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MIKAL CRONIN COLLEEN GREEN THE 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS interviewed by TY SEGALL

THE WRECKING CREW

interviewed by NICK WATERHOUSE

DUSTIN LOVELIS DIVINE STYLER LIGHTNING BOLT VIV ALBERTINE THE POP GROUP LES McCANN NIKKI LANE FASHAWN MAGMA BAMBU ALBUM REVIEWS BOOKS FILM AND MORE

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ANGEL OLSEN Daiana Feuer

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DIVINE STYLER sweeney kovar

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THE POP GROUP David Cotner

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MAGMA Kristina Benson with Sabrine Mhiri

COLLEEN GREEN Chris Ziegler

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LES McCANN Ron Garmon

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NIKKI LANE Frankie Alvaro

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RUDY De ANDA Desi Ambrozak

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FASHAWN Rebecca Haithcoat

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SXSW GUIDE

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JESSICA PRATT Daiana Feuer

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LIGHTNING BOLT Zach Mabry

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BAMBU sweeney kovar

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DUSTIN LOVELIS Chris Ziegler and Kristina Benson

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THE 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS TOMMY HALL Ty Segall RONNIE LEATHERMAN Chris Ziegler FRANK DAVIS Chris Ziegler MIKAL CRONIN Chris Ziegler and Kristina Benson

RUDY DE ANDA BAND BY STEFANO GALLI


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ANGEL OLSEN Interview by Daiana Feuer Illustration by Dave Van Patten

It’s the end of February and Angel Olsen will be home in Asheville, North Carolina, for two whole months. It’s been a while. One year ago her second album came out, Burn Your Fire For No Witness—all electrified and with a full band, fulfilling expectations built up after her 2012 solo album Half Way Home. From Bonnie Prince Billy back-up singer to indie folk phenomenon, she started meeting fans when she shopped for toilet paper. As wonderful as that is, it sounds like it doesn’t get easier when people actually like what you do. Olsen gets reflective in this interview. Has touring a lot made your relationship to time and days become more loose? All year it’s been, ‘What day is it? Where are we? Whose time are we on anyway?’ (Laughs) I did this Australia trip recently. I get back home and I’m hyper until 6 am. I can’t sleep! So, that’s cool. I finally get almost two months off now which is really great. In the meantime I want to find an isolated studio. That’s my project, so I don’t go crazy from the contrast of doing a lot at once and then doing nothing. You don’t like doing nothing? I don’t. Especially when I’ve just been doing a lot. I would take a vacation somewhere, but now I travel so much as work that I’m like, ‘Well, if I’m going to be in this weird part of Mexico, why don’t I book a show?’ Maybe that’s just how it goes when that’s what you do for work. It’s also like, ‘Why would I want to get on another plane?’ I want to stay in one place for an extended period of time. But I do like to have stuff do when I’m back home. The contrast is too intense. From working all day, being on call all day. There’s a tour manager but I make the decisions in a lot of cases. If something is wrong, I’m the default person. Whether or not anyone sees it or knows, I’m there making sure everything is going well. This month marks a year since Burn Your Fire For No Witness—are you celebrating or reflecting on its first year of life? Actually a few months ago, I sort of did something commemorative. The artist who drew the cover, her name is Kreh Mellick. She does stuff for The New Yorker. She’s great. I wanted to buy something from her site but she insisted on making something special. So I had this rolled up piece of art in my closet all year and my mom’s like, ‘What are you doing? You need to hang that up!’ But it was kind 6

of weird because I see this thing everywhere I go. It’s on t-shirts, on merch, posters, on everything. But I went to the frame shop and got it framed and we hung it over the fireplace. In that way I have celebrated. It’s there in my living space and it’s something I face and see and know that this is part of my life now. This is something that I’ve done and it’s part of people’s lives in ways I won’t understand and not in any way I can control. The thing that makes it interesting and also frustrating is that even if I have made something I am proud of, there’s this personal pressure that I want to outdo that in some weird way. I want to do something totally different. Then there’s also the fear of ‘What if no one understands the direction I go is better?’ You have to accept that. Right now I just want to get away from watching any press of myself or any footage or knowing anything related to my music so that I can just fully forget about it, and listen to other people’s music and listen to old music and watch movies and just do stuff that has nothing to do with me—so I can remember what it’s like to be in my crappy kitchen in Chicago and not have any money and not have any idea of who is who in the music industry. When I had nothing to really lose or gain, it was just there. That’s what I want to focus on because it’s just all around me in every corner. I want to make sure I’m not trying to recreate the past and it doesn’t continue on someone else’s plan. Once you put a part of you into an object, and the world takes it, it seems like you have to stay connected to yourself as a normal person that isn’t just a walking stage show. Yeah. This last trip we played the St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival in Australia and New Zealand and I got to know all these different

artists. I’d never met St. Vincent but we had a couple run-ins with them because our promoter was the same guy. We started talking about the industry with people who have been doing it fifteen to twenty years. It’s interesting to get perspective from others who have been doing it longer or differently, even people who make completely different types of music. ‘So what about your daughter, how do you see her in nine weeks?’ ‘How do you see your wife?’ ‘Are you on any medications?’ ‘Do you see a therapist?’ ‘Is your PR agent with you all the time?’ ‘Did you make those decisions?’ It’s one thing to come out with a great album and tour and party. When people have been through that a couple times, do they still have really awesome moments with people? And they aren’t completely bitter and jaded about it? I had that opportunity to exchange information with people similar to me and different from me, and to talk about how to stay connected even to each other in all this. After a while it gets to be like you miss these people and don’t know when you’ll see them. You never know how long any of it is going to last. What’s it like to have Internet trolls or sort of stalkers? Some of the commenters on your social media get weird. I really try to make an effort and joke around and interact with people on the page when I can and interact with fan people in general. Even if they’re creepy—and there are definitely some creepers. Just to be like, ‘Hey, I’m a real person. I buy tampons. I go to the doctor. I take care of myself. I have awkward moments like everybody else.’ I don’t mind putting myself out there. I want to project something that’s like, ‘Hey, I’m not only just these songs. I’m trying to interact with people too in a real

way. Not in an “I’m better than anyone because I know how to explain things in songs” way.’ I was at a party and a friend of mine came up to tell me about some year end review she read that basically said ‘Why does Angel Olsen have a Twitter account? That’s insane.’ Basically, my music is so sad and introspective that I don’t have a sense of humor. ‘But her album’s great—blah blah blah, you should check it out.’ I asked my friend, ‘Why are you telling me this at a party?’ In Chicago it was worse because I knew a lot of people that worked for papers and I felt like I was living in the matrix where everyone existed in two personalities. One for interacting with people and one for writing about them. Part of me was like ‘Cool, we’re friends, and I love that you’re a writer, but don’t feel obligated to write about me.’ I’d see things come out and be like, ‘Whoa, I know that writer. I went to school with his roommate. We made out.’ I don’t want to know about a person writing about me when they know all these things about me. I was dating Emmett from Bonnie Prince Billy and it was a private relationship. We never really talked about it. But a friend of ours who wrote for a column was like, ‘We spotted Emmett Kelly and Angel Olsen at such and such restaurant.’ I was like, ‘Why did you do that? You know us. You know it doesn’t matter. Are you doing that because your job makes you do it?’ People will do things sometimes not because they’re being clever and funny but because they’re naively interested in doing them. I had to learn to be less sensitive. But it was everywhere in Chicago. I would have a conversation with someone at a bar and we’d be having a great conversation about politics and at the end of it they would be like, ‘I just want to say, your INTERVIEW


album…’ And I would be like ... oh shit, you’re talking to me because of this thing? You’re not talking to me because we like talking about politics right now? Not that it’s an insult in any way. It’s a compliment. But it makes you feel like you should be unnecessarily prepared for that to happen. But then you’re kind of self-absorbed by preparing for that. It kind of messes with you. I moved to Asheville and it’s a small scene so I’m not as surprised if I run into somebody. People here like to listen to a lot of folk music and Appalachian music and music with a lot of writing in it. I mean— Die Antwoord comes here too. It’s not like just about that stuff. But a lot of people love Bonnie Prince Billy and Bon Iver ... all the Bons. It’s interesting to live here. It doesn’t feel as invasive. I’ve gone to the grocery store and I’m looking at a Neutrogena product or trying to figure out what kind of toilet paper to get and someone comes up and says, ‘Hey that was a really cool show last night.’ I’m like, ‘Cool, thanks! I’m just buying stuff to wipe my butt with later.’ I don’t necessarily have something amazing ready to say. I love hearing stories about Bill Murray. The way he handles his identity for people is to have fun. Immediately have fun. I hope one day when I’m older I can be this crazy weirdo lady who goes with it. I want to. I want to dye my hair smurf blue when I turn 65. Let me ask you something heavy. So your parents are older. Being on tour and doing this career, you don’t see them as much. Do you worry about them dying? Totally. 100%. I think about it a lot. But I thought about it since I was a kid too. I went through this cycle when I was kid, being like, ‘You’re all older than me—why is that? Did I not grow?’ ‘Well, you’re adopted.’ ‘Crap—you mean I have other people? I have other people that look like me?’ I don’t have the actual memory of my birth parents so it didn’t mess me up as much. But it still was weird. Then my mom got sick and had surgery and she lost her mother, and they gave her the wrong medication and it made her sick mentally and physically and she spent some time in the hospital when I was 13 or 14. And I thought, ‘My mom’s never going to be normal.’ And at the time my dad and I didn’t really have that great of a relationship. He was a war dad. He was kind of stiff and unemotional, but when you talked about the right things he would cheer up—like children, and church, and westerns. I would bring a guy home I was dating and say, ‘Dad, this is so-and-so!’ And he would be watching TV and wave at them with the side of his gaze. He would ignore them and turn up the TV. Now when I think about it, it’s sort of sweet. My parents are very old-fashioned in a lot of ways. I’m sure my mother will call me and be like, ‘Well, we’re going to have you for Easter Sunday, aren’t we?’ They’re existing in a different time than me. But I’m not the only one. I have eight brothers and sisters. Some of them are in St. Louis where they live and they see them a lot. There’s less pressure on me to check in on them and see what they’re doing. But honestly my parents have been really responsible with the whole aging thing. I know it sounds weird, but it’s not necessarily 8

the happiest experience to do that. They’re on top of stuff. Which is surprising to me. I love the doctor but I hate the cold-wall cold-floor everyone-is-anonymous feeling. I try to reach out to them. I’ve definitely made more of an effort to be involved in my mom’s life. Whereas when I was in my early 20s it was all, ‘Party, I got away from my parents. I don’t have to take care of them—woohoo!’ But now I’ve changed. Once you really talk to your parents, you realize they’re not idiots—but you were—and they’re smart and someday you will experience the same thing. I was talking to someone in St. Vincent’s band and they were like, ‘I don’t see my mom that much. That’s the one thing about doing this that is a bummer because she’s alone and I feel bad and I try to call her.’ And at least there’s that. You don’t have to be a physical presence as long as you know you’re on the right page with them. This applies to anyone who moves away from their family, whatever their career. Are your parents are proud of you? I think they view this as an Ed Sullivan experience. They think I’m out on stages and people are introducing me like I’m on The Ed Sullivan Show. My mom is like, ‘So, when you get out there, Angel, do they say a couple words aboutcha? Do you do improv duets?’ I’m like, ‘No, not really.’ They definitely know what’s going on but they’re from a different time. Because they’re so different in age and time, I’ve tried to listen to the music they listened to and try to relate in my own way and feel connected to them. Does understanding the world they come from—and these old world ideas that you come into conflict with—give you unique perspective on the world you live in? There’s so many things influencing how people work and how they adjust and form opinions and decide on them forever. It’s interesting to hear a perspective based on the Depression and WWII and not having any money and not ever being out of line because who knows what could happen? The end of the world could happen. What if you got an email today that said, ‘OK, the world is ending tomorrow.’ What would you do today? I’m definitely not the person building a hut to try and survive. I’m just going to go. I will just pass with everyone. I don’t care. I’d probably go roller-skating and try to kiss somebody. Listen to some records, smoke some weed. Call my mother. Probably before the weed, though, because that might be weird for her. I’d try to do as much at once but I’d also like just roller-skating and being with someone romantically. Those two are high up there. ANGEL OLSEN WITH SWANS ON TUE., APR. 14, AT THE EL REY THEATRE, 5515 WILSHIRE BLVD., LOS ANGELES. 9 PM / $30 / ALL AGES. THEELREY.COM, AND ON SUN., APR. 12 AND SUN., APR. 19 AT THE COACHELLA VALLEY MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL IN INDIO. ANGEL OLSEN’S BURN YOUR FIRE FOR NO WITNESS IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM JAGJAGUWAR. VISIT ANGEL OLSEN AT ANGELOLSEN.COM.

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FOR THE LOVE OF MUSIC. 6 YEARS & COUNTING

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DIVINE STYLER Interview by sweeney kovar Photography by B+

Word power, it ignites like the sun. Divine Styler’s verbiage has developed a cult following over the span of 25 years since he first appeared in the late 80s via Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate. What appeared initially to be a particularly cerebral iteration of the Afrocentric Native Tongueera styles quickly blossomed into a fiercely iconoclastic voice. Def Mask, his fourth solo LP and his first since 1998, utilizes a voracious flow to craft a dark, affecting cinematic experience centered on a technocratic dystopia—think Aldous Huxley meets Rammelzee. On a cool L.A. winter afternoon, I sat in conversation with Divine Styler inside a private room at the Seventh Letter’s flagship location on Fairfax. With his teen son by his side, the one-of-a-kind MC candidly spoke about his journey through the music industry, the concepts behind his dystopian opus Def Mask, why he rejects the label of Afrofuturism and the guilty pleasures of smartphone art apps. The earnest intensity that has made his music draw in curious minds the world over is just as present in person as on wax. A musical Morpheus, Divine Styler offers up the red pill for those brave enough to take the plunge. How are you feeling these days? Considering the state of the world? I got a grumpy old man thing about me but I’m pretty much at peace. It’s a crazy world we’re living in right now. I had to back up from the music business when everything became free. I haven’t made a record in 14 years but I’ve still been doing music—I just wasn’t [going to] put anything out. Five out of those 14 years I just took to try and understand this new paradigm. People tried to tell me, ‘You gotta give music away.’ That didn’t make any sense to me. I didn’t understand how that worked and why you have to give it away. Pop and rock musicians aren’t giving music away— why do MCs have to give music away? Why do you have to make a free mixtape, which is essentially an album, and give it away? And then put out a free record for download and give it away? And then do shows and so on? What specifically made you feel like you needed to retreat from music for a bit? The Napster thing—the whole download thing. You then had groups like Metallica who spoke out against it, which I thought was excellent. We do this music and we should be paid for it. Just because a new generation comes into play and with the technology at hand people can download shit that other people are hosting doesn’t mean it’s right. What about the artist? The artist don’t work for the fan. The artist works for himself and he should be compensated. Those are conversations that piqued my interest into thinking about what we are getting into. Now all is accessible. Eventually iTunes caught up and other places caught up but you can still get shit for free. You can’t go anywhere on this planet and get shit for free—except music. Why is that? It was an interesting time to pay attention. Then you begin to ask questions like, ‘How do you get a record deal?’ Record deals don’t exist anymore, you have to put it out yourself. What does that mean? I did the independent thing so I know what that means from a wax perspective. I put out Directrix myself and then licensed it to Mo’ Wax. So I know how that process works but people INTERVIEW

are asking you how many Twitter followers you have or how many hits on YouTube you have, because that’s who they’re giving deals to now—people who give away their music. And the more ratchet—the more bullshit it is—the more followers they get because people are more interested in some craziness than then are in anything of substance. And now you have a generation of children that think the crazier the content the better the art. That don’t make sense. Why does it have to be just the worst shit ever to be cool? It’s not adding up. That being followed by the 360 deal—major or independent. There is no difference between a major and an independent company. The indies are backed by the majors and they’re all giving 360 deals. And certain acts are being promoted as indie artists though they’re really backed by a major company via proxy. Yeah. C’mon now—it’s still a billion-dollar industry and one of the most influential industries America has in the world. Who is making money? There is money somewhere. It appears there are fewer people making money so there has to be something deeper. That’s what I’m interested in. How can I do this so it works for me and not against me and I don’t have to make mixtapes and give away content for free? It’s hard to make a record— it’s not easy. You need resources, you need a place, you need to have your bills paid and take care of yourself. How are you going to do that shit? Get an investor who wants 200 per cent return on his investment? You said something really interesting earlier—that the artist doesn’t work for the audience but for himself. I see behavior in hip-hop today that shows the opposite. ‘You gotta give them what they want.’ They don’t know what they want. They want what you give them. When did the psyche flip to where now you’re serving the fan? What does ‘fan’ mean? It came from the word fanatic. Look at the language. I come from a different school. I read. [laughs] I want to understand something before I do it. So how did Def Mask happen?

I made contact with [UK label] Gamma Proforma. I was doing some art on Instagram. Rob [Swain] and I chatted a little bit and he wanted to use some of the art for a show he was doing. I had just started doing hip-hop demos and I gave him a couple of songs. One thing led to another and I started getting back into the swing of things. A year later he hit me up like, ‘You want to make a record?’ The reason I decided to make a record with him is that he follows in the tradition of Mo’ Wax, which is a boutique small indie label that is more art driven than monetarily driven. That always works for me. I’m not the type of artist to do shout-outs, I’m not going to do certain things that now you have to do. I just want to do what the fuck I want to do, which is make music. I have people that like it and people that don’t like it. I’ve earned that over a span of 25 years and I’m cool with that. To have a company that understands that and doesn’t want to bend me to this new system and to have a company that is heavily art influenced also means the packaging is unique in a sense that it’s personal. It’s not a part of the machine. That’s what caused me to really be into it again. Speaking of your Instagram art—how did that begin? It’s pretty amazing. I’ve been writing graff since I was nine or ten in New York. When I started getting into computers I started illustrating on Photoshop. My idea was to take my graff and interpret it through the computer. Then I started my record label so I had to do all my own graphics so I really had to learn Photoshop. Casey ‘Eklips,’ who owns Seventh Letter, started teaching me shit back in the 90s and I’d sit there watching him do his mock-ups for his clothing line and it taught me how to do a lot. Then the apps for phones started to come out. I got this one called Snapseed and I started messing with it and I was like, ‘Damn! It would take you eight hours to do this on Photoshop or Illustrator.’ The technology is mind-bending. That led me to reading up on blogs about art apps and music apps. I downloaded more apps and just started

messing with them and I found a lane to be able to do the art that I like—that I would traditionally do on a wall—on my phone. There was a lot of guilty pleasure in that shit. Graff is all about burners and bombing and getting up and here I am feeling like I’m cheating. That’s how I got into digital art and I’m now heavily into it. That makes me think of some of the themes of Def Mask—how technology can be a tool to link us all as well as being something that isolates us. That lends itself to the age we’re living in. I can put out a record and make a traditional rap record or I can just embrace where things are. I’ve always been a tech head from the beginning of technology, from analog gear into computer recording. I do drum n bass, I do dubstep, I do EDM which is basically disco with bells and whistles on it. I like elements from all of those things and I like pushing envelopes. It’s just a culmination of all the technological capabilities of what is happening on the back end and what is happening sonically on the front end. I could do a traditional record but I’m always going to use the technology and pull from different sources to create a picture to back the concept. For me it’s about creating the music around the concept so it’s more cinematic than a traditional record. It’s more about an experience and the ride than just some headnod shit. People say, ‘Your music makes me think.’ I never intended it to be that way but as I’ve gone along making music I started to realize that I like doing cinematic stuff. Is that the kind of stuff that grabbed you when you were younger? Shit—Rammelzee. Rammelzee was a Five Percenter, he was a graff writer, so he was like a scientist. Between mathematics, science and math there was a school of us in the 80s who followed that route. You had Kase2, the one-armed bomber—he had the computer style. ‘Computer Rock,’ he used to call it. That’s where I was. I was on the Trans-Europe Express. I was into that tech-y sound but I was also into abstract futurism. I wanted to be 11


an architect so I studied Syd Mead, I studied Carl Sagan and shit like that. I was into sci-fi the whole time growing up as a kid. I started to sample those things and reduplicate those things in music. Rammelzee was a super influence on me, just being a graff writer and an MC at the same time who used to rap in graff style—although he had a whole universe backing his movement. He had theorems and treatises and all types of shit. A lot of people say I remind them of him and rightfully so— he’s the father of my style. I see my music in images first. I have the idea and I just see it. Like Directrix—I forget how I came across that word. When I read the definition of it, it said the median line of trajectory of fire. That created the whole landscape for me. That’s the balancing point. They use it for space exploration. I think I was reading something about NASA. The mechanics around directrix is that there will be a launch point and an orbiting point and then you have these geometric lines and you’ll have a directrix, which is a center point on which everything is counter-balancing. That kind of thing is how it works for me musically and visually. The visual is first and then I gather the source material to back the sound. What were some of the visuals you were seeing in Def Mask? As I began to write, I got to the Def Mask—the ‘Mask’ being what you use in opera or a play. In the old world, they would do operas with masks and those masks represent characters, but also a mask has to do with symbolism and the personification behind it. ‘Def’ for me—just being old school—def was the flyest shit ever. Def was the ultimate shit. It could be fresh, it could be funky-fresh, it could be cool ... but when you said it was def? It was untouchable. Once I got that combination then both worlds began to join. As I started to write around the concept of Def Mask and outlining my ideas, this character came and he became Def Mask himself. What does he use the mask for? To protect himself from the pollutants of the environment. Each part of his mask is an element—earth, air, fire, water, ether—each one of those elements have elementals which are creatures or components that adhere to that dimension. So I went way off into the sci-fi thing. I had to pull back and I started to categorize it how I could deliver it. I’m looking out into the world and we’re living in a borderline dystopian science fiction landscape now. This whole technocratic shit we’re moving into where laws are based on technology. In New York they’re trying to pass a law where you can’t text and walk at the same time. That’s technocratic. That’s due to technology being so crazy that they think people are so stupid that they think they’re going to get hurt if they’re texting and walking. It went from ‘you can’t do it in the car’ to now ‘you can’t do it while you’re walking.’ The foundation is being laid for a technocratic society based on data, projections and behaviometrics. Measurable patterns and behavior being compiled by data mining systems. The average citizen hearing this type of language immediately takes the defense and their only come back is conspiracy. Well, in an age where information is more readily 12

available in public domain than ever before, I find it fascinating that most don’t care to be informed except by what directly affects their immediate comfort zone. This is insane. It’s happening all over from the eavesdropping on calls to the collection of emails. Since the Patriot Act it’s been a wrap! Nobody is paying attention to it so I’ll fucking report on that shit. It’s a superimposed interpretation of what’s happening. Some people like to say that is conspiracy-driven and fear-driven paranoia but if you really look at it, a couple of years ago the US government admitted on the news—on CNN—to the Manchurian candidate program, which is called MK Ultra. They made two movies about it—the original and a remake—but it’s not a conspiracy. They want you to think it’s a conspiracy but in an age where information is everywhere, nobody is paying attention to information. I’m taking things I’ve run across, not from my imagination but from reality and weaving it in. Like in ‘Architectonic,’ the narration was a KGB narration from an actual KGB agent that defected in the 70s being interviewed on CBS Tonight. It’s on the Internet. I think Mike Wallace interviewed him—I can’t quite remember the interviewer but everything I said—I just re-recorded it—was everything he said. How am I paranoid? This was on the news in America in the 70s. So again—people don’t want to disrupt the dream, the illusion, that the American Dream is just that. We’re slowly moving into this fascist lock-down by way of convenience. I don’t make this stuff up. I report it. I research and gather legit source material. I think they use the conspiracy term to turn people off—to dismiss it. I don’t get into debates and arguments about it because it’s nothing to debate. Facts are facts. Look it up. So the record started going into an Orwellian dystopian thing, which is nothing new. People been writing about that shit forever. It felt cool and it was something different for me. I thought it was really interesting you included the instrumentals with the release. I like the instrumental version better than the vocal version because it creates a whole other cinematic experience. I was up in Frisco a couple of months ago and I was walking on the streets listening to the instrumental and it was another picture different from the actual content of the vocals but it matched. We did it for no reason other than ‘Why not?’ Did you incorporate electronic elements in the music to fit the concept? Or as a response to the electronic influence that’s so pervasive in music lately? Yeah—it lends itself to the concept more. It’s hard to listen to new music today. I don’t listen to too much rap. If I do listen to it will be my usual suspects, which are Nas, Premier, Ghostface, Raekwon, Death Grips—that’s the closest to me that you’ll get to where the people are today which is just on some ‘burn it down, it’s the fucking end’ shit. That reminds me of a conversation with my friend DJ Sake-One in SF. He was commenting how popular music today reminds him of the fall of the Roman empire because that’s when the empire was most decadent and gratuitous.

It’s a major transition where going through because we’re on the cusp of going from analog music, analog life, analog existence to this digital shit. My son don’t know nothing about analog. He don’t have a clue. Matter of fact, when he was born I purchased my Mackie digital console. I went from my analog Mackie to my digital Mackie. Kids don’t have any clue of that. I say that to say we’re on the cusp of moving into this new paradigm and the average person using the technology because they’re addicted to it but they’re not making the transition mentally. How do you not serve the machine and use it to benefit you to move forward? Instead of buying a $500 iPhone with all the memory you can get on that thing just to play music and to Snapchat and social media bullshit, make the phone work for you. How can you apply it to your daily activity and make it useful for you? It doesn’t matter what it is. Educate yourself on the use of whatever it is that you want to use. You don’t really see that amongst the youth. You see that in other places like TED talks but it doesn’t get reported on a broader scale. If you start to investigate you see how people are using technology to push art, to push social agendas and awareness. I’m into generative art. It’s art you can manipulate through code in real time, like threedimensional projections—like the images you see when you put your computer to sleep. Now it’s so easy you can download scripts and run that shit on a projector and MIDI-map it to your sound to where your kick is creating one design and your snare is creating another. It’s out there but a small percentage is using it. I’ve been following that and using it for a couple of years now. Let the technology serve you. Everybody is serving technology. There was a projection that in 10 years if you don’t know HTML you won’t have a job. I think you go from HTML to Java to CSS to C+ but you have to have HTML as the foundation or you won’t be able to get a job. That’s scary! What are they going to do? People talk about an economy that squeezes certain people out into the margins. That economy is human slave labor at that point. What are you going to do if you can’t read or write? You work at McDonalds. Not literally but I’m saying that in the analog world if you don’t have an education you work construction or you’re a janitor. If you don’t have basic coding skills or a degree what are you going to do? Nobody is paying attention to that shit. Some of the things you’re talking about also make me think of what people describe as Afrofuturism. I just heard that bullshit. That shit is bullshit. It’s just another fucking word for people to coin. I don’t know. If you read the Futurist Manifesto from decades ago that was created by that small group of artists, it has to do with certain things. What they’re coining it into now, it’s really no relation. What’s Afrofuturism—because they’re Black or they’re rapping and using electronic equipment or because it’s minimal? I don’t really see the validity and the connection unless someone who understands Futurism in a traditional sense can point out to me.

The definition I’ve seen is something along the lines of dealing with themes that are connected to the African diaspora through a framework of Futurism. That’s a reach. That’s vague. Why’s it gotta be Afro? Where’s Country-futurism? Better yet, EDM would be house-futurism if that’s the case because it’s just disco melodies—with the 4/4, which is house, which is minimalism. Now they’ve put melodic chords on top. Drum & Bass is pentatonic shit. It’s still disco and house. Should that be Futurism? No, it’s electronic dance music now. I guess my mind wants to know why. I want to understand something before I adhere to it instead of just blindly doing it. That’s where I’m at with it. Again, I’m from the era of reading and wanting to understand and not just do something because it’s cool. I saw some writings where I was put in the Afrofuturism category. I’m not that shit, I’m not Afro nothing. I’m expressing something else. I’ve always broken molds, especially when they’ve tried to put me in them. Why? Why not. It sounds like you don’t relate much with identity politics? No. That is my pet peeve. I understand that system and I’m not against it. But I’ll always buck up against it just for fun. If you don’t speak for yourself and tell your own story, they will. I ask that because I had planned on asking you a question around that track you did years back, ‘Make It Plain.’ You say something to the effect of America living off your blood, sweat and tears. It was on my mind because I’d recently re-read TaNehesi Coates’ ‘A Case For Reparations’ in The Atlantic. His argument was not that the U.S. Government owes X amount of dollars to the descendents of U.S. slaves, but moreso that until there is a very large and wide and public conversation on the vestiges of slavery then America will continue to have these moments of spectacular tragedy. A people can only define who they are, not another source outside of it. That’s the whole problem with the African-American paradigm. The African-Americans were brought over here as property and by law they were three-fifths of a human being because by law they lacked two of their five senses— which by law made them property. That was the first time that slavery was made lawful by ethnicity and not by indentured servitude, conquering people and shit. Now it’s based on ethnicity and after hundreds of years of that being etched and hard-wired into a system, the masters or the conquerors of those people always identify them as property and always identify them from a place where ‘I determine who you are!’ just because it’s so hard-wired. When people say reparations, people usually think about money. I don’t think money is the issue but more about how do you undo that hard-wired psyche that is the foundation of this country? It happened first to Native Americans—the holocaust that began from the day the pilgrims landed. After the Native Americans saved their asses, like five years later they signed a treaty amongst themselves to take their land and eradicate them. That was the Indian Removal Act. How do you fix that? INTERVIEW


You have to change the economic and the mental myth and perception of the relations between the two—the same thing with African-Americans. There is an old saying that however long it took you to become a certain way, it will take you that long to get rid of that. It’s conditioning. Do you see our society progressing towards undoing that psyche? Yes, because it’s getting hot. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. You have to destroy it in order to rebuild it. The destruction is moving slow. I don’t think I’ll see it in my lifetime because it’s a generational thing. I tell my son all the time, ‘If you don’t get your hair cut, I’m going to cut it. You’re not going to walk around here with a nappy Afro dressed like a skater. That’s cool for you but in the world you give a certain image. Keep your hair cut. Look presentable. Wear some clean shoes. Don’t look like a fucking bum. Them whiteboys can do that shit. You can’t do that shit. You’re a Black kid.’ He don’t understand—he just feel like I’m just getting on his ass. We can’t do that. We get choked out and shot. We’re thugs. I don’t think that’s going anywhere in our lifetime unless something cataclysmic happens to the planet that brings us all together and moves us past this shit. But the conversation is on the table in a different way because I don’t think it’s a thing that just Black people or people of color can do as much as it is the people who are in control of institution. That’s where I think the change can be made. There is economic imbalance. There is ethnic imbalance. The myth of everything white being bad and everything Black being bad is a myth—it’s been around for a long time. You got some cultures where it’s the opposite. It’s something systemic in this country that no matter how much you intellectualize it, it gets more complicated and it seems like it just needs to be a simple conversation. How far are we from that simple conversation? Everyone is using the complex intellectual jargon of the day to talk about it but without really addressing it and saying how they really feel in a public forum. We will treat you like a nigga but you can’t say ‘nigga.’ There needs to be some hard conversations. What will get us to that point? It’s like when you have an argument that’s festering with a friend and you say, ‘Fuck it, let’s fight or let’s get it out.’ You yell through it and then everyone calms down and comes to some sensibility about it. That sounds like what we’re living now with some of these more flagrant acts of state violence. It’s coming to the surface. It has to come to the surface. In a time when we are being monitored and everything you’re saying and doing is being recording in infinity, you’re catching people at their best and their worst. That’s revealing. Before there was none of that so everything was behind closed doors. Now it’s out in the open. The one guest on the album, Orko Eloheim—he fits so well. I love that guy. That’s my brother. He was so fucking respectful of the craft and the lineage—he deserved it. Most of these people don’t know what respect is. He was influenced INTERVIEW

by something when he was young. We hooked up and talked and it was nothing but homage. To me, that’s what it’s supposed to be. Quincy Jones wasn’t disrespectful to Coltrane or Miles. Coming up, you make that exchange. Inspiration, influence, whatever it is—there could not be one without the other. For me that’s how it’s handed down. He was so respectful and understands what we do, which is angular to what the general direction is. Out of all the new cats he’s the most respectful cat I’ve met and that’s cause for celebration. Let’s connect and build—ain’t enough of that in the world. Dudes want to hook up to make themselves look good or elevate themselves higher in status from your look, but there is no connection. It’s ‘I can get more fans or more followers if I fuck with you.’ Even in the process of it, people collaborate via email. That’s the norm now. Music is a communal experience—it’s a communion and a communication and a language with a vocabulary. How are we going to express this joyous process when now it’s so far away from the communion aspect of it? It’s all a fame game. I can’t do that. I just can’t do that. That’s okay for other people but not for me. A song on the album that stands out to me is… ‘Pandorum.’ Yes! The rest of the album is very dark and almost claustrophobic at times but this track comes in and it has remnants of the first album from the loop you used to the Wildstyle sample. In the old days, when you would go to the movies there would be an intermission and the movie would stop, the curtains would close, and you would go and get popcorn. That’s kind of what that track is like. That’s the closest I could come to that. There was another track like that that I took off the album because I couldn’t get the beat right. It was paying homage to my graff background and it included Seventh Letter. I had did a record like that already called War Machine Prototype, but this was going to be the remix of that. I couldn’t get the beat right so I took it off the record. I wanted to have something like that so I split the difference on “Pandorum” with the Style Wars sample and the ‘Frisco Disco’ sample, which was a breakbeat we used to B-Boy to. I still kept the Blade Runner-ish soundscape to it though. It’s like an intermission. When did you first come out to L.A.? Some people still don’t know you’re originally from New York. I came out here in ‘83 to go to school for two years because I was getting in too much trouble. I went back to New York in high school. I had met friends out here and I was coming back and forth to do demos from ‘86 to ‘89. I finally got my record deal with Rhyme Syndicate but I was still back and forth until about ‘94. After ‘94 I was pretty much permanently here. It was major culture shock. There was no hip-hop how I knew it out here. There was Ultrawave and Uncle Jamm’s Army and The Time and all of that shit. The gang-banging, that was all culture shock like a motherfucker. I came from New York with

360 waves, Lee’s and British Walkers—they didn’t know what planet I came from. Then Wildstyle came out and that’s when everybody started to put two and two together. I was here during that transition so I started sharing a lot of stuff with a lot of cats. I taught cats graff styles, some B-Boying and just built relationships. Some of the cats I taught graff got down with MSK in the early years. It was a trip watching L.A. define itself in regards to hip-hop. Before graff took hold out here it was just gang writing. I used to do that shit because I hung out because with gangbangers—not because they were gangbangers but because they were the cats from my neighborhood out here. When the bombing came out, then they started to switch and I watched kids like Shaka and all them early dudes, Risky—they developed their own style that was very unlike New York. But the same was with the music. They leaned more towards the bass music, which was more Planet Rock, more T La Rock ‘It’s Yours’—more electronic-based shit which went from N.Y. to Miami to L.A. and less boom-bap shit. Watching that music transition from the Ultrawave and Egyptian Lover to their love for the 808 was interesting because in New York it was all about that dirty kick and snare. What do you think about the gentrification of cities like L.A. and New York? I think the gentrification is the emergence of a younger generation being prepped to be the governing body of the next phase. If you look at the gentrification, it’s all young transplants that are educated and have trust funds and bank accounts. Their lineage is allowing them to go into these places and purchase space and open businesses. The gentrification is not being done by the people who are from these places. It’s being done by people from the outside who are actually building and restructuring the new economic base. It ain’t for the people—it’s for outsiders. It’s like the elite sending their kids out into the world and telling them to make something of themselves. It’s economics. That’s the next phase we’re going into. In the 40s you had the people who came back from World War II, because war builds industry. That was the boom of the middle class. They took precedence over those that didn’t go to war—who were those in the ghettoes and the slums and so on. They were able to build an economic base and establish the suburbs. In the 50s America was perfect based on that happening in World War II. I think it’s just another cycle we’re seeing. How do you stay balanced in the midst of all of this? That’s easy. I don’t care about it. It’s all ideas from our imagination and I’ve dug deep to learn to stand apart from ideas of Self and others. There’s no attachment to this shit. There are discomforts but that too passes. When you see inhumane acts of Americans going down to South America to buy as much land as they can—what does that mean for the people who live there? They’re being tricked or carpet-bagged out of their land. It’s another form of invasion. You have companies like Monsanto that want to outlaw all seeds and put their GMO seeds in place. They want

to make it illegal to grow fucking vegetables. That’s insanity. I can’t turn away from it in the sense of ignoring it, I have to be aware but not attached to it. The attachment to it gives it support. It gives it life. It gives it power. To be detached from it is almost to go towards a place of ‘there’s something bigger going on in the interest of humanity.’ Just because you can’t see it right now don’t mean it ain’t in operation. It’s happening—we just can’t see it. I remain aloof. I don’t let it constrict me mentally. I had my years of that, being angry and shit. Awareness is powerful. What do you do with it? You’re speaking about a crossroads that many of us come to after awareness. Some people feel like you have to tackle these things head on, some hide from it—what is your take? Me, I do it through this music. This is my vehicle. I am not a politician, I am not a speaker, I am not a protester, I am not an activist. That’s not my thing and that’s never been my drive. My drive has been sharing the information through music or some sort of sonic and visual art. I’ve had people try and convince me into the whole activism role and fuck all that. You’re not going to guilt trip me. You do that. That’s what works for you. For all the people that have faith in a deeper power, they understand how it works. Everybody plays a role in the mechanism. It’s a trip becoming aware, remaining aware and then watching everything happen. I read this article about outlawing children playing outside. From something like 5 PM to 8 AM a child can’t be in a park by themselves— and then for teenagers it’s the same thing. It’s fucking insane. How are you going to make it illegal for children to be outside unattended? Now you pose the formula and behind that you create more paranoia, more predatory nature, more dissention. That type of thinking shouldn’t even have a place in the world. What planet is this? They outlawed 20 oz beverages in New York—once they passed that law New York was a wrap. Talking about kids getting too fat. Tell Coke to stop making Coke then! Why make it illegal to drink something that’s legal? You end up with this system that has to contradict itself to stay alive. That’s the end of the world in whatever world that is. It’s the ending of a mental construct— it’s not the end of the trees and the sky. Exactly—people talk about global warming and climate change as if it’s an end to the planet when they really mean it’s an end for us. The planet kicked dinosaurs. It will shake us off—I think George Carlin said it, like a dog shaking off a tick or a flea. We haven’t even been here as long as any race of dinosaur was here and we’ve done worse to it than anything before. When it’s time, it’ll get rid of us before we kill it. What type of world are we living in? It’s all mental, all ideas, all in our imagination—then people give power to it and that power becomes a sub-reality. DIVINE STYLER’S DEF MASK IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM GAMMA PROFORMA. VISIT DIVINE STYLER AT DIVINE-STYLER.COM. 13


THE POP GROUP Interview by David Cotner Illustration by Luke McGarry

If you’re an artist of any conviction, the greatest wealth at your disposal is time. This is a difficult thing to fully grasp in the modern world of lightning-fast paces and instant gratification. Mostly, time means ego death. It means that your fortunes are ultimately not under your own control. You cannot know where your music winds up. You cannot possibly know your ultimate audience. Freeing oneself to whatever comes of the creations an artist makes—precisely because of that surrendering of control—is one of the greatest gifts to creativity itself. The Pop Group began life more than three decades ago as most bands of quality do: without connivances or contrivances. Just a bunch of kids from Brighton—Mark Stewart on words and vocals; Gareth Sager on everything from guitar to saxophone to clarinet and organ; drumming percussionist Bruce Smith; and the trebled bass discourse of John Waddington, Simon Underwood and Dan Catsis. They didn’t know what they wanted to do—but they did know that they didn’t want to be like anyone else. In decades that followed, they lived and struggled and grew as artists and individual adult human beings. When they returned to public view as the Pop Group, interest in what they have to say now was piqued without any sign of peaking. Shows sold out. Wheels began to turn again. Mark Stewart spoke recently about their first-ever U.S. tour and the new album Citizen Zombie, their first record as a band since 1980’s perfectly-titled We Are Time. The Pop Group is nothing if not patient. Why has it taken 35 years for a new Pop Group album? Mark Stewart (vocals): Because I was waiting for your call! [laughs] It’s a funny thing because in one of our songs from back in the day called ‘We Are Time,’ there’s the lyric, ‘Waiting is a crime.’ It’s beyond me, my friend—honestly, this whole experience is something shocking and quite bizarre to me, and the whole thing is very, very strange. For the first time in my life, I’ve got no idea what’s going on. I would have thought that would have been the entire point since the beginning. What you do seems exceptionally spontaneous. Yes—when we were very young, we were really into the Beats, like Gregory Corso, also Michael McClure; and I don’t know if I got it from them or from Alan Watts, and Eno worked it out later on: those things called ‘chance procedures.’ Trying to go against your pre-ordained destiny. The Clash wrote a song called ‘Career Opportunities.’ When we were 12 or 13, we were sat down by the Careers teacher who said, ‘What do you think you want to do? Do you want to work in this factory?’ And in the back of my head, I remember seeing the singer Alvin Stardust on English children’s television. He had a leather glove and all he did was point to the audience. And I thought, ‘You can do something like that!’ And for me, I’m that same 14-year-old kid who went up to his room and lived in a world of music and Andy Warhol’s Interview and Lou Reed records. I’ve never really changed. I’ve never really thought of myself as somebody in a band. To a certain extent, until we went in the studio to make this record, I had some kind of grasp of experiments I wanted to do—things I might throw into the stew that we were going to cook. The whole point of this Pop Group reunion is—we started talking about this over the phone—we said, ‘Look, let’s not have too many preconceptions, let’s not be tethered to anything from the past—although we respect the past—let’s just see what happens.’ As soon as me and Gareth started writing some of these songs, something weird started happening. Like an alchemical golem, something came through a portal—and all I can do is stand back and watch the fireworks. The only thing 14

I know is … sometimes in life, stand back and don’t project any preconceptions or any of these constructs I’ve got in my head onto this thing. It’s good to keep naïve, you know? If we try to cage it or control it or explain it too much … I don’t want to put it in a box at the moment, you know? When you talk about naïveté, I’m reminded of Gavin Bryars’ Portsmouth Sinfonia, an orchestra made of musicians of varying levels of talent. The effort and naïveté in the moment is the thing that’s honored. For sure. Eno [with Peter Schmidt] also developed these cards called Oblique Strategies; Burroughs used chance procedures in cutups. Working with Kenneth Anger a couple of years ago, I’d used chance juxtapositions and the naïveté to throw something that shouldn’t be there into the mix. It’s a portal to the supernatural. I know it sounds a bit pretentious, but my gran was clairvoyant. Each Sunday we used to go around and do table rappings, and sometimes when me and Gareth are experimenting, he’ll go against his own ideas deliberately to see what happens. And then something appears, and it’s bizarre! As you do this more often and go more deeply into it, doesn’t that just seem like the natural order of things? I’m not one to judge things too much. Once, I was involved in a weird kind of psychic procedure, and I saw something. I’m not going to put a face on it; I don’t know how to explain it but it’s part of my punk religious system that you shouldn’t bow down to anything other than yourself. All I know is that there’s something going on which is quite difficult to explain to journalists, but I’m very pleased with the experiments so far and it’s something completely different from what I thought it was going to be. When the first phone call came—when Matt Groening’s people phoned up and said, ‘Can you play at this [All Tomorrow’s Parties] festival?’, we were already talking [about reforming]. I thought, ‘That’s a bit of a weird idea—that’s not very “Pop Group” to perform.’ We’d always been experimenting in our solo careers. And then I thought, ‘Which “me” is saying that?’ I’ve got this concept caged in the form of personal

censorship—so I’ll often try to argue with myself against what I’m thinking I should do. Accepted ideas, or the accepted virtues? And then I flipped it—and I thought, ‘Can I see this as a kind of new condition?’ And my old friends ... because years before, I’d do these collaborations with Richard Hell, Massive Attack or Kenneth Anger, and I thought, ‘Can I work with [the members of The Pop Group] in a different way, and just see it as a new thing?’ None of us wanted to reproduce anything from the past. The coolest thing is that it’s turning into a kind of gathering of freaks. And we really feel part of a community—like the very early Bristol concerts [of The Pop Group], or the very early Clash concerts, the audience is just as important as the people on the stage. So are those chance meetings are as important and strong a phenomena as a mystical experience? There’s a line in an early Pop Group song ‘Don’t Call Me Pain’: ‘Don’t call me Pain / My name is Mystery.’ For me, the mystical is very close to the political. And the idea of love, for me, is a kind of mystical thing that’s bigger than something for one individual. I don’t know how to explain it, but in the 16th century, heretical ideas like politics and mysticism were all mixed. It’s about being a dreamer, really. I don’t necessarily want you to explain it. I want it to be something you and I both think about, but it’s something for which we don’t necessarily have to have answers. Yes! For me, all I’m doing is passing a baton to the listener. For me, the musical process is like the alchemical snake that et its own tail. We set off somewhere with King Tubby or Neu! or whatever and we’re constantly feeding off other forms. I really, really believe in that punk thing where we were kids in the audience and we saw the Clash and then jumped up and had a go. It’s that enabling thing; that spreading of information. What are the plans past the coming tour? Straightaway, we’ve got more material, and it’s going on further. It’s like a wellspring. Today, five new songs appeared. And one of the things that I really missed about being in a band … when you’re a kid back in the day, somebody will bring a bass riff into rehearsal, and that

bass riff will turn into a jam, and you’d work out a chorus at one concert that’d grow over a tour into a song. We haven’t even played the new songs off the album, but I want to get on and make other stuff straightaway! There’s going to be a lot more Pop Group albums. We’re also looking to hook up with loads of other cool filmmakers. Asia Argento made the video for [the first single off Citizen Zombie] ‘Mad Truth,’ and there are all the performance artists out there, mad filmmakers and people on the fringe. We work in a pack—like back in the day, we always used to be package tours with Cabaret Voltaire or Linton Kwesi Johnson. We’re doing this single with these kids called Sleaford Mods. We’re also working with different protest groups all over the place. It’s quite a good time at the moment, but I think people are kind of competing against each other a bit too much. It’s good for people to work together and form package bills and benefits—bring it back to that proper indie spirit. It seems like even after all this time, there are still those barriers—still those walls. It’s becoming even more genre-fied than back in the 1950s, when they used to have race charts [in popular music]. I’m constantly annoyed when people say, ‘Well, you brought funk into punk rock.’ Well, there was a soundsystem on the corner in our part of Bristol. I mean, Elvis was playing R&B. I can’t understand when people make it so genrefied. In my community, growing up, we didn’t see race or class. I don’t understand ‘You’re this, you’re that...’ We’re still in that punky reggae party mode, where everything’s mixed-up and we just want to see what happens. Change is hard. Change hurts. I live off change. THE POP GROUP WITH PEAKING LIGHTS, SEX STAINS AND DJ MICHAEL STOCK (PART TIME PUNKS) ON TUE., MAR. 10, AT THE ECHOPLEX, 1154 GLENDALE BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8 PM / $25-$27 / 18+. THEECHO.COM. THE POP GROUP’S CITIZEN ZOMBIE IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM !K7. THEPOPGROUP.NET. INTERVIEW


