to go on tour. D: I was talking to these guys—we should do a college circuit. That’s where the money’s at! During Cinco de Mayo, or during the Día de los Muertos events. What do you want to accomplish as a band? D: I wouldn’t mind it becoming my job. The idea of it being a self-sustainable thing … at least enough to do my own thing. I wouldn’t even mind having a job and doing this, which is a goal for me. R: If you love what you do, it’s not really a job anymore. Do you wanna tour Mexico? D: We were talking about that! Let’s go to Enseñada! R: Where’s Kumbia Queers from? Colombia? D: Argentina. I’ll go with you! R: 2015! Do you go back to Mexico very much? D: No, we want to. But we’re always busy. School? D: I’m gonna finish soon. I’m doing animation. Fun stuff. J: I’m doing recording arts. That’s why I’m able to do a lot of the recordings we’re doing now. Since Vol. 5, I’ve done them. D: If you listen, you’ll hear the difference. I managed to save my laptop—before it exploded—with Vol. 1 through 4, and I saved some of the tracks I sent you. There’s like ten of them, huh? You almost lost the albums? D: I did—all the masters for Vol. 1 through 4 are gone. But I managed to send you separate masters for ten songs. We have the other tracks, but we can’t adjust them anymore. R: It’s fine. We’re fine with that. D: Mr. Prodigy Producer over here’s gonna fix them up! And through working with us, he’s been introduced to other bands that are hiring him. R: In a way, we nurture each other. He’s helping us and we exposed him to these beautiful cumbias. When we jam out, he’ll remember certain parts that we used to not pay attention to. Like these cool riffs—that was cool!—and move on. But he’d snatch them up! It’s cool. Before no one would ever put their input in. It was just David and I. Finally everyone is like try this, try that—push it. J: What makes it really fun is that we all have different inputs and different approaches, and we can also come to each others’ instruments. What’s the story on your radio novela? That’s like the ‘rediscovered’ E.P. D: We were just drinking around a campfire and were like, ‘We should do a story.’ In which we narrate it, have different actors, a musical score. It was this cool idea, and I was like, ‘We could make a like a western!’ We needed an idea for Vol. 6 and I had this idea for awhile that I wanted to pursue, but we never worked it out. I read a story in my Howlin’ Wolf voice—cuz that’s where I got it from— you know ‘I was black! I was playing the gee-tar!’ R: Get to the story! INTERVIEW


D: This is the setup—it’s one of the essential parts that I do in this voice, so it sounds even more southern! It’s a story by Kate Chopin about female liberation—‘The Story Of An Hour.’ Everything happens within an hour. I read the story first which was really hard, cuz I would try and enunciate and my voice would go back to normal. I did that, and then I recorded guitar over it and did a lot of special effects—grasshoppers, the train—and then I gave it to [José] and he made it sound super old school. It was fun. R: The story was about … I can’t tell it that quickly. D: Just read it. It’s short. Just when I read it, it hit me so profoundly. I wrote a song immediately after I read that. We’ve been playing it. It ends with the song and that’s the song that was inspired by it. R: We’re thinking about doing another one in Spanish. A ranchera tribute—traditional folk music that we love as well. We harmonize pretty well in Spanish. Where are you all from? J: East L.A. Well, I’m not from East L.A.—I’m from Ontario. R: But he drives down, so that’s cool, man. J: I practically live in the house. R: You live far but it never feels like that. Where do you go to school? J: Citrus. D: So it’s less traffic coming to our house and chilling and then having practice. And René goes to Cal State Fullerton. I got to Cal State L.A. I’m doing my master’s right now in literature. I’m in my first quarter—fucking tons of research. When did you play for Occupy? D: We played one of the first nights they had when there was protests. We brought the

generator and played music and let people use the microphone to talk. R: For some reason, [generator shows] are always so scary—something about it feels wrong. But then you do it. D: The first one we did is when the Pixies played the Palladium for the Doolittle tour. That was our first generator show. Have you heard Traps PS or Dirt Dress? They did this thing called the Guerrilla Fest. They got generators and picked five different low-key locations and went and played and filmed it. And took photographs and made a book about it. We got the idea from them, just showing up wherever we wanted and playing. Almost like busking, but we were playing punk music. R: Remember when we were at work and like, ‘I dunno if we should ... but let’s go do it?’ D: The whole ride over there was like, ‘Fuck it.’ We go to our house, load up everything, head over to Hollywood … that was hectic. We were fucking nervous! R: We were trying to drink beers to calm us down but nothing would calm us down. It was just so nerve-wracking. Then we did it and it felt like naturally on mushrooms and ecstasy when we were done! D: Kinda like what Aristotle calls ‘the catharsis.’ You get all those endorphins going—cleansed! R: It’s like if I got up on the table right now and started dancing. It’s kind of unheard of. Like instigating a riot—like ‘Wake up! BLAUGHHHHH!’ D: It’s attacking the sterile part of life that doesn’t move. R: And watching the vibrations. It’s a psychological social trip. D: We don’t think about this stuff though. R: I do. D: Echo Park Rising was a lot of fun. Last

year we played and it was dope. We played the Echoplex. This year we didn’t get hit up— R: But that’s alright! That’s alright! D: I figured where the main stages were at, and mapped it out, and figured out the logistics. Which is normally what we do with these kinds of guerrilla shows. But in the middle was a little park. A public space. Like five by ten feet. We just decided to jam out cuz we knew people would enjoy the music. And they did! R: The Allah Las are very swaying back and forth—they’re like the ocean tide, dude. D: So we got there like 30 minutes before they finished and we were waiting outside, and once we heard their last song, it’s like, ‘Alright, guys—show time!’ A bunch of people surrounded our little island. It was packed! R: We were like ten-footer waves, compared to swaying back and forth. D: We got stranded in Arizona in the winter of 2012, too. For FMLY Fest Arizona. We went to the desert the night before and camped out and it was lot of fun. It was a full moon— beautiful daylight in the desert. R: But little did we know … tragedy was about to strike the next day. We were driving and I guess we didn’t check the water or something? D: It just exploded! We had to wait on the side of the freeway for hours. Was it hot? D: No it was cold! Middle of December! We called this tow truck person and it took them four hours to get there. He temporary fixed it, and the car was still heating up but we managed to get to Phoenix but we missed our time slot. We didn’t get to play! So we get up early the next day to head back and it just gets even better. We’re driving back and we don’t make it more than 30 minutes and the car fucks up for good. Can’t be turned on at all.

Luckily I managed to pull over to this dead end on the freeway by the desert. So we’re like chilling—like fuck it, let’s make the most of it. We grab a generator, and we did like what we did at Occupy. Connect it to a power converter and a car battery, and plug it in and plug our amps into it. So we had one of those in Arizona: ‘Fuck it, we’ll jam out here! In the desert!’ And then like, well, fuck it! Our friend has his phone, got a couple clips of us playing, and then we went for a hike—‘Nobody’s gonna jack our stuff! There’s nobody out here!’ So we went for a hike, and then we’re getting hungry. It’s been like morning to afternoon. One guy happens to come by—he saw us playing and got out of his truck. He had seen us playing while he drove by the first time, even stopped and chilled and watched. But then he came back five hours later like, ‘You boys still waiting for that ride? Lemme know if you need anything?’ We’d MacGyvered a little fire with a bunch of twigs and all we had was like a tortilla, some Tapatío, and a piece of apple—which we grilled— R: —the best damn taco ever! D: We were fucking hungry! So we told this guy, ‘Well, you got any food?’ ‘As a matter of fact …’ He had a big thing of turkey slices and cheese and bread. R: I still think he was a ghost! D: The video [we made] is cool. It’s called ‘At the Table.’ You see the guy that gave us the food come out and he doesn’t have a shadow. So maybe he’s a ghost! THEE COMMONS’ ROCK IS DEAD: LONG LIVE PAPER AND SCISSORS RELEASES THIS MONTH. THEECOMMONS.BANDCAMP.COM FOR MORE MUSIC AND INFO.


COZZ Interview by sweeney kovar Photography by Gari Askew

It was never truly dead but recently, hip-hop from the West Coast has risen to a stature it hasn’t enjoyed in years. One of the young artists looking to make a mark is South Central’s Cozz. Barely in his 20s, Cody Macc rolled a seven out the gate. While finishing what was to be his debut mixtape Cozz and Effect, he was already fielding meetings with seasoned music industry brass like Lyor Cohen, Kevin Liles and even Wyclef Jean. Still, it was J. Cole’s nascent Dreamville Records that made the most sense. Since this summer Cozz has been a Dreamville artist. But what does it mean for a young man from South Central to go from trying out his first bars at 16 to signing a deal at 20? I got the “Dreams” rapper on the phone to talk about what he learned from attending high school a few miles south and a world away in Manhattan Beach, the impact he’s looking to make and how it feels to be finding yourself while knee-deep in the rap game. Where were you born? I was born in Inglewood, [lived] there until I was six and then I moved to South Central where I’m at now. Before high school I was just an L.A. kid who was going in the city, playing outside and kicking it with the boys and you know, getting in trouble—not getting in trouble but trying to stay out of trouble. It’s just where we come from. Where there’s gang activity, we try to sneak out and kick it with girls and regular kid shit. I grew up with both of my parents, my mom and my pops. Except later down the line they split up after high school—they never had a healthy relationship. It was always hard with things going on inside the house. Other than that, typical L.A. kids. What was the soundtrack to your childhood? It was a lot of different shit because my pops, he’s from Nigeria. My mom, she is American from L.A. but she grew up with a lot of best friends [who] are like Belizean, so she’d play Belizean music, reggae … but they loved old school hip-hop too. Like 2Pac, they played Biggie, she played a lot of KRS-ONE. She liked soul, she liked Barry White—it was real diverse, man. Did you grow up with a Nigerian influence in your household? Not really, because Pops been in America for like 30 plus years, and he’s more Americanized. He’s African, but he’s stripped-down African. He’s definitely an American mind. Having my mom now, too—you know, he’s Americanized. But food-wise and everything, I do have a lot of culture in me because I would go and kick it with my dad’s side of the family and they would eat a lot of African food growing up. I’m not a stranger to it, but I wouldn’t say like I’m heavy in the culture. Do you have ambitions to go visit Nigeria? 16

Definitely, it’s always been in my plans. I’d love to go back and visit and see where my pops came from. I don’t know when but before I leave the earth I’m going to go to Africa and Nigeria and see what that’s about. What was some of the first music that you started gravitating to? I can’t remember specific songs. I always did gravitate to hip-hop—that was always my shit, but old school hip hop like the 90s stuff. Growing up with the kids on my block, they’d always play rap or whatever. I was always a hiphop head but I always had diversity too. I love oldies, too, like old school hip-hop oldies. I like rock songs, too, but if I say I gravitate to a certain genre, it was certainly hip hop, old school hip hop. Artist-wise, I would say I drifted a lot towards like Biggie, Pac and Eminem, too. You’ve talked extensively before about living in South Central, but going to school in Manhattan Beach during your high school years. What was it like for you when you had to make that change? It was the complete opposite. I went to middle school, like I said in one of my songs called Orville Wright—now it’s like a poor school where predominately black kids went, and after that school you went to Westchester High School. That’s where all my homies went but the moms didn’t want me to go to Westchester High School because I was getting in trouble and that type of thing. So I ended up getting accepted to go to Mira Costa in Manhattan Beach and for me, it was the complete opposite of what I was going through going to school in my area. First off, I never had white people in class before. In all my classes, for me to be [in] the one with just two black kids in the class was just weird. It was just crazy. And I still act the same in town, so I was dressed


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the way I wanted to dress. I dressed how I dressed because I was so worried about the other kids. Over in [South Central], everyone cared too much about what you wear. Where I’m from, they care shit—they’ll start shooting on you saying your shirt was dirty, they’ll talk about you. [At Mira Costa] it didn’t matter. I probably saw like one fight go down that whole time in high school. It was just like a total different environment, man. But I’m happy I went through it because I got to see that everyone wasn’t living how I was. Did it make you ask questions? For sure. Pretty much like I say just now … where I’m from, South Central L.A. … I feel like people who are in this area never really get out. They tend to think this is the only life. It’s kinda like a box, like caved in. Out near the coast it was like my mind was expanded and I realized there is so much more to do—so much other types of people out there that you can learn shit from. But I also learned that racism is out there. How was that shown to you? How some of the teachers would treat some of the black kids in there. They aren’t noticed a lot. Black kids would get in more trouble for shit that other kids were doing that wasn’t that big of a deal. I had a couple teachers that—well, specifically I had a math teacher who would find any reason to fail me in that class. I swear to God, one time I had a test and you know when you do math, you have to show certain steps and there’s always shortcuts you can use to glide through it. So when I had a test or whatever, I wasn’t showing all the work—so I got the answer right but he marked me wrong for most of my answers because of the work. I’m looking at other people’s papers and they’re doing the exact same thing that I was doing, so he tells me, ‘No, you didn’t show enough work.’ I’m looking at other people’s papers and they are doing the same thing, so he probably thinks I cheated. Just little shit like that you have to brush off, but it definitely is going down. The school, other than the race shit, it was a great school. It was like more like a college. Without me trying in the school I was growing up, I would get B’s and I was doing real good. I got Honor Roll in 8th grade—I made it and I wasn’t really trying. When I got to Mira Costa, I never failed classes, but it was harder. The curriculum was harder, they would have like swim team, water polo, everything was nice. There wasn’t no cages around the school— you know what I’m saying? You could walk out freely. But the schools around here, if you see them it looks like jail. The gates are like ten feet tall, if you’re going to leave you got to climb over it and at Mira Costa you just walk out. It’s more freedom, You can wear hats in that school. Over here, you can’t wear no hats because you know—gang affiliation. It was free dress, it was just the total opposite of what was going down. Did you make any connections at Mira Costa that helped you down the line in your music career? Oh, that’s actually funny, man because like I’ve said in other interviews, I started rapping at 16. It was like the end of tenth grade. How I started rapping because I met a dude from Inglewood that works there at Mira Costa INTERVIEW

as well. He came in from Inglewood, transferred from whatever high school he was going to and he rapped. When I heard him rap I started rapping myself, I felt like if he can do it, I can do this shit too. Through him, that’s where I met all the homies I kick it with now. Through him I met Tone, which is one of my manager-slash-homies right now. Later down the line, I think after high school Tone had an internship at Interscope, that’s when he had his slight plug with blogs and shit. So at 16 that I was rapping, but last year was when I got serious. I was showing the freestyles I was doing solo because I was in the studio by myself, paying for my own studio time. I talked to him last year I did some solos and shit and he told me, ‘I still got blog connections, I still have so many connections.’ That’s how the whole thing manifested. Crazy as hell man and I was not trying to go to Mira Costa. It’s a blessing that I actually did go. I’ve also heard that alot of people showed interest in you besides J. Cole. Even though you ultimately went with Dreamville, where any other conversations interesting to you? Well, the label 300, they reached out— that’s Lyor [Cohen] and Kevin Liles. We talked to them, they were good people. We actually were leaning towards them at first. We probably talked with them for a couple of weeks and we were actually talking about getting shit done, but you know it just didn’t work out with them. It was just the contracts. We knew what we wanted and the contract were kind of screw us so we ended up not working with them. As people, I fuck with them heavy. What was the conversation with Wyclef Jean like? It wasn’t long, it was short. I just remember I was in the car and I think his manager or one of Wyclef’s people reached out and called my manager Tone like, ‘I got Wyclef on the phone—he wants to talk to Cozz.’ Wyclef got one the phone and was like, ‘Oh, I heard the song’ he just heard ‘Dreams’ at this time. That’s all I had out. ‘I heard this song and you got talent and I was just want to guide you and put my wings over you …’ He wanted me to meet up and we never really did, that never really worked out. But it was a short convo. I met with the Game. We went to dinner and chopped it up. I always have trouble remembering who. You’re still relatively young. Does life feel fast right now? Hell yeah, man! My life literally changed—did a complete 360--within a year. So everything is new. Everything that’s happened is new for me. Like I said, I never really performed until this year. I never did shit with music seriously until this year. Everything has been moving really really quick, but I’m adjusting. It sounds like you’re also you’re still coming into your own as an artist? For sure, for sure. I’m still developing as an artist myself. I feel like subconsciously, over the years, with just me bullshitting with rap as a hobby I’ve been developing myself as an artist. That’s where I’m at right now, but I now that I’m doing it. I’m in the biz, I’m in the game now. I know I have a lot of work to do, I feel I have a lot of space to grow.

In the past year, what have you learned about yourself as an artist? Shit, I’ve learned …I gotta think about that. Shit, man, honestly I’ve learned that the sky is the limit because last year I never thought in my life I could go on stage and perform and then perform like I do now—like not even trying to brag but I go on stage and I kill shit. I pour my heart out on stage. I’ve just really learned that this really is for me. It was a question over the years, not being sure I could do this seriously but I think this past year I really realized it’s for me so I just keep going. Which feels better to you, creating or when you share it live with people? I would say sharing it live with people. I do love creating too because it’s just so fun for me when I hear some shit that I actually like that I made, but performing, I would give it to performing because performing is what you’re waiting for. That’s what you create for—to share it with people. Performing you get to do that, you get to see how they react to your art. So I feel like that’s what most artists live for, to see people’s faces. So definitely performing. Who is Cody Macc? [laughs] Cody Macc is Cody Macc, man. Cody Macc is a cool kid—he’s not that serious. He’s probably smoking weed and drinking a brew and he’s just mackin’, mad chillin. That’s the kid in me. That’s the cool side of me, Cody Macc. Cozz is serious, Cozz is that rapper, he’s a hardcore serious dude. Cozz just wants to get the work done, Cody Macc is laid back. Cody Macc came about because that’s my nickname since I can remember. My uncle been calling me Cody Macc probably since I was born, so Cody Macc has always been me. Cozz, I ain’t gonna lie, was just kinda random. When I started rapping at 16, I kinda needed a rap name and for some reason—I don’t know why I didn’t pick Cody Macc—I was just like ‘Cozz!’ I ran with it and people really started calling me Cozz all the time so it worked out. Can you walk me through the idea behind the videos for ‘Dreams’ and ‘Cody Macc’? In ‘Cody Macc,’ the hook says, ‘I got the whole world waiting on this, I got the whole city going crazy for me.’ Ironically, in the whole video I run the city and there is nobody there. So in a sense, it’s like the world really is waiting for me. In that video I am kinda lost. I’m solo dolo and I got to find out where I fit in. That video is also on some I Am Legend-type shit, like I’m just walking around and I’m rapping through the streets. At the end of the song I open up the door and it’s like my entrance to the game. I feel like Cody Macc is an example of who I am, but I’m not somebody to play with when it comes to these bars. I’m kinda barring out in there and I’m just trying to show off. I felt like it was a creative way to do it instead of just being clichéd and having a bunch of people in the video jumping around and acting crazy. ‘Dreams’ is more straightforward. ‘Dreams’ is dark hip-hop, gritty, you know what I’m saying? That was kinda my first song too, so I just wanted to show where I’m from—like South Central. We shot most of the scenes on 106th and Western. I live on 65th and Western but I

was at one of my homies house at 106th and Western so we shot down there and it was kinda just like an insight of L.A.—the night life and what it looks like so you can get that feel. That’s why we was in the alley way where we shoot dice and you know, just around my city. What was your mind state when you were creating that song? It’s dark but at the same time it’s passionate. It was a bit of passion, a bit of frustration and a bit of truth—it was like a short introduction to me, kinda just telling you why I dreamed of being rich. I think everybody goes through a period of time where they dream of being rich, you know? And that was me telling kinda like why I felt like I had dreams of being rich—some of my problems, crap with my mama like, ‘Can’t even lease her a whip.’ So L.A. is going through this beautiful time where there is a big resurgence in rap that is about L.A.—people born and bred here. There is alot of newer folks like Vince Staples, Joey Fatts, the TDE cats ... what separates you from some of the other newer cats? I feel like I don’t even think about that. I don’t think about what other L.A. artists sound like. I feel like because of that, I just give an original sound, it’s just me. I don’t even listen to nobody else right now. I just do me. I don’t listen to hardly anybody except myself. It just comes natural, just me being me and being original and building my fans and not worring about what is predominant or cool or coming from L.A. I just feel like we doing our shit and if we keep doing that, we can’t go wrong. You dropped Cozz N Effect already and you’re definitely getting some ears on it. What does the next six months or the next year look like for you? Well shit, man—just keep grinding, honestly. I’m always working. I plan on putting out a free mixtape real soon since I did sell my first project I still gotta give the people free music. You gotta do that to give people a reason to come. I wanted to give Cozz N Effect away for free like a regular mixtape. I’m just going to keep working and keep recording, I’m hoping to get my free mixtape by next year and just keep doing shows and just keep pushing. We still have videos to shoot for Cozz N Effect as well. We’re going to keep pushing Cozz N Effect for now and just get that as big as possible and keep feeding the engine, man. At the end of the day when it’s just you— you’re not in the studio, you’re not around folks—what will satisfy you as a human? What will satisfy me as a human? I think I’m still trying to figure that out myself. This is so new for me and I didn’t realize that I really wanted it till now. Now that I’m doing it, I feel like I’m here for a reason. I’m still trying to figure that out myself, I’m still trying to figure myself out. Before I can figure out what can satisfy me, I got to figure out everything about me, man. I’m a mystery to myself still. COZZ’ COZZ N EFFECT IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM DREAMVILLE/INTERSCOPE. VISIT COZZ AT TWITTER. COM/COZY_MACC. 19


THE FLESH EATERS Interview by Chris Ziegler Photography by Stefano Galli

The Flesh Eaters were one of the first wave of L.A. punk bands and their 1981 album A Minute To Pray A Second To Die is one of their best releases—but as our reviewer Ron Garmon put it this issue, it’s “one of those albums oft-deemed underrated because you don’t see the cover on that many t-shirts.” Too bad, too, cuz that pop-art Hand of Glory would make a great t-shirt. It’s an image from 1973 film The Wicker Man, too: a perfect precursor for a band fascinated with the way evil conceals itself inside the idyllic. The Flesh Eaters were led by the polymathic Chris D., who wrote for Slash magazine, ran his own Upsetter label and zine and eventually helmed Ruby Records—home to the Gun Club and the Misfits and more—while the rest of the band was a rotating selection of L.A. punk mainstays. (Including members of X, Los Lobos and the Blasters for A Minute To Pray.) The result was a paranoid, gritty primal scream of an album, now thankfully reissued on the superlative Superior Viaduct label. (Don’t forget to get a copy of Mono Records’ bonus-tracked reissue of the Flesh Eaters’ 1980 debut album No Questions Asked, however.) Chris D. speaks now about pulp, punk and the poetry of exorcism rites, and the Flesh Eaters will perform live this January. Byron Coley famously called A Minute to Pray ‘the best rock record ever,’ but you know, there’s another quote from him where he said that between your work with labels like Slash and Upsetter and Ruby, your Upsetter zine and of course your work with the Flesh Eaters, that you really shaped a certain L.A. aeshetic. I think the quote was: ‘He defined the parameters of L.A. outlaw culture.’ Can you look back now and see some of your fingerprints on L.A. history? Chris D (vocals): I can to some degree. It’s something that you really only think about in retrospect. I definitely had an aesthetic sense. I wasn’t a huge fan of the really hardcore punk stuff. Like right before Black Flag took off—when Keith Morris was the vocalist—they still had a recognizable kind of 70s punk style. There was a lot of 60s and early 70s music that I really liked a lot. There was a lot of 60s R&B and blues and fifties country. That’s one of the things where John and Exene, and Dave Alvin and Jeffrey Lee Pierce … even Keith Morris. A lot of people wouldn’t recognize this about Keith because of the Circle Jerks but he has a very universal taste. And he and Jeffrey were very close friends. We all just kind of tied into the same wavelength with musical influences. There were some 60s bands that people were rejecting just because it wasn’t cool to like bands that had long hair or were hippies or whatever you want to call it. But I never stopped liking a lot of the 60s bands that I like. INTERVIEW

Who were the rejected 60s bands? I always liked Jefferson Airplane and Steppenwolf. Then there were early punk progenitors like the Sonics and the Standells and people like that. There were some prog rock groups that I liked. I liked Jethro Tull— the first two albums. Once they started to get too concept-y my interest went downhill. It’s difficult to imagine going from Jethro Tull to A Minute to Pray. I liked Ian Anderson’s lyrics, especially. Like for instance there’s a song I love by them— ‘Sweet Dream.’ And the very first Jethro Tull album, which was very blues-influenced—it was really like one of the best blues/jazz/rock records when it came out. And they gradually got more bombastic and pretentious. They’re a band that I go back to the early stuff, some of their heavy metal stuff. I like some of the early Black Sabbath. But the first two albums are the only two I can really listen to. It’s not that I hate the stuff that came after. I just got kind of bored with it. Led Zeppelin is the same way. ‘When the Levee Breaks’ is just amazing. But after that I kind of lost interest with them. Didn’t Black Flag ask Upsetter to put out a record? But the idea fell apart after Keith left the band? Yeah, it was something that I pitched to them. Greg and Chuck—and I can’t remember if it was Robo or Raymond—they were all into it. As it turns out, they actually recorded a lot more than I thought. With that double album Everything Went Black, there’s a whole side of Keith Morris tracks. It’s too bad it didn’t happen but I think everything happens for a

reason. To get back to your question, when I was doing stuff with Ruby, they gave me carte blanche. I mean, they had to approve the bands that I picked: bands like Dream Syndicate and the Gun Club, of course. Misfits and Green On Red too, which was originally supposed to be on Ruby and then became a Slash [Records] release. There were other bands I really wanted to put out music for. I really liked Tex and the Horseheads, the Long Ryders … I’m trying to think if I was still working at Slash when the Lazy Cowgirls album came out? I just got a call from Pat Todd [of the Lazy Cowgirls] out of the blue. He just called me to thank me for helping to put them on the map. It’s really a tragedy with that album. I think it’s as good as one of the Ramones’ first albums—the very first Lazy Cowgirls album—and Restless has never re-issued it. The mechanism for distributing records and releases is not that user-friendly but it’d be great if they re-issued that album. If you made a call out of the blue to thank somebody for everything that they did for you, who would you call? Probably there’s one or two different girlfriends. So many people in the music scene. John and Exene from X were a big shot in the arm to the Flesh Eaters because I was opening for them a lot—during the first couple albums that were out. And just all the guys from A Minute To Pray. In some ways, John and Exene and DJ were the only ones in a band at that point that was really starting to become mega popular. The Blasters were popular but they hadn’t reached that X level yet.

The history of the people who have gone through the Flesh Easters is really serious— members of X, the Plugz, the Blasters, Wall of Voodoo. When you were making records, were you waiting for a line-up and then writing for them specifically? Or writing and whoever played them was whoever played them? I really wanted to record an album with Tito [Larriva of the Plugz] in the beginning but he left to devote all his time to the Plugz. He’s a songwriter in his own right, and he was doing one song of his and all the rest of the songs were mine. He was in the band [from 1977] until about February 1978. So he wasn’t in the band that long, just three or four months, and Stan Ridgway who ended up being in Wall of Voodoo was in the band a couple months. I was searching for a steady lineup but I don’t know … I wasn’t as dictatorial as Jeffrey Lee [Pierce]. Jeffrey Lee could be hard on the people he played with it, and that’s not to speak ill of him—that’s just how he was. I worked well with him, and Kid Congo Powers [did too]. But I think there’s definitely some of the same elements in the way I really wanted control over the vision of the band. I really wanted to be the only one who wrote the lyrics—unless there was some lyrics I co-wrote with Julie Christensen when she and I were together and we had Divine Horsemen. On Minute to Pray, I loved John Doe’s songs, and he wasn’t the one who tried to get his song on the record—I was the one who asked. But generally was I was the sole lyric writer and there were also certain musical decisions I would make. For the most 21


“It was really something to spit in the face of evil.” part, the next lineup after Minute to Pray lasted for a few albums and we probably could have gone on longer but I just was getting sick of playing really loud music all the time. Our rehearsals were just ridiculously loud. It was just painful. I was wanting to do something more along the lines of Divine Horsemen. And I was the one who broke that line-up up, and said I don’t want to do the Flesh Eaters any more. You said you had a vision for the band. Was this a vision of definite things you wanted to do? Or was it like an anti-vision—things you did not want to do? Probably more of the latter. A lot of it was just instinctive. Intuitive. I’m really a strong believer in things that bubble up naturally from the subconscious. So much of your work is this strange mix of horror films, murder ballads—these intense ideas of love and death and sex and hell. Why is that something that you’ve circled your whole life? I don’t know. I grew up as a really strict Catholic. That’s had a formative effect. In terms of some of the preoccupations with the romanticism— when I was in high school, romantic poets like Shelley and Keats and Byron and later on a lot of French poets and symbolists and then the surrealists. In some ways the surrealists were really opposed to all the tragic love stuff but there were just a lot of things that just kind of melted together in my brain. What about Céline? He’s one of the few authors who ever made me physically ill. Céline is somebody that I kind of admire but I never really read any of his stuff in depth until about three or four years ago. I read Death on the Installment Plan. But there are a lot of other French writers who were a lot more influential [on me.] There are certain just … the first things I see in the world, relationships between people, and I don’t know if it’s the people that I’ve been attracted to or it’s a fault or flaw in my personality, but there’s some of this stuff that’s … kind of self-immolation. I’m really lucky I’m still alive. There are periods where I would have been diagnosed as clinically almost suicidally depressed. None of that stuff has gone away, but I have a lot more … I don’t want to call it wisdom, but I’m certainly wiser than I was when I was in my thirties and forties. You’re going to be playing all these songs in a few weeks. Have the songs on Minute to Pray changed for you at all? Do the songs feel different now? There were songs I purposely wrote from a standpoint of a character. They weren’t my point of view. ‘Digging my Grave’ is from the point of view of a killer. I don’t know if I’d write a song like that today. I can picture myself writing today ‘River of Fever.’ I don’t know if can picture myself writing ‘Satan Stomp,’ even though ‘Satan Stomp’ is kind of a archetypal mythical look at Satan that wasn’t meant to be realistic. I was kind of naïve because I really 22

expected a lot of people to see that the record was trying to exorcize demons, not summon or invoke them. That’s the one thing I wish I’d been a little more careful. I don’t have any regrets about any of those songs. Some of the energy in some of the songs is super dark even for me now. That’s a hand of glory on the cover, right? What occult purpose do those serve? Yeah. It originated in Europe—it was definitely a way of casting a spell. I got that image from the original version of The Wicker Man. It was the scene where he wakes up—the really straight policeman who’s investigating a murder on that pagan island. He wakes up and that’s next to his bed. I just liked the image. There’s no underlying subtext to the cover. You’ve said you wanted A Minute To Pray to be an act of exorcism—how? Is there anything specifically exorcistic happening? Or are you just like screaming to get the demons out? I’m just confessing that dark stuff and getting it out there. And trying to throw up a mirror so people who were feeling the same thing could say, ‘Oh, I’m not the only person that feels that way.’ Confession by proxy? An interesting idea. On the inner lyric sleeve I actually put excerpts from a medieval rites because I thought it was very—it was really something to spit in the face of evil, basically. That’s definitely more where it was coming from. It wasn’t coming from you know this whole ‘I am so evil!’ thing. That was something that bothered me about some of the other bands that had death-rock imagery. They were really seriously into that shit, you know? And in a destructive way. I heard that got your album on the Gene Scott show and he yelled about it being a devil record. I don’t know if it was Gene Scott—I thought it was a local televangelist show that got nationally syndicated. They were comparing it to Ozzy Osbourne, and to me it was worlds apart. But I took it for what it was worth from who it was from. I know you’re an actual published film scholar—how much of that fed into what you wanted to do? There’s a big crossover. That’s what I really wanted to do—be a filmmaker. That’s what I went to college for. But there was just no real support system that I could plug into once I got out of college. My second love was music. Even though I couldn’t play an instrument, I had a really strong sense of melody, a musical sense, and as far as lyrics go I was confident about my writing lyrics. And there were a lot of different vocalists who influenced me. Music was kind of my second love, and it’s partially just the kind of personality I had, which is somewhat introverted—not really the kind of guy who would go out and steamroll his way into the movie industry. There were some independent movies being made back then,

and if you happened to get lucky and get sucked into Roger Corman’s school of filmmaking … [Otherwise] there was no real mechanism or scene, and just everybody I met that I became friends with was in the music scene. Like starting Slash magazine and meeting Claude Bessy and his girlfriend who were the editors of Slash. Then from those guys, going to the Masque all the time, and becoming friends with X and the Blasters, and meeting people from a lot of other bands like Tito from the Plugz … that was the scene I kind of plugged into and it was just a natural thing that happened. My one big regret is that I wish I was more a musician—I could play guitar on stage, at one point I got to where I could play guitar and write songs but there was no way I could sing and play guitar at the same time. You never considered playing while sitting on a comfy chair and singing? I could never keep rhythm you know? I was all thumbs. What were your favorite movies at the time that you were writing and thinking about the songs that were going to become Minute to Pray? ‘Pray til you sweat!’ was really a line from a movie, a really crazy big-budget Western called Duel in the Sun, where Gregory Peck plays a sociopathic cowboy and Jennifer Jones is a half-breed who’s in love with him. And there’s a scene where the actor Walter Huston is playing a character who is a fire and brimstone preacher and he’s trying to exorcise Jennifer Jones’ character from being in lust with this evil character, and he keeps telling her, ‘Pray til you sweat!’ stuff gets stuck in my memory. I was reading a lot of pulp noir—Jim Thompson, James Cain. It really started to become more pronounced in ‘82 or ‘83, and then it really got into it in the Divine Horsemen stuff—combining that with a lot of imagery that I had in my head from French poets and surrealists, primarily, and symbolists from the late 1880s and 1890s. It wasn’t stuff that I was consciously trying to emulate or copy. It was kind of getting thrown into a blender and it just would come out. What’s your take on Mickey Spillane? Sometimes he’s so contemptful and inept that it’s almost psychedelic. I like Mickey Spillane a lot but I’ve never been able to read a whole book of his. I like him in short bursts. His delivery is great but his ideas were kind of mediocre and pedestrian. They’re really cliché. Kiss Me Deadly—in the book, the thing that’s missing is the package of dope, and when they made it into a movie, it’s a radioactive isotope. So that can be the perfect distillation of kind of interpreting Mickey Spillane in the right way. You were drawing specifically from African folk music and field recordings for A Minute To Pray, too. Punk was barely five years old at this point. Why were you already looking back so far into the past for inspiration?

I was listening to a lot of blues and 50s and 60s R&B and also there were white guys like Link Wray—Link Wray and Bo Diddley are kind of inextricably linked. But I really became obsessed for a while about seeing what happened if you actually took some African chants and African rhythms, like drum patterns, and transposed them—like actually took them directly from their origin. Not filtered through decades of living in America. Just went right to the source—listening to African records that had more indigenous native music and transposing that directly to songs. Like if you listen to ‘Pray Til You Sweat,’ ‘Satan Stomp,’ ‘So Long’ and ‘Divine Horsemen’ … all those are really just transpositions directly from African music. How? Did you figure out how to play along with them? How literal was this transcription? Dave Alvin just reminded me how I did it. I had a little cassette recorder. I’d sing the melodies into the cassette recorder and then Dave Alvin and John Doe split the songs up and figured them out—like how they’d go instrumentally, and f they were doing something that I thought was slightly off, I would tell them. You weren’t even playing guitar? You’d just send a tape of you chanting and singing? That’s the way I wrote a lot of the music. Once I got into Divine Horsemen, I was trying to be able to play guitar so I could actually write music on guitar. But I’d still come up with vocal melodies just driving around in the car singing by myself. People talked about how much the blues and R&B had its roots in African music. There’s African-American people who’ve been living here since who knows? 1700s or early 1800s? And how did their folk music evolve once they were in America? I wanted to see if I did a direct transposition from African music to instrumental punk rock—70s garage band punk rock—if it would hold up? If it would sound similar. Some of it definitely does. There’s parts of ‘Digging my Grave’ where you could see both influences. I just was really fascinated by the idea of doing it. You had this filter of decades and decades of oppression on African Americans and all that shapes their music. And I wanted to see it you went directly to the source and tried to transpose it to a fouror five-piece instrumental combo, would you get a similar sound? Which I thought it did. There are definitely recognizable things from both of the spectrums. THE FLESH EATERS ON THURS., JAN. 8, AT THE OBSERVATORY, 3503 S. HARBOR BLVD., SANTA ANA. 8 PM / $20 / ALL AGES. OBSERVATORYOC. COM. AND ON SAT., JAN. 10, AT THE ECHOPLEX, 1154 GLENDALE BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8:30 PM / $17-$19 / 18+. THEECHO.COM. THE FLESH EATERS’ A MINUTE TO PRAY A SECOND TO DIE IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM SUPERIOR VIADUCT. VISIT THE FLESH EATERS AT FLESHEATERS.COM. INTERVIEW


IBEYI Interview by sweeney kovar Photography by Eric Coleman

In the mythology of Yoruba, Ibeji were the twin children of Oshun, the orisha of water and the ocean, raised by Oya, the protective warrior orisha who guards the underworld. The Ibeji are the patron orisha of twins and their birth is considered an auspicious blessing that brings protection and happiness to those around them. There is even a Cuban tale that tells how the Ibeji twins outsmarted and defeated the devil with their drumming. Lisa-Kainde and Naomi Diaz’ music as Ibeyi stems from the influence of their late father Miguel ‘Anga’ Diaz and the Yoruban way of life they’ve had since birth. Their self-titled debut EP on XL Records is deceptively minimal. The songs are personal and powerful—they stick with you long after pressing play. It’s easy to forget the twins behind this poignant work are barely in their 20s. Skyping from their Parisian home, the twins spoke with genuine enthusiasm, passion and a bit of teenage shyness on family, balancing Yoruban themes in the music industry, cinema and rap music. Hello! Do you guys speak Spanish? Naomi & Lisa-Kainde: Yes! Awesome. Fantastico. You can answer anything in Spanish if English is difficult. What was your childhood like being both French and Cuban? Lisa-Kainde: It was great. We had two different visions of life. We had al ot of culture and it was a good thing. We would visit Cuba once a year. When we used to talk to Cubans about Paris and to French [people] about Cuba, people didn’t get it. Of course it was strange but it was beautiful too. I think it’s a great opportunity—not opportunity, it was great luck to have those two worlds [growing up]. In everything I’ve read so far on you guys, most everyone mentions your father, Cuban percussionist Miguel ‘Anga’ Diaz—but I’ve also heard you guys mention your mother just as often. How has your mother encouraged the two of you creatively? LK: There is so much to say. What Naomi said in our last interview, and I thought it was amazing—she said people never saw us as twins because we are so totally different. We’re really, really different. The only two situations where people see us as a group— Naomi: —is when we are with our mother. LK: It is when we are with our mother we are three against the world. I thought that was a beautiful thing to say. N: Our mother is amazing. LK: She is the one that can … que nos trae juntas, que nos une. [who brings us together, who unites us.] Dicen que son muy distintas, ustedes dos— en que formas dirian que son diferentes? [You say you are very different—in what ways would you say you’re different?] N: En todo. [In everything.] LK: La visión de la vida, totalmente diferente. Los actos, totalmente diferentes. [Our vision of life, totally different. Our acts, totally different.] She is more instinctive than me. N: She’s more reflective. LK: I’m always thinking about what I should do or not do, or if something is a good thing to do or not. She’s like, ‘Let’s go!’ Who was born first out of the two? INTERVIEW

N: Me. LK: Only two minutes before—this is nothing. What was it like to shoot the ‘Mama Says’ video? It looked very emotional. LK: Thank you. N: The video was shot after ‘River.’ LK: Actually we never had an idea for that video. The idea was just to shoot it. It was not like ‘River.’ With ‘River’ we knew what we were going to do but ‘Mama Says’ was shot in two hours and it was really quick. We had no clue what was going to happen. N: We just did it. LK: It was really emotional because it was so simple. That is our mother in the video clip. It was like us everyday. Naomi, can you tell me about that moment in the end of the video when you all come together. What was happening? N: In that moment, I felt that my father was around. It was hard. LK: The thing is, we thought that it was not being filmed. It’s a kind of little rehearsal: ‘OK, at the end you guys can sing together. Let’s see if it’s good.’ [The director] actually really filmed it. It was not planned at all. Ed Morris shot the video. He is a genius. We love him. Why did you guys decide to keep it? N: I didn’t decide to keep it. LK: Ed just did it. When I saw it, I thought it was beautiful because it was natural and unexpected. It was us in an intimate moment. Since you guys are beginning to be a part of the music industry and doing interviews with strangers like me, is it ever difficult to be asked about your father so much? N: No. Not at all. LK: No! We always wanted people to know who our father is and people don’t know him. Musicians really know him but people don’t. So it’s a way to bring him to life again. No, actually it’s a pleasure [to speak about him]. Through us he is always here. Our music and our father’s music is so different as well. What did you guys listen to growing up? N: We grew up listening to everything. A lot of soul music. LK: I’m more jazz and I’m more oldies. I love

old stuff. She’s really into hip-hop style and young things—electronic underground rap things. Which I like! I really like the type of music that she listens to but it’s true that in my iPod you won’t find all the rappers that you will find in hers. N: We grew up with Yoruba music. Meshell Ndegeocello. LK: She’s my goddess. Nina Simone was the first time I’d heard somebody sing with this type of voice—a type of weird voice. Yoruba music, we grew up listening to those voices. Your debut EP seems minimal—there are only three songs. It’s almost bare because it’s mainly your voices and percussion. Why? LK: We thought about it and that was the only conscious decision we made. Our producer Richard Russell asked us, ‘OK, what do you want to do with all your songs? An Alicia Keys thing with a lot of instruments?’ N: Or you with a little bit of electronic sounds? LK: She said no—just electronic and the two of us. N: I think I was listening to some James Blake and was like, ‘Wow!’ LK: I think it was a way for us to make music of today, otherwise the songs and the Yoruba sound is older. That’s weird to say. It was a way to mix two other things. All of the songs are very personal, from ‘Oya’ to ‘Mama Says.’ Did you write the songs with Richard Russell? Did you already have them written? LK: We came to see Richard Russell and we had, I think, twenty songs. He [chose and] said, ‘This one, this one, this one and this one.’ We felt he picked exactly the ones we liked. We felt excited, like, ‘Yes! You are the one we wanted!’ We wrote in the studio because Richard said to us, ‘Never stop writing.’ Some people say there is a time for writing and there is a time for studio and there is a time for touring. Richard said this is bullshit. You have to write everyday because it’s the way to express yourself and it’s important to express things constantly. He told me to go back and write some songs but the three songs for the EP were picked already. 25


You’ve said that your music is like prayer. That’s beautiful—can you tell me more? LK: Yoruba music is prayers. When I started writing I took this and I felt I was singing for something that is beyond earth. I feel like sometimes you don’t even write your own songs. You feel like something is coming through you. I think there’s always a spiritual thing in music. Singing is praying in a way. Do you ever worry how you present Yoruba culture through your music? I’m sure it’s a sensitive thing. LK: A lot. I will be honest about it. [I think about this] a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot. I thought about it two days ago again. This is one of my biggest worries because this is a religion. We don’t want Yoruba people to be offended at all. This matters for us—it’s part of our lives. We want people to really get it. It’s our way to connect with Cuba. It’s our way to connect with our father. It’s our way to connect with ourselves and show people what we are. I hope people will get that for us it’s a way to make Yoruba known. It’s obviously not for making money. We are afraid people will think that. Would you ever make music that is not connected to Yoruba? N: It would be hard, I think. LK: Because it’s part of us! But you never know. For the moment I feel it’s not possible but maybe yes, maybe in a few years we will want to make a pop album and sing like Beyonce. We don’t know! This could happen. I want to write music for cinema and movies and for dance so maybe I won’t use Yoruba songs for that. Individually, I cannot think of that right now. It’s so difficult to be alone in all of this. I could not imagine myself alone without her, it would not be possible. But yes, music for cinema, I really want that as well as music for dance. Maybe work with different artists. I have thousands of names in my head! What type of cinema do you like? LK: I like all types of movies. I like this kind of cinema that touches you really hard. For example, [John] Cassavetes is one of my favorites. I love also Xavier Dolan—do you know him? He is amazing. He is from Quebec. His first movie was at 17. It’s called ‘J’ai Tué Ma Mère.’ I think you can find it with the subtitles in english. It blew my mind, oh my God. Cassavetes and Une Femme Sous Influence is my favorite movie. I love Gena Rowlands, she’s my favorite actress. I’ve seen that. Disturbing and amazing. LK: Yeah, amazing! I love these kind of movies that when you get out of the cinema you’re in shock. I love for example, Steve McQueen. I love Shame. I love this kind of cinema. You know, if one day they ask me to make the music of a cartoon, that would be great too. How long have you performed together? N: Two years and a half. It felt good. LK: Performing always feels good. Working together felt weird at first. N: We are twins and performing is easy for us because we have an audience. When we don’t have one it’s very difficult. When we are together, just us, it’s a mess. It’s awful, it’s horrible. LK: Screams everywhere! With an audience it’s very easy. [The stage] is our way to communicate. We feel each other.

Why do you cover Jay Electronica’s ‘Better In Tune With The Infinite’ live? LK: This is one of the most amazing times for us in the studio. N: We were listening to alot of music and one day Richard Russell put this song, ‘Better In Tune With The Infinite’ and we cried. He said, ‘Do a cover!’ LK: We both cried like … [pouty face] The truth is he said if we wanted to do a cover and I said, ‘But it’s rap! I will not rap. I’m not for rapping—this is not my thing.’ He said, ‘Make a melody with it.’ I went back home for two days—Saturday and Sunday. Sunday I had nothing. I thought he would kill me. He would say, ‘So?’ I’d have to say ‘I have nothing!’ I sat on my piano wishing inspiration would come and the melody came. [Hums melody.] I thought it was great but the truth—this I never said to anyone—I started singing it too high. My mother came and said to me, ‘This is too high! Put it lower.’ We did it in a lower register and we thought it was great. [My mother] has a beautiful ear—she knows. Naomi, you were saying you lean a little more towards hip-hop. N: Yes! I can listen to Notorious B.I.G. I love Wiz Khalifa. For me he’s a rapper but he’s also a rocker. He has an energy that nobody has—I feel he’s not in the same mold as others. I also listen to Drake. LK: I love Jon Wayne—he’s so good! N: Jay Electronica, Tyler The Creator, Chance The Rapper. I listen to everybody. I love twerking too so I can listen to that [music]. LK: She twerks alot. We’re always joking at home that she will marry a rapper because she’s so obsessed with them. She’s like, ‘I just discovered this new guy, I love him!’ N: My new discovery is Sabba. He’s not famous at all but he’s getting there I think. It’s often said twins have a special connection. Have you seen that play out in your art? LK: I’ve played with alot of different musicians in my life and I never experienced this kind of feeling. N: We can understand each other— LK: —without talking. When we are really concentrated, it’s like she feels what I want when I want it. For example, we are forte and I feel we must be piano now and she’s right there with me. This is amazing. N: Often we sing the same song but I’m in one place and— LK: —I’m in another room. N: I go to the kitchen for example and we are singing the same part of the same song. LK: Another time she told me she’s at a friends house and I was like, ‘No, you’re not!’ I can feel you! So you guys have no ambitions outside of Ibeyi at the moment? There isn’t a Naomi rap album on the horizon someday? N: Maybe! You never know. LK: I think if she did a rap album, I would be around somehow. I think she will always be around for my projects, too—but it’s true to say that right now we’re in Ibeyi one hundred percent. IBEYI’S SELF-TITLED EP IS AVAILABLE FROM XL. VISIT IBEYI AT IBEYI.FR. 27


WILLIAM ALEXANDER Interview by Frankie Alvaro Photography by Alexandra A. Brown

Long Beach multi-instrumentalist William Alexander Marquis released his record Girls Basketball earlier this year, and within weeks it had graced the pages of NME, shown up on countless blogs and provoked a storm of phone calls from PR people and record labels. So why is it that after playing music for 20 years and five releases with his previous band the Meanest Boys, his first solo record under his Christian name William Alexander is the one attracting the non-stop attention? Let’s find out! Where did your musical talent come from? I can’t really say. I can say using the words ‘musical talent’ when describing me feels a bit odd. I don’t have a lot of confidence in my technical ability when it comes to playing instruments. I can play guitar and keyboards, but I feel like it’s all bullshit. I just fake it. I never truly learned to play any instruments, and I can’t read music at all. I took guitar lessons as a kid, but as soon as I learned power chords I quit! It was like … ta-da! That was all I needed. My strength is definitely on the creative side, like songwriting and melody. I think it’s just natural talent though, and a genuine love of music. I remember being kind of obsessed with music when I was younger, and when I started playing guitar I began to understand song structure a lot more. I understood early on too that your heart has to be in it. If your heart’s not in it the listener can tell and it’s worthless. That was a big advantage realizing that so young. When you are ‘faking it,’ do you ever feel like people can look right through you? Do you get self-conscious when you’re on stage? I get a little self conscious about it. I guess as long as you’re selling it—as long as I’m confident in it when I’m playing it and confident about the music when I’m recording it and put it out, I think that comes through. Anyone with a real technical ear could probably listen to it and tell that what I’m doing is pretty basic on a technical ability level, but I think I have such a good ear for tones and the sounds that I come up with that the final product really comes across as being something sincere and enjoyable to listen to. Do you remember what songs or musicians made you feel like their hearts were truly in the music that they were making? Roy Orbison was someone I listened to when I was younger—there’s something so powerful about his voice and it’s just so emotional that you can hear how sincere he is when he would sing. I instantly just loved his voice and his music—and the power and sincerity that came through. Do you ever feel that the music you make you make has so much emotion and so much of your soul in it that you almost tear up when listening to it? Because that much of your heart is in it? I definitely tap into something where I can get really lost and be putting something out there that’s very true to who I am. There’s moments where … Yeah, I think I’m brain dead right now. Want to get stoned? 28

That will probably make it worse. What’s the question again? I’ve definitely felt exposed. And felt that I’m putting a lot of myself out there through the music. I don’t know that I’ve ever teared up to one of my own songs. There’s definitely other songs that have brought me to that point, where it’s such a deep song that I connect so deeply with it. I try to be very honest with myself and not be restricted by anything when I write so that it is truthful to who I am, and I think it comes across as very sincere. When you got into punk, did you get super into punk? Oh yeah! All the way. Have a mohawk? I had spiked hair, started sewing patches onto my jackets, and stopped showering. [laughs] I probably went a good … I don’t know, sophomore year of high school without showering. I’m kidding—not that long but there were long streaks where you could smell me coming for sure. I drank a lot. Smoked cigarettes. Drinking 40s under bridges? Yeah, definitely! I know you have a Screeching Weasel tattoo that makes a lot of people very excited. I have a few music related tattoos. ‘Son of a preacher man’—an ode to my father who is a preacher, but to Dusty Springfield as well. I have the notes to ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)’ with a songbird, too. What kind of music was in your home growing up? At that time it’s hard to say. My mom was super into this flamenco guitar player. I can’t remember his name at the moment. He was really popular. Stuff like that. Nothing close to what I was listening to. Do you feel that flamenco artist had any influence on you? I don’t think so—maybe something to move away from. [laughs] It had a bit of an opposite affect. No one in my immediate family plays music but they definitely appreciate it. I remember playing 8-track tapes in the family car. Beach Boys, Motown stuff, old country music. My dad loves soul music and that definitely took hold on me. It’s probably my favorite music still to this day. I just saw Brenton Wood play a few months ago—he was incredible. I’m a devoted listener of the Art Laboe show. You definitely have the best Art Laboe shirt on the planet. What do you love about Art Laboe? Do you think the world would be a pretty different place if he never got famous?

What I love about him is how dedicated he is to sharing music. Specifically the kind of East L.A. soul music that he championed, and still champions. He’s so passionate about it. He’s like in his 80s and he’s still on the radio every night sharing these songs. I’ve never called in personally but it’s one of my favorite things to listen to him read the dedications. He’s this older man, reading this dedication from Spider to Crazy Eyes conveying their love for each other. And there’s something so great about that. I knew a girl growing up who cheated on her boyfriend and called in and apologized to him on the air. She recorded it on a cassette and played it for me. That’s awesome! How would you describe your own voice? A cross between Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra, and Gilbert Gottfried. That is so sexy. I tend to sing pretty softly, and that’s mostly because I record songs in my bedroom in my apartment building. I can’t be that loud so I have a pretty soft voice. I don’t know who it really sounds like. I’ve never gotten direct comparisons before from anyone about who my voice reminds them of so I don’t know. I’d say it’s beautiful? Magical? I think it’s beautiful and magical! Sounds like an angel singing through the clouds down to earth? Do you think people can make love while listening to your music? Ooohhhhhh! Would you want people to make love while your record is playing? Do you want your voice to be that smooth? I definitely want to be the soundtrack for some romantic occasions! I’ve never done it. You’ve never made love while listening to your own music? No I haven’t! That would be the weirdest thing ever. Holy shit! No—I don’t think I could ever do that. That would be fucking intense! Has your family been supportive of your musical endeavors? Definitely. If I have shows, they go. I think my dad has a creative side he was never really able to express or pursue, so he was supportive of me being able to express and pursue it. I could image him being pretty proud of you. Especially because you’re not making death metal or something to freak out the squares. It’s all beautiful music. Yeah, they’re able to listen to it, understand it and enjoy it. And you said your dad is a preacher?

Oh yeah. There was definitely some gospel music being listened to growing up. I remember around Christmas time standards being played. Bing Crosby and the like. Were there rules to what you could listen to? Or what he encouraged? He wasn’t into me buying Metallica or Guns ‘n’ Roses. I remember going to a friends house and him playing me Anthrax Attack Of The Killer Bs and knowing I couldn’t go home and listen to it there. There’s a song on that album called ‘Starting Up My Posse’—the chorus turns into a punk blast and he just rattles off every curse word imaginable, and I knew I could never listen to that at home. That was up until I could start buying my own records. Once you’re buying your own music, did they become more lenient? Or were they still on you for listening to ‘the devil’s’ music? They were open to me listening to what I wanted to listen to, and weren’t as critical— and were a bit more supportive. Who had the most influence on you musically? Getting into punk bands when I was in junior high. It’s right when I was learning how to play guitar and I realized I could actually play these songs I was listening to. That was a great feeling. Like, ‘I don’t have to know how to do a guitar solo and I can still start a band!’ Which I did shortly after. It was the attitude, not your ability to play. I guess that really stuck with me—ha. I had a pretty good ear for figuring out songs. Well, three-chord punk songs. When did you realize you could sing? Probably not until my early twenties. I had been singing in bands in high school, but I didn’t really enjoy it. It was like an ‘If you’re writing the songs, you have to sing them’ type deal. Then as I got out of high school I started listening to more and more experimental stuff. The college rock of the time. A lot of those guys had really unique voices, like Isaac Brock or J Mascis. It made me realize that you don’t have to have a ‘great voice’ or a ‘pretty voice’ to be an incredible singer. You just have to know how to use your own voice and have confidence in it. I started implementing different techniques when I would sing until I found myself becoming really comfortable with it. How did you figure out your own voice? Experimenting with different volumes and inflections. From screaming in punk bands in high school, and singing in bands after. Figuring out my range. I was able to hone into the strongest part of it. I’m still using different voices and I’m discovering the different personalities. The song determines how I sing. I do like where my voice is at now. INTERVIEW


Is there something you wish you could do with your voice? Or something you’re working towards? Falsettos! I’m not sure. I’ve never had a vocal coach before. I’m sure they could give me some techniques. I’m pretty happy where it’s at now. John Lennon said he didn’t feel like a real songwriter until he wrote ‘ In My Life.’ Is there a song you’ve written that made you feel like you’ve become a good song writer? The first song I remember writing where I was like, ‘Oh shit, that’s a really good song. Maybe I CAN do this!’ was a song called ‘Apples In The East’. It’s about ten years old now but that one gave me a lot of encouragement to keep at it and really try to improve. It’s funny cause it’s a pretty sloppy song but it has a lot of heart. And it’s sweet. Like it’s a sweet little love song. Why was ‘Apples In The East’ different? I think I paid a little more attention and spent a little more time on it. And it really paid off. Instead of just writing a song and recording it really quickly and kind of doing it in a flash, I really worked with the song and tried to make it as good as a song as it could be. Even though it’s kind of loose, there’s something about that makes the song so special to me. It’s when I really kind of started trying to put a lot more effort into the craft, instead of just throwing it out there, whatever came first. I just sat down and said, ‘OK—what parts can I make better? How can I arrange this so it’s a perfect song?’ Do you find yourself spending a lot more time with a song now? Fine-tuning it until it’s ‘perfect’? Definitely more than I used to. I don’t think any of them are perfect but I spend more time with them, and really listen to them a lot. I can listen to it one day and think it’s a great song, listen to it the next day and hate it, and then the following day listen to again and say, ‘Well, you know … this actually isn’t so bad. I see what I didn’t like about it, but now that I’ve sat with it for a little bit I know how to fix it.’ It all evolves as I listen to the songs. At what point do you stop and say, ‘OK, this is done. This is perfect.’ That’s one of the hardest parts. Just knowing when to stop. I could keep working on these songs forever and ever and ever, but I would never put anything out if I did that. So you just have to get to a point where you’re happy with it and you have to give it wings and let it be free. It’s like sending your kids off to college, I guess. You just have to let it go. Are there songs you wish you’d handled differently? There are songs I hear years later that make me think I should have done that chorus two measures later, or I totally left that squeaky guitar part in there that I should have cleaned up. There are little things that I notice because I’m super-critical—hyper-critical—but I’m sure other people don’t notice those things. And that’s why you just have to let them go. Would you ever want to put out a record of your songs re-recorded? Do you understand how other musicians do that? Yeah—you get that second chance. I don’t know if I would do that. Maybe some day if I had a song that I feel didn’t get my fair attention the first go-round. And if I had the chance to re-record it in a nice studio or something. 30

What’s your dream show to play? Dead or alive artists. Modest Mouse, Built To Spill and Jawbreaker. 1997. Why 1997? That was a great year for me too. What happened for you? 1997 was the year I started exploring a lot more music, instead of just really sticking to the punk stuff I had been listening to. I started listening to more bands like Modest Mouse and Jawbreaker, and those bands influenced me so much at the time—and to this day. It was a really special time where I started finding out about more of the obscure music that is out there. Now those bands are commonplace, but in 1997 no one in my high school knew who those bands were. At that time you could go out and see kids and know, ‘OK, they’re into punk, they’re into indie, they’re into emo, they’re mod …’ Now you go out and everyone looks the same. What did you love about those early Modest Mouse albums? There was just something so special to me about those early Modest Mouse albums. Even to this day they’re still some of my favorite records of all time. I saw them play at the El Rey. It was a great show. Did you see them with Johnny Marr? No, I know they recorded with him but I couldn’t really hear too much of his influence on the albums. Either way—it’s still cool they got to play with him. What was your inspiration for the Girls Basketball cover? I found that photo on the internet. It was from a high school yearbook in Oklahoma from around a hundred years ago. That photo was the page leading into the photos of their girls basketball team. There was just something about it. The drawing and the girl in bloomers with the basketball was a really amazing image. And the font, too. It has that great gothic hand drawn font. I just loved it right away and it clicked! This is my next album cover. Done. Was there something specific that inspired you to write Girls Basketball or was it compiled over time? The songs were written over the period of a year or so—2013 I guess. I had probably 5 or 6 songs recorded and no plan with what to do with them. Then I found that cover image and it inspired me to create the album. I needed something to tie the Girls Basketball cover together with the music so then I wrote the song ‘Girls Basketball’ and I knew I had something worthwhile. I think ‘Holding It’ was the last song I wrote and it felt like it was a good closer. As far as the overall inspiration, the lyrics are just cryptic stories from my life— the stuff I ponder on, heartbreak, family, my vices. I always write from a very introspective place. You could find out a lot about me if you studied my lyrics. Like my love of burritos. There really isn’t anything more beautiful than a good burrito. Who are some of your biggest inspirations ? Mostly food. Just kidding. Musical inspirations … I would have to say Animal Collective. Their album Sung Tongs really shook me up when it came out. It was like a sound I had been looking for but had you asked me I never would have been able to describe it. I remember being really moved by a lot of those songs and

it affected the way I made music after listening to it. I’m really inspired by the local scene in Long Beach right now, too. There’s a ton of great bands and musicians all playing together and everyone is really supportive of each other. Not to mention venues like Alex’s Bar—Alex is a great dude—and 4th Street Vine. Jim Ritson is a great guy too. It’s got me hyped for the future. What are the main instruments you play? I usually write on guitar. Yeah, that would definitely be my go-to instrument. The old axe. My git-fiddle. The ol’ shred stick. On this album you played all of the instruments right? Correct. I played all of the guitar stuff including bass, keys, and a sampler. I programmed most of the drums but my good friend Shawn Cutts played drums on a few tracks. Then I did all of the vocal stuff too. Tell me about your song writing process. My writing is fully incorporated with the recording process. If I get inspired or have an idea, I typically start by laying down a drum track that I can play to. It’s nice to have a backbeat that I can try ideas out with. And it kind of informs me what I will do on the guitar. There are a couple of drum tracks on Girls Basketball that my friend Shawn recorded and I didn’t really touch them. I really liked them and let them dictate the structure of the song. It’s fun to work that way sometimes. If a particular beat isn’t gelling with what I’m doing on the guitar, I just make a new beat. Once I have the guitar part down with a few variations I record it over the drums. I can then chop up parts and rearrange them till I get something I like. Then I can start laying down other guitar lines and bass parts. The whole time rearranging and tweaking little parts here and there. Once I have a solid foundation I start working on lyrics and vocals. By this point in the process I’ve listened to the song over and over and have a pretty strong melody built up for it. It just becomes a matter of writing lyrics to that melody and that can either come in a flash or take me months. I rarely sit down with my guitar and write a full song. It’s happened but not a lot. What was the process like for making Girls Basketball? Me in my bedroom. I work a 9-to-5 so I mostly get to record when I get home from work. I’m usually really tired and usually sit in horrible traffic on the 405, so it can be really hard to feel inspired or motivated. I usually have to force myself to get everything set up but when I do it’s easy to get lost in a song. Hours will go by in a blink. It’s seriously my favorite thing to do. I absolutely love writing songs and recording. Tell me about Juniper Tree Songs. Juniper Tree Songs is a rad tape label run by my buddy Matt. He puts out a lot of lo-fi bedroom stuff and was nice enough to do the cassette release of Girls Basketball. You have any plans for playing live? I do! I haven’t played live in so long but I’ve actually put together a band recently, or rather these other guys made me do it cuz they’re such rad musicians and I would’ve felt like a dick if I didn’t take them up on their offer to play music with me. Dustin Lovelis is playing bass and he’s got his own solo record coming

out next year on Porch Party, which is a sweet sweet label out of Long Beach. Joel Jasper is on guitar and Zach Mabry is on drums. Joel’s got a solo thing going on and collectively they play as Forest Of Tongue. Zach is in like five other bands and they all rip. When you play live with those dudes, do you like the way they’re translating your music? Or would you prefer to have five other Wills up on stage? I definitely like the influence they have on it. They’re very talented musicians. Much more talented than I am. So it’s great to be surrounded by such strong players. They bring so much more to these songs than I originally put into them. They sound bigger. They sound tighter. Plus on all my recordings, it’s me singing all back-ups and all harmonies. And now I have other unique voices singing with me. So that’s one of my favorite parts about it. You’re so critical of your own music—when you have other people play with you, do you let them have artistic freedom? I totally trust them. They never bring anything so off the charts that it doesn’t fit with the song. They have really good taste in music, and really similar to mine, so whenever they have an idea or suggestion I normally take it because they’re right most of the time. I remember the first time we played I was so excited to plug in and jam with them that I was playing really loud, and Zach the drummer said, ‘Why don’t we ease up a bit and play it a little quieter?’ As soon as we did that the song sounds a hundred times better. He just knew right off that bat that it sounded cool … but maybe I needed to take a chill pill and let the song exist. It doesn’t have to be full blast to come across. What’s the newest thing you’ve done? I’m working on a big batch of new songs I’m putting out with the label I just signed with— Yellow K. They’re going to be releasing my next new album. I’m really excited to have that support. And a label behind me encouraging me, so when I’m writing these new songs it’s nice to know they’re going to have a good home when I’m finished with everything. Yellow K is fairly new but the guy Josh who runs it is just like the nicest dude and he’s really supportive of my music. They’ll be rereleasing my album Strangest Things on vinyl kind of early next year. I couldn’t be happier about it. Oh, and I’ve been talking to another awesome label called Forged Artifacts and I think they’re going to do the cassette release of those albums. It’s been sort of overwhelming after not really putting myself out there for so long and now I’m getting all sorts of amazing feedback from all over the world. It’s extremely flattering and I’m incredibly grateful. Not just to them, but anyone who’s taken time to listen to my music. It’s so rad. What’s different about your new songs? I think over the years I’ve learned the process of recording better, and my ear is constantly getting a little better, and more finely tuned to what my strong suits are. The songs each time they come around they sound a little better to me. And maybe I mature a little bit. WILLIAM ALEXANDER’S GIRLS BASKETBALL IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM JUNIPER TREE. WILLIAMALEXANDER. BANDCAMP.COM. INTERVIEW