MAGMA Interview by Kristina Benson with Sabrine Mhiri Illustration by Bob Kurthy

Christian Vander grew up surrounded by the music of greats like John Coltrane, Clifford Brown and Art Blakey, sitting right up front by the drum kit at jazz clubs when he was as young as four or five years old. As an adult, he created—with godlike vision and acumen—the group called Magma, legendarily known as one of the greatest (even definitive) prog bands, although they actively defy categorization in any genre, with quick-changing unexpected time signatures and operatic Orff-ian backing vocals that result in something evolved from jazz, prog, rock and pure force of will. (Naturally, they invented their own language, too.) The Magma founder joined us to talk about the art of astral projection, the future of artificial intelligence, and the day he realized John Coltrane was going to die. What attracts you to jazz music? What are musicians missing out on if they don’t listen to jazz? Christian Vander: My mother was very musical, my father was a pianist and my step-father, Maurice Vander, was a pianist. So I spent a lot of time in the milieu of jazz. I was very young in these clubs, including in famous clubs in Paris at the time in the 1950s: Club SaintGermain, where I had the chance to see the biggest musicians that passed through Paris, like Art Blakey, people like that. So when I was sitting next to the drum set it was like a dream—I was going to these clubs when I was 3 or 4 years old! I was truly very young when I was introduced to this music, and then afterwords, I took the common path— listening to all these musicians, particularly Clifford Brown, all those guys, and then arrived John Coltrane. And there he was! And then my mom spotted him and was with Miles Davis at the beginning, in the 1950s, especially with the record Cookin’. When you listen to John Coltrane, do you still learn? What can you learn from him after all this time? For me, John Coltrane teaches me every day. I want to say every day and for periods of time too. You see what I’m saying? Every time I hear the configuration of his rhythms, I hear them differently. How he sends out his phrases—it’s never the same. For example, we noticed— me and my mother—that very often in the chorus, on some tracks, he took a breath like that [hums a tune] and we were inspired! But in fact no—in later years, I noticed that when he plays the phrase, he does it differently than we thought he played it when we were so INTERVIEW

inspired—you see? So he even breathes within the interior of the music itself! Yes, there were still things to learn, and to discover in John’s music. He never left us at a dead end. And he has truly opened channels with his music. I think that he has accomplished what he should have, because obviously he died very young, at forty and a half. But he never left a dead end, that’s I would say. How do you pick up where he left off? What did he leave to explore that you’re interested in exploring? In a lot of ways, his entire career. Especially the moment when he began to truly play his music during the 1960s, and, as he said in his famous record A Love Supreme, ‘Seek and ye shall find!’ And we wondered what more there was for him to seek or find! From ’64, that was an extraordinary take-off, and ’65 was an extraordinary year and towards the end, it meant also the end of the quartet with Elvin Jones, McCoy and Jimmy—not Jimmy Garrison, he remained with him and continued on that path with Alice Coltrane, Rashied Ali, and the famous record Expression, which for me is the culmination—truly, like is name indicates, you see! I had a hard time listening to it when he passed away. I listened anyway, but it took me about ten years to be able to truly listen to his records again. It was terrible for me. And in addition, no one had expected him to pass away. He hadn’t said anything, and it’s remarkable that he didn’t tell anyone in his entourage, or confide in anyone, or that no one tried to find out he had cancer until the end, when it was over. And I think that it’s amazing the energy he had and that in his music, he let go. I think that, in fact,

towards the end—I actually call this music a little bit between two worlds: you can really feel that it has a foothold elsewhere, you know what I mean? It’s incredible that he was able to transmit this and at the same time, be aware of it. I understood in the introduction of ‘My Favorite Things’—I understood. I heard, ‘He is going to die’ but I didn’t even know that he was sick. I heard that note, the first note of the introduction of the theme of ‘My Favorite Things,’ I heard a sort of seppuku. I said, ‘He is going to die.’ And in fact, I heard the news ten months later. At that time, Expression hadn’t been released. And so he died before the record came out in France. What are musicians of other genres are missing if they don’t listen to jazz? I regularly practice jazz, independently of the music of Magma, because it’s extraordinary in terms of the level of listening, the speed of expression, the speed of action, to be responsive, to exchange with other forms, or forget the forms and discover other rhythms. Getting to play a structure, as they say, a form, in free time, liberated. John Coltrane did not get on stage to play A-A-B-A—he spoke from inside, he went back and forth with musicians as in a dialogue. He completely abandoned and surpassed the issue of structure. And that’s what we try to do—it’s really opening the ears that makes the music, to me. Does this connect to why you developed your own language Kobaïan—because French seemed to you to be too limited for what you want to express? No, it was not premeditated. The sounds of the new language came along with the music. They could have been love songs or pseudo-

philosophies, or I don’t know—love songs or I don’t know what. The issue of Kobaïan—the sounds arrived alongside and totally together with the music. And then, gradually, I analyzed the sounds that had been conjured, and then I called them Kobaïan because the first song that I composed, ‘Kobaïa’—it has four words: ‘kobaïa, kobaïa, koba shibewa.’ And this was the first sound that came, in fact. It was because of this that I called the language Kobaïan. But they were sounds—vibrations. I’m like a receiver for them. I don’t think that one should seek out a compositions to compose, but I think music should come to you and you should always be ready to receive it, in a state within a state, a state of reception, of receptivity. You’ve said in many interviews that you wish you could have an orchestra as big as Orff’s or Wagner’s to play Magma’s music. For live performances   of course, this is difficult. But in the studio, with programs like ProTools and Ableton, it seems like it would be possible to create a virtual orchestra as large as you want. Have computers opened up any opportunities for you that you couldn’t pursue before?  I’ve tried with all the possibilities that exist today. For example, on stage there are always three voices, three singers and—rarely—a fourth added as an additional voice,. So if you have three singers, then for sure, if you want to have, say, fifty in the studio, it’s much easier. But I have found that if it’s not fifty real voices, each with its own timbre and expression, the sensitivity of the music and the expression of it is lost. So what happens—for example, with the last record—I tried as always but in the 17


end, I practically always left the arrangement with three voices. And I found that this way, there was much better expression of emotion. I’ve duplicated voices and added six or seven voices at times, because the arrangement with the piano sometimes, was in effect, seven or eight voices and I wanted it to grow. But in the end I decided it loses so much, that using Protools and the like is not a solution. It’s more complicated than that—one must imagine the situations that you can not artificially create. When one takes on a choir of fifty people, there are an enormous amount

not very technical, eh? In any case, it does not slow down, you see. Not one plane allowed him space, so it’s “é-é,” perhaps “thud-e-kee-ding-e-dingédéding” and not “kékeding, kékeding, kékeding” you see? He finished his phrasing and his momentum, his breathing. You see what I mean? It allows [inhales and exhales] lightening, support without weight. Lots of things like that. So this suspension exists, and you sit riveted—for example as a drummer is riveted to his seat, the problem is that in space, it is not there at all. He does not sit in this way, It should really have this

to return to my body. So during these times I had to close the doors to whatever room I was in and if I experienced astral projection, not let anyone disturb me or I wouldn’t be able to return to my body, or so I thought. Gradually, I admit, I became afraid of these things. I thought, ‘I may not be ready to attempt these journeys.’ But on the other hand, I lived through them, and I found out that people who had experienced things like that reflected on them a little in the same way. I got the impression of being like two pieces of wood glued—attached, with filaments.

“And then ... ” [makes noise to describe rejoining with his body] of nuances and differences. But to create that artificially, to me seems impossible. So it is better to actually work with fifty people, that’s certain. Because we are chosen, you see—you can say, ‘Oh it sounds like that—‘ but in a recording session or a performance, there are a number of people, they are alive, and so this version is alive, and there you are. We have been selected in this moment in time, see. You know Miles Davis ‘Kind of Blue’? That version happened on that day. Maybe the next day was not the day, and we would never have had a piece of classic jazz music if they had played the next day, you see. It happened that day. That is all—we are chosen, and after some time, we say, ‘This record there, this version.’ I can tell you, Carl Orff is one of the pianists in a group I discovered early in Magma. I’d never had the opportunity to listen and that’s when I said indeed, this is the ideal training for Magma. With marimbas, vibraphones, all those things, plus chorus, brass, symphony. At times we’ve had offers to play with a symphony orchestra but it never came to be. It was overly complicated, frankly. But this is the dream. Maybe one day it will happen, I dunno. Your music deals a lot with space. Many see it as a void, but you see it as a place with limitless potential. I do a lot of travelling inside the inner world, you see—it’s exactly the same as regular travel but it emits less greenhouse gasses. [laughs] But yes, I think that the inner journey is the same, infinitely. What interests me is infinitely small and exactly the same. I think it’s the center we can see, we can all admire—not the outside— and hence the idea of multimusic, you see. And I work in this way—for example, playing a triplet that is not quite a triplet. While I am quite precise, the problem is that I always leave a space—never maybe. Always! That’s what is very important too. Getting to say the thing at the same time with a side of possibility of very fast response. I think if we just talking about drumming, if one thinks of a rhythmic pattern like, ‘tchenkedé, tchenkedé, tchenkedé, tchenkedé’ you see, well that drummers began to play ‘tché-ke-e ken-keng-ding-kin-da-ke-ke-ke-kedung-deng-é’ for example—to talk, well, it’s INTERVIEW

flexibility to be truly all-round. For example there was a girl who had transcribed a chorus of John Coltrane, and she brought him the score. John Coltrane looked at it and said, ‘I am unable to play such a thing.’ Because in fact between what we decide to do and what actually is ... is something that we’ll never know. These people are nimble enough to make music but that means having sufficient ease in space. To be released fairly rhythmically, because the pace is very important to develop anything. We first develop the part of the rhythm and the melody that leads to more known rhythms, which allows us to create melodies, and then those can be arranged harmonically, if necessary ... or if you can. From the melody comes rhythms. If you have very little rhythm, you tend to overload and overdo it. Otherwise, only the tempo—the rhythm—permits evolution within free space. Plus you have given these spaces precisely the same sensations of weightlessness, too. Do you think that the development of artificial intelligence will be a positive or net negative benefit to humanity? Well, if you think we can look at robots from old science fiction movies and think, ‘Well, we can not get there,’ I think unfortunately we can. We can, and we might get there very soon and quite easily. That’s both exciting and distressing, but it’s where we are today, maybe. And after that, how will it evolve further? Will robots have souls? That’s all that matters, in the end—it’s part of the questions about artificial intelligence, I believe. I believe they will have souls. In any case, I also engage with things besides music— not really spiritualism, you see, but what I want say is that there are forces at work and things. Once, in the past, I had to make a choice—and I decided, ‘I need to focus solely on the music.’ Because I had a kind of gift. I could move objects with my mind, using telekinesis, I think? I’m not sure what people call it, but you know what I mean—there were forces, you see. And other stuff, too—astral travel, where I’d be saying ‘Here, I’ll lie down for five minutes. I want to take a little rest,’ and I’d arrive at a state where I felt my body become detached. Later I studied up on it and I saw that in these cases it was necessary to be very careful to be able

I have had this image or sensation, like ... experiencing myself as held together by all these small filaments that are connected to the body and which slip apart at the same time. Was this before Magma? No, during Magma. But if you want, I’ll tell you something about a dream I told friends about a long time. I was at school and I talked about it like a dream, but in fact I realized years later that it might actually be a journey. When I was, I would say ten years old, I was living with my uncle and my aunt that time—I went to school, then, and in the morning my aunt woke me, and said, ‘Christian, it’s 8:00.’ I dreamed that I was in the town where I lived, which was next to Paris. I was in town and I heard her voice say ‘It’s 8:00.’ Yes, but how can I wake up? And I could not get out of the dream. So I had the idea to approach my street in the dream because I was dreaming I was in the city, and I approached my street and I said, ‘Well, then, what I’ll do, I’ll walk up my street, and then climb the stairs I’ll wake up in my bed. I’ll open the door and wake up in my bed.’ So I was ... I was heading home, and I’m seeing the street where I lived completely illuminated and in color while the rest of the whole dream was in black and white. I was a little stunned! I hit the pavement with my foot, tripped, and then I hit my head on the floor. And then I woke up. So OK—good! that was one way to wake up. That dream lasted for days and days. So every day, at 8:00— Always the same dream? Yes, always the same dream. It lasted for weeks. Unless I was going to school, or would wake up naturally—but then when I went to sleep again it would resume its course. I was used to it after awhile, so I went directly towards my street, stumbled on purpose, and then woke up. And one day, I don’t know what happened, but I arrived at my street and I stumbled, and then I fell a few meters ahead of the sidewalk. Which was unexpected! And then I woke up in the same room—but at the top of the room, really! And I could see well. I could see my aunt sleeping in the same room as me and directly below me, and I also could see the ceiling. I really saw the ceiling well and I was descending very, very slowly, and I also saw

below me as well. So then afterwards, I read about these kinds of travels, and I thought, ‘Well, its a sort of astral projection.’ Because I was detached—I wasn’t in my body, I wasn’t in the room. And I reunited and reintegrated with my body and I saw myself. And then ... [makes noise to describe rejoining with his body] I got up instantly! I should have known what it was at the at the time, but I didn’t know about all these things back then. You’ve said that you wanted your music to change the world. Is this still the case? Yes, I’m still hoping! Someone said recently there was an article that said ‘Slag Tanz, the last Magma record released, gives hope. It gives hope for the future.’ I don’t know how they wrote it, but: ‘It gives hope for the future of humanity.’ So change comes slowly maybe. The problem with this kind of music too is that it comes in stages. To give an example, there are a lot of periods and stages of Magma, and Magma is always changing… For example, take a statue, if you like. In one moment, you can admire the beautiful discovery of this statue, and the second time, you’ll understand its proportions, its relation to the golden triangle, and then the third time, you can enter into a direct vibration with this statute. And yet the statue is the same. So it’s an issue of one’s level of consciousness, or level of perception. Back in 2009, you did an interview wherein you said you wrote a song in 1977 called ‘The Story of Zero.’ When you decide to finally record it, you said, it will be your last piece. Is this true? Why haven’t you recorded it? Why will it be your last piece? The piece you’re speaking of, I think, is called ‘Zëss.’ The song for me is not complete—I still need to go through a lot of things. It’s just a little summary of the whole history of Magma, and then also everything I have—all the images and strong sensations I have had of other musics, other types of music that I could place within this theme. It is, in fact, the idea of the theme is the day of the Void—le Néant, when everything stops all of a sudden. So this is the subject, in brief,the story of the last day. Everyone knows that this will be the last day, the stars will be in alignment, all on one point, and will swallowed by a sort of center somewhere. Then there will be a rendez-vous for all beings who have lived in the universe. And then finally you will see a little idea, all gathered into one moment at the end of the song, and it implodes. Voilà! Sometimes I ask myself, ‘And now, where is ‘Zëss’?’ But I can’t know. Besides, I just tell myself that if I finish ‘Zëss’ I can’t compose anything else afterwards. What was the last invention that you were excited by? The last invention? Honestly—one of the most beautiful inventions is the piano. Or the saxophone! MAGMA ON MON., APR. 6, AT THE ECHO, 1822 SUNSET BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8:00 PM / $27-$31.00 / 18+. THEECHO.COM. MAGMA’S SLAG TANZ IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM SEVENTH RECORDS. VISIT MAGMA AT SEVENTHRECORDS.COM 19


NIKKI LANE Interview by Frankie Alvaro Illustration by Lila Ash

Nikki Lane is one of country music’s newest sweethearts. She broke out in hives at her first show, but then Rolling Stone took notice after Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys sought her out and produced her latest record. When it comes to music writers—and I’m guilty of this as well—they tend to repeat what’s already been said. Hell, if that guy said it and it’s been said over and over since, it must be true, right? I wanted to take a little bit of a left turn with this interview and actually get to know Nikki: her background, her parents and siblings, pets, and her life-changing drive from South Carolina to Los Angeles to make her music dreams come true. And they are coming true, after countless smelly cross-country van rides. So sit back with a tall glass of sweat tea and get ready to get to know—and possibly fall in love with—Nikki Lane. You’ve been referred to as the first lady of outlaw country, as well as the new Wanda Jackson. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill. Do you feel you’re handling that well? That’s the thing—it keeps coming up and people are pissed about my ‘first lady of outlaw country’ comment. When you first start marketing your records, you talk to people and answer a couple of questions for interviews. And those first few interviews have sculpted what questions people ask for the next couple of interviews. On one of my first interviews, someone asked me who I would like to be and I said I would like to be the first lady of outlaw country. Obviously Jessi Colter—Waylon Jennings’ widow—is the first lady of outlaw country, but I was supposing there’s a new era and I would get to be the next her. I have this hilarious girl coming after me online over it—people get pissed like I’m trying to fill some crazy shoe. I’m just trying to give you some words that are relatable to what I would like to do. I’m not trying to be the next Wanda Jackson—or replace her!—but I am trying to be as bad-ass as her and work just as hard, and if it’s well received, that’s fine. But I’m gonna probably try and compare myself to someone of that era. That’s what I like. I’m not trying to hold that crown. I just think that’s who I would like to be. It would be fun to be in charge! I have this girl attacking me [online] saying, ‘You think you’re the first lady of outlaw country! Tell that to Jessi Colter!’ Well, darling, it’s not 1972. Have you ever had a 35 minute interview on the side of the 10 in the middle of the desert—there’s no service, I’m cutting out with this writer—and now you’re on my ass on the internet thinking I tried to coin myself as something? You say three words and someone puts those three words in bold and you’re stuck with that shit. Luckily it’s only been ‘queen of outlaw country’ and Wanda Jackson—I’ll take that shit for sure! On All or Nothin’, there’s a song about heartbreak—where your man needs to get his ass of the couch and love you—and there’s the song about being naughty and going out and sleeping with strangers. What are the stories there? I’ve heard a couple of times before how can you be all of these different characters—be happy one night going out, and the next night be sad and misbehaving. But to me that’s just how life is—if you’re being real. 20

You’re in a relationship, you’re maybe sad and monogamous, and then you’re broken up and you want to get drastic and change and do something crazy. And after a couple of months you mellow out. That’s really what my two years I was working on my record were like. When I’m talking about sleeping with a stranger, that song to me was about the three bars—Robert’s Western World, the Crying Wolf and the 308—that I liked to go to and the kind of dudes that like hang out at them. I just thought it would be funny. I could picture redneck girls putting on the jukebox and looking across the room, and thought, ‘I’m gonna write this song!’ Do I go out and sleep with strangers all the time? NO! Do I really want you to think the last verse of this song is about you … like some fans do? NO! But is it funny? Hell yeah! So it’s just about what people do when they get divorced. They’re gonna get into some trouble! For at least a second … until I bring it back in and start crying again. It’s a long ride. To me it seems like people might feel like they really know you—possibly even get attached to you with that kind of song writing. Like they’re getting a glimpse into your life or your soul. That can be true. And that’s great with me from a fan perspective. I like that. Sometimes I didn’t realize quite how hard it was to be on the road nine months out of the year. And I’ve said at different points this year … there were moments where I would not want this life. I was sick. I was dirty. I was in a van, and I was fucking over it. The amount of money I was getting paid was not worth my time. And then I would meet someone that would fly a few states over because they missed my show in their town: ‘This is my life—I bought a ticket and flew here.’ It’s happened like fifty times now that someone has said that to me. Because I go out and talk to everybody. That must be the most incredible feeling! It’s amazing! Especially if I didn’t want to play—I think, ‘You can’t do that shit anymore.’ I can’t cancel a show because however many people did buy tickets, made plans, hired sitters or whatever. So to me being real has made it meaningful because people are actually relating to it. It’s sort of a bipolar rollercoaster trying to do this job. I get home and I realize life has gone on without me in my city for 9 months. I have to work to reopen friendships

with people that have stopped texting me to ask if I was coming because I’m always out of town. And then I’m gone again the next week. You kind of can’t slow down until you stop. I get home and have time to relax for a little bit, but if I don’t keep the ball rolling … You have to get it set in stone before you can relax. Otherwise I’m going to get the flu when I stop moving and I don’t have time for that! What’s your home life like? Any pets? I have my dog which is like my child—who’s been living with my sister for 4 months. I’ve been home for about 10 days and was going to get her but then I’d have to take her back. They’ve been bringing her to shows. It’s sculpted what my home life will be like cuz I know I can’t have kids right now. I can’t bring them in the van with me. My whole life is my job because my job is mobile. I’m trying to get a bus so I can have my dog in it. I have one cactus and one rubber plant left that won’t die when people who say they’re going to water my plants don’t come over. And also what it looks like in here—everything in here has been brought home from somewhere else, from dragging shit home in the van. It’s pretty eclectic—it’s souvenirs from all over the place. That’s the other thing—you own a shop, right? Highclass Hillbilly? Yeah—now I can’t say ‘own it’ because it’s just a stash in someone else’s store. I don’t have my own free-standing store this year. I think I probably will again soon, but it’s hard keeping a big space supplied and full. When you’re traveling across the country, are you buying a lot? You’re a pretty big vintage collector. That’s the only reason that Highclass Hillbilly is even a thing cuz I’m never going to stop going to these stores. I get things for editorial shoots—things you can’t really wear in public but that look great in photoshoots. I’m there looking for things for me or old shirts for my band. If there’s something there priced way under retail—and I know what it goes for—it’s hard for me to leave it. But when I get home there are piles cuz there is just so much shit sitting out there. I sell things to different dealers if I come across something that is worth too much money for me to waste my time trying to sell. Like I found an 1800s grizzly bear coat from a trapper, and I sold it to a guy—ran around with it for four days then mailed it to him.

What’s your favorite piece you’ve bought or sold recently? The Harley Davidson Cycle Queens jackets. There’s a green and black one I’ve been trying to find, these crazy rare cream of the crop finds—and I found two of them within a month. I’m into anything old. It’s made better for sure. And it looks better. I like it when the paint is faded and chipped. Does that connect to how you grew up? I think so. My mother has always been a repurposer—always so dang crafty. Everything is something else, in a clever way. And I grew up with my grandfather and his friends, and them being older, people in their 60s and 70s have always been my favorite. When I was a kid they would haul me off to the flea market, and I would walk around and look at things, and as I got older I started to realize how rare and valuable some of this stuff was. And also the fact that very rarely can you ever say you have one of everything from the past. And if you can, that’s really cool because when you collect vintage it’s another thing to find doubles of stuff. Then you start buying things off your friends because you don’t know if there was more than one of those things made. I’m spending less money and I have things that nobody else has. I’d rather my things be old. What were your parents like? What did you do as a family growing up? My parents got divorced real early on, so it kind of became a competition between them to be more interesting. My mom is a tomboy—she used to ride dirt bikes and motorcycles and then became a single mother, so I think her priorities overall became about taking care of us. She’s this daredevil and can do anything just as well as a man, and not because she’s a feminist but because she’s just good at everything. And I’m the same way. And my dad is an asphalt paver, so he was as tough as it gets. When I was a kid I played T-ball. I was a short stop, and a ball came and popped me in the stomach and almost knocked me out and I fell down and started crying, and my dad came running out to his crying daughter on the field and he picked me up and told me to stop crying and get my ass out there. So we were raised to be tough and to take care of your own problems, I guess. And that’s helped me now being out on the road and being in the position I’m in now and coming into contact with hardheaded people. INTERVIEW


You were raised in South Carolina? In Greenville, South Carolina, which isn’t even the truth—whenever someone says they’re from Greenville, South Carolina, we start talking about it and I tell them I’m actually from two different towns outside of Greenville, South Carolina, which everyone just lumps in and says Greenville. I was raised there until I was 18 and a half and then I got in my car and drove to California. Did you know anyone here? I knew a guy that lived in Seal Beach, and he was a roadie for a bunch of bands that I listened to. He told me and my best friend that he couldn’t figure out why we lived in South Carolina and that we belonged and would fit right in in L.A. And we took it pretty seriously. Neither of us had ever been there, and it’s not that it was even that crazy of an idea to move to L.A. He told us people would really dig us there, so we’re like, ‘Fuck yeah.’ The first thing I did was move to Redondo Beach. I had met this guy on the highway—we almost ran out of gas and he helped us and said, ‘If you guys ever want to check out the beach, come hang out!’ He was a roadie for bands, too—randomly. So we said OK—we were a couple of 18-yearold gals running out of gas in the middle of the Mojave Desert so it was pretty dramatic. When we went down there, he told us he had a room for rent for 500 dollars, and we were like OK—’Redondo Beach, L.A., same thing!’ I lived in Redondo beach for two years, and it was definitely not the same thing as L.A., but I was young enough that I was carting my ass up there every night to hang out with people. My first job was at Dimples Karaoke Bar in Burbank. Were you playing music? I liked music, and I was a big fan of going to shows and it interested me. I wanted to work in A&R—just party and sign bands—but it wasn’t easy to come out there and just start doing that as a job. I didn’t know anything about the record industry. I just wanted to be in and around it. Then my friends would record. I had country music friends and they would record in studios and want harmonies, and I knew that I could physically make the notes come out because I sang in choir. But I had no interest in having anyone watch me try and do something like that. So the first few times I did it I sang in the dark. Or with sunglasses on—very dramatic. I didn’t want anyone to watch me sing. But then right before I moved to New York, I was living in a house by myself and I had enough time to start recording. I had written about ten songs and recorded them on a little 4 track, and then I actually played my first show in L.A. as my going-away show since I was moving to New York. When I got to New York, I didn’t have a band or anyone to play with and was back to square one. It takes a lot of guts to get on a stage and pour your heart out. The first night I played I broke out in hives and couldn’t see—I guess I was technically passing out but still standing. It’s the only time fear has physically affected me. I was scared shitless. The second time I wasn’t scared shitless but I wasn’t good yet either. 22

So over the next couple of years there were moments when my leg would be shaking, especially when I moved to Nashville. I would play alone in a room with 15 to 20 other people—an open mic night, I guess—a room full of my peers. And I wasn’t very good and had to play guitar alone and sing, and there would be nights where I would have to hold my leg against the stool with a lot of pressure cause it was shaking like a motherfucker! I couldn’t even make eye contact with my peers—I was so scared shitless. I wasn’t a natural at all. But if you do a thing a couple of times, it sure does show you that it’s probably not as scary as you built it up to be. The build-up is most of the problem, I think. You’ve said you get a lot of inspiration from traveling—you have to keep rambling. I think it’s subconscious because at this stage I haven’t hit any roadblocks with my writing. Sometimes you write some words down and put a melody to the idea, and sometimes you put words to a melody—it’s just been kind of natural for me. I can’t think when the song is going to come. The song I think will be the title track for the next record will be called ‘700,000 Rednecks.’ I was drunk as shit in New York, and I had just played a really successful showcase for a lot of people. The Rolling Stone writers were still sitting there on the couch, and we were trying to cut this Christmas song that I put out this past winter, and we were waiting on them to get the room right. Someone had asked me how many people are from Greenville, South Carolina, and I said 700,000—which by the way is off by 640,000 people!—but I was drunk and I just started running my mouth and said they’re all rednecks. I just started singing, ‘700,000 rednecks, that what it takes to get to the top / 700,000 rednecks, ain’t nothing gonna make me stop!’ I went out and the boys started playing along to it, and I wrote the song in eight minutes. I just made up some words and listened back and thought, ‘Yep, that’s true.’ The lyrics are about traveling around stinking cuz I can’t take a shower, working my ass off and getting pretty tired of it, but everyone says they want me to keep going and I will cuz I need 700,000 redneck fans—and the song is done! And the song—I think!—is awesome! NIKKI LANE WITH BIRD CLOUD, COUNTRY LIPS AND MORE ON THURS., MARCH 19, AT BANDIT TOWN TEXAS BOUND AT J. LORRAINE GHOST TOWN, 14219 LITTIG RD., MANOR, TEXAS. 12 PM / $15 - $280 / ALL AGES. BANDITBRAND.COM. AND WITH DANIEL ROMANO, LINDI ORTEGA AND JOHN MORELAND ON SUN., APR. 26, AT HOLLYWOOD PALOMINO NIGHT AT THE ROXY, 9009 W. SUNSET BLVD., WEST HOLLYWOOD. 7:30 PM / $15 / ALL AGES. THEROXY.COM. NIKKI LANE’S ALL OR NOTHIN’ IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM NEW WEST. VISIT NIKKI LANE AT NIKKILANE.COM.


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FASHAWN Interview by Rebecca Haithcoat Photography by Theo Jemison

Five years ago, Fashawn’s star was rising. Produced entirely by Exile, his debut album—the soul-drenched, evocative Boy Meets World—was critically acclaimed. Plucked out of the crowded ranks of rappers, he rubbed shoulders with Wiz Khalifa on XXL’s 2010 Freshman cover. Playing stages all over the country, his days selling weed on a street corner in his hometown of Fresno seemed distant. But his ascension stalled. It stalled so long, in fact, that last year he considered giving up on his dream entirely. And then Nas called. Fashawn had paid tribute to the legendary New York rapper in 2010 with the tape Ode to Illmatic—now Nas wanted to sign him to his new indie imprint Mass Appeal Records. Last month, Fashawn hit yet another speed bump when his highly anticipated sophomore album, The Ecology, leaked. His response? Release the album early online and book a release show. After all, as he said on 2009’s “Stars”: “A star is a star and it shines regardless.” Let’s talk about the reason why you’ve been having such a crazy week lately—The Ecology came out. Better run with it and not get ran over! That’s all. My label put it out. And they move fast, man—they move quick! So yeah—things are happening. I actually took the initiative and released it. I’m happy it’s actually out now. It doesn’t even belong to me any more—it belongs to you guys.
 Is it a relief? 
 Yeah! It’s out! You can get it right now! How long exactly have you been working on this? I know it’s been a couple years? 
 It’s been too many years! I had this idea in my head—like a concept. It goes back to this whole journey I’ve been on—almost five, six years, yo!
 I remember last year we were talking about how you were on the verge of leaving rapping behind. And now that you’re past that and the album’s out—how does it feel to be on this side of it? 
 Right now, I’m living out the dream I had since I was a kid, just to be where I am now. It’s overwhelming sometimes, just to actually manifest something that you feel like you’ve worked for your whole life. It’s a good feeling, I’m happy to be out here, achieving it now. I’ve always wanted to be a part of a—a dynasty. To be on stage with like a really good roster of people, and I feel like that’s where I’m at now. Like I finally found a home.
 I know you have a great imagination and you’re so great with lyrics and talking to you—
 Aw stop.
 No, no! I remember the first time just talking to you, there was a shawarma sign you just like riffed on it—making a rap about it! It’s just—you’re a true person who just loves words! 
When you were a kid, how did you daydream? How did you spend your own time? What were you like? 
 I used to daydream about the weirdest shit! I’d daydream that I was in Rome, that I was a czar. I’d daydream that I was actually in the midst of INTERVIEW

historical events that happened. Like Martin Luther King day and the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Sometimes I’d daydream about what it felt like to be there. Sometimes when I was a kid I’d just stare at the stars and sun and imagine what was going on up there—is there a heaven up there, is there a hell below us? I’d always ponder these things as a child, and I still do. To this day. And now I started being even more childlike with my imagination and my approach to art.
 Is there anything that you have to do as an artist to keep your mind elastic like that? I have to continue to dream, and continue to be fucking weird and not be conformist, and not be like appropriated, or confined. The fact that I continue to dream, that’s why keeps my imagination elastic and flexible. It doesn’t dry up and stop—it just continues. That’s why Einstein said imagination is more important than education or something like that—than knowledge. I think that’s the beauty of being an artist. I get to express that and be the purveyor of the truth that I’m bringing.
 Your little girl is in kindergarten now? 
 Yup! She knows daddy is a rapper. And her grades are great, by the way!
 How has having a child and being a father changed you? I think part of it has made everything else look small. I used to think that everything else was so major—like reputation, or all that stuff. But after she was born, I was like, ‘No.’ I’m trying to just see this little girl—that’s the reason I’m doing all this. It makes me approach my work with more dignity and more honor. That’s why I hate when I see rappers do all these crazy antics and do stupid shit—they’ll look back on that and their kid will look at that. I’m just happy that I never had to take that route.
 Is it weird raising a little girl? 
 Absolutely! My whole perception on women has evolved. It’s totally different now than it was five years ago. I embrace it. Fatherhood is the most important thing in my life.
 You and Exile’s artistic collaboration— what’s your working relationship like? 


That’s my guy—my daughter calls him Uncle Alex and shit! Creatively we’re both free spirits and we appreciate the elasticity of imagination and creativity and art. We’re like Siamese twins! We have the same mind. I don’t have the same thing with any other producer. When I’m making music with him, I’m letting you guys into my diary. When I’m making music with another producer, you guys are getting me in my MC mode. You’re not getting 1000% me, like the human. I’m in a certain mode when I work with Exile. We’re like audio biographies about my life. I always go to Exile when I want to get stuff off my chest.
 So do you keep a diary? 
 I do. I still got a stack of books and pages of rhymes and stuff I wrote down. And yeah, I got all my journals. I can literally go back to January 10, 2001, when I had a crush on this girl named Amanda in high school. I find that song and remember how I felt about life at the time, and go back and reflect on my perspective. Making music kind of turnsalbums into journals as well. Diaries for the public to tear apart or praise or whatever they would do to it—like a book.
 I’ve kept a diary since second grade. 
 That’s great! Your collection is probably shitting on mine—I didn’t keep a diary in 2nd grade. Honestly, I probably threw more rhymes away than I kept. I mean—I still have a large collection now, but there’s so many I burned and trashed. They’re in the atmosphere now. Maybe someone’ll find then one day.
 What was your favorite toy as a kid? 
 [Laughs] A Steve Urkel doll had was my favorite toy. I had Legos and Play-Doh and all that shit, and those cars they used to have—Big Wheels. But my favorite toy was the Steve Urkel doll. He was a dope character. In some ways he was not your average—not a black man I could see every day! Back then, our heroes were like Tupac and Wesley Snipes, not like nerdy kids. I never met a Steve Urkel in my hood, ever. And just to have the polar opposite—it’s cool. It’s something different. That’s probably my favorite TV show as well!


It’s so weird now—there was never a character like that where you were growing up. And now nerds are cool. 
 Now it’s cool to wear glasses and be articulate, and be smart! It’s cool—it’s more appropriate now. And there’s pros and cons to that as well.
 Do you still feel like at the heart of your mission as an artist, or your goal as an artist, there is still a sense of community and politics? 
 I’m still the same guy. To give you an example: when the first single for this album came out, instead of doing the typical thing that rappers do when go out and they campaign they single, first thing I did was donate the money to the Fresno community food bank and the homeless shelter downtown. That was my focus. Of course I had music out but to me it’s a small thing, being a philanthropist and someone of influence is more important than being just an MC or a rapper. Art is my baby—it’s my main thing. But I feel like it’s up to the artist of they want to be a philanthropist and give back. It’s up to them, but that’s how I feel about it.
 Where do you see yourself next year at this point? 
 I have no idea. But really, I’m going to pray that God gives me—that I make it to that day. That you won’t have to write a terrible article about me. Hopefully I make it to that day, that’s all I can ask for. I remember Andre 3000 said [in the Art of Storytelling]—alive! Simply.
 I’m sure people have told you that you have a maturity beyond your years. You’re 26 but you have a maturity. 
 Thank you. I think it’s just from being around all the people I’ve been around. I was always— that kid in my family, they used to call me Little Yoda cause I’m short, and like wise, and I kinda look older than I am—I’ve always been that guy. FASHAWN’S THE ECOLOGY IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM MASS APPEAL. VISIT FASHAWN AT FASHAWN.CA. 25


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THE 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS At the very end of the 13th Floor Elevators’ long discography is a ghostly version of “May The Circle Be Unbroken,” recorded at a distance by Roky Erickson as his band faded away. If we were writing a month ago, that would be where everything had ended. But last month, something unexpected happened: the announcement of a reunion of the surviving line-up from the Elevators’ epochal Psychedelic Sounds LP, situated most appropriately atop Austin Psych Fests’ Levitation. With much-appreciated help, L.A, RECORD was able to secure the most in-depth Tommy Hall interview since ever—the philosophical engine of the Elevators talks with musician and producer Ty Segall. Then Chris Ziegler takes a first-person tour through Elevators history with bassist Ronnie Leatherman, who watched the band form, played on Psychedelic Sounds and then returned for Bull Of The Woods and the final moments of the band. We’ve also located an unpublished interview with Frank Davis, engineer on the revolutionary Easter Everywhere album, who offers insight and enthusiasm with rare clarity. More than forty years after their debut, the Elevators’ influence reverberates through music today—that “surfy” sound people talk about now all comes from departed guitarist Stacy Sutherland—and L.A. RECORD is honored for this chance to peek inside the pyramid.

TOMMY HALL INTERVIEW BY TY SEGALL I’m from Laguna Beach and I know you lived there for a while—were you part of the Brotherhood at all? No. I went down to Laguna Beach and I met some of them. I was there for about a month a half or so. There are these caves on the Irvine Ranch that were pretty cool where I was staying. With Timothy Leary? No, no. I just met up with some of the people in the Brotherhood and they gave me a handful of Orange Sunshine. It was far out. They had hidden this giant stash underneath a Buddha. In the cave? Oh no, this was in a house. They lived in a bunch of houses and they were really cool. They looked like a bunch of gypsy houses in Eastern Europe. Or like Swiss. The insides had a bunch of Indian tapestries. It was a typical hippie thing on the inside. Growing up there, everybody talks about the Brotherhood. I’ve only met one other person who hung around with those guys. Well, with Leary they were kind of a bad influence. I hate to say that. LSD is a consciousness-expanding medium, right? So you can use it to get ideas. You want to use acid so that you can think, not because of some crackpot political ideas. So for you— It’s for everybody! Everybody understands this. Hippies were so entrenched in this political philosophy. They’re all a bunch of communists, right? The hip people still believe in revolution so that the people on the bottom take over and control the people on the top. It’s still going on. Do you think that taking acid can help you achieve higher consciousness? It allows you to get ideas. With them, it took them out of things and it gave them a few ideas and they—because they took acid—were the intelligent ones. The other people didn’t know about this so they were the stupid ones. Even though the same people did smack and everything, they acted like they were more intellectual than your normal people. It is true that they’ve acquired some secrets as far as technique, but INTERVIEW

they misuse it. It doesn’t get anywhere. They just lie, man, you know? It’s an adversarial type of relationship that actually increases consciousness. The more conscious people had to use their brains to figure out how to rationally answer them. It keeps them alert, expands their consciousness—that’s why it’s part of nature. It’s a natural mechanism of evolution. If you look at it, evolution is the evolution of consciousness from little beings who reacted to the outside and then grew themselves—advanced themselves. Some of it is random. But the whole thing is not random. It’s an expansion from the apes. We got smarter and smarter and that advanced us. It’s very simple. Were you trying to push these ideas when you were playing music? No—we were just trying to give another view besides just the ‘get as high as you can’ view. And that on the political side, on the paranoid side, there was something wrong. We represented the psychedelic way that you get ideas and advance your consciousness, but in the correct way. Once you get to this one idea, what are you going to do next? That, in a way, shut us down. It took me a long time to get to this. The universe is mathematical but science says, ‘Oh no.’ They tried to figure it out and they couldn’t do it. But you have to see certain things about it. You have to start with the universe as a fraction and they never started there. That was beyond them. You have to go all the way back to the beginning and understand what abstract mathematics is based on and then come forward to see the quasi-math itself. It looks like it’s real but it’s actually a complex abstraction. Does this sound kooky or wacky to you? It’s just a lot of information to take in. That’s why I want you to tape it. Te more that you can explain, the more it’s going to help kids out of doing meth and smack and thinking. Getting them interested in science and math and stuff. I mean, that’s already hip. You have this show, The Big Bang Theory—the big bang didn’t happen the way they think. So they do this show and it sounds hip.

CONTINUED P. 28

RONNIE LEATHERMAN INTERVIEW BY CHRIS ZIEGLER You were witness to the Elevators since before the beginning—since high school in Kerrville, when Stacy and John Ike were in the Lingsmen. What was the first time you realized this group of people was going to do something special? The Lingsmen—that was a good band. I played with them right at the first til I had to go back to school. I knew Stacy had talent, and John Ike did, but then when they met up with Roky and Tommy—the first time I heard Roky I said whoa! Yeah! What a great voice! I saw him in Austin—I believe at the Jade Room. That’s where I started playing with them. Stacy and I had been in touch, I knew he was in the band, and I was in another band and they used to come out and see us and we used to come out and see them. Stacy said, ‘Hey, do you want to come play?’ And I said, ‘Well sure!’ Roky and Tommy were looking for a band, and Tommy was looking for an idea, and he ran into Stacy and Stacy seemed to click with him right away. And of course, John Ike jumped on soon as he heard Roky sing and heard some of his stuff and was like ‘well yeah, that’s going to work.’ Then the music started going and the ideas started coming. I started mainly just hanging out with Stacy over at his house, cuz he and John Ike came back and forth from Kerrville, and so I started working with him and then finally got to know Roky very well. Tommy was kind of at a distance a lot of time. He was definitely himself! And he still is! He called me the other day, it was really cool. He sounded excited! How did that first conversation go—‘if you’re going to be in this band, you gotta take acid.’ Well, yeah. I hadn’t before but when I got with them, nearly every show we did was on acid. Always. Every show? I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it either. I was a little leery of it—not as in ‘Timothy Leary.’ I kinda started slow. I never wanted to overdo it. I read you took half a tab when everyone else took a tab. Most of the time. And then I’d see if it was working and then I might take a little more.