OPEN MIKE EAGLE Interview by D.M. Collins Photography by Aaron Giesel

Open Mike Eagle may be an unapologetic nerd, but his self-coined “Art Rap” ain’t for babies: he’s a rapper’s rapper, who can segue from socio-political advice pieces to confessional laments to witty pop-cultural comparisons with the same kind of bottomless-buffet delight that Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer only hoped to find at the Dream Café. If you haven’t seen him live, or heard his most recent amazing album, Dark Comedy, you’ve probably heard him guesting on albums by the likes of Busdriver, Ras G, Myka 9, Abstract Rude, Milo … let’s just say this kid plays well with others, and even with the likes of our interviewer D. M. Collins. At an Indian buffet in Culver City recently, they exchanged these few words about art, the world and They Might Be Giants. I liked your comments on the recent Hellfyre Club release where you called out Nocando in a very loving way for saying ‘bitch’ too often—a practice he’s since worked on. Sometimes when I think I’m making a candid observation about a band in a sense of great love, they take it as an insult. Have you ever gotten in trouble that way? Not really. Usually when I reference someone I don’t know, I do it in a positive light. I guess in my earliest albums I was pretty critical, that old backpacker attitude that you can say whatever about mainstream dudes, and stuff like that. I’m a little more mature in the sense of understanding … I’d say this. When I have issues with a thing, a physical product, that a person makes, typically my concerns these days are more with the people consuming it, making that choice, than the people making it. It’s just really difficult to make a living with music. And if that’s somebody’s lifestyle, and they’re making music that reflects their lifestyle, I don’t have any problem with that really. It’s just that some of the same consumers really pretend as if they want something better, then it’s like, okay, what choices are you making? What are you spending your money on? What are you giving your attention to? Because that’s what you’re going to get back. So I’ve gotten less critical, for the most part. Certainly that’s true now. Back in the day when there were only three TV stations, sure, you could get mad about having to watch ‘Petticoat Junction.’ But now … Now there are so many choices! I think getting people to understand that is the key to getting things more open and flexible—especially in the rap world, where a lot of people who consume rap, up until very recently haven’t been very exploratory consumers. They were more passive consumers: turn on the faucet kind of people. Turn on a radio, turn on TV, whatever’s on, maybe you like it more or you like it less. Whereas recently, I feel like since the younger generation, there’s been more people trying to find different kinds of rap. In rock music, that’s been going on forever. There’s more people in that who have been active seekers for a long time now. There’s a certain narrative some people tell themselves about hip hop. Let me know if you think this is true: in the early 90s and late late 80s, we had the Golden Age of Hip Hop. It seemed anything was possible, and it seemed like the mainstream was creative, or at least that things could go in any way. INTERVIEW

There was no need to be a ‘seeker’ because Yo! MTV Raps would bring you options in all directions. But then things in the mainstream after, say, Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, got more calcified. That’s real interesting that you say that. I was just talking to Dan Charnas, who wrote a book called The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip Hop. He’s a guy who I think started working at Priority Records back in the day, worked for Rick Rubin, worked for radio: his entire career has been based in and around hip hop. And he explained it in a really interesting way to me: that rap started out as a public activity, how the first DJs kind of started rhyming between songs at, like, clubs. And then people who couldn’t get into those clubs started setting up the jams outside, and and doing it there, and that’s how it was born. And it was a public activity, and it was almost family oriented, in a sense. So the things that were talked about were more positive leaning, or party leaning. You know what I mean? Good time stuff. ‘Wave your hands in the air …’ And then, he says, Schoolly D comes out with ‘P.S.K.’ That’s the first time you really hear like real, exaggerated, tough guy, gangster talk, like the way guys talk behind closed doors. Locker room type talk. It’s the first time you hear that on a record. And that changed everything, because after that, Ice T did ‘6 ‘N The Morning’ which is basically the same record, and N.W.A. basically following Eazy E, and the Ghetto Boys were making stuff. But then The Chronic was the first time that this was the national rap album. This is the rap album that all the black people AND the white people are into. And it was all that side. I mean, even with N.W.A., they had ‘Express Yourself,’ and ‘Fuck the Police.’ But there was another element to it. There was some Public Enemy in there. Exactly! With The Chronic, all that is gone. I’m not putting it down—it’s a great record. I don’t think I’m putting it down, either, but at the same time, I’ve never really been a fan of it. When it came out, my whole family was into that record. It was ubiquitous, absolutely everywhere. But it just wasn’t for me necessarily. I didn’t really get into it very deeply. But after that point, it was like, consumers made that choice, and every copy of that, every offshoot of that, really started working. Should we be ‘blaming’ the artists who came after that? People like P. Diddy who

abandoned even gangsta rap’s grittiness and just had flashy videos? But I think The Chronic mirrors into that, too. It’s where you start to reject any positive values and start to embrace American ideals. Like, the real ones: capitalism, materialism, and I think that’s where you get the offshoots, where you get the Biggies. And Biggie had two sides to himself, too. But, like, the bigger hit side was more the materialism. And I think it all springs forth from that well. So this was all during your formative years. Is this why you became a rapper? You didn’t see anything reflecting your values? But I did, because there was still Native Tongues stuff around. I was heavily influenced by Native Tongues, Tribe Called Quest, and De La Soul specifically. Busta Rhymes was huge for me, Black Sheep was huge for me. The Wu Tang Clan was huge for me. HUGE! They weren’t the most positive guys in the world, either, but there was this sense of some weird code they always adhered to. I thought that was cool. We don’t really have a Busta Rhymes in our era, except of course Busdriver who runs rings around everybody. Virtuosity is tough in rap. When you’re a virtuoso, for the most part, you’re chewing whatever the style is at the time. And, you know, national rap consumerism is very much about style and patterns, and ... like, taking what’s happening and putting your spin on it. Eminem was kind of virtuoso when he started. They said on his last album that he’d committed the fastest rap on record. I was like, ‘No, Busdriver is always faster than that!’ I’d have to doubt that as well. One thing you did on your last album that I thought was pretty groundbreaking was you got out of sync on purpose. That’s a pretty hard thing to do without, you know, making it sound like it was not on purpose. I have a really individualistic approach. It’s hard to remember the specific instance of that, but… But there’s so much cool stuff to talk about with your last album! Like, Busdriver just came out with a video directed by comedian Brent Weinbach. But you spearheaded the trend of getting comedians on board—who is the comedian who helped with your album? Hannibal Buress. I went to school with Hannibal—I’ve known him 10, 12 years now. I was his RA for a year in college. Really, right

when he started, we were his first go-around doing open mikes on campus. Both professions are kind of similar, right? You have to think on your feet, you have to have a lot of material memorized, you’re going to have audience participation— whether invited,or not!—and you’ve got to learn to deflect that, or go with it. And you, personally—I’m not saying your rhymes are funny, but there’s a certain sense of humor to them. And sometimes they ARE funny! I definitely attempt to amuse myself! I definitely wouldn’t fault you for detecting attempted humor. The thing that links them both, to me, is that they are both very individualistic industries. When you are a comic, you are a one-man brand. You don’t work for a company, ever. You don’t work for a team: it’s just you. Being a rapper is the same thing. Now, you can work with a collective… A comedian can be in an improv troupe. Yeah, right! But I identify with comics for that individual approach to content and brand and approach and look. All of that! And traveling alone, and all the things that go along with being that individual, psychologically. How have you worked on your craft since then? How does a rapper get better? It’s just a ten thousand hours thing. It’s funny, you talk about where I’m at, then compare it to someone who’s a master. Like, Busta Rhymes, that’s mastery of craft. Or Myka 9. That’s mastery of craft. It’s like, you can hear how many hours someone has been rapping when they start rapping. There are so many things that only come with practice in terms of timing, in learning your breath, in learning your throat. What’s the most unusual response you’ve got so far? Okay, so the usual responses are: 1. We like this a lot. 2. We’re okay with this. 3. We don’t like it so much. 4. … or nobody’s there. Sometimes I overestimate a place. I was in Athens, Georgia, a couple weeks ago. But it happened to be the first home game for the University of Georgia’s football team, so there wasn’t nothing happening on the music front. It was all people who were in college, or used to be, or wanted to be really badly. I am to understand that the cool people don’t come out of the house that day. You can imagine what kind of show that was! OPEN MIKE EAGLE’S DARK COMEDY IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM MELLO MUSIC GROUP. MIKEEAGLE.NET. 33


ELISA AMBROGIO Interview by Rin Kelly Illustration by Emma Maatman

She’s all giddy genius and fall-down-funny profundities, posing on her album cover beneath a giant 2D Starship Enterprise in a DIY Waka Flocka Flame mask because what the fuck yes, that’s totally how it is—and add some literature to it, too, because that’s just Elisa Ambrogio’s brain. Here’s Raymond Carver and Charles Baudelaire in the lyrics; here’s a title, The Immoralist, taken from André Gide’s infamous novelistic exercise in philosophizing freedom and freaking out the squares. Gide and Ambrogio, singer/guitarist and (often impromptu, always amazing) lyricist for noisy beauty-seeking superbrains Magik Markers, share a philosophical preoccupation with what it means to be agents of our own creation, creatures who can close our eyes and invent whatever universe we want. It’s evident in how Ambrogio talks about her new solo record—the decision to see what it feels like to make choices alone—and in the way she narrates her characters’ lives. “No dust can choke a man who builds a lake,” she sings on “Arkansas,” her voice delicate and dreamy, layered and floating, gone fully Wilson Phillips at last and fuck y’all who think it can’t sound like Tiffany and floor you; “Are you so weak to deny your wants and needs?” she asks on “Clarinet Queen,” echoing Gide’s ubermensch-aspirant narrator. The result is queer and gorgeous, pop and profound, the work of someone who’s a philosopher-artist-goofball at all times, whether she’s questioning the reality of free will in “Comers” or just riffing on questions of gender, chemtrails, Mike Love, and pubes. You’re really into the kind of production that’s being used in hip-hop right now. 
 The other night I had to dispute a cable bill for a long time and I opened a bottle of wine thinking that I would be talking to the cable person for half an hour, would have a glass of wine and then settle down and go to bed. Instead I ended up talking to the cable guy for like four hours and it sucked—and by that time the wine had been sitting there: ‘No, not until I’m done with this conversation will I have a glass of wine.’ So then when I was done, I had a glass of wine and just went hard and drank like half the bottle really fast. And when I woke up the next morning, all that was open on my computer was ‘Whole Lotta Love,’ the weird YouTube video about where ‘Whole Lotta Love’ was stolen from, and then the chords of ‘Whole Lotta Love.’ I went really deep with that. And the other thing that was open was the Juicy J song, ‘My weed is medical. And I ain’t had nothing to eat but some edibles.’ ‘Geeked Up Off Them Bars.’
 I’m not a Juicy J expert.
 It’s hard to be an expert on those guys! That’s the thing about Gucci Mane too. They release these mix tapes—it’s way crazier than the Magik Markers CD-R output. It’s insane. They release mixtapes every two months. Juicy J has a thing called Ratchet Studios. He’ll put up videos of himself in shitty Motel 6s on the INTERVIEW

road—he’s probably doing better now; this was like 2009 and 2010. That’s when the Ratchet Studio films are from. But he’s in a Comfort Inn and he’s got like a digital 24-track and a mic, and they’re just recording constantly. I think that’s great. That song ‘Geeked Up Off Them Bars,’ the way that it’s composed and the way that it’s layered … I feel like there’s these two time periods in music that achieved this weird separation of sound and this weird, visceral, unstoppably compelling quality. Just the quality of the sound alone separate from the sound—separate from anything. Just the quality of the sound. It’s incredibly moving in some way. I feel like it’s mid- to late-60s production and current hip-hop. Those are the places. It kind of frustrates me when people who are in a certain genre don’t listen to new music. I can’t stand that shit. Sometimes I think it’s racist. And sometimes I think it’s just stupid. It seems crazy to me that you can still be looking only to the Beatles for your ideas. There’s such interesting stuff that has happened in the world besides the Beatles. Even though you love the Beatles, everyone I know. 
 It’s just turning into your parents. One time at a show people were being jerks, you were getting booed, and you started telling them that they had turned into their parents. I think it was a Dinosaur Jr. show. 


Oh my God, they fucking hated us! People lost their minds with hatred. It was the most palpable hate in the room. There were guys who’d been practicing jazz chords in their room for the past decade that just wanted to stick an ice pick into us being on the stage that J Mascis would later walk onto. They were so angry. 
 The thing a lot of people—mostly rockist white people—tend to be missing is that hip-hop is probably the weirdest music that is being made right now. 
 It’s the weirdest! There was a Nicki Minaj song that was super popular like a year and a half ago, maybe two years ago: ‘Bees in the Trap.’ That song is so fucking weird. And it’s not melodic; it’s not lyrical. But it was a top-40 pop hit, a number-one hit. It would have been a Throbbing Gristle song in 1974 or whatever ... Something that in 1975 or 1981 it would have sounded like art maniacs; it would have been completely bizarre. It’s a weird racist thing, in my opinion—a little bit. There’s also a cultural trope of white liberals who might be into avant-garde music being like, ‘I don’t like how they objectify women! Lyrically, they’re just singing about the cars and the drugs.’ But it’s just racism. I have a lot of friends I went to college with—we’re going deep white boy right now—who are particularly big Bob Dylan fans. We don’t have to talk about Bob Dylan in any serious way, and I don’t want to go any

deeper with it than that his chords are very simplistic folk and blues-based, his voice is not particularly sonorous or filled with a beautiful vocal quality. And these dudes would be just like, ‘Dylan, maaan, fuckin Dylan.’ I enjoy hip-hop music and would try to play them stuff, and more than one dude says to me, ‘I know where you’re coming from, but for me this just isn’t music. I can sort of appreciate it as spoken word.’ All that is is really deep racism that people aren’t even aware they possess. And when it comes to lyrics, there’s that Chris Rock thing: Women will be listening to a song that says, ‘Move, bitch, get out the way,’ and you’ll be like, ‘How can you listen to that! It’s so sexist!’ And they say, ‘He ain’t talking about me!’ There’s certain genres that have certain tropes. A current type of protest song, not a protest song of the 40s or of the 60s, but a political type of protest song right now that is indicative of what’s really happening in America is the song that is spoken from a point of numbness. You have somebody who is medically anesthetizing themselves and then expressing how they are changing their brain chemistry to be as completely numb as they can be. And not explaining why; not explaining the circumstance and saying, ‘I come from the streets, it’s hard,’ or ‘I’m poor. Things suck.’ It’s just ‘Right now, here are the ways in which I am numbing myself. Here are 35


the Coleridgean thoughts I am having on this numbness.’ It’s a really pervasive, cross-genre, cross-country thing. In 2011, Frank Ocean had that hit, ‘Novacane’—one of the smartest pop songs that’s ever been written. It’s a story about going to a show, going to Coachella and meeting a woman who says she is going to dental school, but she’s putting herself through dental school by doing porn in the valley. She gives him weed to smoke—and then he’s like, ‘My face feels numb. What’s in this?’ She’s put Novocain in the weed. He equates that, getting stoned and the Novocain that’s numbing his body to auto-tune and pitch-correction and having no emotion in music—it just being this robotic sort of numbed sound that is the only sound on the radio. This automated, inhuman, regenerated, regurgitated music. He talks about his body being numb physically and how that relates to sex or pleasure and the distance of filming. There’s so much in that song. It’s such a heavy song. And it’s just a pop song! But I can’t name one friend who’s like, ‘You know who’s good? Frank Ocean.’
 It’s almost like sci-fi heaviness has moved into R&B and hip-hop—not that it wasn’t necessarily already there, but it’s heavy there, this weird machine intelligence, transhuman weirdness. 
 Then there’s Janelle Monae—she’s got the scifi concept that was a 70s white-people move. Like a Bowie thing. She’s fuckin so cool. This is controversial. I again have not met one person in my life who gives a shit about this person without thinking they’re crappy. Kitty Pryde, I think she’s just Kitty now—she had that song ‘OK Cupid.’ She was like, ‘I’m on Tumblr! I live in Florida!’ but now she’s more like a grown person. She used to be a real curiosity; I think she worked at the mall and was putting out these songs from her iPhone, but it’s really weird—it’s still really weird. It’s kind of like stream of consciousness, and I think she’s a really smart feminist lyric writer, but she’s also kind of sweet. It’s like no-wave or something, but iPhone No Wave. And she gets so much shit because there’s no more sexist world than hip-hop. She just gets a ton of shit. And she’s really honest—I actually really admire her as an artist. People get mad when they listen to her, and she takes it and she just keeps working and creating. People are brutal to her! They’re not nice. There’s lots of people doing amazing stuff right now. I don’t know if you know that lady EMA—she’s amazing. She’s a really thoughtful, intelligent, melodically gifted musician who’s playing with things that wouldn’t been tools at anyone’s disposal until the year 2013 or something. Right now I feel there’s more good music than there was ten years ago. 
 I do too!
 I’m glad it’s not just a weird perception. 
 Weird shit is being heard by teenagers, and they don’t even realize it’s weird. And it’s not hard to seek it out like it would have been a generation earlier, when tons of kids just listened to what was on MTV.
 I’m not trying to make anything just gender based, but I feel like there are more women who are fronting their own projects and making their own work that it’s just a different voice. It’s a different perspective. It’s way more common to see girls at shows playing guitars.
 36

Have you watched your reception getting any better as far as dudes trying to tune your stuff for you, stepping in to set your stuff up like a woman can’t possibly understand such things? I hear that kind of thing from female friends. Are there fewer reviews now where they can’t see past the fact that you’re female?
 I feel like being in a band taught me I was a woman. I maybe thought I was a kind of unusual little dude before that. ‘I’m a little dude without a dick!’ I make out with dudes and I’m like this genderless, amorphous thing. Gender really wasn’t how I thought of my brain. Being in a band, having people look at me and be like, ‘You are a woman!’ made it much more clear that I was, in fact, perceived as female. It was other people’s perception that brought me into my status as a woman in a weird way. But when we first started, both Leah [Quimby] and I were so sort of ambivalent of performing at all. We would think, ‘Why the fuck are people here? Why did they come to this fucking show? What do they want from us? They can do what we’re doing—why are they looking at us?’ It was really baffling. I will never forget one of the first live reviews I ever read—also one of my first experiences with the anonymity of internet commenting. I didn’t realize that it was really a hospitable spot for viciousness. Someone said, ‘The drummer set up all their gear for them while the girls just sat around curling their pubes.’
 Because girls are all born with stick-straight pubes. 
 It’s part of our feminine inheritance. 
 That’s just broadcasting that you’ve never been with a girl.
 I didn’t even think about that! My first instinct was ‘They did not set up my shit for me!’ But then I was like, ‘Curling my pubes? What? With a heated instrument? Or was it around my fingers? Was it spit curls?’ It was just weird, and then it went into trying to decimate the live show and say how bad it was. 
 Men just love pubes and hairy women—it’s the one place where there’s no social pressure on us to change ourselves, so I could see why you’d really want to be accentuating it.
 That’s why you curl before the show, Rin! That’s why you curl before the show. I don’t have time for amplifiers. I’ve got pubes! 
 I have so many friends who’ve had guys come up and grab their stuff, put it together wrong, and then sit back like, ‘There you go, little lady. Glad I could help you guys.’
 I really definitely in the beginning of Markers would approach the live experience with my game face on. As soon as we walked in I would think, ‘I know everyone’s gonna just be really shitty to me after we play.’ I would just game face, set up—so maybe from being not super friendly, people did not fuck with me in that way. But that stopped probably after I felt less defensive after my own ability to do stuff. That’s insane to think, ‘I won’t be nice to people because then I’ll know that they were nice to me before I played but weren’t nice to me after I played.’ That’s crazy! That’s crazyperson thinking. As I got older I thought, ‘That’s indicative of my own trust issues.’ I haven’t experienced a ton of it. Sound guys are always ... I’ve been on tour with people who are consummate, virtuoso-level musicians who

have been playing shows for the past 15 years and sound guys are condescending dicks to them ... There was one thing that bummed me out. This was actually my friend and our record label—this was probably the most sexist, openly angering thing. And this was my friend and Ecstatic Peace label contact who did this! Early in our Magik Markering, Magik Markers were interviewed by Thurston Moore, and I talked about the first time I had ever picked up a guitar. I said that 70s guitar playing and soloing is all up and down the neck and then punk is really fast. I was like, ‘It’s like the difference between a guy jerking off and a girl jerking off.’ Punk compared to arena rock. It was a really momentary thought that I had for one second, literally the first time I ever picked up a guitar—never thought it again. It’s completely a false equivalency! It’s not correct. Thought it for a second; mentioned it for one second in one second in one interview. Then, the person at my label smash cut from me saying that to me hitting my guitar with a beer bottle at this pretty insane show, and it ruined the actual aggressiveness of what was happening musically—and it ruined the sort of sweetness of what I was meaning to convey in the interview. It just made it disgusting and sexual in a way that was not intended. And in a way that diminished both sides of what I was trying to communicate. But, of course, it was kind of salacious, so it was probably good for Magik Markers. Every fucking dumb tour in Europe was like, ‘Le masturbatoire guitar le Ambrogio bah bah bah!’ It was fucking bullshit! Everywhere we went it was like, ‘Oh you are masturbating your guitar.’ No! No I’m absolutely not. That was never what I was doing. Part of that bummed me out, because I did not see myself as primarily a gendered individual— as that being my number one qualifier. When I was playing shows, I was thinking of myself as a person who was responding to the show and to what was happening musically. When you’re doing anything right, you’re not constantly ego based. That should disappear if you’re doing the right things. You shouldn’t be conscious of yourself at all. That’s what was happening in that moment, and the show itself was a really roiling, emotional, heavy show. It was super exciting and fun to play—and then to be interpreted that way when it was something really aggressive and violent and not sexual and not for someone’s titillation in that way at fucking all—that’s probably the most sexist thing that’s ever happened to me. And he’s my friend. 
I always think about race and gender as a translator. You have to be translated rather than taken as you are—gender is a translator through which other people see you, and you’re just like, ‘I’m screaming what I think at you and you’re seeing it through this filter!’ ‘Female’ used to be way down the list of what I thought defined me. I was angry and alien and weird! But I’ve been translated so many times that I have no choice. Fuck that, I want to be heard as a voice and not a female voice. 
 It’s still surreal to me because I feel if you’re mostly in your own head it’s always a weird, new reminder when you’re interacting in a body that you’re being perceived in that body. I’m a lady now, I get it. 


You’ve been compared a lot to girl groups on this record, with the production choices you made—layered vocal tracks. 
 Yeah, I love it. These aren’t girl groups, but this production style … my first few records that were my mom and dad’s and grandparents in the basement of our house were the greatest hits of The Turtles, Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, and Tom Jones’ Delilah. Literally I was five or six—I definitely was still making Barbie beds in shoeboxes, I was a little guy—and on my plastic turntable I would listen to these scratched jams. I thought the Turtles and the Beatles were the same band though, for sure, well into like ... my teens. I love harmonies. I love vocal harmonies with a female singer. There was this band called the Poni-Tails— when I was in the fourth grade I had a crush on a boy named Kevin Carroll, who was in sixth grade, and the Poni-Tails had a song called ‘Born Too Late.’ Born too late for you to notice me. As a nine-year-old, I really identified with that song. I loved Tiffany. I was probably a little bit littler when Tiffany came out, but she was right up there for me. Wilson Phillips—those were my little-kid jams. Not to make this whole thing nothing but gender— ‘Nuthin But Gender, Yo!’ They do it to us. I blame the Man for this entire interview that I subjected you to. It’s his fault. 
I never get to talk about this shit, so I like it! My mom, my dad, my grandparents, everybody was just like, ‘You’re a little dude!’ I remember my dad in the car, I had a cassette of Tiffany and I played it, and he explained to me how it was mindless pop bullshit. And then he played me Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats. I was probably seven. And the vamping organ of Hot Rats, it’s still a lyricless, weird, kind of terrifying record, but I learned really early even though I wasn’t told, ‘Oh, you’re a girl, you can’t do this.’ Nothing like that—it was always ‘You’re smart; you can do whatever you want.’ I wasn’t seen as female or held to those standards in my family at all, but what it sort of meant is that I maybe posited male standards as superior to female standards. It’s like when Marge and Homer are hanging out and Homer doesn’t realize that their friend is gay. Marge is trying to explain it and says, ‘Homer, he prefers the company of men,’ and Homer says, ‘Who doesn’t?!’ That was sort of my attitude: who doesn’t?! Then I got into straight-edge hardcore in a big way, and that’s almost exclusively male. I mean, there was riot grrl stuff—I was a little late, but I could have been into that stuff. But I was like, ‘I don’t get it. Why would they tell girls to stand up front? I’ll just go up front if I want to go up front. This is not tight enough and fast enough.’
 I was like that too. ‘I’m completely obnoxious! I don’t need to be told this!’ It took me a while to see what other women were talking about or needing. 
 I thought, ‘Don’t condescend to me—I’ll do what I want!’ Also, I responded to tightness and fastness. I wanted it to be really tight musically and really fast. It was probably the exact same feelings as the audience at that Dinosaur Jr concert you were talking about. ‘Stop playing that!’ But in adolescence, or even from that first moment when Hot Rats was posited as superior to Tiffany, I was maybe INTERVIEW


internalizing the dude standards. Let it begin. So maybe this record was kind of a revisiting of things I have dismissed in certain ways. And that’s two-pronged, because there also was a mental decision I had made early on in studio recording I was like, ‘I will not double track my vocals. I will not do that.’ Because women are always—or often, not always—encouraged to do that, and you hear more double, tripletracked female vocals. Men are allowed to just have their reedy, winnow voices, and women have to be physically denser. Their voices have to be given artificial authority because it’s interpreted by an engineer or producer, or even the woman herself, as not containing inherent authority as a storytelling or melodic device on its own. That’s not to say every woman—if you’re born with an incredibly beautiful voice, that carries its own weight. I just mean for somebody who is an average Joe type singer, a singer-songwriter type singer that’s sort of story based and word based, who might not have those soaring melismas in their jams.
 A thin voice is its own instrument. 
 Neil Young, Bob Dylan, the list goes on and on. There’s so many dudes. Lou Reed is another guy who has a really cool voice but not an inherent singer’s voice. I thought, ‘These are the singer-songwriters I’m listening to—this is who I want it to sound like.’ And I realized that I was making a decision based not only on possibly internalizing dude standards but also kind of forcibly limiting myself because I was thinking there was symbolic importance to an unenhanced, single female vocal track. Even tuning my guitar was a giant decision for me. Pete [Nolan, Magik Markers] and I used to just tune to each other. We would tune to this organ that he had. When I first used a tuning pedal, that felt like another level of almost like … compromise. With this I thought, ‘I don’t want to think about anything but serving the narrative sound experience of what the song is.’ Whatever sounds good—and it being a fun thing, being in a studio, not thinking of anything but the story and the song and the place and time. I feel like in saying that that it’s really obvious—no shit, dude!—but sometimes it’s been a collaborative effort of what the whole band thought something should be like, where with this it was dictator-style, only me. Jason [Quever], the person I recorded with, he played so much on the record and is a beautiful, super-sensitive musician, very intuitive but also disciplined crazy-virtuoso kind of dude with a great ear for things. So him playing on the record was incredibly great and beautiful and collaborative. So when I say, ‘I was just there, alone, making this thing’ I don’t mean that it was just me no one else there, just me being awesome. Jason was integral—I bet a lot of the aspects of the record that are beautiful are due to his gentle ear coming in. I feel like I’m better at some different things, but he’s such a beautiful musician that it was easy to make certain things that I’d maybe have trouble with on my own. 
 A lot of people have said they’re hearing selfdiscovery and introspection in the record. I wonder if people are hearing that because of the softness. Almost like it’s an aural clue for them to look for self-discovery and introspection that might already be there in your other work too. 
 INTERVIEW

That’s one of those things like what we first started talking about, about if it’s possible to be a reliable narrator when you’re subjectively telling your own story from a skewed, myopic point of view. I have no idea! It’s so first-person and self-revealing that at this point I’m like, ‘That’s fuckin embarrassing!’ You know as a writer that when you’re looking at a piece of fiction that it’s an amalgam of things. It’s a truth you’re telling—you’re revealing things about how you operate in the world. I love when people can hear things you didn’t know you were intentionally revealing. That’s awesome. It’s cool when somebody listens to your record deeply enough to register something like that. But I don’t really know. I guess if you’re working on your shit over time … everything really good, every piece of art that’s really good, the thing that you respond to in it, the thing that you love about it, the thing that hooks people together with the works that they love is that communication. Communication from beyond the grave—somebody’s talking to you and they say something true that reveals something inside of you and teaches you something and shows you something. I guess if any person is hammering away at their work in their life, writing books or writing songs or composing pieces or fucking working on a laser light show at the planetarium that they’re really stoked on and deeply invested in, they’re trying to get at some kind of level of communication. You’re going to chip away and chip away and keep writing and keep producing and keep creating more and more chances that you’ll say something that is honest and that is true and that is a genuine attempt to communicate something. And hopefully a successful attempt to communicate it. I guess it’d make sense to say that it feels like self-discovery, but probably anyone who’s working at something that didn’t completely suck ass hopefully is going to be doing that on some level. My favorite concert of 2014 was the only American show that Sleaford Mods has ever played—in New York City. Jason Williamson, the singer of Sleaford Mods, has been making music for maybe 20 years, and only in the last three or four years has his communication level reached a point that he was communicating what he intended with an audience. And it’s really incredible! And Bill Callahan, he from the beginning has been able to communicate in a really effective way, but at this point he’s reaching new heights. Smog was a band that for me was first encountered as songs on mixapes by jilted wieners. I didn’t like Smog. ‘That’s that guilty-making song that that dude put on that tape because we didn’t do it.’ Only in the past six years or something have I started listening to solo Bill Callahan. His arrangements, his words—he’s fucking getting more masterful every year. I feel like anyone who’s working at their own head and their own self-deception and their own delusions—to try to get at something that’s actual—hopefully they improve over time at communicating. That’s the job, right? If you’re not communicating clearly then you’re not doing your job. I’ve been working with my old novel and am seeing all the things I was doing to get around communicating that still looked like communication. 
 Can you see yourself fakin’ it? 


I was totally faking it! I could see this 22year-old desperately trying to sound like Nabokov. 
 Yeah! And the more direct you are and the more honest you are and the more courageous you are—to not be a fucking pussy about it—the more valid. And I’m not making a judgment on it. The more able to be an agent of your own imagination. Even without dishonesty, do you find with your old stuff that you can see that you’re reveling in how much you love vocabulary? I feel like when you love words or you love guitar solos, you can go hard in a way that is kind of joyful to you, kind of ‘Hooray!’ But it’s selfish. It’s not servicing your work.
 I can see myself using the vocabulary of others. I’m myself now, and back then I was myself with a whole lot of help. 
 That’s a really good point—that you’re nothing but weird mushy influences until you start producing your own work. The way you don’t see typos until the thing is published. A lot of times when I talk to people who like, ‘I’m working on this thing, I got this thing,’ I say, ‘Just put it out!’ It doesn’t matter if it’s ready. Just put it out! The only way to progress is to finish. It’s like a video game, it’s like leveling out—you can’t get to the next level unless you finish this level. The only way to finish this level is to produce work and put it in the world and deal with its presence. You cannot go forward! I’m sure you know so many people who are so fucking creative, you’re so fucking talented, you’re a gifted person, and they won’t put their work in the world—but they’re sad about it. ‘Oh I wish I was doing that. I wish I was out there doing that thing.’ And it’s not jealousy in a mean way. I have some bros like that, and it’s definitely a weird ambiguity. I share it: why do you have to put the work into the world? Why isn’t the work its own reward? Why does it have to be produced? But to me, for me, I can’t get any better unless I produce work in the world. I can’t just keep it in the box and get anything real done. But there’s definitely landfills with CD-Rs rotting away that I feel ashamed of. 
 You put out so much stuff! You just keep putting stuff out. That’s really inspiring. 
 I don’t want to take credit for that inspiration, because Pete Nolan is so smart and really is a hard-working, productive person. Pete Nolan does not look back. Just like Dylan. Just like that Belle and Sebastian song: Pete Nolan does not look back. He looks forward—he puts out work, he doesn’t dwell, and he moves forward. He’s not looking to make it just right. That’s something Pette taught me over time. I was like, ‘Whaaat? No! This sucks!’ And he said, ‘All right, well let’s do the next one better, I dunno.’ It just wasn’t a thing to dwell on. It’s taught me a lot. He’s a brave dude. And it taught me to just be like, ‘Fuck it!’ 
 Having someone like that impacts the art itself and the process so much. 
 Authority is the first thing you have to learn if you’re going to make something. Authority: the author. You first have to take authority as someone who is a creator. I feel like our entire world is built to generate a passive observer in every way. If your phone won’t turn on, that’s it—your phone won’t turn on. You better go to an authority who knows about what to do about that. It’s not primarily important

in America to raise authorities. It’s really good to raise a passive consumer of goods, and that is where we’re at. Making anything, and I mean right down to the Etsy pressedflower notecard store, you’re taking authority that you weren’t inherently given. Again, this is subjective—I’m this working-class little dude; I never knew people who made their living off of art. It seemed insane to me. It’s only a hobby for people. You get a job, it’s nine-to-five, it’s miserable, but you get to go to the beach two weeks in the summer. That’s what I understood life’s structure to be. I never knew anyone who just did art. So maybe I’m coloring that authority concept with the fact that authority wasn’t just inherent for me in my household growing up, being the expert. My father is so smart and so talented, loves music, loves writing, loves reading. He works as an insurance-claims adjustor, and you know he’s good at his job, but my whole life growing up he said, ‘Never, never do this. Whatever you do, don’t do this.’ Fortunately, I definitely listened to him. He loved taking pictures— he had a nice 35mm beautiful Canon film camera, and when I was born he wanted to take pictures of the birth, because he was a hippie. He didn’t trust himself to load his own camera. He took it to JC Penney and had the photo technician at JC Penney load the film into the Canon camera. Of course, this was probably a mouth-breathing, adenoidal, acne-ridden teen who didn’t know anything compared to my dad, who had been taking these beautiful pictures with his own camera for years. He loaded the camera wrong, and he’s still like, ‘I can’t believe it! All of the film was exposed! We didn’t get any pictures!’ I’m thrilled that there are no images of me exiting our mom’s vagina, but that story for me is a weird metaphor about authority and about trusting someone who is an expert. We all have that authority if we don’t rob ourselves of it or if the world doesn’t rob us of it. If somebody lights that authority in you, you’re really lucky. Not everybody gets the lucky break. At every step where I could have just felt fuck this, somebody somewhere that I trusted was like, ‘No! No: don’t fuck this.’ And also you have to be open I guess to hearing that person saying that. It’s been nothing but luck, just hashtag ‘blessed’ I guess.
 You’ve mentioned Mike Love and ‘Kokomo’ as having aggression like is in raging, raw Cookie Monster music. Is ‘Kokomo’ simmering with a rage people don’t realize they’re hearing, separate from the rage people feel when they hear it?
 Oh fuck yeah! Because Brian Wilson, who produced every fucking hit, was off on a beach with Dr. Landy in Hawaii, and without his knowledge, Mike Love got the rest of the Beach Boys together and did this sneaky fucking underhanded thing and was like, ‘Suck a dick—what just got into the top 10 without you, Wilson?’ It was definitely a tale of vengeance on the Cocktail soundtrack. 
 Could you tell that there was a hostility to it when you were young? For some reason I was creeped out by ‘Kokomo.’ It had this weird hostility, like when you hear grownups talking about the adult world and you feel this alienness about their world that you don’t want to be part of. 
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That’s amazing! Now listening to it there is a militaristic kind of repetition of locations: Aruba. Bahama. It’s very didactic and grumpy sounding. 
 This is what people like! You will like this! If one location isn’t good enough for you, here’s ten! Here’s Aruba and Jamaica!
 You know they met with some kind of focus group, actuarial social-aggregator type guy who was like, ‘We’re noticing an uptick in the adult-contemporary demographic. Flights are getting less expensive. There’s a lot of travel to the Caribbean and the West Indies. I don’t know if you want to work with that.’ It’s like an insistent sex song for androids. 
 Dude! Not to say that insistent sex songs for androids are on the tip of my tongue at all times, but that Nikki Minaj Sir Mix-a-Lot song, ‘Anaconda,’ that is a robot sex song. A robot was like, ‘Beep! Make sex song! Popular!’
 What’s the most furious, hostile pop song that people tend to mistake for a nice, soft blanket?
 I don’t think necessarily the songs themselves are hostile so much that the people who create those beautiful songs are often just roiling rage cauldrons. But that’s inside baseball, nobody cares—there’s like ten people who read rock biographies ... but I love self-mythology, when people have been mythologized by others and then they’re written about with this crazy mythology. I love when it’s really kind of tunnelvision, myopic, not-true. It kind of turns into a weird Paul Bunyan thing: ‘Van Morrison went into the studio. And improvised. All of Astral Weeks. No one knew what he was doing. It was crazy.’ It’s not true, but that’s the myth around that record. It’s beautiful, I love that stuff. 
 The best mythologizer is Ray Manzarek. He believed that he was sitting next to Dionysius throughout the 60s. Him writing about Jim Morrison is amazing. The other self-mythologizer who just goes beyond to the point where it’s thrilling—the David Lee Roth Crazy from the Heat biography is the ne plus ultra of self-mythology being conveyed through narrative. All of the pictures of himself are taken by his driver-slashbodyguard. There’s never friends or a lover taking the photograph; they’re all credited to this dude he’s paying. And he is the person who discovered punk and civil rights, which is cool. I love David Lee Roth, and I’m not saying it in a way of diminishing him. What’s it like to live inside of his mind for one day? I think it would feel so good. The record is named after André Gide’s novel The Immoralist. Are there any truly reliable narrators? Can you truthfully narrate your own life from the subjective position of being inside your own head?
 Probably not! 
 I saw somebody describe that book as an ‘ironic monologue.’ Not just an unreliable narrator but one almost at an ironic distance from himself and lying to himself.
 It’s a really weird story because he almost seems compelled to tell it—he doesn’t put himself in a good light. It’s still a shocking book in ways that would have been differently shocking when it came out, but he has that sort of dry sense of humor, and he’s helplessly aware of his own compulsions. I feel like it does show the repercussions of someone choosing to live 38

outside of a moral, about the fact that’s it’s not called The Amoralist. It’s someone who’s internalized social values and has an awareness that he’s transgressing but isn’t able ... it’s not like the book is a joyful celebration of following desire. Just the repercussions of following desire without any thought of the feelings of others or community or the social contract of human decency. I think it’s an interesting book because our selfishness as humans, we all have this didactic self-interest, but you can’t act on it. This is really weird, because obviously he was living in a time period where the first step of just simply being homosexual is being outside of society, against everything that’s right or moral or part of the community standard. It was literally illegal. He starts from that point of view. What was the difference between the rest of his transgressions and the rest of his inherent wants of his person when the very basis of his own world was already like that? He was born immoral. It’s a really interesting story in that way, and of course it’s still kind of shocking because there’s so much implied sexuality. I feel like a lot of those those Greco-Roman justpubescent boys and older—there’s not a lot of acceptable mainstream academic novel-writing where there’s cute 13-year-old boys wearing no underpants. But for him the shocking part would have been not shocking at all. There’s another writer who has the ability to write beautifully and transgressively and kind of call your own set of standards into, not question, but into a sort of re-examining how you think of right and wrong or moral and immoral: Dennis Cooper. That’s a writer who has an ability somehow in the modern world, when you wouldn’t think you would have to put it down because you’re so physically changed by what you’ve just read, but Dennis Cooper can do that. I’m sure when someone in the mid1900s read The Immoralist they probably felt the same sort of stomach-dropping feeling over the crazy, different interpretation of a perceived human role re-interpreted. 
 I was thinking about Dennis Cooper the other day. Out of nowhere I remembered the phrase ‘spicy-gross asshole aroma.’ It stays with you. Dennis Cooper, why did you do that to me?
 That’s so powerful and awful. And what’s great about him too is that he does have that sort of excessive, visceral … in his choices and words there is that element of the shocking to his work, but I feel like the things that make him special and his fiction special are that he’s a master craftsman. He can write so beautifully and personally. God Jr. is completely absent of that kind of deep, sadistic, masochistic sexuality. That’s really not a part of it. It’s really good and really outside of how his oeuvre is perceived. The Sluts is another one of my favorites, and that’s not outside how his work is perceived. But that book is structured in an amazing way—it’s just masterful. You’ve said that songwriting can be terrifying. Do you throw yourself in, wrestling with terror? Or are you the kind of artist and writer who tries to put it off and avoid terror but ultimately just can’t?
 It’s probably both. There’s something about the idea that if you’re scared ... there’s a greater ratio of reward. That’s like a cliché, but it ends up true. I feel like when you’re scared of something, that’s what you’re supposed to do. I

feel like the correction of the child, of the father’s mistakes or something ... there’s a long history of people in my family at least that were scared of their own authority, scared of certain risks— and they didn’t do it. It’s a weird corrective—of my people, who I come from, a terrified tribe of cowards! I’m scared of everything. If I didn’t do things just because I was scared of them I would literally be paralyzed in bed all the time because everything’s kind of at least vaguely scary. I can’t think of something that doesn’t have some element of that, something about living. I used to be really scared of bees as a child—terrified of bees. I thought they were going to come out of the ground and sting me, so I sat in my room when I was six and I put the shades down. I closed all the windows. It was summer! I spent weeks in a dark room! I was really little. I just sat there because I was so terrified of bees. Then I got stung by a bee when I was 22 and it’s fucking not that bad. It’s not a big deal ... Maybe your brain tells you that the worst thing in the world is that someone would not like something that you made. I’m speaking sort of subjectively here—this isn’t risk like being in Syria. This is very cosseted risk, obviously. I just mean in your self-absorbed brain. It was kind of cool to immediately have this weird experience where I toured almost as soon as I started playing guitar, and it was the worst things you could imagine people yelling at you. Like a nightmare about being naked at high school. ‘You suck! You fucking suck! You’re fucking ugly!’ All of the worst things happened at the first tour. Really nice things, too, but it was sort of like, ‘This is the worst that can happen? The worst that can happen is that some wiener calls me a bad guitar player ... not knowing why I’ve been asked to play this show ... having this total silence fall after?’ Standing on stage opening for a much more popular band, not knowing why I’ve been asked to play this show, feeling I definitely do not have any more right to be on the stage than anyone anywhere, and then having this total silence fall after a song and someone yelling, ‘You suck!’ That is a really good experience.
 You write poetry too—is there a medium where you fight that fear the most?
 I would have to say the unpublished writing I have is not in the world yet because I’m being a total pussy about it. If I was treating it with any kind of non-cowardice it would probably be done right now. I have to put it out; I have to get it done. It’s just that idea of making something perfect. You can learn that lesson in so many ways and you can still be pulled into its dumb power. It’s so dumb! And you can’t move forward until you complete things and get them out of your head. It’s a pickle. You have a lyric declaring free will a myth. Is absolute choice a myth? Does absolute free will exist? 
 There’s the idea that every choice that is made has its outcome, and then somewhere exists the opposite choice made and its outcome— all possibilities are happening, always, on some level. In that idea, there’s no choice that matters. It’s a kind of absence of free will because whatever choice you make, every option has happened. There’s also the idea that with our minds, there’s an impulse that begins before we tell our minds to do something. When you look at really great athletes or really the best virtuoso musicians ... your body can

move faster than you can decide to move your body. Those things tie into this idea that choice is something we comfort ourselves with, like religion or something. The idea that we do have choice is really comforting but maybe not true. But then on the other hand, I feel like it would be impossible if there wasn’t some part of us that didn’t get to decide things a little—some actual choice—but that would be a simplistic side of me. 
 You also have chemtrails in your lyrics: ‘Saw the chemtrails burning in the sky/and they wrote empty letters to you and I.’ What’s your position on chemtrails?
 I didn’t know what they were, and I had a friend who was very smart but was also so ensconced in different types of conspiracy theories and the Art Bell radio program. He was so smart that I kind of felt, ‘Wow, he really knows what’s up.’ So I borrowed a couple books and read them and I thought, ‘He’s a little crazy—these are weirdly pulpy, repetitive, badly written, noresearch-at-all non-histories.’ And I’ve read other books that certainly corroborate a lot of different things—obviously there are so many things that aren’t total nonsense—but these particular books he let me borrow, I thought, ‘Uh oh, you’re cuckoo.’ You’re very smart, but if you’re not reading these books critically, I feel like you’re maybe not super-smart. But there’s so many things that were treated as wacky conspiracies that turned out to be true. I just figure that’s hubris and a sort of godhead mentality of a person who’s like, ‘I know what’s up, man, I know exactly what they’re fuckin’ doing; I’ve nailed it.’ Yeah, you’re the one person in the world who knows about this. It feels like a weird kind of narcissism to think number one: that man is capable of that kind of high-level organization. Every other aspect of man’s community is fucked up and mistakes are made and chaos reigns, but somehow there’s this tiny cabal that’s just been keeping shit so secret and doing everything to control the world. And it gets a little into weird creepy racism and anti-Semitism. There’s lots of crazy aspects to certain conspiracy theories. But that long answer notwithstanding, the particular situation was this dude pointing out chemtrails to me and me being like, ‘Better check into those, that’s freaky!’ And then hanging out with this other dude who was also a really smart guy, me pointing to the sky when I saw these streaks of whatever, when I saw what was referred to as chemtrails, and he said it was like a letter in the sky. I thought that was a beautiful way to put it. It’s not anesthetizing drugs that make you buy flatscreen TVs; it’s in fact a beautiful letter written in the sky. It just had a different resonance. And I guess I like the idea of false rationalism and this weird fake control you think you have because you think you know something. Then there’s the poetic truth, and it’s different than the factual truth but has a better and more meaningful place, maybe, than any facts you think you could know. Knowing something on an intuitive or imaginative level is maybe a more true kind of knowledge than thinking you have some sort of fact.
 ELISA AMBROGIO’S ALBUM THE IMMORALIST OUT NOW ON DRAG CITY. VISIT AT DRAGCITY.COM/ ARTISTS/ELISA-AMBROGIO. INTERVIEW


NIK TURNEROFHAWKWIND Interview by Jonny Bell and Chris Ziegler Illustration by Emanual Farias

Nik Turner is an iconic member of the iconic space-rock band Hawkwind. He’s at least as iconic as Hawkwind alum Lemmy—yes, that Lemmy­—and despite all the psychedelic trips he’s taken to outer space, he’s still got a great memory. (Probably from all the time he spent playing flute in the giant mind-sharpening orgone chamber that is the Great Pyramid of Giza.) While recent years have seen members of Hawkwind spending as much time in search of legal harmony as in search of space, Turner continues to tour and play and perform his own space ritual. He speaks now about all the help he got from Raymond Chandler’s cheap gangsters and confirms that yes, he did indeed have his own orgone accumulator. Do you have your own orgone chamber? Nik Turner (flute/sax/vocals): I had my own orgone accumulator for a time. I had a pyramid that was based upon the dimensions of the Great Pyramid, which was made of an aluminium frame and cotton canvas on top of it. Organic and inorganic materials. I used that all the time. I found it very relaxing. What I’m finding as well is that I’m getting some sort of healing powers. I went to Egypt and spent some time inside the great pyramids playing my flute and studying all the Egyptian gods. Then when I came back, people say that gave me healing power—I was able to heal people. I was at some sort of conference in Brighton a couple of years ago discussing the Hawkwind film Do Not Panic with an audience. They wanted to talk about it with me, so I watched the film and then talked about it. The people say, ‘You went to Egypt—tell us about that.’ I’d spend so much time inside the great pyramid, which I consider to be an orgone accumulator in the way Wilhelm Reich described it—organic and inorganic alternating materials—and you can sharpen razor blades in it.People say you can sharpen razor blades in the pyramids. What it does—it can normalize the random molecules in it. The broken edge will become normalized and become sharp again. I’ve found that out as I spent a lot of time lying in the in sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber— They just let you do that? Playing music, serenading the gods. When I came back to Britain, people wanted me to heal them: ‘I don’t know anything about healing.’ ‘Just put your hands on me.’ So I did and it healed them. There was a woman in the audience [of the documentary screening] and she said, ‘I have a terrible INTERVIEW

pain in my back—do you think you can heal me?’ ‘Oh, I can only try really.’ I put my hands on her and I thought about the Egyptian gods and the other mental forces and how I will bring all this positive energy from the sun to her body and harmonize her body and the pain and the stress and so on … and she said, ‘Oh! That’s marvelous! The healing worked and the pain is gone!’ I was at a gig the other day and the drummer I was working with Terry Ollis [of Hawkwind’s early incarnations] and he said, ‘Oh I have a really bad pain in my shoulder.’ I said, ‘Look, Terry, I’m going to put my hands on you.’ I feel guilty asking people if I can put my hands on them like I’m some kind of calculating paedophile or something. So I put my hands on his shoulder and thought about the mumbo jumbo and the ancient Egyptian gods and the healing power and the positive energy and blowing out all the negative energy and blowing it out into the cosmos. And he suddenly said, ‘Oh thanks—it’s gone now!’ He’s waving his arms about in the air. I thought, ‘wow, what a fantastic thing to be able to do that to people.’ I don’t make a thing of it—I just try to help people if I can. I don’t raise people’s expectations at all, I just say, ‘Well, I’ll try to help you and we’ll see how it goes.’ But I’m very blessed with it. When did you become aware of Sun Ra? And how did that affect your music? I feel you were sort of fellow travelers. When I was in America in 1973, I did a gig with John McLaughlin and I met these very beautiful women. They said, ‘What are you doing after the show? Do you want to come and see Sun Ra?’ So I saw Sun Ra in his nightclub in Chicago in 1973. What a fantastic guy. I’m still an admirer of his— he’s still affecting people.

What were the earliest Hawkwind sessions like? How did all this start? I think at the time, we were into taking a lot of LSD and hallucinatory drugs. We recorded stuff inspired by LSD. And magic mushrooms and other things. Nothing too habit forming or toxic. I couldn’t cope with toxic drugs. I was into the quiet life. Sedentary, you might say. Or keep healthy, keep control of myself. I had a moment the other day where I thought I was traveling through time—well, I have been!—and everything seemed to be disjointed. I find it a bit disconcerting when things aren’t in my control. I don’t wanna control other people—just myself. I want everyone to be free and express himself freely. So we went in the studio to make the first album—we actually played the whole album through twice and it’s what we’d been doing at shows. So we were quote ‘well-rehearsed.’ Because it was not rehearsable, really! It was just free expression! We just played along with a couple things, and that was the album. We did two versions, took the best bits of what we had and that was the album. What do you think now when you listen back to that album? Someone was asking me last about that album and I said I thought the first album was in many respects the best album we ever did. The first album is a product of the musicians who were in it up to that point, and the second album is a product of the musicians who arrived after the first album but before the second. So the amount of activity and experience that goes into the second album is rather more limited than the first. That’s what happened with Hawkwind—the first album was really fresh and the second was more songs, more structure. Not less exciting or creative in

many respects, but less freely creative. And less of a total life experience than one had with the first album. Hawkwind had that surprise hit with ‘Silver Machine’ from the second album—what’s the best way to handle sudden fame and fortune like that? Well—I’m very free with money. I’m not materialistic. I’m broke most of the time, but I’m happy. I think that quite honestly, people shouldn’t play music for money. I mean—they can. They can get money. I was busking and getting music for money, but the goal shouldn’t be money. That’s my opinion. It’s much more artistic and spiritual. I want to heal people and touch them with music. I go to a local school and do career meetings with the people there, and I tell them that if they want to run in the music business, they should learn to play their instrument properly and be an all-around musician and enjoy playing music—what they should really do is enjoy themselves and not give a fuck. Do you tell them that at the career center? ‘Don’t give a fuck’? Yes, that’s what I tell them. In not so many words. Or more words, really. Where did Space Ritual come from? To a lot of people that’s the definitive Hawkwind album. Space Ritual was recorded live and had a lot of material by Robert Calvert who’d been involved with the band on X In Search Of Space, which had Barney Bubbles as art director. They put together a logbook of a spaceship that had become two-dimensional, and all that remained was the logbook, which charted the band and the spaceship’s experience. The vinyl was all that was left of the crew, really. Which I guess was their minds—their collective minds. Robert 43


Calvert got together with Barney and came up with the idea of the space ritual, which was more like a journey through space and time to different dimensions and planets. Robert wrote a lot of songs but other people did too—mine were ‘Brainstorm’ and ‘Masters of the Universe’ and maybe ‘Children of the Sun’? I was involved with that record on a choreographic level as well. Robert was prone to nervous breakdowns. He had one at the time. His mother confided in me when I met him that he had a breakdown every eighteen months on a regular basis. He was a very creative person but slightly unstable. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t really in a position to have complete freedom in his life. Like we’d go around Europe and all over the place, and Robert always wanted to come but couldn’t because he’d have nervous breakdowns. And they rather complicated his life. But then he had a complicated life anyway. He had a wife and four children when I was hanging out with him. We’d go out and get drunk. He was a bit like the Ginger Man— J.P. Donleavy—have you read that? Robert was very much like the Ginger Man, and I was like the Ginger Man’s friend O’Keefe. Robert turned me on to that book and lots of other stuff. Unfortunately he didn’t really have the freedom to gallivant off like I had. I wish he had—I’d have been very happy to take him along with me. You’re also a Raymond Chandler fan. What is the Raymond Chandler book you think you’ve read most often, and why? I love The Big Sleep, but I also love Farewell, My Lovely. I read all of them about ten times. I think I grew up on them. My parents were into film, my uncle was a film camera man who looked like Humphrey Bogart, and they were all into cinema. I used to go to trade shows when I was about 10 and my family used to go review all the latest films, so I was brought up on that. That’s why I started reading [Chandler’s] Lady in the Lake. I got a bit frightened by it—I was about 14 years old. What part scared you? The suffocating sense of corruption? I’ll tell you a story. I had a record label when I lived in London and I started it as a result of going to Egypt and then recording flute music inside the great pyramids. I came back and put the show together as a performance with dancers from the Royal Ballet. [laughs] Barney Bubbles used to help me out with it. Then I moved to the country and I’ve got this offer from a company called the White Book—a music business information catalog offering me a free insert in their catalog and I said OK. They said, ‘Have you got any other companies you’d like to float in the catalog?’ I thought that sounds good so I made up all these titles: Money Talks Management … Is this like a completely fictional company? Or is it like fictional to start, but if someone wanted to work with it you’d make it an actual company?’ I got all these companies. I got Little Hallucination Video Production, Cadillac Ranch Recording Studio, and I named my Cadillac Ranch after the one in Texas that 44

belonged to Stanley Marsh III. And he had those Cadillacs stuck in the ground and he called that the Cadillac Ranch. How did you find Stanley Marsh? He’s an actual eccentric millionaire. Did you just drive by and see the Cadillacs in the ground and say, ‘We should go and meet this guy?’ I was in a tour in America with Hawkwind in 1973 or so. The tour manager was a guy named Jamie Mandelkau—he was from Canada. He was writing the book about Stanley Marsh III at the time, and he took me to visit. I went with Jamie and with all his friends up in British Columbia and went bear hunting up in the woods. Bear hunting? Yes, with big guns, you know. It was quite frightening. We went hunting with all these fanatical bikers—all these choppers and stuff. Then he took me down to visit Stanley Marsh III and I was a resident rock star and he was a resident writer. So when I moved to the country, I started all these companies and I people them with cheap gangsters from Raymond Chandler novels—like Dolores Gonzales, Mendy Menendez. Moose Magoo who was a mixture of two characters out of Playback, I think, or Farewell, My Lovely. Did anyone call you up asking to speak with Moose? Yeah, they would and I’d say, ‘Yeah, this is him—what’s happening? This is Moose, can I help you?’ Nobody really seemed to know that’s what it was, you know? Then I went to write a book and I sort of brought these characters to life in what was a science fiction story. It’s not finished yet, but Nik returns to the Cadillac Ranch from Mexico, greeted by the usual suspects and then he gets sort of wheeled around the complex and Moose is writing a biography about him. And Moose says ‘Oh it’s going great, I’m going to make some more stuff up.’ Dolores Gonzales is like this strange alien woman so when Nik kisses her, he feels as if he’s dissolving into her body. It’s very beautiful. Then she holds his hand and he feels weak because he feels his hand is dissolving into hers. It’s all very insidious. He manages to escape from her but he has to sit down whenever he comes in contact with her. Nik’s being portrayed and described by Moose Magoo, who doesn’t mind him looking stupid. He lampoons him cruelly. This reminds me a lot of Burroughs. Did you ever meet Burroughs? I feel like Hawkwind would have crossed his path. I read a bit of Burroughs, I haven’t read a lot. I read Naked Lunch. I wasn’t really obsessive about Burrough. I just thought he was an interesting guy but I never was interested in heroin. Although he pushed the envelope with all this other stuff—yage and all these others bizarre hallucinogens that he brought himself in America some way? He probably had ayahuasca, I guess—probably one of the first people to have that stuff. You and he share an interest in preColumbian theology, don’t you? I’ve got backing bands—I have about four of them in Finland, three in Sweden, about five in America … I get invited all over the place and this band from Finland called

Five Fifteen invited me to go to Mexico with them to the progressive rock festival in Mexicali. They said if I could get them a gig in L.A., then they would take me to Mexico. So I got them a gig at L.A. at what was Spaceland at the time. I went to Mexico to the Mexicali Progressive Rock Festival and I did a gig with Five Fifteen and then I got really bored and I went out into the lobby and started busking and collecting money from people. What were you playing? What’s your street corner hit? I stand on street corners playing Charlie Parker hits and John Coltrane and Gillespie. And the next year, the people from the festival invited me to come back and busk in the lobby of the theatre. Then I went down to Mexico City and ended up playing with all these musicians there. And I ended up visiting all these Mayan ruins. I got very interested in the Mayan culture and the fifth sun was going to end on the winter solstice of 2006. So I became very interested in Mayan culture and started reading lots of books about it. I came across a guy in Cleveland who gave me a bunch of books while I was there. He’s a sort of professor of mythological studies at the university and he gave me all these books about the Mayans. That’s very generous of him to give you these scholarly works before you played your show. Yes—fantastic. That’s how I am, you know. Space Ritual has some deep sort of mythological—or subliminal—concepts in it, doesn’t it? So consequently I ended up with Barney choreographing the Space Ritual show and helping out with lighting—Barney divides the lighting based on the Pythagorean music of the spheres. Do you know the music of the spheres? Pythagoras devised the ideas that all the planets vibrated at different frequencies, and the planets were all in a chord stretching across the universe from base matter to spirituality. And each planet had a different resonation—a different frequency it vibrated at—and all the vibrations constituted the western scale. Also central to the stage show were the astrological signs of all the members of the band and the corresponding colors— they were used in the light show as well. Barney had a very thoroughly interesting overview of the whole thing. All-embracing, really. That album was designed for live performance, live promotion, live creation … and then we did Doremi. Which was studio recorded. That was quite interesting. Lemmy was involved in the band—he’d joined as a bass player and we all lived together in a house at one point. I lived with Lemmy for two or three years in a communal sort of situation. Then I think came Warrior on the Edge of Time, an interesting album. People still see it as rather a departure from what had gone before. Michael Moorcock was more involved in that album. He’s a good friend and a very creative person and an inspiration for us all. I hope I get in touch with him when I’m in Texas! I was hoping to visit him. He’s still writing furiously! But he doesn’t get around so much.