I didn’t ever take it much, except when we played, and then except … occasionally when we just were running around San Francisco, it was kind of hard not to at times. I was 18 and just got out of high school. Just graduated and here we were, hanging out at all the cool places. All the great bands just used to blow me away. None of them had a record out yet so I didn’t really know who they were, but the first time you see Moby Grape, you just get floored! And then Buffalo Springfield, of course—and finally, when Janis got with Big Brother, that was really cool. We knew her. She and Roky actually used to do folk songs together! At Threadgill’s—they were both kind of folksingers in the very beginning and then both ended up being screaming rock ‘n’ roll singers. When she came out to California, she wasn’t with a band. So I think Roky and Tommy introduced her to Big Brother and they hit it off real good. We used to hang out and drink a little wine together. We were a lot different than most of the other bands out there. I thought it was really cool! I liked them probably more than they liked us. It was just such a cool scene and the people were really good to us. I wasn’t expecting that kind of reception when we got there, but it was amazing. What was the difference between you and the bands in San Francisco? Sometimes I wondered that myself! I guess we weren’t trying to be as polished as some as them—we were a little more free-form. Sometimes the songs didn’t always go the same way. They’d space out a little bit in the middle. Most of the other ones seemed a little more organized, I guess is how you’d explain it. The author Paul Drummond said that the Dead couldn’t believe you guys took acid at every show. Well, most people didn’t! They said, ‘How do you do that and play?’ ‘We got lucky! We must’ve got lucky that night!’ Is that Live at the Avalon set a good representation of the Elevators as they truly were?

CONTINUED P. 30 27


TOMMY HALL CONTINUED FROM P. 27

Can you tell me about the first time you heard Roky sing? I don’t know if this will get me in trouble. I was dealing weed in Austin and so we went down to this beautiful place, Padre Island. We were cool-looking people, so these other two dudes introduced themselves and they wanted to know where they could get weed. I found out that they played music at Padre Island and we’d just come from there. It was this big thing—like, wow, far out. We tell them to come up to Austin and this was Stacy and John Ike. They came and bought weed from us. They didn’t like the band that they were in so they wanted to form another band but they needed a singer. These things happened together, like a coincidence. I said, ‘Well, I’ll look around.’ I heard about this singer, Roky, and they were playing in the Latin Quarter in Austin—a small little club. I thought he was a really good singer. He was just with this kind of a dumpy band. A kid’s band—a high school type of band, right? But they had a pretty good sound. So I mentioned to Stacy and John Ike that I found this singer. They looked at him and it made sense. I had discussed ideas about consciousness— Alfred Korzybski kinds of things—that you used weed to get ideas and acid. They asked me if I would write songs for them and even be in their band if I could? I played jug, you know? Just to be a part of the folk groups. I thought I could do that with a rock group, see? I wanted to get on board because I could write songs. I knew I could write songs because there wasn’t anything being done in those days that was about consciousness. I’m the one who came up with the idea about psychedelic rock and the eye in the pyramid. I played with them and it worked but that first tune that we did, ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ … I really wasn’t ready and I sounded horrible and I apologize to fans. They had this idea that everybody in the band should play at the same time and you’ve got this spirit throughout each other. We didn’t record on different tracks. We recorded ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ and I was kind of sloppy. I got the gist that they thought it was all right— there wasn’t anything wrong with it. But there was, see? But the idea is that we would’ve had to record the song together again and they just got in the mood that it sounded great, that it was perfect—except for me. It’s a part of an acceleration of my consciousness. You have to wake up and compensate for this. I worked hard and the earliest songs were tools. But that’s how we met Roky. Can I ask you some questions about some of the people you knew back in the 60s? I knew Janis Joplin in Austin. There were all these people around her. There was a folk music group that played in what they call the Commons at the University of Texas. They have these glass doors and I saw people playing with guitars and I went in and they were really good. I could not believe that they were so good. She reinforced people but she had people with her. They were excellent 28

musicians. I got in with them and they were connected with a lot of the intellectuals, with The Texas Ranger, a Texas humor magazine that won the award of best in the nation that year. I was right in the middle of that social swill, right? It was really great. I just expanded, too. I was well read and I knew jazz. I read a lot but I hadn’t read a lot of Lawrence Durell, Henry Miller, which was really a side issue. To them, this was a big thing that you educated yourself with. Plus there were differences in philosophical things. I got in with this book Science and Sanity by Alfred Korzybski. This is really a great book, man. From this book, I got the idea of the pyramids. He talks about levels of abstraction—that’s a really great concept. Is that where you got the concept of the pyramid? Not directly but he talked about levels of abstraction. Ideas are different levels of abstraction, which is a really powerful thought. You start thinking that way and it takes you right out. It’s really great knowledge. As you go up in levels of abstraction, it has the tendency of leading to one idea. That’s why the pyramid works as a model for consciousness. So that’s the pyramid you used for the Elevators? Well—with the eye, it leads to perception.It’s called ‘The All-Seeing Eye.’ It’s just abstraction itself. We were able to utilize that for full perception. It worked with us very well to help people understand, to think. It gave us ideas. That’s what all this stuff is for, you know? Let’s talk about your influence on the media. What’s important is the information’s influence. I’m like a monk. I just happen to have this information available to me. I did a good job and I worked and I was faithful, you might say. I had the information that I could believe in and I kept on doing it. Are you happy with how the Elevators have promoted these ideas? Yeah—sure. But what I do now is I work on the structure. How it started and taking it forward into the galaxies and stars. All of that comes together and then it has to happen back to Earth so the electron structure and the photons hitting that causing our perception ... we have to make understanding there that will advance our perception to other levels or else it’s just bullshit. It’s not going to work. Did you have these ideas during the Elevators? I had the idea about the curve of space— everybody knows about that. The hippies called me ‘The Grey Spider.’ I used to wear a grey jacket. Because I spied it—I spied her. They know about that. It’s an underground thing. But that’s all I could get. So you’re getting high off it but then what do you do? It takes awhile to realize that science really didn’t do their job in a way, but they did what they could do to predict stuff that we could use at the time. You have to see that the

idea about the big bang is partially wrong. There was space before it expanded—it’s not the way that they said it was. It’s not just energy—it’s abstract mathematics. That’s what I’ve been doing but it just took a long time. I think I’ll be safe as long as I can bring it back to our perception and our electron structure and what the photons are so we can get a bigger idea about the perceptual globe, you might say. That has to happen. I think you’re doing good work here. The ideas have been there and we’re here and we’re supposed to do this. We’re supposed to use our brains. That’s why we have brains: to figure this out, you know? What about your method? Do you still use acid while you’re working? Not right now. It’s really hard to get acid. I used to smoke weed. Weed is cool—it allows you to think better. But it causes me to cough. Now I’ve got this show coming so I can’t smoke weed. The weird thing is, from the position that I’m in, I really don’t need weed. Do you think that every person has a different tolerance for or psychedelics? Should there be a limit? People are in different situations—different levels of consciousness. There’s an evolutionary hierarchy so some people are more competent than other people but it’s all about the situation they’re in too. Like, if they’re having trouble? Acid makes you retrospective. You use it to get ideas about yourself and the outside world—so it could freak out people if they’re having trouble. If you have smoked weed and are going step-by-step so you can tolerate a change of consciousness, you’ll be safe. How did you use acid in the Elevators? One thing I want to say is that the legalization of weed is a really good thing because it allows people to tolerate a change of consciousness and perception. They have control so that people won’t use it at work and stuff. It will be clean. It’s not the type of drug that carries over. It might be present but it doesn’t affect you the next day unless you use too much. Did you know Skip Spence? No. We played a show with him. I never met him, man. They were in this other group and they were just kind of wanderers. They had no idea what they were doing. They just played rock music, you know? See, we were psychedelic rock and the Dead were psychedelic rock, too—but it’s different. Even the poets were on the wrong pathway. It just got bigger and bigger, like that Alan Watts book. The acid shows you the expanse of things. They’re saying, ‘It’s bigger than you are so just forget about it.’ Well, that’s ridiculous. That’s just silly. But they were older people and that sold books. It was about consciousness from kind of a basic reality. Luckily we had Timothy Leary in the early days who was into the expansion of consciousness. I read The Psychedelic Review. I subscribed to it so I got certain ideas. But he just went off into this fucking nutso crackpot political theory that was dangerous and it spoiled acid because they thought, ‘Well, when you take acid you want to overthrow the government.’ It messed everything up. I met people who made bombs. In San Francisco, this one dude blew all the fingers off his hand. It was fucked

up. You had all these orgies. It was really a messed-up environment. Everybody thought that was cool, though. ‘Oh yeah, far out.’ But it messed up a lot of people. Were you close friends with the Dead? I met the Dead. Janis introduced me to them. The band got turned on to weed up in this tree house at what had been a girl’s camp. The Dead rented it, right? They lived there and they were really groovy but they were, like, far out. TAt this point, I had only done the first album, which was, like, ‘Acid is all right. It’s like a rollercoaster.’ We did have the eye in the pyramid but I hadn’t gotten to this idea about our perception of closed space. That came later. So we were little. We were in awe of them. Their first album is the one that’s happening. And also Quicksilver’s first album. The first one had ‘Pride of Man’ on it. You can put that on and play it over and over again. We came out before those people. It’s no big deal. They had this perfected music to teach that there was this high thing about acid—that you could expand your mind— but they didn’t follow their own rules. They didn’t have that information so it narrows it. We had these little gems in there that help people think. It’s not just taking more of it. We want people to think. Did you play music after the Elevators? No. We were a philosophical effort. Janis wanted to join our group but I said we shouldn’t do that because it would change things into a blues. We were a psychedelic band and we didn’t want to just commercialize. Other people asked me to play but I didn’t think it was a good thing. And Roky suffered and we ought to honor him because he is the Elevators as much as I am. How is your relationship with Roky now? Is everything good now? Still friends? Yeah, sure—of course. Are you excited about playing together? Yeah—it’s a cool thing. It draws attention to the group again and makes people think about what we did. It reinforces the attention that people have paid to us and it rewards that. Like—it isn’t dead. I am doing something. That’s another reason why these articles are cool because we want people to understand that this is a progression. This kept on going. I’m a student and I have studied and I get my ideas everyday and the ideas progress or else. If it stopped, I wouldn’t keep on doing it. It would be irrational. But as long as long as the pathway keeps opening up, it’s great. I just keep on doing it, like a walk in the woods. The universe helps us because it wants us to do this. It loves us and we’re a part of it and we’re going somewhere. What do you think about other bands that are playing this kind of music now? There aren’t any other bands playing this kind of music. THE 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS WITH LIGHTNING BOLT, THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, FUZZ, MELODIE’S ECHO CHAMBER AND MORE ON MAY 8-10 AT AUSTIN PSYCH FEST’S LEVITATION AT CARSON CREEK RANCH, 9507 SHERMAN ROAD, AUSTIN, TEXAS. INTERVIEW


FRANK DAVIS

ENGINEER ON EASTER EVERYWHERE (1967) INTERVIEW BY CHRIS ZIEGLER

In 1967 a young and idealistic recording engineer named Frank Davis found himself in service of the notoriously difficult (as he tells it, in detail) International Artists label. His job in the studio was to capture genius for the label the cheap, and he loved the part about capturing genius. But when the 13th Floor Elevators rolled in to Walt Andrus Studios in Houston in that fall, he realized that this was a kind of music—and these were a kind of people—that’d he’d never encountered before in his life. In this unpublished interview fragment from 2007, he speaks with passion and clarity on the power of the 13th Floor Elevators. How did you first meet the Elevators? The very first time was in the studio for Easter Everywhere. I’d recorded several albums for International Artists and one them was the [Golden Dawn’s] Power Plant—there were all references to dope. Marijuana, the power plant. The label decided that because I had rapport with these guys, I would just do all the recordings. I’m 65 now and I guess I was in my late 20s then? I did several bands, doing albums and doing them very quickly. And IA was pleased because they were cheap and the artists loved it. But the kids got screwed over. From then on, I’d warn them about letting International Artists buy anything for the bands. They were overcharging. They’d buy a $100 amp and charge $1,000. That was common. They’d show you all the billing and there was no way to prove anything was wrong. They did that to the Elevators, too. They’d buy a big old house in an abandoned area of town off an old highway—outside city limits to keep the cops out—and they’d have all kinds of bands in and out of there. A free place to stay where you were safe. You could get stoned and not be arrested. They even hired FBI agents, to buy them off—have them hang out. On their days off they would get the quote/unquote ‘bootleg’ and guard the band at their gigs so the Houston police couldn’t come in on them. You wouldn’t believe the sleaze. Anything to get the bands in debt. Everything the bands made was the labels money, and they’d rack it up. It wouldn’t sound so bad when they’d say to you, ‘Well, Roky, you’re only playing $75 a month for rent—almost free!’ And they bought all the dope for them, and God knows what they INTERVIEW

charged them for the dope! They were just at their mercy. If the bands didn’t wanna pay for something, the label would’ve just turned them in. They were lucky to get out without owing the label. To pay to even look at their own record! There’s unbelievable scum here in Houston. Turns out we were models for the rest of the business. Did the Elevators get along with you? I was thrilled because every band was new and had their own new ideas about music and how it should be played. They were bright young kids and the Elevators—on top of being that—were on a quest. Not only to spread the word about hallucinogenics and spirituality, instead of the sleaze of the dope world—they believed, and their form of spirituality was so spectacular and easy to believe and brilliantly written. Tommy Hall was just brilliant and probably still is. Easter Everywhere was the first real Elevators album in a way—fully realized, start to finish. They got to do what they wanted. We spent a month on it. It was a different world. They all gave a lot. What did they come in with and what did they leave with? They left with nothing. Lelan Rogers had everything. They didn’t get anything. How did you feel as you were making it? I was honored, first off. It was a real privilege for them to choose me on top of the regular guy that did International Artists. And they did. I couldn’t believe it. I was totally unknown. What kind of people were they then? Tommy was the mommy and daddy of the whole thing. If there was a problem, he’d come into the studio part and the mixing room and put his arm around them, and they’d walk outside and smoke a joint. And come back in nodding up and down. He’d be talking where the spirit is—they had a language I considered very advanced. They had code words. You know how in ‘Earthquake’ they talk about tribes ascending from something into the flower? They all knew the language. They’d be talking like that, in beautiful beautiful metaphors. It was hard to stay not stoned listening to what they were saying—you would just rise up. Do you feel you fully understand Easter Everywhere now? Oh, God—every time I hear it is a new adventure. I feel risen after I listen to it. It’s so powerful. Do you think psychedelic music was born in Texas—specifically, Kerrville? I have no doubt that is true. There’s so much in Kerrville, Texas, and I have no idea why except for there were lots of native hallucinogenics in that area. That goes back way way to the cowboy days. Cowboys were taking hallucinogenics all the time. And some of the boys that came from that area,

their fathers and grandfathers were in that tradition. Guys spent their lives outdoors and knew the land and they had their own religions. I hate to say ‘white Indians’ but they lived off the land and had great respect for it because they knew it. Eating peyote is quite different than taking mescaline. Just a religious experience. And they lived in that experience, and they were on their own, in a world that no one else was really available to understand at the time. And their children and their children’s children had both worlds. Whole families were involved in music. The skies there are the most gorgeous things in the world, it’s the most beautiful property that ever existed—you go camp out and put your head on a huge granite bowl that the Indians would leave when they traveled and walked paths under holy skies. And they’d have all that they needed. A box full of corn, peyote—running along. That was life in those days. That was where some of those kids came from. And they brought that to the cities. Yeah. It wasn’t all that weird til they found out it was weird! People were hungry for the directness and openness of kids from those areas. 100 miles outside of Austin. Austin was safe—intellectual because of the colleges. They were safe there. What kind of person was Roky then? I think Roky is one of the greatest all time singers. The guy suffered more than any rock ‘n’ roller I know of for his art. What he gave up for this was extraordinary. If anybody had gone through that much electric shock— believing in this ultimate higher power, so to speak, and being crucified constantly and still having faith and having hope and being kind! It’s just a miracle. And his voice! Oh, God, to hear him sing—and to see the images go across his face of the places that he and Tommy have observed and mapped out for us, which would be one way to put it—it was real. I don’t know even how much to say I’m proud of him. How did you begin to record Easter? We studied each other for quite a while. What I got them to do was set up informally with as many acoustic instruments as we could in the studio, and they just played around and let me find the dynamic they had. It was obvious pretty quickly that they were very consistent, they knew what they wanted to do—great musicians, all of them. Virtuosos of the genre. They had no trouble whatsoever finding pitch, tuning, beat and color—one thing I could kind of judge was how a song had its own color, its own accent … the whole was individual, and it grew more and more individualistic as things were purified. About the only thing I added—and they liked it because on the raw recordings, the unmastered master, you’d hear that 16 cycle hum drop in at the right point on ‘Earthquake’ and it was the

sound of an earthquake. It literally moved you. I think when the people mastered the vinyl, they were afraid to leave it in. So they turned it down. We had accurate playbacks and the building would vibrate. If you have good equipment, it still shows up. What would have happened if they could have stayed together after Easter? Well, for a while they were very good. They were very successful at that time. They were doing lots of big concerts. Just an ordinary band would have groupies, and these guys had … I would say, ‘followers.’ They came totally equipped with religious fervor and in a lot of places were considered holy men. To listen to them talk, to be in their presence, to be blessed by them … they had a lot of respect. They spawned a whole era of freedom that you didn’t just have to have an amp turned up. When all that collapsed … the other stuff was vacant compared to when people were trying to help people. When the Elevators started and toured and I won’t say left—when they were through, they left a highway of opportunities for other bands not to be teenybopper music. For people like Mayo Thompson [of the Red Krayola]. His acceptance was far greater cuz the limits had been burst open. People that never even thought of being listened to had things to say and they said it. What do you think happened to Roky? I wish I knew. All I knew about Roky afterward was all good. I didn’t realize they’d broken up. I wondered what happened after Stacy was killed. I didn’t hear til ten years later that Tommy was still alive. Roky is more than a folk hero in Austin and more—as far as people in music in Texas, he will always be alive. When he started recording things like ‘Two Headed Dog’ … I don’t know anything about those. The ones I heard, I thought were pretty funky and disrespectful, actually. They didn’t have respect to allow him to be open and honest. They were making him a carcicature of himself. I was furious about that. I was hurt they were doing that to him. He was still … a sacrificial lamb. That’s my personal view. He’s a great singer if nothing else—a voice that can do anything! In Houston, there are I guess ten or so different bands that do nothing but … they’re copy bands, but they have a mission to continue the 13th Floor Elevators genre and spirit. Like the Elevators would be if they had not been abused into unconsciousness. What could have been? In some ways, I hesitate to answer. I’d go as far as saying that it’s a branch in musical history—a turn, a change, an electric shock. I think a lot of people spent a lot of time to try and cover it up with dust. And still probably hundreds of thousands of people were affected. It was a new form of thinking and it was good for you and healthy for your spirit. They were the first real powerful jolt—like a heavyweight boxing match where there’s a knockout in one blow.And they changed the thinking of rock ‘n’ rollers. 29


RONNIE LEATHERMAN CONTINUED FROM P. 27

I guess! I didn’t even know they recorded it! I didn’t even know it happened until it came out years later. I did have a little moment in ‘Splash One’ where I didn’t know where the hell I was! I hadn’t been with them for but about a month, and I thought we were in another song, and I don’t think I ever caught on. If you listen close you can tell. International Artists sort of forced you into making that first album when and where they wanted, right? ‘Come back from San Francisco and record or we’re releasing the rehearsal tapes.’ They just made everything worse and worse as things went on. That’s how they got Stacy— when John Ike and I finally left—they told Stacy and them, ‘Oh we’ll buy you all this new equipment.’ And they went out and bought him all this new equipment, anything he wanted. But then they took it all away 6 to 8 months later. They may have just been renting it, knowing the record company. What went right on that first album? Did it come out how you intended? Pretty much—other than the mix! And then where they had them mastered. We had it mixed pretty well, and then the lawyers got involved, and they didn’t like this, wanted to hear less of that, more of this, and then they went to some other producer, and they got remixed. Back then, for a lot of recordings, it was hard to do because there was only a few 8-track studios. You still had to go in and do the rhythm guitar, bass, and drums. Once you did those, they put all three of on to one track. Once they bounced those to that one track, you couldn’t bring up the guitar or the bass or the drums. So it made the mixing harder—if you brought up one, everything came up. The mix that John Sullivan—the engineer—did, I think that was the best out of all of them. Everything seemed clearer. It didn’t have reverb—it was dry. If you put reverb on his mix it would have probably been perfect. But they didn’t want to listen to him or us. I feel like the story of the 13th Floor Elevators is a horror story for bands. Everything that could go wrong did. There was a lot of downside. A lot of going wrong. It just fell in place like that between us and the record company. They were all lawyers and didn’t have a clue what was going on. Lelan Rogers—I liked him. I got along with him pretty well. He tried, but it got to where he had to choose between the management and us on whose side to take, and of course he was staying on the one that still putting money in his pocket. A lot of ‘em say he was the bad guy at times but I thought he was really pulling for us. I could talk to him. He even called me years and years later just to say hi, which was pretty nice in the long run—even after he burned us. That’s gutsy. ‘Hey, wait a minute! What’s he doing calling me after all these years of ripping us off?’ They always just gave us enough money to get by. The only time I did well was then I 30

went back to help finish Bull of the Woods, cause I wasn’t under contract. They gave me the going union rate in the studio. Back then it was 25 dollars an hour. They even paid me for rehearsing with them. But then they didn’t give [drummer] Danny [Thomas] and Stacy enough money to live on so most of my money went to keeping us all together while we finished. We had a free place to stay—a run-down old house on Galveston Road. The bottom floor was trashed but the top floor was pretty nice. You were living basically in squats while you were making these records? Yeah—we never had anything going good. When we first got back from California and finished the first album, we had a bunch of gigs booked up the east coast and that was the main thing we wanted. Better money and everything. We needed to be out there. That was one of the things where John Ike and I said, ‘Hey this isn’t going to work.’ The band ended up being stagnant in Houston and never left again. Tommy was happy being there in Houston cuz he had fans and everything was good, and I guess he wasn’t just thinking about making money and getting more fans. And John Ike wanted to get out there and get the east coast kicking in—that could have helped us in the long run. Is it true Jimi Hendrix’s manager wanted to take you on tour? And Elektra Records wanted to sign you— I always heard that! And that they made a decent offer! Back then I thought they offered $75,000 for our contracts. But it fell apart. A lot of bands have trouble with their labels. But also you guys are in a battle with the law. On the run, hiding out—how did you protect yourself? They were always following us around. In Kerrville they thought we were dealing or something and we didn’t ever deal anything. We never had to hardly buy anything! People would try to give us stuff. You’re the opposite of drug dealers—you’re drug receivers. Yes! In Houston when we started playing there, International Artists hired a narcotics agent to go with us all the time. He came to the hotel with us and stayed with us and came with us when we left. Every time we went somewhere, the police would take everything apart in the dressing room before we got to go onstage. They’d come in there, check the backs of the amps, pull off the backs, go through the guitar cases. Back then, there wasn’t much you could say against law enforcement. Stacy had a couple of bad times with the cops when they took him off stage. They drove him out in the middle of the country and said, ‘Why don’t you just get out and run!’ They’d found a roach in his ashtray in Kerrville. So the cops sent a warrant down to Houston and they came out and grabbed him offstage. The cops said ‘You’re going with us!’ Stacy turned every knob on his guitar and amp up, handed the guitar to the cop, and it started screaming and

feeding back, and the cop was freaking out and didn’t know what to do. Finally one of them yanked the plug out of the wall. Is everyone tripping as they haul him away? Oh yeah—he was too! The next night we had a lot bigger crowd, of course. I didn’t want to get caught so I was real careful—I paid more attention to what was going on around me. You never got arrested? No. Never have been. I read you told the draft board you took acid every day, and they said, ‘No problem!’ Oh yeah—my security clearance was a Code Z, whatever that meant. ‘You’re only qualified to be in the infantry.’ You were there as the Elevators built their sound. What impacted you more—the acid? Or the battles with authority? You were quite literally outlaws. If it had been in the old days, we would have been gunslingers or something, instead of guitar slingers. Stacy—for that one roach—he did two years in prison! I was in ‘Nam so I wrote him letters, but they sent most of my letters back with all these things I couldn’t say to him. You couldn’t say anything against the war, you couldn’t hardly even say, ‘Hi and how are you?’ We were just trying to be friends. They sent the letter back and circled everything I couldn’t say. I was real surprised. You were there on that afternoon with Dick Clark when Tommy said ‘we’re all Heads.’ I thought that was really good that he really got caught off guard by Tommy! It wasn’t planned, that’s for sure! We’d just played that morning—that boat tour around Alcatraz. Then we flew down to L.A. They had this beverage from Fredericksburg that was kind of like a Dr. Pepper, and it was called Irn Bru and it didn’t have a label, but the cap had this guy making a muscle. We gave Dick Clark some but we’re pretty sure he never opened one—he thought it had acid in it. If you’d gotten the chance to dose Dick Clark would you have done it? No. I wouldn’t do that to anybody. When someone tells me they’re going to slip some acid to someone, I say, ‘Don’t let me hear about it.’ That isn’t something you do to somebody, even back in the day. We didn’t look at it something to party on it. It was something to help us create and give us insight. Your last show with the Elevators was at the Living Eye in 67. What happened? The hardest thing is getting out knowing that we wanted to stay together and knowing that it wasn’t going to go. I just thought it wasn’t going in the right direction. Leaving—all that was hard to do. You hear of them playing again somewhere and, well, it wasn’t easy. When you walked back years later in to play on Bull of the Woods, what had changed? Roky and Tommy were gone. It was just Stacy, me, and Danny. It was just strange. Did Stacy feel like he had to carry everything by himself then? I think so. He finally convinced us to finish and get a whole album out. But it was also good for Stacy because he got to do his thing. They let him experiment a lot. I don’t know if you’ve been in a studio from back then with an echo chamber? It’s basically a concrete box— real long and narrow. He’d go in there with a mic on the amp and a mic on the guitar.

He’d crawl into a dark concrete cave? Yeah—four feet tall. Sitting down, he was fine. He had a battery powered lantern—light enough for everything he was doing. What was Stacy’s vision? What did he want out of music? He was one of those—in love with the same girl forever, and a real believer, real religious, believer in God and the end of the world. He’d grown up well—his parents taught him well. He tried to be on the straight and narrow all the time but he just wandered a few times. His family had a great relationship. We stayed up on their ranch—they had an 800acre ranch ten miles out of Kerrville. You had to go through seven gates to get there. His dad had sheep so we’d go move the sheep from one pasture to another. You were actually shepherds? We did a little sheep herding and drenching— when you squirt stuff down them that keeps them from getting worms. We got a little messy a few times! Roky once said he felt that Elevators songs were prayers. Is that what Stacy wanted? Stacy looked at acid where people could find total peace. People could find total harmony if they just kept looking long enough. And believed. He was looking for that final place. He seemed like his life was lived under a cloud—like he knew he was doomed. He did have something—he thought something was always going to go wrong. He did feel like there was something after him. What was really happening with Roky? It’s hard for me to really understand, cuz I’m not sure either! I think he just kind of flipped out for a while—really flipped out, you know? I don’t know how he did some of the things he did. He’d take acid, and somebody would give him more, and he’d take some more. He and Tommy—they took acid all the time. I don’t know. I couldn’t have done it like that. Are you planning on taking acid this May? No. Well, I’m not saying Tommy won’t! We haven’t actually met in person yet. For years, Roky wouldn’t do any Elevators songs live that had a Tommy Hall writing credit—why? That was a deal for a long time. I don’t know what happened between him and Tommy, but they both separated. That was part of why it was hard getting back together at first. Roky wanted to distance himself from all that.
 So what’s on the table now? We’re gonna do most of ‘em from the first and some of the second album. There’s twelve songs we’ve marked down so far. We’re gonna do ‘Baby Blue’—I didn’t think we were gonna do that one. ‘She Lives’ and ‘Levitation’ of course, cuz they’re calling the Psych Fest ‘Levitation.’ We gotta do that song! How did being in the Elevators change you as a person? You don’t seem to feel like you missed your big chance or anything—you’re not bitter at all. I moved on pretty well cuz I just loved music. You lose one thing and hope something else happens. I’ve been real lucky. I never understood why, but everywhere you went, even years and years later, somebody would mention it. Some friend would be wearing a t-shirt—‘You know that band?’ I don’t know what it was but I’m glad it was there. INTERVIEW


MIKAL CRONIN Interview by Kristina Benson and Chris Ziegler Photography by Ward Robinson

Mikal Cronin has moved back to L.A. with a sequel to 2013’s MCII, conveniently titled MCIII—just two more til his inevitable rocker MC5, right? This time he’s in that state where the usual has been replaced with the unpredictable, so the songs have started getting deeper and the sounds have started getting clearer. There’s something like Rain Parade and the Feelies happening in Cronin’s songs, where fuzz guitar gets balanced with beauty in softer pop-psych moments, and there’s a side-length suite on MCIII that’s probably the most ambitious thing Cronin’s signed off on yet—particularly the electric centerpiece “Control.” Here his everyman-autobiography resolved into a story both up close and personal, illuminating his own history in new ways and shining a light into the future. If he’s writing a book with all these numbered albums, this is the chapter where we really find out who our hero might be. Cronin speaks now about his new hair, his new tattoo courtesy that last Ty Segall tour, and the scariest new song he’s written. Oh, and he also pet some kangaroos! Did you cut your hair for the same reason I cut my hair—too many people on the street asking you about drugs? That definitely happens! I don’t mind that. I just like that refresh once in a while. Where do people ask you for drugs? In my experience, it’s at the squarest places. Like Applebee’s at the mall. I don’t spend a lot of time in Applebee’s. It’s walking around the streets of San Francisco— constantly. I did get a lot more insults than drug propositions. Random assholes in pickup trucks. I had no idea idiots were still concerned with hair length. I thought we were like five social issues past that. Try touring some places in the U.S. with long hair—you get some looks. So you did the album MCII and now you’ve got MCIII. What political songs are you saving up for the inevitable album MC5? That’s gonna be a bombastic one. That’ll just be a straight-up cover record. You’re in the unique position of being able to use these albums as a kind of documentary on your own life—like ‘Oh, that’s what was on my mind that year.’ Like chapters in a book. Do you ever use them to figure things out about yourself later? Funny—that’s the same analogy I use to explain it. Chapters in a book. How this record developed … I wasn’t convinced it was going to be number three of three. But it seemed like it’s gonna be an interesting document of my twenties. Even the second half of the third one is kind of going back. It’s almost a prequel. Hopefully things are stabilizing in my life. Each record had a move involved, changing relationships—everything about it. You’ve never made a record when your life is stable? No. I feel like that’s another relatable concept. Everyone’s just growing up. Things typically settle down and mellow out for people, but right now they’re in flux. Would you freeze up if things mellow out? Like that Leftovers song: ‘I only panic when there’s nothing to do.’ 32

That seems to make sense! I don’t think things ever fully settle for anybody. I’m never gonna be a zen master, nor am I trying to be. You’re trying a lot of new sounds on this album. At what point does fuzz guitar finally fail to communicate emotionally? I try to stay away from musical clichés as much as possible. And fuzz guitar or a loud wall of guitar is always gonna be effective. But once I heard a wall of fuzz guitar and then really loud strings and piano and everything else, the way that hit immediately resonated super hard for me—that wall of sound. Years ago when I started making music and listening to the Beatles, their orchestration always connected to me. But it was so foreign. I had no idea how to accomplish something like that. I can’t pinpoint the first time I ever heard it. You didn’t have a cool babysitter who put on side 2 of Sgt. Pepper? ‘I’m gonna blow your child mind!’ That exact thing happened to me but with Nirvana—I had a cool babysitter when I was ten. That was my introduction to rock, really. It would be like 94? Right before Kurt Cobain died, and that babysitter dude was blasting it constantly. That was definitely my first favorite band. Nirvana and then he also liked Metallica, Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day— Summer of ’94 in four albums. Yeah—it exploded my mind! I’ve been constantly listening to that throughout the years. It’s not even conscious. I hear people refer to my music as 90s throwback. I’m fine with that. If you think about 90s grunge or pop at that time, it seems like they were throwing back to the bands of the 60s in a way. Like Kurt Cobain always wanted to be the Beatles but louder. That’s definitely an era I like a lot. I don’t mind. I’m guilty of the quietloud-quiet-loud chorus thing. I’m instinctually drawn toward it. There are times, especially on the new record, where I consciously try to get away from it to expand my songwriting. It can get really frustrating. Emotionally jarring! I’m the kind of guy who gets a very strong writer’s block. If I wanna do something new and I write something that sounds like something

I did before, that shuts me down. Seems like a common thing. People say keep working through, work a little every day even if 95% of the stuff is shit. You can still find the 5%. If you ever run out of actual instruments, have you thought about finding a trained animal to vocalize for you on your albums? It seems like the next logical step. Maybe a pack of coyotes. I hear those a lot in Southern California. They’re always going together. It’s beautiful. My parents’ house is right on the hill. Most of our cats went to coyotes. I saw one today as I was taking a walk behind my house. He came pretty close. Twenty yards? And then he sorta slithered away. What’s the wildest animal you’ve ever touched? I got to pet some kangaroos last time I was in Australia. I’ve been to Australia twice and we made a point both times to go to the animal reserve. I’m glad you prioritize petting animals on your tours. It’s completely necessary. What works better for you when you write? Thinking of something you don’t want, and working away from it? Or thinking of something you love, and working toward it? You did an interview where you said you were tired of music that leans on its genre too hard. That statement is more about trying to stay completely open-minded about what your music can be—that you can combine genres or combine what seem like disparate musical ideas. Like not feeling tied down or feeling forced by a fan base to stick with a certain direction. There are times when I find myself fighting against a song that sounds too cliché. I’m trying to stay open-minded about any idea I have and trying to follow through—not necessarily worrying about how it’ll work or not work, or if people react to it in a certain way. It’s a difficult thing because everyone’s at least a little self-conscious about that, and I do want people to like my music … but at the same time, [it’s] fighting against the urge to

appease the people and doing exactly what I want to do. I’m lucky that I don’t get a lot of pressure from anybody I work with—record labels or anything. They don’t push me in any direction. I can set it up where I have complete free rein. Is that scary? It is a little scary! It’s nice to feel some restrictions sometimes. It’s so open that you can do anything, so what are you going to do? I’m not having the most crazy, unique experiences in my life—I’m just another guy. You don’t think your life is unique? You go on tour all over the world, make music with your friends, make a living at what you love…? In that way, sure. But the stuff I’m mostly writing about—mostly emotional experiences or hardships or my experiences in my relationships with my friends and romance— in that way, I’m just kind of an everyman. My life and the way I make my living and tour and make music is definitely not normal, but within all that there’s a very normal guy dealing with normal situations and trying to do what everyone is doing—which as a young person approaching 30 is finding your way. Are you an everyman like the Beach Boys, where the songs are almost so generically themed that they could apply to anybody’s life? Or like Alex Chilton, where they’re so idiosyncratic and personal you relate to the human in the act of being human? You gotta start at the most personal place you know—your direct thing. But I try and hold back as much as I can to find the universal aspect. That helps in everyday life, too. Not just songwriting. Step back and gain perspective and realize that this seems very specific to you, but if you talked to loved ones and friends, you realize that other people have been where you are. People get through it. And in the long run, the biggest problem in my life when I was 20 is so distant. Something can seem like it’s gonna shut down your entire growth and existence, but get ten years of perspective on it and it’s just another point in the story. INTERVIEW


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River of Fundament: A film by Matthew Barney & Jonathan Bepler Sat, Apr 25

Max Raabe & Palast Orchester: A Night in Berlin

Claire Chase: Cerchio Tagliato dei Suoni and Density

Sat, Apr 4

Sat, Apr 4

ETHEL: Documerica Fri, Apr 17

EXPLORE ENGAGE EXPERIENCE

Delfos Danza Contemporanea: Cuando los Disfraces se Cuelgan Tue, Apr 14

An evening with

Gilberto Gil:

John Zorn Marathon

Sat, Apr 18

Sat, May 2


This is the other side of the cliché—the comfort. Realizing that you had your heart broken … like every other person ever. As one could probably guess from what I write about, I still struggle with anxiety and depression—everybody does! It’s a growing pain. Sometimes, like you said, it’s hard to step outside of that and realize that. Especially if you’re having a really low day and you can’t sleep. It’s helpful to get outside that and view it from somebody else’s perspective. What happens when teach yourself to recognize the universal? You get a little less self-loathing. I find a good thing to do when you’re feeling low is take a walk and look around. See a coyote! See how big that tree is, and how it’s been around for hundreds of years. Get a wider picture. Trying to be the best person you can in whatever relationships you have with other people. I’m not saying I’m totally there, but that kind of perspective improves everything. Where did the suite that takes up side two of MCIII come from? The songs go, ‘Alone,’ ‘Gold,’ ‘Control,’ ‘Ready,’ ‘Different’ and end with ‘Circle.’ Is it the story of you learning to make music—starting alone and figuring things out along the way? And then it goes full circle? I made it as a mini-concept record. I’d been interested in making a long piece of music with a through-line for a long time. But I didn’t want it to be based in … a lot of concept records are based in fantasy or fantastical themes. I was looking at my own experiences for what could be a longer piece of music, and it brought me back to when I first moved away from home. When I was 18, I went up to Portland to go to school and was kind of thrown out of my bubble for the very first time. That side of the record is a true story mini concept of what I see now as a big part of my coming-of-age story—coming to a difficult circumstance. Which was figuring out the outside world and living by myself for the first time, and also having emotional and physical problems. I developed a big back injury and I had to move home, leave school, get surgery, recover … I slipped a disc. It developed from when I was a teenager and I was mountain boarding. That was my thing in high school. I’d compete and jump off things really high. I basically destroyed my body. I was trying to get through this tough liberal arts school, dealing with the first time I had anxiety and sleeping problems and depression problems and being on pain killers and being foggy and not knowing what to do with my life … and everything. The songs on the B-side go linearly through a chunk of time where I was dealing with that and trying to find myself. All leading up to the first chapter in where I am today. Through that first experience of being so confused and having to leave and being a college drop-out—that was when I finally started playing, started to pursue writing songs and playing in bands and playing out for the first time, which is something I’d pushed aside and thought of as not as important as getting a legitimate job. It was a hard moment in my life that in retrospect was learning what I wanted to do. But you majored in music at the time? 35

No—not at the time. I didn’t go to music school until I reapplied to years later. I was doing general education and by the tail end of it I had declared a psychology major. I wasn’t playing music at all, except a little guitar in my spare time but—like most people—I didn’t feel like pursuing music was a viable thing to do. It wasn’t pressure from anything else but the rest of my family are very academic, very smart people. It was my understanding that that’s what you should do with your life—get a high-paying job, and it’s impossible to make music for a living. That was not even a remote possibility in my mind. I had no idea how to do that. It was a confusing time. What song of yours felt riskiest to you lately? Something that didn’t seem safe—the lyrics, the sound, whatever. And what made you go through and put it out anyway? There’s a song in the middle of the B-side suite called ‘Control.’ Lyrically, that was a little hard. I was fully lost. There’s a line in it where I find a dying animal in the road. I found a cat. I was driving around. And then picking it up, taking it to a vet, putting it down right there in front of me … that was a final snap. Or the straw that broke my back. Right after that, I got uplifted—dropped outta school, had surgery, all that. I’d never tried to write a song with a line about finding a dying animal in the road. It instinctually seems like you shouldn’t? But … that was the hardest to sculpt, and finally sing and convince myself that it’s an important enough part of the story to include on the record. It’s actually in the center of that whole side. Basically, yes—a turning point. So it’s right in the middle. It was interesting to go back and forth and find the wording for it. I never tried anything like that. Assembling that whole story was pretty challenging. I kept going back and forth on whether I should even do it. Is ‘Control’ more about getting control or giving it up? It was a time of feeling completely out of control. And trying to grasp at little fingers of control. And feeling like things were spiraling in a weird direction that I couldn’t even wrap my head around. I see it as giving up control as well. There was a hopelessness at that point of my life, and I was trying so hard to find something but not finding any of it. Did it ever resolve? Or does it never resolve, and you make your peace? I’ve had enough distance to contextualize it. And insert it as a point in my life where things turned around, and ultimately led to positive things—sent me on a path I didn’t know I should be heading down. Does it help you to frame these things in songs? In a way, you’re taking back some of the power when you define them and control them. They’re no longer a blur of sensation, memory and reaction. It goes back to where we were talking about these being documents for me when I’m older. When I’m actually doing it, it feels very instinctual. But it’s necessary to delve deeper— beyond the surface levels you’re feeling. You think about it and frame it in language, which is a difficult thing to do. Putting your emotions into words. What’s recorded is only what I decided to write about. It is shaping my

experiences—it’s definitely my perspective. Say a break-up song … I tried to not have it be completely one-sided, but a break-up song is usually one-sided. The chorus on ‘Made My Mind Up’ is ‘Tell me when it hurts.’ Is that where you set your limits? When the pain starts, you know it’s time to stop? In general? It’s hard. There’s certain pain you gotta push through, especially if you’re struggling emotionally. Does that happen to you as a listener as well? Are there albums that demanded you experience certain things before you could really get into them? Tons. But the first that comes to mind … the first CD I ever bought was Nirvana In Utero. Of course when I was ten years old, I knew I liked the music and something connected. But there’s no way I could personally connect or have any idea what he was talking about in a larger sense. That was a slow burner that unraveled as I got older. Even Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys—you hear that here and there as a kid and you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s like California car music!’ Then you realize that’s one of the darkest albums ever recorded. The whole record is completely heartbreaking. And I love it. How I listen to records, I instinctually hear the music and the melody first, and maybe catch a couple lyrics here and there. But when you get into and read and understand the lyrics, everything unfolds for me. For everything that’s not one-dimensional. There’s plenty of shitty one-dimensional music. But anything that really sticks with me is a slow burner. Ever get in over your head? Like discover a certain record is actually a little too much? That can happen with Big Star and Alex Chilton for sure. Once you read into the story and get the context for how and when the records were made and maybe read a book about it, it gets a lot heavier. To the point where I can’t listen to it sometimes—it’s one of my favorite records, but if you’re in a certain mood … oof. It’s rough! Is it true you have perfect pitch? I have pretty good pitch. I used to do kind of a parlor trick with my mom where she’d tell me to sing a note, and then she’d sit at the piano, and I’d be pretty close to that note. If I have one thing going for me … I’m not the greatest musician, I’m not a great anything player, but I feel like I have a pretty good natural sense of that stuff. It probably comes from my mom— she’s a musician as well. She plays piano and harp. I kind of kick myself from not taking harp lessons from my mom from a very early age, but unless you’re Joanna Newsom, it’s not easy to incorporate harp into pop rock music. Tell me about the day you got your Manipulator tattoo—the logo of the character from Ty’s last album. Oh man! We were on tour in Europe with our friend’s band, JC Satan. And one of the JC Satan guys had brought a tattoo machine with him—he’s a really good artist. We’d been talking about it for a long time throughout the tour, and the very last night, before we were about to split up with them, we all hung out in a hotel room together and stayed up really late and everyone got their own version of the Manipulator tattoo.