If I can ask, what exactly happened with Lemmy and Hawkwind? With Lemmy, it’s like … did he jump or was he pushed? A bit of both, really. People found him hard to work with. [We were all] just on different levels, really. All the albums have been very different in many ways. First was very expressionist, the second more structured, the third … whether Doremi or Space Ritual …. It’s very different with different people involved in different projects. Then we change into Astounding Sounds and it’s different then, too. [That’s when] Lemmy left for Pink Fairies and we got Paul Rudolph involved. The last one I was on was Astounding Sounds. All the albums are different in their own way, and that one is different because everyone in the band had creative input in the music. It came around from this expressionist thing to a thing with all the members of the band involved in writing. I thought it was very good, really. A quite satisfying sort of thing. Then I left the band and went and different stuff. It was all very creative and exciting. I was very happy to be part of it, really! You seem like the kind of person who isn’t afraid to say ‘yes’ to everything. I get very interested in lots of different stuff like that. I have a very inquiring mind, I’ve always been very interested in mythology because I think those people know a lot that we don’t know and we can learn from them. I’m always very willing to learn. I think you can learn from everybody. I only listen to music I can learn from really. Who are you still learning from after a lifetime of listening and making music? I listen to a lot of Miles Davis. I think of Bitches Brew and all his surrounding albums: On The Corner, Live Evil … People send me all these bootlegs and remixes from Japan. I think I listen to people like, the people in Bitches Brew—Chick Corea and Dave Holland. And John McClaughin and Wayne Shorter… I play a lot of jazz. I was headlining a jazz festival right before I came to America this time. I go to jazz festivals and go busk and see all these great players. I’m doing an album with Billy Cobham at the moment. I’m really honored and really want it to be fantastic. If Billy Cobham thinks it’s crap I’ll be ashamed of myself! I’ve just completed an all free jazz album with some people from Seattle. It’s actually good—I listened to it in my car and I thought, ‘Wow, this is fantastic!’ Normally I can’t stand what I’ve done. When I can, I have moderation about it. But I’m satisfied and I was listening to this stuff: ‘Wow, it doesn’t sound like me—it must be somebody else! It sounds good!’ I try to make my shows healing experiences. It does work. People come to me after and say how great they feel! And I say, ‘Well, that’s fantastic!’ I really want everybody to be happy and harmonize and feel good and spiritually enlightened. VISIT CLEOPATRA RECORDS AND NASONI RECORDS FOR THE MOST RECENT RELEASES BY NIK TURNER. MORE INFORMATION AND TOUR DATES AT NIKTURNER.COM. INTERVIEW


RED AUNTS Interview by Ron Garmon Illustration by Amy Hagemeier

One of the glories of the famed Long Beach punk industrial complex of the 90s, Red Aunts made five startling albums that now boil down to an explosive 26 tracks on In The Red’s Come Up For a Closer Look compilation. My friend Romana Machado and I sat down to talk over old times with guitarist Terri Wahl and drummer Lesley Ishino in the back room of Terri’s restaurant (and Eagle Rock institution) Auntie Em’s Kitchen. How did punk fandom start with you? Terri Wahl (guitar/vocals): When I was about 16 or 17. I was in the second wave of punk rock. But when we started we were definitely in the second wave. Leslie Ishino (drums): There were a lot of waves. I was 13 or 14 when I found X, the Replacements, TSOL. Romana: How did you find them? Leslie: Friends at school. High school. Terri: I found out through a boyfriend! Leslie: We had a small group of punkers at my high school and a coupla mods. The Specials, the Untouchables. I bought cassettes, but my first vinyl was Fishbone. Were you in bands prior to the Aunts? Leslie: I was in a brief band with my boyfriend and his friend but it didn’t have a name. Terri: This was all of our first bands—me, Kerry [Davis] and Debi [Martini]. All our boyfriends were in bands so we started one. We didn’t know Leslie. We took an ad out in the Recycler. Leslie: That’s true! I joined cuz I played briefly, one time, with this band Butt Trumpet. One of the guys said there was a girl band looking for a drummer. They were more hardcore than I wanted. He connected me with them. Where was the first Red Aunts gig? Terri: Debbie’s garage. Leslie: Lincoln Heights! Terri: It was for the Fourth of July. Remember the Didjits? They’re from… Champaign, Illinois! They were great! Super fast. Their show that night got shut down so it was us and the Didjits and about twenty of our friends. We’d been practicing probably four months. This was all hatched at a party. None of us had ever played an instrument ever. Leslie: Except me! Terri: Leslie came to us fully knowing how to play drums, thank God, because at least some rhythm. We were a hot mess and had no idea how to play. But we got better. A lot better. Did you give yourselves the names as part of the initial concept? Terri: Oh my God, yes! We had the names, the band name, we knew what we were gonna play, what we were gonna wear. Thought so! Like Josie & the Pussycats … Terri: Yeah, but meaner. Josie and the Rabid Possums, then. What were punk venues like back then? Terri: Dark. Dirty. Stinky. Way more boyoriented than girl oriented. We had to have a rider that specified a backstage mirror, not because we wanted to snort cocaine but because we wanted to see ourselves before we go on! 46

Leslie: Covered with stickers or graffiti. Terri: Dirty, stinky, they all smelled like tinkle. Leslie: They’re probably still that way now. Al’s Bar was your typical experience. Al’s Bar was a notorious hole. Terri: Linda’s Doll Hut in Anaheim. You guys would play Long Beach, the South Bay, Orange County and L.A. Were the fans different? Leslie: When we’d play U.C. Irvine, we played in a place that had a bar and these guys asked to use our equipment. Would you ask a band full of dudes that? Hell no! Terri: Or guys would ask to see our tits Leslie: Or call us ‘dykes.’ Terri and Leslie (at once): We’d get a lot of that in Orange County! Leslie: In Hollywood and L.A., it’s a bunch of freaks anyway. We got a lot of girl-band geeks. Terri: A lot of our fans were either 14-year-old girls or 40-year-old guys. Back then that was old. Not anymore. The new 35. Who else did you play with? Leslie: Claw Hammer, of course. They were like our brother band. She was married to Jon for a long time and Kerry went out with Rob for a long time. They were our buddies. Terri: They taught us to play our instruments! Leslie: Very supportive and encouraging. Terri: They didn’t like it much when we became more popular than they were! When did you know you were popular? Terri: When people started showing up at shows that we didn’t know and they knew all the words to our songs. Leslie: We played the Bottom of the Hill and got $800—‘Holy shit!’ And it was packed! This was about the time of the first album on Epitaph. #1 Chicken sold over 36,000 records and we were really stoked. That’s great, especially by today’s standards. Terri: How much did the next record sell? Leslie: I think the last one was 15 or 16,000. Terri: That last one was so good. Sheesh. The compilation shows you guys went in from the beginning with a minimum of the uncertainty and stylistic jerking around you hear out of most bands. You seemed to know from the very first records the sound you wanted and it evolved impressively from there. Your style was precise, tight, unusual and still evolving when you quit in 1998. Leslie: It was basically Debbie. She wanted a big life change and went to New York. Terri was getting really busy with her catering business. We knew we weren’t gonna go on without Debbie, so that was it. I think that us four together, it was just what it was.

Terri: It was magic. Leslie: Kerry would listen to something and say ‘I’ve got my Coltrane part’ because it reminded her of ‘A Love Supreme.’ Somebody else would say ‘This is my blues part!”’ Terri: Or Nirvana part! Leslie: And we’d call our parts whatever they reminded us of. You’re disappointing the hell out of rock critics who say there’s no discernible trace of jazz or other fancy stuff in punk. Leslie: Oh my God, of course there is. Terri: That’s funny. Besides jazz and blues, we were influenced by more current stuff. Pussy Galore, Blues Explosion, Boss Hogg, we were just obsessed with that stuff. Lots of time and tempo changes. We had the whole thing in our heads. Leslie: We didn’t like to play any one thing too long. How did the distortion fetish come about? Terri: There was grunge rock happening just then. Distortion covered up all our mistakes! Leslie: They were coming out with so many different pedals at that time so people were experimenting with them. Terri: Jon Wahl, who is a musical genius, always had a thousand different pedals. I remember seeing some condescending-ass remarks in Trouser Press about you guys being ‘squalling brats,’ ‘shrill,’ etc. Leslie: We got some of that but we never felt persecution. Terri: We were just different and weird. Leslie: There were only maybe ten girl bands at that time. We mostly toured with boy bands. Terri: But when we were on tour, if there was a girl band in town, they’d be on the bill. Leslie: They used to say we were screamers. But to compare you to infants? Maybe infants armed with broken beer bottles. Did the band feel connected with the Riot Grrl movement at all. Leslie: Not really. We played on bills with Bikini Kill a couple of times and Bratmobile and of course we looked up to Babes in Toyland. I don’t think any of us were big Hole fans. Terri: No, nobody liked Hole. They were all about hating guys… Leslie: They had a message. We didn’t really. Third wave feminism? Leslie: Unconsciously I think. I think we lived it just by being. We lived the way we lived. How fast did your wave of punk go by? Did it seem brief? Leslie: No. After we broke up, it was still going. I felt like we could’ve gone with it if we would’ve stayed together.

Terri: Yes. We could’ve definitely gone on longer but I think it’s cool we quit when we were at our peak. We never sucked. People never said ‘Aw, man, I don’t wanna see them anymore! They suck now!’ A lot of bands aren’t that lucky. Did anything happen on the last tour as a result of the knowledge that This Is Gonna Be It? Leslie: I think there were a couple of fights. Terri: When were there not fights on tour? Someone always hated someone on tour. I know I always hated someone on tour! Oh, my God! We were together 24/7 and we’re all super strong personalities. You could’ve all lived in the same house like the Monkees! Terri: We never could have! We were too angsty, too stubborn… Leslie: Too self-destructive… Terri: We were super strong-willed women, so... You described them as restaurant tours. Leslie: Back then it was slim pickins for places to eat. We’d rely on our friends a lot but finding a good restaurant before a show in Oklahoma City? Now you can Yelp or text sombody. Terri: We’d ask the soundman ‘Where’s the best crab?’ when you’re in Baltimore. We had our cooking magazines in the van. Gourmet, Bon Appetit. We were foodies from the start. After the band I knew I’d do something food related but I never thought it’d get this big. How did you guys tie in with Epitaph? Terri: Brett [Gurewitz] saw us at Raji’s and asked that night if we wanted to sign to Epitaph, which blew us away because the only other female band on the label was L7 and only for one record. We were definitely the black sheep of the label. It was pretty jock rock. They also had Rancid. And the Offspring, which weren’t jock rock at all, but the money they made put us on tour. Brett would take the money he made from the big bands and send the baby bands like us out on tour to try to get them popular. We’d have forty, fifty thousand dollar tour budgets. It was fun. What next for the Red Aunts? Leslie: We’re split on two coasts and waiting to see if anyone cares! One last question, punk rock is back… Leslie: Oh yes! I think it’s great! I still play music but I don’t have a band right now. I’m always looking to be inspired again and mature and modernize the sound. RED AUNTS’ COME UP FOR A CLOSER LOOK IS AVAILABLE ON DEC. 9 FROM IN THE RED RECORDS. INTHEREDRECORDS.COM INTERVIEW


FILM

ALBUMS 50 52

ALBUM REVIEWS

68

THE BANGLES Daiana Feuer

53

Dr. John Kristina Benson

56

THE INTERPRETER: CAL KING Curated by Chris Ziegler

60

ONE REPORTER’S OPINION Chris Ziegler

61

Ariel Pink Chris Ziegler

72 COMICS CURATED BY TOM CHILD

BOOKS 74

PHOTOS 64 LIVE EDITED BY DEBI DEL GRANDE

PULP: A FILM ABOUT LIFE, DEATH AND SUPERMARKETS Rin Kelly

SPOT: SOUNDS OF TWO EYES OPENING Chris Ziegler

CRAFT/WORK

CURATED BY WARD ROBINSON

66

EVIL SPIRIT ENGINEERING Frankie Alvaro and Kristina Benson

MICHAEL BARRAGAN of EVIL SPIRIT ENGINEERING by WARD ROBINSON


ALBUM REVIEWS LILA ASH

COURTESY ARTIST

AHKATARI self-titled The Jazz Diaries

The Jazz Diaries are swinging for the fences with their label releases. From the distorted soul of Jitwam to the earnest electronica of Only Rays and now the smokey, gritty hiphop of Ahkatari, convention be damned! Coming from the Motor City, Ahakatari is a project of the Butter Made crew, a small collective headed by Ahk, one of the most skilled gurus of the mic that you’ve probably not heard. A cousin of Black Milk and close associate of Dakim, Ahk been had a sharp sword and on this joint, he’s slicin’ heads. The concept album narrates the Ahkatari’s journey from Detroit to Jamaica to handle some business a la a ghetto James Bond. Along the way we’re treated to some of the most playful and melodic flows this side of the Pharcyde, beats with grit reminiscent of RZA’s angel dust days and song structures that give a feeling of uncompromised freedom in music. Equal parts Blaxploitation, dub-homage and futuristic 90s throwback with an extra side of grime, this album is a must have for those of us that love the dirt. Floating in the internet out there is a Kutmah mix of Ahk’s tunes that opens with our auteur reminding us that his work is soul music— not in the sense of conked hair, heartbreak or doo-wop, but in that it’s music with a spiritual center, borne from genuine creation and for no other principal purpose than to share an experience. The Ahkatari’s journey is one every music head should take. —sweeney kovar

50

WALT GORECKI!

ALLAH LAHS

ARIEL PINK

Early on the Allah Las established themselves as the preeminent California surf and garage band. Their sound encapsulates the endless summers and sun-soaked beaches that Los Angeles residents get to enjoy daily, if they are so inclined. And their newest release Worship the Sun continues with trend of soulful surf and moody sounds but also finds the band experimenting a bit. Opening track “De Vida Voz” sets the stage with a fuzzed-out drone that gives way to high-pitched guitar harmonics, quickly developing into an extremely catchy tune that seeps into your veins. “Recurring” and “Nothing to Hide” are a beach dweller’s take on a more San Francisco-style paisley-psychedelic sound, with “Nothing” in particular delivering a slow and deliberate guitar rhythm evoking a lazy summer feeling. The heart of surf-influenced music is the instrumental, of course, and there are great examples here. “Ferus Gallery”—a reference to an L.A. art gallery in the 50s and 60s that gave rise to the “California cool” art scene—is especially enjoyable. The bells— xylophone?—on this track have a rolling quality to them that puts you off balance in a good way. “Yemeni Jade” is a dreamlike instrumental, with a western and surf influenced sound provking longing for endless sunsets along the road. Worship has a slightly heavier feel than their debut, but while they’ve lost a touch of their pop elements, they’ve gained so much more. The growth and experimentation on this album is exciting to experience. —Zachary Jensen

How the intermittent flogging a now-Haunted Grafittiless Ariel Pink takes in the music press as everybody’s favorite “beta male misogynist” will affect reception of his seventeen-track solo debut is anyone’s dartboard guess. Well, Mozart’s public behavior rarely inspired confidence and you can count on the fingers of one stump the times Frank Zappa failed to offend the record-buying public. This stupendously whirling calliope of songs for cynical children will sweeten whatever our Indielake boy’s indiscretions sour; if not make the judicious concede the guy might have a point. Kim Fowley co-wrote “Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade,” a gloriously silly ditty with ambitions to join “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” in the gallery of great pop WTFs. Its hard to tell where Fowley’s deadpan outrageousness takes up and Pink’s all-purpose perversity leaves off until “White Freckles,” an irresistible gem of a rouser and an album (if not career) highlight. “Four Shadows” startles as a Diamond Dogs-era

Worship the Sun Innovative Leisure

pom pom 4AD

Bowie pastiche and “Not Enough Violence” works Sisters of Mercy into Madchester for a great early Nineties dancefloor anthem that wasn’t. After these four raveups, the set begins to branch and meander Sandinista!-style, with the slight commercial romanticism of “Put Your Number in My Phone” highlighted by a Silver Lake shoutout and the wispy atmospherics of “One Summer Night” coming off as something less than a Zombies B-side. “Nude Beach A G-Go” is a bouncy theme for an imaginary AIP Beach Party movie and no preparation at all for “Goth Bomb,” a goshwow mid-Sixties psych nugget as accomplished as anything by XTC in their Dukes of Stratosphear drag. The crazed Zappaesque antics of “Dinosaur Carebears” usher in “Negativ Ed,” a series of Beefheartian eruptions, like two flamingoes in a grenade fight. At this point in proceedings, the listener is dazzled and ready for anything and that anything comes as the ancient blues riff opening “Sexual Athletics.” This track drifts Doc Benway-like into unwholesome Vaseline musings before herald angels chant and lyrics describe the arc of a typical low-rent rendezvous conducted somewhere east of Western Avenue. After this cankered McCartney is “Jell-o,” a suburban satire also co-written with Fowley and “Black Ballerina” the kind of goofy synth-dance tune you’d hear in during disco scenes in low-budget comedy-horror films of the Eighties, with matching dialogue babbled amid a demented chorus of “Elevators, manufacturers.” “Picture Me Gone” is a glistening dirge that sets up the big fat joke

ALBUM REVIEW SUBMISSIONS

L.A. RECORD invites all local musicians to send music for review­—anything from unreleased MP3s and demos to finished full albums. Send digital to fortherecord@ larecord.com and physical to:

P.O. Box 21729 Long Beach, CA 90801 If you are in a band and would like to advertise your release in L.A. RECORD, email advertise@larecord.com

fantasia of “Exile on Frog Street,” with its croaking Pet Sounds and 1968 fakeroo ending. This sixtynine minute aural circus needs a purple burst of sunshine pop as a closer and “Dayzed Inn Daydreams” supplies it, dispersing residual hipster cynicism through Dennis Wilson’s third eye. The good grey men at the music industry’s accounting division may be ready to declare the rock LP format dead, but Ariel Pink keeps proving it is far from finished as an art form. —Ron Garmon

COURTESY ARTIST

BAMBU

Party Worker self-released Party Worker is the fourth solo album from Oakland-based, LA-bred rapper and activist Bambu De Pistola. An intentional concept album set to explore the breadth of experiences of working folk, Bambu’s tracks are framed around the guise of a social justice group meeting’s agenda. Those that frequent these circles will get a chuckle out of self-referential jokes like twohour long meeting check-ins and accommodating dietary needs on a budget. But that’s just the garnish—the meat of the album is plentiful and hearty. Bambu puts the energy and fervor we’re used to seeing devoted to lewd braggadocio into animating the experiences of working class Americans. It isn’t convoluted or trite—it’s heartfelt and honest. He finds space to celebrate the joy of family and community while remaining critical and most importantly, never missing a beat or letting a bar go to waste. What pushes the album over the top is the way it was made. Truly a man of the people, Bambu ran a successful kickstarter campaign to fund the ALBUM REVIEWS


album and surpassed his goal by almost double. He’s shot a video in Manila, widening the scope of the album’s impact and doubling down on the local/global connections in the music. Very much the thinking person’s gangster music, Bambu doesn’t let his militance and mission prevent him from making the most creative hardcore hip-hop possible. —sweeney kovar

BRIAN BROOKS

BELLA NOVELA Telemetry self-released

BRIAN BROOKS

BELL GARDENS Slow Dawns For Lost Conclusions Rocket Girl

Bell Gardens’ sound is something of an anomaly in today’s music scene. Instead of in-your-face garage rock or heavy electronic beats, this duo’s newest release Slow Dawns For Lost Conclusions is an atmospheric journey that seeps into your soul. Subtle ambient electronic elements are combined with a folky Americana guitar and vocal styling that gives rise to something like ambient electronic folk rock … if that is even a thing. Think Spiritualized on Ladies and Gentlemen… and early Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and you might get a small idea—but that does not do these guys justice. The album starts with notable track “Darker Side of Sunshine,” which begins with a somber piano melody joined shortly by a beautiful guitar harmonics. When the intro fades and the verse kicks in, you are swept up in the sheer spiritual feeling. Second track “Silent Prayer” picks up where the first left off but with heavier Americana elements and a moving bridge. The rest of the album is a seamless succession of well-composed ephemeral gems, with great guest appearances on this album as well—notably Stewart Cole, trumpet player from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Lauren Chipman of the Rentals providing strings that add to the heaviness of the music experience. Overall, this album requires your full attention in order to process its sheer magnitude and weight. —Zachary Jensen ALBUM REVIEWS

At first, Bella Novela might sound more like an L.A. than Long Beach band, what with its arena-ready riffs, dramatic Queen-loving vocals and galloping beats played by a pretty girl who is usually wearing something with sequins. But one listen to Telemetry, the band’s first album in three years, where an ingenious combination of pop, punk, metal, rock and even Spanish classical guitar are all on display, it’s easier to understand how these diverse influences could have only coalesced in diverse-as-hell LBC. Bella Novela has always been known for taking the basic power-rock recipes followed by other female-fronted bands like Heart and making them their own, and on Telemetry they are even more comfortable with their own brand of it. The album’s cover shouts out to Thin Lizzy, the first song channels what Gwen Stefani would sound like if she fronted Dragonforce, and everyone from Iron Maiden to the Motels are referenced in the other eight tightly packaged three-minute tracks (“Lenora” is an 80s power ballad transported to Baja). The songs are decidedly new but entirely familiar, making Telemetry—even without a zombie-apocalypse narrative present in 2011’s The Archeress—an easy album to listen to and an even easier album to love. —Sarah Bennett

the world. Their debut release A Natural Phantasm EP—one of the first offerings from Chicano Batman’s new label Relleno Records— gives the listener a solid taste of what this band and Relleno Records have in store for Los Angeles. The album starts with an instrumental intro titled “The Sunrise” that plays with the harmonics of the psychedelic movement in a spacey sort of way, leading you nicely into the first track. “The First Yesterday” continues mild psych elements via spacey keyboard melody and ambient notes, but furthers their exploration with heavy samba guitar and jazz drumming that flow well with subtle and smooth vocals that become more and more enjoyable with repeated listens. This is parlayed into the next track “A Wonderful Why,” where the jazzy elements are continued in the guitars but with a garage rock tinge and reverbed vocals. The song is something akin to the now-familiar 60s revival scene, but with a Brazilian twist to make the sound new. The next track “Olde Valley” plays with a more Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girl” type of sound, with an unexpectedly heavy electro space approach. The guys reach some good harmonies on the song, too, which is refreshing to hear. The band does a good job tying together so many diverse sounds, granting this EP an unexpected and powerful cohesion. —Zachary Jensen

COURTESY ARTIST

CASHUS KING CHURCH [...of the good thief] Public Axis Recordings

COURTESY ARTIST

BRAIN STORY

A Natural Phantasm EP Relleno Records Brain Story plays a style of music that borrows elements from different 60s movements from around

Leimert Park’s own CashUs King (fka Co$$) is a firestarter. His verses are acerbic and intricate, usually bringing light to dark experiences. Since well before Kendrick widened the breadth of conversation for L.A. rappers, CashUs has been examining the toll of the young Black LA experience through his own bars. CHURCH [...of the good thief ] is CashUs’ umpteenth project and official sophomore LP. As the title implies, religion and organized faith is the crux of the album. Ambitiously, each track is pre-

ceded by a piece of dialogue that frames the particular track, from pastors to community leaders to slackers and stoners. Some tracks tackle specifics of religion head on, others wax poetic on the concept and a few use parts of religion as metaphor to traverse in less directly related terrain. While one man’s fruitful indulgence can be another listener’s overkill, I appreciate the bold effort to tackle the topic of a higher power in an honest and complicated way. At parts contradictory and meandering, passionate and poignant, cynical and skeptical, there’s something here for any hip-hop fan. —sweeney kovar

COURTESY ARTIST

CHERRY GLAZERR

“Had 10 Dollaz” 7” Suicide Squeeze Quite a bit has been written about Cherry Glazerr already but if you’ve missed out on the hype, the long and short of it is that they’ve quickly gained a ton of recognition as the hot young trio from Silver Lake (ish) who’ve struggled with the trials and tribulations of juggling high school while carving out a place in the L.A. rock scene and beyond. Their sound is heavy but soft, and distorted yet polished with elements of indie rock, garage, shoegaze, and punk. “Had 10 Dollaz” features catchy lo-fi riffs are tightly blended with lead singer Clementine Creevy’s dreamy, ethereal vocal style and simplistic minimalist lyrics in a way that balances out the raw-garage pop instrumentation and gives it a very refined (and almost sultry) feel. B-side “Nurse Ratched” is harder and a bit more melodic, and goes into a more heady poetic direction both lyrically and musically. Both tracks highlight how much they’ve grown together in their musicianship and the progress they’ve made as they mature as a band. If this record is an indication of what can be expected from their next full length, then be ready for a real step forward. —Desi Ambrozak

BRIAN BROOKS

COLD WAR KIDS Hold My Home Downtown Records

Some say Cold War Kids will never beat their first full length, Robbers and Cowards. But this band has done a lot of amazing things since then, and this new album Hold My Home— while not as raw as Cowards—is just as strong if not stronger from start to finish. Never has this band released such a consistent piece of work. Starting with the brutal “Hotel Anywhere,” Nathan Willett’s trademark howl is front and center and stronger than ever: “Hold me down, I wont float away,” he screams/ sings. “I find beauty in everything.” It’s as if he’s asking the listener to stop complaining and really listen to this album— and stop comparing this band to the band they used to be because you’re missing out on how great they are now. The album moves from there to a soft keyboard-fueled slow-burner “Hear My Baby Cry” and is followed by anthemic heartland rock-sounding title track—somewhere between Bruce Springsteen and the Killers, we find Cold War Kids making a new home with this bass-driven beasr. But “Drive Desperate,” the final track of the album, showcases the most raw and true aspects of who this band is. With a foot-stomping beat and Willett’s howl in full force atop the band’s classic deliberate-as-molasses rhythm, we’re confronted with this final reflection: Cold War Kids haven’t really changed that much. They’ve just grown up a little bit. —Daniel Sweetland

COURTESY ARTIST

COULTRAIN Side Effex of MakeBelieve: Divided for Love’s Sake Fresh Selects

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THE BANGLES As someone who broke her hand doing “Eternal Flame” at karaoke, I can speak to the special place the Bangles hold in many of our hearts. I only wish I had been more than an embryo when the band first emerged in Los Angeles playing punk shows in the early 80s. The band’s new Ladies And Gentlemen… The Bangles! collects some of these early tunes, when they were called the Bangs and played a formative part in pioneering the Paisley Underground scene to which so many of today’s bands pay homage. You might not hear it in the big hits that made them 80s superstars, but these ladies have always been rockers. Here we talk to Susanna Hoffs about getting a milk carton thrown at her head opening for the Blasters, and whether or not Olivia Newton John really recorded all her vocals naked. This interview by Daiana Feuer. COURTESY THE BANGLES

THE BANGLES

Ladies and Gentlemen ... the Bangles! DownKiddie! Records These fabled L.A. New Wavers are now touring and celebrate with this assortment of glittering rarities from the band’s glory years. Produced by the great Craig Leon and flung into shops some thirtytwo years ago, the five tracks from the long out-of-print Bangles debut EP show the band (then known as the Bangs) firmly anchored in the then-reigning Paisley Underground aesthetic. “I’m in Line” stands alongside pretty much anything by the Plimsouls or the Three O’Clock and their cover of “How is the Air Up There?” is a convincingly snide and punky blast at local celebrity culture. The Bangles keep the mid-Sixties freak flag waving with covers of “Outside Chance” by the Turtles, Paul Revere’s “Steppin’ Out” and a live pass at Love’s immortal “7 & 7 Is.” “Getting Out of Hand” and “The Real World” are pre-IRS Records singles and the crunchy “Bitchen Summer” is off a long out-of-print Rodney Bingenheimer comp from 1989. This is a significant addition to an already imposing legacy. —Ron Garmon

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It’s so cool to look at the rocking roots of the Bangles. What is it like to revisit that sound? Susanna Hoffs (vocals/guitar): It’s been really life-changing, in a way, to go back to where we started. When we decided to do these Paisley Underground reunion shows, that put us back on a stage with bands that were part of the local L.A. club scene that we started out with. We decided to revisit all our early songs— our first creations as a band. It felt so authentic playing this music. We had this long standing plan/dream/concept that we would figure out a way to rerelease the material because when we started out there was no internet, no cell phones, no digital media. We realized for people to discover this music they had to search on YouTube, which is probably where anyone who has heard this material found it. We realized it was pretty obscure stuff and yet it was the most authentically Bangles stuff I think we probably ever did. Of course, these aren’t the songs that people know the Bangles by. Those who know the Bangles know us from the hits from the mid to late 1980s. But when we play this stuff, everything makes sense to me. It’s fun and bizarre but cool at the same time. Do you have any regrets or nostalgia with regard to the band going pop? Even though obviously you went on to become one of the quintessential bands of the 80s—and that’s no small feat. I don’t know if I would characterize it as regret. As an artist and even as a human being, it’s such a challenge to figure out how to process why things happen the way they do and the decisions that you make. It’s kind of an ongoing experience of being a human. Then add in the factor of trying to create something and know when it’s finished and know if it’s any good and wonder if you should release it to the world or keep it hidden. Looking back I think the Bangles morphed into something else and that was a byproduct of just in a sense collaborating—if you can call it a collaboration—with a record company, interacting with other forces, and even just the forces within the band, and just the journey that the band took, which was what it was. In other words, we were on the road for years and years and years. At a certain point I would say we were sick of each other. So when we went to write we worked with other people. We were

together like a marriage of four people 24/7 for a few years on end. It was a natural trajectory for us to go, ‘Oh we’re home now—wait, should I get up in the morning and see the same people I’ve been basically living with in airplanes and busses and on stage and off stage?’ So I think it makes sense that I went off and wrote songs with Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly and from that ended up with ‘In Your Room’ and ‘Eternal Flame.’ And the Petersons went off and wrote with other people. I think it just happened the way it was going to happen. But nostalgia … yes, I do feel tremendous nostalgia for the early period of the Bangles. And also pride. I look back and we were these radical chicks trying to do our art. There’s so much talk about different forms of feminism and we were just in the world of our form of feminism, just doing it, not thinking of ourselves in that way—especially having been the daughter of a real 1970s feminist mom. In the early period of the Bangles, we were just an arts collective of who we were. We literally banded together to create something larger than any of our individual selves, and tried to project something that was honest and true for who we were at the time. When I sing songs like ‘Real World’ now, I see the younger me—but it’s still me. It’s a really interesting period that we’re in right now—going literally full circle to where we started and it makes a lot of sense to me. I don’t even know if nostalgia is the right word. It just feels very right. In the first stages of playing clubs and punk and rock shows, did you experience a stigma of being a ‘girl band?’ I think so. There weren’t that many all-girl bands then. Obviously there was the Go-Go’s. Frankly they were a big influence on me. They were really inspiring. The press could never say a single thing about the Bangles initially without commenting on the Go-Go’s too or comparing us two. So that was something we dealt with. We wanted to feel like we were not ‘just a girl band,’ but ‘just a band.’ Meaning that we didn’t want to be considered a novelty act. That felt less than what we were hoping for. But at the same time we had a lot of spunk and a lot of drive and a lot of don’t-take-no-for-an-answer attitude. That aspect of who we were is something I’m really proud of because we just kept going. We were like the

little engine that could. It’s amazing that we got signed at all. Columbia Records was the only label on earth that wanted us. Luckily that happened and we were able to branch out from our local club scene. We hit college radio initially and then expanded eventually to Top 40 radio and then word got out about who we were and we started making videos. It was the golden age of MTV and we were part of that. So I guess we often had to deal with the fact that there was a little something, I don’t want to say a stigma, but a kind of ‘Oh, you girls play okay for chicks.’ I know it sounds so dated. Not really. The music industry is still a man’s world. From people working at venues, the people running labels and higher-ups. That’s not exactly gone away. That’s why I feel most comfortable in the indie/DIY scene. I’m very fortunate that I’m happy and content to be an indie artist now. It makes things so much easier to not have a committee hovering over our decisions, or dealing with the man’s world, or to have to go through hoops or approvals to do what we wanna do now. It feels much more comfortable to me. But it was definitely something we had to deal with. Probably a part of me blocked out some of the bad part of it, the uncomfortable part, but it was definitely there. Then you became the wet dream of every teenage guy in the 1980s. So there’s that. Oh my God. You know what, you always feel like you’re you and the same person. When people say stuff like that I sort of can’t grasp it. It does not compute. It’s a bizarre thing for me to try to understand. But whatever happened with the Bangles image, whatever we projected, or whatever connection people made to us or with us, it’s interesting looking back. I’m grateful that there’s continuing interest in the Bangles to be honest. I feel like I can finally enjoy looking back and still having the opportunity to continue. The show we played a few months ago at the Troubadour was just about as much fun as a person can have. I’ve been fighting to stay in the smaller intimate venues because I think we make sense there more than anywhere else. For me, for sure, and I think Vicki and Debbie agree. Then I think about the Bangles that were ‘pop stars’ in the mid-80s, it still seems surreal to me. ALBUMS


Well, yeah—you were a person doing something, but then there were all these other people doing things with the brand they created about you. Which is crazy! I know! That’s why it’s challenging to create stuff. There’s a lot of risk-taking that happens and loss of control, especially when you collaborate with other artists and a record label that owns the product and markets it. Its just part of it. The way I’m approaching things now, I just try to look at it like it’s all much more about the process. If you don’t do that you can spend your entire life saying why did I do that? Or why was this thing perceived that way? Then you’re not moving on to the next thing, which is actually much more fun. What amazes me more than anything is that whatever we were then still means something to people. People still like the music and are connected to the songs. Whether people are going back now and discovering our early stuff—and we’re giving them an opportunity to do that with re-releasing it—or whether they’re actually coming to see us in the clubs now, it’s gratifying. I see it more from a global vantage point. Like, wow this is cool to do this and let’s keep going. In addition to the Paisley Underground stuff, you played punk shows in the early days. Tell me about that! Our first real gig was playing at a No Mag event and we were opening for a bunch of punk bands from the South Bay and Orange County area. It was our first real gig. The only other gig we played was a party at a movie lot where Vicki had a secretarial job. We really had to earn our stripes and not have things thrown at us. So we played our pop songs with our four-part harmonies really fast, with a lot of energy and attitude. And we went over really well with this hardcore crowd. We played a lot of shows in the early days on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood and in the Valley and outlying suburbs of L.A. with punk bands. We were sort of punk power pop in a sense. It was really nice. There was just such a great scene going on in the clubs. We played with Red Cross, we played with the Circle Jerks, Black Flag, and lots of bands. It was a really cool period of time with a lot of crossover between genres. You didn’t get things thrown at you? Not then but we definitely got things thrown at us later on. We did a show in San Francisco, someplace big, with the English Beat and the Blasters, who were a super huge popular rockabilly band at the time. Someone threw a milk carton at my head and it was bleeding. I came off stage with bubblegum stuck in my hair. It was really not great, but I remember it now fondly. That’s what you go through when you’re opening for a band with diehard fans! We did a lot of gigs opening for other bands, even when we had hit singles. It was how it was. I don’t know if it had something to do with the fact we were girls. It’s something I speculate about now. We were sort of ALBUMS

‘always the bridesmaid never the bride.’ Eventually we graduated to our own gigs but it took a while. The weirdest thing about this story is who takes a milk carton to a show? I know—what punk drinks milk? The irony of being a punk at a punk show and throwing a milk carton! It’s fun to think back on the poetry of that. Thank God it wasn’t a beer bottle. But when we used to play Birmingham and Manchester we had a really good response. They really liked the Bangles. The Go-Go’s had a tough time breaking into the English market, as they say, but the Bangles were very well-received which was incredible for us. We were such Anglophiles and Beatlemaniacs and loved all the British Invasion bands. I can’t remember if it was Birmingham or Manchester that when they show affection they spit on you. Like—hock loogies at you. It was so gross. That was a little disturbing. Robert Plant used to come see the Bangles at clubs. It’s crazy! We used to call him Space Bob. He showed up three times at really out of the way towns. Did you record ‘Eternal Flame’ naked? That would have to be a yes. It is a long story, but basically we were working with this great producer, Davitt Sigerson, and recorded all the tracks with the band. Then when it came time to fine-tune the vocals, each girl would book a night and go in for our session. He really wanted everyone to feel comfortable and it was really a practical joke that was played on me. He and the engineer said they had just done this Olivia Newton John record and they said, ‘She never sounded better, and we think it’s because she has been singing naked.’ And I did get voted most gullible in my middle school poll. So I thought they were being serious. I said, ‘You’re kidding—best vocals ever, naked?’ That sounded intriguing. And just so you know, they couldn’t see me because they set up one of those big sound buffer screens in front of me. So it became the running thing. That whole album was recorded naked or in scant articles of clothing. It was the Naked Album. Did it work? I don’t know! I would describe the feeling of it as being both vulnerable and exhilarating. Like skinny-dipping. When you go skinny-dipping you feel vulnerable but also exhilarated. I’d say the whole album was recorded with that feeling going on. Isn’t that crazy? I was just a wacky crazy girl back then. For the record, Olivia didn’t do that. They were telling me a complete fake story and I bought it. THE BANGLES’ LADIESAND GENTLEMEN … THE BANGLES! IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM DOWNKIDDIE! RECORDS. VISIT THE BANGLES AT THEBANGLES.COM.