How much convincing did it take? I was down right away! I like the idea of tour tattoos—I’m not totally blase about whatever I get tattooed on me, but I like the idea of having that reminder of a certain period of time. And the Manipulator tour—that’s probably my favorite record of Ty’s. It made sense and I liked the title. Does that mean Ty owes you a tattoo? It’s only fair! I’ll hold him to that for sure. Where do you think you’d be without Ty and vice versa? It’s been really important. I’ve been really lucky to have someone that I’ve been playing music with since basically the beginning—since our first high school band. And it seems amazing that we still both have been doing it and supporting each other for quite a long time now—with no inkling of slowing down—and making music together. To have that support, to have that trust in each other, to always ask each other for help with whatever projects we’re working on, or advice … working so long that we have a shorthand. We don’t need to explain everything we’re trying to do to each other. We kind of get it, even if we’re heading in different musical directions sometimes. It’s just nice. Comfortable. He dove into the full-time 100% music and making records thing before I did. Seeing that he could pull something like that off—have a run of it and gain a fanbase and be lucky enough to tour as much as he did and kind of support himself through it definitely inspired me that I could make a run at the same thing. And the idea of recording a record that sounded decent by yourself, and getting that together and finding a studio—for both of us when we were starting out, that sounded like such a far-fetched idea. But having somebody do that a few times before I made my own legit go at it inspired me a lot. What was the first time you and Ty sat next to each other in class? We were a grade apart, so we didn’t have classes together. I’d seen him around since it’s a small school and I knew he was like the music kid and had a band. I saw his band at parties. Then word got out he kinda wanted a saxophone player and I was thinking about it … I remember not the first time we met, but one of the first times was in the high school parking lot, coming up to me after school like, ‘Hey, man, I know you play sax and I was wondering if you wanted to play with me and Coleman?’ I remember that clearly. I was kind of expecting it—‘Yeah, yeah! That’d be fucking cool!’ That story was right out of California 1961 except you said ‘fucking.’ Wanna re-tell it? ‘Hey man, I hear you’re a pretty cool cat … who can really blow!’ FYF FEST, PERMANENT RECORDS AND CENTER FOR THE ARTS EAGLE ROCK PRESENT MIKAL CRONIN ON FRI., MAY 1, AT THE CENTER FOR THE ARTS EAGLE ROCK, 2225 COLORADO BLVD., EAGLE ROCK. 8 PM / $15 / ALL AGES. FYFPRESENTS.COM. MIKAL CRONIN’S MCIII IS AVAILABLE TUE., MAY 5, FROM MERGE. VISIT MIKAL CRONIN AT MIKALCRONIN.COM. INTERVIEW


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COLLEEN GREEN Interview by Chris Ziegler Photography by Alexandra A. Brown Colleen Green’s newest album comes from the triangle between Deal sisters’ bad-assery, the nowheresville take on L.A. that came out of that dog and the dry-ice wit of the Vaselines, whose “Sex Sux” could make for a great Colleen cover one day. It’s called I Want To Grow Up, both in reaction and homage to her beloved Descendents. (Naturally she’s instantly able to explain how this fits in with All’s command to “not commit adulthood.”) Backed by members of Diarrhea Planet and JEFF the Brotherhood, Grow Up is a dark and even harrowing album beneath the fuzz and the melody. “Deeper Than Love” and “Some People” are fearlessly powerfully honest, and the flat-affect voice Green uses so well makes them cut even deeper. If the spirit of the Descendents is at work here, as it is in all Colleen’s works—although she shares her psyche with Akon now—then its in that irreducible sense of surface-street exhaustion, when you don’t know where to go or why you’re even going anywhere, anyway. She speaks now about group projects, going solo and how to make ‘fuck you!’ something hopeful. There’s a story about the Pixies where the soundman started fading down the house music before they went on, but the song he was fading was the Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog.’ And Frank Black made him play the Stooges again from the beginning ‘out of respect for Iggy.’ What’s a song you’d force someone to play in its entirety out of respect for the artist? I had that happen with Akon before. In London. I was like, ‘Put Akon on as my entrance music or I’m not gonna play tonight!’ No, but I was like, ‘You have to play Akon!’ and I knew the sound guy so he put it on. As soon as he put it on, this other guy that worked at the club ran over to the sound booth like, ‘Hey! What’s going on with the music?’ I was like, ‘Don’t you touch that! You let it play!’ What first made you want to make music? And then what made you think could make music? As a baby, I’d write songs. When I was 5 years old. I don’t really remember what they were, but I’d write lyrics on paper and keep them in a little pouch that I made. But they were just lyrics. I always wanted to be a singer, my whole life. I inherited from my mom and my grandmother. They both really wanted to be singers. My dad was a drummer and fancied himself a musician. They liked rock ‘n’ roll. They’d always go to shows when they were dating in the 70s. So we always listened to a lot of music. We lived in a really small town so we’d always be in the car listening to the oldies station in Boston or classic rock. It was always a part of my life. It’s been part of me as far back as I can remember. The Kinks’ album Village Green was originally just a bunch of unconnected songs, but then Ray Davies wrote ‘Village Green Preservation Society’ and realized he had a concept he could build an album on. Did you have something like that for I Want To Grow Up? It all started with the title. I had been thinking about a Descendents tattoo a lot—the ‘I Don’t Wanna Grow Up’ with the baby logo. A lot of my friends have that and a lot of people in general in the world have that. I just remember thinking, ‘That could be a cool tattoo to get …’ but going back and forth and thinking about that concept. Like getting a mantra tattooed on your body forever? It’s like … but you are gonna grow up. Maybe I don’t want that tattoo INTERVIEW

cuz I do wanna grow up. Not just physically. It’s another nod to the Descendents—I love referential stuff anyway. It’s what I do. Why? Every band I’ve ever loved has done that, too. All the artists I hold in the highest esteem utilized that, and understood it’s not bad. It’s not copying, it’s tribute. It’s for people who might listen to your music but are fans of that other music—you share your influences. Why the Descendents? They’re my band. I love them. They’re geniuses. I love their philosophy and all their songs and ideas. I totally believe in All. Fuck yeah. Even before I knew about All, that was a personal philosophy I was trying to strive for in my own life, from a formative way. I always liked the Descendents, but when I actually learned what All is about, I was like, ‘Whoa.’ Isn’t one of the rules in ‘Allogistics’ ‘thou shalt not commit adulthood’? Are you committing All heresy on this album? No! No, I’m not. I’m not committing adulthood cuz the future that I see for myself isn’t the future the Descendents saw for adults, quote/unquote. Adulthood is definitely defined by them as being forced into wearing a suit and a tie everyday, forced to do things you don’t necessarily wanna do and not living life for yourself. That’s their vision of adulthood as a negative thing. But my adulthood is a positive thing. And it’s different. If the Descendents knew how I felt about it, they’d agree with me. Is this something you’d already thought about? That’s an instantly detailed answer. Yes, I have thought about it. What about the other commandments? Dost thou not commit laundry? I’m pretty good about not committing laundry. I have a giant pile in my room at all times. There’s that famous story about the Ramones where someone told them, ‘You guys are really negative—every song is “I don’t wanna…”’ So they wrote ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue.’ Are you in an ‘I Wanna’ or ‘I Don’t Wanna’ phase now? I’m in the ‘I Don’t Wanna’ phase. Or … a ‘I Don’t Wanna’ phase. I don’t wanna do certain things. I don’t want to drink coffee anymore, I don’t want to smoke weed anymore, I don’t want to drink alcohol anymore. I don’t want to have to be this craven female that’s needing to wear tons of makeup and high heels and stuff.

I don’t want to feel like those are the things I have to do to be a real woman. I don’t wanna do things that I feel will be bad for me in the long run. You’re right—it is a lot easier to say ‘I Don’t Wanna.’ But that’s the first step— recognizing those things you want to get rid of. I feel like I’m on the path to ‘I Wanna.’ It’s in the distance. But it’s close, though, too. When did you first decide you didn’t wanna? This album seems to have a lot to do with exhaustion—you’re tired of doing things for other people, tired of putting up with the usual bullshit, tired of not being grown up. And there’s something about control, too. Like what you control in your life, and what parts of your life other people control, and how you move between the two. It all kinda started about five years ago when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. It’s really funny and kind of awesome you say the album feels exhausted, cuz my disease … I’m good now, I’m managed, but the disease’s name literally means ‘serious muscle weakness.’ It makes you tired, makes you fatigued. So yeah, I’m pretty tired and I’ve been pretty tired these past years. That was the thing that made me realize I can’t live like this anymore. I can’t drink all the time, not get sleep, go to this really menial job everyday where I’m not even making enough money to buy food … It’s fun and everything, but I can’t keep doing this. When I started having symptoms of MG, it was really hard for me to even be around people so something had to change. My whole life had to change, basically. I don’t know if I knew that at the time, but I knew I had to get out and do something different. That’s when I moved to L.A. My brother opened up his home to me and took me in. From that point, my whole life did change. I thought that was good. I was like, ‘OK, my life now is different and I’m doing exactly what I was trying to do this whole time, but not being able to for whatever reason.’ Which was music, right? This all happened at the same time? Yeah. I always wanted to do it. I was in a band in Boston and another band I moved to Oakland with, and it was like, ‘That’s what we’re doing. We’re in a band and that’s what we’re doing.’ That was our identity. I moved to Oakland with five of my friends, and that was amazing but also too easy. We had each other. I love those people and we were like a family.

But when I moved to L.A., I was completely on my own. The security blanket was gone. Now I’m here and I’m alone and what do I do now? Did you want to be that way? To just step out in the world by yourself? I was like, ‘I’m gonna go there and make solo recordings.’ I’d always been in bands and I’d made a couple songs on [my computer] and put them online. People were like, ‘You should make a solo record—I’d totally buy it and listen to this stuff.’ It all compounded and happened. That shit happened and it was awful, and I knew I was gonna move to L.A. and leave my band behind, and I knew I’d continue making music on my own. It all worked out really well. It was the worst shit ever but it all worked out. I got here and didn’t have a job and couldn’t really work and didn’t know anyone … I’ve never been the type to feel like posting an ad on Craigslist for bandmates is a good idea. So I wanted to make music on my own. I had a drum machine which I never really played around with. ‘Well, this is a good opportunity to figure this thing out.’ I started experimenting and that’s how it started. Mostly when I listen to my old music, I think about relationships I was having and who those songs are about. Almost all my old stuff is relationship stuff and it follows me over the course of three years. I was so extremely lonely when I first moved to L.A. Those first few years that was all I wanted to write about cuz it was all I was thinking about. I wouldn’t talk to anyone … but I was really desperate for someone to talk to. Those few relationships I had in that time span were very important to me, and obviously took a lot of my energy. That’s what the earlier songs are about. On the first song on I Don’t Wanna, you talk about being sick of being dumb and sick of being young—do those two things have to go together? Oh no, they don’t necessarily go together. It’s just two different things. Are you smarter now? I’ve probably been the same level of smartness my whole life. But I think I’m more understanding. And trying to be more understanding with every new year. Not being so annoying and hyper? I know I was smart when I was younger but I definitely was a quote/unquote idiot, which I think all young people are. 37


Did you make it out of that era of your life without a tattoo? I only have one tattoo. It was a really considered tattoo. I thought about it for years until I got it. I think was 19 or 20? It was spur of the moment. Me and my friends just decided to get tattoos. It’s a Sublime tattoo, and it’s the only one I think I’ll ever get. I decided I don’t really like tattoos. It’s not the sun—it’s a photograph of Bradley and Lou Dog sitting on a rock, like a silhouette of them sitting on a big rock in the middle of the ocean. I used to paint it a lot in art classes. Everything I did was Sublime-related in those days. I thought about it for years and when the day came, I wanted to get it and I did. Is that tattoo your principal lifetime commitment to date? It’s the one thing, but it’s under my arm, so out of sight, out of mind. It’s a commitment and it’s lifelong but it’s not staring me in the face. You do so much of your work by yourself— you’re very self-reliant. Did you become more self-reliant by making music by yourself, or were you able to make music by yourself cuz you’d rather work alone anyway? I’ve always been cool with being by myself. I never wanted to feel like I needed people to be happy or to get done what I wanted to get done. It’s from feeling like the outcast in my younger years, maybe? I’ve always been more introverted and quiet. I enjoyed doing schoolwork and working on projects, and I always preferred to work alone. If I do it, I know I’ll do a good job. But with other people, you have to let them do stuff and they might not do it right. So not a fan of group projects. No cuz it’d be me doing all the work. I tried to take a stand against it once in high school and my teacher came up to me and said, ‘You got a shitty group—you need to do all the work or you’re gonna fail.’ I’m serious! My group had all the slackers. I was trying to be like, ‘Not my problem!’ But he was, ‘No, you have to do this.’ I don’t like to fail on things. If I have something to do, I’ll usually get it done. Do you fear failure? Isn’t there no such thing as failure? There isn’t? That’s how I feel. I hate ‘fail.’ If anything, you did something at least. If it didn’t work the way you wanted, hopefully you can at least learn from that and improve on it somehow? It’s all a learning experience. Some people I’m sure would call it failure, but like everything else, it’s all what you make it. This is like Colleen-ogistics. What other principles do you live by? Try to be chill. And go with the flow. When you’re writing a song about a relationship, is it about the other person? Or is it about you as reflected in that person? About me—everybody does that and maybe they just don’t realize it. If you’re writing about an experience, it seems natural that you are seeing and experiencing it through your own eyes. Even when it has to do with somebody else, it goes back to how you feel—how it affects you. We’re just human and that’s how we think. Who’s another musician you’d be honored to have write a break-up song about you? 38

Maybe Cassie Ramone? Cassie has really amazing break-up songs. Like this song called ‘I Send My Love To You.’ It’s really sad and touching and you can really feel her love in the song, and the love that is gone—not gone but it’s suffered. After getting to know her a bit over the course of our Japan tour, I learned more about her and what her songs were about. So by the end of the tour, I knew what all the songs were about, and it was very touching. I love listening to really sad songs. Especially really sad love songs. But I don’t listen to them ever. I know when some people are depressed they’ll listen to really sad music, but not me. When I’m really sad, I’d rather listen to nothing. And just stare. And smoke tons of weed. ‘Deeper Than Love’ is one of the heaviest songs on the album—it starts with ‘Sometimes I hope for a lover to kill me’ and ends with you worrying that intimacy is going to kill you. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for several years. Sometimes, yeah—I don’t think I ‘wish’ that, but I think about it. It’s interesting to me why that’s a thing to me. And what my interest is—trying to understand where that desire comes from? There’s a whole school of people that fetishize that kind of thing, and learning where they’re coming from … I’m not trying to psychoanalyze it, or I guess that’s what I’m doing in the song. I definitely do have a fear of intimacy. It’s trying to understand and make sense of it all. Mike Hunchback is like my idol—he’s a musician from New York, from a band called Hunchback. Part of the New Brunswick, New Jersey, the Ergs and Don Giovanni scene. They were amazing. He’s a really big inspiration to me. His solo stuff always had some fucked-up lyrical material. I always appreciated that. I guess cuz it was kinda bad? And interesting? I’d never really heard songs with lyrics like that before. That’s what everybody thinks about, right? You gotta write about whatever you can think of to write—that’s how I feel. You’ve said it was the song you were most worried about putting out. But now it seems like it’s becoming the stand-out song for people. That always happens! That happened when I put out Milo Goes To Compton. I had the song ‘Worship You.’ When I was writing that, I was like, ‘This is filler, this song sucks …’ and then I put it on way at the end. Like, ‘That song is bullshit and no one will ever like it.’ Then this guy put out my tape in the UK and that is what he put out as the single, and everybody ended up liking that song a lot. I feel the same way about ‘Deeper Than Love.’ I’m sure musicians go through this, but I already just hate the whole album. I’m over it, man. What if you got a dance remix of ‘Deeper Than Love’? Who would you want? Do you have to ask? I think he’d do a good job. How did you get so into Akon? I don’t really listen to very much music. He’s my go-to right now. That’s also why I say the same bands over and over. I was going to Europe to open for EMA and fly to Norway and meet them. I knew I had a lot of long flights without anyone to talk to

or anything to do, and I was putting music on my [tablet] and I wanted to put stuff on there that wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll. I just didn’t feel like rock ‘n’ roll. And I’d been wanting to check him out. I’d heard ‘Smack That.’ That’s what I’d been going off of. ‘I wonder if he’s going to smack something else? I should find out.’ I went [online], found his full albums and I remember being on the plane—I think I had eaten some edibles, too?—and I just remember listening and putting my headphones on and just drifting away. Like ‘This is amazing!’ The most pleasant cute poppy melodic electronic music ever and I just loved it. I ended up listening to that album Freedom every single day for the rest of tour. I just needed to listen to it. What do you know about Akon that casual ringtone purchasers might not know? I used to know his sign. I think he’s a Leo, which explains a lot of it. He’s very alpha and wants to be in charge, wants to be the best. His history is a little spotty. He says he’s been in prison but legal documents show he only spent a couple weeks here and there for really petty shit. Have you ever exaggerated your own prison record? I have no criminal record whatsoever! I’ve never even gotten a detention. The art for I Want To Grow up has the little evolutionary chart of you—your drawings of you as a baby, a girl, a young woman and then you as you are now. What would have come next? It’s me as an old woman. I actually did draw it on the promo poster for the record. It’s got current me and then old version of me. I’m really old and wrinkly. Why’d you skip 30 years? That’s the biggest jump in the chart. Good point. I’m done growing physically but hopefully not done mentally. If I was to keep drawing more stages, it’d have to be my brain going through changes. My body will hopefully look pretty much the same. Not planning to become a cyborg? Maybe after the old lady stage. What would it take for you to make an album called I Have Grown Up ? You say you don’t want to get married, don’t want to have kids—those are the traditional markers. What happens without them? I dunno if I’ll ever be able to make that record. But it’s important to take the markers away. Growing up doesn’t involve another person or another entity at all. It’s all within you. I know a lot of people that are married and have kids and are like the least mature people ever and are just big babies who suck. I don’t think we need any more of that. I’m very into the idea of self-actualization. That’s something I’ve been thinking about for many many years now and hoping one day I can get to that point. It’s always in the back of my mind. I’m not sure what I’ll have to do to get to that stage, but I hope it happens. Hopefully I will never stop growing. If you stop growing before you’re dead, that isn’t good. I just need to be the best Colleen I can be. ‘Grinding My Teeth’ is also a pretty stark song—it’s like a break-up song between the

human race and the Earth. What do you mean when you sing about ‘the sad fate of my planet’? I feel very sad for all forms of life right now. I very cynically believe there won’t be sharks or anything. Maybe in another million years? It seems so imminent right now. That thing you said about feeling in control and how the record is about control—that’s another part of it. It feels like the world and humanity and society … it’s all going to shit so bad right now! I feel very helpless. Politics and American politics—I have absolutely no control or say, but it dictates how I can live my life. As I get older, that’s something I really struggle with. That’s where that line is from. The ‘grinding my teeth’ thing is feeling that inability to anything. All you can do is grind your teeth. There’s nothing getting done. I have this vision of my head of what the … have you ever seen Masters of the Universe with Dolph Lundgren? If I’m not wrong, the famous dimensional portal scene in that movie was filmed in uptown Whittier. In the opening scene, it’s Castle Grayskull and Skeletor has just made a mess of everything and the whole planet Eternia is just barren. There’s lightning all day long. It’s just dust and dirt and no trees, nothing green. It’s all brown and terrifying and depressing and dead. That’s what I imagine. Total devastation for the planet. I dunno. I know throughout the years there have been many things that alarm people, like, ‘Oh no, the world’s gonna end!’ But it really does feel like it’s going that way now. What does it say about your character that you don’t expect any Dolph Lundgren to come save us? I’m cynical! I’m desolate. That’s my soul— Eternia. Is there any ‘80s muscleman you believe in at all any more? I do believe in Dolph. He’s just very small. Not in physical terms but when I picture that world, he’s there but he’s not super promiment. He’s there but he’s just a glimmer. But that says something too—I do still have hope. But it’s faint. It’s hard. But he’s there. So the last line in the last song is ‘I can do whatever I want.’ Is that a hopeful ending or like a last-person-in-the-world ending? Or a ‘fuck you!’ ending? It’s definitely hopeful. After all is said and done, OK—it doesn’t end here. I can do whatever I want. The world is my oyster. I don’t have to listen to what anyone says. It doesn’t matter if people don’t like what you’re doing. It’s like the ‘being yourself ’ thing. Do what you have to do to be yourself as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. You have to just go for it. No one knows better than you what’s gonna work for you and what’s gonna make you happy. It’s a ‘fuck you!’ but it’s hopeful, too. COLLEEN GREEN’S I WANT TO GROW UP IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM HARDLY ART. VISIT COLLEEN GREEN AT FACEBOOK.COM/ COLLEENGREEN420. INTERVIEW


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From the Fillmore to Live Aid to the mega-festivals of today...

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LES McCANN Interview by Ron Garmon Illustration by Jared Pittack James Brown may have styled himself “the Godfather of funk,” but any detailed reading of the genre’s sonic DNA string would have to award paternity rights to one Les McCann. A spate of ‘60s LPs documents a startling improvisatory power that made his band a major live draw in the waning days of bop jazz, with McCann’s rollicking tricky-fingered keyboard style finding its complement in pungent, cynical vocals. A miraculous set recorded with superstar tenor saxman Eddie Harris and other heavies live at the 1969 Montreux Jazz Festival was released as the bestselling Swiss Movement album and the ad-hoc band’s pass at Eugene McDaniels’ scabrous “Compared to What” went on to become one of the era’s most notable protest records. Despite all the topical references to Nixon and Vietnam, the song is retains its power by making itself about the consequences of doubt, love of money, hating the human love of that stinking mutt and other frightful possibilities. Now nearing eighty and celebrating rerelease of his 1972 soul masterpiece Invitation to Openness and publication under the same title by Fantagraphics Press of a book of jazz and soul photographs, McCann makes a rare public appearance at Book Soup on March 28th. Though warned by handlers not to exceed thirty minutes of time and told in advance of the man’s general irascibility, I found Les a genial, jolly and gnomic fellow whose regal authority kind of brings to mind old young King Tut. I remember hearing ‘Compared to What’ as my first exposure to anything funky. What? You didn’t have dirty socks at home? Anything funky-sounding, I should say. They talk of James Brown and George Clinton, but did anyone ever throw a Godfather of Funk paternity rap your way? Well, in Germany, they call me the Master Funkmeister. And why not? The story goes you got involved in music after appearing in a Navy talent show in the mid-1950s. I got out in ’56, went to music school and L.A. City College and started workin’ around town and everything just flowed. It took me time to play ballrooms and I must’ve worked every coffeehouse in southern California and people began to fill up the place and word spread. I thank God every day for that. What was the L.A. jazz scene like when you showed up and McCann-ized it? It was the last of the be-bop period— the new jazz or what they called the modern jazz. I wanted to take it to the church, like funky. You recorded a number of your early albums live. What was the Troubadour like before hippies showed up? It was a great period—lots of beautiful ladies, lots of young people. It was a fun period, right before the Change. That’s what I meant by the coffeehouses. Back then, when you came out of the church as I did, you were funky. There were other guys doing it but I was the one who got known first. Funk seems to have been the obvious next stage in your evolution. Much of this happened after you signed with Atlantic after being on small jazz labels for years. Way before. It was simply part of the evolution. By the time I’d gotten to Atlantic, I was off into other levels of music, y’know. Swiss Movement was a revelation. How did you come to throw in with Eddie Harris, trumpeter Benny Bailey and the rest? Eddie was also an Atlantic artist and our producer suggested that since we were gonna be at one of the first Montreux Jazz Festivals which Atlantic mainly put up the money for, the idea came up that we would record together while we were there. Once we agreed, 40

we had to find other musicians. We’d heard Benny Bailey at some jam session and we’d already had two people turn us down. Once we heard him, we knew why. He turned out to be fantastic. How long did you rehearse for that storied set at Montreux? About ten minutes. It was all improvised. I think the crowd was in shock. They’d never heard anything like it. It was just one of those God-given moments. It’s not just the audience that was stunned but the band. You can hear it as ‘Compared to What’ clatters to a finish. The band is also taken aback—‘What the hell did we just do?’ That’s exactly right! In fact, I was angry when it was over and I went back to my hotel room to cry on my wife on the phone. When I was done, my manager called and said ‘Man, the band’s calling you wanting to get your butt back onstage. There’s something magic going on.’ I thought we’d messed up, but I just had to let go and let God. I’ve meditated on those words by Eugene McDaniels for years. They’re a series of profane and sacred observations of American society. This being 1969 and the United States being what it is, did you get any pushback or criticism for this? When I first recorded it six years earlier, a Washington radio station was fined ten thousand dollars for the word ‘abortion’ in the song. By [the time] I did it for Atlantic, they bleeped out ‘Goddamnit’ the first few releases, but they eventually left it like it was supposed to be. Shows how far we’ve come. The McDaniels original is pretty out there but not as churchy as yours and Eddie’s. He was great with the lyrics and a great singer but nobody would ever call him soulful. He’s too Bob Dylan. All about the words. You’re the first person I’ve ever talked to who said that. I always tell people he’s totally into Bob Dylan and nobody ever believes me but here now you’ve said it—so I agree with you. When he sung that song to me over the phone, I said ‘That reminds me of Bob Dylan.’ He’s from Nebraska and the son of a preacher. I didn’t know anybody but insurance companies were from Nebraska.

Some artists have hits and nothing changes and for others everything changes. What did ‘Compared to What’ do for you and Eddie Harris? Well, we earned a little money, y’know. Got to travel all over the world. We never went everywhere we could’ve gone. Eddie had his own band and I had my own. Everyone thinks we worked together but we didn’t. Eddie Harris had a serious recording career too. Rhino rereleased a few of his ‘60s albums. Very pretty. He was very famous for a song called ‘Exodus.’ You can’t get no funkier than that. He never got paid for that and he was very bitter about it. It was a radio hit and he never got the money. They had no distributor. It was just a little company in Chicago that got more than it could handle. By 1972 and Invitation to Openness, you are swerving into sonic territory then being mapped by Miles Davis. This is a totally different era in my music. Very spiritual. Almost like the stuff George Harrison was doing. Yes, yes, yes, yes. I’m from the church. All of that was in the air… the Jesus movement. What was in the air was Frank Zappa. The first Mothers of Invention record [Freak Out!]. I’m on that. We were young and it was like a big party. At the time, I was probably better known than he was. I liked it later when I saw him on television telling a senator to kiss his fuckin’ ass. I want to grow up and be just like that. The hippies weren’t around when I was growing up. Well, you have to say they took to you. We were embedded together even though we came from different directions. What did you thinking looking over your book of photos? I work with photographers from time to time and they all talk about searching for the ‘inner person’ of the people they photograph. You seem to have nailed this down perfectly. As soon as you get your first camera the first thing you do is look people in the eye. The eyes truly are the windows of the soul. To look into Count Basie’s eyes … what did you think?

I think it’s beautiful. There’s a definite highly specialized skill to photographing musicians at work that isn’t that well appreciated. There was a bunch of them that didn’t like being photographed because they didn’t want anyone to see the powder under their noses. ‘Lemme take a shower first!’ Oh, God. I have no complaints, I love my life. Do you feel differently about any or your subjects now than when you took the pic? I’m sure I do. A lot I knew personally but only knew them at concerts, others I knew better. My brothers were photographers and three years after I bought my first camera I had twelve cameras. I had to learn when to take it out or take it out when nobody knew I was. I didn’t want people to know what I was doing so they’d pose. So I had to know when to take it out. I wanted to get these people doing things they weren’t down for. I was traveling the world seeing everything and wanted to photograph it all. Since I had my stroke and been in a wheel chair for two and a half years, I can’t really frame and carry prints around for exhibits, So this book is like an archive. One last question—did you see the Grammys? Any comments on Kanye West? I have nothing to say about that motherfucker. MusiCares—are they related to the Grammys? They do good work helping musicians who are in worse condition than I am. But the Grammys? That little trophy? That ain’t nothin’. How about a check? I don’t watch it. Nobody did but they’re all talking about Kanye West today. Kanye West? Is that a road or highway? Isn’t he married to a famous person? ‘Let them be,’ is what I say. LES MCCANN WITH PAT THOMAS ON SAT., MAR. 28, AT BOOK SOUP 8818 W. SUNSET BLVD., WEST HOLLYWOOD. 5 PM / FREE / ALL AGES. BOOKSOUP. COM. LES MCANNS’S INVITATION TO OPENNESS: THE JAZZ & SOUL PHOTOGRAPHY OF LES MCCANN 1960-1980 IS OUT APR. 19 ON FANTAGRAPHICS. VISIT LES McCANN AT LESMCCANN-OFFICIALWEBSITE. COM. INTERVIEW


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RUDY DE ANDA Interview by Desi Ambrozak Photography by Stefano Galli

Rudy De Anda has been a key player in the Long Beach music scene, including as a founding member of Wild Pack of Canaries. His most recent venture is a four-piece band bearing his name that began as a fun side project but which took off when the famed local icon Ikey Owens (of the Mars Volta, Jack White’s band, and his own Free Moral Agents) took interest, and offered to record and mix their debut EP Ostranenie, which will be released in May on Porch Party Records. De Anda’s sound is deliberately difficult to classify—like the title of the EP, it’s familiar but novel at the same time, blending Beatles-style song structures with romantic Latin crooners, subtle hints of modern pop, dreamy washed-out production and lyrics in both English and Spanish. Needless to say, it’s a dramatic divergence from the maximal multiple personalities of Wild Pack—as well as unique reflection of an artist creating a style designed to express himself totally. De Anda speaks now about location, inspiration and fighting in a dumpster cage over the proper way to display cilantro. You’re the only person I know who’s come to blows over cilantro. What happened? I was working at Whole Foods—I worked with Mike Vermillion from GoGoGo Airheart. We didn’t know each other too well until the day I got in a fight with one of the produce guys. He didn’t want to rotate the cilantro and would put new stuff in front of the old stuff, which you’re not supposed to do. He didn’t like it that a younger person was telling him how to do his job and he tried to lock me in the freezer and fight me. I told him no—we should go outside. So we locked ourselves inside the dumpster cage and after a few minutes of fighting we decided to stop. When I came back inside my shirt was all ripped up and I had a gouge on on my face and pretty much looked like I’d been fighting. Mike Vermillion looked at me like I was crazy. I think that’s the moment when he started taking a liking to me and I started hanging out with him. He’d show me a lot of his records and I would show him the Wild Pack recordings and ask for feedback. He became a very good friend. Have you always lived in Long Beach? Were you born here? No, I was born in Watts at MLK hospital, which is shut down because of malpractice and when someone died in the waiting room. That was at least a decade after I was born there. My mom said she was watching the Lakers versus the Celtics in the finals when I was being born. But I was actually conceived in Mexico which is cool. She crossed the border when she was six months pregnant with me. So I was definitely imported and probably conceived in some Monte Carlo from the 80s. Did you grow up in Watts? I lived there for a second but was mostly raised in Compton. It was the Rodney King L.A. riots that caused us to move out. We lived next to a church, a liquor store, and a laundromat so it was prime real estate for whoever was conducting the riots. No one was attacking our house specifically, but it got caught in the crossfire and we were out of there within a few hours. My mom, dad, and me got everything we could into our little Honda and scrammed. I was like four or five years old. We just took off. We spent the next few months in East L.A. and when we came INTERVIEW

back to check it out, it was just a flat surface of ash and remains. The structure was completely done for. It was literally done. It was just an empty lot. After that it was East L.A. for a few months to get back on our feet. My dad started his own janitorial service and it was his own company so that was cool. We moved down to Long Beach because him and my uncle found a duplex on 10th and Redondo. I was a fresh kindergartener coming to Long Beach and not really speaking much English. As soon as I came out, I got the chicken pox, and my mom was pregnant so I couldn’t even stay here because the doctor told her that the baby could have birth defects if I was around her while she was giving birth. So I got sent for about three months to Mexico to live with my grandma. I finally came back after and from that point on did elementary, middle school, high school—all here. I see the L.A. riots as a blessing in disguise because there’s no way, I think, I would have ended up in Long Beach without some kind of freak event that shaped the course of people’s lives differently than they would have been otherwise. I don’t think that Compton is a music town like Long Beach. I could have ended up being a cholo or something. When did you start playing music? When I was 13 and by the age of 15 I was playing in bands with my neighborhood friends—one them was Alfred Hernandez who I’ve continued to play with through all these years and who is the drummer for Wild Pack of Canaries. That original group was all neighborhood buddies. We all wanted to play and were learning to play and did a few shows. It was called Cromlech which is a single stone that makes the full Stonehenge. That was the ultimate beginnings. How did you come up with that name? I don’t know—doing a lot of hallucinogens and reading a lot. I like to read dictionaries and thesauruses. I was also reading a lot of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell. I really got into this book Chrome Yellow. It got weird. Then I joined a group called Minus Radio with Bill Cutts and Gerardo Gonzales. We went on to play at the Smell a lot and with bands like Abe Vigoda and Health. That was all through high school. I was like 16 and 17. It was

really experimental art rock. We were really reaching. I was on a lot drugs so it was right up my alley. Bobb Bruno recorded our album and we eventually broke up before my family moved. When we moved to Vegas it was a real fork in the road. I saved up money from a job in a Japanese restaurant where I learned how to make yakisoba and stuff. I came back after like ten months and slept on my friend’s floor while I learned how to survive on my own. I got a job at Whole Foods in the produce department and joined a soccer team and was just trying to adapt and grow up. After a while, the opportunity to start Wild Pack of Canaries came when someone asked me to play a show. I didn’t have a band or anything so I asked Alfred, Drew Pearson, and J.P. Bendzinski to see if they wanted to get together some songs and the rest was history. That was in 2008. How many records did you put out? We put out a CD called The Coroner Can Wait on Mountain Man Records. That was our debut. I have a tattoo from the cover here on my forearm. Then we did a 7” vinyl with the song ‘Brain Brain’ and another self-released full length called In the Parian Flesh and a cassette on Lolipop called Agua Amarga. What were those songs about? What were you trying to communicate ? They were all different kinds of concept albums because we’re fans of prog music. For ‘The Coroner Can Wait,’ I had a visual of a family coming to see the body of their beloved passed away next to a tree. They come up and shove the police officers out of the way and then they just need a moment with the deceased. They turn and say, ‘The coroner can wait.’ That was the title track. I would say the one that was super conceptualized was In The Parian Flesh. We definitely tried to stay away from topics like love and friendship. I felt like it’s been done so much. It’s funny because nowadays I’m definitely referring back to those type of songs but at that point I thought of it as a challenge. ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to Insanity’ is a play off the book Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and is about what you would do if you woke up and found out the world was going to be over—just like how the book starts. It was a big collection of different storybook ideas but In The Parisan Flesh was my spaghetti-western romance novel

in space. Like if Ennio Morricone was in a punk band. A lot of the ideas for the records start off with a visualization. It’s mostly a lot of hidden meanings for me. There are names on those records that have meaning, like the last song on that record titled ‘Antoinette’—that’s the middle name of my girlfriend at that time. She played a role in helping me write all the songs and used to be in the band. We worked on a lot of songs together and ‘Antoinette’ is one that we didn’t finish, so I thought it would be a cool way to honor her in the record by finishing it and putting it out. It’s dedicated to her. Not until now, however, have I shown any light on that aspect. She always knew that that song was about her. No one else really knew. What about Agua Amarga? I think that was when the band was at its most mature point. We spent so much time recording In The Parian Flesh with Ikey, and were conjuring up a bunch of new songs in the midst of it. As far as having concrete drawnout ideas is concerned, that was when we we were at our most mature point of where the band could actually go with all the different ideas that we were always trying to cram in. In terms of song construction, this was our best representation for sure. How did you meet Ikey Owens? We were friends. He saw us grow up. We were his fans and he would always give us tickets to shows and vinyls. He knew we were kids from the neighborhood but he didn’t know that we were practicing and trying to make good music. Then when he saw Wild Pack play he asked us if he could produce a record for us. He took us into his world and under his wing to show us the ropes and help us out. We gained a lot of insight from hanging out with him all the time. We already had an existing relationship but it just grew more and more. That’s what led to him being interested in doing the songs that I was doing on my own. How did working with Ikey change your own ideas about making music? Across the board he showed me a little bit of everything—whether it’s how to talk to management, how you talk to show promoters, how to know your self-worth in situations where you could easily be taken advantage of … things like that. It’s kind of an 43


overwhelming question. All I can say is that for me growing up and watching him play … for him to take me under his wing like he did, he supported me like no other person has. And was a Grammy-award winning musician who toured all over the world. Obviously in how you approach songwriting and different textures you can add to recordings, he definitely showed me a lot. We just had a great relationship in the studio and I think ever since I worked with him whenever I visit studios again I have that sense of calmness and can just go in and do my thing. I know I’m leaving a lot of stuff out because whether it’s a musical or not, we shared a bond. Both of us had our fathers pass away recently and shared in that plus both of us are from Long Beach and shared that lifestyle. Also sharing a sense of humor—and probably the biggest thing was seeing how much of a normal, humble, nice person he was in the midst of all of his success. That was, I think, the best thing that could ever rub off on me. The way that he handled himself—the way that he was always pushing himself, learning more, and playing with a lot of people, always thinking about his next move—that’s something, among countless things, that I take with me. How would you describe Wild Pack’s style? We saw the beauty of song construction but also free-form, freak-out stuff. It would be both the ethics of the Beatles song writing and also the ethics of other song writing styles—with no regard and with all kinds of mixing and matching. I would say that I take something from pre-drug Beatles, like ‘62 to ‘66, and then ‘66 to ‘70. Not every song is obviously the greatest song but I took a little from all of their different episodes or incarnations. I almost call Wild Pack’s music ‘ADD music’ because the time sequences change so often that you need to be on your toes. Besides the Beatles I would say that it’s influenced by anything from Captain Beefheart to Frank Zappa and things like that. Let’s talk about the Rudy De Anda band. How did that start? And why? I always had songs, but around the summer of 2013 Ikey approached me and said that he wants to do my solo songs because he heard that I had my own songs and that my band was kind of on the ropes or maybe not as active as we should be or could be. So he offered to record the songs that I had and invited me over to his house and use his 8-track in his living room. It started as more of a passion project— just for fun. Then I met Zach Mabry who has been the drummer for me. We were both at a time in our lives when we had a lot of free time and lived close to each other. That’s when the Porch Party house was still around and we just exploited it. He was very supportive and had a lot of energy. He just landed on my lap as a drummer and soon after [I got] Lily Stretz on bass, so I just had these two people and a rhythm section that I was stoked to be a part of and stoked to play with. There was nothing ever set in stone until we started realizing that we had all these songs rehearsed. Twin Steps had a show in Long Beach in December of 2013 and I asked my buddies Froth if they wanted to join and that’s what would become our first show. We were finally ready 44

to play a live show. All the guys in Wild Pack had started doing other projects and doing their own thing. So it was almost natural. It wasn’t forced. It just happened. Everyone was supportive and happy of the chance to be productive. If they were busy, it’s too bad. I still wanted to play music frequently. It just turned out that I landed a really cool rhythm section that wanted to be a part of it as much as I wanted to do it. I had to let them know that it was going to be the Rudy De Anda band and we could play under other monikers but this is what it is without ego involved so much. They were fine with it and we’ve already played 75 or 100 shows in the last year in places all over like San Francisco, Oakland … That’s been the norm for the last six or seven years. Since 2005, I’ve done over 5,000 shows. I feel like the two groups are so different. If I didn’t know I would never guess that it was the same people. That’s a good compliment. I had a lot of songs that weren’t so much frenetic and were more romantic or more ballad-y and with a different sound. With the help of Zach, it just kind of dawned on me to create this new different format of sound specifically for the EP. It sounds more dreamier and a lot more lo-fi and intimate and not so in your face. It’s an ode to a lot of Spanish crooners from the past like Luis Spinetta, who is the singer from Almendra, and Los Apson. There’s a lot of bands from the past that I happen to be influenced by. Some stuff that was right under my nose and some that I was curious to learn about. I took a trip to Chile in 2012 to see El Guincho from Spain who was touring down there and is one of my favorite artists. I was down there by myself with no cell phone and no credit card, just hanging around meeting the locals. That trip really made a lasting impression and the music scene down there is incredible with bands like Astro and Alex Anwandter. It really helped me understand that it’s really nice to embrace your roots. It’s rock ‘n’ roll music but it’s also influenced by your culture. There’s always going to be songs that you heard from your family that have this neverending effect on you. It’s like rock ‘n’ roll but you have your Hispanic heart behind it. It’s cool because it’s a form of rock music that’s distorted through the eyes and ears of someone who grew up in a totally different culture. It translates in the sound in such a way that gives it a very rich distinction. What do you mean by ‘Hispanic heart’? I grew up in a Hispanic home listening to Latin music all the time. It’s like a given that I would be influenced by it. I think that the special thing that happened for me was realizing it further on in life. While I was in the Wild Pack, I realized what a profound influence the early stuff really had on my life. Once I really started to go back and find all the gems—whether it was rock, bossa nova or even traditional Mexican music—I really enjoy a lot of the songs. I think that the older I’ve gotten, the more I appreciate how much it has blatantly influenced my musical style. I like it because I feel like it’s a natural progression for me. Your roots music combined with growing up in Long Beach liking rock ‘n’ roll and punk rock all comes to a head in your musical mind

when you write songs. It’s like a splatter of paint on a canvas. My mom and my grandma, we’re listening to crooners and ballads and stuff like that—and I feel like my approach, when it comes to music, is less of the teen angst sound and more of a romanticized sound with a more crooner approach. This makes it a lot different than traditional rock ‘n’ roll. I’m also working on a full length but that’s going to be with a full band that has the more rowdy punky stuff that I’ve been playing at all of the shows I’ve been doing. It has more of a Television influence and other bands like Fugazi and Deerhoof, too. It’s more live performance based with punkier dancier songs. We’ve been playing a lot of shows with bands from Burger and Lolipop and people that go to those shows tend to want to dance. We definitely have a lot more songs of our sleeves that are more up beat and get people moving. It also goes along with the rock en espanol sound from the 80s when it got more upbeat and sped up and definitely more influenced by American rock ‘n’ roll and punk but just with Spanish lyrics. Who is in the Rudy De Anda band now? J.P. is the guitar player. We’ve always had a really solid understanding of each other musically. It’s the most rewarding and challenging thing to play guitar beside him. He has a jazz background from high school, which combines with all of his time playing in bands. His level of guitar playing is a very high. It’s great for me because that means I have to keep up with him. I think that we feed off of each other. Plus we both really like bands like Television and The Nerves. We love to play together—it ties our lives together. I know it’s good for him and it’s great for me—the fact that I can keep up with him. We have a great musical chemistry. He’s an outstanding musician, and the more I play with outstanding musicians the better I get. And you just got a new drummer? Yes—Anthony Vezirian. Which goes along with the fact that the music is always changing. Bringing new people will mix up the sound. I would like to continue that tradition in this band. I’d like to not get so tied down with an idea but always experiment. I never want people to pigeonhole us and think that we’re just a surf band or a Hispanic band. I always want to keep people guessing. There’s never going to be a definite sound to this band. What about Lily? Lily’s the youngest member of the Rudy De Anda band. She’s 20 years old, and has been playing bass for over eight years. Her dad’s from JFA and she’s just like a little Long Beach protégé. She’s been with us since we started. We all just clicked together. She adds a punk-y personality. She’s also in the Meow Twins on Burger Records. How would you break down the history of Long Beach music? I see music in Long Beach as being very generational. You can go back to the 70s with the band War or to the 80s with Suburban Lawns into the movement of the early 90s and the Christian rock-era bands like Cold War Kids or Delta Spirit, who were transplants. There was a lot of bands that came out of that. It’s always been a generational thing. I just think that the Porch Party house was a meeting point for everyone who was seriously

artistically driven. Casey [of Porch Party] was behind it and the daddy of it all, and we would just congregate there. You could practice without paying and share ideas and brought up this camaraderie of the bands. Once we noticed how Casey was putting out vinyls more and more, it garnered a bigger level of respect. We noticed that Long Beach wasn’t being represented in a way that it should be. You can quote me on that: people find it easy to talk shit about Long Beach, but most of those people are probably not even from L.A. If you are not actually here, then you don’t know what’s going on. But at the same time we want people to come and see what’s going on. It’s definitely harder to make DIY connections in the community, but it was just a matter of time that it would get represented right—or maybe not right or wrong, but these were bands that Casey handpicked to show to the world. Finally we have this platform to do it. Tell me about the festival you’re curating in Mexicali. My friend took me to a brewery down there for a beer festival because she knew I was from there. While I was there I became friends with the owner and people who worked there. I was just hanging out with them, pouring beer for people, and they invited me back a year after. That’s when the Rudy band played down there. This year they had a big budget to do a festival so they asked me to help them curate it. It’s called Celsius Festival on Saturday May 2 in Mexicali. So far we got Cutty Flam, Los Apson, Chicano Batman, AJ Davila, Sleeping in the Darkness, Summer Twins, and Eureka the Butcher, which is Marcel from Mars Volta. For me it represents a celebration of the intertwined culture that we are in where we love rock ‘n’ roll but we also love our roots. Anything else you wanna talk about? Yeah—there was this one time I went to Oakland with the Rudy band and my hat fell out the window of the car. I jumped out while it was still driving to get my hat back and when the car came back they couldn’t find me but and I ended up meeting some girl that let me stay in her attic. I woke up there at 5 AM and ended up finding some shoes under a bridge before meeting my friend in London at the train station at 6 AM. What are you on? The older I get the more high I get on life. L.A. RECORD PRESENTS RUDY DE ANDA WITH SLIPPPING INTO DARKNESS AND MORE ON THU., APR. 2, AT LA CITA, 336 S. HILL ST., DOWNTOWN. CONTACT VENUE FOR MORE INFO, AND RUDY DE ANDA WITH LOS APSON, A.J. DAVILA, CHICANO BATMAN, SUMMER TWINS, CUTTY FLAM, EUREKA THE BUTCHER (MARCEL FROM MARS VOLTA), AND MORE ON SAT., MAY 2, AT THE CELSIUS FESTIVAL AT PARQUE VINCENTE GUERRERO, MEXICALI BC. RUDY DE ANDA’S OSTRANENIE EP WILL BE RELEASD THIS MAY ON PORCH PARTY RECORDS. VISIT RUDY DE ANDA AT FACEBOOK.COM/ RUDYDEANDAMUSIC. INTERVIEW


the first Friday of every month

at ALEXS’S BAR in LONG BEACH

All vinyl 60’s Pop, Northern Soul, Motown and Boogaloo coming up in 2015

March 6th | April 3rd | May 1st


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• Final Trim Size: 10.5 x 13.5

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Phone 714.704.5854 2nd Line 714.704.5867 E-mail prepress@freedomprinting.net

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L.A. RECORD SXSW CHEAT SHEET SXSW can be (and should be and also will be) complete and total confusion, so in the spirit of helpfully de-confusing you, L.A. RECORD has compiled this cheat sheet of some (mostly) unofficial shows, parties, and showcases for this year! Listings subject to change without notice, and more to come online! MONDAY MARCH 16 HEAVY METAL CAGE MATCH AT BEERLAND Eagle Claw, the Shrine, White Mystery, Green Beard 4 pm | Free | 21+ THE ONION AND A.V. CLUB AT RED 7 Wooden Wisdom (Zach Cowie and Elijah Wood) Son Lux, Real Estate, Courtney Barnett, Son Lux 3:30 pm | Free | 21+ SPOTIFY HOUSE PRESENTS Run the Jewels, Ryan Hemsworth, The Vaccines, Speedy Ortiz and more 9:30 am | Free With RSVP | Contact Venue for More Info

TUESDAY MARCH 17 BANDIT TOWN TEXAS BOUND AT J. LORRAINE GHOST TOWN Nikki Lane, Birdcloud, Jake Loban, Carson McHone and more 12 pm Tuesday - 6 pm Sunday | $15 - $180 Camping Allowed 5th ANNUAL MUSIC TECH MASHUP AT EMPIRE CONTROL ROOM Tuxedo, Daedelus, Tokimonsta, UZ, Emily Wolfe and more 7 pm | Free | Contact Venue for More Info STUBHUB AT CLIVE BAR Portugal. The Man, Future Islands, Charles Bradley, Mowgli, Surfer Blood 2 pm | Afternoon Free with RSVP | Contact Venue for More Info ESCAPES FESTIVAL AT THE ANNEX Lester Green, Period Bomb, Free Weed, Beach Creeps, Hinds, The Parrots, and more 1 pm | Free with RSVP | Contact Venue for More Information

UMG EXPERIENCE AT PALM DOOR ON 6TH Milky Chance, LAGUNITAS COUCHTRIPPIN’ Best Coast, Years and Years TO AUSTIN AT THE CONTAIN- and more 12:30 pm | Free With ER BAR Charles Bradley, King RSVP | Contact VEnue for More Tuff and more 12 pm | Free Information With RSVP | 21+ DoPBR AND SPACELAND AT GOOD VIBRATIONS AT SX- THE SCOOT INN Ghostface and LAMF AT HOTEL VEGAS Dirty Raekwon, Iceage, Geographer, Fences, Panthar, The Spits, Of Montreal, Hinds, Terry Malts, Cheetah Chrome, Corners, Kim Babes and more 11 am | Free and the Created, Feels, Winter, With RSVP | 21+ Gal Pals 2 pm | Free | Contact Venue for More Info WUNDERBAR SHOWCASE AT LUCILLE PATIO LOUNGE KaBURGER RECORDS’ WIENER- daver, Oracles, Fjaak and more MANIA AT THE SPIDERHOUSE 3 pm | Free With RSVP | ConBALLROOM Paul Collins tact Venue for More Info Beat, Pujol, Gap Dream, the Aquadolls, The Shrine and more KLBJ LIVE FROM SXSW White 2 pm | Free | Contact Venue for Reaper, Megafauna, the Sour More Info Notes, Peelander Z and more 1 pm | Free | Contact Venue for DAY PARTY AT WATERLOO More Info RECORDS Twin Peaks, Jacco Gardner, Title Fight 12 pm | Free | All Ages WEDNESDAY MARCH 18

STUBHUB MUSIC EXPERIENCE Ms Mr, Elliphant, Kopecky Family Band, and more 12 pm | Afternoon Free With RSVP, Night Official SXSW | Contact Venue FRIDAY MARCH 20 for More Info SXSW DAY PARTY AT WATERLOO RECORDS Big Data, Wand, Ibeyi, Twerps and more 12 pm | Free | All Ages THURSDAY MARCH 19

cap Mountain, The Parrots and more 1 pm | Free | Contact Venue for More Info INSIDE GOSPEL AT THE GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER MUSEUM Joshua DuFrene, B Luv, Dana Hemphill and more 7 pm | Donations Accepted | All Ages

SATURDAY MARCH 21 CHAOS IN TEJAS + BLUNDERTOWN + CULTIST AT BEERLAND The Spits, Lust for Youth, Residuels 12 pm | Free | 21+ BURGERMANIA IV AT HOTEL VEGAS La Luz, Meatbodies, Death Valley Girls, White Fang and more 2 pm | Free | Contact Venue for More Info DAY PARTY AT WATERLOO RECORDS Fashawn, Melanie Martinez, Joey Bada$$, The Church, Twin Shadow and more 12 pm | Free | All Ages

HOUSE OF VANS AND FUN FUN FUN PRESENT AT THE MODRESSED TO KILL AT THE HAWK Ghostface Killah with GRAND Death Valley Girls, Las Badbadnotgood, Swervedriver, Rosas, Ditch Witch, Manatees, Alvvays, Thee Oh Sees and Bad Vibes 4 pm | Free | Contact more 12:30 pm | Free | Contact Venue for More Info Venue for More Info

BURGER RECORDS’ POOL PARTY AT PEAR STREET CO-OP Michael Rault, Wax Witches, Sarah Bethe Nelson and more PANACHE SXSW SHOWCASE 12 pm | Free | All Ages AT THE HOTEL VEGAS Thee Oh Sees, La Luz, Wand, Babes, the SXSW DAY PARTY AT WATER- Mystery Lights, DJ Jonathan LOO RECORDS Ryan Bingam, Toubin, Guy Blakeslee, Wax Elle King, Robert Earl Keen and Witches, Zig Zags and more 1 more 12 pm | Free | All Ages pm | Free before 7 pm | Contact Venue For More Information DR MARTENS AT SXSW AT BAR 96 Gang of Four, Only WINDISH AGENCY ANNUAL Real, Prince Rama, Tweens and DAY PARTY AT THE MOHAWK more 3pm | Free | 21+ Cathedrals, Wolf Alice, Shura, Son Lux, Alvvays and more 12 AV CLUB AND FLOWERBOOK- pm | Free with RSVP | Contact ING AT CHEER UP CHARLIES Venue for More Info Deerhoof, The Velvet Teen, Terry Malts, J. Fernandez and more AUSTIN X SPAIN X BRAZIL 12:30 pm | Free With RSVP | AT CAROUSEL LOUNGE Space Contact Venue for More Info Vampire, Vinyl Larnaja, Bottle-

PANACHE AT SPIDERHOUSE Das Wave, Mystery Lights, Meatbodies, Las Rosas, La Luz, Jacco Gardner, Happyness 12 pm | $5 | Contact Venue for More Info


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JESSICA PRATT Interview and photography by Daiana Feuer

The basic facts on Jessica Pratt are widely established. Pick any article and you’ll learn that she got her opportunity when Tim Presley from White Fence put out her first record in San Francisco a few years ago. For our purposes, all you need to know is her new album On Your Own Love Again is out now on Drag City. It sounds like it could be the long lost release of a bewitching 1960s folk singer that disappeared into the mountains. ‘It’s about love and loss and shit,’ she says. It’s nice that someone who makes such soul stirring music also cusses a lot when she speaks, and has a twitter feed that reads like poetry. In this interview, which took place on a bench at Echo Park Lake, you will find her thoughts on birds, customer service and eating rats. I just got a really bad phone bill from when I was overseas. I fucked something up with the settings. I want to try to get out of paying it. Just call customer service and say, ‘Yeah, of course I turned my phone off before I went to Australia!’ My mom is either an expert at that or just repeats something enough until she also believes it’s true and gets her way. Having spent a lot of time in customer service, that is—unfortunately—a tactic that works. Regardless of whether or not its true or you’re regretful of how you handled the situation, if you say it enough times the person is going to have to be like, ‘OK, for both of our interests, let’s forget it ever happened.’ Most of the time I don’t want to have to put in the psychic energy to get that out of somebody. But with an issue of hundreds of dollars I might have to. Keep yelling ‘supervisor!’ and you can get anything you want. It’s kind of a sad truth but nobody is going to argue with you on the phone. Until phones are no longer the way we communicate. Until they can remove any sort of human element from it so there’s no leverage. Yup.—Aw, look at all those birds in the lake. Do you like birds? I do. I like the way they look. I’ve never had a personal connection with one. But I’ve wanted to. I guess it’s one of those things like a lizard brain type of deal. Part of me doubts they have the cognizance to make a connection. But then there are documented cases of that happening. It’s a living thing, after all. It’s well known that animals have a really developed ability to be intuitive and pick up on human emotion. My dog doesn’t really react when I’m sad. She’s like, ‘Call me when it’s over.’ Ha, yeah—‘Sorry, I have licking to do.’ Should we talk about you now? OK—nobody wants to do it but it’s fine. I’m having fun just talking about birds. Sure! Your thoughts about birds will give insight into the workings of your mind. I saw a video of a green heron fishing with a piece of bread. It lured the fish by putting bread in the water then taking it out, until the fish came close enough to snatch. That’s brilliant. And it’s strange, too, with creatures that function on things that have been bred into them for centuries, to have some sort of weird adaptation like using a trick like that. It seems very against their nature. Even though they’re receptive to being able to do tricks. It’s weird. Animals. My friend INTERVIEW

was telling me about nutria, the river rat. I guess in Louisiana in the early 1900s, there was this rat-beaver-rodent that came from South America. Somehow it got on a ship. Spices were being traded or something and they wandered off the dock in Louisiana. It’s a huge rodent. A gigantic rat with really coarse fur. There was a population explosion because they had no natural predators in the area and they destroyed a lot of vegetation. So the local government launched a secret campaign where they tried to convince everybody that their meat was delicious and their fur was luxurious, encouraging people to hunt them, and it worked for a while. People will believe a lot of things. Especially at that time. You can still find some nutria fur vintage clothes. I went to Europe for the first time last year and it was really cold. I ended up having to buy this vintage fur coat. It was kind of coarse hair. My friend kept joking that it was my full-length nutria rat coat and it started to freak me out. I could just feel them crawling on me. I guess I should go to a furrier and ask them. I’m sure I could find someone in West Hollywood. Do you go ‘out west’ much, not having a car? There must be a lot of things relevant to my interests because I end up going to the west side a lot more than other places. I like going to Canter’s. There’s some weirdly comforting things about that side of town. Obviously there’s a lot of West Hollywood that’s annoying but there’s a lot of old Hollywood stuff that is just so foreign to me that I like to look at it. I love the weirdness of my ‘east side’ home too. The ice cream truck in my neighborhood plays the ‘ears hang low’ song but at twice the normal speed. And they always stop outside my house. I don’t know if the driver isn’t irritated by the sound, which is relentless and loud, or maybe he can’t turn it off. It’s drilling into my brain. But I anticipate it every day and kind of like it. You’re from Redding, California. My friend is from there. I think of that town as Brady Bunch families with homeschooled kids on one side of the tracks and meth heads on the other. I think I grew up in the meth head zone. Not me personally but I didn’t grow up with much money and every neighborhood we lived in was kind of whatever. My home life was nice but my neighbors were often crazy shirtless skinhead dudes or, you know … well-meaning white trash families. There’s still good people all over.

Is L.A. life, in all of its weirdness, good for you creatively? I think so. It’s a really fostering environment for people to make things. One, it’s good because if you need to be alone no one is going to stop you. In San Francisco I would have these moments where I would try to hunker down and work on something, but someone would walk by and yell into my window, ‘Hey, let’s go!’ It was very easy to be socially distracted. Down here, I have friends, but I have to make an effort to see them. But also if you want to be in the world there’s always something you can go do. It’s a vibrant, diverse, weird city and it has the right amount of grit and grotesqueness and beauty. It’s so vast, too. Wherever you are in the city at a given moment is a completely different world. It can be intimidating and scary but it’s a comfort to know there’s always going to be things you can discover about the city. It’s almost unknowable. So you have to get down with the idea of carving out your own little universe in it. Los Angeles has such a rich history. So many things I care about have come from here: film, music, comedians. It’s the psychic birthplace of a lot of intense things that have entered the collective consciousness. There was a moment after a year of living here that I was having an existential crisis and felt really alone. I was working in Hollywood and just going there and coming home and thinking everything was harsh and hideous. It was the dead of summer. There were no trees, just sweaty schizophrenic people throwing Popeye’s coleslaw on the sidewalk. There’s a lot of that. It’s real as fuck. But not having a job for a while has helped me regain some composure. I was working at Amoeba, taking the bus 45 minutes back and forth every day. It became my only exposure to the outside world. I was just consumed by it. I felt horrible. Stepping out of this huge cement building and florescent lights into an unsavory part of Hollywood every day. Then I quit and had to worry about money. But I would rather worry about money and experience new things everyday and trust in faith. My mom passed away a couple years ago. She never had very much money. Towards the end of her life she kind of got some regular pay but she spent a lot of her time as an adult worrying about money. Then she got sick and died. I’m not criticizing money, but being anxious doesn’t get you anything. I try to be as Zen as possible. It always works out. Maybe you’re fucked one day, but then maybe someone lends you money, or you sell something…

Or you can eat coleslaw from the street. It’s true! I had a job the whole time I was in San Francisco and I never took vacation. I think it’s part of my personality to worry about security in a working class way. When I moved here I didn’t have a job for six months. It was hard to get used to not having a regular paycheck. But then I was also happier in another sense. Then I got that Amoeba job and I’d basically stopped playing music. At some point you have to say, ‘Fuck it.’ How do you ensure you’re keeping your life interesting now that you’ve seized your freedom? I’ve been getting back into the music zone. It takes me a second when I’m taken out of it to reconnect all the receptors in my brain. It feels good to have the record out. It’s like a psychic cleansing moment. It’s finally fucking done. Was there a long incubation between the music being finished and the album coming out? Only because of my own procrastination and indecision. I had already waited so long to even make the record. That’s part of my history—things taking a long time. I wrote it and recorded it and had it done by December 2013-January 2014. But then sequencing and rerecording and losing my mind and losing perspective on what was good or bad … that took longer. You recorded on a 4-track. How much room for change is there when it’s on tape? Mixing is kind of a chaotic thing for that reason. Fortunately I had someone very capable to help with that. Some of it was on cassette but then there were a few digital overdubs. It’s amazing how deep you can get into each subtle thing within a song, tweaking things to the point that you can lose your mind. If I had done it on my own, who knows if it would even be done yet! It’s good to have someone you can trust come in and be the second brain. . I love how tape sounds. Me too. My mom had a huge tape collection and I became familiar with a lot of formative coming of age albums via cassette. I went through a huge Stones and Zeppelin phase in my early teens. The warmth of those tapes sticks with you. JESSICA PRATT’S ON YOUR OWN LOVE AGAIN IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM DRAG CITY. VISIT JESSICA PRATT AT FACEBOOK.COM/ JESSICALYNNPRATT. 53


LIGHTNING BOLT Interview by Zach Mabry Illustration by Walt! Gorecki

SNAP! CUT! Imagine yourself in an airplane flying next to a train that’s spinning out of control, hurtling towards it’s demise at the bottom of a canyon. But then you look closer and see a dance party going off inside. SMOKE! LASERS! SHATTERED GLASS! The creatures are dancing anyway—no worries, things will work out either way. This is how I’d like to think of Lightning Bolt. Brian Chipppendale is the epitome of the athletic musician. He plays drums like a boxer knocking out his opponent, and hits his opponent three times on the way down, too. And there’s blood everywhere... Despite the fear that might wash over you while watching or listening to Lightning Bolt, Chippendale is one of the kindest people in the biz. The band’s new record Fantasy Empire will be released on Mar. 24 on Thrill Jockey and Brian took a minute to join us over the phone to talk about how he keeps in shape, the ways in which he derives inspiration from Rihanna, and why he no longer sleeps on a futon he found in the garbage. So relax despite the chaos and enjoy the strange and beautiful world of Brian Chippendale. The new record seems much heavier to me, but content-wise, things are more clear. Your snare is more pronounced, and your vocals are more pronounced. I can’t always understand what you’re saying but I can feel you guys knocking some shit out and it must be pretty rewarding. That’s like what music is for me—working shit out. Not always in a negative way. I’m a drummer and at the end of the day my back hurts from playing drums and working and biking. How is your back? Do you have a workout that you do? I’m in the same boat. I’ll drum and bike. Although these days I can’t bike cause there’s so much snow, which is a bummer. I live in a smaller city so I suspect I’m biking more just to get around. I do have a routine, and it’s a routine I really like. It involves like—in the wintertime—turning on three heaters and trying to get it up to 60 degrees when I’m drumming. And I don’t stretch before I drum. I just go for it. We’ll usually break into something pretty ferocious but bring it back. Not trying to twist any ankles right out of the gate or anything! I actually screwed up my back years ago. The whole pain tingling down the leg and can’t get out of bed for two or three days. Pinch a nerve? I just took a bunch of painkillers and from then on started doing stretches—various lower back stretches and crunches, trying to keep that area solid and limber. The biggest thing is me and my wife—having slept on a futon we found in the trash 20 years ago—we bought a mattress for the first time ever. Went and got a real mattress! So it was a big breakthrough there, too. Have you been working with Black Pus in the downtime? 54

I did that last night! At this point I’m doing it more. [Lightning Bolt] will practice two or three times per week, so there are four days I’m by myself, and that’s generally what I do. Sometimes I’ll play drums and not hook up electronics. But everything is set up for me to just do the solo stuff. I do it all the time. I’ve been making a lot of home recordings I’m pretty into, I just have to find the time to mix it together. Sometimes, I listen to rap and then take the cadence and ghost notes of the vocals and play the drums of that rhythm. Do you have certain tricks like that? Nothing like that. That sounds like a great trick! I’ll run in the other room and watch a hit video from some big pop song that has a cool beat. Something like a Rihanna song. Kanye West. And then run back in the room and try to play around that song and keep that idea going. That usually gets the motor running again. So I don’t play along with stuff much. For me it’s just like ... what does my setup allow me to do? I don’t have a set-up that allows me to listen to headphones while I play. I usually just try to keep it in my head and hum along. One thing I’ve been doing lately is playing the drums—and I do a lot of recording on four-track—so just three tracks of straight drums and one mic over the drums and over my head so I can sing into it. And that will be going into a delay pedal that goes straight into the four-track. You’re just playing along with the delay! And even sometimes looping the delay and letting waves of sound build up— drums and vocal stuff, letting it build up and get lost. I just want to play along with this cool loop. Even in Lightning Bolt, the best times are when it transcends a riff and gets carried away. The album is structured songs, but every once in awhile there’s an avalanche and you get

to fall off the ledge and roll into an avalanche of stuff, and those are my favorite moments. What’s your set-up like now? Kick, snare, floor tom on my left, two rack toms—one to the right, and one straight ahead. So I do backwards rolls. And then a ride and a crash. One of my favorite drummers, Greg Saunier, has said that he intentionally makes himself uncomfortable so he can create new things. Is that what the fucking crate he sits on—is that what that’s about? Is that the story? Your shows are crazy! Everyone’s going insane and it could be kind of scary. Are you the kind of person who likes to keep your fears close to you to get to know them? That’s heavy. I’m willing to dive into that. I draw a lot. I’m working on a comic. And when I’m working on a comic I tell stories and talk around some issue. Maybe joke about it, almost like you can’t directly look at a problem—you have to solve it by looking next to it. Fears are so weird! When I’m playing, fear isn’t usually a component. But there are things I’m scared of in the world, things I think about and try to deal with. It’s interesting, It doesn’t inform my playing, and I don’t know ... I love traveling. I travel a lot with music and it’s really fun. When you travel for music, there’s usually some like, guide with you and people show you around. So it’s not the full experience of mystery—it’s laid out for you. But I went down to Mexico City for a couple nights to play a show and had a lot of time on my hands. So I was just kind of taking walks but I don’t know any Spanish—even though I should, cuz it’s such a big language, even where I live, in my neighborhood. I felt like kind of scared. Not physically—just in the dark cuz I didn’t know what was going on. And I felt weird, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like that I was feeling

that way, and part of me was like, ‘I just want to hide in my room until someone comes and picks me up and takes me somewhere. I feel so lost here, I don’t know what to do!’ I solved it by walking around and looking at stuff. I was feeling this idea of fear of the unkown. When I was younger I had fears but there was so much time when I was in my 20s. Now I’m 41—I’m like an old guy! I used to feel like there was so much time, and I had these fears but I could conquer them. And then 20 years went by, and I’m like aw fuck! Some of these issues haven’t gone away—they’ve actually intensified. Like, what’s going on? How do you deal? Speaking of Mexico City, I played a show there recently and we got held up at the border. And we were asking for it—we’re all a bunch of punks. But we made sure to get rid of all the weed but the bass player didn’t get rid of the fucking pipe! So they sic the dogs on us, cuff us, put us in cellars, tell us it’s going to be $5,000 in bail. They planted weed in our truck! A big vacuumpacked bag of weed! We made it out, but it was not cool. But now you have such a good story! You gotta go through shit in order to live. Back in the mid-90s, I went with a friend to Italy. And we went on this crazy walk. We walked from Rome south for 20 days. We were trying to walk down to Sicily. So we walked from Rome to Napoli, walked really far, and we only stayed in a hotel or motel like three times. We would sleep everywhere— construction sites, ruins, people’s yards. And it was amazing! And I didn’t have a whole lot of fear of that. But when I think back now, I’m just like ... I don’t know if I could do that. But when you’re in it, you just kind of do it. My friend spoke a little Italian too so she got us through some of the weirdest parts. INTERVIEW


You were talking about comics. If you could set up a concert, what sort of cartoon characters would you have playing in the bands? What would the music be? I’m a big fan of Thundarr the Barbarian. Maybe Thundarr—I grew up in the 80s, so there are these weird 80s cartoons that bring so much warmth to me when I see them. And then maybe some SpongeBob, and then Starblazer characters. That’s a great cartoon. They’re flying through space looking for the brother’s ship, which disappeared. I like the premise of movies where it’s about searching for something that disappeared in some weird unknown land. Are you a vegetarian or a vegan? I know that people can come down pretty hard on vegans, like bully them— —The other day I heard a Muslim American comedian being interviewed on the radio and he was talking about how he’ll post [on social media] ‘It totally sucks those three Muslims got shot in North Carolina, that’s totally insane and horrible!’ and someone will post ‘Remember 9/11! And ISIS! And Muslims are going crazy! How can you talk about these three Muslims when they killed all these people on 9/11?’ It’s like ... I can feel bad about both. It’s not a hierarchy. It’s not a competition around feeling sorry. But yeah, the idea that you can you can be vegan one night and then eat a big sausage, and it’s all cool. The people that like those foods aren’t enemies, and you don’t have to pit yourself against the other thing because they like that thing—but people do that. We’re all just people roaming the same planet and you gotta eat!

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I used to be a hardcore vegan but now I eat all sorts of stuff. I see all sides of the picture. Awesome! Do you have a favorite drummer? Who is my favorite drummer? I’ve had various favorite drummers over the years. I’ve gone through all the basic people, like Rashied Ali, or Milford Graves—old jazz guys. But when I was arising into noise music, there was this band called the Unsane. Have you ever listened to the Unsane? They had this drummer who is no longer with us. Shortly after making that first record he died and passed away. I saw them live a few times and it had a huge impact on me. It was just like the Energizer bunny. You’d like wind him up and he’d start stomping his foot, and so every song would be limited by like how fast he could stomp his foot. He wouldn’t leave spaces for stuff, and I got super influenced by that. He’d just ride the bass drum as fast as he can, and then that’s the rhythm. So everything is held down by that. There’s no in-between hits. You can play really fast but you can’t play any faster than you can stomp that one foot. And that was his approach and it kind of blew my mind. I thought it was so amazing. Sometimes if I’m low energy, and my technique isn’t that great, I rely on painting an emotional picture through the drums. How do you feel about that? I totally relate. I’m all about that. I’m not really trying for technical proficiency—it’s not my main goal. My main goal is to come out feeling good. Whatever it takes to get to that point of feeling good, no matter what it is—at some point during playing, I just

freewheel it and at some point I land close to some beat I’m trying to figure out and I just kind of zone in on like, ‘OK, I’m going to make some decisions and just let my body what to do, and then wrangle a sturdier beat out of it.’ But for the most part, I just want to go in there and feel good. It’s like impressionistic drumming or something. You’re not trying to do like photorealism of beats. A lot of that is beat mimicry: ‘I learned this beat and I can regurgitate it really well.’ And it’s interesting, it’s an amazing skill, like being able to make a really nice wooden joint for a table or something. It’s a great skill to have, but there’s this line between artist and craftsman, and I think I fall on the art side, which is more the emotional side of things. Do you feel like you line up your kicks with your voice? I line up something with it! The kicks or the snare. I think I bounce back and forth between those two. And sometimes I can move them around. I’m probably lining them up. I think sometimes it is the kick, the emphasis, or the beginning of beats. I’ve always been into the kick. Cuz when you hit the kick it’s more like a full body experience, so it makes sense that you’re going to make a mouth noise at the same time. Your leg is longer than your arm— you’re using more of your body maybe. When you’re playing, do you have an image in your head that you’re trying to get across? I’ll have a specific feeling or event—it’s like driving music. Music you put on in your car and you’re in motion to. Which is a really wide amount of music and a wide answer to

that, but it’s just like momentum music. We were on this one tour one time and we got this tape from the band Hair Police. They had given us this tape, and it wasn’t their tape, but one of their labels had sent out this tape with two of the guys of Hair Police on it. It was called Sick Hour, so it was dissonant, electronic sounds. Whatever scenario we’d be driving through ... I remember driving past like cows and fields in the Bible Belt being like, ‘Holy shit! This is crazy cuz of this Sick Hour tape!’ And driving in Chicago—we played that tape nonstop and for every kind of new visual area, this tape was like the perfect tape. Hopefully this new Lightning Bolt record, as long as you’re seeing wide distance, or even a weird scrunched distance, it would somehow ring true. ‘OK—this music makes sense.’ THE ECHO AND FYF FEST PRESENT LIGHTNING BOLT WITH LITURGY ON SUN., MAY 3, AT THE ECHOPLEX, 1154 GLENDALE BLVD, ECHO PARK. 8 PM / $13 / ALL AGES. THEECHO. COM. AND LIGHTNING BOLT PLAYS MAY 8-10 AT AUSTIN PSYCH FEST’S LEVITATION FEST WITH THE 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS, THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN AND MANY MORE AT CARSON CREEK RANCH, 9507 SHERMAN ROAD, AUSTIN, TX. AUSTINPSYCHFEST.COM. LIGHTNING BOLT’S FANTASY EMPIRE IS AVAILABLE ON TUE., MAR. 24, FROM THRILL JOCKEY. VISIT LIGHTNING BOLT AT LASERBEAST.COM.

INTERVIEW


BAMBU Interview by sweeney kovar Illustration by themegoman

Gang-banger, Marine, organizer, rapper and father: L.A.’s Bambu DePistola has lived a few lifetimes so far and the cumulative wisdom finds its way into his music. Explicitly political and firmly focused on making powerful hip-hop with a purpose, Bambu’s approach to rap is truly grassroots. The best example is his latest album, Party Worker. For what may be his strongest effort to date, Bam raised over $40K for production via crowdfunding, conducted extensive interviews with working-class folk and ended up crafting an album centered on a grassroots peoples’ organization. The result is music matching the energy of deadprez with the hyperlocal rooting of Invincible, topped off with the indignant fervor of a pre-Are We There Yet? Ice Cube. Long way of saying this shit bangs and it’s saying something. On a sunny California morning—in between daddy duties—Bambu squeezed in a Google hangout with yours truly to shoot the shit. The conversation resembled the intersectionality of Bambu’s music. We talked in equal measures about Bam’s politicization, the need for communal spaces for grassroots artists’ development in L.A., the difficulty of youth organizing and how his artistic development has led to Party Worker. How did you become politicized? I want to say it was a collection of events throughout my life. Me gangbanging when I was a kid. I got locked up and joined the Marine Corps after that. During the Marine Corps I saw many things I didn’t really know how to process until I left and got organized and built with some of my folks, some of my comrades. I structured all of the things that had been happening to me in my past and that really politicized me and shaped my ideology. What were some of those moments that were hard to process? I’ll give you an example: There was a conflict in East Timor when I was in the military. East Timor is a small island off the shore of Indonesia. When I went there—obviously I’m Filipino Southeast Asian Malay, so we look the same. I had gone out on leave after patrolling all day and when I came back I was in my civilian clothes. They pulled guns on me, made me get down because they thought I was just somebody showing up to the base. They thought I was a local in this time of conflict. Those little instances like that, I didn’t know how to process them then. I just thought, ‘That’s wild racist!’ Because I was working within that military structure I figured they were being cautious and safe. It wasn’t until I got out and started talking to organizers that I looked back and realized that was wild racist and I started asking questions like why: ‘Why were they doing that? Why was I in East Timor? Why were we in Yemen?’ I hadn’t really figured out what I was doing in all these places. I knew there was something wrong. I guess that was the beginning. Tell me about the L.A. you grew up in. I’m from the flatlands of L.A. We call them the flatlands because there’s no hills, no mountains. I don’t really talk about it too much only because I don’t have the same experiences that other kids had growing up in those communities. I was very outcasted being southeast Asian during the late 80s, early 90s. It was rough. This is when the gang module was poppin’. Everybody was banging and I didn’t really have an attachment so growing up in that part of town wasn’t really a great thing for me. It pushed me into doing things I wish I didn’t have to do. It wasn’t until I got older and really started bangin’ that I had my own identity and place. Gangbangin’ really helped me carve out a piece of L.A. for myself. I’m from a neighborhood but I didn’t live in that neighborhood, if that makes sense. The neighborhood I lived in was personally oppressive. There was one family of four Filipinos and that was us. The early 90s, the INTERVIEW

mid 90s—that’s when I got locked up for armed robbery. It was a rough time in L.A. I think it was a time when people were trying to figure shit out, when all the ports in Los Angeles [slowed down] and all these businesses started to leave. Folks didn’t have jobs. All these people who lived in the flatlands near the ports from Long Beach to South Bay to South Central Los Angeles, that was the main industry—the ports. When that went away in the 70s and into the 80s, the economic crisis hit us hard. When crack was introduced to help people cope with that, that made it even rougher. That’s the time in L.A. that I’m from. It was culturally confusing. MS[-13] had just started. The El Salvadorans were just starting to come in. I got a lot of Salvadoreño homies and they came into the U.S. because of the Silver War. It was a weird melting pot of people. I always say I’m from L.A. because I’ve lived all over Los Angeles. I know people in every part of L.A. from the west side to the Inland Empire, Valencia down to Long Beach. That’s the L.A. I’m from. As an L.A. native, how does the gentrification we’re seeing resonate with you? Fortunately from the military on I’ve been able to travel, unlike some of my peers I grew up with. I’ve seen that it’s not just L.A.— gentrification is hurting all these communities across the nation and even in other countries. Looking at the Phillipines now, it’s the same! I went back in December and I can tell you that it’s drastically changed. The same with L.A. There are parts of L.A. I don’t recognize anymore. The neighborhood I grew up in used to be a dead-end street. They opened that up and now it leads to a Burger King. Even the skyline of L.A. has changed. Downtown has changed. We couldn’t go downtown when I was a kid. First off, there was no reason to go downtown. Secondly, downtown was a rough-ass part of town. Now I drive through and it’s white people everywhere and hipsters everywhere. But again, that story is shared all across the nation. I say it on the album—I name a bunch of cities at the end of it and these are all cities I’ve been to. You can have this conversation with a local in Detroit and they’ll tell you shit is different as fuck now. You can talk to someone in Chicago and it’ll be the same thing. What started the concept of Party Worker? I did a whole bunch of albums before Party Worker. I call them albums but it was really me learning how to be in the studio. It didn’t come as natural as it may have come to other people. It took me a really long time to figure out my own voice. I was dealing with identity issues.

I’m dealing with my own place in hip-hop as a Filipino man. I’m dealing with my own place in hip-hop as a political MC, someone who challenges the socio-economic status quo of our country. I had a lot of things I had to deal with, even my age. I didn’t get back into this game until I left the military. You look at a guy like Kendrick [Lamar] who at 18 was already building great songs. When I say it didn’t come naturally to me, I mean that. My first album wasn’t this amazing project. There were a lot of flaws in the first four albums I made. It wasn’t until one rifle per family that I figured out how to make a proper album. one rifle per family is what I often call my debut. It was me being comfortable in the studio, comfortable with my own voice and being comfortable with where I am as an artist. The album before that, which was Exact Change, was really close but where it suffered was in that I didn’t know how important it was to get something mixed and mastered correctly. I had figured out how to write songs but I was still sticking to the formula of verse-hook-verse-hook. I wasn’t comfortable to do what hip-hop tells you to do and just go and don’t worry about anything. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from hiphop—roll with the punches. If a DJ throws a beat at you, you just have to work with it. If you’re a DJ and something goes wrong, you gotta just figure it out. If you’re a B-Boy and the record skips, you gotta figure it out. During the album before [one rifle per family], I Scream Bars For Children, I had just gone through a big separation from this group I was in, the Native Guns. That was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life—be a part of the Native Guns. When that went away and the group dissolved, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I Scream Bars For Children was a very reactionary attempt to figure out how to be a solo artist again. All these albums mirror different things that were going on in my life. If you listen to Exact Change, that’s when I was the Secretary General of [Filipino-American organization] Kabataang maka-Bayan, Pro-People Youth USA. I was in the thick of organizing and in the thick of my rap career. I had just started to tour. I Scream Bars for the Children, I had separated myself from youth organizing and I was with my family a lot. With one rifle per family, I was trying to figure out how to be an organizer outside of the youth sector and be a father as well as a partner. With Party Worker, I’m completely out of the youth organizing sector at this point. I am fully engulfed in my music now. I used to say organizing came first and my music came second. As of recent, my music seems to be taking precedent over

my organizing, which is bad but it’s just the reality of my life. I had said to myself that it’d be dope if MCs were in a grassroots peoples organization. That would be the shit, where everybody’s rapping in a meeting instead of talking and where people are dealing with issues as artists and not as organizers. I feel like Party Worker is my best work only because I was the most comfortable. We recorded it in a hotel in four days—me and DJ Phatrick who I’ve worked with for years in the Native Guns. He’s one of my best friends. He’s one of those guys that knew what my issues where in music but me being so stubborn, I was always like, ‘Fuck you. I’m going to do what I do. I’m not worried about you Phatty.’ It wasn’t until after one rifle per family that I started getting on MTV and a whole bunch of stuff was happening to me and I didn’t really know how to process it. Phatty really helped me with Party Worker. He’s really helped me figure out how to make an album correctly and market an album correctly. We did it through Kickstarter, too, which was pretty awesome just to see where I was. I was really trying to figure out if people still supported me. I’ve been in this game for a long time and I’m very comfortable with my audience. I’m not looking to get new fans. I guess that’s what a lot of artists are looking for—I’m not. I know who I rap for: youth of color, adults of color. That’s who I want to stay true to. I studied deadprez, I studied cats that came before me. I read an interview one time with deadprez, after I went to a show of theirs in Orange County, and they were talking about how the music doesn’t mean as much anymore because when they look out in the crowd it’s just white kids screaming this pro-Black stuff. I recognize that when I do shows. All the big tours I’ve ever been on have been with guys that have predominantly white audiences. How did you negotiate that? It was tough to connect at first. My music is written specifically for young people of color—that’s who I organize and that’s who I work with. That’s who I make music for. I make music for people like me. Trying to connect with that audience was difficult but there came a point where I was like, ‘Fuck it, they’re either going to ride with me or they’re not.’ I know a bunch of conscious MCs and I know a bunch of political rappers but I can’t listen to them! It’s not fun music to listen to. It’s just like sitting in a rally and listening to some guy spout off the same ‘injustice for all’ shit in spoken word. I’m not with that. I always say I’m a fan of hip-hop first. I know my audience and I love my audience and I 59


want my audience to stay the same way it is. I don’t make music in hopes of gaining new fans. I would love if more folks picked it up but I know who my audience is and they’re there and they’re supportive. They tell all their homies. I’d rather be grassroots that way. Just like organizing, I’m into the face-to-face, off the internet type shit. I’m going door-to-door, hand-to-hand. I’d rather be that way. In recent years there has been a big conversation around what is authentic organizing, and the online aspect kind of throws a curveball at everyone. Authentic is a great word to use. The authenticity of your organizing online gets lost I think. When I look in your face, sweeney, I can say, ‘I feel this way about certain things.’ Then you and I can dialogue. That’s so much better than me putting up a meme about #BlackLivesMatter, which is obviously something very strong and valid, but if I see 50 other motherfuckers with that same meme, I do feel it gets lost. It doesn’t feel as personal. How much do you really feel that? How much do you really want that justice? That’s where I am with music and organizing. Cut all that Facebook shit out for a second. Let’s just stop it for a second and get back to looking at people in the face. That will get people out more than anything. For a long time I spent so much energy focusing on putting up a Facebook blast. I started to notice my crowds were dwindling from where I was selling out the Echoplex and now I’m just putting in 400 bodies in there. What’s going on? I had to be out with the folks, shaking hands—not to con them into coming but to make that connection. I want them to come and see what I’m doing here because ... I don’t want to say it’s important on some bigging myself up shit, but I feel it’s good for hip-hop in L.A. I came up in a time where there was an open mic somewhere in L.A. every friday. Me and my boys would hop in our little car and we’d drive from Poisonous Records in Hollywood to Foundation Funk Collective out on the east side to The Good Life down in South Central. There were outlets. I’m not a youth so I don’t know if there are now—it could be the same. But from my personal experience, I don’t see that much anymore. It’s good for hip-hop to be able to show kids that this outlet still exists in Los Angeles and you can do it with purpose—it doesn’t need to be that stupid-ass party rap. There’s always a place for that but this underground militant hip-hop still exists in Los Angeles and it’s grassroots. It’s still accessible to you. TDE is no longer accessible to the masses. TDE is on some other shit and while that’s a great representation of L.A., they’re so big you’re not going to see them at a 100-capacity venue. You’re going to see them at Nokia Theatre or the Staples Center. I grew up with Unity! Black Moon would come out, Notorious B.I.G. would come out and it was a 200-capacity venue. I miss that. I love where hip-hop is now because there is a clear division between what’s pop, what’s for the radio and what’s for us—what is underground. I think maybe ten years ago it was confusing. There were guys pandering to the underground rap audience but doing stuff that was not in line with what we believe is underground hip-hop lyricism. There wasn’t a clear division and now there is a clear division. If I don’t want to listen to Iggy Azalea, I don’t need to. The rap section at the store is not one aisle, it’s like ten aisles. You can pick and choose what you want. That’s why I love where hip-hop is. I’m not one of those guys that’s mad. I don’t think it will go the way of a jazz or a rock ‘n’ roll. 60

I usually hear people say the opposite— that hip-hop is going that way in terms of becoming mainstream and white-washed. It’s going to go the way of jazz if we allow it to. That’s the thing—jazz still exists! There’s still that segment of improvisational, forwardthinking jazz. I’m okay with that. I think we gauge the success of an art by its mainstream digestibility. We judge it by how much money its made. I think hip-hop is one of those unapologetic art forms where you have to pay homage to where it came from. You don’t have to do that with jazz or with rock ‘n’ roll. With hip-hop it’s spoken in the word—someone will come and check you. Iggy Azalea ... I keep using her because she’s an easy example. With her, I don’t feel like people are stupid. I think people know that is some made up shit. Somebody came in and said, ‘You should do this.’ And she did it. She doesn’t get it. That’s okay. There’s room for that. Why should that taint what we do? Nothing we can do can control that. We don’t have that kind of bank. Hip-hop can suffer in some ways but I don’t feel it will go the way of a jazz or rock. It could either go away completely or it will weed out what real hip-hop is. There is still confusion amongst the underground community around hip-hop. I heard somebody tell me there was 20 elements of hip-hop. It’s really up to the people who hold this thing dear to us—it’s up to us to dictate where it’s going. What are your reflections on your time spent organizing youth? I ask because as someone who also works with youth—though not in an organizing capacity—I see young people as a gauge of where our communities are going. They have access to so much more information than we were growing up so they have the potential to become politicized earlier. But it’s not without its drawbacks. I’m still trying to figure it out but I think what you said about youth having access to information more readily than we did is absolutely true. At the same time, the same instrument that’s giving them all this information about what’s going on in our communities is the same machine that’s feeding them the bullshit that’s counterproductive to what we’re trying to push. I didn’t grow up with an iPad or even a laptop. It’s so foreign to me, which is why I’m not in the youth sector anymore as far as organizing. I’ve hit that ceiling already. I do middle school workshops and the kids look at me like I’m stupid because I’m like, ‘How many of y’all like Ice Cube?!’ I’m just that old where I remember Death Certificate like it just came out. When I go back and see the youth ... what I realize is things haven’t changed, especially in Los Angeles. Those that are really into underground hip-hop, that sector still exists. Gangbanging youth, that still exists in Los Angeles. Now we just have to cast the net differently to grab all these kids. How do we do that now? Now it’s about learning the landscape, which is the internet. I don’t really have an answer to your question except that I’m still trying to figure it out. That’s the job of the organizer—to organize yourself out of a job. What we’re trying to do ultimately is create more organizers. Just because you listen to my music it doesn’t make you an activist. It doesn’t make you a revolutionary. It doesn’t make you progressive. It doesn’t even make you a liberal. It just makes you a fan of my music. It’s not until you actually go out and organize that you become a real activist. That’s the whole objective of my music—for you to pop in Party Worker and if you don’t know what’s going on in the album, for you to ask, ‘Why is this happening?’ Hopefully you’ll go

out and get that change. That’s the only way it’ll really happen. Music is just music. It’s just here to raise the awareness of everybody. It’s not real activism. Artist who speak like their music is changing the world, they’re usually just bullshittin’. They don’t really know how it works in the world. It goes beyond just writing a song about Ferguson. It’s about realizing that police brutality is a systemic issue. It’s not just Darren Wilson. It’s a whole system that allows these cops to get away with what they’re doing. It’s these laws that have been written in order to demonize and criminalize us. It’s the status quo that’s in place that allows people with money to get away with shit and for us to suffer. I’m still trying to figure it out. I’ve really been concentrating on my son. Having a very curious seven year old has really forced me to figure out some of the standards that I’ve held myself to. The youth sector is forever evolving. I think that’s why people organize in college and by their fourth year they’re out and you never see them again. For those four years they’re at every rally, every meeting just gung-ho as fuck! They’re carrying the flag, spittin’ at a cop. Then soon as they graduate, you never see them again. What we have to understand is that here in this country, organizing has to play a back role. Where in a place like the Philippines or Mexico or Guatemala, organizing can come first because all the organizers live in one house. It’s all very communal. Everybody feeds each other. Organizers work together. That’s what their full-time shit is—organizing! Here, you gotta eat first. You gotta house yourself, you gotta do all these things. You have to live within the confines of this system, in order to organize. Your organizing comes last. I think some organizers want to model themselves after these old time revolutionary forces. You gotta realize it’s not going to work that way out here. People will leave a meeting because they’re fucking hungry. They will stop coming to meetings because they got a job at McDonalds. That’s just how it is. You have to eat first. Nobody else is going to feed you. It’s not that kind of society. That’s not against a whole buncha folks but just a couple of the folks I’ve seen that try to mimic the movements from back home but they don’t adapt it to being in the belly [of the beast.] All we can do as organizers here is support movements internationally and work within what we have here to dismantle what is spreading that imperialism. Unfortunately we’re riding on the back of that beast and everyone else is suffering at the hands of it. It’s a difficult job. Organizers are still trying to figure it out and then we get blinded by shit like Barack Obama getting into office. I remember organizing in the George W. Bush era. It was so fucking easy. ‘Hey man, we’re having an anti-war rally. Fuck Bush.’ ‘Yeah! Fuck Bush! We’re there!’ You have 100 people at your rally off top. Now it’s like we have a Black president so everything is cool—we have socialized medicine. My favorite quote on that is, ‘Same dog, different collar.’ We gotta kill the dog. I can put you in office, there is only so much you can do. You can have every great intention in the world but unfortunately it’s a systemic problem. We aim for systemic change, not for reformist change. If a teenager from Delano, CA, is hearing of you for the first time through Party Worker and it’s their first encounter with political hip-hop and organizing and they’re inspired ... what would you say is a good next step for them to be that change? I live in a place that doesn’t have a strong overt history of organizing and resistance and I ask myself similar questions.