DR. JOHN If there is a living person who embodies the spirit of New Orleans, it’s Dr. John, guitarist-turned-gunshot-victimturned pianist who supercharged jazz and funk with his own special blend of mysticism, R&B and rock’n’roll. His new album Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch is a collection of songs by and associated with Louis Armstrong, featuring the Blind Boys of Alabama, Arturo Sandoval, Bonnie Raitt and more. He joined us by with his coproducer and arranger Sarah Morrow to talk about livers, kitchen knives and arguing with that Spiritualized guy. This interview by Kristina Benson. You make it look so easy when you play piano. I know that the piano isn’t your first instrument. How long did it take you to feel comfortable? Dr. John: Well, after I got shot in my finger—that had a real bad effect on me. Back in the day, in Jacksonville, Florida, this guy was pistol-whipping this young singer with the band. Sarah Morrow (co-producer): Literally with a pistol? Dr. John: Yeah, and I was trying to get the gun out of his hand, cuz the singer with the band was Ronnie Barron and his mother had told me ‘If anything happens to my son while he’s on the road with you, I’m gonna cut your cojones off.’ She was cutting some meat when she said that, and I saw this the knife she cut the meat with. Wow. I remember that—right when he was pistol-whipping Ronnie I thought, ‘Oh man, I can’t let this happen!’ His mother Miss Mildred was really a good lady, and I respected her a lot. It was a blessing because I did the best I could. I thought my hand was over the handle but it was over the barrel, and that was a mistake. Sarah: Oh my God—you mean it was like a direct shot? I never knew that. Dr. John: Yeah—it went just right through my finger. And my finger was hanging by a piece of skin. Did you just shove your finger back on the other part of your finger? Dr. John: No. They put it back on in the hospital and they sewed it back on very poorly and it never did work right. Sarah: That’s why it’s crooked now. And it’s like a piece is missing. Oh my God. So how do you play piano so great? You need all your fingers to play the piano. Dr. John: I try to avoid that finger when I play the piano. Bending strings with that finger on the guitar caused me a lot of problems on the guitar, and it still does. You played piano with Spiritualized. You have such different styles—how did you fit together? Dr. John: Did you know that I always argued with this guy from Spiritualized? I can’t think of his name now, but we could argue forever and it wouldn’t be an argument, it would always turn into something … we both learned something from it. That was something I enjoyed. This guy was in my life just to argue with me and that’s a blessing. I remember this guy Santos. He used to be always arguing with me about anything. I told him, ‘Oh man, you can’t do that.’ He says, ‘Come by my gate and I’m gonna show you something.’ He worked in the morgue and he pulls up a liver and says, ‘See this liver? It has cirrhosis. You probably have cirrhosis.’ And I did have cirrhosis of the liver. And wow. How did he know that? I enjoyed playing on that record with Spiritualized. I played on so many sessions, it’s ridiculous. I mean, when I think of—wow. Playing those sessions, you name somebody—Aretha Franklin or Dolly Parton—I worked on sessions with them. That lesson about the dangers of liver cirrhosis sounds very effective. Dr. John: I had a bad case of that. The next stage was death. And so that’s where my liver was at that time. But now my liver is not detectable. Your liver is the most healing organ in the body and one thing I have studied a lot of about is my grandmother knew a lot of things, she was a blessing. And I loved her very deeply, but she always would make me laugh even though she would get mad at me and tell me, ‘Go get that bamboo in the backyard and get one that’s got a little sting to it.’ She would whip with me that, and I would rather my dad whip me. That’s how life was back when I grew up. Everything has changed in ways that I don’t feel is a good thing. DR. JOHN’S SKE-DAT-DE-DAT: THE SPIRIT OF SATCH IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM CONCORD. VISIT DR. JOHN AT NITETRIPPER.COM. 53


Coultrain has always aimed for the cinematic. A songwriter first, his tales have always been dense narratives using the full capacities of the English language to dissect love and loss. He’s shone as part of Waajeed’s Platinum Pied Pipers collective and as the cornerstone of the Hawthorne Headhunters. Along the way he’s pieced together the metastory of Seymour Liberty through solo projects. His latest EP via Portland-based blog-turned-label Fresh Selects is a tenuous finale to his years-long tale, as well as some of the best music I’ve ever heard from him. Hawthorne collaborator and hometown friend Black Spade aka Stoney Rock is behind the boards for this odyssey, creating a soundscape that’s angelic without forgetting the all-important drums and low-end. It’s surreal R&B. A magician of make believe, the songs and his singing often sound eggnog sweet but Coultrain foregoes flat representations of romance. These are stories of a complicated love— otherworldly, lusty and difficult. Initial listens stay on the sonics but at a point the nuance in Coultrain’s writing penetrates. This is modern soul music get hip to it. —sweeney kovar

BRIAN BROOKS

DRINKING FLOWERS

Shadow Show EP Lolipop SoCal psychedelic rock/shoegaze group Drinking Flowers is back just a year after the release of their breakthrough debut EP Sanity Restored 1972 with Shadow Show. Put simply, this collection of five brand new brain-bending tunes is an acid trip in musical form with its droning vocal repetition and Hendrix-esque thunderous walls of guitar buzz and fuzz. More conceptually tied together than Sanity, Show delves into how institutions—whether it be relationships, the music industry, drug culture, government, or society—all seem to lobotomize us into cooperation and how we just can’t seem to escape their grip. Starting with “Understand,” Flowers lay down an instrumental haze 54

as thick and heavy as tar, pierced by the warring calls of lovers pleading with each other to stay and go. This tortured back and forth is also present in “Pop Underground” a threat to abandon an Orwellian record industry set to an eerily sunny and mellow melody à la the Beach Boys. Things really start to teeter on verge of chaos with “Rabbit Hole”: the guitar seems to spiral and melt and the listener can’t tell if they are flying or falling into another world. Drinking Flowers is more than just mind-melting music—it’s an exploration of the brainwashing found our everyday culture. It is truly consciousness altering. —Emily Nimptsch

voice, you’re immediately drawn in. “Chasin’” is another enjoyable track that evokes a bit of soul, which pairs nicely with the Southern blues elements that appear on many of the songs. Ballad “Mexico,” which starts with a mariachi field recording, is a powerful song that turns into the most straight-up rock song on the album—and the bridge is quite haunting. Many tracks employ false endings that kick you with full force right when you thought they were over. Moonlight is a powerful and engaging album by one of L.A.’s most vital contemporary musicians. An instant classic. —Zachary Jensen

JARED PITTACK COURTESY ARTIST

HANNI EL KHATIB

IBEYI

Moonlight Innovative Leisure

self-titled EP XL Records

There are only a select handful of musicians from Los Angeles today who have the abilities and sheer presence to be instantly recognizable from their sound alone—and Hanni El Khatib is definitely one of those musicians. His music has a raw power and grit that evokes the spirit of what rock ‘n’ roll is all about, without sounding dated or cheesy. Working with Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys on the production of his previous album proved to be a great pairing. However, on Moonlight this powerhouse decided to take the reins produced something himself—and while it’s similar to his previous work, it’s also an evolution and an even truer creation. This album is a moody and spiritual reflection of life, love and all the regrets and problems that come with it. At the same time, it seems to be a celebration in a sense—possibly a celebration simply of being able to carry on. The title track is a revelation, opening with a heavy blues guitar riff mixed with very hip-hop inspired drumbeats. One can’t help but be moved. Once the vocals come in with “Hate me… OK / I’ve seen this all before” in that signature raspy

The self-titled debut EP from Ibeyi, otherwise known as LisaKainde and Naomi Diaz, is minimal: three songs with two alternate versions. The sound intentionally borders on bare as Lisa and Naomi’s voice and percussion work are front and center, accented only by sparse electronics. The world they create is stark but warm, and all songs come from a deep and personal place. The EP opens with a heartfelt lament towards their mother’s pain and that emotional missive is followed by tracks about spiritual cleansing and submission to a higher power. Their Yoruban way of life acts as moral and lyrical compass throughout the short but affecting journey. Though nearly all of their mentions in media have immediately linked them to the legacy of their father, late Cuban percussionist Miguel “Anga” Diaz, the pair don’t seem interested in repeating as much as in breaking new ground. Their music draws a line between Yoruba, Afro-Cuban percussion and the modernity of electronic and hip-hop music. A bold introduction fitting for old heads and new jacks, this first EP creates an appetite for their proper debut LP, set to emerge in 2015. —sweeney kovar

BRIAN BROOKS

BRIAN BROOKS

MARIACHI EL IL SOGNO DEL BRONX III MARINAIO Canto Secondo Clenchedwrench

Canto Secondo is the second album from Il Sogno del Marinaio, Mike Watt’s occasional project with two Italian musicians: guitarist Stefano Pilia and drummer Andrea Belfi. Its ten mostly instrumental songs consist in general of alternating motifs from which variations are constructed and to which the players often return. The music is not popular music so much as it is chamber music with rock music bones, a la the progressive rock of the 1970s. As with any chamber music, the important question is whether the music is interesting. And such a subjective question can be addressed, if at all, by highlighting notable elements. This album is notable foremost for Mr. Watt’s unique bass stylings: as on“Mountain Top,” the contrapuntal vamping he perfected as a youth has smoothed into an expressive, sonorous use of his instrument’s middle range that is Hancockian in its singularity. Also notable is the chameleonic guitar work of Mr. Pilia, which shows familiarity with a range of styles— from Spanish to West African to American—as well as a technical deftness which luckily does not deafen his ear. Finally, Mr. Belfi’s drums play the key role of creating cohesion. That Mr. Belfi is successful at the task on tracks as technically challenging as “Skinny Cat” gives testament as much to his taste as to his technique. Both are in ample supply. In all, the cohesiveness of the ensemble performance of this album is a pleasant surprise, and attests to Mr. Watt’s talent for choosing collaborators. On Canto Secondo, he and his Italian fratelli have created an album of rock chamber music that is—at the very least—consistently interesting. —Josh Solberg

ATO

For its third album, Mariachi el Bronx has gotten a bit more grandiose and added just a touch of electronics to its signature sound. Though every song is outfitted with the trumpets and guitarróns implied by the band’s name, this record goes well beyond mariachi and shows that Mariachi el Bronx is an indie rock band at heart. Rather than just appropriate traditional Mexican music, they also add elements reminiscent of their anglo SoCal forebears Sublime and the Eagles to craft their own unique style that sounds tailor-made for the morning drive show on KCRW or as the soundtrack to sunset hacky sack game at Huntington Beach. “High Tide,” with its smooth and catchy hook, has huge crossover single potential, while the nearballad “Eternal” makes it hard to believe that this band is technically an offshoot—or “alter ego”—of hardcore band the Bronx. Unlike most hardcore bands, these guys’ biggest strength is their prowess with orchestral arrangements. This is best displayed on songs like the soaring “Wildfires,” the sweeping and intricate “Raise the Dead,” and the spaghetti-western-esque “Right Between the Eyes,” all of which highlight the group’s ability to spin its source material into something expansive, interesting, and new. —Geoff Geis

COURTESY BAND

MIKEHUDSON ANDTHEPAGANS

Hollywood HIgh Ruin Discos

ALBUM REVIEWS


Twenty-seven years after the Pagans scorched their mark into punk rock history, the band’s troubled and brilliant front man is back at the mike. Fronting a glossy new line-up that includes veterans of Dio, Georgia Satellites, B.B. King, and Etta James, Hudson’s distinctive gravelly voice sounds a little more tired and a little weaker—occasionally even shakier—than when he was in his prime, but the pain and turmoil he expresses are still as evident as ever. Backed by an ace L.A. studio band, he may be a long way from his early stomping grounds of Cleveland, Ohio, but the results are surprisingly authentic and heartfelt. A love letter of sorts to Hudson’s onetime muse, Evita Corby—most famously the model for Iggy Pop and James Williamson’s Kill City LP—Hollywood High is about as tender as Hudson has ever been, but that doesn’t mean he’s in the least bit sentimental. For the most part the songs are slower and moodier than previous Pagans output, although there are a couple of rock monsters included to let you know Hudson hasn’t lost his fire, including the blazing “I Just Got Up” and the greasy guitar-driven “I Want a Date,” plus a strutting new version of the old Pagans classic “(Us and) All of Our Friends are So Messed Up.” Highlights, though, lie in the dark, meditative notes of songs like the cover of blues classic “Death Letter” and the sad and bitter “Fame Whore,” the ultimate tribute to his former love. —Jason Gelt

hipster pretension and clichés. Opener “This Love is a Bridge” bursts forth with a soaring melody about a doomed love affair. Here, vocalist Nik O’Hara admits that the relationship is a “bridge burning at both ends.” The track swings back and forth from heartbreaking slow burner to an outright blaze of glory. “Coyote (Goodnight)” is much softer effort, one that sounds a great deal like the Radio Department’s “I Don’t Like it Like This.” Amidst howling guitars, O’Hara yearns for connection: “I’m no coyote… / I’m no mountain lion / I’m just a stranger who sees a reflection of myself in your eyes.” In “Red River,” Minnow reflects on the future and you can practically hear the flowing, trickling water in this melancholy tune. Full of angelic harmonies and references to the Book of Revelation with its false prophets, trumpeting angels and bloody streams, “River” sets a bleak tone with the speaker begging to go “back to the very beginning.” This longing for a simpler time is carried over into “Indian Summer.” Beginning with Curtis Baxter’s lullaby-like xylophone playing, the track recalls the innocence of childhood as native-sounding drums swell. With the world aflame around us, Minnow’s futuristic music searches for a dapple for hope while romanticizing the past. —Emily Nimptsch

Sneakers

Game Theory

This 1976 EP is an oft-cited starting point for what would later be known as indie rock—a savory foretaste of the dreamy Southern Anglo-pop that would dominate first Dixie, then national rock airwaves over the next decade. Future dB’s Chris Stamey and Will Rigby were part of this short-lived power pop act and producer Mitch Easter would go on to found Let’s Active and producing R.E.M.’s first two albums with partner Don Dixon, engineer for these sessions. The charms of the original 7” are still considerable, with six Stamey originals displaying a talent for addlepated love and jangly feel-good pop fully formed by the time the songwriter met Peter Holsapple and the rest became cratedigger history. The three bonus tracks are of little consequence except for “Nonsequitur,” which hits like a great lost Tommy James Cellophane Symphony joint.

Scott Miller’s passing last year put a long overdue reevaluation of Game Theory on the front burner and Omnivore’s ongoing reissues of GT will doubtless keep it there. Along with other 80s unclassifiables like Bongwater, Timbuk 3 and the Minutemen, Game Theory was a vice of many a middle-aged rock critic’s youth and part of the soundtrack of a certain longgone time and place. Reissue of this ten-track 1984 French compilation LP reframes nuggets from the band’s early EPs (Pointed Accounts of People You Know (1983) and Distortions (1984) also out on Omnivore) and documents the band’s early professional evolution with intriguing demos and adventurous live passes at “Gloria” by Van Morrison, “Mother of Pearl” by Roxy Music and R.E.M.’s “Radio Free Europe” with Miller taking each apart before Theorizing reassembly in front of paying customers. Best: remastered studio nuggets like “Shark Pretty” and “Nine Lives to Rigel Five,” both vehicles for that puckishly winsome spite that was the stuff of Reagan Age daydreams. Scattered throughout are hints of the dense obsessive melodicism of Lolita Nation, the band’s 1987 masterpiece due reissue next year. No music of the era better deserves rescue from obscurity.

Sneakers Omnivore

The Flesh Eaters A Minute to Pray A Second to Die Superior Viaduct

WALT GORECKI!

THE MELVINS COURTESY ARTIST

MINNOW

Trembles and Temperance LP Anchor Eighty-Four It’s been nearly two years since the indie/atmospheric rock band, Minnow released their self-titled debut EP and the L.A.-based sextet is finally back with a full-length album entitled Trembles and Temperance. Produced by Jack Shirley (Whirr, Joyce Manor and Deafhaven) this assortment of eight contemplative tracks is a cohesive unit of ambient emotionality reminiscent of Tycho’s Awake. It also possesses a solid dose of indie rock that somehow avoids

ALBUM REVIEWS

Hold It In Ipecac Recordings

Last year the Melvins celebrated their thirtieth year as a band—no small feat in the realm of independent rock ‘n’ roll. While other bands have come and gone, or come and gone and reformed when they smelled comeback cash, Buzz Osborne has soldiered forward on his righteous mission. The band has taken a circuitous route to be sure, jumping from label to label over the years, and even enjoying the glow of major label success after Nirvana touted it’s talents in the early ‘90s, but its commitment to hard-driving, no-frills rock has never wavered. Buzzo’s crazy shock of hair may be white now, but his guitar playing and singing are as

When you hear crusties speak (perhaps through slashed vocal cords) of the Flesh Eaters, they’re basically talking about this 1981 scorcher, long considered a founding document of L.A. punk and still one of that moment’s most accessible listens. The lineup of musicians—Blaster Dave Alvin, John Doe and DJ Bonebrake of X, future Los Lobos keyboard man Steve Berlin—put up a dense hail of sound fit to swallow anyone but mainman Chris Desjardin. Instead, his demented lyrics dominate center stage even as his oversized personality does handstands in the orchestra pit. Chris D.’s phrasing and attitudinizing influenced countless many, far inferior vocalists who should learn to write Burroughsian art splatter before attempting to sing it. His turns on “River of Fever” and “See You in the Boneyard” sound like not so much evidence of a B-movie obsession as products of living a B-movie scenario in fragmented, mediasaturated Los Angeles. The last shout is “Divine Horseman,” seven-minute-plus of addled street preacher histrionics with Berlin’s sax blowing sarcastic counterpoint to the poet’s whooping and glass-gargling. This is one of those albums oft-deemed underrated because you don’t see the cover on that many t-shirts.

Dead Center Omnivore

Red Aunts

Come Up for a Closer Look In The Red This all-female Long Beach punk act formed in 1991 at the outset of the first punk revival and in the middle of the burgeoning riot grrl movement. The Aunts got a bit lost in the brief flurry of hype surrounding the movement so this career survey serves as reintroduction as well as reevaluation. These sick 26 tracks, culled more or less evenly from their four LPs and sporting ageless bad-girl razor romps like “Detroit Valentine,” “Poison Steak,” and “Freakathon” show a band still evolving at the time of their 1997 breakup. Later stuff on Epitaph is better than earlier sides but even those have a freshness and inventive energy more in line with third-wave feminism than retro-obsessed second-wave punk and indeed were probably too good for their reactionary era. The Aunts never won the commercial blessing afforded to Pennywise and the Offspring, which counts for a lot until you actually listen to all three bands. No punk, quasi-punk or fellow traveler should be without this bracing viciousness. 55


THE INTERPRETER

CAL KING Curated by Chris Ziegler Photography by Debi Del Grande

GUY CLARK OLD NO. 1

(RCA, 1975)

“The first time I heard ‘L.A. Freeway’ was one of those moments where I truly felt someone was telling my story. ‘If I can just get off of this L.A. Freeway without getting killed or caught’ is crazy genius storytelling and the spirit of lyrics like that have definitely found it’s way into some of my own songs. Plus no one can listen to ‘Rita Ballou’ without smiling. One thing you all should do is get lost in the Hill Country of central Texas while listening to this record—it is damn near magical and will make you want to live off the grid forever.”

MERLE HAGGARD BACK TO THE BARROOMS (MCA, 1980)

“Growing up in the late-70s version of the Inland Empire was way more country than it is today, and Merle was the local hero by about 100 miles or so. That being said, every truck-driving piece of white trash on my block had this album. I personally found this one in the country dollar bin at Amoeba Records in Berkeley back in the mid-90s when I was drumming for a metal band—of all things—and just spent months with it, listening over and over. The fact that the record kicks off with a solid tear-jerker like ‘Misery And Gin’ is bold as hell and just locks the listener in emotionally. I kind of lifted the groove from ‘I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink’ for my own ‘Shit Just Got Real’ and I’m totally not ashamed to admit it.”

MOE BANDY HERE I AM DRUNK AGAIN (COLUMBIA, 1976)

“Moe is kind of a country clown like me—one of his first hits was called ‘Bandy the Rodeo Clown,’ come to think of it. And this record is full of those songs that are funny country let-downs with lyrics like ‘If I had someone to cheat on / I’d go home tonight’ or ‘I’m not holdin’ the bottle / the bottle’s holdin’ me.’ His band on this one, though, is chock-full of Nashville A-teamers like the Jordanaires, Bob Moore (bass) and Johnny Gimble (fiddle) and Pig Robbins (piano), which is awesome for a funny little record like this. It’s good drinkin’ music like my own ‘Car Trouble’ and I would be lying if some of Moe’s vibe didn’t make it into that song.”

WAYLON JENNINGS MUSIC MAN (RCA, 1980)

I don’t hear Waylon fans talk about this album much—they always rave about the Cowboy Jack albums—but I love-love-love this one. It was a huge hit in 1980 having The Dukes of Hazzard theme song on it plus a bunch of other covers on it from songwriters like Kenny Rogers and Jimmy Buffett. There are two songs on this record, however, that qualify it to be on this list. The first is his cover of the Steely Dan song ‘Do It Again,’ which is amazing because I love the Dan and Waylon equally and you have to be a bit of a nerd to appreciate Fagen and Becker lyrics. The other is his version of the Ernest Tubb classic, ‘Waltz Across Texas’ in which he abandons the waltz time altogether and plays it in 4/4. So again: nerd. Or maybe they were just really fucked up.”

RAY CHARLES CRYING TIME

(TANGERINE, 1966)

“Ray was one of my favorite country singers of all time. His version of the Buck Owens classic and the title track from the record is better than the Buck version and I never sing the Buck version in my head when I think of this song. [Check out] Ray and Buck singing this song together—that’s some crying time for sure. Not to mention that this one also has ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned,’ which should always be the secret track on your gettin’-high mix.” INTERPRETER

Cal King makes hardcore shitkicking 70s country like his daddy was Jerry Jeff Walker and his mother was one of those undefeatable women from Terry Allen’s Lubbock (On Everything), and if there’s a line from another guy that’ll lead you to the heart of his sound, it’s from Guy Clark: “If I can just get off of this L.A. freeway / without getting killed or caught…” His new Shit Got Real EP is full of the kind of bitter-but-better-for-it humor that happens at last call and he talks now about the albums that showed him the way down his particular country road. HANK THOMPSON A SIX PACK TO GO (CAPITOL, 1966)

“At some point, the beer cans on the cover of this album had to exist, right? Where on eBay are they? I just really dig this record and Brazos Valley Boys are some of the best players from that era. It all sounds like slowed-down Bob Wills, which is great if you’re drinking or you want to play Western swing and can’t keep up like they did.”

KRIS KRISTOFFERSON & RITA COOLIDGE FULL MOON (A&M, 1973) “These two have always been my favorite couple-slash-singing-duo in country music, no contest. Above Johnny & June, above Waylon & Jessi and so on. Rita’s voice works so perfectly with Kris’ stumbly drunken singing so much that I can’t get over it. And you can tell that they were in love on this album which is so cool—how many people get to record an entire album with their true love? Not many. I think that when the new generation of desert-loving Joshua Tree road-tripping couples think that they want to be Gram and Emmylou, I think, ‘No, man... you really want to be Kris & Rita.’

AL GREEN CALL ME (HI, 1972) “Well—first off, you can’t fuck with Al Green. He’s amazing! But even more than that, this record has two epic covers of country songs that you can’t ignore: the Hank Williams classic ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ and Willie Nelson’s break-up revenge hit ‘Funny How Time Slips Away.’ Being from Memphis, Al was only a couple hours drive away from the country music capital of the world so it’s clear that he was listening to and being inspired by all that music, even as a child. For me personally, Al is a great way to cleanse my musical palate when I need inspiration. Some days I’m so buried in honky tonk music that I have to reboot and recently this album has been how I do it.”

LINSDEY BUCKINGHAM LAW AND ORDER (ASYLUM, 1981)

“I go through phases on listening to this album, but what caught my ear the most on this last round of songwriting was ‘Shadow Of The West.’ As weird as this record is, that song is really good country music and one day I hope to cover it with my band. I’ll have to throw a capo somewhere on the guitar because I’ll never sing as high as Lindsey. He also does a great rendition of the gospel country classic ‘A Satisfied Mind’ which tells me that his head was surely in the country when he did this album. And what is up with the bronzer coat on his face and shoulders on the cover? Like the song on the record says, ‘That’s how we do it in L.A.’ I guess.”

VARIOUS ARTISTS ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN SOUNDTRACK (WARNER BROTHERS, 1980) “Something was happening in the late 70s and early 80s where you could pair up an actor with a chimp and you had a hit—which is true because this album was the musical companion to the sequel starring Clint Eastwood and a primate. As a kid, the songs that make this album such a treasure were on in the car quite a bit: from Glen Campbell’s version of the title track to Fats Domino’s clunky boogie-woogie ‘Whiskey Heaven.’ Even Clint and Ray Charles have a duet on this one, called ‘Beers To You,’ which I can kind of tell was written with the intent of being licensed for a beer commercial. My all-time favorite on this one however is the David Frizzell and Shelly West song ‘You’re The Reason God Made Oklahoma.’ It’s the perfect homesick-cowboy-in-L.A. song and that opening arpeggio was the inspiration for the same on my own ‘Texas (Wasn’t All That We Needed).’” 57


PORCH PARTY RECORDS GOLDEN DRUGS

PREGNANT

LONG BEACH

VINYL TAPES SHOWS

THE NATIVES DUSTIN LOVELIS RUDY DE ANDA JOEL JASPER GREATER CALIFORNIA FOREST OF TONGUE RAINMAN

PORCH PARTY RECORDS .COM


fiery and immediate as ever. He and fellow founding member, drummer Dale Crover, are joined by Butthole Surfer members Paul Leary and Jeff Pinkus on the band’s umpteenth long player Hold It In, a rollicking, irreverent sonic ride that is every bit as good as their earlier output. Songs lurch from one style to the next, but without losing the necessary sense of cohesion that makes a record great. There’s a heavy, crunchy rock beast “Bride of Crankenstein,” an airy pop number “You Can Make Me Wait,” an experimental instrumental jaunt “Barcelonian Horseshoe” and the grungy, hilariously titled “Piss Pisstoferson,” to name just a few. Pretty much something for every taste. —Jason Gelt

crazy strong keyboard grooves, with great simple organ riffs and noise littering the album from the opening line and some amazing complimentary slide guitar work and tremolo drenched open chords, too. Still, it really is the rough and rugged guitars that fuel this vehicle’s psychedelic (and catchy as hell) rock ‘n’ roll. The band is so connected with one another that it often sounds as close to being overly rehearsed as you can get before getting boring, but I doubt that’s really even possible. With great breaks and dynamics, stretches of bass-driven verses and riffy choruses, and atmospheric keyboard and drum work a la the Black Keys or even recent Beck, there’s always something happening. Modern Pantheist is on to something. —Daniel Sweetland

from the least coast to the best coast. I’m talking the fast, furious, fuckyou bands with one toe in the pop waters like X, The Screamers, The Weirdos. Neighborhood Brats could get middle-aged me to move most anywhere if only to cozy up to their rip-apart sound. It’s not just that the music is fists-in-the-air anthematic, it’s the infectious and confident dick swagger of singer Jenny Angelillo and her lyrical snark punching you in the face. Based on song titles alone, how could you not want to drop the needle on “Fifty Shades of Fuck You”? Even the (wordless) “Escape the City” has desperate allure. And while the songs on Recovery aren’t breaking any molds, they’re certainly giving the sound of L.A. a much-needed ass kicking. There’s a lot of kiss or kill packed in these two minute song bursts, so pucker up and get rad. —Kat Jetson

JARED PITTACK

MODERN PANTHEIST

COURTESY ARTIST

NEIGHBORHOOD BRATS

Sun Abuse self-released

Modern Pantheist is a strongly guitar driven band but don’t think for a second that means they don’t have some

Recovery Deranged Records

The rich history of late 70s/early 80s L.A. punk is what spurred my move

courtesy artist

SCOTTWALKER AND SUNN O))) Soused 4AD

ALBUM REVIEWS

COURTESY ARTIST

PISCES self-titled self-released

Pisces is a folky psych jazz project from Sarah Negahdari, the sweet voiced leader of the Happy Hollows. A lot of people have been waiting for this album for quite a while, and the reason is simple— it’s a damn good album. With a simple pop sensibility to the vocals and an eclectic tapestry of sound, Pisces is a welcome collection of strange folk tunes. With reverbdrenched “oohs” and “aahs” etched into the backdrop and some beautiful droney keys, this is an album for the dreamers. The album opens with a few very pretty songs. “Being With You” is a strong lead track with a great beat and some wonderful lyrical prowess, followed nicely by the vibey “Voodoo” and “Glen Echo.” “Winter Horse” breaks through midway into the album and is a perfect example of how far this project can go sonically. Exploding from the softness and simplicity of the fingerpicked “Paint A Rocket” and the big but simple “Wicked Fun,” it breaks the album open and grabs hold of you. With fierce guitars and a heavy drum line, this song is the one time that it feels as if Sarah really let herself go. Still, the strongest piece of writing might be a few songs later with the timeless “Punch Love Drunk,” a song of majestic catchiness. This album has a little of everything you want from an indie-folk-pop release—it’s a great combination of the strange and lovely! —Daniel Sweetland

Scott Walker may very well possess one of the single most exalted and enduring male voices of our time. From his 60s chamber-pop crooning while fronting the Walker Brothers to the pedestal shadows cast from his first five subsequent solo albums—even all the way through the awkward contractual obligation/ reunion 70s country/AM radio efforts, and then to his decades of silence and his 90s-2000s experimental re-invention, it is Scott Walker’s voice and uncompromising sensibilities that set a high-water mark many strive to replicate but few ever quite touch. It’s a voice that communicates a profound strength and fragility, often in the one breath billowing from unknown yet magnetic depths. Since re-emerging with Tilt in 1995 with his fiercely avant-guard approach—once compared to “Andy Williams re-inventing himself as Stockhausen”—Walker has replaced the verse/chorus of morose orchestral pop with surrealist nightmare soundscapes, abandoning the strumming of guitars (or any solid rhythm whatsoever) for sporadic industrial clanging—as well as recording the sound of punching slabs of raw meat and deploying strategic, unnerving silence, cut up with archaic lyrical fragments that often repeat the same note over and over. These are all bold, almost self-sabotaging gestures from a man renowned for his staggering vocal range and steady hand when sculpting divine pop masterpieces. Many Walker-devotees would admit that these recent records cut so deeply to the marrow that they are actually hard to listen to. It’s clear he’s excavat-

ROXY MORATAYA

SPACE WAVES Sing My Song LP self-released

Shoegaze and its derivatives are making a big comeback these days. Many a big name from the late 80s and early 90s have been playing some major shows. At the same time there have been a slew of L.A. based bands keeping the dream alive. Space Waves plays droned-out pedal-powered jams infused with dark psychedelic undertones that for the most part is quite enjoyable. The band’s third release Sing My Song is a little less experimental than their last, but that seems to work in the bands favor. The heavy and slow ambience of many of their earlier tracks has been exchanged for more straight-ahead distortion and dazed sounds. As usual, the pair of Sarah and Kelley take turns with vocal duties and that can provide for a strange dichotomy at times. On tracks where Sarah sings— namely “Beach Cemetery”—there

ing the proverbial abyss and working to expose the writhings of his cold-blooded animal, something so dependent on the atmospherics of his albums that it tends to affect the listener’s actual outlook and mood. As proud as I am to own 2012’s Bish Bosch, I confess unabashedly that I have listened to it only three times since its release, often hesitating when I grab it from my stack as I ask, “Do I really want to go there today?” (Let us consider this refusal its own act of communion between us and Walker—all who proudly wear the Loop of Sensitivity!) Thankfully, it seems his collaboration with Sunn0))) was almost made for this very bracket of his followers. While it may have seemed like an unlikely pairing, Walker’s operatic ephemera benefits greatly from the anchoring of Sunn0)))’s perpetually distorted drones (has Walker even had a guitar on a record since Mark Knopfler on Climate Of Hunter in 1984?) and walls of synths without compromising his own stark vision. In five songs that seem to complete a thematic arc of drowning and intoxication, there is more of an actual musical conversation happening, a call and response between the collaborators, resulting in a gradual swelling of climaxes that are slightly easier to hold onto and more importantly, actually recall after the listen. Soused masterfully fills in the cracks of the oblivion that is strived for, and the result is a smoother ride with other passengers—rather than the doomed Walker merely taking us through that same Willy Wonka nightmare tunnel on his own again. —Gabriel Hart 59


AQUADOLLS So Stoked Burger Yes, there are so many bands clogging up “the beach” right now that the poor seagulls don’t even have an open space to crap in peace— just kidding, they love a target-rich environment—but Melissa Brooks’ Aquadolls are way more sophisticated than most of this wave. There’s a few types of songs here: Go Sailor/ Rose Melberg jangle-pop like “Guys Who Sk8” or “Mine,” lightly paisley-fied power pop like “Wander” or opener “Don’t Mean Jack,” weirdo goof-offs like “Tweaker Kids” or “Wacky Surf Trip” … but even the obviously jokey ones aren’t fucking around. (Well, maybe the Descendents answer song “I Like Fruit”: “I like fruit / cuz fruit is good!”) They got unexpected hooks and surprise production tweaks and more plot twists in the chord patterns than you’d expect, even if they’re done with so little showing off that you might not notice. And then there’s the standouts: let’s pick three. “Cool Cat” is the surprise deep cut it’s a beast: in-the-red Pandoras garage-rock with a ridiculously hook-y chorus. “So High” (no relation to Best Coast) is a Mazzy Starstyle zone-out that even echoes those Hope Sandoval vocal catches, and “Our Love Will Always Remain” is basically the Aquadolls song from which all others Aquadolls songs derive—harmony, hooks, heartbreak and happiness and every other aspect of Aquadollism in up-and-down succession, delivered in a somehow not-boring four minutes. Very solid record with unexpected stand-outs. If bands like this still got hit singles … well, you know. When I hear them on TV, I’ll remember the night that I typed all this.

COTILLON

self-titled Burger Records Debut opus from bummer-pop iconoclast Jordan Corso, now under the most appropriate guidance of producer Chet “JR” White from Girls—who makes sure no sound or idea on this album lingers too long. Here, Cotillon are focused through a host of postVU experiments on this corrosively intimate excursion into heartbreak. Does that mean it’s got some moments of frightening Jonathan Richman-style earnestness? Of course: “Asteroid,” worrying cousin to “Astral Plane,” in which Corso grinds out likely the meanest riff here and explains how even if he became a ghost, he’d “still try to keep an eye on you.” (In fact, this gets into Gary Wilson 60

territory pretty quick—no one does spurned like Gary!) There’s also Suede, Teenage Fanclub, Nikki Sudden, lots of the Only Ones’ Peter Perrett in his pre-hit mode as England’s Glory, even a dissipated Stones as smothered by decades of déclassé 70s glam. I think few songs from the 2012 Votive Flower EP have returned here, at least in spirit—like “Lyman” with a Bandwagonesque guitar intro and an upgunned chorus, or “Infection,” sounding more like an Only Ones B-side than ever … until it turns in a Syd Barrett space-out. Corso has always had the ideas and the personality, delivered in purposely fractured songs that seem more like exorcisms than declarations of love. With White at work, he’s more powerfully unpredictable than ever—like the kinda unprecedented piano and sax interlude “Left Bank.” If it was too easy to listen to, it wouldn’t be as interesting.

GIRLPOOL

self-titled EP Wichita Extremely heavy EP that’s like Bratmobile re-arranged to fit the Fabulous Stains—no drums and no distortion, but everything else is intensely punk. “Slutmouth” is like a Raincoats song but sharpened as far as it’ll go: “Sometimes I wanna be a boy / never really wanted girl toys / … / I don’t wanna get fucked / by a fucked society / … / I go to school everyday / just to be made a housewife one day.” (And more, with no wasted words.) Everything these two women do here is broken down to the elements: bass to backbone the song, one or two guitar tracks to reinforce, double vocals used as much for rhythm as melody and screaming dive-bomb hooks. (You can hear why they get compared to Sleater-Kinney.) Each is a triumph of indie duo design, with zero distractions and zero equivocation. Here’s the story, and actually here’s the moral, too, like from “Jane” who never had the answer til she punched the guy who wouldn’t let her talk: “Girls and boys if you are listenin’ / don’t ever feel imprisoned / … / you were born for a reason, share all your feelings / if you are a Jane, put your fists up too.” The music is so clear it’s startling, but the lyrics are even more pure. That’s rare—this is a gut reaction from them to you.

GOLDEN DRUGS In The Midnight Sun or Stubbornly Persistent Illusion Porch Party

Couldn’t find a single comparison to any other band that ever existed in the press for Golden Drugs, so shouts to them for being so aggressively extraterrestrial. And … let me give it a shot and say this obsessively maximal fractalized prog-pop-folk-sperimental album is like … Neutral Milk Hotel trying to be Tago Mago Can? As in: drum nods to “Mother Sky” and “Halleluwah,” with lyrics that get viscerally surreal and melodies triangling between delirious, desperate and numb. Midnight Sun is ‘ONLY MEANT TO EXPLORE THE STRANGE CHARACTERISTICS OF “REALITY” AND THE HUMAN CONDITION INSIDE SAID “REALITY,’ explain its creators—warning or invitation? Because Golden Drugs are very obviously exploring the strange, with songs that don’t so much change as cycle every two minutes or so and proggy guitar fingerings that probably tab out to look like DNA helixes. ‘Struggling Attacker’ is the songiest song on here, and even that’s a paradox: gentle folk guitar, frantic busy drums and some modest and even sweet man/woman harmonies about going home until the guitars suddenly go electro-intricate and then everything gets permanently unexpected. It’s hard to slice this into songs because Midnight Sun is really a single piece cracked into song-shapes, each of which cracks into smaller more-detailed songshapes and so on until reality and humanity both are documented at the molecular level. It’s exhausting just for being so imaginative, and for never letting a single thing sit—but there’s beauty in waves there, too, if you can handle this disorientation.

GRINNING GHOSTS Yesterday Tomorrow unreleased Young band from OC trying on styles and shaking out their own real voices from all the good records they’ve sung along to between birth and recording session. The basics— punk fundamentals like the Clash and the Buzzcocks and emerging character kinda like Paul Westerberg, both in the nuthin-to-do and nuthin-to-be-done modes. (Example A: “Ecstatic Tumescence,” with the lines “Friday night, got no date / gonna go to Del Taco, gonna masticate,” delivered way more like Replacements than Descendents. Example B: “Losers For Free,” about how college is so useless they might as well have spared themselves the loans and stayed … yes, losers for free! Or maybe ‘Duller Than Death’s simple ‘Please tell me / what’s it all for?’) They’ve got obvious imagination and a promising ability to fit pop into punk songs, and even though the vocals are a little tentative, you can (thankfully) tell there’s an actual person or two in there. And across these 15 (!) songs, they start to wander toward weirder places, from Dead Milkmen to Newtown Neurotics and a breathless Dollsstyle cover of the Shangri-Las to a downer closer with John Cale strings or something quivering in the background. But there’s two things that happen when you’re working yourself out in public like this. First: you get shy about the editing! More than half of these songs are at or over three minutes—yeah, you got stuff to say but imagine how much harder

it’d it if you only kept the best two outta three? And second: you sometimes luck into the uncharacteristic eureka that leads you to the future. That’s Yesterday’s hit: ‘Joan’s Already Dead,’ noisier and looser than anything else on here with a riff right out of Dead Moon and energy enough to carry its own weight. Almost broken but better for it a la the Swell Maps when they get fighty and a telling prechorus of: “Nonsense makes the world go round!” (Real chorus: “She’s dead, so dead!”) Quick, interesting and they sound like they mean it the most: more of these please! And yeah, I know this review is long for a demo but what can I say? I ... believe in ‘em!

ITASCA

Unmoored By The Wind New Images Precise and desolate guitar-and-voice folk that everyone says sounds like Sybille Baier, which is right and wrong at the same time—Baier’s Colour Orange is loneliness compounded upon loneliness til it becomes more like anesthetic than music, and while Kayla Cohen’s Itasca is fearlessly lonesome and sad, she stops long before that point of paralysis. What she does share with Baier, however, is a kind of total fluidity of delivery, where she sings anything she sings and the music slips and flows around her. Put it this way: once there was a song called “Walking In The Rain,” and that’s her style of playing now, too. The opening interlude and the instrumental passages here recall guitarist Peter Walker in contemplation—sharp, deliberate, suggestive in its minimalism—and, well, that’s Cohen’s voice, too, except for the sharp part. She’s more agile than Baier but just as direct, and when she lattices her vocals on songs like “Buzzard Gulch Well” or closer “Glass,” you’ll think of Linda Perhacs, too. Unmoored By The Wind is a funny name for this album, since the music here is anything but flying wild and frightened free—instead, the photo on the back is a better tell, with silhouettes of mountains split by sky and empty space. But maybe the title means the state of mind: as she sings on “Nature’s Gift,” “I was staring at these windows for hours … I was just looking for a sign.”

PEG LEG LOVE Until The Night Time Death Records Great sound / heavy vibes from this L.A. trio who soldier forth with what you might call dark (as in “was the night, cold was the ground”) punk that spills forth from the same primordial source as the Gun Club, the Cramps, the Swampland Scientists and the Birthday Party, who get respects paid here with two ferocious covers. Singer/guitarist Ilir (who has been leading this band since ever) seems like he’s way into Jeffrey Lee Pierce and maybe wants to sing like Ian Curtis, but it turns into a Dave Vanian circa-Machine Gun Etiquette voice: theatrical, yeah, but tough, too. Opener “Captive” is the brightest track here—sounds like Zounds gone just a little goth, with whipcrack drums from the wrecker J. Explosive and guitar reverbed to the point of ricochet. From there, though, it just gets darker. Another stormer: next track “Black ONE REPORTER


Widow.” A viber: “Until The Night Time,” hauled fresh from that “Swampland.” And a closing-credits bummer: “We Never Existed,” which answers the Weirdos song with monster-movie organ and an unhappy ending as Ilir explains how he “was dead before I was born.” But the cover’s got ships at sea beset by angels blowing storms, and the insert’s got skeletons getting drunk, so lemme say I figured that was where we were going along.

THE SHRINE

“Waiting For The War” 12” Tankcrimes Acid-punk Venice Beach magic-power trio the Shrine cover French obscurite de anne pastoire Soggy, whose heavy metalloid “Waiting For The War” rocketed to pocket international fame thanks to an amazing circa 1980 shirtless video in front of a psychedelic greenscreen, and also because it ripped like undiscovered hype records too seldom rip. The original: NWOBHM via the High Time MC5. The Shrine version? Well, there’s two. The regular: Shrine-d the fuck up, with some wasted-spaceman reverb on Josh’s vocals and a nice wipe of SST/Media Arts-grit across the instruments, an outro that sounds like something from Black Flag circa ’82 and a lot more added chances to scream / shred. (Estimate: like 30% more of each. Bonus: clocks in just over 4:20) This is such a natural cover for them that Soggy might as well sign over the pink slip. Instrumental on the flip is just shameless—what do you think? Solos to the event horizon. B-side “Rare Breed” has one of those descending-staircase Maiden-style riffs and an outta-nowhere break where the bottom of the song falls out. If not an outtake from album Bless Off, it would’ve fit there nicely.

UNCONSCIOUS COLLECTIVE Pliestocene Moon 2XLP Tofu Carnage Texas instrumental free-jazz trio concept piece about the anthropogenic destruction of the world. Or I think that’s what this is, and I know I’m at least 2/3rds right. Pliestocene starts with like coyote howls—they’ll survive whatever’s coming, they’re letting us know— and then the Unconscious Collective wakes and howls back with an opening song that sounds like Dub Housing Pere Ubu getting heavy with Miles Davis’ Rated X. And this is the gentle one. “Tribe Apini” introduces shock instances of Greg Ginn-style electric guitar self-harm and Moon rises from there, grasping at Mahavishnu Orchestra on its way to a Sonny Sharrock Monkey-Pockie Boo blastoff on “Methane Rising.” (Naturally—that is of course the point of no return.) There’s false respite somewhere in there and then the grinding halt with “Greedy Tongues,” where nothing but machinery is still at work. Percussion on the drum rims and stands, processed guitar—or something—that’s beyond all recognition. In the end, artificial appetites are all that’s left. Good job, I learned something. The packaging on this is beyond superlative—it’s a museum piece, really—but I wanted to make sure these guys got some lines on the music, too. ONE REPORTER

ARIEL PINK Ariel Pink’s newest album pom pom (4AD) is two LPs of Zappa-doing-Fowleydoing-Bowie why-the-fuck-not rock with zero adult supervision. Besides hospitalpenned lyrics by Fowley, he’s got unpredictable input of all types from Don Bolles, L.A. impresario of the utmost notability, as well as a support from likely every still-fighting member of the L.A. freak scene. He talks with us now to assure us that he’s still Ariel Pink. This interview by Chris Ziegler. Are you actually turning into Kim Fowley? ‘Sexual Athletics’ is credited to you, but it sounds like … him. It’s my best impersonation of Kim. It worried me. I saw a photo of you with ‘70s Kim bangs and wondered if he was doing a soul transfer to a fresh new vessel. In so many ways, dude! Down to the weird controversy … me presiding over all this … if I’m not Kim Fowley now, I will be after the whole record cycle. I could not hope to equal the powerhouse force of inspiration that is Kim Fowley by any stretch of the imagination. But I can somehow have a diluted sort of … this is really to the core of what I’m always going on about. If I could just freezeframe time and actually NOT change, not do anything and stand still and preserve some of history’s moments just for the sake of doing something different, rather than doing the usual, that would be an accomplishment. In terms of physics, that’s the hardest possible thing to do. You’re standing alone against the forces of time and entropy. There’s all these forces for change everywhere and everyone’s always talking about it. There’s no need to try for change—why don’t you stop and sit down for a second and harness your thoughts on a single thought for more than five seconds and think before you do it? It’s amazing what you can accomplish. Especially nowadays! There’s sort of an usurping—or dethroning of authority of some sort. We’re poised here with the Internet and the social media stuff which is the domain of the younger generation, and they rule it with an iron fist. We’re right there in the middle! The forgotten generation. We still use our hands and our tools, but we’re discarded in some way. We’re not making movies like we used to. And there’s not that many of us! There’s baby boomers who still buy everything even though they’re 60 or 70, and there’s a whole shitload of millennials around now. There weren’t very many of us. We’re not very materialistic, as far as generations are concerned, but millennials … I pray for them. And I don’t know if it’s helping! We’ll be like interesting relics of the olden times. Not really! Maybe? If we’re seen as anything worthwhile! I could see them collecting us like they would a discarded dungheap on the side of the road. If they don’t preserve the idea of history … I’m sure everybody over 60 years old is like ‘Get me out of this place as

soon as possible … before they drag me into the street for things I said in 1967, and girls I fucked …’ Whatever! I’m a nice guy! I don’t strike an imposing figure. Maybe online, where I seem a little more caustic and intimidating. The Wizard of Oz! This tiny little top hat dude behind the whole scene. How did you communicate what you wanted for this record to Don Bolles? I DJed a Fancy Space People show and he was playing every guitar solo off my records note-for-note during warm-up, so I assume he knows almost everything in or around rock. Don is the archduke muse on this whole record. The guy’s really special, and we’ve all known this forever. He’s a personal hero of mine. The Germs are my favorite band ever. L.A.’s finest. I saw him at FYF Fest not like two years ago. So Don sauntered up to me like, ‘Hey! What’s going on? I got a new set of shiny whites!’ And flashed me his new smile. It seemed like he was doing really good. And when it was time to record the new record … he essentially bullied his way in. I would have loved to have been in a band with him, but I wouldn’t have considered it prior to this episode. He really had the wherewithal and the drive to really push me and push at me … ‘I really really wanna work on this record, man!’ ‘Yeah, yeah, of course!’ I sorta dragged my feet the way I do, but he’s one of the most restless people ever so he pushed it and with Kim Fowley on the other side also pushing it— You, Don and Kim—that is some set of dudes. Don will say his icon is Kim Fowley. I think they both have an appreciation for ambition in music. It’s something you wouldn’t necessarily have thought when you think of them. We’ve been in a misanthropic shooting-ourselves-in-the-foot kind of age, where we despair about the current state of the music industry and don’t have too many promising things to invest in. For people like them, I think they were probably resisting the idea that time might have passed them by. I’m just happy to be a conduit to helping these guys get a new lease on life. Don is particular is definitely my guru. He definitely has a guru-esque hat. That hat is legendary. He’d float into the ether if you took it off. It’s a weird halo. A hairy halo? The hairy halo of entropy that keeps him squashed and earthly in this demonic realm. His interest and enthusiasm in the whole thing was the Popeye spinach that got me excited about making

a record again. He’s all over the record. I get a real kick out of it. The ages flow through him. You’re collapsing all these generations of music into one record. It’s fast forward! A petri dish where an ecosystem flourishes. What was left off this record? Is there anything that just wouldn’t fit? No—there is none of that. The record only came about because I got word from 4AD that if I had any intention of releasing this record this year, I’d have to turn in whatever I had in the next three weeks. So I made the executive decision to say, ‘OK, guys! Enough fun!’ I would have been totally happy just recording and never releasing the thing. And never sort of sitting down and creating new stuff. Not even a month before, I was like, ‘I’d be happy if I never released this.’ But we ended up taking all the things we’d amassed and set them on the fast track to close all those loose ends and use everything we did. We spent nine months doing it in my off time at various stages with various people at various time, and nobody really involved at all times except for me. If you want filler, there’s my entire back catalog. It’s pretty focused. It’s not as drastic as Sandinista!. No, but it is a little Willy Wonka. It has a weird winding through … it’s like the Secret of NIMH. A ouvre or overture— Did any lab rats have to die? In metaphorical form. A lot of Chinese food was eaten and a lot of animals perished. And a lot of kales were consumed. Don had to have a smoothie every fucking morning. We had a big talk about Phil Ochs once before. How close are you to covering his ‘Love Me I’m A Liberal’? Funny—I’ll probably be doing ‘Rehearsals for Retirement’ before that one. There’s a backward trajectory here. We wanna die as an orgasm! And spend our retirement in kindergarten. Look forward to the past. The future is behind us! And spend the rest of our lives being a premonition. ARIEL PINK’S pom pom is AVAILABLE NOW FROM 4AD. 61


is a dark quality that seems to summon the sounds of Shocking Blue, and a sweetness there that is almost sinister. Then when Kelley sings— such as on the opener “Jupiter in a Bottle”—his voice is heavy and raspy and that makes the songs a little abrasive … but mixed with the faster paced melodic tune, it blends nicely. The mix between the two singing styles gives the album an up and down quality that strangely works—a rollercoaster ride through the minds behind this talented 3-piece. —Zachary Jensen

DUS T’

SPACESHIPS self-titled EP New Professor

Four new songs from L.A. guitar/ drums duo Spaceships, now dialing down the noise and discovering their own pop songs. Like Wavves or (the early in-the-red) Best Coast, Spaceships are all about the ocean as both state of mind and sense for production, so if they sing about the beach, they’re gonna make it sound like the waves are crashing right into the tape recorder. But this EP is like see-through clear compared to their blown-out (but lovely in moments, like “New Wishing” and “Limit”) album from last year. Stand-out is “Washed Out” with a slo-mo tempo and bubblegum chord progression that both fits and flatters guitarist/ singer Jessie Waite’s voice and drummer Kevin LaRose’s style. The result is a Muffs-y kiss-off with a love-it-or-shove-it hook. “Boys” hits the same space but faster and harder; here and in this EP’s best moments, Spaceships are figuring out an interesting concept of popbut-sorta-not that’s something between the Leave Home Ramones and like … the Adolescents’ blue album? Or the Weezer blue album? Or something where they make sure to never pick the easy way (cheesy way) through the song, even if that means they sometimes get hung up on those high notes. Another forward move from a band that’s always moving forward. Keep sending the records! —Chris Ziegler 62

COURTESY ARTIST

VINCE STAPLES Hell Can Wait Def Jam

Vince Staples’ Hell Can Wait is what happens when hyperlocal hip-hop meets mainstream’s production masters—12 well-spat songs that give block-by-block run downs of North Long Beach’s social misgivings atop New York City beats fit for Jay-Z. And frankly, it’s about time. Since collaborating with several of the more low-maintenance members of Odd Future and releasing his first own solo mixtape, Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1, in 2011, Staples has been a powerful-yet-underappreciated voice in contemporary hip-hop. But until now he’s never really received the production value that his harrowing anti-gangster gangster rap deserves. On Hell Can Wait, his Def Jam debut, however, Staples’ nonchalant retellings of gang shootings (“65 Hunnid”), tales of poverty-stricken youth (“Screen Door”) and harrowing first-person accounts of parental drug use and police racism (“Hands Up”) are backed up by wailing trumpets, hifi sirens and sludgy industrial breaks made for him by big-money names like Anthony Kilhoffer, No. I.D., Hagler and Infamous. With the same producers as Kanye, Drake, and Lil Wayne behind him, Staples’ reality-driven (“It’s not conscious,” he says) songs finally have the headbobbing prowess needed to reach wider audiences and put reality (and Long Beach) back on the rap map. —Sarah Bennett

Hailing from Long Beach, Sterile Jets, plays an aggressive and inyour-face style of music that celebrates the degeneracy and poetics that life can sometimes bring all at once. Still, Sterile Jets are one of those bands that are slightly hard to define. While heavily influenced by early punk rock, there is some metal, math rock, and no-wave elements that come into play, resulting in a familiar sound that still offers enough individuality to sound somewhat new. Liquor Store is an exploration into the themes of boozing and losing, love (or a lack there of ) and general angst and desperation of life, presented to the listener in a myriad of ways. Opening track “To the Bars” starts out with a very no-wave almost artrock like drumbeat and a simple guitar strum, then quickly twists into a punk rock alcohol anthem with extremely distorted bass lines and abrasive vocals, and then returns to its experimental elements as it closes. Other tracks like “Bender. Day 15” and “Alt Rock is a Coma” stay more sonically stable, with the first heavily steeped in punk rock and the latter more dirty and metal-influenced. The experimentation can be a little jarring at times, giving the listener their own case of the drunken spins. But regardless of the different musical directions the songs take, there is a grittiness throughout that gives this album its own deep cohesion. —Zachary Jensen

STERILE JETS Liquor Store self-released

COURTESY ARTIST

THEE COMMONS

Rock is Dead: Long Live Paper and Scissors self-released

JARED PITTACK

TALK IN TONGUES

“Still Don’t Seem to Care” 7” Fairfax Records

DUS T’

been hyped by Vice (“your new favorite psych-rock band”) and that their agent hopes to one day hear their songs blast from the Coachella main stage speakers at midnight. The song is a capable enough melding of slick indie rock sensibilities and glossy psych-rock flair – the kind of marriage of styles that may indeed win them legions of adoring fans worldwide, especially after their debut album releases early next year. For those who take psych-rock seriously, the word ‘wimpy’ will most likely spring to mind after listening to the song three or four times. Talk in Tongues count the Thirteenth Floor Elevators and 60s Pink Floyd among their influences, but you’d be hard-pressed to hear any of Roky Erickson’s wild grit or Syd Barrett’s experimental lunacy in this track. It shimmers and sparkles like a Disneyland river, but it sounds more like Tears for Fears than anything resembling rock ‘n’ roll. —Jason Gelt

This sunny Los Angeles four-piece has apparently caused quite a stir on the interwebs with its debut digitalonly single, “Still Don’t Seem To Care.” With dreamy, swirling guitars, soaring falsetto vocals, a glittery mid-song breakdown, and a deliberately abrupt conclusion that shuts the song off like a slammed door, it’s no wonder Talk in Tongues have

Rock is Dead: Long Live Paper and Scissors is a comprehensive anthology containing 20 tracks handpicked from East L.A. band Thee Commons’ nine EP discography. For the first time in their relatively short (but extremely prolific) tenure as a band, they’ve released a compilation that brings together the best of the best from all of their minivolumes into one CD, chronicling their growth as musicians and tracking the various influences that have shaped their unique style along the way. Here, they bring together a very diverse array of elements including 60’s-era garage riffs, strong surf-guitar melodies, cumbia rhythms and vocals heavy with retro-Latino flair. “Mal Por Bien” is one of my personal favorites, along with “Y Tu,” both of which are more traditional sounding. “Avispa Del Amor” is a Latin adaptation of Shocking Blue’s “Love Buzz” that seeks to bridge the original with Nirvana’s version.

“Selena Punk” features Los Saicosesque vocals and is very catchy with a Los Detestellos type of vibe. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any more interesting, they’ve also included their elusive Volume VI: a radio novela in the spirit of the a 1920s radio show that aired on KXLU and KPFK but was never released on CD, LP, or digital download. —Desi Ambrozak

YACHT

WALT GORECKI!