Where are you from? I’m from Merced, in the Central Valley. Merced is crazy G. I just read that the cartels are huge in Merced. I had no idea. Yeah, that’s Merced County. I live in Merced City which is inside the county. There’s definitely cartel activity, there’s definitely lot of meth production—there’s still KKK chapters in some of the rural areas. That’s crazy. I go to Delano and Orosi a lot just to visit because of what you just talked about. The guy that produced half of Party Worker, this kid named OJ—he’s from Orosi. In the daytime, he works in farms all day and he goes home and makes beats. That’s his life. I met him when I was in Visalia. He gave me a beat CD and I was floored. It was amazing. I found out what his story was and I was like, ‘Bruh! That’s what I’m about!’ He’s actually hands in the dirt, working in the fields. His involvement in Party Worker was heavy for me. He asked me the same thing: ‘What can I do? I’m excited to be working on this record. You’re speaking real shit. This really affects us.’ He sees it everyday. The gang problem in Central California is one that people in L.A. and NorCal have no idea about unless you go into the prison system. In Central California, it’s worse than NorCal and SoCal combined but we never hear about it. I get that question all the time. I don’t have an answer for a first step. I can give you the classic organizer answer which is: Identify the problem. Integrate yourself into the community for six months. Start building your core group. From your core group, identify your leadership and so on. It’s going to take organizers to go into those communities but because most people don’t know there is an issue in those communities, the organizers are few and far between. The good organizers leave because it feels like a winless battle. You’re right there in the heart of what’s driving California, which is our farms. When you live on that plot of land that is garnering so much money for the rest of the country, how are you going to organize that community? How do you organize people who are hungry as fuck and feel like the only way is to keep working and keep your head down? In the Philippines they say the best people to organize and the most difficult people to organize are the farm workers. Farmers only want their plot of land and to be left alone: ‘Gimme this plot of land and get the fuck away from me.’ But when you do organize those farm workers, they become the strongest—and I mean the strongest. The strongest movement we’ve had, as far as the labor movement, came from farm workers. The United Farm Workers and the grape strikes in Delano—that’s grassroots! I’m hoping that the casual Bambu listener goes, ‘What can I do?’ and as opposed to try and get the answer from someone, they just do it on their own. I don’t know what it’s like to live where you’re from. It would be pompous of me to come and say you should do it this way or that way. Only you can figure out how we’re going to fix this mess. We recognize that change doesn’t happen from the top. It’s not about an elected official. Change happens from the bottom and works its way up. BAMBU PRESENTS PARTY WORKER LIVE WITH DJ PHATRICK ON SUN., MAR. 15, AT THE ECHO, 1822 SUNSET BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8:30 PM / $8-$12 /18+. THEECHO.COM. BAMBU’S PARTY WORKER IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM BEATROCK. VISIT BAMBU AT BAMBUDEPISTOLA.TUMBLR.COM. INTERVIEW


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DUSTIN LOVELIS Interview by Kristina Benson and Chris Ziegler Photography by Ward Robinson

Dustin Lovelis played guitar and sang in the Long Beach band the Fling, who got out one album on storied indie Dangerbird before complications from all directions finally made them collapse around 2013. For Lovelis, it must’ve been like getting kicked out of the house—that was where he’d spent most of his musical adulthood, if you wanna call it that, and then it was done. (It didn’t help that he lost a job, a relationship and a dog all at pretty much the same time.) Dimensions came out of these kinds of nights—whiskey, guitar, tape rolling—and month by month Lovelis pieced together what would become his full-length solo debut. Now just weeks from release, Dimensions is revealed as an album working against its own sense of isolation and all the more powerful for it. It’s pop despite itself, like those Emitt Rhodes songs that sound so innocent until the lyrics sink in, and it’s an emotional state captured as it happens, like those parts on Big Star’s 3rd where you can almost hear the bottles smashing into the back of the studio. There’s moments of Lennon-esque self-evisceration and sarcasm and a Pixies-ish sense of harmony and space, as well as a certain powerful something that must’ve been absorbed during sessions at Elliot Smith’s New Monkey Studios. But really Dimensions is a brave and personal self-portrait, raw and alive with the humor and honesty that happens when you’ve got no one to talk to but yourself. Lovelis speaks now moments before making one of his locally famous backyard brick-oven pizzas. My dad’s a musician—he was in a band called the Fling when he was about 22. Was he the first person to teach you about trademark infringement? No, luckily! He did request we cover one of his songs and put it on a record, but we never got around to it. We fucked up. We’d been discussing names and we were coming up with the stupidest names you could think of. ‘Milk Babies.’ They were all ridiculous. It got to a point where it was a joke. ‘Milk Babies’ sounds more like the first part of a felonious Google search. That’s what we were going for! When someone’s parent has been a musician, it’s like the parent is either super supportive or super traumatized—like, ‘No, don’t follow me into this life of pain!’ They’ve always been super supportive. Right out of high school I was playing in bands and on the road and making records. Even to this day, they’ve been supportive, even though it hasn’t been a very lucrative financial decision. They back me! My dad’s old band the Fling … when he was like 22, he had a little happy accident that happened to be me, and he ended up having to give up music to raise a family. And then you resurrected it? Yeah—my brother and I were like, ‘It’d be cool to keep the legacy going.’ [Our dad] was a huge Beatles fan growing up. We had all this rare … like the Beatles Christmas album, fan club Christmas albums … he used to play guitar and there’s old home videos where he’s playing guitar and we’re super young. There’s always a guitar around or a record playing. It’s ingrained in [my brother] Graham and I since we were kids. Both my brothers are really into video production and they also play music. My sister moved to Austin—she’s into music but kinda strayed from the pack stylistically. She’s into modern country. 62

I thought you’d say she’s a juggalo. She might be? I don’t know! Every time I see her, she takes the make-up off? An undercover juggalo. That’s the next documentary—My Sister, Undercover Juggalo. Did your dad’s history in a band make it seem more possible for you to be in a band? He was supportive but definitely made it known that this isn’t easy. ‘If you’re gonna do this for a living, you gotta get super fucking lucky.’ And that hasn’t happened yet! Which talk was scarier: ‘Son, the birds and the bees...’ or ‘Son, this is what the music business is really like...’? Music business. When it came to birds and bees, all he told me was, ‘Sex is like candy— you can’t get enough of it.’ The last Fling record was called Mean Something—looking back, that almost comes off like ‘Avenge me!’ Like a last defiant cry before you broke up. Graham came up with the name. It’s a play on words. It could be ‘MEAN something,’ or an actual physical … mean … something. We tried to emphasize that with the cover with the bear Richard Swift drew. Which is an actual mean … something. I think we were a little pissed-off and bitter about the way things went down, and how much work we put into it and it kind of falling apart. Without us knowing at the time, that was a break-up record. We got back from a ten-and-a-half-week tour, wrote that record about the state of our lives at that time and went our separate ways. But I really like that record. It’s my favorite we ever made. It just didn’t really get to see the light of day. I watched that Big Star documentary at the Art Theatre and just felt like I related to it so much. ‘These motherfuckers are so good and nobody knows!’

So you start making this solo album after the band you’d been in for years breaks up. How much of Dimensions is you proving to yourself that you’re still you? That your days as a musician aren’t over? I definitely set out to make something on my own to prove to myself that I was capable of doing something independently. The band never had a talk. We didn’t wanna tour anymore, we rehearsed less, played a few shows after the record and then everybody got super busy … after that long tour, our lives all individually fell apart. I lost my job, I lost my girlfriend, I lost my dog. It was like a fucking country song. The person I was dating also had the dog, so … she took the dog. All in the same day? All in a week. Her and I split, I got fired for touring too much and then the band split up shortly after. I was just … broke, living in a two-bedroom apartment with two of my bandmates, and getting $200 a month working at the museum of art. I was like … fuck my life right now. What was your go-to cocktail then? Just whiskey. And a microphone. In my room, drinking and recording. There was a period of processing everything, and once I was able to start reflecting, that’s when the writing came. It all came at once. Looking back, I was able to contextualize everything that happened. I’d say probably six months after everything fell apart I started writing. Songs just came to me. It’s not like a concept record but there’s definitely a theme involved. I had realized I was dealing with a lot of anxiety issues during that period. It’s not easy. As I was writing these songs, I was conscious of the lyrical content cuz a lot of my songs was super on the negative darker side of human emotion and the mind. Going through my back catalog, I realized … the lyrical content was almost premonitions of shit

that was going to happen to me. I was looking back and I can’t remember specific lines, but there’s a lot of lines that came to fruition years later. Especially with the anxiety. When I was writing it, I wasn’t necessarily feeling that way. But it was something that was going to come eventually, and sure enough it did. So I was having that revelation as I was making the record, and I was trying to be more honest about how I actually felt at the time. Did this record teach you to be more honest with yourself? There were definitely elements of self-discovery and realizing shit will affect me if I don’t take care of it. Ultimately that’s what happened. I got a record out of it but it was a difficult time period. In hindsight, I’m glad it happened cuz I learned from it and was able to write a bunch of music. Hopefully people who are going through the same kind of situations will be able to relate. That’s the shit I like—having a glass of whiskey and listening to a record that I can connect to. I tried to make it like as much as it’s a downer, I tried to throw some positives and some uplifting stuff in there, too. Not to sound cheesy. Just to implement a hopeful side of the darkness. What’s your most t-shirt ready positive lyric? Maybe just ‘I’M AN IDIOT’? That song has the line, ‘I’m too old to have thoughts like this / I’m an idiot / I’m finding my safety net.’ What were those thoughts? And how did you get past them? It’s come out that a lot of people I know deal with anxiety and depression. I realized that as I was going through that. When you’re really going through it, you can’t help but talk about it. And when you’re actually at that point, people open up and are honest like, ‘I deal with that, too.’ And you’re able to have this camaraderie about going through those time INTERVIEW


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periods. That song is mostly me realizing that … a lot of the time I’m the problem. I tend to blame other people. ‘You’re fucked up, you’re stupid …’ In reality, I had to face the facts that yeah, I can be a fucking idiot sometimes. I realized that and I realized because of anxiety issues, it’s really hard to adjust to change. You wanna stay in your safe bubble because if you go outside, you’re gonna get hurt or something bad’s gonna happen. ISIS is gonna bomb just you! That’d be flattering, in a way, if that really happened. ‘Oh, you picked me!’ My next record will be a ‘Fuck ISIS’ concept record just to try and make that happen. That’s what I like about you—you’re all about the path of least resistance. That was mostly just adjusting to change. At the time, not wanting to go out of the house … or move. Just stay put, cuz that was the safest thing to do. After I made the record, things started panning out and getting better. But at the time, it was very true. There’s still moments where I feel that way. It’s a constant process to get out of your own head. What about ‘White Coat’? Same thing? I had an MRI and I thought I had a brain tumor and all this crazy shit, just cuz I was being a hypochondriac. I was looking at … WebMD? I did that, yes! But there’s a … it’s called ‘White Coat Syndrome,’ where your blood pressure will go up when you’re in a doctor’s office and you see a doctor, and it will read as high blood pressure. You basically convince yourself that you’re sick or something’s wrong with you— but it goes away soon as you leave the doctor’s office. I thought that was really interesting. On a small scale, that’s what I was doing to myself. I was freaking out about this shit cuz I was so anxious and I thought something was wrong. When in reality, I was just dealing with shit and I needed to get over it. How did you get over it? Making the record helped a lot. Letting a lot of time pass. What did the MRI say? It came back fine. It was just waiting it out, talking to people and being convinced I was fine, and over time it dissipated back to normal. It lasted for a year and half, two years. I’d have panic attacks at work … I think people were kinda worried. And I was really making it into a big deal. And it felt like a big deal at the time But in hindsight, it was just, ‘No, you’re just fucked up for a year!’ It’s not so easy to realize that when you’re in the middle of it. I thought I was fucked forever! It didn’t help that cuz I had anxiety, I didn’t wanna take meds for it. So I was just drinking a bunch, which was fueling it. I was getting blackout drunk and falling on my face and getting embarrassed. It happened quite a few times! There was a year where every other week, it felt like I had a big ol’ scab on my face. People probably thought I was doing meth. It wasn’t the healthiest but I got through it. When did you get into pizza? Does your backyard brick-oven go back to these times? Is making pizza as therapeutic as making records? 64

Oh yeah—I started making pizza around the same time I was making this record. It was a way to stay busy and have accomplished something and be proud of it. I’ve tried a convection oven and the dough didn’t turn out right. The same exact recipe put in a brick oven tastes completely different. And way better, I think. The hands-on process of making the fire and making sure it’s the right temperature is really delicate and really kinda fun. What did people around you think of that? ‘Man, I’m getting awesome pizza and hearing great songs—keep suffering, buddy!’ I’m sure they enjoyed it! How long did it take to assemble Dimensions? I know you’ve been working on it for a while. There were two or three songs I’d had for a while. I’d bring them as a skeleton to the Fling and we never ended up using them. I went back and wrote new lyrics and reworked them. The rest was over the span of six months. The Fling was dissolving. Instead of trying to get a whole new band with full members, I wanted to do something on my own so I could just record and find people to play. It just seemed easier than a band environment. Why? It’s more of a pain in the ass, that’s for sure. You don’t split everything. Practice or recording, it’s all on me. I feel like I should pay the band members after every show. So it’s a little bit of a different dynamic. But it’s nice to be able to pick what shows I wanna play. Or just call the shots in general. Not have to go through a filter of four other people with different opinions. With songwriting, there’s no democracy where other people have say in what songs make the record or don’t. I do it all on my own, and if I fuck it up, it’s my fault. When you’re writing a song, do you have any kind of goal you need to achieve? What lets you know it’s done? There’s a few times on the record where I finished a demo and I knew I really liked it right away. I was really proud. And there were some I was really unsure about cuz I was entering more pop territory than before. I still haven’t developed the filter—I want to know what’s OK and what’s not in the pop world. But looking back, everything I made, I’m really happy with. It took me a week or two to sit with the song and make sure I wasn’t doing something cheesy. By the time I started recording, I was feeling better. I had this batch of songs I could look at as a time capsule. When I was recording it, it was more exciting than anything. I wasn’t in a dark place. I was able to reflect on it and I was playing with good players in a really nice studio. There was a lot more gratitude while making the record. I was appreciative of having access to New Monkey and being able to play music with buddies that are just amazing musicians. When we recorded, it was just Eli, Frank and I and we did it in two days. The basic tracks were two days. Frank Lenz, and my buddy Eli Thompson who plays with Father John Misty now. Frank played drums and Eli payed bass and we went down to New Monkey Studios in Van Nuys and had a pretty small budget, so we had to knock everything out in two days.

We stayed up really late one night, slept for a few hours, then got up and finished. I took everything home and added synthesizers. Most of the lead vocals were done at New Monkey, and a lot of harmonies and synths were done at Frank’s house. So I kinda pieced it together afterwards. Looking back, was Dimensions a painful thing to make? Or a joyful one? When I was recording demos, the only way I could overcome daily panic attacks was if I was recording—the only way I could forget. I had tunnel vision and I’d be really dead set on finishing a song. That was a positive experience for me. I was basically going to my own therapist—writing music and telling whoever’s willing to listen, ‘This is the way I’m feeling.’ It was more therapeutic and then looking back now that it’s done, I feel more joyful—more positive than negative. Music seems like such a paradox for you— you’re thrown into this dark place when your band collapses, and then you turn back to music to get you out. Why? I guess I couldn’t really avoid it. I was going through quite a bit during the writing process. At the time, it was the only therapeutic cathartic thing to do—to write about it. Once I did, I had all these songs. And I didn’t just wanna put them online. I wanted to get them as much exposure as I could. I found myself playing shows and getting excited again and now I’m doing it all over. It sort of feeds itself. You get down cuz of music and you feel better and that cycle will continue until you feel better all the time, and then you start writing shitty music! But hopefully not! Hopefully when I get to a place where I’m really satisfied and content with everything, I can write about that in a creative way that’s not dorky. What did you listen to while you were making Dimensions and needed to hear someone else’s voice? When you didn’t want to write and you just wanted to listen? I was listening to a lot of Harry Nilsson and Everly Brothers. I was really intrigued especially by the Everly Brothers—how they’re able to have the most depressing lyrical content packaged in this cute little pop song. Talking about wanting to die and shit in all major chords. I thought that was so fascinating—cuz it didn’t come across as weird. For some reason, they were able to get away with it. How do you do that? Just being conscious of what I was saying. Not letting the music make people feel that way, necessarily. Not letting the music make it sound … I didn’t want the music to sound like what I was saying. I wanted there to be a paradox or whatever. Having a lot of that music ingrained in my head since I was a kid, it just came natural to me. That’s my way of keeping myself satisfied—throw weird chords in and still make it easy to digest. That’s the stuff I like. Pixies are one of my favorite bands. If you take them and then I grew up listening to the Beatles my entire life … those two things mashed together is what I model my songwriting on. Pixies with a lot more harmonies—Everly Brothers, Pixies and the Beatles audio buffet! What’s your go-to Everly Brothers paradox song?

I gotta look through my records! There’s this one song on Two Yanks In England I really like. The song ‘Comatose’ was kind of inspired by it cuz it’s a really dark song. ‘I’m A Collector.’ It’s the opposite we were talking about. It’s a really dark musical song with kind of happy lyrics. The first line is, ‘I’m a collector of beautiful things,’ but the music sounds so dark. It’s this creepy minor-chord progression with really positive lyrics. I thought that was equally as interesting as the opposite. The last song on the album is ‘Children In The Dark,’ and it ends with that unresolved chord—why? It’s like a musical cliffhanger. We intentionally didn’t hit that last note. At the time I didn’t know that was going to be the last song on the record, but it worked out as the endcap. That’s when I started dating and things seemed like they were looking up, so I wanted to put the happy pop song at the end but also leave it a little bit disjointed. Just to add mystery to the story. So where are you now? What you writing? What’s the next unpublished chapter? I have a few new songs, a lot of ideas and I think I need to release the album to get a clean slate and I can really start writing again. Even though the record’s done, I feel it’s all in my head still. So once it’s released, I think it’ll be a cleansing. Then I can look around like, ‘Where am I at now?’ and write about that. One of the new songs I have is more storytelling and talking about more political and more external things. I’m trying not to look inward so much cuz I don’t wanna do that on every record. I don’t wanna repeat the same thing every record. I think I would get tired of hearing myself sing about myself and how shitty I feel, and I would imagine other people would get tired of that too. Being conscious of what people wanna hear—or predicting what people wanna hear and what I’m gonna wanna do, and balancing the two. It’s tiring to feel shitty all the time. Do you ever find yourself appreciating the simple beauty of a flower? It’s been a few years. I’m pretty cynical in general but I try not to be. I try to find the beauty in life. But life only gives you so much to go on. I’ve seen millions of flowers and they all look the same. Reagan basically said that if you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen ‘em all. Same way with people, too! If you’re gonna be cynical, it’s important to have a sense of humor about it. If you have a ‘fuck everything’ mentality, at least make it light-hearted. Maybe unrelated, but did you ever get to see your dog again? There were a couple visits. Did you get a new pet? Nah. Just my weiner. And he’s more cynical than I am. DUSTIN LOVELIS PERFORMS WITH PAGEANTS ON THURS., MAR. 19, AT ACEROGAMI, 228 W. SECOND ST., POMONA. 8 PM / FREE / 21+. DUSTIN LOVELIS’ DIMENSIONS WILL BE RELEASED THIS MAY ON PORCH PARTY RECORDS. VISIT DUSTIN LOVELIS AT FACEBOOK. COM/DUSTINLOVELISMUSIC. INTERVIEW


ALBUMS 70 71

ALBUM REVIEWS

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EMPTY PALACE Kristina Benson

76

BJORK Sean Manning

77

WAYBACK MACHINE Ron Garmon

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ONE REPORTER’S OPINION Chris Ziegler

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INTERPRETER: CHRISTINA GUBALA Curated by Chris Ziegler

SLEATER-KINNEY Kat Jetson

72 LIVE PHOTOS

Edited by Debi Del Grande

BOOKS 82

VIV ALBERTINE Kristina Benson

FILM

88 COMICS Curated by Tom Child

90

THE WRECKING CREW Nick Waterhouse

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KIM FOWLEY Cherie Currie


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ALBUM REVIEWS there are real songs here, with verses going into bridges and choruses and then to instrumental breaks and back to a verse. The music can seems so sparse as to give the impression of stillness; look deeper and you’ll find a lot beneath the surface. —Kristina Benson

way that one can’t help but start to feel these lyrics could be from a personal diary—heart-felt and humble. This an important album made in a real way. It’s simple and splendid. —Daniel Sweetland

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The the self

DABBLE

DIVINE STYLER

The Southern California indie psych-pop five-piece known as Dabble released their self-titled debut EP one year ago this month and they’re already back with another six track album simply titled II, available now on CD and digital download. The washed-out, dreamy vocals are faded over catchy bass lines and layered over fuzzy guitar riffs, Vox keyboard melodies, and upbeat drums. Their vocal style is very distinctive in that it has the effect of making the instrumentation stand out amongst the droning haze. The psychedelic influence is prominent but that’s not to say that it’s their most defining influence: the Vox keyboard does a lot to give them a more refined quality and it’s refreshing to hear how they’re able to break away from the typical lo-fi, psych-garage sound that’s become so popular these days. All these elements combine to produce an ambient energy that is easy to zone out and get lost in. “This Nightlife” kicks it off with a quick tempo back beat, heavy bass and smooth progressions. Another favorite is the final track on the EP, “Robin’s Dream Sequence,” which really highlights the band’s musical abilities. It starts off on a mellow vibe and takes you through a full range of build-ups and come downs. All in all I’d recommend this album to anyone who is down to hear psych taken in a direction that’s a bit smoother, and a bit more finely crafted, with some extra attention to song construction and musicianship. —Desi Ambrozak

My deep heads know about Divine Styler: the L.A. via New York wordsmith bubbled up in the late ‘80s thanks to IceT’s Rhyme Syndicate, but his dense and cerebral flow proved too potent for the industry. After transcending genres with his mind-bending sophomore fulllength Spiral Walls Containing Autums of Light, Divine Styler kept a lower profile in the underground with collaborations with DJ Shadow and House of Pain and then he became a cult legend. He’s now resurfaced with Def Mask, his first fulllength album in sixteen years. Divine Styler’s fourth solo LP shows that his word power has not waned as he crafts a dark and twisted dystopian future over thunderous beats. The world of the Def Mask sounds like Blade Runner spun through an MPC as our protagonist battles against mental pollutants, overbearing technology and an comatose populace. The sonics are equally as jarring and affecting, and the beats have an electronic tinge to them that brings to life a cold metal metropolis. The deluxe version of the album comes packaged with a beautifully illustrated booklet, further adding flesh to our grand verbalizer’s vision. There is enough to feast on for multiple listens and I often find myself catching something new each time Def Mask is in rotation. Our dystopian tour guide sounds less like a man rapping and more like a dark prophet. Take the red pill and dive in. —sweeney kovar

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ALBUM REVIEWS

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COURTESY ARTIST

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COURTESY ARTIST

“In a Dream” 10” Ulrike/Folktale Records This self-produced 10” is the brainchild of visual artist and vocalist Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs (who you may know from her work with the Norcal folk band the Finches) and experimental composer and sonic artist Max Foreman. Together, they explore the sonic space that hangs between Laurie Anderson and Broadcast, a space consisting mainly of a gentle blend of reverb-y, blissedout, occasionally deadpan vocals over a pastiche of analog-sounding synths and casiotone drum patterns. Does that mean it’s got some melancholy vocals, minimalist arrangements, and cryptic lyrics? Absolutely, but each song is a triumph of selectiveness and conservatism, using a carefully assembled sonic palette to create an other-wordly, retro-futuristic landscape. “Come to Your House” wouldn’t seem out of place on Broadcast’s masterpiece Tender Buttons, and “Over Mountains” could easily serve as the B-side to Laurie Anderson’s famed “O Superman”. “In a Dream” drops Riggs’ deadpan in harmony with itself over casiotone bongos and distorted guitars; Max’s voice is in the mix too, if you listen for it. Even so,

II EP self-released COURTESY ARTIST COURTESY ARTIST

COLLEEN GREEN

I Want to Grow Up Hardly Art Colleen Green has always been a fairly blunt and real songwriter, and never has this particular aspect of her art been more front and center than it is on this album, which focuses on growing up and realizing that you haven’t really grown up that much. Joined by other non-grown-ups such as Jake Orrall from JEFF the Brotherhood and Casey Weissbuch from Diarrhea Planet, this is Green’s most well-rounded and mature-sounding album. Even so, Ms. Green’s awesome stoney and poppy combo is prevalent but in a completely appropriate grown-up way. The philosophical battle of wanting to stay young but needing to figure stuff out is a challenge we all face, and Colleen addresses it in such a real and honest

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 download links to kristina@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 kristina@larecord.com.

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D’ANGELO Black Messiah RCA Records

Where where you when Black Messiah dropped like an Acme anvil? After 14 years, Michael Eugene Archer has not lost a step. In fact, the first track on the long-awaited album could very well be Track 14 on Voodoo. Despite ?uestlove’s bi-annual cryptic commentary on its progress, hinting that D had been experimenting outside of R&B and soul towards rock, the LP we were presented with by surprise last December sounds like a natural progression from 2000’s modern classic. True, the sound is no longer Dilla-minimalist, but the heart-wrenching soul we fell in love with is abundant. And true, there is not quite as much sweaty sex and Nag Champa incense, but this go-round is still very much funky and seductive, just more mature. Picking highlights from something like this is a subjective and almost futile exercise. The point is that it’s an amazing whole, but still, certain moments will inevitably stick more than others. One week, “Really Love” is my shit, the next I’m fixated on the Samiyam-like lazy funk of “Prayer,” while lately it’s the timeless soul of “Another Life” that’s been stuck on repeat. D’angelo is a relic; that is why we’ve gladly waited a generation to hear him again. Admittedly a selfish thought: I can only hope we don’t have to wait another generation for the next demonstration. —sweeney kovar

COURTESY ARTIST

Def Mask Gamma Proforma


COURTESY ARTIST

JARED PITTACK

EMPTY PALACE

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LEVITATION ROOM

The Serpent Between the Stars self-released

Holy shit, we said when this arrived in our inbox: shredding guitars, analog synths, psychedelic lyrics, and raging drum solos the likes of which we thought had gone extinct thirty years ago, presented along with some of the most gorgeous rotoscope-style album art we’ve seen in awhile. As for the vibe of the music itself: think late Black Sabbath plus Iron Maiden with a little Blue Oyster Cult in the mix, and you’ll have the idea. (Also blowing our minds is the fact that this was self-recorded and self-engineered in a basement rather than in a fancy studio.) That said, it must be noted that this isn’t empty-calories style classic barroom rock’n’roll (though we love that too; don’t get us wrong!) What we have here is a set of well-composed songs, meticulously recorded and then precisely executed by four extremely technically proficient musicians who can play in lockstep without losing any intensity or sense of spontaneity. No easy feat with these songs, which usually start off by busting down the door with ferocious aroundthe-world drum rolls and infectious keyboard hooks and then take off on a journey to places you never would have expected but seem nonetheless to make sense. There is no verse-chorusverse, A-B-A-B predictability here: “God-Shaped Hole” starts with a pulsing analog synth and slightly flangey “aaaahs” in harmony, and then careens directly into to good old fashioned guitar-shredding and then to a break and then to more shredding and a tight drum roll and then more shredding before leaping into the verse—and that’s all packed into the first forty-five seconds of the track! “I Liked the Old You” opens with a gentle swell of synths, punctuated by bass and drum stabs; enter flanged-out vocals in uni-

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son with a single analog synths which then in turn changes to arpeggiated guitars and organs and a new theme. And again, all this happens in under a minute and yet manages to make perfect sense compositionally. The day they headline their first arena show, I’ll remember the first time I heard this record. —Kristina Benson

Minds of Our Own EP Burger Records

BROCK POTUCEK

ISAAC ROTHER & THE PHANTOMS “Heebie Jeebies” 7” Mock Records

It might be lazy music journalism to describe Isaac Rother as a white Screamin’ Jay Hawkins with an Afro, but sometimes it’s okay to just cut to the chase and make the most obvious comparison, especially when you only have 250 words to work with. Rother may lack Hawkins’ manic soul squawk, but he more than makes up for it with a healthy sense of self-deprecating humor and a highly appealing visual presentation. The cover art for his second wax platter shows Rother accompanied by the black-clad Phantoms and wearing a floor-length robe, a bone necklace straight out of Screamin’ Jay’s fashion playbook, and a faux-menacing sneer. Isaac Rother & the Phantoms boast more than just groovy style, though—the music’s solid, too. The single pairs an adept if somewhat subdued cover of Little Richard’s classic “Heebie Jeebies” with a slow-strutting, fuzzed-out original, “One Ain’t Enough.” Both cuts feature cool female backing vocals, and the bluesy guitar work on the B-side is top-notch, making it a nice little slice of no-frills rock ‘n’ roll that definitely invites repeated listens—what used to be called a “party record.” It’s farcical theater and greasy retro rock ‘n’ roll mixed together in a cauldron and served up with a grin and a wink. No mopey indie rock here, thank God! It’s nice to see an Angeleno mining such fertile and underrepresented territory. —Jason Gelt

Rising up from the garagerock psychedelic super-scene of Southern California, Levitation Room soars with fuzzed-out guitars and almost-whispered vocals. While it is easy these days to walk into any number of bars or clubs on any night of the week and find some band playing music of a similar sound, Levitation Room excels at nailing a very close and accurate feel evocative of a 60s-style groove. And with jams like “Visions of My Minds” and “Reasons Why” this is a band that should be able to cut through the noise and do something important. A great little EP of sonic textures and authentic psychedelia has been released on Burger, and I’m sure that the hype about this band will only grow! —Daniel Sweetland

BEVERLY SALAS

MELTED

Ziptripper EP Burger Records/Lolipop Melted kicks things right off on this short, simple punk release with a blast to the face, kicking in doors with loud and blownout guitars and some simple little riffs that are fast and pounding. “Makeshift” is a brutal but catchy drum-heavy number that hits you hard in the chest, while “Old Lady Avenue” is a little more simple. It’s a bass-led number that lets the guitar come in and out to give much needed dynamic to a style that usually is lacking in these types of songs. With some great

ALICE RUTHERFORD

There’s a long list of bands that reunite and never make any new music. For whatever reason, it’s not even a consideration. But that’s not you. I trusted you implicitly in that the music you chose-slashneeded to create would be ORECKI worthy of instant, classic G ! LT A W status. It’s just the way you are, which is to say, you’re consistently relevant, and well … consistent. And to that I say, please don’t ever No Cities to Love stop showing us your riffs. Sub Pop So let’s talk No Cities to Dear Sleater-Kinney: It’s so Love. This is S-K completely great to see you again. My unchained, and that freedom goodness, I’ve missed you. makes a beautiful noise. When you took a bow and Leading it off is the new wave left us the wild gift that swan guitar freak out of “Price Tag,” song LP, The Woods, I ac- followed by the unapologetic cepted it for what it was; a disco groove and laser quick graceful and formidable “The guitar licks of “Fangless” End”. But then in 2014, the and “Surface Envy,” and holy stealthy release new song hell… is that a synth? It is, “Bury Our Friends” was in- and it’s awesome! On “No Anthem,” the Fucluded as a 7” in your megaretrospective Start Together, gazi-tinged rocker, our guitar and my heart was aflutter heroes insist, “I’m not the with possibility. That single, anthem, I once was an anwith its classic Brownstein/ them,” but the thunderous Tucker vocal weave and low- beat that propels this song end riff-saw, came with an says otherwise. Sing-along assurance that the girls were status achieved! I could sit here and analyze most definitely back in town. It’s that dual guitar/no-bass- every song but what’s the fun thanks sound that’s reeled in that, Pitchfork? No Cities me in the past seven—nay, to Love is a deeply satisfyeight!—albums. And Janet, ing return to form from one don’t think for a moment that of music’s most genuinely you’re getting away from my talented and crucially imporfangirling, because it’s you tant bands. Basically, Sleatwith your perfectly executed er-Kinney—you’re the Mount traps attack filling every song Rushmore of rock, and your with beast-mode urgency that goodbyes are no longer welprovides the air-drum chal- come. Gimme love, gimme love! lenge during my stick shift —Kat Jetson driving.

SLEATER KINNEY

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LIVE PHOTOS SPRING 2015 In The Valley Below December 2014 The Troubadour

ONLINE PHOTO EDITOR DEBI DEL GRANDE

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Feels December 2014 The Echo

MAXIMILIAN HO

Robert DeLong February 2015 Natural History Museum

SAMANTHA SATURDAY

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Joyce Manor The Glasshouse February 2015

CORTNEY ARMITAGE

DEBI DEL GRANDE

Boogaloo Assassins December 2014 The Echo Foxygen January 2015 The Roxy SAMANTHA SATURDAY

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LESLIE KALOHI

Crash Kings January 2015 The Satellite

Smoke Season January 2015 The El Rey Theater

DAVID VALERA MAXIMILIAN HO Fishbone December 2014 The Troubadour

No Parents December 2014 The Echo

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Nick Waterhouse January 2015 Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Corners December 2014 The Echo

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CORTNEY ARMITAGE

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‘77-sounding guitar leads and some nice transitions and breakdowns, Melted have captured what they do live and put down a very nice nostalgic punk release unlike anything I have heard in recent years. “25 Years” is a great anthemic and timeless number. Hold on for the quick and wild ride that is Melted! —Daniel Sweetland COURTESY ARTIST

MURLI

Surface Tension EP self-released

COURTESY ARTIST

MICHAEL RAULT

“Nothing Means Nothing” CS Burger Records It’s hard not to get behind almost all Burger Records releases—the increasingly productive and highprofile Fullerton mainstay has a nose for music harvested from the shaggy underbelly of the world’s musical fields, from the psycho bubblegum of Nobunny to the desert big beat of the Resonars and the catchy oddball balladry of Texas’ John Wesley Coleman. Add multiinstrumentalist Michael Rault to the list—the Canadian songsmith’s latest release (a cassingle, charmingly enough) is graced by a pair of smartly constructed pop songs that evoke the lush compositions of Big Star. Dipping into the musical waters of a time when craftsmanship and songwriting trumped flash and sass, Rault comes up with a sound that is glossy and accomplished while also human and moving. With twinkling keyboards, evocative guitar work and Rault’s straightforward vocals, the title track is an upbeat gem that is easily one of the best rock songs of the year. The B-side, “Still Not Sad,” sports jangly guitars and a R&B-styled instrumental outro that takes off like a groovy rocket ship to the moon. Make no mistake, this is pop music for grown folks. A recent transplant from his native Edmonton to Alberta, Rault has been knocking around for a while now, so it’ll be interesting to see if his jump to Burger will attain him the attention he deserves. Judging by the talent in evidence in “Nothing Means Nothing,” he’s well on his way. —Jason Gelt 74

Through all its narratives about inclusion and bringing peoples together through music, U.S. hip-hop is xenophobic on a global scale. With select exceptions, international rap music usually has to jump through many hurdles to even enter the conversation stateside, and even then it’ll often have an asterisk. It’d be a shame if MuRli fell victim to this stigma. The 24-year old Irish MC is what we rap fanatics refer to as the truth. His debut EP, Surface Tension, is fine geopolitical rap with a healthy boom-bap veneer. MuRli, along with producers mynameisjOhn and Naïve Ted, takes us on a fast-paced, energetic journey, but beneath the highBPMs lie some important ruminations. Our author explores his own identity as a Black Irishman over several tracks, deconstructing his own journey in masculinity and even giving us a rap song that deals with abstinence! I’m sure the combination of the rapid-fire delivery with introspective writing will instantly draw parallels with Run The Jewels and Kendrick (MuRli even calls himself the next Kendrick in a bar), but I think we’re witnessing an artist coming into his own. —sweeney kovar

COURTESY ARTIST

NIGHT TERRORS OF 1927 Everything’s Coming Up Roses Atlantic Records

With the low, haunting 80s pop vocals of Jarrod Gorbel and the ever-charming and always catchy keyboards and guitars of Blake Sennett, formerly of Rilo Kiley and The Elected, the band has kept its cards pretty close to its chest since forming in 2012. But upon unleashing its first album after two stunning EPs, it is incredibly obvious that this is a band that means to make more noise than what has been captured on the record. From the opening hooks of “Dust and Bones” and “Running in Place” to the beautiful Tegan-andSara–assisted “When You Were Mine,” the impression is that this is an album that has been exceptionally well-sculpted, using complex musical textures and nice subtle nods to influences ranging from ‘80s postpunk to contemporary artists. Night Terrors of 1927 are one of those bands that does what others do, but does it better than you even knew possible. This is a stunning album. This band knows how to write songs, and even more, they know how know how to write an album’s worth of them. —Daniel Sweetland

nant nun Halloween costume, and just the right amount of the don’t-give-a-shit pugnaciousness that is always the hallmark of real rock ‘n’ roll. “Dick City”— the album’s second dick-inspired number—is a highlight, with its spat-out vocals, jagged guitars and crash-and-bash drums. The thrashy “Hey Illuminati” careens through its two-minute duration like a bullet. Th ings slow down for the melodic, “whoah-oh-oh”backed “Take Your Pants Off and Fart,” which vies with “Die Hippie Die” for Best Song Title on the album. There’s really nothing bad to say about this record. Hopefully No Parents will keep pumping out hits like these, keeping the spirit of Los Angeles punk rawk alive and well in an age curdled by mopey indie rock. —Jason Gelt

COURTESY ARTIST

RAS G & THE KOREATOWN ODDITY PI JACOBS

5 Chuckles Leaving Records/ Stones Throw

Pi Jacobs offers six songs of electrified Americana on Hi-Rise Ranch, which was crafted under the guidance of super-producer Eugene Toale. In her press release, Jacobs credits Toale— whose diverse previous work stretches from early bangers with Kanye West to more recent albums with the manifestly talented Mexican American polka genius Fernanda Ulibarri—with helping her find her “truest voice.” That voice propels gritty opener “Want To Want To,” which celebrates primal desire as she asks a lover to “pretend we have confidence, like a drug running through our veins.” If Jacobs’ confidence is pretend, however, she sure is a great faker. She sounds anything but pretend while putting her voice on full, robust display with songs including the galloping “Icy Road” and “Starting Now,” an empowering tribute to survivors of harrowing sexual violence that resolves with the self-affirmative lyric that “life is tough, but I am tougher.” Later, she presents a crooning, pensive, and soulful

A backwoods blunt is not for the meek. First off, it’s a leaf so those raised huffing cardboard swishers or puffing a pipe may deem it harsh. In reality what is hitting you is purity...and probably weed. The smell of a backwoods lingers long after it’s gone, but it’s not a cigarillo stink, it’s almost an incense. It’s fitting that 5 Chuckles, Ras G’s beats and the Koreatown Oddity’s raps, should have their first release packaged inside discarded backwoods packs. Koreatown dovetails into G’s beats like no other and the resulting sound is as raw as the leaf. KTown complements G’s beats and fleshes out whole worlds within them. Th e deceptively simple loops allow the space for our wolf-masked MC to go to town. The scenes he paints are equal parts bizarre, hilarious and poignant. It’s comedic but this shit ain’t no joke. You can nearly smell the pungent earthy aroma of a pack opening when you press play. This shit just feels good. Ghetto astral hip-hop music for the soul: with 5 Chuckles both G and KTown break new ground. —sweeney kovar

COURTESY ARTIST

Hi-Rise Ranch TCC Music

BEVERLY SALAS

NO PARENTS May the Thirst Be With You self-released

Any band with a song titled “I’m a Dildo” is OK with me, which is why I’m giving a thumbs-up to the new release from this partyhardy L.A. trio. The goodness doesn’t stop there, though: with one part pop punk (not the lame kind of pop punk you hear on the mainstream airwaves, but the kind of pop punk that actually blends catchy hoooks with real rock ‘n’ roll), one part punk punk and one part alcohol-fueled fun, the boys in the band rage their way through 10 stellar numbers that are as down and dirty as the alley behind the Smell, as fast and furious as the PCH after midnight, as irreverent as a preg-

cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” that is not only shorter, more urgent, and far less rambling than the original but somehow more expansive as well. Jacobs is known for her slick guitar playing and prowess as a multi-instrumentalist, but her singing is the most potent element of this collection of funky, tight, and driving roots rock. She’s had tremendous success with licensing her songs in the past, and it’s likely that the songs on Hi-Rise Ranch will find high-profile placements as well. —Geoff Geis

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RETOX

Beneath California Epitaph “Everyone fucks each other in their own backseats,” Justin Pearson screams on one of the stand-out tracks, “Let’s Not Keep In Touch,” from Retox’s third record, Beneath California. I combed through the track titles of Beneath California and something about “Let’s Not Keep In Touch,” struck me--so I began the record not from the beginning, but from an impatient urge to hear the music behind those words. Beneath California exudes this exact mania: it merges post punk, metal, and hardcore due to the expansive musical influences of Justin Pearson’s frantic vocals (which you may recognize from Th e Locust, All Leather, Swing Kids), Michael Crain’s fevered metal guitar phrasing (also of Festival of Dead Deer, Kill The Capulets), and the buoyant rhythm section of hardcore drummer Brian Evans and bass player Keith Hendrikson (Kill the Capulets, Virginia Reed). The record captures the nostalgia bequeathed to us by the forefathers of punk and rock’n’roll--on tracks like “Death Will Change Your Life” Pearson shouts lyrics like “All those who have died before me, forgot trustees, cleaned streets with parolees/They dragged everything into the sea, the filth and the debris, and hoped none would see.” Th e record corners the listener into a place of hyperrealism, and ignites the primal instinct to run from its fervor but there is nowhere to hide. Beneath California feels like a response to the illusion of the rock’n roll industry and its psyche of mistrust, betrayal, greed, disloyalty, and at it’s worse, death of the spirit. It’s a wake-up call shouting at us get off our phones and look up at the world because it’s passing us by; it’s the punk reflection of a society mired in ADD and illusion. We want to recognize this fear and with Beneath California, Retox shows us the way. —Jax ALBUM REVIEWS

Interview by Kristina Benson

BROCK POTUCEK

SLUTEVER

Almost Famous EP self-released Already named one of Spin Magazine’s five artists to watch in February 2015, this Los Angeles duo is definitely an up-andcomer worth paying attention to. At first listen, the band’s sound may make listeners of a certain age think back to their college days in the 1990s, because there is a distinctly 1990s college rock twinge coursing throughout the band’s newest self-released EP, Almost Famous. For example, the refrain from the record’s first cut, the driving “Smother Me,” bears a clear and strong resemblance to Nirvana’s “Stay Away;” that said, it would be definitely be possible to have far worse influences than Nirvana. Band members Nicole Snyder and Rachel Gagliardi use the aesthetic contributions of this bygone era, punch it up, and then inject it with new and contemporary vitality that sparkles and twists like the view from Mulholland Drive. Slutever’s Almost Famous bursts throughout with feral energy and a rough rock ‘n’ roll sensibility that is angry and brash yet somehow still manages to be nuanced. The EP’s six songs also range greatly in tempo and execution, from the hardrocking crash and bash of “You Ask For It” (a throbbing, jerking instrumental that features hardedged guitar work and a rousing stop-and-start back beat) to the grandly ambitious heavy lament of “Miss America,” (which incidentally, would probably be a perfect soundtrack for a balmy afternoon spent sitting on a porch somehwere in Echo Park). The EP’s qualities are summed up by the raw energy and snide attitude of the tersely titled “Maggot,” which starts with the inarguably great lyrics “I look at you and suddenly I start to puke.” It’s exactly this kind of attitude like makes Almost Famous the little gem that it is. —Jason Gelt