Where Does This Disco EP Downtown “Where does this disc go? Ain’t rock roll, ain’t disco,” Claire L. Evans sings, not only omitting the “n” but evoking the image of a flummoxed record store employee struggling to make sense of YACHT’s new EP. Meanwhile, in real life, there are only 500 physical copies of this thing and everyone’s pretty comfortable with the idea of those two genres mixing. Nonetheless, she paints a fun picture. “Where Does This Disco?” comes at the end of a year in which Evans and Jona Bechtolt have gotten lots of attention for reasons other than how good they are at music—they released an excellent smartphone app called 5 Every Day that tells users about 35 cool things to do in L.A. every single week, partnered with an eyewear company to release a collection of designer sunglasses, and soundtracked a Google Chromecast ad. (And while that commercial includes “Works Like Magic,” it also reduces the song to its Zapp & Roger-esque hook in a manner that belies the complex and funky nature of the full version that appears here.) But the music IS good. Along with “Terminal Beach,” a midtempo rock song that sounds like 80s girl power pop but with angular guitars and truly bizarre background vocals, “Works Like Magic” makes the remainder of this four-song offering worth adding to the online playlist you have that already includes the title track. Of course that’s how you listen to music, which is why it really doesn’t matter where the disc goes anyway. —Geoff Geis ALBUM REVIEWS


LIVE PHOTOS WINTER 2014 Meg Meyers September 2014 The Troubadour

MS MR November 2014 The Roxy

CORTNEY ARMITAGE

DEBI DEL GRANDE

King Tuff November 2014 El Rey

Daniel Lanois October 2014 La Bella Vista

DAVID VALERA

DEBI DEL GRANDE

The Moth and the Flame October 2014 Club Nokia

No Silver Bird October 2014 Pappy and Harriet’s

MAXIMILIAN HO

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ONLINE PHOTO EDITOR DEBI DEL GRANDE

CORTNEY ARMITAGE

LIVE PHOTOS


The Bixby Knolls October 2014 Pappy and Harriet’s

King Tuff November 2014 El Rey

DEBI DEL GRANDE

Nick Waterhouse October 2014 Mayan Theater

MAXIMILIAN HO

Lou Man Group October 2014 The Fonda Theater

CORTNEY ARMITAGE

La Sera November 2014 El Rey

DAVID VALERA

Young the Giant November 2014 BArker Hangar

CORTNEY ARMITAGE

LIVE PHOTOS

DEBI DEL GRANDE

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EVIL SPIRIT ENGINEERING Interview by Frankie Alvaro and Kristina Benson Photography by Ward Robinson Michael Barragan and his Evil Spirit Engineering build and restore custom bikes that look like that they came off the set of Easy Rider—even though they might have once been sitting patiently as a pile of parts under some dirty tarps for longer than he’s been alive. He recently won recognition at the Born Free Fest for a bike brought to light by what he calls the bike-building gods, and he talks with us now about music, motorcycles and how he hopes the industry is going to belong to the people again. How long does it take you to build a bike? Like the one in the Born Free builder competition a couple years back. That bike for Born Free, we did in about four months. That‘47 knuckle was what they call a ‘basket case.’ And that basically means ‘completely disassembled motorcycle.’ There are different levels of basket cases. This particular one was disassembled as far as you can take a bike apart. It was mismatched, it was incomplete, and the engine was mixed up—it had two rear heads instead of a front and a rear head. And I ended up building the motorcycle with two rear heads. I’m one of those people like, ‘Oh, it’s a sign! The bike-building gods want me to build a motorcycle with two rear heads on a ‘47 knuckle, and that’s what why they gave it to me in this state.’ I bought it from a friend when we got talking about building my next motorcycle. He told me he had a knuckle and within two sentences I told him I’d take it. How far would you go for the perfect part? I bought that bike in Japan. The guy I just mentioned, Dean—him and I are pretty good friends and we just hunt for them. He’ll call me in the middle of the night and say, ‘Hey man, I gotta go look at this ‘32 coupe in Oakland tomorrow—will you come with me?’ And I’ll jump in the car and we’re on our way to Oakland, which becomes an all day trip with us smoking and drinking and listening— we’re both musicians, you know—so we’re just listening to really cool tunes on our way up to Oakland and talking about music and building motorcycles and building cars. I mean, that’s just fun. I bought a ‘34 Ford Coupe and I got it just outside of New York through a newspaper—from an old man out there. I think [the guy I bought it from] was the second owner, but I have the title with the original owner’s name on it. I think he bought it from the original owner and never registered it. It was completely in pieces. I still have it in my shop. My friend who lived in New York drove to go see it for me and said, ‘It’s good.’ I bought it sight unseen—spent like fifteen grand. This whole thing is a labor of love. It started as a hobby. I do this for a living now, but I did music first. I played in a band called Plexi in the 90s. We were signed to Sub Pop records and got transferred to Atlantic and toured and did great— it was awesome. When I would come home from tour, I would play with cars and motorcycles. I had this fascination with American 50 and 60s hot rods, which actually started with motorcycles a little bit, and it went back and forth. When I got out of high school and I couldn’t get into a rock ‘n’ roll band, I just CRAFT/WORK

bought a Harley. The next best thing. If you can’t get a rock ‘n’ roll band, just get a Harley. I mean—why do you want to be in a rock ‘n’ roll band? Why do you play a guitar? Why do you wear your guitar low and grow your hair long? It’s more than looks cool. It feels cool, it sounds cool. It’s Easy Rider. It’s tough to imagine Easy Rider without motorcycles. Even if I think of the Who and the thing they were doing in England—their scene was on mopeds, you know? But there was some type of shit about that, you know? It’s just collecting stuff. It’s just mechanical stuff. Like being in the wind. Technically, you’re in the wind. If you’re in the wind, you’re in the wind. If you’re on a dirt bike or a moped, on a Harley on a Honda, it doesn’t really matter. I’m very specific to Harley Davidson on some level, but I can also just appreciate the freedom within all of it. All these vehicles, or even just American Graffiti … it’s just cars. It’s just learning how to make them run and keep them moving. I build bikes for people sometimes who are like, ‘Hey, we want that bike—when is that bike going to be done? How long is it going to take?’ Sometimes I look at them and go, ‘You’re missing all the fun.’ It’s great to ride—I love riding—but sometimes the fun is the creation. Or just keeping it running. What kinds of mistakes did you make when you first started building bikes? I don’t think any of the motorcycles I’ve built had mistakes. Because of the learning part—I wouldn’t call it a mistake. There was so much experience gained. I guess one of the mistakes when I was like, ‘Holy shit! I just spent a ton of money.’ I mean … yeah, I’d love to have a car right now—a ‘31 Ford that I put on the drag strip every once in a while. You race it? They’re such beautiful cars—is part of you afraid the car will get wrecked? Yeah—yeah, even selling it is the same thing. I think of selling and I’m like, ‘No, I’m just going to park it.’ Or: ‘Oh, I can build it again,’ I’ll build the ‘34, and I’m like … it took me so long to build this ‘31—could I do that again? It seems like a lifetime. I can build for customers quickly, but when I’m building for me, it seems to take so much time. Because you want it exactly how you want it—because you can. Right—yeah. Are you teaching your kids to work on cars? Yeah—they kinda do what they want. They’re just little kids, but we play with Legos and we use their imagination to build, just like I do at work. My daughter … she loves my race car

and she loves to drive and ride in it. She knows I built it. I told my son we’ll build his car. Has the culture changed since you got into it? You know how fashion changes, and then changes back? I’ve seen it do that. When I first moved back to Los Angeles—coming here to play music when I was 17 or 18—I arrived and struggled getting into a band and ended up getting a Harley. The place was loaded with Harleys. The Sunset Strip is filled with them. Were they vintage? Or were they new? I think at the time the brand new bike was the Softail. The Evolution motor had just come out for Harley Davidson, so that was a new switch. And there were of course the guys who had the bikes built—when I got my Harley, I got my first shovel in it and I really worked on it and I got it for $2500 and it was a 1978 … it was the coolest chopper ever and it was built by somebody in the 70s. An old custom, but I was currently riding it. There was a bunch of young people—it was really free. It just seemed like the people owned the motorcycle industry. Almost like rock ‘n’ roll. You know when you have a bunch of bands and it just feels like it belongs to the people and then TV gets involved and the media gets involved and they take it? And it’s not the people’s anymore and you’re like … what happened to my fuckin’ punk rock? That’s how motorcycles were when I got here. I was a part of something that was just starting that nobody fucking knew about, but everybody knew about. We were having a fucking blast, we were driving everywhere—it’s all we’d ever do. I didn’t even need any money, and I didn’t have any. The guy who sold me the bike for $2500 was taking payments. And my friends looked at me … when I’d say I didn’t have any money they’d put the $2 in my gas tank that it took for me to ride all day. Then we’d go to the restaurant and we’d know the waitress and eat for free. We’d do this all week long—over and over and over, up and down the Sunset Strip with different passengers on the back. It was unbelievable. At that moment, motorcycles replaced music for me. Because I couldn’t get in a band, so the motorcycles replaced music for me. But as soon as I started riding, a band took me away from my motorcycle. It’s the same way when you get a girlfriend when you’re not looking. Here she comes! So I had this whole life of music and [then] I stopped playing again. I immersed myself in motorcycles and now I’m doing both at the same time. When I first started riding, it belonged to the people. And as it progressed and grew, it became so popular and things became very expensive and

you know—you needed to have motorcycle builders and builders were the ones building bikes for people. Builders weren’t building bikes for people when I was on a bike. It was a guy in a garage. There was way more people building bikes for themselves and it seems like what happens now—and what Born Free represents—is builders building motorcycles. People build motorcycles for themselves. You mentioned Born Free so you must realize the mass amount of people at that show? 20 or 30,000 people at that show. To me that’s the people taking the bikes back from Harley. And guess what? Harley was there because we took it back. They were like, ‘Hey, wait a minute— what are you doing? Can we be a part of it?’ I think a lot of that is because they are trying to pay attention to what the youth is doing. They kind of snubbed everybody. Guys drove their bikes from New York City to California and their bikes were pieces of shit—just thrown together by them and their buddies on borrowed money—but what they lack in flash, they have in heart. That to me is what it is all built on. I showed up around 17 or 18, which was like late 80s or early 90s—but if you rewind to like 1969 and 1970, that’s what was happening. Bikers were riding bikes and guys were coming out of the military, and it was a different type of rock ‘n’ roll happening but it was still music and motorcycles and you couldn’t tell— like are you a biker or a rocker? What are you? Where does your inspiration come from when you build a bike? I build motorcycles like I make music. I look at every bike almost like it’s a song, you know? Like you build a song and it’s like … it’s upbeat, fast, it’s kinda like angry and you’ll use your anger and it’s the same thing. You just look at it and you know that’s the feeling you want to evoke. The only difference is that I get to build these things for customers. For people, which is pretty interesting to do because I have to get the thing I want selfishly—which is to get my part in the bike. It’s like you’re collaborating, like you’re in a band again. To get my sound on there. But then I have to make it really fit them like a custom pair of jeans. And when I go down the street with three or four or five of these guys I look over and I’m like, ‘Wow, this is insane—it’s so cool to watch these guys tooling around on things I’ve created.’ I love what I do, I really do. I’ve told my son that: ‘You’ll never work a day in your life if you love it.’ VISIT MICHAEL BARRAGAN AND EVIL SPIRIT ENGINEERING AT EVILSPIRITENGINEERING.COM. 67


PULP: AFILMABOUTLIFE, DEATH,ANDSUPERMARKETS Interview by Rin Kelly Illustration by Jared Pittack

Pulp began in post-industrial Sheffield—Jarvis Cocker’s steel city of cooling towers, deserted factories, “pudgy 15-year-olds addicted to coffee whitener, courting couples naked on Northern Upholstery, and pensioners gathering dust like bowls of plastic tulips.” Filmmaker Florian Habicht’s career began to take off after Milli Vanilli appeared to him as angels in a dream, desperate to confess that they were only miming along to their music, ultimately inspiring his out-of-sync, out-of-its-mind musical, Woodenhead. Paired together, Cocker and Habicht dreamed up Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets, a documentary full of commoners singing and dancing to Pulp, some choreographed, some spontaneous, some screaming ecstatically at the band’s 2012 hometown show. Where other rock docs would have talking heads, Habicht’s film has Sheffielders talking about themselves and about their city—even the film’s poster skips the band altogether in favor of a pair of elderly ladies with scarves knotted at their chins just so. It’s a film about Pulp, but it’s the story as Cocker wants to tell it: with both concert footage and footage of him re-enacting a dream about changing a tire. Habicht talks about knife-making, nut allergies, and Jarvis Cocker’s favorite bus stop. This movie began with you deciding to invite Jarvis Cocker, whom you’d never met, to the London Film Festival screening of your prior movie Love Story. Why did you pick him out of everyone on Earth? Florian Habicht (director): Freddie Mercury’s not alive anymore. I would have invited him as well. I invited some friends too, but I don’t know too many people in London and Pulp are one of my favorite bands. I thought they might like the film. And Jarvis did like it to the extent that he wanted to make a film with you. What was it about that prior film and the aesthetic you have that fit so well, that made him— for the first time—actually want to see a Pulp documentary made? It was unconventional. He didn’t want to have a conventional film about Pulp. He thought I was an interesting filmmaker, and he he also liked that I was a bit risky. In Love Story I put myself in situations like jumping into a taxi with strangers and filming them. I also gave him some cake. Red velvet cake. Love Story tells a fictional story but also has you on the streets of New York asking real people what should happen next in the fictional story—like a Choose Your Own Adventure movie driven by strangers. So in that spirit: What should I ask you first? You can ask me what I had for breakfast. 68

What did you have for breakfast? I had coffee and lebkuchen. It’s like a big biscuit—it’s like traditional German Christmas food. In Sheffield I always asked people what they had for breakfast, and the replies I got were amazing. I can’t believe they’re not in the film. It tells you a lot about a person straight away. The film is full of ordinary people who eat remarkable breakfasts. Why did you and Jarvis Cocker decide to make ordinary lives of ordinary people your subject? We don’t find them ordinary. We kind of find them extraordinary. Rather than having the thirty millionth talking-head interview with Thurston Moore you had people just living. Why is that right for a film about Pulp? I don’t find Pulp a pretentious band; they’re not this kind of huge force, and for me it felt more appropriate interviewing real people rather than celebrities. I went to Jarvis Cocker’s birthday party in London a year ago and for some reason I thought, ‘Oh, this is going to be like a venue full of celebrities.’ And when I got there I was really pleasantly surprised. It was all kinds of real people and artists and musicians. But it wasn’t what you expect. They’re quite real people. Jarvis says in the film that fame didn’t agree with him. He compares it to a nut allergy.

I was on the airplane just like a day after we put that on the film—I was on the plane and we had to have an emergency landing because a girl had a nut allergy. Fame kills! But it also inspires people like one of your most memorably awesome commoners, faux-fur-and-lipstick Bomer, who once broke out of a mental hospital so that he could listen to Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service [on BBC Radio}. Yeah! What else did you ask people—sometimes people who had never even heard Pulp— other than what they’d eaten that day? If they believed in an afterlife. I was asking people outside the ladies’ toilets while the concert was going on. I got some beautiful responses but they’re not in the film. You can put them on the DVD: Pulp, Death, and Breakfast. And details of the lyrical ties to Sheffield: Jarvis gave you a book of his lyrics with various things underlined and with notes in the margins, a guide to the kinds of things and the places he thought got to the essence of things. We met up at a café in London and had flat whites, which is a New Zealand coffee. It’s like a cappuccino without the foam, and it’s a lot stronger. He went through the book, which is great because you realize how great the lyrics are—like stories. But he was underlining

things and scribbling down comments; that was my little guide. There was a bus shelter he really wanted me to see. I remember arriving at this bus shelter in the rain. There was like no one there but I figured something must have happened to him there. Jarvis thought it was like I was being dropped from a helicopter without a map. Are there key things about Jarvis Cocker and Pulp that non-Brits can’t entirely get if they don’t know Sheffield and the North? If they’ve never heard of ‘Oop North’? It’s just that understated thing—that something can be really amazing and people will say, ‘Eh, it was alright.’ When the band watched Love Story, for example, they weren’t like, ‘Yeah, this is a great film!’ I actually didn’t know if they liked it. That kind of Sheffield thing. Americans are kind of the opposite. When I made Love Story in New York, I had this little device where I wore pink pants. Holding a camera in New York City wearing pink pants, I was like a magnet for people, for interesting, great characters. I met so many people like that and filmed them, interviewed them, whereas I tried that technique in Sheffield, wearing pink pants, and people stayed a mile away from me. ‘Who’s this freak with a New Zealand accent, tall guy wearing pink pants?’ It didn’t work. FILM


There are people who think songs like ‘Help the Aged’ are sardonic and nothing but, that it’s exclusively a mean-streak aesthetic like Mark E. Smith’s—then you see Jarvis Cocker talking and see the approach you guys take in the film. It’s probably a revelation for people that there’s real affection there. That wasn’t a surprise to me, but definitely. That take on the band is similar to the take people who really like the mocking, Roger and Me documentary aesthetic seem to have on any documentary that features regular people as the heroes of life. Someone wrote in a review that the elderly ladies are clearly actresses. What? They don’t get more real! You have a lot of elderly people—elderly Sheffielders going about their lives—for a music documentary. Aging is a theme but you approach it from a completely different direction. I have this side of me, and I don’t know if it was my marketing brain or what, but I keep thinking it’s going to have this young energy—it’s got to appeal to young people because it’s a music film. But it wasn’t actually honest. They’re an older band. They’re actually not together anymore, all these things. And I’m going to embrace these things. That’s why you see the two elderly ladies on the poster and not Pulp, not a sexy young Jarvis in his twenties. In a way, it’s quite un-rock-n-roll, having old-age pensioners singing in a café. Old people are necessary to the portrait of the city—it’s a portrait of the city in a lot of ways. When I met Jarvis that first time, when we said goodbye to each other, that café is in the Curzon Cinema in Soho, in London, and we were about to exit the door and I opened the door and there was like a whole clump of pensioners, like fifteen or twenty people, and it was quite beautiful. Just waiting to get through the door—it must have been a sign. The movie has these wonderful staged performances where a group of elderly people in a cafeteria sing ‘Help the Aged,’ where a women’s choir performs Pulp, where a youth dance troupe performs to them. Why did you guys choose those over including more concert or archival footage? In the beginning I didn’t want there to be any archive, and that was because I wanted to make the film in the now and not be like a retrospective look at Pulp when they were young. And to also look at the theme of aging, getting older, that kind of thing. The only reason that archive footage ended up in there was because Jarvis gave me these VHS tapes and one of them had this concert that didn’t work out, the one where they tried to make it snow. And the fact that they made it snow indoors was kind of a nice story. Where they were trying to make the fake snow flurry with a hairdryer. When I met Steve Mackey, the bass player, he told me that what they love about concerts is that they’re such communal events and they bring people together—and for me that’s what I find magical about music is that it can bring people together. One of the things I like exploring in the film is the power of music, bringing all these different 70

types of people together, and that’s why I wanted to get people to perform versions of Pulp songs like ‘Common People.’ I love karaoke myself. I know Jarvis likes karaoke as well. Did you collaboratively come up with this idea that you were going to have a youth troupe dancing to ‘Common People’ or elderly people sitting around in a cafeteria singing about being elderly? That was my idea, and I made a documentary before, a fishing documentary in New Zealand, where I got the fishermen to do musical numbers—so I had it up my sleeve. It’s also a thing that Pulp do because I think they once had people covering Pulp songs in a contest or something. It’s been in both of our vocabularies; we’ve both done it before. Is that earlier movie the one that was inspired by a dream where Milli Vanilli came to you as angels to tell you that their music is all lip-synced? That’s an earlier film! That was a musical too. If I was ever going to make a biopic film, a real proper biopic, I think the story of Milli Vanilli fascinates me. Did they have wings? They did, and they were spotlit in a rugby field, at night in an empty rugby field. Something really crucial to the film is that you don’t play the regular people’s interviews or the song-and-dance numbers for irony—you don’t go for that sneering sort of distance from the subject that’s so predictable in a lot of contemporary documentaries. Was it ever hard to get the tone just right? That comes a bit naturally. It’s from the heart, and I’m not really into irony. If I wear something in bad taste it’s because I think it looks beautiful. I’m not wearing it because I think it’s cool. Were there any particularly awesome staged performances that you cooked up but couldn’t end up doing? There was one with an older dancer doing a private dance on a bed to the song ‘Live Bed Show.’ The band weren’t too keen on it. They didn’t think it was appropriate. Do Pulp really sponsor a kids’ soccer team? With shirts and everything, funded by Pulp? Nick Banks, the drummer, his daughter is on the team—they played the morning of the concert and he seemed to be more nervous about the girls winning the game rather than the gig at night. There’s an amazing, documentarian’s dream guy in your film, a knife maker who’s made knives for Elvis’ band and for the Crickets. Sheffield is known for knife-making, but whythe hell did these guys need giant knives? How did he end up with a reputation that would draw the Crickets to him, thinking ‘We’re not leaving Britain without one of this guy’s knives? Embarassingly, I still don’t know why they need the knives. I guess they hang them on the wall, right? It’s still a mystery to me. PULP: A FILM ABOUT LIFE, DEATH & SUPERMARKETS IS AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL AND VIDEO ON DEMAND. MORE INFO AT PULPTHEFILM.COM.

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THE SOUNDS OF TWO EYES OPENING PHOTOGRAPHS BY SPOT1969-1982 Interview by Chris Ziegler Photography by Ramon Felix

Spot has his fingerprints all over punk, of course: he was the engineer with his hands on the boards at sessions for albums by the Descendents, the Fix, the Dicks, the Misfits and Black Flag. (And so many more, too.) But he’s also a preternatural musician—Henry Rollins says he’d stand in for Greg Ginn at the Damaged sessions, and pull it off effortlessly—and now with the release of his Sounds of Two Eyes Opening book, he’s revealed as a gifted street photographer. As punk and skating came into their own and old-school California beach towns slid into history, he was there with a camera on his hip. He speaks to us now from the offices of the Easy Reader, the venerable South Bay newspaper that had him doing music reviews way back when this whole thing was starting. Enjoy a small gallery of excerpts from the book after this interview. How did you end up in the South Bay in the first place? You’ve said Hermosa was a really special little town—why? I’ve always kind of missed Hermosa because that was … living there was actually the best time of my life. There was a time back in the beat area where there was like a network of coffee houses all around the country. I’ve talked a lot about the guys who were a part of that. In a way, it was kind of like the first internet. There were so many guys doing the On The Road thing. And traveling from town to town, all they had to do was say, ‘Oh yeah, Dave such and such or so and so did this …’ and everybody would find out what was happening clear across the country. Hermosa had one called… I think it was the Insomniac? That was like right down by the pier. It was practically across the street from the Lighthouse. You know, the jazz club. Right by the Mermaid. And of course it was always a surfing center so somehow surfing goons and beatnik goons were kind of part of this same time and space. A world of goons. So I don’t remember the first time I was ever in the South Bay but I remember Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach feeling like no other place in the L.A. area. And when I was a teenager, I was really interested in cars and girls and surfing. The California trifecta. Exactly. So Hermosa Beach was where me and my friends would choose to go when we could take a beach trip. We would go and fantasize and geek out and ask all kinds of stupid questions. And then go down to the beach and try to talk to girls and swim. There was a time when a friend of mine and I—we were big foosball players and there were a huge bunch of foosball tables. We would go and dominate them. Would you classify yourself as a foosball hustler here? Blowing into an unsuspecting town and foosing up other foosball players? BOOKS

No—we were in it for the fun. Maybe every once in a while we would play for beer or something, but mostly we were just fanatical about it. We never did it for money—we just wanted to do it to beat other people. So just for the pure foosballing. You weren’t a foosball shark. I was pretty good on defense and this other guy who was a slot machine mechanic from Las Vegas was real good on the front side. It’s interesting to me that your foosballing was so pure in motive. You kind of bring that same purity to a lot of your work and art. The pursuit of the thing instead of the profit from the thing. Where does that come from? It was probably just mostly from music. Everything is all about music, you know? And when I learned how to play music that’s all I wanted to do. Then there were all these other things that kind of came around that I based it all on. My parents weren’t crazy about rock ‘n’ roll. In fact, they didn’t even like it. They were from the whole big band era, so I grew up listening to a bunch of old big band. Count Basie, Ellington, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey. My parents loved jazz so there was always jazz playing in the house at a time when there was no such thing as FM rock, and AM radio was really good. To me, all music was really about the same thing. I hated it later when people started saying, ‘Oh, well that’s country.’ ‘Oh, well that’s rock ‘n’ roll.’ ‘Oh, well that’s jazz.’ I’m like, ‘Wait wait wait wait wait a minute!’ Listening to Johnny Cash gave me the same thrill as listening to John Coltrane! I just didn’t put any boundaries—I enjoyed it all. And there were other activities to do. I did a little bit of skateboarding back in the 60s. It was a very heavy time and there was just so many things in the 60s musically that blew the culture open and then unfortunately in the 70s they tried to nail it all back down. I resisted it being nailed down and kept looking for more ways to open it back up. How’d they nail it down? What do you mean?

In the the mid- to late 60s, there was a huge outbreak of different kinds of music opening up—the birth of freeform radio, and music had changed to where it wasn’t just your standard pop music format anymore. There were a lot of longer cuts, album cuts, concept albums ... different kinds of music that would never had been considered for pop radio or TV [before] came to the fore. But in the 70s freeform radio became formalized into the classic rock format that shoves the same old stuff at you incessantly. Actually in the 70s there were even more significant bands than there were in the 60s. But none ever made it to radio. Radio had locked down the format just to make money. I think kinda the same thing happened with film. Hollywood broke out into experimentation and lowbudget work where actors were willing to work for free just to work on work they liked and then that tightened up. So how did you resist? I refused to give up on the idea of experimentation in music. I just wanted to see music open things up rather than become formulas that were super marketable. In the 70s, at least where I was living, there were one or two freeform stations playing a lot of European prog rock and still playing a lot of good stuff. They didn’t have the best reception in the world—one was KNAC in Long Beach, I think. But then you really had to go and search for it. By that time most people didn’t want to put the effort into digging and a lot of drugged-out hippies from the 60s thought that once Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died there was nothing else good. And to me it wasn’t as interesting. I just wasn’t a fan of commercial stuff. I would consciously search out the interesting music. One thing that most people don’t know: in L.A. the early 70s, the country stations were playing a lot of really good stuff—Waylon Jennings, Tom T. Hall, guys that still had some guts. I listened to a lot of that when I couldn’t hear rock ‘n’ roll.

At one point in the book, you say you felt like the punk story has been told to death. And I really liked how the punk photos are just a part of the book—it’s presented as just another part of life, instead of the focus. Why did you want everything mixed together like that? Instead of just giving the world ‘Punk Photos by Spot’? I realized in the beginning that presenting one thing or another was just kind of boring and didn’t really tell the story. Before this book thing came up, I had been writing my story about all of the music stuff—going in depth about it—and I had planned on using a bunch of my own photos. And then I was realizing that a bunch of the stuff I was talking about, I hadn’t even been shooting pictures then … so I’m going to have to get photos from other people. And then to try to put all the skating stuff in there too? That’s just not going to belong—and just to try to tell a story about the skating stuff didn’t really have the universal appeal. I don’t really think for a photo book there’s really any way to make it be one thing or another. All of this stuff relates to all of the other stuff. The same thread is going through all the photos, whether a band, a shot of the pier, people hanging out—it even ends with the ‘Closed for Business’ sign. So what’s the connection? Is it the story of you hoping to open things up? You’re right about that very last photo. It took about two years to put the book together. Basically having lived with all the photos for so long, I really didn’t have any perspective any more on it. Those guys—Ryan Richardson, Johan Kugelberg, Bryan Cipolla … Ryan was the guy who instigated the whole project cuz he knew the photos and I hadn’t had much luck with getting anybody interested in doing anything. He showed Johan the stuff and we got all the negatives scanned and they made their choices and started throwing design passes at me. The first design pass really sucked. [laughs] I had to let them know, ‘You guys have got it all wrong.’ I remember there 75


was one design pass they threw at me and it was the one with that very last photo. When I got to that, I suddenly realized … okay, now it actually is starting to feel like what I lived. That photo was real significant to me. But when I was taking photos I didn’t plan anything—I just took the photos and jut made them. I knew what the connection was I could never verbalize it. I just took pictures of what was happening. Is this book more documentary, or more autobiography? I’m curious. It’s autobiographical in a way that I didn’t really expect it to be. I had a different idea of what I wanted the book to be, but I compromised a lot. Like a lot of the things they did, maybe I don’t really understand why they chose this photo or not. And a lot of my absolute favorite photos didn’t make it into the book and a lot of photos that I actually didn’t really care for made it in—but somehow after a while I realized, ‘Here’s a narrative that I never really counted on.’ I was satisfied in the end. There were a few things I had to fight tooth and nail for, but in the end it came out good. What made you want to put certain photos in? What kind of qualities? What kind of memories? There are some images that mean and meant a lot to me or just kind of sum up an idea that I don’t think anyone else could have or could have seen. A time and place thing. But also in the process I found a whole bunch of photos—photos that I didn’t realize how much they meant to me until they were just suddenly there. There might’ve been photos I was looking at for a long time, but it forced me to look at a lot of the stuff a lot more critically than I had ever done. And having some other people involved exposed some things that maybe I hadn’t thought of it or seen it in that way. It’s like … somebody added a chord to the opera. [laughs] So it kind of made you have to rework the libretto a little bit. I’ve always approached music from more of a … looser rather than more rigid standpoint. Even though I’ve gone both ways there. I love that photo with the girl with the broken arm and the L-shaped cast over her head. And the one with the girl skater standing toe-to-toe with the cop. That’s the same girl that’s on the cover. She seems like a bad-ass. Yeah, she was! Young and reckless. The funny thing about that photo … That cop was actually really cool. I mean, he looks like a bad-ass, too. Being a cop, he had to give some people tickets every once in a while. But he didn’t flinch at all when I started taking photos of him. A couple of months later, he saved my ass from going to jail. I had to use a friend’s car to drive to L.A. to pick up some recording supplies. One of the engineers threw the key: ‘Take my car!’ So, I’m driving up Pacific Coast Highway and the cop stops me. I didn’t know that the car was unregistered and was illegal. They’re convinced that I had stolen the car. They had their guns drawn on me. I mean, it was obvious—they’re taking me in. But that cop—a motorcycle cop—comes up at a perfect point and says, ‘Hey, isn’t that Spot there? He’s a fine citizen!’ And they let me go. Are you telling me that your art saved you from jail? 76

I guess so. Most of the cops down in that area, we got to know each other and… Usually, unless we were really fucking up, they were just kind of like our friends, and helping us not get into trouble and occasionally saying, ‘OK, look we got a complaint—you guys just chill for a bit. We’re going to go away in an hour, we don’t know anything about it.’ What’s the story behind that cover shot? It captures this moment between flight and impact, or accident and consequence. I feel that sets a tone for the book. There are lots of transitional moments —one is even captioned ‘Adulthood, still in transit.’ Oh, so you’ve actually read those little things in the back? Originally all of those little wisecracks I had … I originally wanted those to be on the page with the photo, written really really small almost to where you cant read it. But they didn’t want to have any words on the thing so we just put them in the back. But the process started being fun for me when they did the design pass for that first section of punk rock stuff there and I was looking at it and just one night all these little thoughts in my head—I just wrote them all down for all the photos. There was a story there. I wrote it down and suddenly it wasn’t just old photos I was looking at—it was suddenly alive again. ‘Wow, this is saying something completely new!’ [laughs] It makes it a moment, instead of just an object, if that makes sense. I just wasn’t sure putting all of those little lines in the back of the book was going to be effective. But I guess I was wrong. You were the author of the secret messages in the run-out groove of tons of the SST records—you have a history of getting your message out in this surreptitious way. Yeah—it was nice to have the last word. I was looking at my copy of Damaged which says ‘the whole gelatinous thing coming at ya.’ What does that mean? Will you ever put out a book of Spot’s secret messages? Which version of the book did you get? People are always asking me what’s on the 45. And I just tell them it’s a surprise. But what it actually is … I dug into all of those run out messages that I wrote. I mean—I wrote them all down. They’re all in notes from sessions and what not. Pretty much all those things I made up in the mastering room while we were actually cutting the record. John Golden who worked at K Disc at the time. He was so much fun to work with. I went through all of those run outs and messages and edited it down to a kind of a story—or poem or whatever. I don’t know what you call it. I edited it down to where it had an interesting narrative and I spoke them over a recording of a sound check of a band—that odd strange little thing—and the words fit. That’s the 45. What’s the last line? The last word of Spot’s last words? S: Of the the 45? [laughs] ‘LIFE IS A TRAVESTY MUCH MORE THAN AN OLD JOKE.’ SPOT’S SOUNDS OF TWO EYES OPENING IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM SINECURE BOOKS. SOME COPIES INCLUDE EXCLUSIVE 45. SINECUREBOOKS.COM. BOOKS


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