Tell me about the projects you’ve been in besides this one. We’ve moved around to several cities and played in local band and toured nationally. Nothing besides van-level punk bands. The drummer and I had a screamo-hardcore band called Angels Never Answer. We did Denver for nine years, and then moved to Portland for a little while and tried to get what would have been this band going there but it just didn’t work out. It seems like a lot of moving around, but it was over such a long period of time—we were in Denver for almost 10 years. Where are you from? The brain of the band originates from Alabama— me and the drummer. We picked up our bass player in Colorado. A while back you wrote that that you had a breakthrough, and figured out how to play together, what a band feels like, and what it should be like to play in that space. Can you tell me about that breakthrough? Not without using hippie-dippy New Agey speak! I think something that happened to us in our original bands, or in any long relationship you’re going to have with someone, or people you’ve been playing with for a long time, there’s a crust that develops. You start thinking about that person as a static entity. We all know what that person is going to say before they’re going to say anything, we know what they’re going to think before they utter an opinion, and you kind of trap those people in a bottle of your expectations and project onto them the things that you think they are. And I think there was so much friction trying to get this record out, and trying to finish this video that we’ve been working on—all the projects we’ve been producing—a lot of friction. I think there was so much that it sort of imploded, but in a constructive way, and we were able to give each other room to grow and be the people that we are, and not the static people that everyone thought that everyone was. It resulted in this general constructive vibe that’s really been coming to a head in a constructive way that I’m really excited about. The bone broke and now it’s been setting stronger than it was before. Did you guys ever sit down and say, ‘This is the sound!’ or did it come about organically? Five or six years ago I started building this road jam compilation. And at the time, I didn’t know I was building the template for what Empty Palace is, but I was totally doing that. When it came time to start writing songs, it was like ‘What about Jefferson Starship?’ and some of it was dripping with cheese, but there’s this kind

of song that doesn’t happen now, and the main staple of what people are taking from the late classic rock era, and there’s a vacuum there. I love that stuff! And I guess everyone likes to think that their band spins stuff around enough that it sounds like them, and not just aping. I hope that we’re doing that but that’s not really up to me to decide. But I think we do do that. In a way though, I feel like when people say that a band is derivative of other great bands, it’s kind of an enormous compliment. If someone can rip off Aphrodite’s Child, for example, and sound exactly like them—well, I want to meet that person. You hear derivative work all the time. One pitfall for us is that we have to be really careful to not sound like a Black Sabbath ripoff band because there are like 8,000 of them. I love that stuff, that’s the meat and the bun for us. That’s home base. But what if I sounded exactly like Robert Plant or even Ozzy Osbourne? Well that can be a total liability, because there’s already been a Robert Plant and an Ozzy Osbourne. The best thing you can do is get lucky and sound like you. Tell me about the album art. Our drummer works at King’s Road merchandise—they do all the shirt orders for Epitaph. And they have a badass graphic artists, and we told them we definitely wanted that Ralph Bakshi Wizards and Visitor—we definitely wanted that rotoscopic animation looking sort of thing, and we turned it over to their buddy and that’s the first thing he came up with, without any notes from us and we didn’t have any notes for him. It’s the coolest cover art I’ve had anything to do with. And for the album itself—one thing that’s really exciting about listening to that stuff is the idea of an LP as a back to front, 40-minute journey. We like to listen to music that way, so we tried our hand at it. So we sat down and made a collection of songs that we thought went together, and then we tried to make an auditory journey. I don’t know if it’s completely a concept record; it’s more a collection of songs made into one unit, but they’re welded together at the edges rather than being start-to-finish, continuous as one work. My favorite one is probably the title tract—‘Between the Stars’—the first one on side B. That one’s about the dark spots in your subconscious that you can’t be aware of, the fear there. Like stars as neurons in your brain, and the dark spaces between them. It’s kind of trippy psychedelic space stuff. VISIT EMPTY PALACE AT FACEBOOK.COM/ EMPTY PALACE

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SWAMI JOHN REIS

BJORK

VULNURICA ONE LITTLE INDIAN For the past decade, Björk has been criticized for drifting away from the work upon which she built her success and toward something resembling a brand. It’s not just that albums like Biophilia were treated as a launching pad for an ecosystem of apps, remixes and videos—anyone who remembers the Live Box or the flurry of video releases of the early 2000s will tell you that Björk has always been keen to the flood the market with flotsam. It’s that the singer hadn’t delivered a fully realized project since 2001’s Vespertine. Relegated to second-tier status, Vespertine has proven significant as much for its ambitious arrangements and the eroticism of its lyrics as for being a partition that divides the artist’s entire body of work. In part a chronicle of Björk’s thenbudding romance with visual artist Matthew Barney, Vespertine represents the apex of a series of albums marked by their candor and intensity as well as their popular appeal. By turns love-struck, sexually explicit and emotionally naked, Vespertine perhaps left Björk with few avenues to explore in its aftermath. As a result, efforts like 2004’s Medúlla or 2007’s Volta were characterized by a less intimate lyrical style as well as a tendency to lean on a revolving cast of collaborators. None of this is to suggest that contentment kills creativity or that an artist need suffer to tap into fertile creative ground. But it’s impossible to deny that Vulnicura, Björk’s newest and first since the dissolution of her partnership with Barney, is anything short of the most engaging work she’s put out in nearly 15 years. Much of this success is due to what the album does not

Modern Surf Classics Niche Records

ALICE RUTHERFORD

do: with a minimal supporting team in the form of producer Arca and British soundscaper the Haxan Cloak, Vulnicura trims the fat off the Björk & Co era of the 2000s, resulting in a work that the artist has compared to a traditional singer-songwriter’s heartbreak album. Vulnicura therefore feels more familiar than any of its immediate predecessors. “Stonemilker” is a soaring ballad and a throwback to the time when string sections were the emotional engine of her music. That’s true of the album as a whole; with beats often serving as little more than minimal sonic bedding, Vulnicura feels operatic in its simplicity and directness. The directness comes from the words, too. Vulnicura‘s lyrics are plainspoken and unguarded: “Family was always our mutual sacred mission/ Which you abandoned,” she sings on “Black Lake.” Built around a simple string motif with little aesthetic flair or even much of a vocal melody, the song hits with such blunt force that little else matters. More evocative is “History of Touches,” which focuses on her last moments with her lover: “Every single fuck / We had together / Is in a wondrous time lapse / With us here at this moment.” That “fuck” is a little awkward and forced, but it feels honest, too. Vespertine showed that new love is a canvas for metaphor; on Vulnicura, heartbreak feels merely forensic. But on “Family,” she pushes into zones of listener discomfort—”Is there a place / Where I can pay respects /

For the death of my family”— before offering reprieve in a wash of synthesizers. So if it’s a tired cliché to equate suffering with authenticity, it’s doubly disconcerting that the “-Cura” suite—the tentative if not optimistic songs that conclude the record—is where Vulnicura begins to fray at the edges. To be fair, “Atom Dance”, “Mouth Mantra” and “Quicksand” feel more like a documentary of the healing process than anything a statement about it. The artist is feeling her way out of a private storm in public, and her honesty and bravery are inspiring. Beyond simply losing the thread of interest that the heartbreak songs hold, Vulnicura‘s conclusion signals a return to the same habits that have been present for years: the aimless, perfunctory melodies, awkward lyrical phrasing and under-cooked. It’s not that these songs overshadow the show-stoppers, it’s that they posit themselves as some kind of conclusion, albeit a tentative, uncertain one. Björk described the making of Vulnicura as a redemptive process, and the album makes a compelling case for pain being a force that can help us correct course. But as much as the search for answers can spur self-discovery, where we end up matters, too. “At last the view is fierce/ All that matters is/ Who is open-chested/ And who has coagulated.” That’s the opener, “Stonemilker,” again. Let’s hope the view on the other side of the mountain is as clear. —Sean Manning

Modern Surf Classics, Swami John Reis’ surf rock album with the Blind Shake, is a logical progression in Reis’ career: during the heyday of Rocket From the Crypt, one could be forgiven for assuming that the band was a surf/rockabilly hybrid given their fondness for flamboyant outfits, their cheeky but sincere approach to rock ’n’ roll and their allegiance to San Diego. Even though RFTC never really dabbled in surf rock, there was something intrinsically SoCal about their music. The cheekiness and self-awareness is still present in Modern Surf Classics (see the lyric sheet, which consists of only 9 different words) but like the best RFTC material, the end result stands as one of the more solid entries of all time in its genre. As a surf-rock neophyte whose introduction to the form came in the early ‘90s with Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, I was frequently disappointed when I found that much of what I responded to in “Misirlou” (the intensity, the menace) wasn’t all that present in classic surf rock. I wasn’t looking for Gidget, I was looking for a Spaghetti Western Gidget at the end of a speed binge. Thankfully, Modern Surf Classics fulfills everything I wanted surf rock to be: this isn’t soul surfing, it’s a Mavericks swell followed by a Bacchanalian bonfire. Reis and the band have turned in one of the tightest albums in recent memory, redeeming the genre and producing one of the funnest rock albums I’ve heard recently. —Tom Child

Tall Tales and the Silver Lining follow in a long line of bands that have steeped their sound in the fabled traditions of Americana and early seventies rock. With the history of the genre running about as wide as the Mississippi River, it can be hard for newer acts to make a name for themselves. Luckily, on their latest release, the band does more than just throw another drop in the bucket. They play a sun-drenched style of dreamy love-themed songs that are infused with 60s-style Americana and rock and use both of those elements as a launching pad for something more. Electronic influences ply their way into the sound via keyboards and some effects pedals such as on the track “Both Alive” that has just as many elements of indie pop than it does of 70s rock. Of course, there are some obvious old standbys of the genre like twangy harmonics and progressive guitar bridges in many of the songs that hit all of the right notes, however the sounds don’t head into the realm of the overly nostalgic. All of the songs have an endearing quality due to Trevor Beld Jimenez’ catchy choruses and hooks. One of the highlights is “Unknown Forces,” which has a smooth acoustic guitar riff and piano track that build up a mood of longing that the chorus and the bridge deeply solidify. Another highlight from “Tightropes” is the Neil Young esque “Wade Through The Storm”. This album is filled with enough winning songs that it would be easy to champion many of them. —Zachary Jensen

COURTESY ARTIST

THE THINGZ Red Future self-released COURTESY ARTIST

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As Billy Childish once pointed out, we live in troubled times, and not even a gaggle of goodtimin’, garage-rockin’ goons like The Thingz are immune. Songs like “Down And Out” (“Now you’re on you knees again/Utopia just can’t win/Kneel before your newsprint czar/Change the world, but you didn’t get far”), “Your Misfortune”, and “Romantic Bitters” are a long way from the tunes about bugs, barnyard critters and bacon for which they were previously known, but, like all living creatures who’ve been around the block a few times, these Thingz have evolved, and in this case, for the better. Red Future is their strongest release to date. On-point garage (punk) rock via the Hangman, Damaged Goods & Dangerhouse Records catalogs, channeling the lyrical bent & spiritual vibes of Blind Lemon Jefferson & Robert Johnson, with a little Woody Guthrie thrown in for good measure, delivered with gusto & with a serious groove. The production (courtesy of Johnny Cerneka) is sharp as a tack, but ragged in all the right places. —Dennis Owens

COURTESY ARTIST

TOM BROSSEAU

Perfect Abandon LP Crossbill Records The North Dakota–born and LAbased singer-songwriter Tom Brosseau is a master storyteller. Known for his simple, heartfelt, and almost cinematic narratives, this raconteur perfectly blends folk and Americana influences to craft his latest album, Perfect Abandon. Out on March 3, the LP is a gorgeous meditation on love, memory, and most importantly, abandonment. It opens with “Hard Luck Boy,” a haunting tale told through the innocent eyes of a child. As his fingers gently strum the guitar and his soft voice flows back and forth from speech and song, he recounts the day his mother left him in a clothing store. In “Wholesome Pillars,” Brosseau urges his lover to climb the pillars of the mind and ALBUM REVIEWS

defend against the raging waters of negativity that can leave one in ruins. In the video for the album’s new single “Roll Along with Me,” clips from Brosseau’s favorite old films dance across his face to the hum and whirr of an old projector. Here he softly states, “Love can do no wrong/Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.” Just like that old projector, Tom Brosseau could be the last of his kind, a reminder of our roots and our treasured past. —Emily Nimptsch

COURTESY ARTIST

WHISPER KITTEN

Unit Six Celebration Porch Party Records I was pretty surprised when I first heard that a piece of music from a world-renowned classical string quartet was going to be redone by Porch Party musicians, and though I was skeptical about how that would work, I must say that it came out sounding pretty damn good. Each of the five songs on Unit Six Celebration by Whisper Kitten, is re-worked by drummer Zach Mabry (of such bands as Rudy De Anda, Rainman, Joel Jasper, Gorgeous, Forest of Tongue, Greater California, and Dennis Robicheau) from tracks previously released by an NYC/Berlin based Modernist String Quartet known as Osso on an LP that was itself a re-working of an a 2001 Sufjan Stevens album titled Enjoy Your Rabbit. Each of Stevens’ original electronic compositions from Enjoy were inspired by the animals of the Chinese Zodiac and all of the computer generated beats, sounds, and effects were completely re-imagined and arranged by New York composers Michael Atkinson, Olivier Manchon, Maxim Moston, Nico Muhly, and Gabriel Kahane to be recreated using nothing but live string instruments and performed by Osso on their 2009 release titled Run Rabbit Run. Unit Six Celebration blends Zach Mabry’s original dynamic drum rhythms with Osso’s amazing, uniquely versatile renderings of Sufjan’s electronic masterpiece. Expect the unexpected is all I can say. —Desi Ambrozak

RON NAGLE Bad Rice Omnivore

Nagle is remembered by Nugget hounds and paisley punks as the motive force behind the Mystery Trend, a short-lived psychedelic outfit whose sole LP delighted the San Francisco rock scene for a few months pre-Jefferson Airplane. An uneven slab of termite art that enjoys almost mythic status among fans of Nixon-era dementia, Bad Rice sounds as much like an assortment of failed hit singles as one man’s eccentric pop vision but much of the charm of such an artifact is in the alternate 1970 it represents. The great Jack Nitzsche produces, Ry Cooder and members of Mother Earth, Stoneground, the Beau Brummels and Commander Cody’s Lost Planet Airmen sit in and all this gung-ho professionalism only compounds the WTF. The fast tunes don’t quite achieve the profundity of the first Jo Jo Gunne LP and such slow ones as “Frank’s Store” make Billy Joel sound like Noel Coward, but “Berberlang,” the obligatory post-Sgt. Pepper freakout, is stellar stuff belonging in anyone’s blotter-paper scrapbook. It would surprise few of even the most boorish rock fans to know Nagel’s fame as musician is vastly eclipsed by art world renown as a deft maker of exquisitely useless ceramics.

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Next Stop Soweto, Vol. 4: Zulu Disco, Afro-Disco & Mbaqanga 1975-1985 Strut The immediate political context for this fifteen track dance-funk-prog bombardment was the struggle against a U.S.-backed racist regime but the musical one was South Africa’s immersion in worldwide disco culture. The political meaning of Saitana’s “1-2-3,” with its cheery “Your turn is over/Our turn’s begun” chorus must’ve been unmistakable as it filtered into the curfewed night air and a 1981 skullbuster like Kabasa’s “Unga Pfula A Chi Pfalo” bears traces of Alan Parsons Project as well as late Polydor-era James Brown. Joints like “Masisizwane” by Abafana Bama Soul are what criers of ripoff are referencing when talk turns to Paul Simon’s Graceland. Xoliso’s “Manano” is a revelation comparable to the first time I heard “Bootzilla” and Margaret Singana’s “Ubukhwele,” a 4 a.m. ballroom fantasia that still glistens with can’t-stop-themusic optimism of the final months of disco. This is revolution you can still dance to.

REALLY RED

Teaching You the Fear: The Complete Discography, 1979-1985 Alternative Tentacles Houston’s Really Red was four guys who could not only snarl, they could skronk just as good as they walk, mutating over the inconsiderable span of two albums and a handful of other recordings into the first Texas

punk band to make any stir outside the Lone Star State. Windbags fond of claiming U.S. punk wasn’t as polluted by 80s leftist politics as its Anglo cousin dislike having joints like “Starvation Dance” and “Youth Culture for Sale” pounded through their ears like Van Helsing’s stake but that’s no reason not to do it anyway. Band members were older than average and mainman U-Ron Bond had the priceless experience of having the MC5 and the 13th Floor Elevators play in front of his face. When at their best, RR was as focused and listenable as the Minutemen, but their critique sharper and, unlike the Clash, they weren’t being cute about their politics. True to the name, Really Red was too unironically leftwing and liberationist not merely for MTV, but even the narrowest-gauge 80s rock stardom and the band, to their credit, appeared not to give a fuck for any of that. That more than any other reason is why part of the secret history of American hardcore – the one as yet unwritten by fanboys and pop-narcs – is right here on these 44 tracks, with some ace liners to prove it. Included are lyrics so that no point may be missed

JELLYFISH Spilt Milk Omnivore

This second and final studio album finds the duo of Andy Sturmer and Roger Manning, Jr. riding a breathtaking Brian Wilsonian psychedelic tsunami that engulfed me when I heard “Joining a Fan Club” come gushing out of some now-defunct record shop in La Jolla one warm February afternoon in 1993. Bellybutton, the debut LP (also out now on Omnivore), begat the minor hit “Baby’s Coming Back” which begat MTV rotation which won brief mainstream acceptance for Jfish’s occluded sunshine pop but 1990 didn’t last forever and Kurt Cobain was soon to upend everything anyway. A paisley inferno stoked with finical care from lunacy, anomie, remembered games, and laughs, Spilt Milk seems in retrospect too good for a market share just then tearing down multiplex doors to see Pauly Shore movies. “The Ghost at Number One” getting into the Modern Rock Top Ten didn’t offset the project’s gigantic expense, the wheels came off the band after another year of touring and that’s how one of the greatest rock albums of the 90s was buried and exhumed. I almost pity the Paramore fan that bites down on this. 77


much fun to let this sound go, and listening to these two albums at once proves that I’m right about that, I think. These songs are smart, particular, impeccably put together and Drug Cabin is probably too polite to make a big deal about how good they can be—so guess that’s my job, right?

DUSTIN LOVELIS Dimensions Porch Party

CRIMINAL HYGEINE “Turpentine” 7” New Professor Let me put it this way—if the much-missed Henry Clay People liked to hit the political side of the Replacements, e.g. being broke e.g their signature “Working Part Time,” then Criminal Hygiene decides here to hit the personal side of the Replacements, e.g. being heartbroke. Which gets us to the song “Turpentine” and its “three little words that sound so absurd.” Their “Withdrawn” EP from a year ago never went this midtempo, but the song suits them, splitting the difference between Westerberg (words, probably typed into a phone at the dark end of the bar) and J. Mascis (raspy delivery, aspirational rockin’ out) though without quite the level of extreme screaming desperation that might imply. That’s still there, though, in the outta-nowhere snap change in almost the exact middle of the song, where slow-mo woe explodes into a revved-up guitar-mostly-instrumental, symbolizing the part where the bummedout drunk you’ve been consoling slams a shot, strips to the waist and runs cackling into the street. (Natural prelude to the side B Devo cover, “Uncontrollable Urge.”) Underrated band making an underrated choice—“Turpentine” is too slow for punk and too raw for indie. Good move.’

DIRT DRESS Revelations EP Future Gods When I first heard the first song on their D.L.V.N.V.N. LP, I thought about the Fall— but now Dirt Dress are a lot more Wire than totally wired, with plenty of Colin Newman’s melodic alienation and a guitar sound so beautifully soaking wet you could probably water flowers with it. Like fellow travelers Corners, they like to light up their landscapes with well-deployed flashes of synthesizer, but there’s a lot of pop happening here too, camouflaged and even wounded though it may be. There’s silhouettes of Talking Heads (paranoia, rhythmic wordcram) and the Cure (desolation) on the horizon here, but the stand-out by far for me is the title track, which drifts toward the Trompe Le Monde Pixies in both production and sentiment. (At least for their slower songs.) Noah knows just when to break his voice and 78

when to let it flatline, and somehow finds a way to sound affectingly certain about feeling uncertain: “I’ve cut myself so deep, I’ve seen my muscles bleed / I’ve changed my mind so many times / I’ve realized I don’t know what to say …” The percussive “Hey!” that follows hits just right—Frank Black knew that trick exactly—and the slow-burn happy-sad instrumental is like that moment on a long night drive when a distant city’s lights appear one by one at the horizon. A considered little EP and a ripper in the most thoughtful ways.

DRUG CABIN Yard Work Wiggle Room 401 Music On these two albums, L.A.’s Drug Cabin have found a sound that makes all the sense in the world—it’s the pedal-steel and fingerpicked guitar of the Byrds circa Sweetheart or Notorious Byrd Brothers built in to the sharp and understated funky-pop of Ned Doheny, whose capability for wit and agility are all over these albums. So call it “Easy Glider”, and let’s take our time to swim through these two releases with the Drug Cabin partners Nathan Thelen and Marcus Congleton and able new support players like bassist Eugene Owens, drummer Sheridan Riley and pedal steel player Frankie Palmer. Yard Work (out now) is maybe more the rocker album, with “Jesus” the single for a reason: “I came to party / I pray to Jesus / I have a good time / I’m outta my miiiiiiiind!” (If the Minutemen’s “Shit From An Old Notebook” turned into Doheny’s “Get It Up For Love,” well … that’s this.) Songs like “Hollywood,” “Goldenwall” and closer “Sapphire” just bubble along with cryptic (and not as cheerful as they seem) lyrics and nimble little harmonies and light-on-theirfeet beats, while songs like “California” and “Powder Moon” (there’s gotta be a subliminal connection to Neil Young in that one?) are sad but never heavy, thanks to a rhythm section that knows just how hard to hit and pedal steel that practically makes the songs levitate. Wiggle Room’s opener reminds me (probably unfairly) of Avi Buffalo, but then slips easily into a vibe of its own with songs like “Wonderful,” which works in a little Bob Neuwirth cosmic-cowboy sentiment, or the happily fractured closer “Space Program.” Releasing these two albums (basically) at once says to me that Drug Cabin was having too

This is the full-length solo debut from Dustin from the Fling, recorded first in a room with a multitrack, a guitar and a certain kind of whiskey—and I’m happy to report it still sounds that way, even with the capable studio assistance of Frank Lenz and Eli Thompson. This is darker than much of what the Fling did just because there’s a lot more space in which to be dark, enough that at times you can sense Lovelis trying to swerve the songs toward something a bit more poppy—a noble and generous urge, really, and the result is a kind of tension that makes Dimensions something special. There’s definite echoes of Big Star 3rd’s most hollow moments, like the gently narcotic “Coming Back From A Cloud” or the closer “Children In The Dark,” which goes stumbling down the same dark road as “Big Black Car” or “Dream Lover.” But what makes this whole thing sing is the art as much as the heartbreak—Lovelis is an obvious and serious student of the Beatles and Nilsson, and makes sure to make a change at every single right place. Unlike other woe-is-me albums, there’s no wallowing on Dimensions. Instead, Lovelis has turned long months of anxiety and isolation into one long beautiful night of an album, lit dimly by starlight but lit nonetheless. In fact, Dimensions reminds me most of dios, whose early albums could hit this down-but-not-over dynamic with power and precision. The two stand-outs for me here are “I’m An Idiot,” a woozy pop song with a new little revelation at ever measure, and “Off The Rail,” which is somehow hopeful and devastated at the same time—I don’t know how he did it, but I do know that’s very hard to do.

JACK NAME Weird Moons Castle Face Sequel to Jack Name’s affecting/intriguing/ unsettling Light Show album of last year, in which the “good” (from my perspective) Shadows were defeated or at least banished by the “bad” (from my perspective) Light siders, determined to erase all that is hidden, individual and interesting from the world. I haven’t totally cracked open the story on Weird Moons yet, but things have definitely changed. As “Waiting For Another Moon” explains, “I like to die and I like to be reborn / I like to feel my body changing form.” The broken-machine future aesthetic and paranoia of Chrome and Simply Saucer are in heavy affect here, channeled into

something like a lo-fi Taking Tiger Mountain and chopped into little vignettes that switch from back-snapped funky no-wave (opener “Werewolf Factory”) to sweeping synth-y glam rock (“Watcher Talk”) and oxygen-deprived showstoppers like closer “Something About Glenn Goins.” There’s never not something unexpected happening here, but Name is fully in control, serving almost more as director than songwriter. If this was a movie, Jodorowsky would’ve tried to direct and the funding would have collapsed the year before Lucas made (the 1977) Star Wars. A vital album for people wondering if there’s intelligent life out there.

JAMES PANTS Savage Stones Throw Funny that the promo for this album specifically mentions exotica, cuz that’s not wrong at all. Pants’ Savage indeed plays with a sort of conspicuously artificial “exotic” environment, right down to the title, which is exactly the thing you’d find on one of those cheesecake-masks-and-bongos album covers put out circa 1959. Also funny: what that suggests about the other album whose spirit is obviously at work on Savage, which is Brian Eno and David Byrne’s My Life In The Bush of Ghosts—was that an exotica record for 1981? Savage uses samples the same way as Eno, Byrne, Joni Mitchell’s “Jungle Line” and the guy who field-recorded tsetse flies for Martin Denny—to suggest an entire world with a precise snippet of sound—and until James Pants gets to the single “Artificial Lover,” he’s more about making atmosphere and wilderness than songs. “Lover” has the first real vocals—pitched to fast/slow extremes like Neu! used to do—over a track that might qualify as minimal boogie, and then “Black” is the happily out-of-character banger—chant vocals on a g-funk-meetspost-punk beat and a Contortions-style skronk-sax break. (Also noted by me: wasted bad-dream rap “Dreams Be True” and “My Body,” which is like Funkadelic’s “Eulogy and Light” reincarnated as private-issue new age.) But songs like “Machu Pichu” (an Alain Goraguer-style mood setter for a sci-fi cartoon yet to be made) and “Broth” (the most explicitly exotica moment on here, except with bass drops announcing bird calls) are really the native animals on this Savage planet: nocturnal, omnivorous, evolutionarily complex and wary of the presence of man.

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“Eight Miles High” psychedelic vocal line that tumbles into the kind of Spacemen 3/ Loop guitar storm that won’t sound dated til the world runs out of electricity. Creation Records obviously lent a lot to this sound, but there was a lot happening on Creation so Other Desert Cities never gets same-y. If anything, it’s a little zig-zaggy between blow-outs like “In The Fields” and next track “Falling From So High,” which is dialed down to not much more than a kick drum as heartbeat. “I Forgot, I Forgot” is like Teenage Fanclub bummerpop at three-quarters velocity, while Primal Scream (especially circa Vanishing Point) and the Stone Roses get valentines here, too. Early bonus returns to a cut-down Spacemen 3 “Transparent Radiation” sort of feel, though maybe that’s just the oscillation telling me what I want to hear.

that read like one of those semi-coherent porno stories Ed Wood would write for angora-sweater money, while “Do Me” is like one of those turn-of-the-70s Kim Fowley productions where he’d spiel instantly and brilliantly on some grosso teenage theme. (Also: genius break with a fed-up woman groaning, “Ah … fuck.” Says it all!) If—like me—you ever wished there was an entire genre of music based on the 6:46 mark of The Idiot’s closer “Mass Production,” where the synths vomit and pass out right before you ears … well, Richard Sax Ross isn’t far off. First track “Join The Machine” (featuring Ariel, somewhere) has so many deliberate little devices working at once I still can’t totally figure it out. Like a caveman looking at a UFO, I can only tell there’s something serious at work—and then suddenly, I’m disintegrated.

THE MOLOCHS

SHLOHMO

“Sleep in Doom” 7” self-released

Dark Red True Panther Sounds

This time the Molochs throw some grit between the gears of their 1966-gone-1976 rock ‘n’ roll machine, and it turns out that rougher sometimes does mean better. Singer / guitarist Lucas still has that Peter Perrettstyle high-register low-opinion-of-the-world delivery, but now his guitar has that tinny Johnny Echols sound—think the first chiming notes of Love’s “Can’t Explain”— and he’s singing with Jonathan Richman’s intonation, desperation and attention to geographic detail. (Like: “Livin’ In My Mind”’s “1st Street, 2nd Street, 3rd Street, 4th Street—I’m on the run!”) In fact, both tracks here sound like little brothers to Kim Fowley’s set of Modern Lovers demos—raw, yes, but more potently alien for it. “Sleep In Doom” slips deeper into bummer hood with a song that explains what it feels like when the night really does last forever: “If I could see with the lights out in my room … sleep in doom.” Two tracks of post-VU confusion and psychic contusion.

John Carpenter horror movie synth and Italian giallo vibes on the newest from beatmaker Shlohmo, who’s going dark (like the title suggests) and red (like the stains on the floor of the ballet studio from Suspiria) on an album that’s less about beat and more about bludgeoning. This is gothic—even baroque stuff—from the first riff of “Ten Days Of Falling,” which sounds like something from a Hammer horror film til the space bass comes in. “Buried” is approaching Slumber Party Massacre levels of synthesizer deconstruction, at least til the guitar (!?) comes in to lurch around, while “Remains” is a post-Flying Lotus take on that time Broadcast went to investigate those Witch Cults. This isn’t a complete commitment to atmosphere a la Demdike Stare, but it’s an interesting new frame for Shlohmo, who’s set himself up as the star of a movie that—as per closer “Beams”—goes suddenly crazy right at the end.

RICHARD SAX ROSS

self-titled Stones Throw

The Man From the Nearly Recent Future EP JesusWarhol Ariel Pink compatriot/outré auteur Richard Sax Ross comes off like The Idiot-era Iggy with Gary Wilson’s set of obsessions—sex, girls, the unceasing chatter of a mind confined behind a mask made of garbage— and production so perfect and clean it’s best described as “pharmaceutical grade.” Which of course is a nice contrast for the actual vibe, which is sleazy to the point of surreality, like Burroughs, Lou Reed when he was feeling nasty, and … how about porno-psychedelicist Rinse Dream, who plumbed the video id of America like no other? “Town Slut” is Hardcore Devo-style basement-dweller sex fantasy with a Gary Wilson perspective—i.e. it’s got a beat, and you can disgust yourself to it!—and lyrics ONE REPORTER

TUXEDO Finely machined boogie funk that seems like it broke out of a secret lab, which is a nice way of saying crooner Mayer Hawthorne and producer Jake One nailed this sound like they got a government contract to do it. The unrelenting contents: claps and kicks, girls on the chorus, an orgy of old-school synthesizer and even one fully committed Michael Jackson-style “Ohhhhhhhh!” (The production here is kind of unholy: everything here is ferocious!) Really, this almost plays like a compilation (or greatest hits of somebody like Zapp) more than album, since every track on here plays like part of a single—even b-side ballads like “Two Wrongs” come in hot and heavy. This is deliberately and carefully a party record, even on the break-up songs—it’s hard to be heartbroken when the drums hit this hard.


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VIV ALBERTINE Interview by Kristina Benson Illustration by Emma Maatman

Ever since Viv Albertine was a little girl, she wanted to be an artist—or if that wasn’t possible, she wanted to date a boy who was in a band. When she grew up, she accomplished all that and more, becoming the guitarist for the feminist post-punk band the Slits, then a filmmaker, then the second person to teach an aerobics class in all of England, then a sculptor, and now a memoirist and a solo musician. (And she did date Mick Jones, and declined Sid Vicious’ offer to give her an orgasm.) Her new book, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys is simultaneously a how-to guide for young female musicians, and a history lesson on the birth of the London punk and art scene in the late 70s. She joined us to talk about finding her voice as a musician, the rules the Slits lived by and the ways in which suffering can lead to art. At the beginning of the book, you say anyone who writes a memoir is broke, a twat or both. Why are you a twat? There is that thing that you sort of elevate yourself above normal people by thinking that a book about yourself is interesting. It’s sort of egotistical—presumptuous, really! All the autobiographies I’ve liked most are often about quite ordinary people. Some old lady who slogged through the wars. Not about Keith Richards or Rod Stewart or Neil Young—not famous people, but people who just had a life you could relate to. And the struggles in it you can relate to, I think. They’re more interesting for me. So I did feel I kept being a bit of twat by writing a book about myself, but when I came back to music I thought that was such an interesting arc—such an interesting shape. I’d gotten into music completely untutored. No role model. Really going against the grain. To do it again 40 years later, again against the grain, couldn’t play and couldn’t sing again, at the wrong age—trying launch myself as a new artist in my 50s! I saw a similar arc there I thought was interesting, and I thought what people wouldn’t know—and what they’d discover in the book—is all the trials and tribulations I’d been through in between those two points. I wanted to tell people not because of ‘Oh, what a hard time I’ve had!’ but because I thought other people must’ve been through this stuff. At least some of it? And it could be something they could really relate to. There’s a whole level of the book I wrote not as a memoir but almost a guide for young women. I wrote the book without it being didactic, but I wanted to show girls all the times you have to get up and get knocked down and get up and get knocked down again in a woman’s life if you want to be creative or have an individual voice or make something of yourself. Even nowadays. I wanted that to be a very subtle subtext. No young girl likes to be preached to! So there are levels that aren’t autobiography at all. I wish I had this book to read when I first started playing in bands. It struck me how badly everyone wanted to make music. No BOOKS

money, living in squats—all so they could make music. Do you think that made the music better? I think it did. People say you don’t have to be an artist starving in a garret to make good art, but I think music from young people has to come from some sort of pain. The blues came out of slavery and African music … no music nowadays in the West has that at all. It’s gone. I don’t think contemporary music in the West will ever have that again, possibly? Maybe we just don’t hear it as often—they aren’t able to hire PR and navigate the business side, maybe? I don’t know! I think it would rise to the top? Anything with that anger and energy that came from people who were that oppressed, we would get to hear a bit? I don’t think it’s an arena anymore that someone who was angry or oppressed would even gravitate to. You see nothing but rows and rows of middle class guys, mostly, and white, mostly … welltaught in their guitar and their singing. Singing bloody derivative songs! In our country, Muslim lads are being more passionate about going and fighting in Syria. They pick up a Kalashnikov instead of a Telecaster. There’s gotta be something wrong when young people feel disenfranchised or bored and they haven’t got anything to feel passionate about, and I think young men need to feel passionate. They need to get their testosterone out, they need a cause, they don’t see themselves represented in popular culture. At all. It’s just become homogenized consumerist … it’s gone, basically. It’s gone. There are other ways to do it now. Some might go join a war, some might become activists, some might become human rights lawyers … but I don’t think contemporary music or art, actually, I think they’re a joke. A middle-class joke, frankly. Someone I know told me every band needs a rich kid to front all the expenses, or they won’t be able to get anywhere. It used to be the drummer, didn’t it? The drummer everyone hated who had the van. Well, he ain’t gonna change the world if he got one rich kid in his band. If that’s his

philosophy. For me, music, as I said in the book—music, how I was brought up with popular music, it was about changing the world. My daughter who’s 15 said, ‘It’s not about that, mum. For us it’s great songwriting, it’s something that might get you through a heartbreak or a long car journey or it’s great to dance to. But it’s not changing the world.’ It might open up … occasionally there’s lyrics about homosexuality or something that might open you to something you hadn’t throught about, but it’s not always for disenfranchised people to express themselves anymore. In my opinion. I heard Lou Reed say years ago that he was so proud of the song ‘Heroin’ cuz he’d written a song that could never be played on the radio. And I thought, ‘How many kids nowadays would aspire to write a song that couldn’t be played over the loudspeakers in a big store? Or over the radio?’ They aspire to the opposite. They want that! People are never gonna do anything interesting, that holds up years later. I might as well be talking to accountants. How do they respond when you’re like, ‘The things you want are pretty boring? I don’t say that to them! I say to them all the things that I hope will get them fired up. I try and do it in a roundabout way. You can’t say to 18-year-olds, ‘You are NEVER GONNA DO IT!’ They wouldn’t give a shit anyway! They don’t want to live like I lived! I’m ill cuz of how I lived my life. Not eaten properly, slept in damp places, years and years without a proper home, I’ve been poor for so long … they don’t want that kind of life. They couldn’t care less if I said, ‘You’re gonna live 40 years of being poor and not eating properly but you’ll be remembered after you’re dead! As having changed things a bit!’ No one wants that anymore. I think anyone who’s making art that’s actually gonna change people’s perception in some way or change the course in life a bit, it’s probably never gonna be recognized in their own time. If they are, it’s middle of the road! You’ve got to upset the mainstream to be doing something that’s resonant. Otherwise you’re just entertainment. I comfort myself as

I hear about yet another fucking artist who’s got some massive commission he’s been paid 50,000 for—I think, ‘You’re making stuff that goes in the board room of some big company, and you’re being paid loads of money and you’re even quite well-known and you have exhibitions …’ but in the big scheme of life, it’s meaningless what that’s person doing! That mindset will never make a great artist. You have to go 100% until you die. Otherwise, what you do is not gonna rock the world in any way. Even if the sort of ripples are only felt after your death. That’s what you should be aiming for—purity of thought and deed. It’s not art anymore—those arenas that used be called ‘art’ are commerce. When you were starting Flowers of Romance, you asked yourself why add a new band to the world if you can’t make music that’s better than what’s out there or do it differently. Have you felt this way ever since that first moment as a musician? Me and Sid said that to each other. We stood there at the back of a Pistols gig and said, ‘We’re not gonna carry on as a band if we can’t do something good, better or different to everything that’s out there now.’ I completely stand by that now. I went to every single music festival last summer because I was reading in all their literary tents, and I didn’t come across one band who wasn’t derivative—who was doing something different or much better than what’s come before. In fact I found this quote from Billie Holiday the other day that I tweeted: ‘If I’m gonna sing like anybody else, there’s no point in me singing at all.’ Billie Holiday, there was a punk! A very simple creed—a simple thing to say, and it’s so obvious. Billie Holiday said it in the ‘40s and we said it in the ‘70s. But where is it now? If you can’t do it better or different … maybe they are better in some ways? Technically better or they get their melodies right and it’s all beautifully produced. I was on a panel the other day judging singles and the guy next to me—hip young Black guy in a band—said, ‘I’m gonna vote that the best one cuz it’s so beautifully produced.’ And I thought, ‘Oh 83


my God, is that what music’s gone down to?’ Where’s the rebellion? The radical-ness? Where’s the anger, the youthful spirit … none of it! It was down to what a great mix it was. ‘It’s radio ready, baby!’ Also, with Sid Vicious—do you regret not taking him up on his offer to give you an orgasm? Absolutely not! He’s on smack by then, he was all … I can imagine how dirty his fingernails were! No, there’s no way he would’ve given me an orgasm. You don’t think he could have? No—if he could’ve, I would have been more interested. It takes two anyway, doesn’t it? I don’t think that would’ve been the situation to do that. Me and Sid. It seems like you guys were good friends. Yeah—friends in the 1970s sort of way, where there’s not a lot of loyalty or kindness. It’s a dog-eat-dog friendship. We were quite surprised when anyone showed kindness, actually. I don’t know if that’s different now. It was such a rough and violent time. There was none of this ‘I love you’ touchy-feely culture that has arisen now. You see it in all the sitcoms and the girls all support each other and hug each other and ‘Go for it! Live your dream!’ It wasn’t that sort of atmosphere at all. It was pretty survivalist. Also is was probably a survival skill—the touchy-feely people don’t do so well in that kind of world. True! That sort of thing came from California, that self-aware lovey … there was a touch of it in the 60s from the hippies which we sort of railed against. Now this time around, that California love culture has taken hold. We were against it in the 70s and it’s come back again from California, I think—alternative ways of behaving and yoga and mindfulness and raw food and it’s caught on this time. I guess because the world is much more international because of the internet. [Great Britain] is not this little island—we defended it as punks, in a way! From California peace and love—we fought it and choked it out! You write about how Flowers of Romance rehearsals would last for hours and that you met nearly every day. But you also wrote that you never wrote songs and no one could play instruments. So what exactly were you doing all day? I don’t know! I remember setting up and talking quite a lot to almost put off the moment where we had to try and start playing, because we couldn’t play! Could barely hold down the chords! Sid was scary, I didn’t know how to write a song … we’d try and sorta work our way through a couple of Ramones songs, do it again and again and get halfway through and stop and do it again … and six hours go by and alright, we’ll do it again tomorrow! That went on the whole summer—blundering away, arguing, talking about how we might stand or we might look or what our beliefs were as a band, what the band’s ethos was … and just wasting time basically! We didn’t know any 12-bar-chord structures so we couldn’t rely on them, which was good cuz we didn’t wanna rely on them. We had nothing—we couldn’t noodle away like bands used to do like, ‘Oh, that’s a nice bit! Let’s take that out and turn that into a song!’ We couldn’t improvise, we 84

couldn’t jam, we were untaught—cacophony and chaos, basically. The funny thing is that we’re still famous … in a way? Forty years later and people say Flowers of Romance-how exciting! Never played live, never had any songs, never recorded … and yet we’re known as a band! I think that’s really cool. True punk spirit in a way. It’s all about attitude! You talk about seeing the girls that guys in bands were dating and thinking, ‘I don’t have what they have. I can’t do that--be the girlfriend of a guy in a band.’ But you wanted to be in that world so bad, so you went to art school. Why did so many punk musicians come out of art school then? In the 60s and 70s there were no music schools. That’s quite interesting now. I give lectures at colleges—music, art and fashion colleges— but in the 70s there were no contemporary music schools. You couldn’t go learn to be an electric guitarist. I was a working class girl as well. Nothing was expected of me! So art school … anyone with a rebellious side or just couldn’t face going into an office, which was the only alternative for people who weren’t born into something more interesting, was art school. You didn’t go in thinking, ‘When I come out, I’m going to work in a design office.’ You literally were tossing off for three years having to be an adult. It was just stalling for three years! A lot of young people when they interview me say, ‘When you first went to art school, what did you think? I know you left but what did you think you might do?’ I’d say, ‘We had no sort of what we might do!’ It was literally wasting three years, having a laugh, lots of nice boys with long hair I could kiss if I was lucky—might have to do a bit of drawing to not get kicked off the course! That was our only objective. There was one mature student who was beavering away hoping to get a proper job but no one else in the whole year had any thought whatsoever of being employed. There was a real playfulness. And because nothing was expected of us, we could quietly cause trouble. And what’s more, society expected nothing of us. We were just like rats running around the streets. Working class young people, really. Very different times. A lot of the people you knew then seem like they were… not very nice. Maybe even like they were kind of all assholes. Well—has anything changed? They’re nicer to your face now, probably. Maybe? My daughter’s 15 and I see what happens with her friendships. The jealously is huge between them all. It’s disguised, especially from the boys—they never say they’re jealous or maybe aren’t aware they’re jealous, but they can be very spiteful if they’re being outdone by a girl. Me in my working life, I come back to work in the last 6 or 7 years … yeah, stabbed in the back, put down … I think it’s just human nature. I’m afraid I don’t think it’s any different. I always liked that American expression: ‘A friend will fry your end.’ A proper friend is a very rare thing. When the Slits were making Cut, you met photographers and label personnel who just didn’t understand what you’re doing— how did you explain it to them then? How would you explain it now?

Because it was such a strict time—at the center of the whole tiny group of people were Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, and Vivienne was a very strict, very judgmental fierce person who had a lot of ideas and was very well-educated. Artistic. Because those people were in the middle, it sent these waves out to all of us, where we were all incredibly judgmental and strict about what we were doing. There was no room for anyone to be derivative or lazy or habitual in what they did or the music they made or art or whatever. It didn’t matter how scruffy it was or if it wasn’t virtuoso. What the Slits were trying to do was take that ethos and apply it to every single part of the band. We would spend days and weeks and months discussing how we might stand on stage. We didn’t wanna stand how men had always stood, but we had no role models. I’d seen the Runaways—Lita Ford with her legs open and her hair flying back, looking like a bloke! Like a heavy metal guitarist. And she’s about the only girl guitarist I’d seen. I’d seen Fanny once—again, they just looked like blokes. From a distance you couldn’t have told the difference and the music sounded blokeish. Apart from those two bands who I didn’t relate to at all, we felt we had to build everything from the ground up. Months of talking about what position we might stand in on stage, and not in a vain way—it was a political discussion. ‘I’m gonna stand like I’ve got big bollocks with my legs wide apart! And how high or low am I gonna wear my guitar?’ Cuz I am someone completely new wearing a guitar—I’m not copying Keith Richards or Buddy Holly. I’m not gonna have it high or have it low. So every single tiny thing … and then I’d never seen a girl with a skirt and a guitar. So we’re talking about what proportions work, like, ‘Can I wear miniskirts with a guitar?’ It looks weird, you know! We weren’t used to the proportions and our audiences weren’t used to the proportions. ‘I wanna wear a tutu! Or a petticoat with a guitar!’ It was so exciting, but also exhausting. And that’s before we even got to the music! Our hair, and what we’d do with our faces—are we gonna pout and pose like Johnny Thunders or Keith Richards? And no guitar solos, cuz that is indulgent and lazy and time-wasting. Every single thing. The structure of the song had to be precise. You had to have no wasteful moments in the song. Then we used to think, ‘Can we move that note to follow that note? I’m sure I’ve heard that combination of notes so many times.’ Not gonna rely on old melodies, on old chord structures, on 12-bar blues … and then we get to the lyrics! The lyrics gotta be honest! I’d never heard a girl write about her real life before! Possibly some Joni Mitchell singersongwriter types who seemed a million miles away from us. Just ordinary working-class street girls talking about their lives. Usually, like the Shangri-Las or the Ronettes—the songs are all written by guys! And they’re all about boys. And then what accent would we sing in? Nearly everyone in rock was singing in a fake American accent, but they came from Liverpool or whatever. So THAT is what we would’ve said to someone who wants to put

you on the cover in ripped pink clothes and blow a fan at your hair when you’re trying to break down every single barrier. We felt so responsible in the position we were in that we didn’t want to let other girls down in a way by being lazy about any part of what we did. We considered how we walked down the street, what we wore when we walked down the street to the music and what we recorded—every single bit of our lives felt like a revolution, really. And it had to be done consciously. Lady Bo played upside-down guitar with Bo Diddley and she wore sequined dresses, and the first time I saw a picture of her, part of me was like, that looks weird—but like a gut reaction, not even a conscious thought. And of course, I don’t know why that thought jumped in my head. Of course she should wear a sequined dress if she wants. But you’re not used to seeing that, so it looks off, I guess. We thought, ‘If we stand with our legs together does that look a bit twee? Too girly and soft?’ It’s not like, ‘Oh, I’m not gonna stand with my legs apart. I’m just gonna stand with them together!’ Cuz even that might not look right! It was difficult finding ways. You had to use your imagination and try and throw off all the clichés and restrictions put on you up until that time in life—on your parents and the girls before them. It was exhausting! And what’s more very violent out there as well! Why did people attack Ari so much? Because she was the singer, or something about her particularly? She was the loudest. If we were going down the street, she might be the noisiest and most exuberant, bouncing about—she was 15 years old or whatever. We’d all be in these wild clothes and mixing up all sorts of female signs and signals that had never been seen together before. I might have a tutu and a leather jacket and some S&M studded bits and pieces and then men’s work shoes and black round the eyes, and it was incredibly confusing to men of the time. All men and boys were very confused by it. And they could see all sorts of signals and signs that were supposed to arouse them, but not all mixed up together! All mixed up together, it was a nasty expression—spitting and jumping up and down. It literally drove them to violence! She got stabbed twice! I couldn’t believe it. Because in the 70s, the only time you ever saw a picture of a woman—especially topless or looking like that—was specifically for a man to consume. For his desire. For us to go out there and say, ‘We’re not dressing in pretty pastels and we’re not wearing suits for work and high heels, and we’re not for your consumption in any way whatsoever … and we’re really exuberant and enjoying ourselves and throwing all this back in your face!’ Our clothes were such an obvious fuck you—the men thought and acted to us like, ‘OK, you don’t wanna dress like a woman and you don’t want to behave like a woman, so we don’t have to treat you like a woman. So we’re gonna stab you and spit at you and abuse you, hit you, beat you up! You wanna look like an alien, we’ll treat you like an alien!’ It almost broke down that tiny barrier where men just about kept their violence inside them—towards women. BOOKS


Like ‘I’m not going to attack a woman cuz she’s there for me to fuck and cook my meals and whatever,’ but as soon as we stepped out of that role … you’re not useful! You’re not there for us! We’re going to beat the fuck out of you. That’s why we got that everywhere we went. You can see why I’m so hard on music nowadays! That was my musical upbringing! It was strict, and that’s why it’s resonated for 40 years. And why what’s happening now—I like lots of bands and songs at the moment, but it’s not an arena for changing the world anymore. You said you wanted boys to want to BE you—‘I wanna be in that band! In that gang!’ And to not objectify you. Did you ever have any success with that? Yes! Totally! There we were on stage with hundreds of blokes in the audience who’d come to watch us and learn from us and be knocked out by us, and then we got bunches of boys following us around copying our style. I think a lot of guys—I know a lot of guys cuz I meet them to this day—were utterly liberated by the Slits. First of all, they were liberated in terms of as soon as you see men and women and equal, I think both sides are liberated. Instead of seeming like they’re on their own in this role where they have to be macho and earn the money, I think it was very exciting for young men to think, ‘Fucking hell, this is an equal! This is someone I’m absolutely excited by! Not someone I wanna leave in the kitchen at a party and go off and talk to my mates! This is someone who’s got loads to teach me!’ I think it was wonderful for them—and then maybe they can explore their sexuality and the way they wear clothes? So absolutely we ended up being that gang that boys wanted to be in. Which I think was practically unprecedented in popular culture, cuz until that moment, boys and young men still had that slightly, ‘Oh, girls are smelly!’ playground mentality. ‘Our band’s cool, our gang’s cool—the way we dress, the way we stand is cool with our legs apart, no girl can do that! They’re great for fucking and they look great on your arm and they’re great to stroke your hair when things go wrong and I couldn’t do anything without my woman … but I don’t wanna be a woman. I don’t wanna be in HER gang!’ We had great bands—bands like Gang of Four—who were very influenced by us! Sonic Youth, Kurt Cobain … we were definitely equal to blokes to the point where—that’s why boys are in the title of the book! Not cuz they’re so great but because I needed to copy them cuz I hadn’t had enough to copy! I wanted to be boys, and by the end, I sort of became the boy by the end of the book in a way. When you went back to play music in 2010 or 2011, you said you hadn’t properly listened to music for 25 years—is there a proper way to listen to music? I almost didn’t listen to any music. I had no idea—apart from the odd thing that broke through my consciousness, like Nirvana and Pulp—the odd band who made an impression cuz they had something a bit different to say. In a way, I didn’t engage with that arena at all. It was no different to me not reading about rocket science every day. It was just something I wasn’t interested in. It had nothing for me. BOOKS

It had sort of broken my heart, let me down, turned into a catalyst for nonsense … I just wasn’t interested. Music has been made into this massive consumer thing. You’ve gotta have earbuds stuck in your head all the time, gotta have music accompanying you wherever you go … you’re not a whole person if you’re not listening to music all the time! And buying music, and going to see bands! But actually I didn’t need it in my life. I was fucking ill, I was trying to have a kid, doing a job, recovering … if I was down by the sea where I moved in the end, then I heard that every day! I don’t want some boys clanging away in my head singing about stuff I’ve lived through 100 times and they have nothing more to tell me about it. It was like … what the fuck’s music? What’s so fucking great about music that I have to listen every day? And I think I was so broken it would’ve taken some extraordinary music to have lifted me out of my torpor. A couple guys with guitars or electronica or whatever … you better dig deep if you’re gonna get through to me! Psychos don’t listen to music! When you start playing again, you say it felt ‘unmotherly’ to do so—maybe you meant it in quotes? Is it unmotherly to focus on music? I certainly [felt that way] at that point cuz my daughter was a lot younger. To be an artist—or a truly creative person cuz ‘artist’ is too poncey a word!—you have to be a 100% focused on what you do. You have to be utterly selfish, otherwise it’s going to be diluted and not strong enough to really warrant its existence, in my strict world. So how can you do that when you are responsible for a tiny being? For their mental and emotional welfare and their physical health? I couldn’t give the work the 100% it needed. In the Slits, we were 100% there. Nothing came close to that mission! Another reason I didn’t listen to music afterwards. We were utterly obsessed with our mission. Guys didn’t figure. The highs and the lows—the high and the adrenalin for those years with this thing we were doing!—you just can’t do that when you’ve got a child you love. You can’t! There was 18 months there where I actually put the work ahead of the child. Her dad was at home and I thought she was young enough for me … she was not conscious, just sort of instinctive, and I just knew … I have a fucking good sense of timing in some ways in life, and I knew I had just enough time there to quickly get my guitar out, play, go and do the gig and give her enough at the age for her to … and if I could bring her into it, I did. I brought her to shows and she helped with my songwriting. I didn’t cut her out but by the time I got to the stage where I had to go out there and do the work, she was old enough to be much more involved and have her own life going. I so often get asked on to panels to discuss, ‘Why aren’t there more famous women artists?’ And I think, ‘Just read my fucking book!’ VIV ALBERTINE’S CLOTHES, CLOTHES CLOTHES, MUSIC, MUSIC, MUSIC, BOYS, BOYS, BOYS IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM THOMAS DUNNE BOOKS. VISIT VIV ALBERTINE AT VIVALBERTINE.COM


THE INTERPRETER

CHRISTINA GUBALA Curated by Chris Ziegler Photography by AMMO

Christina Gubala takes care of the airwaves on KCHUNG and dispenses vibes live as DJ Lady C, who you will remember if you were ever somewhere beautiful and you heard something beautiful and thought, ‘Who is DOING that?’ Turns out it was Christina! Look her up via label Complicated Dance Steps or @concerthaikus. She shares now the special albums she calls ‘game changers.’

the impressions this is my country (CURTOM, 1968)

donovan open road (epic, 1971)

“This record chose me. I was picking through the new arrivals bin at Blue Bag Records in Echo Park, and I noticed the Curtom logo in the bottom right of the eye-catching cover: the three sharp-looking Impressions in white, pink and blue suits respectively, photographed against a decaying brick building. I skipped the listening station and took it home, clapped it on the turntable and got hit by the one-two punch of ‘I’m Loving Nothing’ and ‘Love’s Happening.’ I lost it. I continue to lose it every time I listen to this record. It’s essential to me now, a gold standard of a genre.”

“This release came into my life during a moment of total upheaval. I didn’t know anything about Open Road except that its title sounded optimistic. AND HOW. Donovan crams an inordinate amount of life advice into 12 tracks—the ghost of 1971 beamed in to let me know that I’d have to ‘kill my own snakes’, that I shouldn’t trust profiteering clairvoyants, that at the end of the day one should just ‘get on a bike and do what you like.’ This one is a lyrical love affair for me, a security blanket of a record I can’t live without, brown and green as the earth itself.”

joanna newsom YS

johana harris a living legend: johana harris plays debussy (mca, 1988)

Have you ever been stuck in a four hour traffic jam before? I was and I used it to learn every word of ‘Sawdust and Diamonds.’ I met this record when I was a young woman with a broken heart, and it became a secret garden into which I could retreat where pain sounded accurately pretty, a world of stable boys and sisterly astronomy and skinned knees that sound like violins. To that point, writing about this record here, in the realm of reality and readership, feels like a violation: the intimacy of my relationship with this record feels like the contents of a diary. I feel very blessed to have it in me to connect with something so deeply, even if it was just a consequence of timing. ‘Be a woman,’ she advised gently, and in doing so, made me want to try.”

“I picked this tape up while working at Jacknife Records because it seemed like good driving music. I didn’t realize it would become the gold standard of Debussy recordings for me. I cannot listen to anyone else play the Prelude of Suite Bergamasque without wishing it was Johana: her tempo is more exact, her dynamic range is always emotionally appropriate, her timing is impeccable. According to the liner notes, she never needed a second take for anything. She recorded the tape at Crystal Studios after the owner/engineer heard her play and offered her up as much free studio time as she needed to commit the classics to tape. Thus this work came to be and came to me. It’s an essential.”

Desmond dekker this is desmond dekker (trojan, 1969)

“This release came into my life during my first year of college. I’d never really listened to Jamaican music and Mr. Dekker’s neat and tidy tenor and flirty falsetto tangled me right up. When I finally found the vinyl version, I listened to it every day for 3 months, first thing in the morning. A day couldn’t start without ‘Unity’ or ‘Beautiful and Dangerous’. Nothing ever moves too fast or too slow on this record—it’s all just right. I drove everyone around me crazy playing this record into the ground, found a bunch of records like it, skipped a few steps and became a roots reggae vinyl DJ a few months later. The rest is history in progress.”

gil scott-heron reflections (arista, 1981) “MAN. You don’t need me to tell you how the voice of Gil Scott-Heron transcends its era, that his lyrical prowess and poetic rhythm were miles ahead of their time, that the problems he articulated are still embarrassingly relevant. One thing I must say is ALWAYS LISTEN TO ‘BMOVIE’ in its entirety. Let yourself sink into the bass line, feel Reagan morph into Ray-Gun, and keep repeating that ‘none of this is real.’ Gil was indicting us for our ‘golden age’ nostalgia 30 years ago, calling out politicians for the same bullshit they still pull. Angry, frustrated, pointed and poignant, Gil galvanizes while he charms, reminding us that all of this has happened before, and will happen again.”

scott walker climate of hunter (virgiN, 1984) “Looking at records like Tilt and The Drift, Climate was clearly the dawn of a new era. It was recorded in fragments—each musician Walker recorded alone, without being allowed to hear the melody of the piece being played. Scott acted as the controller, directing his musicians towards an emotional aesthetic and then collaging the tracks together in an intentionally disjointed manner. Musically, it reminds me of the sky during a storm: tense, dark, jarringly beautiful with the occasional breath of heavenly blue. This record is the missing linkvoice sounds like it could still handle Brel’s ‘Jackie’ but darkness has taken hold. It tells you everything you need to know about him.” INTERPRETER

(DRAG CITY, 2006)

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 capitol of the world so it’s clear that he was listening to and being inspired by all that music. For me, 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.”

angela morley watership down (columbia, 1978) “This soundtrack came to me via my mother. It was her obsession with it that makes this soundtrack the earliest music I can remember in my life. The score was composed by Angela Morley, an enigmatic character who was once also known as Wally Stott, arranger of the ‘godlike genius’era Scott Walker releases in the 1960s. Like those early Scott records, Watership Down has no shortage of extreme darkness and intensity: one moment you’re basking in the sun and the next, you’re sprinting from a hunting dog. The album itself is almost completely orchestral, excluding the world’s most heart-wrenching death ballad, ‘Bright Eyes,’ sung by Art Garfunkel, and it’s the foundation for all of my music consumption.”

RICHARD TWICE RICHARD TWICE (FALLOUT, 1970) “This is the only record on the list that I purchased online. This is one of those records that can sink its hooks into anyone within ear shot, a legend among local collectors. I first heard the opening flutter of ‘If I Knew You Were The One’ at the Echo in 2008, courtesy of selector Zach Cowie and spent the following five years hunting. I’d check for it in every record store I visited, first thing. I stalked $50 and $65 copies of it on Gemm and Discogs. For years, it was the only item on my ‘wants’ list, and one day, I bit the bullet and bought a tattered copy from someone in Germany. A few weeks later, I spotted a copy on the wall at High Fidelity Records in Los Feliz. This is a prized possession and a joke about patience, a time capsule of the very early seventies, and a relic of my life as a record collector in L.A. during the internet age.” 87


COMICS Curated by Tom Child

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THE WRECKING CREW Interview by Nick Waterhouse Illustration by Dave Van Patten It seems unbelievable now but it’s true: that hit after hit in decades of American pop music all came down to the talents of an elite group of L.A. studio musicians, who clocked in to back everybody from the Beach Boys to the Monkees to Frank Zappa like it was their job. Which of course it was. Like the studio system that once ruled old Hollywood, the unprecedented combination (or collision) of writers, producers, artists and the musicians that’d become known as the Wrecking Crew all soon found themselves at the very center of pop culture. Documentary filmmaker Denny Tedesco spent years—or his whole life, really—piecing together the history of his father, guitarist Tommy Tedesco, as well as such fellow crew members as drummers Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer, bassist/guitarist Carol Kaye, keyboard player Don Randi and more. His film The Wrecking Crew finally releases on March 13, with Q&A events at the NuArt that weekend. Here musician and producer Nick Waterhouse finds out why there will be never be another Wrecking Crew. I grew up around firefighters. My dad was a fireman. What struck me while watching is that firefighters joke the same way. They tell anecdotes the same way and most importantly they give each other shit the same way. So it’s like take 31 at a Spector session—who’s the one rolling their eyes, like, ‘Oh, he’s dropping the beat’? Who was getting the most shit from somebody else in that gang? That’s what I talk about that first session at the table. I call it the quartet without instruments. All I wanted to do was be a voyeur. I’m glad it was the first thing up because at that point, it’s nineteen years ago or whatever it is—my interview chops aren’t there. I just want to be a voyeur because that’s how I grew up: as a voyeur, like you grew up around the firehouse. You have such an insider view without being one of them. I’m glad you noticed that. That was something that came up during the interviews because no one’s ever asked any of the questions I’m asking. When I was trying to push this thing around for so many years—when I had a fourteen-minute piece trying to get someone to buy into it—they said, ‘Well, we’d be interested in optioning this idea but we’d have to get another director.’ I thought, ‘I’m not going to do that because I know where the skeletons lie. I know what makes them tick. I don’t want to have to educate a director to do it.’ That kept me going. This roundtable thing you started with—is this what you remember as a kid? Yeah—whenever they’re together, whenever you’re in a session, like, literally in a recording session, they’d be busting each other’s chops all day long between takes. They live for it. Obviously they know when and when not to. At lunchtime and dinners and stuff, they’d tease each other. Do you remember Broadway Danny Rose? That and Diner are my two favorite movies where you’re kind of at the table and they’re just talking over each other. ‘Hey, can I eat that? Are you going to eat that?’ Or they’re talking about someone. That’s what it was like and that’s what I wanted this to be like, where they just step on each other and just let it go. Thank God my dad was there because he also kind of knew when to take it in a different direction. Without you having to prompt everybody? Exactly. Musicians are the best because they’re FILM

like comedians. They’re always trying to one-up each other. If it’s not soloing, it’s just jabbing each other. Hal Blaine to me is like the Dean Martin of session musicians. I couldn’t find it more appropriate that he was the drummer on Sinatra tunes—he’s practically a walking version of a Sinatra tune. The funny thing is because he grew up in that— they all did—there were always comics before these acts. There were always comedians. Can you elaborate on some of that stuff? The pre-Crew days? Because a lot of those cats seemed to come from that stage show-notquite-Catskills touring night club thing. They all had comics who would always do a warm-up. I remember seeing Three Dog Night and Jonathan Winters opened. I remember my father was onstage with Bobby Darin and he was a gambler—always listening to the game with his little earphone, and his headphone came out and he heard the Dodger game going on. Lenny Bruce was there. Buddy Hackett. Hal was friends with Lenny Bruce. I want to know if Hal Blaine has any drinking stories with Lenny Bruce. That’s a good question. I don’t know. If Hal wasn’t going to be a musician he would have wanted to be a comic. There’s a guy who’s— what, 86 last week? And oh my God, you could be anywhere and something will make him tell a joke. We’d be in a deli and all of a sudden there’s a deli joke. All of a sudden there’s a red car and a red car joke. He knows more jokes. They just come to him. It’s extraordinary. When you started working on this, obviously you had the inside line through your dad. But I’m guessing you would have interacted with some of these folks throughout your life. Were they showing up? Dropping by? Not at all. Mom would always talk about how Dad had separate lives. He had his work life with musicians. He had his golf buddies and gambling friends and then he had his Italian friends from Niagara Falls, New York. There were different groups and work-wise, no one ever came home. People assume they must have had jam sessions but I didn’t see my father play an instrument. I was born in ‘51 and I don’t think I saw him play an instrument for real until maybe ‘76.

In the film, Earl Palmer says they were being paid to practice so nobody was even practicing, right? Later on in your life though, as this thing happens between fathers and sons, did he start telling you about this stuff? Or was the film a way to get to know him and get to know this world? Remember that footage of him doing the seminar? The classical guitar thing, telling jokes about working in the aircraft factory—that kind of thing, right? Exactly. All that was done at Musician’s Institute in 1981, I think. We did that in college. My buddy wanted to do a 30 minute doc on people in the arts that weren’t directors or whatever. Well-respected choreographers, D.P.s, etc. We figured we’d do it on my dad. Well, the thing sucked. It really was amateurish. Basically a school project. But what we got out of it was that footage, which was phenomenal. It doesn’t look great but it’s not about that. What he’s saying is so tremendous. The other thing that came out of that was Zappa. I went to Zappa in ‘81 to show him that piece on The Gong Show and said, ‘Can you talk about this?’ I thought Frank would say something funny. I obviously didn’t know Frank Zappa. My father knew Frank Zappa. He gave me this really off comment—very serious. My father didn’t take that seriously at all. He did that as a joke but it worked out perfectly for this film. It sucked thirty years ago but now it’s like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got an ending.’ He handed it to me. There’s a famous anecdote about your dad showing up to a Zappa session with some joke props or something. He dressed up as a Boy Scout because he knew Frank was a funky dresser as well. They got there and they realized, ‘Oh shit—the music is hard.’ Yeah, humor was part of their life. If they didn’t enjoy their work, can you imagine what that would have been like? That goes back to what I was saying about the firefighters. You spend all this time in close quarters. You’re doing something that’s all encompassing and you’re doing it all of your life. You barely have time for your personal life. What’s really fascinating to me as a musician myself who grew up with all this stuff—me and my buddy would swap tapes of those outtakes from those Brian Wilson sessions that you’re playing at the beginning, just to hear

people talking. This is kind of an insane Rosetta Stone of what pop music was and can be. It’s almost like philosophically, the idea of the Wrecking Crew goes against this romantic idea of what a band should be—the myth of four scruffy kids with a dream who do it all themselves. I don’t feel like that’s actually that incompatible with the way that this unit worked. I was thinking the whole time—and I have for a long time—about how you read about Hollywood studio systems in the 40s when you’d have people like William Faulkner ghost writing scripts. To me, these guys function the same way. Is this the opposite of the lawless, wild rock ‘n’ roll myth or is it actually the same thing? That’s a very deep question and I think it’s a little of both. My dad, Hal, Earl—most of them are very serious jazz guys. They want to be jazz guys. My dad didn’t give a shit about any of that music. In terms of when he’s talking bad about the Marketts ... That was one of my favorite quotes—talking about pretending to be an idiot. This is what he’s lived by. This quote he gives to his students and his friends: ‘There’s music and then there’s the music business. Sometimes they mix but not always.’ He said, ‘I’m playing for smiles. If no one’s smiling, I’m not coming back to work. So I might think it’s the wrong thing to do but it doesn’t matter. He wants me to play it like this.’ You could play a really cool riff on something but it’s maybe too sophisticated for what the leader wants. So he says, ‘You want to do your own album, do your own album. Then you can do whatever you want. But I’m getting paid to do something else.’ Where the rebel part comes in is that these guys want to make a living playing guitar or drums or whatever, right? My editor and I just cut in this bit about the difference between records, TV and film studio work. Studio work in film is intense. That’s a whole different animal. People are telling you, ‘Oh, I do studio work.’ He’s been on three albums, whatever. Put that guy with 100 musicians and John Wayne’s there and they say on [measure] 34 everything goes silent and now it’s your turn to play—you better know where it is. That’s a different animal. Those guys wanted to be those guys sometimes but they weren’t given the opportunity. So my father was happy to get paid playing a C, a D, a G, you know what 91


I mean? It didn’t matter. As long as he got paid, he had fun and he met people and that’s what he did. He just kept going and sometimes, like Earl Palmer says, it’s not beneath you if you’re making a living at it. All of them exhibit this workmanlike attitude. But their delivery, even if they’re doing all these different sessions, is incredibly intuitive. I’m sure if you talked to them long enough, you get these surface answers about this stuff—but did you get any more profound statements about the work itself? Usually most of the time, as they always say, it’s 99% boredom, 1% terror. My question then was, ‘Were you ever so impressed or intimidated by an artist ...’ ‘No, not at all.’ Maybe with Sinatra, your hair is a little on edge because he’s older. He’s Frank. But don’t forget—my dad is 30 in 1960 and at that point, you’re talking to Brian Wilson who’s 19 or whatever it was. These guys were just kids. They didn’t have the chops or the knowhow to be as good as the guys we’re talking about. Do you see the Crew as the bridge between those two worlds? They’re seen as troublemakers by the older guard and then they’re going to work with these kids who—whether it’s Roger McGuinn from the Byrds or Brian Wilson, even people like Lee Hazlewood, David Axelrod—these guys were all really young too when they were coming to produce these sessions. Do you think the players were the bridge and that’s how they sophisticated this rock ‘n’ roll feel? Very much so. ‘MacArthur Park’ is a perfect example. That shit’s hard. They did it in one or two takes and that was it, however long that piece is. I think what happened is that music got more sophisticated. Rock ‘n’ roll got more sophisticated as they left. You’ve got Brian Wilson doing Pet Sounds and then you’ve got the next generation, I think there are better players coming out of a genre. Then it’s like a trickle-down because then you have the next generation who’s influenced by all these guys who were playing secretly and sophisticatedly on these records—so you have Donald Fagen who’s listening to Don Randi or something. Like Axelrod ... you’re obviously much hipper than most people. You know this stuff. You listen to Axelrod’s stuff and you’re like, ‘Holy shit,’ you know? Did any of the players talk to you about working with him? It was hard because there’s so much. There’s only ninety minutes, you know? I want to know what existed outside of the film. What didn’t make it? I hope they put out a mass DVD. You’ve seen the outtakes so far? We’ve got 155 minutes of outtakes right now. Go to the website later and you’ll find stories like the Zappa story where Emil Richards talks about working with Zappa, James Burton talks about working with Nesmith. I had so many outtakes. People with Jackie DeShannon, Richard Carpenter, Bill Medley ... One of the ones I love the most ... and I wish my father was around. Because that’s the other thing. If there’s any bummer here, it’s that Dad died a year later after I started. That was 92

the impetus to get this thing out quick or at least get them recorded and filmed. One of the last interviews I did was only a couple of years ago with Leon Russell. So there’s a whole thing you haven’t seen with Cher talking about how Leon comes in drunk. They were all talking about Leon. Leon was very quiet. The question to my father about everybody was how did you guys—in 1960 when rock ‘n’ roll was still pretty much in its infancy—come up with your licks? He says, ‘Just things worked out that way.’ Like with Ricky Nelson, doing this rock ‘n’ roll stuff. It’s a shuffle and you’re kind of figuring it out. But with Leon Russell, when Leon was stuck on a job and wasn’t sure what to play in a session, Glen would say, ‘Leon, just play the shit you played in Oklahoma. That’s all they know. That’s all they want. They don’t know much.’ They’re creating stuff as they go along. Cher talked about Leon walking out on a Spector date and he was drunk. Leon never said, ‘Boo’ to anyone. He comes in, he’s late, he shuffles over to the piano and everyone’s cracking up. Spector gets on the talkbox and gives him a bunch of grief. He says, ‘Hey Leon, why don’t you have some respect?’ And Leon turns around and says, ‘Fuck you. You have respect.’ At that point, everyone’s gone—just dying. So Leon remembers the next day, my father came to his apartment and wanted him to go on the road and preach. He was going to buy the bus, he was going to take care of all of this because he felt that Leon could preach. That would have been an awesome story to ask my father. Start a tent revival show with Leon Russell at the front of it? Yeah. My father wanted to produce Leon as a guitar player. I asked Leon about it. My father said the session didn’t happen because it just didn’t happen but Leon told me why. When they walked in on the session, Leon was fucking around with the guitar and playing Albert King, that type of stuff. My dad was impressed by that shit. According to Leon, my dad and whoever else was with him wanted him to do it on 12-string. He said, ‘I don’t play 12-string so I couldn’t do what they wanted. I’m only good at what I can do.’ I asked my father, ‘What’s the difference between a studio player and a specialist?’ A specialist ... say there’s a door there. You don’t know what’s behind the door to that recording studio so you send him B.B. King—what happens if it’s a classical piece or it’s reading? You send in Segovia, what if it’s a blues thing? Or mandolin or something else. Those guys you’d bring in when you want them. You bring in Eric Clapton when you want Eric Clapton. When you don’t know what you want, you have to bring in someone who can do multiple things and come up with something creatively. So my dad said, ‘I gotta pretend to be the best at what I do.’ And then you have your dad doing shit like the Spanish run on that Gary Lewis tune. Exactly. The other question was what would he want to be remembered by. What solos? Whatever? He said Bonanza and all that stuff, Green Acres, Batman and the Beach Boys, that was all cool and everything. Anyone of the ten guys on guitar at the time could have done

that stuff. But when someone’s calling him in the ‘80s and it’s John Wayne at a session telling him to keep the first two weeks in September open because we got this movie coming up and it’s going to be all guitar—that’s when you know you’ve made it because they’re making sure it’s only you. Those other guys can’t do that. There’s only one Tommy and that’s who they’re asking for. That’s when you know you’ve done it. I work on a lot of records these days and we get this shorthand where people say, ‘Give me an Earl Palmer feel on this. Give me a Hal Blaine. Give me a Tommy Tedesco.’ And it’s still relevant, which is amazing. I read this interview with this young drummer a few years ago. It was a tribute to Hal and he said, ‘I don’t care if you hate everything that Earl or Hal did or don’t even know it, but you can’t tell me you weren’t influenced by them—whoever taught you was taught by someone who was taught by them or listened to this stuff.’ Are you talking about Marc Schulman? Yeah! How did you know that? Did you look it up? It was so poetic what Marc said. The ghost at the feast for me on this was Barney Kessel, because Kessel gets listed in that group of old-liners who actually called them the Wrecking Crew. There was a famous quote in the book where he says, ‘Never have so many been paid for so little,’ talking about doing a one-note thing for a whole Spector session. Do you have any Kessel stories? Barney had a massive stroke when we started this. Barney is the guy on the cusp. The hardest thing was who to interview. I interviewed everybody to the point where my editor said I had to stop interviewing people. I said, ‘Well, that’s why God gave us DVDs.’ But now it’s kind of biting me in the ass because I’m fighting to keep this stuff somewhere. I just want it to be seen. I want people to know a story about, say, Jackie Kelso. His interview is brilliant. Who’s Jackie Kelso? One of the great sax guys. There’s Frank Capp, the percussionist. There’s Gary Coleman. I just felt like everybody needed it. I really wanted to everybody to have their chance to tell this story and what’s biting me in the ass now is like, ‘Well, why wasn’t I in it? Why didn’t you say this? Why didn’t you do this?’ Go make your own movie. You spend nineteen years on something. The easiest thing that happened for me was when we cut thirty minutes ... we started cutting in 2006 when I finally got an editor and producer, Claire Scanlon, to help me. She looked at it and said, ‘Why are you guys cutting like this?’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘You’re just cutting something that I could cut or that anyone could cut, but you’re not cutting something you have access to. If you tell the story from your point of view, it’s going to open doors.’ And it did. I didn’t want to be part of it. I wanted to be the auteur, the director. But even in the Earl Palmer session I was watching the other day, looking at the outtakes and the raw footage, you hear me say, ‘Hey, Earl, don’t say “your father.” Just say “Tommy.’’’ I laugh now because I was much younger and stupid. Now I’m older and stupid. Once I started cutting it that way, life was easy—now it’s like why isn’t so-and-so in it? Because you can’t put everybody in there.

I was just curious about Barney because there was that moment where I felt like it was almost like a culture divide. Like Barney played with Charlie Parker but he also played with Ricky Nelson. Barney was one of the few guys of the old guard who actually made that transition. That’s why we show him in the pictures. If you look at the songs ... there are 110 songs. When I turned in all the songs and I turned in the money to the union, I said, ‘Here’s the money. $200,000. Here are the songs.’ They looked at the contracts and the top one on the contracts was Hal Blaine. He had 50 of those songs under his belt. So when certain guys are saying, ‘Well, I was part of this.’ Sure you were. I’m not saying you weren’t but some of those guys came a little later too. The whole thing about the Wrecking Crew—the whole name is questionable. Sure—it’s nebulous. It’s after the fact. It’s like a genre. They come up with the genre after the thing happens. Exactly. Some people get upset about it and some people get really upset about it. I want to know who got really upset. Carol. She doesn’t like you? What is her issue? She said, ‘We didn’t wreck the business.’ She doesn’t understand the irony of it. Carol seems like a real straight shooter. You can tell she put her head down and worked really hard. That’s the thing I always say. One of the things that Glen said when he went into the studio in the early ‘60s and realized he only had the one track of whatever and he had to nail it all together ... there was no punching-in, none of that. He said, ‘We all had to play. If you couldn’t keep up, you weren’t there the next time. You were gone.’ So for Carol to be a bass player— because a lot of times the drummer and the bass player are the first two to be replaced in a band—Carol’s there because she’s a musician, not because she was someone’s girlfriend, you know? I hate slamming tambourine players or percussion players but it wasn’t just a background thing where you could bring her in or not. She was keeping something going. I have such respect for her and the guys that they looked to her as that. And the shit that she must have endured as a woman. And as a single mom too, right? Yeah. Is there a single photo of her that you saw in the studio where she wasn’t wearing sunglasses? No—it’s funny. She’s such a bad ass, man. It’s like the thirtieth photo and she’s still wearing shades! Do you feel like there were deep cultural clashes? You kind of get into it with the Monkees stuff and the Association where these bands show up. Hal said the only one who was really pissed off at him was the guy from the Byrds. The drummer? Yeah—he said he was the only one who was pissed off about it. The Monkees were a totally different thing because there are two sides of the Monkees. You’ve got Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork and then you’ve got Mickey, who knows it’s a TV show. Mickey’s take on the whole thing was that the only controversy was FILM


that they made a controversy. He didn’t think it was a big deal because he always thought of it as a TV show. If they had put the names of the musicians on the actual albums when they came out, there’d be nothing to stand on. Because it’s a TV show, my theory—and I think Mickey either brought it up or said something that made my light bulb go off—is that if the Monkees are selling records, that’s going to piss off a lot of real artists because all of a sudden their shelf space is being pushed by this stupid TV show called The Monkees, which was a fake band. It’s no different than now. People get pissed off at the Grammys or whatever. Pop wins over better musicianship sometimes. But that was the only thing that maybe got the rest of the business irked. You don’t think it’s just some kind of historical revisionism? Like Rolling Stone rock mythology disliked it? Or did you feel that there was an actual controversy? Peter, I think, was pissed off because he was young. Looking back you can see why. But I don’t think Mickey ever was because Mickey was an actor. He knew he had to learn drums so it’s a different thing. I never got to Mike Nesmith. I could never get an interview. I think what’s interesting is that the same time they were doing those Monkees tracks, they were also cutting two songs on Love’s Forever Changes—which is lauded as this great auteuristic independent rock masterpiece—and they’re doing Paul Revere tunes and the Byrds records. This is my question to anyone who would be upset about the Monkees or Milli Vanilli or whatever. Did you like the song yesterday? Why don’t you like it today? It’s the same song. Whether he did it or you did it, who played it or who sang it—if you listen to it and you like it, you like it. It’s the same people, like you said, playing that Monkees song who are playing that Beach Boys song. Can I run some producer’s names by you and see if there was any comment from any of them? You have H.B. Barnum in there. Oh, they loved H.B. H.B. was all around knowledgeable. He’s gifted. He could play different instruments, he could do the vocal arrangement, he had all that shit together. He has some amazing records of his own too with the Crew backing him. Yeah. He and David Axelrod were close. There’s a great story that they told me. Dad was a gambler. He’d gamble on anything. Literally he’d torture people with gambling. So H.B. was talking about how fast he was because he was an athlete. My father, even though he was heavyset, he was quick—or he felt he was quick, so he said, ‘I’ll race you.’ My father said as soon as he saw him pull out his running shoes, he knew he was done. H.B. was brilliant Snuff [Garrett] sounded so hilarious when he talked about not giving a shit whether Cher listened to ‘Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves’ again. It’s one of my favorite lines in the movie. If there was any criticism of Snuff from people, it’s that Snuff was a hustler. Snuff was all business. He didn’t give a shit if you liked it or not. ‘Hey, I got it. I’m moving on. I don’t need to stay on this.’ ‘Well, I think we could do one more take.’ ‘Nope, we got it. Move on.’ FILM

He’s not going to pay overtime. He’s strictly about doing it. He and my father were very close. They were gambling buddies. During the lunch break they’d be playing cards. There could be a raindrop and he’d bet on it. Snuff’s the only one who ever came to the house and that was because there was a card game and Snuff had a Rolls and a driver so that seemed really famous to me. When they gave the obituary of my father at the memorial they all talked about his gambling. Emil Richards said, ‘I’m having a baby,’ and my father says, ‘I bet you it’s a girl.’ He says, ‘But I want a girl.’ ‘Oh yeah? I bet you it’s a boy. I don’t give a shit.’ A couple of great stories I heard recently were that Jimmy Haskell—there was a date, I can’t remember who the leader was or the artist or the producer, but they finished fifteen minutes before the hour and they were done and he says, ‘Great, guys we’ve got it. That was great!’ and everyone starts packing up. My dad’s got the guitar and Jimmy jumps up and says, ‘You know, I think we could do one more.’ One of those kiss-ass let’s-do-it-again type things. The producer says, ‘No, we got it. We’re fine. Come on, let’s leave.’ ‘Nah, let’s do one more.’ So Don Randi said, ‘Your father takes out the guitar. They’re all ready to go and just as they’re about to go, he says, “Jimmy?” “Yeah, Tommy?” “Hey, on bar 35 do you want it ‘Da da da duh’ or ‘Da da da da’?” “Just do it the way you did it.’’’ And Don said he kept this going for ten minutes to where they couldn’t do the take anymore. He ran down the clock like a basketball player. He ran down the clock and tortured the poor bastard who didn’t even know what happened. Tommy’s just torturing him and he doesn’t even know he’s being tortured. Jimmy strikes me as a really clean-cut cat from that time. I remember asking him, ‘Where did you go out?’ and he said, ‘I didn’t go out. I didn’t drink.’ In the early days, maybe some of them were drinkers but Dad didn’t do drugs or drink because he didn’t like that feeling. He was a very paranoid person. The film is kind of about how exhausting their schedules were. They were working constantly, right? Exactly. Look, if you screwed up, if you came in and you were blasted— Unless you’re Leon Russell—then you get it once, right? Yeah, but then Leon goes on to do his own thing. There was a point where, if you came in late for a session with the union and you cost them, you’d have to cover the date. Do you think that all of them came around to being at peace with their work? I don’t think they ever disliked it. I can only speak for my father. I interviewed all of them and maybe I have my opinions to myself about how some of them took life. My father always felt that his time came. He was very successful in records in the 60s. 70s, he did a lot of TV and film and in the 80s he was just doing a lot of film. He was one of the biggest guys in the world. When things started slowing down ... There was a thing Dad used to say when he’d come home all our lives. He’d come in and say, ‘Any calls?’ It was almost like saying, ‘Hello, give me a kiss.’ That was our

work ethic at home. It was just common. He would check on ten-minute breaks. They’d have hotlines to their answering service at the studios. So later in the late 80s when he’s not working that much, he’d say, ‘Any calls?’ You know there are no calls. Now he’s only getting calls for the special ones, like The Godfather III or Schindler’s List, something where they need Tommy Tedesco—like the movie Revenge that Jack Nitzsche did. It’s beautiful. In the movie it’s all Spanish guitar. He and Jack playing over the credits. He didn’t need credit. The last thing in the movie is my father playing his own shit. That’s probably why I made the movie because when he did have the stroke at 62 ... at 52 he was a better player than he ever was but at 62, he was doing his jazz thing but he was like, ‘That’s hard.’ He didn’t want to struggle to be an artist. He didn’t want to do that shit. Invite him over, do the gig, he’d make jokes, play and have fun. It was my brother and I who really wanted him to do stuff. So just before the stroke hit, we did a recording where I was trying to do an Italian jazz combo band. The idea was let’s get all of these Italian guys together and we’ll do three songs. It was him, Frank Marroco, the great accordion player, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Bobby Zimmitti on percussion and John Leyton on bass. He was the non-Italian. They did three songs and it was amazing. After that, he and John did a solo jazz album, just quickly ran through a set of jazz stuff. One take, boom, and walk away. About a year later he had a stroke. That stuff went on the shelf and we just released it a couple months ago. What bothered me as a son was that he had his creativity cut short at 62. Now he was fine with it. Other guys weren’t fine with it. That’s one of the things I was just talking to my editor about. We were talking about Gary Coleman who was fabulous. He went on to do many Steely Dan albums as a percussionist. He became a therapist. It seems that all arts people become therapists after awhile. He said, ‘You don’t get called for a lot of stuff and all of a sudden you get called to do a movie. I realized I struggled with it. It’s not something I would have struggled with a couple years before. I couldn’t do it anymore. I called the answering service on the way home and said, “Take me out of the books. I’m done.” You’re an athlete and you can either do it or not.’ You make this point in the film: there’s never going to be that much work again. They got it. They got all the work and they got the work when it was needed. You can get called on sessions now but I doubt there’s anywhere near the output that there was when all these cats were working. Absolutely. Times change. They were needed at the beginning more. There are always going to be people needed to play instruments but like you said, it was something that was like a gravy train for a certain group. Not everybody. My father—looking at some old footage— said to the students at M.I., ‘There are five of us at this level. There were five guys you’d hire at the time in the 70s or 80s or whenever it was. You might be the greatest guitar player or artist in the world but how are you going to get in on that chair? How are you going to take it away from Tommy Tedesco or Larry Carlton? If you were a football player, you’d

go and try to beat each other up. The problem here is you can’t do that because people don’t like changes. They’re scared. Who’s the new guy? What if he screws up? We have one hundred musicians here. You’re going to go with Tommy Tedesco because you know he’s not going to freeze on that solo or that reading part. You can’t just assume the guy can read when there’s that much budget involved.’ This is a conduit to a place and time that will probably never happen again. The other thing I tell people, especially because we have an older audience ... They’ll say, ‘Aw, they don’t make music like they used to. There’s no good music.’ I say, ‘There is.’ I’m 53. Let’s say in 68 I was seven years old. Go back fifty years from that. We’re talking about 1917. There are no recordings from 1917 that we’re listening to. There’s nothing. There might be some stuff but we’re not listening to it. I didn’t even hear stuff from the big bands—the early stuff that my parents were listening to—and that was only thirty years old. So now, you’ve got fifty years plus and all the material that came. When we were kids we only had three stations. You were buying maybe the Top 40 albums. Now to be heard, you’ve got thousands of stations and the Internet—everybody can do an album, everyone can try. There is another McCartney, there is another Brian Wilson, there is another Jimmy Webb. They’re all out there. It’s just hard to find them or give it a chance to be heard. I’m really excited for that stuff and I just wanted to get anything we could into the article. Gambling stories, I’ll take all day everyday. There’s the famous gambling story with Lee Ritenour. He was a cocky young kid coming into the studios. He was a brilliant guitar player but this shows you can’t be too cocky. Lee had this really beautiful fill that he did during the rehearsal and he looked at my father with confidence, kind of cocky. He said, ‘That’s awesome, Lee. That’s really awesome. I bet you a dollar you don’t make it on the next time when we’re recording and everyone’s listening.’ And he just blew it. He could torture you with bets. There was another story he told about Manny Klein who comes in with this watch and he keeps talking about this watch—how this guy offered $25 and it’s really amazing, on and on about this watch. So my father says, ‘Hey, Manny, I like that watch. I’ll give you $50 for it.’ ‘Really?’ ‘Yeah, yeah.’ He gives him $50, he takes the watch, he puts it on the ground, he smashes it with his foot and says, ‘Enough about the fucking watch.’ Those were like those Italian characters. They were hilarious.’ THE WRECKING CREW OPENS ON FRI., MAR. 13, AT THE NUART, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., SANTA MONICA. Q&A w DENNY TEDESCO, DON RANDI AND HAL BLAINE FOLLOWING 5:30 AND 7:30 PM SHOWS, AND ON SAT., MAR. 14, Q&A w DENNY TEDESCO, DON RANDI AND JOE OSBORN FOLLOWING 7:30 PM SHOW. ALSO AT SOUTH COAST VILLAGE 3, 1561 West Sunflower Ave., SANTA ANA. MORE INFO AT WRECKINGCREWFILM.COM. 93


Kim stayed here for eight days. I cared for him 24/7. I never expected to care for him that way. But I’ll never forget singing this last song with him. He wanted to do a harmony, and I’d never sung the song before. I got to learn it in about ten minutes and he would point at me to do the harmony and it was like one take, but it was amazing. One thing I did do—I insisted on my son, Jake Hayes, who has his band Maudlin Strangers—I told him, ‘You have to meet Kim.’ And of course he didn’t want to at

KIM FOWLEY 1939 - 2015

BY CHERIE CURRIE first—he’d read my book. But he came with me and I said, ‘You will witness something that you’ve never witnessed before.’ The four songs you hear on my newest record that Kim wrote, lyrically, he wrote just right on the spot without

any rewrites. He made these songs happen. And we were taping and clamoring to write down what he was doing. The guy was a genius. He was an absolute genius. And I told Jake that if he came with me, he’d never write songs the

same way again. Kim showed him that when it comes from the heart, don’t hesitate, don’t overthink, just do it. And that’s what Kim did better than anyone else. He had a talent. He changed my life from a very young age, and sometimes not in the best way, but he apologized to me, and it meant a lot ... I felt and still feel that I was privileged to be in the Runaways. I miss the man. I think of him every single day. There’s never going to be another Kim Fowley. With all of his shortcomings, there was nothing like him.


L.A. RECORD SXSW / RSD / COACHELLA 2015  

MIKAL CRONIN - COLLEEN GREEN - 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS interviewed by TY SEGALL - KIM FOWLEY by CHERIE CURRIE - DUSTIN LOVELIS - FASHAWN - "WRE...

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